Shawn Rubin launched EdTechRI as a natural outgrowth of his experience as director of blended learning and technology integration at the Highlander Institute, a charter school in Providence. Blended learning is a combination of online learning through educational-technology software and face-to-face instruction with a teacher in a brick-and-mortar environment. Most of his work is professional development with teachers to help them integrate technology into their classrooms. Rubin works extensively with schools in Providence, as well as across southeast New England. The missing link Rubin discovered between educational-software developers and enthusiastic teachers – the classroom testing phase – ignited a spark that led to the creation of EdTechRI.
PBN: How did EdTechRI get started?
RUBIN: EdTechRI evolved out of a meetup between educators and entrepreneurs at the Tazza Caffé in Providence a year ago November. Through my role at Highlander Institute, I was engaging more and more with early stage education-technology startups and realizing that a lot of those startups had products that needed a lot of teacher input. In my professional-development role and in my consulting role going into schools, I was meeting a lot of motivated, high-flying, early-adopter teachers who wanted to get their hands on the latest and greatest and newest and best technology. They also had a lot of opinions about it. So it made a lot of sense to me to bring those two groups together.
PBN: Where were the teachers from and how did you get them involved in EdTechRI?
RUBIN: Most of them were from Rhode Island and some were from across southeastern New England. I would run a workshop and there would be 15 or 20 teachers learning how to use the iPad and I would always see two or three teachers who were about seven steps ahead of me. So, I would introduce the app and for most of the group I would have to walk them through step-by-step. After the workshop, I would approach the teachers who were way ahead and ask them if they were interested in banding together across districts to collaborate.
PBN: What kind of response did you get from these teachers who were way ahead?
RUBIN: They all said “yes.” I call them wild horses looking for their herd.