As of day one of the annual International Society for Technology in Education conference, better known as ISTE 2014, over 14,000 attendees were on hand to compare notes on the latest in K-12 educational technology. This year the discussions have expanded beyond technology to include more effective ways to introduce innovation into the curriculum. An especially hot topic has been new styles of learning and how they are changing the role of the teacher. Other trending topics include: Chromebooks and Google apps for education, open educational resources, wearables, and the impact of the Internet of things. Google Glass has had a strong presence at the conference, being seen both on attendees and in the session content.
Actress and humanitarian activist Ashley Judd was the opening keynote speaker. As she began her talk, the audience was not quite sure of her relationship to K-12 education. She began with a statement, though, that all teachers and public speakers can relate to, “There are always three versions to the stories we tell: the one we planned, the one we tell, and the one we wish we had told.” She explained that her family system had not worked well for her. There was lots of love, but also alcoholism and mental health problems. In a calm voice, she revealed that she had been a victim of incest in the second grade – but no one accepted the word of an eight-year-old. Her plea to the audience was, “Please believe the child who comes to you.”
Abandoned to live alone in 10th grade in Franklin, Tennessee, her spirits were sustained by teachers who took time to read to her and would forgive her for transgressions, such as a toilet paper prank. Moving to a different house in different state in 11th grade she was again abandoned, this time by her father. Despite this adversity, she graduated 7th in her class and went on to the University of Kentucky, where she was further inspired by her professors.
As she concluded her talk, Judd recounted a quote attributed to Henry Ford in the Alcoholics Anonymous big book, “Experience is the thing of supreme value in life, but rectify errors and convert them into assets.” She emotionally related the trying times when she volunteered to help girls in East Congo who had been subjected to rape and violence. Her message to these girls as well as to herself when she became depressed was that you don’t have to be saint, you are enough and you do enough.
NMC Horizon 2014 K-12 Report on Emerging Technology
The New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking presented the 43rd edition of their Horizon Report projecting important technology trends for the next five years. The report is based on surveys and a panel of 53 technology experts from 18 countries and deals with fast trends (1-2 years), mid-range (3-5 years) trends, and long-range (5+ years) trends. They also report on three types of challenges: solvable, difficult, and wicked.
Rethinking the role of teachers has emerged as an important fast trend. This is involving more hands-on and collaborative activities. The teacher is becoming more of a guide and mentor, providing advice. Students’ attention spans are changing. The introduction of the flipped classroom has increased student engagement and exploration as this case study about Stillwater, Minn shows.
The concept of Open Educational Resources (OER) is providing educational content that is fresher and quicker to publish than traditional print text books and is described as a mid-range trend. Here is a video of Open High School of Utah, whose curriculum is built from open educational resources. It includes a description of how one student continued her classes even during a trip to China. The NMC report also calls out digital badges as having an important role to play in the mid-range 3-5 year time frame.
In the longer term of five or more years, walls in schools will be coming down and different types of furniture will come into play. There may be silent corners and play corners for collaborative work. This will evolve as attitudes change. Hess Academy is an early example of this emerging type of school.
The category of wicked challenges gets into new models of learning, drawing from the concept of massively open online courses (MOOCs) and online studying.
The category of important developments in technology for schools include BYOD and cloud computing in the one year or less timeframe, and gamification and learning analytics 2-3 years out. Adaptive learning is the latest incarnation of learning analytics. In the 4-5 year timeframe are placed the Internet of Things and wearable technology.
Keep Calm and Connect All Schools
Unfortunately, the FCC is not delivering a session this year, but the federal government was ably represented by Richard Culatta of the US Department of Education. Richard’s talk dealt with ways to find funding for technology. He reminded the group that the discussion is not about technology for its own sake, but to improve education, or better prepare students for the real world; and should always be positioned in terms of the benefit.
That said, a robust technology infrastructure is a bare necessity, much like electricity. President Obama has said, “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand Wi-Fi in our schools.”
There are three funding sources to consider. First is eRate, which has been funded to the tune of $2B this year, going to connect schools to the Internet and provide network infrastructure within schools. Second is the category of private sector commitments, which is described on the ConnectED web page. Third is the EveryoneOn program, helping to bring high speed, low cost Internet into homes.
Culatta announced that there will be another Connected Educator Month this year. It is being planned for October and will be a global event. Last year, as part of Connected Educator Month, Extreme Networks sponsored the Show Us Your Technology contest.
Be sure to stop by the Extreme Networks ISTE 2014 booth #848.
Follow Bob Nilsson on Twitter: twitter.com/RHNilsson