Living Ferguson: Edtech ' s Role in Social Justice

Thank you for having me. It is a honor to be on the stage with all of these incredible educators. My hope today is to paint a picture of an obligation, an obligation to use our edtech voice to extend the dialogue on issues of social justice. 


A lot has happened in our country since we were last together in Atlanta one year ago including the tragedy, hate crime, and act of domestic terrorism at the Emmanual AME church in Charleston less than a fortnight ago. 


In my home town of Saint Louis, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson. This death gutted my community, pushed racial tension to the brink and created a new level of  militarization among police. As I stood at Michael Brown's memorial,  I cried for justice.


In the streets of Baltimore, the death of Freddie Gray spotlighted the inequalites of housing, schooling, and policing of West Baltimore and other communities in the city. As I stood there at North and Penn, I longed for change. 


Cleveland has been rocked multiple times with the pain that comes from tragic loss of life. Honestly, I could take all 20 of my slides to walk through the pain in our country,  but the trouble is all of us are trapped in this cycle of being shocked, feeling sympathy and returning back to the privilege that surrounds our lives. 


It is time that we end this cycle. We have to stop blaming individuals and search for systemic solutions that can end the cycle of injustice that is breaking our country. It is no longer OK for our cities to burn while we fiddle with technology. 


I remain haunted by the memories of automatic weapons and tanks in Ferguson, and the silence of the city-wide curfew in Baltimore. Together, we as a community, need to dialogue about how to start this change and prevent future memories like these.


All of the technology in the world can’t beat the negative power of poverty, racism, oppression, and inequality. If you want your technology tools to transform then work on solutions in these areas as well.


I come today with a deep pain in my heart. I’m sure you have heard it already. There are too many of us looking the other way as our kids suffer and our kids die from the social injustices in our communities. This isn’t an urban issue or a rural issue or a surburban issue. It is an issue that effects us all.


I come today knowing that the solutions are complex know matter how many people try to describe it in simple terms. We have seen the worst of people on these issues on the news, on Facebook, and in our teachers’ lounges. Complex issues take complex conversations. 


I come today believing that the people in this room have a powerful voice. There isn’t time to be shocked and without words. We must speak up and use our voice to scale meaningful conversations that promote solutions. 


I come today searching for your leadership. So many people hearing this today have professional learning networks that can be harnessed for solution making. Remember big purpose comes from small moments. Be leaders of these small moments. 


I come here today looking to heal. In many communities, this healing is being lead by our places of worship , but I believe that the edtech community can also come together and lead healing for our students as they journey through the confusion and stress of injustice. 


I come today searching for your passionate energy for justice. We are all busy people, but we need quality teaching and learning around the issues of social justice. We need your energy and passion to change the momentum. 


We can’t become a nation of Clevelands, Fergusons, and Baltimores. The cycle of violence, hate, and misuse of power needs to be broken. It has to be broken for hope to return to the journeys of our most invisible, marginalized students. 


We can’t continue to bury our head as children die and injustice grows. Silence is aiding and abetting the problem. Our social media voice can make change. Our networks, communities, and relationships  can make change together.


We can’t allow more of our schools to devolve into pre-prison programs. In too many of communities, the scripts have been written for our young men and women. No jobs. No quality education, and a set of social services that insight fear and promote de facto racist policies.


We can’t let hope become an emotion reserved for only a certain groups of children. All children deserve to the opportunity to dream. All children deserve a chance to soar. Bring hope back to the communities that we have abandoned. 


Help US heal; Help US talk; Help US grow. I’m asking for your help. It is time for our community to rise up and support our kids beyond the technology.


Join me with your voice. Join me with your hearts. Join me with your actions. The invisible children matter. The marginalized matter. Black Lives Matter. All lives matter.