DSBN, Brock Partner to Launch Educational Research and Innovation Hub

From the Brock News

The District School Board of Niagara and Brock University’s Faculty of Education are collaborating on a unique initiative to support innovation in Canadian education and technology.

Housed inside 2,100 square feet at the DSBN Academy in St. Catharines, the newly minted Educational Research and Innovation Hub will bring together a wide range of stakeholders to cultivate powerful new learning technologies.

“We see incredible potential in this new project,” says Warren Hoshizaki, DSBN Director of Education. “We know there is a wealth of entrepreneurs out there searching for opportunities to use their talents and skills to support Canadian education. The expertise and resources they access at the Hub will assist them in changing their ideas into tools that improve teacher practice and benefit student learning for years to come.”

When the Hub officially opens its doors in late February, it will be a home to several original start-up companies. The collaborative atmosphere of the Hub will promote discussion, idea sharing and creativity amongst educators, researchers, graduate students, entrepreneurs and education technology companies.

Dr. Fiona Blaikie, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Education at Brock University, believes that the Hub is an example of how 21st century research should take place.

“Everything unfolds in context and in partnership,” says Blaikie. “As leaders in technology education, Faculty of Education researchers and students are superbly positioned to engage with entrepreneurs and colleagues at DSBN to better serve to society, teaching, learning and scholarship.”

Dr. Camille Rutherford, Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, acknowledges that there needs to be a direct line from invention to practice.

“Regardless of technologic ingenuity, the effectiveness of any education innovation is dependent on its ability to address the needs of education,” says Rutherford. “Unfortunately, a lack of access to education stakeholders has been noted as one of the greatest challenges to educational entrepreneurs that often come from non-education backgrounds.”

The Hub aims to eliminate the disconnect between educational insight and the innovation process. It will bridge this gap by providing entrepreneurs with the opportunity to observe actual classes and the strategies teachers use to support student learning. Start-ups will also be able to refine their products by observing their use in an actual classroom setting. This will allow companies to make necessary enhancements to ensure they are best meeting the needs of students, teachers and schools.

In addition to the benefits the Hub will bring to the product development process, students will also benefit from their interactions with these start-up companies.

“Students will have safe access to programmers, engineers and entrepreneurs, giving them the ability to ask questions, share ideas and learn more about potential career paths,” says Dino Miele, DSBN Chief Information Officer.

Located within the DSBN Academy at 130 Louth Street in St. Catharines, the Hub is unique in its location.

“There are a number of EdTech incubators and accelerators throughout North America, but there has yet to be a location that is housed within a K-12 educational institution,” says Rutherford.

FETC: The Place to Be

Despite Orlando's unusually cool and wet weather, the Florida Educational Technology Conference should be considered one of the best values when it comes to EdTech events. Here are the top five reasons why it is the place to be.

  1. It's in Orlando in January - For Canadians or anyone from a cold climate that may be the only argument needed. Despite the chill in the air this year, it was a nice escape from the polar vortex gripping the northern half of the continent. At the Mindshare Learning Canadian Tweetup (There were over 300 Canadians at FETC this year) the prize for the coldest hometown went an educator from Saskatchewan who was happy to be avoiding the -44 weather back home.
  2. Price - The FETC walk-up registration price (No membership needed) was $290. There were a number of online discounts that brought the cost down to $230 if you didn't register in time to take advantage of the early bird pricing. In contrast the ISTE walk-up registration fee for non-members is $448. 
  3. Sometimes smaller is better - With 8, 500 attendees, FETC is less than half the size of ISTE with is over 18,000 attendees. This can make FETC less overwhelming and exhausting. Despite the smaller size, most of the rock star presenters and technology companies listed on the ISTE website are also at FETC. A review of the conference agendas with reveal a number of commonalities when it comes to presentation speakers and topics. Regardless of the smaller size, FETC provides excellent professional development opportunities.
  4. Travel - Flying into ISTE's various conference locations presents attendees with a roller coaster of airfare research each year. With Orlando as FETC's permanent location, developing a budget for getting to FETC is considerably easier. As a vacation destination, there are plenty of flights and routes to choose from and late January also provides many off-season travel deals, making it easy and affordable to get to FETC each year.
  5. Accommodations - As a vacation resort mecca, Orlando is a very budget friendly location. I've had the pleasure of staying at the Vista Cay Resort for the past two years. This resort includes condo and townhouse accommodations that permit small and large groups to stay within walking distance of the convention centre for less than the cost of a hotel room at ISTE. Staying in a 3 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom townhouse provides plenty of sleeping and meeting space for a group of 4. Each year we notice a growing number of educator walking between Vista Cay and the convention centre. On the walk this year we encountered a couple of teachers from Saskatchewan that noted that there were part of a group of 30 people from their school district staying at Vista Cay while attending the conference. A review of my past credit card statements reveals that the cost of registration, travel and accommodations for FETC is often less than my hotel bill at ISTE. 

That should be proof enough that FETC is the place to be, but if you need a little more convincing check out the following blog posts:

Laura Gleeson - My FETC Experience
Jason Ribeiro - Revisiting FETC
Kyle Tuck - FETC 2014