Please take a moment to enjoy this thought provoking reflection on the role of technology in education. This article contains my thoughts on the National Middle School Conference 2009 and its potential impact on 21st century learning and technology. It covers some of the featured speakers along with thoughts, links, and videos to allow you to investigate. I guarantee you there are priceless links in this posting!
I also want to recognize Mr. Alan Summers and his complete conference team from the NMSA for what will be remembered as an outstanding conference. The Indiana contribution from IMLEA was also evident along with the constant enthusiasm at their welcome area!
I also want to thank all of you for visiting this site and helping it grow. The wiki/blog have attracted close to 6000 unique visitors in about three short months of existence. It has now reached all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 47 foreign countries. Your thoughts, reflections, emails, and invites to the network are so appreciated. Please visit the companion 21centuryedtech wiki for even more resources – Mike
A conference is always what you make of it. Since I am an avid technology conference attender, I decided to check out the technology message at the NMSA09 Conference in Indianapolis. I did not even have to attend a session to get my first taste. After strolling through the vendor area I found the 21 st Century Classroom filled with modern technology along with real teachers and students conducting lessons. Imagine not just lecturing about educational transformation, but creating the real experience for all to see. It is awesome to see that NMSA takes the time to model what it also advocates.
The NMSA09 Conference had close to 500 sessions with featured keynote speakers of national prominence accounting for many of these. The featured speakers and keynotes I attended included Will Daggett, Daniel Pink, and Alan November. As I listened to the three it was evident that the common theme appeared to be empathy, awareness, and creativity was needed for real transformation to happen.
Will Daggett opened with a reminder fto teachers that they really are part of the best educational system in the world. After all, the United States is one of the few countries that attempts to educate all children. United States schools are involved in a constant battle between excellence and equity. This is a difficult line to walk, but one the United States must continue to engage in. His constant theme revolved around the idea “Relevance makes Rigor Possible”, a phrase he coined. Daggett then emphasized that U.S. students need to be made aware of the social/economic change happening in the global community. He stressed this need for awareness as he emphasized that today’s students are in a battle for future jobs, and they do not even know it, because no one is teaching them. The new technology he demonstrated was awesome including both the siftable chip, a new technology manipulative, and SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) which allows for even more computing portability due to a virtual keyboard and a virtual monitor that are both beamed using laser technology. In fact, I did some research and found there is already a portable video projector for the iPhone. Be sure to also check out this virtual laser keyboard! Daggett then listed five concepts in learning which included: knowledge of one discipline, application of one discipline, application across disciplines, application to real world predictable situations, and application to real world unpredictable situations. He maintained that schools spend a lot of time on the first and second and very little time on the last three. It was the first time I realized that the very last step really identifies the difference between project based learning and problem based learning. My mind wandered to this year’s Future City problem. Students are to build short term housing that is sustainable and green for displaced people after an emergency sometime in the extended future. Wow, talk about a problem that is so difficult to answer, nothing is correct, and the possibilities are endless. Parts of the question even contradict each other from an engineering standpoint. Sounds like Daggett’s “applications to real world unpredictable situations” is being practiced in some arenas of education. This leads us perfectly into Daniel Pink’s keynote.
Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, described the increasing role of right-brain thinking in the new economies and describes the skills individuals and organizations must possess in this outsourced, automated age. Using brain research, Pink advocates that left brain (orderly, logical, and linear) thinking, while still important, is no longer adequate to survive in the 21st Century global economy. He attributes this theory to the role Asia now plays in the global economy with automation being software driven, and abundance of material in the market place. In essence, routine work is disappearing! Pink advocates that educators prepare kids for their future (right brain), not our past (left brain).He suggests including skills in our curriculum that cannot be outsourcedor automated. He includes such abilities as design, story telling, symphony (ability to see big picture), empathy, play, and meaning. One example used was Google’s idea to allow its employees 20% percent job time for self direction. From this effort, such big projects as G-Mail, and Google News have evolved. Finally, Pink suggested some ideas he feels educators should reflect and implement. Number one, explore the new metrics. IQ only accounts for 20% of success. We need to make sure we are measuring the right things. The next concept involves “getting real about STEM. Pink stressed that STEM must include the Arts because students must be taught to see. Engineering firms want people who have passion, are willing to be life-long learners, are systems thinkers, have multicultural values, and can understand interdisciplinary context. The third suggestion is to rethink motivation and look at intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. The fourth idea really caught my attention as Pink suggested moving problem solving out of the terrarium and putting it in the forest. He described the terrarium as an environment that is much too clean, organized, and not real world. Problems should involve clarification, identification, multi-disciplines, several answers, non-perfection, exploration, challenge, and relevancy. Last, Pink suggests that artistic educational programs must be facilitated, encouraged, and practiced across the curriculum. China has an emphasis that states “Creative Arts are not a frivolous luxury“. I am anxious to bring the arts concept into my next STEM presentation! Have a little fun fooling your left brain by having your right brain look at this Fedex logo in a different and unique way.
