After a rousing welcome from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the rising political star who spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Day Two of ISTE 2013 got underway with a keynote address by Steven Johnson. In an enormous hall, filled with what looked like all 15,000 attendees, Johnson’s talk provided true inspiration for revolutionizing education.
drew from history to demonstrate that great ideas take both time and diversified collaboration to reach full fruition. The notion of the Eureka moment or the sudden epiphany is a myth.
His first example was Tim Berners-Lee who, just after joining CERN in the mid-80s, began project “Enquire” to keep track of the broad research going there. He stitched together some existing tools like SGML and then put the project on the shelf. When he picked it up it became project Tangle. After a five year gap, it finally blossomed into the World Wide Web.
The theory of relativity, despite Darwins own claims that it came to him in an epiphany, also evolved over time. Darwin kept what was called a Commonplace Book, the Evernote of his time, to record quotations and notes. During the year leading up to the date that Darwin claimed the epiphany occurred, his notes have already started to explain evolution. After the supposed date of epiphany, there is limited development until about six months later, when the theory of evolution gets completed.
The age of enlightment happened in 18th century coffee houses in cities like London, Paris, Boston and Philadelphia, after coffee became affordable in 1710. That’s where formative discussions were held and new thinking emerged on topics ranging from electricity and science to religion. More recently important discussions have spread to online forums. A study of innovators and less-innovative people found that the innovators have more diverse social networks. This leads to Johnson’s catch phrase that chance favors the connected mind.
Johnson wrapped up by describing how his kids have been drawn to play the history simulation game, Dawn of Discovery, where the goal is to build a 15th century trading empire. The family plays for hours each day, trying different strategies. To be successful, players must master complicated urban planning concepts — to build a cathedral requires stone, which requires stone quarries and masons, nobles, taxes, spice trade, warships to protect the trade, etc. Why not extend this concept to teach, for example, the American Revolution, by simulating it in a game? Of course, the teacher would still need to provide enough guidance so that the correct side wins.
Report from the Office of Education Technology
Richard Culatta, U.S. Department of Education had several interesting points to make during his ISTE session on National Ed Tech Initiatives. By way of positioning educational technology, he noted that he is asked this question a lot: “Does technology really improve learning?” His latest approach is to answer by way of analogy, “Does paper improve learning?” In other words, technology by itself may not always improve learning, but it enables some very major advances in learning. The four broad situations that technology especially helps are:
- Students disadvantaged by geolocation
- Students treated the same regardless of need
- Class schedules valued over learning; i.e. students progress at different rates
- Data comes too late to be useful
To realize these benefits, school districts must have better infrastructure, that is, faster pipes all the way from the Internet to the student and teacher devices. To measure the speed, a tool is available at www.schoolspeedtest.org. The very minimal bandwidth requirement for basic assessments is 20K per student. For minimal CCSS assessment, 50K/student is required. But for full digital learning, the requirement is 100K/student. Today, only 20% of schools have enough bandwidth for digital learning.
NMC Horizon 2013 K-12 Report on Emerging Technology
The NMC Horizon report identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have major impact in K-12 education over the next five years. The research methods involve broad research and interaction among experts to reach a consensus. Here are the report conclusions:
- Time-to-Adoption Horizon One Year or Less: BYOD, Cloud Computing, Mobile Learning, Online Learning
- Time-to-Adoption Horizon Two to Three Years: Electronic Publishing, Learning Analytics, Open Content, Personalized Learning
- Time-to-Adoption Horizon Four to Five Years: 3D Printing, Augmented Reality, Virtual and Remote Laboratories, Wearable Technology
Since last year’s report, tablets and apps have been merged into mobile learning, and bandwidth issues are becoming worse. The bandwidth issue was emphasized by a question from the audience about the growing importance of the cloud in light of bandwidth limitations on getting to the cloud. The hope is that eRate will help address the bandwidth issues.
A Few Thoughts from K-12 CIOs As Presented at ISTE 2013
When switching to all digital, be prepared for a temporary drop in student test scores. The same CIO reported that student attitude, attendance, and
behavior all improve immediately after the change-over to digital.
K-12 CIOs must keep finding ways to offer better services and go well beyond just break-fix. One CIO noted that as his school rolled out iPads, none of their printers offered Airprint. So he found a $20 software application that converts all of a computer’s print queues to Airprint.
Be sure to keep an eye on social media discussions, especially leading up to important district votes, including bond issues. One district found that rumors were being spread in social media that their technology bond issue included funding for a drone runway to help keep an eye on students. The rumors went as far as accusing the district of planning to brainwash students and begin teaching them the tenets of Islam.