Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On the Horizon: Harnessing Emerging Technologies in Education #SXSWedu

Notes from opening session of SXSWedu 2012. Remember, these are notes taken on the fly. Please excuse typos!

What's neat about this opening session is the speaker is speaking to us, to the SITE conference, and the CoSN conference at the same time  from Washington, D.C. via high def video conferencing!

This was a really neat experience - having the keynote come from one location and then having each site broadcast a responding speaker and have an opportunity to ask questions. I'm re-energized regarding the possibilities of interactive video conferencing!

Keynote Speaker: Larry Johnson, New Media Consortium

NOTE: New Media Consortium folks have produced the Horizon Reports for the past 10 years.

The NMC Horizon Report is not available weekly. They have a new app which brings their entire body of knowldege right to the palm of your hand. Available for iOS now and soon available for Android.

The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.
People expect to work learn socialize and play wherever they are.
The technologies we use are increasingly cloud based.
The internet is becoming a global mobile network and already is at its edges.

Reflections of what has been learned by Horizon Reports over the past 10 years:

Larry's Big Takeaway after 10 years: Our strategic thinking is increasingly based on world that no longer exists. And it's difficult to change that thinking.

Think of the technologies of the last four generations. Larry's dad fought in WWII. Radio was the technology of his day; he spent his entire career working in radio operations. The power of radio for Larry's dad was the network of connection it created.

The network changes us. Television bonded us. The children of the WWII generation grew up in this networked world. Remember Cronkite announcing Kennedy's death? Remember how that brought us together?

In 1968 when Larry graduated from high school, the first attempts at video conferencing and graphical user interfaces were being made. The message of this time was The network helps us.

Larry's son was born in 1984. He has never known a world without computers. For him, the network is us. This is a massive change in perspective about what the network means.

Today, when news breaks, we're getting it with cellphone video and digital pictures from onsite. It's immediate, in the moment, and changing the way we feel about the news. Remember the Facebook page that launched the Arab Spring?

You can push messages out via a social network and a few days later a government topples. This does not happen because of the network, but because of the people connected by the network.

The network is everywhere and it is now about freedom of speech.

The network extends farther than electricity itself. Compare a world map of electrical access and a map of 3G access. We passed 6 billion active cell phones in July. By 2014 there will be more connected cell phones  than people on the planet. Over 90% of those phones have at least a basic browser and all new cell phones are being produced with browsers.

For Larry's grandchildren, the network is invisible. They don't care, they aren't aware, they just expect it to function. They do FaceTime from the palm of their hand. They do not know a world without in-your-hand video conferencing. The tools are becoming so simple they don't need instruction manuals. His one year old grandson intuitively figured out how to go through the apps on an iPad.

And yet, our strategic planning does not take the network into account.

Larry's Closing Thought: It is important that we continue to track where things are going and think about what is important in schools. But the real goal is to make kids understand the world is so cool they just need to learn everything they can about it.

Responses from Each Site to Larry's Talk:

From SXSWedu Ken Kay, CEO of EdLeader21

Kay's middle son is a graduate student in sustainability. A close friend and fellow student of his, 32 years old, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. During his treatment, he found out he was going to have a six month $120,000 lapse in his insurance coverage. He kicked off a website to raise money for his chemotherapy. In one week, he raised half of the money he needed. A few weeks later, he is now close to raising the money he needs.

The site is: www.poopstrong.org

Ten years ago, he could not have done this. The network was not there.

1. When the Horizon Report started 10 years ago, this young man's ability to save his life was not possible.

2. This young man's ability to create this site is unfortunately a rare set of skills. If our kids don't have the ability to leverage the network, they are at an extreme disadvantage. What are we doing in our schools to get kids there?

From SITE, a response from higher education. The speaker is from Isreal; I did not catch her name.

Schools in Guatemala - Half of the children in the country do not go to school. They work instead on farms. But almost all of the children have smartphones. How much education could be delivered through these mobiles?

In Isreal, they are striving to create teachers who will not be teachers on the stage, but facilitators and instructors. Education students work with students from other colleges and professors facilitate their work from a distance. Students are connected to experts in their research areas from other universities. It is difficult to change the structure of the university.

One project connects with students at the University of Texas to study languages; they can teach each other in their native languages.

Online learning between institutions and the creation of open teaching materials as well as collaborative learning are key to working in a more global and collaborative world.

Response from CoSN, a school superintendent (again I did not catch his name)

Asked for technology recommendations from their students.

First thing kids said: "Let us bring our devices to school." School leaders need to realize they cannot control the network.

Second thing: Get smartboards into high school math and science classes.

Third thing: Don't wire the busses. We need some down time. (Note from me: interesting!)

Question as an administrator: How do we use technology to help teachers collaborate with each other in creating curriculum and assessment? Across schools, districts, and even further.

Administrators have to begin to educate parents about what schooling should be like. Parents want individual information on how their child is doing in school. Collaborative teaching/learning changes how that works.

Currently 90+% of funding goes to staffing. Perhaps we need to softly begin changing that so more money can go to resources?

We need to partner with universities to create a new school model with a different adult/child ratio. (I think he is talking about more students per teacher through leveraging technology. Interesting...)

Need to change state policies so they aren't based on "seat time" but "mastery" instead. The network can enable students to direct their own learning outside of the seat.

Question Time:

From SXSWedu: What needs to be done to ensure equity in access to the network?

Larry answers by asking if we can change the conversation to "What could we do if we had an abundance of internet?" Other countries have much larger bandwidth because of the way we regulate our industry.

From CoSN: What do we do about access for people who cannot afford it?

Superintendent answers: Their IT department identifies free WIFI hotspots throughout the county and shares this with lower income families. Even families with access may have only one computer shared between three students. They are also partnering with providers to put cell towers at their schools and provide free access to those who cannot afford it.

Larry answers: It is a significant and real challenge, but it is still a smaller challenge than having to provide for every kid. Let those with access bring it and use it and continue working toward helping those without access.

From SXSWedu: From a representative of a public school: How are the changes we all want to see regarding technology and education being reflected in current fill-in-the-bubble assessment?

Kay answers: We need to continue to talk to our state and federal leaders on policy. Kay himself is now involved with district level leaders where real change can take place. Remember the policies are nto the ceiling but the FLOOR. State standards in the near term are not going to prepare students for the 21st century. We have to add that ourselves.