Educators who traveled to Denver for the 2004 National School Boards Association’s 2004 T+L² conference were treated to three days of tremendous optimism about technology’s future in learning.
From the bustling exhibit hall, where vendors touted many new solutions for challenges faced by schools, to a parade of featured speakers urging administrators to embrace the role of technology in a new learning paradigm, all signs indicated that the future will belong to school leaders willing to meet 21st century needs with 21st century approaches.
The mood at the Colorado Convention Center reflected the boost this event gave to both the NSBA and the T+L² organizers, who a few months ago had questioned the conference’s future. Not only will T+L2 be back in 2005, it will return to the same location where it enjoyed such success in 2004.
In the Oct. 29 closing session, NSBA president-elect Joan E. Schmidt announced that this year’s conference had drawn 2,300 paid registrants–a 77 percent increase from the lackluster 2003 event. T+L² also brought 1,300 exhibit personnel to Denver for a total attendance of 3,600 people.
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The three-day focus on educational technology almost made it easy to forget about the presidential campaign raging outside the hall in the battleground state of Colorado. Even though the Nov. 2 election’s outcome could have a profound effect on the future of education, talk in Denver did not center on politics but on a brighter future for students regardless of who wins the White House.
While the overall tone was positive, messages aimed at educators, particularly those in decision-making positions, were sober. Simply bringing technology into schools could never be enough, the lecturers agreed. Making a student’s education relevant to his or her world was the bottom line, and for the most tech-savvy generation in history, this would only be possible by stressing learning outcomes that require the use of technology.
The message was delivered one last time in a conference-ending speech by former Littleton (Colo.) Public Schools superintendent Cile Chavez. She reminded school leaders that they are the gatekeepers of children’s trust, and that they can’t afford to fail their students by delivering an outdated learning experience
|Apple Computer, one of four Platinum Sponsors, had a major presence at the T+L² conference.
(eSchool News photo by Dan David)
Chavez said educators must keep asking themselves key questions, and must work together to figure out what is best for those they instruct.
“Even with the advanced technology we have, we must remember to engage,” Chavez said.
Chavez noted that responsibility placed on educators is even greater today, because the wider society often seems to forget the value of education. She lamented that a recent issue of Time magazine examining “Visions of Tomorrow” left out education altogether while including subjects such as fashion and celebrities. Since educators are often “left out” of a wider cultural emphasis, the burden falls on them to remain focused on the importance of their task.
“The key question is what do we do now with what we know?” Chavez said. “School leaders must make manifest a compelling sense of purpose. Of all we could do, we have to ask ourselves ‘what must we do?'”
Calling on her audience to rethink the meaning of learning, Chavez reminded them that most people seek only two things–to be deemed good and to do something significant with their lives. Only educators can simultaneously transform a young human being in both areas, and to do that, they must maximize the potential of technology. Viewed only as a tool, technology could not possibly play a role in true learning.
“We can foster the goodness of children and inspire their genius,” Chavez said. “This is more than teaching automation. This has everything to do with transformation.”
Echoing several other T+L2 speakers, Chavez said it was time to really listen to students because, in many cases, they had as much knowledge about technology as their teachers. Stifling students’ voices would be counterproductive at best.
“Let’s stop doing the very things that impede learning,” she urged. “Let’s stop doing the things that we did 50 years ago.”
Prior to Chavez’s speech, a group of K-12 students showed just how much they knew about technology as they presented winning entries in the NSBA/Apple Computer MovieFest competition. As part of the competition, students across the U.S. were challenged to produce 60-second public service announcements that demonstrated the need for more technology in schools.
Student-produced films demonstrated how the world has changed. In one film, a youngster struggled with Wite-Out and erasers as he wrote a paper, while a classmate breezed through the same exercise using word-processing software. In another film, a high school student’s back was crushed by the weight of books in his backpack, while another was able to transport massive amounts of learning materials on his small, handheld computer.
The week’s final Technology Leadership Network Salute was presented by Ann Flynn, director of NSBA’s Education Technology program, to Colorado Springs District 11. Terry Bishop, the district’s deputy superintendent in charge of technology, noted how his team helped increase graduation rates by 3.8 percent. Successful programs in Colorado Springs included a digital school at a local shopping mall and a student-produced cable television channel. He also noted the long-term success of an early decision to turn each school’s librarian into a resident technology expert.
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