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Big Ideas: “How to give impoverished students access to a first-class education through technology” with Dave Saltmarsh of Jamf

The Matter Innovation Hub gives impoverished students access to a first-class education through technology. The Hub not only brings digital equality to areas where people have not yet been given the opportunity to work with technology, but also helps students develop technological skills that can be translated into future job opportunities. The Hub is grounded […]

The Matter Innovation Hub gives impoverished students access to a first-class education through technology. The Hub not only brings digital equality to areas where people have not yet been given the opportunity to work with technology, but also helps students develop technological skills that can be translated into future job opportunities. The Hub is grounded in the intent to provide an active learning experience regardless of students’ gender, race, social-economic status or geography. It provides a student-focused learning environment where learners are allowed to try, fail and succeed at their own pace, while changing the role of the teacher from a lecturer to more of a facilitator and mentor who fosters equitable, safe and challenging learning experiences. This project also addresses the geographical economic shift that is happening as part of the fourth industrial revolution. Today, people can live anywhere in the world, and as long as they have access to a quality computing device and the internet, they have the potential to gain knowledge and skills in a very short period of time to lift themselves out of poverty, earn a living and support their family and community. The Hub provides engaging and personalized learning for people who otherwise would have limited access to education, affording them meaningful opportunities to enrich their lives and their futures.


Asa part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Saltmarsh. Dave Saltmarsh, M.Ed., is the global education liaison at Apple device management company Jamf, where he creates and delivers technology-based educational programs designed to encourage personalized learning and drive student success in K-12 and higher education organizations around the world. Previously, Dave has served as an IT and library director, as well as a math and science teacher at schools in Maine and Arizona. This gives him a unique background and perspective on the challenges facing students today — and how technology can help close achievement gaps and help all students succeed.


Thank you so much for joining us Dave! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I became a teacher out of disappointment for the experience. It wasn’t until the age of 21 that I discovered I was dyslexic. At the end of second grade, due to my inability to read, it was suggested that I be retained. I repeated second grade with no modification to the approach or special attention to my poor reading. I struggled throughout middle and high school and believe I only graduated due to being passed along.

I entered the teaching profession with a goal of reaching all students. Early in my experience I recognized the larger issue of gender and racial bias in classrooms.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I live for the moments of abrupt expressions of understanding, discover, or insight. Each one is unique and similar at the same time. I have too many to pinpoint a single episode.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

As global inequality and the tech talent shortage continue to grow, this initiative seeks to address both problems simultaneously by providing equal access to education around the world through technology.

The Matter Innovation Hub is a 21st century classroom designed within a shipping container, outfitted with iPads and Apple TVs. It’s self-sustaining, solar-powered and can be deployed anywhere in the world. The Hub provides a sustainable learning environment to gradually shift the model of teaching and learning to a student-centered approach, creating enriching, engaging and personalized learning opportunities for any and every student.

The Hub contains five collaborative workspaces with an interactive display powered by Apple TV. While in the unit, every student and teacher can access an iPad. Each device is housed in an iPad case, which allows students the affordances of a tablet solution, while also providing the flexibility of an integrated keyboard. The eSpark Learning solution, along with Apple’s Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create curriculum, provide the students with vast learning resources.

Students can use a variety of apps, such as Swift Playground, Duolingo and iBooks, to gain access to a diversified library of content to complement every student’s interests and learning style. The Hub will also house Sphero SPRK+, robotic balls that offer students hands-on activities with a focus on coding and STEM.

The program provides an opportunity to move away from the traditional classroom format, with a teacher lecturing from the front of room to students in rows and columns of desks to an active environment. Using tools like these also allow teachers and students to think about engaging and learning the subject matter in a more complete way, instead of just focusing on passing an exam.

Reengineering the classroom begins with a desire to shift from a teacher-centered to a student-centered environments, where students work collaboratively on real problems, while the teacher becomes a coach, mentor and guide. There are models of educational transformation that lead to innovative learning environments, including TPaCKSAMRLoTi/H.E.A.T. and TIM. What all of these have in common is a focus on critical thinking, problem solving and creativity — the Hub puts these elements at the center of the learning experience.

How do you think this will change the world?

The Matter Innovation Hub gives impoverished students access to a first-class education through technology. The Hub not only brings digital equality to areas where people have not yet been given the opportunity to work with technology, but also helps students develop technological skills that can be translated into future job opportunities.

The Hub is grounded in the intent to provide an active learning experience regardless of students’ gender, race, social-economic status or geography. It provides a student-focused learning environment where learners are allowed to try, fail and succeed at their own pace, while changing the role of the teacher from a lecturer to more of a facilitator and mentor who fosters equitable, safe and challenging learning experiences.

This project also addresses the geographical economic shift that is happening as part of the fourth industrial revolution. Today, people can live anywhere in the world, and as long as they have access to a quality computing device and the internet, they have the potential to gain knowledge and skills in a very short period of time to lift themselves out of poverty, earn a living and support their family and community. The Hub provides engaging and personalized learning for people who otherwise would have limited access to education, affording them meaningful opportunities to enrich their lives and their futures.

When the first Hub was deployed in Haiti last year, 300 students who had never even seen a smart phone before gained access to a modern, high-tech education that will open doors of opportunity to futures they once could only dream about. The second Hub is being deployed in Zimbabwe, with more on the way. See the Hub in action here: https://vimeo.com/299668971

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

I would expect some backlash from those who want to continue over emphasizing standardized exams.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

The idea for the Innovation was inspired by Jamf CEO Dean Hager’s annual volunteer trip to Haiti with Healing Haiti, an organization that strives to improve the lives of the people living in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. On one of those trips Dean visited Grace Academy in Titanyen, where the students were fascinated by the Apple Watch on his wrist. He was amazed by how quickly they figured out how to use it and wondered how much access they had to technology in school. As it turns out, they had absolutely none — just pen and paper. This experience inspired the grand vision to get technology into the hands of kids as an avenue to a brighter future.

Jamf began its mission to bring technology to Haiti in 2017 with the creation of an Innovation Center within Grace Academy, also run by Healing Haiti. The initial project supplied the center with hardware. A subsequent trip provided internet access, additional hardware and more training for both students and teachers. Expanding the project to include the Innovation Hub allows even more students the opportunity to get their hands on technology.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Revamping the primary forms of assessment of student learning. Authentic learning requires authentic assessments.

The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?

The best way to prepare for an increasingly tech-centric job market is to promote critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Collaboration should also be a focus; however, not without the other critical element.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

My career path is based on my core belief that all students deserve equitable, challenging, and diverse experiences, regardless of gender, race, or social-economical background. I am dedicated to a life long pursuit of continual learning, striving for excellence, and endless curiosity drive passions and positive attitude relentless through challenging opportunities.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Value and purposefully incorporate diversity of thought and multiple perspectives into your approach to life.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Everyone deserves access to an education. Utilizing Apple technology, the Matter Innovation Hub provides engaging and personalized learning for people who otherwise would have limited access to technology education, affording them meaningful opportunities to enrich their lives and their futures. See it in action here:

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