The Direct Network

What in the EdTech?

Posted by Carrie Watkins on Nov 9, 2016 7:00:00 AM
Topics: ed tech, professional development

This past week, I traveled to several of our partner schools in the Dallas Fort Worth area. I received tours of maker spaces where students 3D-printed working electric guitar frames, heard about Invention Conventions where students come up with inventions that could change the world, and a student-run ad agency that did social media management and design work for outside companies.

What in the EdTech

There is no doubt that our partner schools are on the forefront of education. In order to be a good partner in return, it’s important for us at MBS Direct to understand the trends and ideas that are impacting them.

Each month, we do What in the EdTech sessions where we cover some of those trends. I put together a list of topics, such as Competency-Based Education (CBE), Minecraft or gamification, and the Client Services team votes on what they want to learn about next. I’ll do a short presentation about the idea and how schools are using it, and then give our account managers a chance to participate as well, if we can.

Here are a few of our recent What in the EdTech sessions:


The BreakoutEDU site has numerous examples of teachers and administrators using this engaging exercise for review, professional development or just a fun way to introduce a concept. For our team, we created the website version with a locked Google form. To find the answers, they had to do research, find ISBNs and know some of our content partners. I might have made our first foray a little difficult because everyone needed a little extra time and a few hints in order to break out.

Google Cardboard and Expeditions

Augmented Reality started to become reachable for many schools with the advent of Google Cardboard. In order to give our team a hands-on experience, we got a Cardboard donated by a family member who subscribes to the New York Times, and everyone on our team got a brief turn swimming in the Great Barrier Reef. We also Skyped with a partner school that had Google come to their school to demonstrate Expeditions. The school talked about students’ reactions and how teachers are planning to implement some of what they experienced. Many of our team noticed how easy it was to get motion sick even when you’re sitting still.


A great way to see another classroom and meet students across the world, we wanted to give our team a chance to MysterySkype with one of our partner schools. We found a lower-school classroom studying the United States geography that was willing to MysterySkype with us. They were pros, asking us questions about our hemisphere, where we were in relation to the Mississippi river and, with the help of their devices, even narrowed it down to our exact city. They then let our account managers ask them questions to identify their school. It was a lot of fun to meet students at one of our partners and help them learn a little more about the Midwest.

Chrome Extensions

We have a number of schools moving to Chromebooks, so we wanted to cover how schools are using Chrome Extensions instead of downloading programs to the computer. It turned out to be extremely applicable for our team. Most account managers use Chrome as their browser of choice, but only a handful had spent much time in the Extension section of the Chrome store. We discussed some of the more popular extensions used in education, especially those for privacy (Ghostery), curation (Diigo and Feedly), screen recording (Screencastify) and proper grammar (Grammarly).

Khan Academy

Being in content distribution, we know that learning materials come in all forms. Most of our team had heard about Khan Academy, but few had had an opportunity to explore it. After a short introduction, I turned them loose on the site to learn about any concept that seemed interesting. They reviewed concepts in math, computer science and art. Some even found material that covered a topic they knew their own children were struggling with. If they turned in one thing they learned during 15 minutes on Khan Academy, they were entered to win a Starbucks beverage of their choice.

Next month, we’ll cover the maker movement and how many of our partner schools are incorporating making at all levels of their curriculum – from cardboard challenges to 3D printing. I even have a small project for them to do during our 30-minute meeting.

Take the quiz to find out if your school is ready for an Online Bookstore!


About Carrie Watkins

Carrie is a former digital consultant for MBS Direct, who specialized in traveling around the country to learn about new products and services MBS Direct can provide to partner schools and bringing those ideas back into the office to work on with the digital solutions team.

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