Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thoughts on the Aspen Ideas Festival

One of my wife's favorite newspaper writers/bloggers is Joel Achenbach from the Washington Post. She started following him during her undergrad at American University, and now follows him on "Achenblog".
This week, Joel is in Aspen at "Ideas Camp", The Aspen Ideas Festival. The newspaper sent him to cover the event and listen to "important people", with "important ideas!"
Tuesday, he posted about the camp, and it contained this quote:
Last night I heard Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel, warn that the U.S. is in danger of falling behind the rest of the world in science and engineering. He was pretty grim about it -- says short-sighted politicians and teachers unions and so on are resistant to long-term changes in the educational system here. He favors charter schools and vouchers. Best line: A person in the audience asked what kind of technology he'd like to see in classrooms. "The technology I want to see in classrooms? Good teachers."
The next day, there was a post containing this:
Quote of the day so far: "Knowing things is very 20th century. You just need to be able to find things." -- Danny Hillis [on how Google has changed the way we think]

These quotes got me to thinking about "Go Wireless" our 1-to-1 laptop initiative, and upcoming pilot. When someone from the "outside world" such as Barrett declares that "the technology I want to see in classrooms is: Good Teachers", it gives me pause. I think my role as a technology integrationist is really to help people become better teachers, which will in turn result in improved student achievement. I think it's true that we can put millions of dollars of technology into classrooms, but if the teacher is not prepared to use it, it is wasted money.
The focus of our community of practice this fall will be on pedagogy, how to transform classrooms from teacher centered to student centered, authentic learning environments.
Hillis may be right, students will need to have the 21st Century skills to find, rather than know, but it will take a "Good Teacher" to impart those skills, and guide students on how to use and analyze the information they find!
I hope our community of practice is a step in the right direction!