Different and unique is a great way to describe Alan November. I had the honor to introduce this master of storytelling and thought provoking educational reformer. November emphasized that it is not the technology that will make the change happen, even asking participants to cross it off the program title. He stressed that kids need to be able to learn and use tools at school that are available in their homes. Education must understand that blocking certain websites is actually contributing to a lack of student awareness of proper and valuable web usage. It is important that the skills we teach today outlast technology change. November emphasized student creativity as he made the audience aware of Jing and Math Train TV. He also demonstrated a math search engine entitled Wolfram|Alpha. Enter your question or calculation and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and a growing collection of data to compute the answer. While some schools may want to block this because using it could be considered cheating, November suggests allowing students to use it so they instantly know if they are right or wrong in a computation. He then suggested that students create their own multimedia story to explain the process. He also shared an exciting video about sixth sense work using technology. You maybe interested in exploring information on Web Literacy located at November Learning. Located at this site is a great collection of resources to teach students about using the web to retrieve information. Students have a chance to learn there is really no Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus and that Christopher Columbus was not born in Sydney in Australia in 1951, even though it says so on the web! November also covered the Way Back Machine, and Easy Who Is, to further validate web resources. All of these resources are explained on November Learning. Alan November is truly one of our time’s great thinkers in education and I recommend attending his BLC10 conference in Boston this summer. I have had the honor to both present and attend. It is a truly an amazing conference that will give you plenty of opportunity to reflect and acquire resources. Perhaps November’s most intruiging statement was that employers are seeking the skill of empathy as they hire. It would be interesting to see who has that concept in their standards beyond definition and vocabulary!
I did have a chance to attend some other sessions that were truly outstanding. Jim Wenzlof presented a valuable session entitled Read It, Write It, Say It. He introduced innovative ways to use Diigo, and Skype for teaching literacy. He suggested techniques to allow students to make movie trailers for books using Audacity, PhotoStory, and iMovie. He also introduced the websites Lit2Go, Itunes University, and the Story Starter. My favorite was a collaborative site called EtherPad. If you haven’t seen it give it a look! I also had a chance to see the state of Indiana’s new educational service presented by Gary Bates from the DOE called The Learning Connection. It is a service for Indiana educators interested in designing lessons, assessments aligned to standards, or wishing to collaborate and connect with other educators in the state of Indiana. Indiana educators, take the time to register now at The Learning Connection. I also had opportunity to talk with the people at both ePals and NSDL. These are two great organizations that understand 21st Century learning. I plan to become more familiar with both in the near future. I appreciated the time and energy both Dr. Kimberly Lightle from NSDL and Victoria McEachern from ePals spent with me.
As I close I want to thank all those people who attended my session on 21st Century learning. It was my intention to deliver a dynamic presentation to you. I appreciate how nearly 90 people made room for everyone in a room designed for 50. I also hope that the many who could not get in will at least take advantage of the handout sheet left at the door. As promised, the Power Point will be available on the wiki under Presentations. Thank you for all of the kind comments and I hope all of you keep in touch.
Overall it was a truly amazing conference. I was only able to see it from my limited perspective but I can tell you that it was one of the best I have ever attended. The goal is always to find at least one new idea and I surpassed that with an improved vision for transforming education in the 21st century. I am excited about NMSA10 in Baltimore as I hope to learn and contribute even more! Again, thank you to the great staff at both NMSA and IMLEA along with the countless volunteers and presenters. I feel it was a great “Welcome To The Future!” Please feel free to visit the 21st Century Ed Tech Wiki. Your comments, suggestions, and emails are always welcome! Keep up the great work at using technology to facilitate empathy, awareness, and creativity! They just may be the most important unwritten standards.