In a scholarship interview my senior year of high school, I was asked to name one public figure who would make a big impact in the next ten years.

Derp. No idea. In that moment, I realized that the leaders I admired were dead.

Since then, I have made an active effort to identify outspoken people — living people — whose opinions I believe and cherish. As an exercise in following, I’ve assembled a short list of leaders who will influence my pursuit of being a conscientious and impact-driven edtech professional in 2016.


Audrey Watters

Audrey is the self-ascribed Cassandra of education technology. Her blog, Hack Education, is dedicated to scrutinizing nearly every event and trend in edtech, whether political, financial, social, pedagogical, viral — you name it. Her writing is humorous, discerning and nonpartisan. I love it. To the overly optimistic reader, she may seem harsh in her conclusions; however, I find her opinions to be a breath of fresh air in a field that reeks of too much perfume.

Larry Cuban

I only recently stumbled upon Larry Cuban, a highly respected voice in education. I’ll bashfully admit that he’s the only former K-12 educator on my list. The Stanford professor draws upon forty-one years of teaching for his blog, Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice. His robust education experience lends a welcome touch of historical perspective to his writing.

Tressie McMillan Cottom

Tressie reminds me that education is an instrument of not just learning, but socialization and social justice. A professor of sociology, she writes on how race, class and gender play out in education, particularly higher ed. Her blog, Some of Us Are Brave, is one that I chastise myself for not reading often enough. 

Annie Murphy Paul

Annie is everywhere. Read her accolades on her website, and you’ll see that her writing appears in numerous big-name media sources, like Time and Forbes. I find her series on affirmative testing especially interesting. She targets a broader audience than others on this list, but she doesn’t shirk away from writing about more sensitive subjects, like how race and free speech can influence sense of belonging at universities.

David Sasaki

David is the outlier in my list, in that he does not identify as an education writer and doesn’t work in education. He is a program officer at the Hewlett Foundation. He writes about philanthropy, democracy and profound societal trends, like “The End of Narrative, Meaning.” I appreciate that David examines how philanthropy shapes democracy (and education) for better and for worse. With billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg donating large sums to niche causes (he recently earmarked billions for personalized learning, which I applaud), we must remain diligent in questioning the impact of special interests in education and society at large.


Note: This is a short list of leaders, but a perceptive reader might notice that Tressie is the only person of color. Not ideal as far as racial diversity is concerned. I do follow others not included in this list, but I appreciate suggestions of thoughtful education leaders from underrepresented backgrounds.

Photo Credit: Lan Bui