Last weekend, I was struck by the difference in approach between ISTE and Educon. Last month, ISTE announced their “Top Ten in ’10,” which identifies their ten priorities for boosting student achievement and closing the achievement gap.
They start off the list this way:
Establish technology in education as the backbone of school improvement. To truly improve our schools for the long term and ensure that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve in the 21st century, education technology must permeate every corner of the learning process.
The list goes on from there, and promotes the use of technology at the center of career readiness, professional development, pre-service teacher education, and assessment. They do, eventually, get to research and digitial citizenship. But the theme of the list is very clear: technology is the center of education. If we focus on the technology, everything else ties in to it and we can solve our education problems.
Granted, it’s ISTE’s mission to promote the use of technology in education. But it’s a mistake to make technology the focus of education. We’ve been talking for a while about getting away from the tools, and speding more time focusing on what we’re actually doing with the technology — how it changes the things students and teachers are doing, and how it affects the way they learn. But even the “technology integration” perspective is frequently misguided. Too often, it’s “hey, here’s this really cool gadget. I’m sure it has a lot of possible uses in education. We have to find some.” I myself have been guilty of that. Just yesterday, I said in my presentation that we have to find some relevant, useful, authentic ways to use these cell phones effectively in education. That, too, misses the point.
Compare all of this to Educon. This conference had nearly all of the heavy hitters in educational technology. I briefly talked to David Warlick yesterday about his experience there. He admitted it was a little intimidating. When you look over your audience and see half of your blogroll sitting there, it can be a little unnerving. But despite the overwhelming support of Educon by the edtech leaders, they’re very clear that this isn’t a technology conference.
And it is not a technology conference. It is an education conference. It is, hopefully, an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.
David reflected that technology didn’t even come up most of the time. In his conversation, when they were plotting activities on his Daggett/Bloom grid, he asked them how they could adapt the activities to put them higher on the Bloom’s scale. They came up with more probing questions, better activities, and modified procedures. But instead of saying, for example, “the kids could blog about it,” they were more apt to say that “the kids could reflect about it in their journals.” It doesn’t matter if the journal is on a blog or on paper. The focus is on the teaching and learning.
At eTech, there seems to be a strong sense that we have all of this technology — we have these great resources. We have these wonderful tools. We have to find an innovative use for them in the classroom. Maybe we’re looking at it from the wrong side. If we spent more time focusing on the “what and how” of learning, we can plug the technology in where it’s most appropriate, and most productive. I wonder what would happen if this conference (and the ISTE conference) were more like Educon.