Guest blog post by Spring CUE featured speaker Ken Shelton

What is this place called home?
Is it a physical space
that we feel is our place
Is it a mental space
For our longing and sense of belonging
What is this place called home?
It is where we long to belong in our hearts and our minds

My first experience with CUE goes all the way back to 2008. The conference was abuzz with sessions on the “new” Google apps, why technology matters, and a variety of Web 2.0 applications that educators should be using in their respective learning environments. I found the entire experience to be simultaneously inspiring and motivating as I felt at home with so many like-minded educators whose primary purpose was to make learning more meaningful for students. Over the course of the next four years or so I observed, learned, listened, and thought at each conference. What was most meaningful for me, beyond the learning, was the depth and meaning of the connections I made. What began as casual encounters turned into meaningful friendships. Online connections became real-time relationships. Each year I looked towards CUE as the opportunity to return home to my family of educators. In fact, this annual return began to feel more like a reunion than simply a return to a conference.

Over the past several years I have not had the opportunity to attend the CUE Conference. The connections remained but the face-to-face hugs, smiles, shared learning, and casual conversations about photography, food, fashion, and travel began to take place in virtual settings. In the time of my absence, all of us have grown as educators and human beings.  Hopefully, our perspectives and understandings of the impact we have beyond the curriculum; on the social health, well-being, and overall experience students have has evolved as well. During my time away I have observed and experienced many things that are the catalyst for what I talk about and do now. While the list is quite extensive the things that are constantly at the forefront of my thinking, include but are not limited to, Diversity, Equity, Digital Equity, Inclusion, Cultural Competence, and School/Organizational culture. I have seen amazing work done by educators and I have seen how our most vulnerable students continue to work against many obstacles to their success that are not the result of individual choices or deficits. In fact, here is one to ponder; I continue to observe how the educational system itself not only constructs many of these obstacles but becomes self-serving in keeping those very obstacles in place, e.g. maintaining the status quo. Further to that point, I have examined the very slow-changing data that continues to show a lack of representation or even access of historically marginalized students (students of color and even girls) in STEM programs, honors programs, gifted programs, as well as pretty much anything associated with innovation or excellence. School discipline rates continue to be skewed at alarming rates against Latino and African-American male students. For example, the statewide suspension rate for black males is 3.6 times greater than the statewide rate for all students. But the highest suspension disparity by grade level occurs in grades K-3, where the suspension rate for black boys is 5.6 times greater than the statewide average(1). I am reminded of a quote from one of my closest friends and colleagues Jeffery Heil, “Once we can make the invisible, unspoken biases and assumptions about our most vulnerable students visible, we create a cognitive dissonance in all educators who can no longer choose to ignore what those affected have known their entire lives.”

These are just a few examples to share as the basis for my keynote and the sessions I will be leading. We must all turn around on the proverbial moving sidewalk(2) and ensure ALL truly means ALL when it comes to access, opportunity, and ultimately success. However, this work cannot be done in isolation. It requires a village, a community; the type of community I began building in 2008 when I attended CUE Conferences. Eventually, we all hope to, and long for, a return home. I am beyond thrilled to return home and have the opportunity for my own voice to be amplified as a keynote speaker. It is truly a privilege to return to the conference of my peers. I am looking forward to rekindling already established connections and sparking new ones. In order to be the catalyst for the changes needed, we must work together, and that starts with our shared time, shared learning, and shared experiences. #WeAreCUE

About Ken Shelton

Ken Shelton is a former CUE board member and was recognized as the ISTE Digital Equity PLN 2018 Excellence Award winner. Ken is an Apple Distinguished Educator and a Google Certified Innovator and was also named to the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Education Technology Task Force. Ken holds an M.A. in Education in Educational Technology as well as New Media Design and Production. He has keynoted at education events around the world, including nearly every state in the United States. Ken has a long lineage in education, his father was the chief business officer and assistant superintendent for the Los Angeles County Office of Education and worked in two other county offices. One of Ken’s grandfathers and his maternal grandmother were educators.

Ken likes to say “the importance of education was instilled in my family on both sides many generations ago”.

Ken’s keynote will focus on educational equity, with a focus on the role that edtech can play in leveling the playing field for all students.

Get a preview of Ken’s voice and vision in this podcast hosted by Barbara Bray: https://barbarabray.net/2017/11/11/a-passion-for-storytelling-and-equity-with-ken-shelton/

Spring CUE will be in Palm Springs once again for 2020, hosting over 5000 education-minded and EdTech loving attendees at the longest-running, largest annual event on the West Coast. There are over 42 years of CUE institutional knowledge shared at Spring CUE each year – join us this year to change how you teach: CUE.org/Spring

(1) https://edsource.org/2018/suspension-rates-for-black-male-students-in-california-higher-for-foster-youth-rural-students/593888

(2) Tatum, Beverly Daniel. (2003). “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” : and other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books,

Mercedes Maskalik

About Mercedes Maskalik