CrossRoads 2018: Connecting Amongst the Redwoods

June 26, 2018

CrossRoads 2018, the Foundation’s fourth annual thought leadership conference, brought together a select group of education researchers, practitioners, non-profit leaders, and policymakers.

Hosted at 1440 Multiversity in Scotts Valley, California, attendees traveled from 38 different states to take part in CrossRoads, representing schools, universities, libraries, museums, makerspaces, after-school programs, national and local non-profit organizations, state governments, and technology education companies.

What started out a few years ago as a small gathering with a couple dozen attendees, CrossRoads has grown into a multi-day, multi-track event. Sessions spanned across five tracks including Community Building, Computational Thinking, Computer Science Education, Education Policy, and Maker Education. Attendees were encouraged to connect with others and step outside of their comfort zone to learn something they didn't know about before. One attendee appreciated the focus on inclusion and diversity across all the keynotes and panels and noted that all the discussions were more interesting and impactful because of that focus.

Cullen White, managing director of Computer Science with Teach for America aptly described the gathering’s purpose: “CrossRoads gave us the opportunity to engage with so many brilliant people in such a stunning atmosphere. There was something about being in the midst of a redwood forest that helped discussion progress in ways that it hadn't before.”

Many were first-time participants but there were plenty of guests that enjoyed their second, third, or even fourth CrossRoads.

Karen Warner, a local Bay Area educator and a first-time attendee provided this insight, “I felt welcomed into an already connected community of deep thinkers even though my area of expertise was tangential to the CS and Maker arena. I felt as though I was in a house where I opened the door to an amazing room I did not know existed. CrossRoads was that room for me. I was warmly invited in, encouraged to speak and learn, and I left knowing I made new connections to keep the learning going forward.”

New this year at CrossRoads included the recognition of many Computer Science and Maker educators. Five Teaching Excellence Awards were given to CS educators and 10 Infy Maker Award winners were announced.

One Infy Maker award winner, Jonathan Prozzi, director of learning design at Digital Harbor shared his reflections on CrossRoads, “One of my core takeaways from #InfyXRoads was the importance of contextual interaction and engagement with the world via technology — whether this was through the humanities, storytelling, narratives, design — and the necessity of teaching the value of these interactions.”

Plenary keynotes included computing pioneer Cynthia Solomon as the inaugural Seymour Papert Memorial Lecturer, Hadi Partovi of, and Dale Dougherty of Maker Media.

During the conference, the Foundation premiered it newest #WhyIMake video featuring a local Bay Area educator, Emily Pilloton of Girls Garage, whose work introduces young girls to Making where they learn more about themselves and develop new skills. Emily is the fifth Maker to be featured in the #WhyIMake video series and was recently cited in a blog by Melinda Gates as one of seven women who are making history.

Also in attendance were multiple professional development (PD) providers who will be playing a pivotal role at the inaugural Pathfinders Summer Institute from July 15-20, convening hundreds of K-12 public teachers from around the US on the Indiana University Bloomington campus for one week to participate in free Computer Science and Maker education training.

On the closing day, a plenary panel discussion with Colleen Lewis, Quincy Brown, and Yasmin Kafai pondered two key questions: “Why Teach CS? Why Teach Making?” Additionally, Sophia Sanchez-Maes, a JPL scientist and Yale University student, shared her thoughts on where her studies and research have taken her despite the odds of equity and underrepresentation. Fred Martin of CSTA and Kylie Peppler of IU Bloomington wrapped up CrossRoads and facilitated a discussion where many offered their takeaways.

CrossRoads has always been about making new connections, exploring new ideas, and holding unique conversations about what might be possible while collaborating. “The most valuable aspect of the conference was the informal space, to not only brainstorm how we can work together, but also allow us to discuss other things which interest and drive us--ultimately strengthening relationships” said Erin Hogeboom, the director of strategic partnerships at National Girls Collaborative Project. “There were many people that I've seen at other conferences but never really gotten the chance to know on a deeper level--I was able to do that at CrossRoads.”

It was an amazing four days and the Foundation was thrilled to connect with everyone and together continue to drive forward the meaningful work of which we are very proud. It was a privilege for the Foundation to bring together so many great minds and see them connect and collaborate on a mutually-shared goal: to support equitable, inclusive access to computer science and maker education in the US.