When I returned from the International Society for Technology Educators (#ISTE17), I shared in an article that I was disappointed in the lack of diversity I experienced. It’s important to notice a problem. It’s even more important to determine solutions to address that problem. As a result, I challenged myself and others to come up with strategies to invite diversity.
Here are some actions we can take to invite diversity into ISTE and other conferences, events, and work we do.
Strategies to invite diversity
Take note of whom you are engaging with in conversation. If everyone looks like you, change that. Your conversations will be richer and you will gain new insights.
2) Create mini grants
Jacquii Leveine who heads school design for NYC Schools recommends that central or district offices create mini-grants and be mindful to ensure teachers of different ethnicities are awarded these grants to conferences. She points out that unfortunately, school administrators don't always respect technology and its gains and therefore they don't pay for or allow their teachers to attend conferences. However, support from above via mini-grants could be an effective way to address this issue.
The livestreams I saw from the conference lacked diversity. Don’t do this. If you are livestreaming a conversation, be mindful to include diverse voices in the conversation.
Invite/inspire underrepresented colleagues to submit workshop proposals. If they are new to presenting and feel it would be useful, offer to help them with their proposals. Invite them to present with you.
If you are organizing or participating on a panel, ensure it isn’t a bunch of white folks sharing their insights. If it is, address that and change it.
6) Keynotes / Featured Speakers
If there is not, or historically there has not been diversity in your featured presenters, take note. Ask why? Make recommendations on awesome voices to bring to the stage. Here are some speakers I’ve enjoyed: Christopher Emdin, Linda Hill, Winona LaDuke, Jamaal Bowman, Jaime Casap.
7) Affirm and validate
Jared Fox who serves as the @NYCSchools#LGBT#Community Liaison advises that it is important for organizers to create spaces that are affirming and validating. If we are going to make safe spaces for a diverse audience, then we should instruct attendees about microaggressions and collectively determine things not to say to ensure the space does not become hostile. It is also important to establish group norms.
Conference organizers can be more intentional about how they get the word out about their event. Take the time to figure out how to reach out to a more diverse audience and help them feel welcomed. If you have local affiliates guide them in how to do the same.
When you share ideas, be cognizant of sharing ideas from diverse perspectives. Learn from and converse with a diverse collection of colleagues by following, liking, and responding to them. Look at the people you follow and engage with on Twitter. If they are not diverse, be intentional about changing that.
11) Empower staff
Supervisors can be mindful to allocate days (5 - 10 per year) for staff to attend professional learning opportunities. Support staff in writing proposals. Make space for them to share what they learned back at your school. Make sure all staff have these opportunities, especially those from traditionally underrepresented communities.
12) Help make it affordable for others
Educator Sarah Beara Harkinator suggested in a community of Modern Learners to help one another and get creative. Did your school or district pay for you to attend a conference? Awesome. Now share the love. Get a second bed, pull out couch, or bring an air mattress so someone who didn’t get funded, can more easily afford the trip. Maybe people can attend for free if they volunteer. Let them know that. Be creative. Flight’s too expensive? Coordinate with others and get a bus or van to go to the conference. Remember these expenses are tax writeoffs too.
13) Create local opportunities
Not everyone can get time off or funding to attend out-of-state conferences. Create local experiences where you can give a diverse audience a chance to attend and present. In New York City we conduct EdCamps, Google Educator Group meetups, #NYCSchoolsTech meetups, and we have an annual #NYCSchoolsTech Summit with more than 1000 attendees. When you hold such events, remember to consider diversity and follow these tips.
Here are some of the wonderful educators who attend our events.
These are some ideas that organizers and attendees can do to bring a more diverse representation of voices to the places where we connect, share, and spread ideas. However, I am still learning. What do you think. Are there some ideas that would work for you? What are some ideas that you would like to see happening? What's missing?
Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.
Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.