To say that It has been an incredible year for Digital Harbor Foundation would be an understatement.
Andrew and I would like to share some highlights and thank you for your continued support and guidance. Without donors and supporters like you, none of this could happen.
First, we would like to thank the Board of Trustees and our community of donors and supporters for their enduring commitment to building innovation capacity among Baltimore’s youth through education and educational technology initiatives. Through these educational initiatives with students and teachers — including STEM Engine and EdTech Link — DHF has helped to bring Baltimore to the center of the national conversation about the future of innovation, industry, and education.
The mission of DHF is to foster a culture of innovation, tech advancement, and entrepreneurship through local and global education initiatives; our core competencies are in education, beta and innovation, and workforce development. We help develop digital literacy and tech workforce skills to students through programs focusing on inquiry, creativity, and entrepreneurial discovery. We help develop tech proficiency and edtech leadership capacity in teachers through a program of professional development and educator empowerment. We help develop an innovation pipeline for the local tech ecosystem through partnerships and advocacy based on the idea that innovation begins locally in our schools.
And this is what our year of innovation looked like…
“We certainly need more ideas like this one to begin to connect our kids and communities to the amazing ways we can learn with one another right now.” — Will Richardson, author, educator, and national board advisor to the George Lucas Educational Foundation on DHF’s educational programming.
From our initial press release (yes, our first announcement of DHF’s edtech programming focus came in March 2012) being picked up by WSJ’s MarketWatch to MindShift’s breaking story introducing the program to Silicon Valley and the national edtech scene, DHF was off to a quick start fresh off the heels of an amazing Spring fundraiser that saw the Baltimore community come together to stand up for students and digital equity.
The evening program began, where it should, with Digital Harbor High School students sharing how their experiences with iDev [DHF's pilot program] have opened numerous opportunities for them. Several of the students participate in reverse mentoring—these high school students regularly visit Liberty Elementary, a local Baltimore City elementary school led by the forward-thinking principal Joseph Manko. The high school students work with Liberty teachers, helping them learn to use technology strategically, particularly with their 1:1 iPad program. It’s a win-win for everyone—the teachers learn new strategies and the high school students learn marketable skills. One young man at my table shared that he had built a simple website for someone the previous weekend for $350, a nice chunk of money for a high school student. Two other students approached several of us after the dinner to offer us their tech services if we needed them. Loved seeing such entrepreneurial skills in young people! — Katrina Stevens at LessonCast
Early in the spring we chose the Johns Hopkins University and the Baltimore Educational Research Consortium to take on the work of the measurement and evaluation of our teacher program and we formed an essential partnership with Humanim to directly link our educational programs to workforce development objectives in Baltimore. We were also especially fortunate in securing the pro-bono legal services of DLA Piper.
In April, we received news that Abell Foundation would be supporting our work through a major commitment:
Digital Harbor Foundation: Awarded a $200k grant from the Abell Foundation to support its EdTech Link program, a digital literacy and tech workforce initiative that promises to build an edtech community linking teachers, hackers, and students in Baltimore. Funds from the grant will go toward supporting the Digital Harbour Foundation’s edtech teaching fellows and repurposing two former city recreational buildings as community tech centers. — Edsurge
“I have learned more in the last six weeks at Digital Harbor Foundation than I learned in two years of graduate school.” — Jenna Shaw, 2012 EdTech Link Fellow
In June, our first cohort of ten Baltimore City Public School teachers travelled to San Diego to the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference where they met and hung out with the likes of CNN’s Mario Armstrong, the US Dept of Education’s Karen Cator, and over 20,000 educators and technologists. In her address, Cator listed DHF as one of the three most potent organizations nationally looking at innovation and the validation of edtech. (And later in the year, Shelly was featured along with Kator and Tim O’Reilly — the guy who coined the term “Web 2.0″ — in an EdTech Magazine article on what the third iteration of the Web means for education and innovation).
Upon returning to Baltimore, the fellows took on an intensive 40-hours-a-week for six-weeks training program in edtech and 21st century teaching. They also led the weekly meetups that grew into the Baltimore EdTech Meetup. TechnicallyBaltimore has covered the program intensively, writing spots on each of the fellows as well as on DHF’s efforts more broadly in the edtech space. We were blown away by the work and dedication of the Fellows; from second graders learning to code, to high school students helping to transform an old rec center into a new tech center, to students learning the ins-and-outs of 3D printing, to elementary schoolers building video games, to middle schoolers creating a national online literature journal, to students applying what they are learning in after school digital audio productions clubs to the creation of their own after school jobs, we have seen the breadth of possibilities realized when you put the power of technology into the hands of empowered teachers and students.
Just as we were establishing our work with the teachers, we were also establishing our presence online. Developer Don Abrams came on from the University of Delaware to lay down the basics of our tech infrastructure and to help develop the first of our open source projects to benefit the kind of innovation/experimenting we will be conducting at the tech centers. #edpain — a cc 3.0 platform for teachers, admins, and community members to propose pain points in education — was established in July with the design assistance of teacher Kevin Tame. A second iteration of the platform is in the pipeline to bring technologists and entrepreneurs into the mix.
In addition, Don and Andrew took DHF’s programming on the road with a Web SLAM in Columbus, OH sponsored by Battelle and Ohio State’s Metro School. We now have requests for SLAM (Student Learning / Apprenticeship Model) events from Texas to San Francisco (for which Shelly and DHF’s tech director Rose Burt have designed a complete Common Core aligned curriculum called STEM Core).
