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EdTech Update





The danger of irrelevance

For those like Bob Herbert who fear that the young are amusing themselves to death, they are both right and wrong. For at least six hours a day, they’re not amused or even interested. For the other 12 hours, young people I know spend hours becoming experts at those parts of the world they find interesting. The two worlds rarely intersect and the young get precious little guidance and shared input from adult experts about the world they are fascinated by. What’s wrong with schools, and with the ways we measure them, is that we are ignoring what young people’s “interested minds” could accomplish if we re-examined this puzzle together. Deborah Meier*

I've said for a long time that today's kids like to learn. They just don't like how we oldies like to teach.

Children's and especially young adults' lose of "guidance and shared input from adult experts" is my biggest fear in watching an increasing number of students turn away from an irrelevant school system and toward peers, the media and Google. I was horrified that my grandson who is an excellent reader is being required to read all the dumbed-down and dull basals to meet a district requirement in Fargo. Such idiocy means he may well be not just turned off reading, but turned off school completely.

In response to the misperception that kids know more about technology than their teachers do, I wrote a column called "Old Folks and Technology" some years ago. This was the meat of the piece:

We need to help make sure our students not only know how to use these new electronic marvels, but use them well. A short list of tools is below with some of the sensibilities about their use with which we geezers can still help:

Some technologies -> Some things with which old people can still help
Spreadsheets Math sense, numeracy, efficiency in design
Charting and graphing software Selecting the right graph for the right purpose
Database design End user consideration, making valid data-driven decisions
Word processing The writing process, organization, editing, grammar, style
Presentation software Speaking skills, graphic design, organization, clarity
Web-page design Design, writing skills, ethical information distribution
Online research Citation of sources, designing good questions, checking validity of data, understanding biases
Video-editing Storyboarding, copyright issues when using film clips and audio
Chat room use/Instant messaging Safety, courtesy, time management

No matter how sophisticated the N-Geners are technologically, in matters of ethics, aesthetics, veracity, and other important judgments, they are, after all, still green. By virtue of our training and life experiences, we can apply the standards of older technologies (the pencil, the podium, the book) to those which are now technology enhanced. And we’d better. Given the choice of having Socrates or Bill Gates as a teacher, I know whom I would choose.

I like to think that today's young people still need us old people called teachers. Our perceived irrelevance is not in their best interest.

* The (validating) quote above comes from a dialog being conducted between Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch, two national educational policy wonks, on school reform on an Education Week blog, Bridging Differences. It's worth reading. If NCLB has taught us nothing else, it's that we need to start paying attention to national education policy. 'Cause stuff rolls downhill.




Cranky person, Gary Stager, criticizes ISTE for not doing more to promote the OLPC project:

Since ISTE seeks to be the premiere educational technology advocacy group in the world, it seems curious they have done nothing whatsoerver to promote the efforts of One Laptop Per Child or the Give One, Get One promotion ending at the end of the year.

Why not take a minute to contact some of the folks listed here on the ISTE web site or its Board of Directors and ask them why the International Society for Technology in Education is silent on connecting the world's poorest children to the 21st Century?

My response left on Gary's blog:

Hi Gary,

I can't let this one slip by unchallenged.

While I am no longer an ISTE board member, I do know that during my tenure on the board, our organization invited Nicholas Negroponte to be a Keynote at NECC – one of the most visible live speaking opportunities there is in the global ed tech community – to talk about the OLPC initiative. NECC has also had full labs of the OLPC computers available for people to use in workshop settings. ISTE has actually done a tremendous amount through NECC to support this initiative.

May I ask you in return what you have done to work with ISTE on getting the word out? Or is your only role criticizing the work of others?


Somehow I don't think the world will be made a better place by writing snarky blog posts - no matter how many XOs are floating around.

Oh, I will agree with Gary about one thing. Please DO contact your ISTE board members and executive officers if there is an issue that concerns you. I've always been proud that ISTE is an organization that listens and responds to its members.

Cranky person Doug's XO that he got last year as a part of the Give One, Get One Program



When your job is on the line


I just posted this to our state library/tech Ning:

Hi folks,

I hate to sound like the voice of gloom and doom, but I am very worried about the economic news over the past week. With the state of Minnesota expecting a record budget deficit of over 5 billion dollars, it looks highly, highly unlikely that schools will receive any funding increases for next year, if not during the next biennium. And since inflation (health insurance, heating, SpEd services, etc,) continues to rise, budget cuts are in store for most districts.

OK, people, NOW is the time to start strategizing the ways to minimize the impact of budget reductions on your library/tech programs. Once administration makes its recommendations to the school board, it will be waaaaay too late to do much.

I've listed some ideas about what you can do in the document "When Your Job is on the Line".

Don't rely on MEMO or AASL to save your program! This is something only you can do.

Share any strategies you have for minimizing the impact of budget cuts here.


With 41 of the 50 U.S. states* projecting budget deficits for next year and with the entire world suffering economic woes, I thought this might be of use to more than just us Gophers.

Blue Skunk readers, what will you be doing to survive the budget axe?

* Our neighbors in North Dakota have a surplus. Now how did that happen?