Steve Dembo is one of the most knowledgeable, likeable, and approachable presenters I have ever had the privilege of calling a friend. He has presented multiple times at our local school district conference and is a fan-favorite. Steve and I go back to 2005 when Discovery Education first started their wildly successful DEN Star program. Steve was just fresh out of teaching kindergarten and was presenting at a baseball-themed DEN Star all-day Day of Discovery (in Orlando, or maybe it was Atlanta), where I was a participant. I remember Steve talking about his kindergarten class podcast, Teach42. He and I hit it off, probably mostly due to our common snarky sense of humor and love for social media. As Steve grew into his role as a true superstar at Discovery Education, I was the district lead on all things Discovery (as well as a blogger) and Steve and I spent a lot of time sharing great conversations in many a Bloggers’ Café, walking along the Roosevelt Memorial is Washington, D.C., and even singing Happy Birthday in a piano bar in San Antonio, to mention just a few memorable moments. Steve’s podcast went the way of most podcasts over the years, but recently Steve resurrected his Teach42 podcast and has plans to bring his series of live mini-reviews of technologies as well as an audio weekly podcast featuring panel discussions and interviews back to the front burner. You can subscribe here: https://itun.es/us/Qc-rhb.c
Check out Steve at one of his sessions: C121: The Weird, Wild and Wonderful Side of Education Technology • C702: High Tech Without the High Price
What is your background in education?
4 years teaching Kindergarten, 3 years Dir of Technology, 6 years as an adjunct professor for Wilkes, 4 years as a school board member and 10 years at Discovery Education.
What unique message do you bring in your keynotes?
The killer feature of technology is opportunity. We don’t need to be constrained to a communications person telling the school story, or to having 20 students all turn in the same assignment in the same way, or teaching the same lesson ten years in a row. There are a nearly infinite number of flavors to technology today, and educators need to start rethinking every aspect of the school experience.
What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you while presenting?
While using a student’s social media profile as a negative example of what it looks like when done horribly wrong… I had someone stand up in the audience and let me know that the girl on screen was his daughter. Let’s just call that a very teachable moment!
Is there anything (related to edtech) you expected to see fully embraced in schools by now, but are disappointed to see it has yet to be fully adopted? Briefly explain the barriers.
I’m surprised that BYOD has not made as much of a dent as it could. I think primarily it is due to most classrooms being very teacher-centric. It’s hard to let go of control, and to get away from the instinct to want to have every student ‘succeed’ in every lesson and project. But I think we need to focus more on the concepts than on the specific tools, apps, operating systems, and hardware. Give the student more choice, let them use what they have if they have it, and see where they can take it!
What do you see happening in Charter or private schools that you think our public schools could learn from?
I think many charter and private school teachers are willing to work just as hard for less pay and benefits, in part due to the fact that they aren’t going to be demonized and pressured by standardized testing. If they choose to use tests, they know that they won’t be held over their head and used as a club. Additionally, those teachers typically have more flexibility in their curriculum, without having to adhere strictly to such movements as Common Core. While their curriculum may still be aligned to those same concepts, there is less pressure.
What is one compelling reason for parents to keep their students in public schools?
School is more than just a place to go to class. I come from an early childhood background, and I firmly believe that the social and emotional growth that occurs in school is just as important as the traditional curriculum. Tied in to that is having access to a diversity of experiences, including music, art, sports, clubs, and so on.
If you weren’t in education, what field would you be in?
I’d probably be running a vintage toy store or comic book shop!
What kind of kid were you?
I loved learning and tinkering. I liked taking a concept and seeing how far I could stretch it before moving on to something else. While I was never superior in any one area, I made up for it by having experience in an incredibly diverse number of areas.
What are you most excited about right now?
I think the maker movement is fascinating. The path from idea to production has never been shorter or more accessible to people. While the movement is several years old now, I think it is still in its infancy. And I can’t wait to see what happens when tools like 3D printers because as accessible and easy to use as inkjet printers are today.
Anything else (message, links, etc.) you would like me to know and/or write about.
That I recently started podcasting again, doing a series of live mini-reviews of technologies as well as an audio weekly podcast featuring panel discussions and interviews. It’s been a few years, but I’m excited to be getting back to it! Only link is the new and improved Teach42.com 🙂
The Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), the largest, national, independent education technology conference, annually attracts thousands of education and technology leaders from around the world. Delivering strategies and best practices for student success and schoolwide advancement, FETC is known as one of the nation’s premier education technology events! Recognized for its outstanding program year after year, FETC provides CTOs, CIOs, Innovation Directors, Special Ed/Pupil Services Directors, Early Childhood Directors, Media Specialists, Technologists, Administrators and other Educators, the opportunity to explore the most effective integration of technology across the curriculum — from preK-12 — through premium sessions, intensive workshops, various concurrent sessions, live demonstrations of several hundred hardware and software products, plus much more. Visit www.FETC.org for more details.