Shelly, meanwhile spoke about DHF’s programs with students and teachers at Jeff Pulver’s #140Edu conference in NYC as well as at the annual conference of the Center for Naval Analysis; he also represented DHF at the inaugural conference of the national STEMx Network in Dallas, TX. (Additionally, the STEMx Network’s website was designed by DHF student Jean Carlos Cedre — who has since graduated high school and is now on the DHF team as Assistant Tech Director; Jean mentors our web design students and was a member of one of the student-led teams at Baltimore StartupWeekend EDU).
“Exactly the kind of grassroots program that we can all learn from.” — Chris Lehmann, founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, 2011 White House ‘Champion of Change’
The Fellows headed back to their schools to teach what they had learned, to lead edtech professional development for staff, and to start their tech and innovation after school programs with their students. After nine months of preparation, DHF programming and teacher training is now in six schools in Baltimore City directly through classes, clubs, and pd.
To get the Rec2Tech space in Federal Hill up to speed, we scored two GREAT hires with Abell Foundation funding: Tech Director (and tech/maker curriculum expert) Rose Burt, from Johns Hopkins University’s Digital Media Center and Associate Tech Director Margaret Roth, former director of operations of Hopkins’ office of experiential education. Keeping to our core belief that educators are essential to the leadership of an edtech ecosystem, both are former teachers. In fact, the combined classroom experience of folks currently on staff is over 20 years.
Former educators are increasingly taking matters into their own hands and forming startups of their own. Edtech Meetups are popping up all around the country. Regional organizations like the Digital Harbor Foundation (Baltimore), TeacherSquare (SF Bay Area), and 4.0 Schools (New Orleans) are bringing teachers and techies together. — Edsurge
As mentioned, Rose and Shelly worked together to write DHF’s STEM Core curriculum; that curriculum is being piloted in Baltimore City and the Common Core aligned DHF digital fabrication curriculum module will be featured at the 2013 SXSW Edu in Austin, TX. Key to the curriculum is bringing inquiry, discovery, and exploration to the fore of K-12 tech and maker learning while building cross-curricular capacity in students to design and present material and to argue points related to tech, aesthetics, business, and learning in ways that are persuasive, accurate, and effective.
At the beginning of the school year, DHF created the Baltimore EdTech Group on LinkedIn (now at 150+ members) and established the Baltimore EdTech Meetup. Andrew organized TEDxYouth@Baltimore at the UM Bio Park, and DHF helped to facilitate Edcamp Baltimore. Andrew and Shelly were on the organizing committee of StartupWeekend EDU Baltimore and Margaret provided essential duties in seeing the show run smoothly; we were thrilled to see two Baltimore City Public Schools student-led teams make it to the final round!
Just as winter was approaching, Code for America awarded DHF’s BmorePipeline project with its Engagement Award for its part in the national ‘Race to Reuse’ competition. The BmorePipeline project was created to help students, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors to understand the opportunities available for internships and connections with mentors in the local tech ecosystem.
“This is the kind of program every district needs to empower students… to improve the quality of life of their community.” — Shelly Terrell, co-founder of #edchat
The winter has begun with a blast of edtech energy: San Francisco’s TeacherSquare choose DHF to partner in the next iteration of the EdTech Handbook; the new edition is being entirely re-coded and re-designed by DHF’s Baltimore City Public High School students. Further, Digital Harbor Foundation made Hack Education’s list of the Top Ten EdTech Startups of 2012.
In addition, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and several generous donors have funded DHF’s STEM Engine program to provide jobs in web development and technology to inner city students. We are happy to announce that Campfire Apps’ Stephanie Grimes and Shawn Grimes have joined the DHF team to lead the STEM Engine project. Shawn and Steph have spent the last year teaching mobile app development to students and teachers and are among the founders of Baltimore’s Mobile Meetup.
Finally, the Digital Harbor Foundation’s Tech Center will officially open to the public on January 17th in Federal Hill with students leading tours and demonstrations of the tech and maker spaces and special guests Sean Lane and Wes Moore talking about the important links between education and technology.
At year’s end, our wonderful partners and in-kind supporters include AOL/Advertising.com, Baltimore City Public Schools, Battelle, BmoreBroadband, Campfire Apps, DLA Piper, Edcamp Foundation, Humanim, IKEA, Microsoft, MindGrub, Skysong: the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, SmartLogic, Teach for America, TeacherSquare, Towson University Object Lab, Wide Angle Youth Media, and the YMCA. DHF and its leadership would like to publicly thank Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Youth Commission of the Office of the Mayor, City Council President Jack Young and Neighborhood Office Chief Damion Cooper, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Andres Alonso, and Senator Barbara Mikulski for support and advocacy on behalf of our city’s students. We thank those persons and organizations that have contributed financially to the Foundation, including Sean Lane, Rachel Charlesworth, Craig Cummings, Guy Filippelli, Chris Hoyt, David Stone, Vince Talbert, the Abell Foundation, OSTP, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Metro School, DHRED, the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, the Emerging Technologies Center, M&T Bank, RedOwl Analytics, Dave Troy, Dr. Jennifer Accardo, the Baltimore Community Foundation, Frank Bonsal III, John Cammack, Greg Cangialosi, Dru-Mondawmin Healthy Families, Robert C. Embry, Chris Engel, Yair Flicker, Rick Geritz, Jen Gunner, Mark Headd, Tim Hodge, Freeman Hrabowski, Joseph Manko, William Roth, Sarah Sechrist, and our anonymous donors.
2012 has been a remarkable year for the Digital Harbor Foundation and for Baltimore. 2013 looks to be even better. We look forward to strengthening even further our commitment to fostering innovation, tech advancement, and entrepreneurship through education initiatives here in our hometown of Baltimore and throughout the country.
Shelly Blake-Plock and Andrew Coy, co executive directors
Digital Harbor Foundation