Day Two of the 2007 Florida Educational Technology Conference opened with several simultaneous keynote sessions on topics such as global competitiveness and combining creativity and technology.
One of the keynotes, from Alan November, an internationally recognized ed-tech leader and consultant, focused on how to prepare U.S. students to compete and succeed in an increasingly global economy.
“Are we producing children who are globally competitive?” November asked the audience. “The answer is no. Until we sort out what it means to be globally competitive … the nation will fail.”
The key to using technology in the classroom, November said, is not to train teachers to use it, but to train them on how to incorporate that technology creatively into lessons in engaging and stimulating ways. Additionally, students should be able to connect with classrooms around the world, to boost a global perspective on learning.
“The real staff development problem in K-12 is not teaching teachers technology, it’s teaching them to redesign the assignments they give students to be more rigorous and demanding,” November said.
“Our standards are too low,” he added. “Anyone on the planet, who is self-disciplined and can learn online, can get an education.”
November emphasized three skills needed to turn the nation’s classrooms into places of effective digital learning. The first, he said, is to teach students to deal with massive amounts of information.
“We tend not to do this, and tend to only give children a little bit of information at a time, in the right order, to take the next test,” he said.
The second essential skill requires every classroom to become a global communication center with a more globalized curriculum.
“Teach children to work with people around the world, and establish a network of people you tap to make your students’ learning experiences more effective,” he urged attendees. “If every classroom were to connect students around the world, not only will we teach content, but [also] social protocol and how to work in teams, and [how to respect] other viewpoints. We’re spending too much time teaching teachers technical stuff and not enough on the creative application of the technical stuff.”
The third skill today’s students need is self-direction.
“The real change in the global economy isn’t that you get a laptop or an MP3 [player], it’s that you don’t have a boss telling you what to do,” he said. “If one person freezes up when they don’t know what to do and someone else is self-directed, that self-directed person is more valuable. We here have a culture that creates dependency; we teach kids how to be taught, and we need to teach them how to organize their own learning.”
November suggested ridding schools of planning committees, and turning those groups into global competitiveness committees. The real focus should not be to plan for technology, he said, but to plan for students who can contribute something to the world.
Teachers can reach students creatively by tapping into technologies that students are already using. Use podcasts to teach algebra, or use MySpace to teach social responsibility and implications, November suggested.
“We must teach our teachers to think globally, to connect content from other countries across the curriculum,” he said. “Everyone in the world does not love usthey don’t. If we don’t teach empathy to understand the position of other people, I don’t think it’s going to get better. We have got to teach empathy.”
He concluded: “The real revolution’s not technology, it’s the fantastic management of information and relationships. That’s why we’ve got to stop planning for technology.”