Rather than make the trip by airplane, the PenPal Schools team decided on a less conventional means of transport: a school bus, painted blue and decorated with colorful paintings. They decided to make stops along the way to meet with teachers, students, parents and activists in order to discuss issues in education and the ways online learning tools like PenPal Schools can make a positive impact.
The first stop was a town hall style meeting in PenPal Schools’ native Austin, Texas. Teachers, activists and entrepreneurs gathered together to discuss issues in education policy, education technology, global education, and community education (using the hashtags #edpolicy, #edtech, #globaled, and #community). The room was full of passionate people, each striving to understand how education in the United States and abroad could be improved. After a short speech by Joe Troyen, founder of PenPal Schools, inaugurating the Drive to D.C., the assembled crowd broke into groups to talk about the issues. The comfortable atmosphere allowed educators and activists to think freely and collaborate on ideas.
Those who discussed education technology talked about the barriers to productive use of technology in classrooms, including bureaucratic, political and access barriers. Then they discussed the disconnect between the problems schools have and the technology solutions being developed; technology companies need to address problems, rather than develop solutions and seek problems to suit them.
The community discussion centered on getting schools involved with the wider business and educational communities. We need more conversations about problems in education that private businesses could solve effectively, more opportunities for school-aged children to participate in university programs and internships that can inspire them to follow certain career paths that would otherwise have been unknown to them, and more student engagement on a global level.
The education policy discussion focused on the disparity between national and state curriculum requirements. Those involved also talked about government policies driving the adoption of technology in schools.
Those who discussed global education focused on the way an education that focuses on understanding different cultures will not only enhance education for children in the U.S., but will also prepare them for the global economy.
After the fruitful discussions, each group shared insightful commentary on each of the four subjects. It was an encouraging night and an excellent start for the Drive to D.C..