One of the perks of working independently is that I get to work with amazing companies from all over the educational landscape. As an administrator, I freely provided support and improvements for a variety of platforms while also being extremely mindful of conflict of interests that could arise. I’ve been an advisor with companies like Kahoot!, Nearpod, bulb, and CatchOn in the past.
With CatchOn, it started as an idea inside the head of their founder and CEO, Jena Draper. She pitched me on a concept that was near and dear to my heart. Gathering data to track application usage to not only save money by eliminating unused software, but also guiding training where it was lacking. I liked her idea, but I also liked that she was a female trying to launch a start-up in a male-dominated field. Being a father of 3 girls, I’m always looking for opportunities for them to see that growth and determination in others and how it can pay off.
A couple of years ago, a group of young entrepreneurs from Westlake High School were getting started on their company, Trashbots. Like CatchOn, I liked their approach and solution for providing low-cost STEAM robotics for students in need. Also like CatchOn, I also liked the story of Rohit and Sidharth. Two brothers who started the company at the ages of 14 and 16. Again, thinking of my own children, it’s important for them to see that they don’t have to wait until after college to embark on their dreams. The co-founders asked me to be their Chief Evangelist when I left the school district and I proudly still serve that role today.
I have had offers from several companies to be on their advisory board or help them in some form or fashion over the years. I tell you this not to brag, but to point out that I’m EXTREMELY careful with who I associate my name with. I’ve seen too many fellow educators either become associated with a brand or become full-on sales people. That’s not me and I don’t think that’s why people follow me, this blog and my work.
That said, every now and then, I come across a company that aligns with my own vision for the future of education.
CatchOn was one of those companies. Trashbots was one of those companies.
Now, I found a new company that I’m super excited about…..Rex Academy.
Rex Academy’s founder and CEO, Sandhya Padala, has her own story about how she felt dismayed but what computer science programs offered students, including her own son. Rather than complain about it, she set out on a course to create a “modernized” K-12 computer science curriculum platform that offers fun and engaging courses like “Become a YouTuber” and Minecraft mixed with intense (and increasingly necessary) courses like Cybersecurity and AI/Machine Learning. Seeing the change in education, they don’t offer these in a “one-size-fits-all” approach. While it’s a fully-fledged CTE curriculum, they also offer after school and camp programs while also working alongside non-profit organizations to help students with job training and placement.
The more I got to learn about Sandhya and Rex, the more impressed I became at the direction and vision of this company. They are not only seeking to change the face of computer science curriculum, but they are expanding opportunities to those that might not have had access to these programs in the past. Again, putting on my ‘dad hat’, it’s important that my kids see that not everyone has the same opportunities in life and that we should try our best to correct that.
Last month, they approached me with the prospect of helping them build that vision as their new Chief Evangelist of Innovation (love that title). As I mentioned before, I’m extremely careful with who I associate my name with. It’s also important to me that I continue to be able to do what I love the most….coach and present for educators.
By accepting this role, I get the best of both worlds. I’ll still be able to keep doing all my usual craziness of keynote speaking, podcast hosting, online courses, and trivia nights, while at the same time be a part of a company that is growing and developing in spaces where we need it in this country.
I’m still and educator in my heart and soul.
My guiding light will always be helping teachers and students with thoughtful integration of technology. That will not change with this new role. But I do hope education continues to change and whatever way I can affect that, you better be darn sure I’m going to try.
Thank YOU for being with me on this journey!
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