Orange County Register: Tech, innovation keys to educational competitiveness02/08/11
“Carrying books is ridiculously primitive.” – Walter Mossberg, 2011 Consumer Electronics Show
Xerox Corp. contributed close to a half-billion dollars to U.S. education in the past decade. Was it worth it? According to CEO Ursula Burns, the return on investment isn’t clear. If that investment were held to the standards of other Xerox investments, it would not make the cut for future funding.
The message from Consumer Electronics Show 2011 in Las Vegas: U.S. education is caught in a growing squeeze play. On one side, U.S. business is moving on all fronts to lead global innovation. On the other side, most of that technology doesn’t make it to the classroom, and many of the students who will contribute to the U.S. economy might not even be growing up in the United States.
Industry leaders are willing to invest in great minds, but country of origin is moot. The universal prize is STEM literacy (science, technology, engineering, math). As a result, corporate pressure on U.S. school systems is relentless. U.S. education is criticized for fostering a “boutique mentality,” where shareable, scalable practices are squelched by a “not invented here” culture. From afar, administrators and teachers are viewed as conservative at best, isolationist at worst. CEOs of premier corporations need all-star talent; they point out that only 300 million of 7 billion adults on the planet reside in this country. Talent can come from anywhere, and the United States needs to step it up to remain competitive.
John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco, urges U.S. schools to stop looking for incremental change. Instead, they should seek dramatic, measurable change consistent with the needs of the economy and society. U.S. business leaders challenge educators to improve the output of the school system.On the other side of the squeeze play are children themselves, who are very familiar with new technology. For example, Kristin is 10 years old and has over 100 apps on her smartphone. Another example: A CES MommyTech panelist’s 2-year-old is well-acquainted with using an iPad-like tablet as a learning tool. The tablet is complete with a rubber frame, which accommodates the child’s limited motor skills.
Students have increasing power and influence in the world of education, according to Bruce Martin of McGraw-Hill Education. Simply stated, technology allows students to take learning into their own hands. Student empowerment will be the new norm. Some schools recognize this fact. For example, a few schools host student focus groups, soliciting feedback from students in order to make curriculum changes. Student-led classes continue to gain traction.
At the higher end of education, blended instruction will supplant the traditional, compartmentalized college experience. Already, students across the country and the world are using online learning to gain a credential while simultaneously holding a real-world, full-time job. Current early adopters of all technology – the students – continue to hold powerful trump cards.
If CES is the oracle, technology is the paramount driver of education. Educational content and the teachers must step up their game. CES sees a world of transmedia storytelling where a KNO tablet serves up e-books with links to social media, interactive games, toys and other content reinforcements. CES sees a world with transparent classrooms where students bring LiveScribe pens to class to record class sessions for later reference or possible parent review. CES embraces 3-D learning, where a science class taught using 3-D video of, for example, the inner ear, produces 35 percent greater retention among young students.
Novelty, embodied in technology, is the new learning currency. The challenge is frankly energizing. It’s the implementation that is daunting.
A message to the folks with the $98 billion budget at the U.S. Department of Education: I hope you were in Las Vegas for CES. It’s never been a better time to rewrite the game book. We’re ready.
Guest Columnist: San Clemente Mayor Lori Donchak is a middle-school teacher at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano.
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