Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The 13-Strategy Checklist to Invite Diversity Into Professional Learning Opportunities

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

1) Converse
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.

3) Livestream
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.

4) Workshops
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.  

5) Panels
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.   

8) Invite
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.

9) Support and promote
EdTech facilitator and workshop presenter, Carla Jefferson‏ (@mrsjeff2u) recommends looking for presenters of color and finding ways to highlight and support their work.

10) Tweet
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?   


  1. My colleague, who is an African-American male, attends ISTE each year. Oftentimes he shares his experiences at the conference and the lack of diversity in regards to race. The tips provided in this blog mainly involved including a variety of voices and advocating for more types of people to join the conversation.

    Diversity is such a broad term. This cannot be merely regulated to race but other traits as well such as disabilities, socioeconomic statuses, gender etc...How have the ISTE conference coordinators address including those groups of people?

  2. This is a great list to consider when starting anything new in a school or community. Even planning PD in your building should include diverse voices and opportunities for people to feel welcome and able to share a bit of who they are.

    1. I agree that diversity is an important factor to consider. After all, we are living in a diversified world. The question however, is; how do we define diversification? The temptation is to define diversity in terms of the obvious such as the color of a person's skin or gender. However, what about those factors which are not so obvious such as a person's beliefs or education or experiences. I believe that these not so obvious aspects of diversity are really where we should focus our attention as these can be more impactful than the obvious. The next point which I would like to raise is how do we balance the scale between diversity and discrimination? Do we run the risk of discriminating under the guise of diversity?

  3. Hello I am Eron McLean from Jamaica
    You seem to have had a great conference. Clearly the issue of diversity was topical which resulted in this formidable checklist. I have to take issue with some of the items on the list. Diversity is a complex issue and should not be narrowed down to a difference in race or ethnicity. A person can look like me but shares a different perspective on any number of issues. This difference in perspective may be due to any number of reasons eg. experience, background, education and the list goes on. This is diversity. Also, two persons may be be of different ethnicity but share common perspective and no one can broaden or enrich the conversation. This issue of who to converse with being narrowed down to difference in physical appearance is not doing justice to the topic at all.

  4. On the issue of who gets selected for the panel, the caution given against an all white panel may be construed as bias or racist. What if the best resource at that time happens to reside in persons who are white? Are you going to select someone else simply because they are not white?