ISTE 2017: Don’t Try to Fly Your School Without The Best Technology

June 27, 2017 Bob Nilsson

Gut Churn, Finding Your Voice, Coding As Literacy, And Rethinking How Schools Work … But All Before 2045

You’ll likely recognize the name of Richard Culatta, the new ISTE CEO who kicked off ISTE 2017, as the enthusiastic former Director of Education Technology at the US Department of Education. Culatta told the 21,000 attendees that he wants ISTE to drive three goals with EdTech: spreading personalized learning, closing equity gaps, and bridging research and practice. Culatta has an analogy for anyone who still doesn’t think that technology has a permanent and critical role in education: just imagine trying to fly a modern jet without technology.

Radiolab creator and co-host Jad Abumrad’s keynote offered a look into the inspiration, self-doubt, challenges, and exhilaration that he, and quite likely all teachers, go through as they create their stories for public telling. There’s the “gut churn”, the pain and noise from the stomach during the start-up. Then there's the gap” between the actual quality of your early work and what your exquisite taste says it should be. There’s the quest to strive for greatness, with the flexibility to pivot to the “adjacent possible”. And finally, there is the need to own your quest, even to the point of obsession, as exemplified by Scott Carrier spending twelve unsuccessful years chasing an antelope. (Personally, I draw the line at that one.)

In terms of reaching for excellence, Abumrad’s edict to his team is that every third story “has to hurt”. Two can be human efforts, but the next one has to be a big, painful, stretching reach. This is reminiscent of Ken Burns following the guidance of the late theatrical director Tyrone Guthrie: “We are looking for ideas large enough to be afraid of again.”

Tools For Digital Assessments

The session on Instructional Demands for Digital Assessments described where testing is coming from and going to. District-wide testing led the way back in the 1950s. State-wide testing did not start until the 1970s. Where testing is headed is to be embedded in all education content – YouTube educational content has good examples of this. Assessments will also become ever-more multifaceted, beyond simple multiple choice, including graphical responses and “show your work”.

Federal Ed Tech Policy & Funding in the Trump Era

The two ISTE DC government experts, Jon Bernstein and Ally Bernstein, were on hand to update the group on Federal budgeting for K-12 technology. The good news is that the president’s budget is never taken at face value, whether it be from Barack Obama or Donald Trump. So the drastic cuts and in some cases zeroing out, that Trump has proposed will not be approved as-is by Congress. Interestingly, no federal money will be allocated to school choice until or unless Congress passes a law recognizing school choice. Your letters have been an enormous help in encouraging federal funding for educational technology. Please use this form to Send a Prewritten Letter to Congress about Ed Tech Funding. Here are more ways to advocate for edtech.

Bernstein and Bernstein (no relation) gave a brief overview of E-rate, noting that usage of E-rate funds was down this year, likely due to complications with the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC). It is hard to tell what new FCC chairman Ajit Pai will recommend. In the past, he has said that E-rate could be more efficiently run, perhaps with a per pupil block grant. The big challenge now is to solve the homework gap, that is, to provide a way to insure that all students have broadband Internet access for their homework, other than sitting in a parking lot at night to access spill-over Wi-Fi.

Emerging K-12 Technologies

Dr. Eden Dahlstrom from the New Media Consortium was on hand to distribute the latest NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, 2016 K-12 Edition, which is also available online. Below is a summary of the short-term, mid-term, and long-term trends. The projections come from a panel of 59 education and technology experts from 18 countries on six continents.

What to Expect From Artificial Intelligence in K-12

Artificial Intelligence is reaching new heights outside of education, including defeating the world’s best human Go champion, driving cars, fighting financial fraud, easily recognizing faces, and translating languages. Scott Garrigan described some of the ways AI is helping out in education, one instance being robots teaching kids English in Korea.

Examples of AI in reading and arithmetic include Read 180 and TENMARKS, respectively. Turnitin, the company known for anti-plagiarism software, now has Revision Assistant, which uses AI to evaluate student writing and provide instant feedback.

Garrigan showed and described two headsets that read brainwaves to help with learning. ATENTIVmynd is specifically designed for children who struggle with cognitive attention skills. Emotiv’s Epoc headset is more open-ended and offers to, “Unlock the power of your mind with affordable brain sensing technology.” The Atentivmynd and emotive Epoc headsets are shown below.

For further pursuit of these AI-related topics, Garrigan suggests a number of books including: Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age; Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge, and Peter Diamandis's Abundance. The master at predicting our high tech future has been Ray Kurzweil, whose book on the topic is, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. The curve below based on Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns shows that by 2045 computers will surpass the brainpower of all human brains combined. As Garrigan points out, a 17-year old today will be only 45 years old when that happens. So please teach all your students to prepare for a career in such as world.

About the Author

Bob Nilsson

As the Director of Vertical Solutions Marketing at Extreme Networks, Bob Nilsson leads the Extreme Networks strategy and programs for vertical markets including Healthcare, Higher Education, K-12 Education, Federal/State/Local Government, Retail, Hospitality, and Transportation and Logistics. He has over 30 years of experience in marketing IT systems to Global 1000 companies worldwide. Before joining Extreme Networks Bob was VP Marketing at Clear Methods. Prior to that Bob held senior marketing positions at Digital Equipment and HP. Bob holds an SB degree in EE from MIT and MBA from Columbia Business School.

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