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Next weekend I’ll be heading up to EduCon 2.2, the most unique conference I’ve ever attended.

For one thing, it’s relatively small, although with 500 people registered this year, it will be a little more crowed than the first one in 2008 where 75 or so of us showed up, not knowing what to expect.

But the big difference with EduCon is that the sessions, for the most part, are not lecture/demo presentations or hands-on workshops. And it is not a conference about technology.

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The concept of EduCon-founder, and principal of the Science Leadership Academy, Chris Lehman was to get a bunch of interested and interesting educators together to have conversations about how we can change schools to better fit the way our students learn and the real world in which they live, as well as to grow networks of people who would continue those discussions long after the conference ended.

I’ll be leading one of those discussions and, while my topic does address technology, it’s concerned with why schools have remained isolated islands of status quo over the past twenty years, while the rest of the world has been fundamentally altered by computers, networks, and communications tools.

My session is titled “Why Has Technology Failed to Bring Substantial Change to American Schools (and what can we do about it)?” and this is the short description, the in-50-words-or-less explanation of the session in a way that will attract an audience.

The authors of Disrupting Class ask “Why haven’t computers brought about a transformation in schools the way they have in other areas of life?”. Excellent question. Join us for a discussion of what we can do to change that situation. Bring any and all ideas to share.

The proposal for this session grew from my growing frustration with American education and the two-faced embrace of techie tools while at the same time rejecting the transformative possibilities they offer.

Schools in the US have spent billions of dollars in just the past decade to buy laptops and software, install networks, connect classrooms to internet, and train teachers.

However, walk down the halls of your average American school, especially high schools, and you’re likely to see a teacher-directed, lecture-demo formatted lesson, with little or no technology use by either teacher or students.

Over the past few years, the most visible example of technology use in the classrooms of our overly-large school district has been interactive whiteboards, devices which chain teaching to standards of the previous century.

Talk all you want about “student engagement” and “interactivity”, these boards are little more than expensive electronic extensions of blackboards and chalk, controlled by the teacher, and locking the learning focus on them, not the students.

Anyway, IWBs are a topic for another rant and only a small piece of the discussion that I’d like to have in Philly.

If you’re coming to EduCon, please join us at 12:30 Sunday afternoon for what I hope will be a wonderful exchange of ideas on this topic.

And don’t think you must agree with the premise to participate. Feel free to let me know that I’m full of crap and that I’ve missed the mark entirely. Bring evidence of my cluelessness, however. :-)

If you’re not able to be at the conference in person, you can still attend and join the discussion online through the generous efforts of Elluminate who will be providing an interactive room for each session.

Links to the Elluminate rooms will be available from the conversations page on the EduCon site.

Now, if they can just keep the snowy weather out of town for the weekend, we’ll be golden.

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2 Comments

  1. Tim, Good luck. Should be a great topic (one we seem to have been having for years). While it sounds like IWBs are just a small part of your discussion I think that they are representative of the the lack of understanding regarding the role of technology in teaching by education decision makers. This past summer I wrote a research brief about them and it was enlightening for me. Amazing, how much $$ has been spent on these things by people who were not asking pedagogy-oriented questions. The brief is here if you are interested: http://edulicious.com/archives/349. Have fun in Philadelphia.

  2. This all sounds so wonderful, creating 21st century schools which utilize 21st century technology, but how does this work in the real world where our crippled economy adversely affects our schools? The school system I am in can not pass levies, and we are in the red. We are currently looking at drastic cuts and cost-saving techniques which will freeze any spending on additional technology and teacher training. How do we create technologically advanced schools without the finances to support them? We don’t even have smartboards in every room, our classroom computers are antiquated and will not be replaced when they finally give up the ghost. We can’t afford to pay licensing fees for advanced software, and the budget for sending teachers for professional development is being cut as well. And I don’t think that our school system is different from others out there which are struggling to stay afloat in this troubled economy. So how do we create these advanced, state-of-the-art schools with no resources?

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