Today's students will be tomorrow's problem solvers.

Today's students will be tomorrow's problem solvers.

The 31st annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, formerly NECC) conference kicked off in Denver with inspiring and thought-provoking comments from ISTE President Helen Padgett and Jean-Francois Rischard, former vice president of the World Bank and author of High Noon, which discusses alternatives for solving the world’s largest problems.

ISTE 2010 will explore excellence in education, and Denver is a fitting place for that exploration, because teachers are explorers, pioneers, and visionaries, Padgett said.

New teaching methods, and focusing on students’ educational needs, is making a difference in classrooms across the country, and Padgett cited best practices throughout the nation by those who seek to improve schools. And innovation happens not just locally, but globally, as global partnerships and lessons shape U.S. education.

Educators and parents around the world share a common denominator and concern–the future well-being of today’s students. Padgett said that education is a vital part of that concern, and innovative, effective uses of technology can help solidify that well-being.

“Student success will depend on teachers keeping up with the rapid changes in technology,” Padgett said. New classroom teachers will need to meet those challenges in education tech-savvy students and leveraging technology to improve teaching and learning.

“Education technology is non-negotiable,” Padgett said. It must be a part of policy makers’ discussions in order to improve student learning and create a world “in which all children can achieve their potential,” she added.

“This is not a world where maintaining the status quo is an effective strategy,” she said.

Rischard took the stage to highlight how collaboration will be essential in solving global problems and, in some cases, impending global crises.

He is working with organizations, including about 10,000 schools, on the need to inspire curriculum changes and interschool student links in response to some of these problems.

The world is experiencing what Rischard terms “Fast Forward Globalization”–a period of extreme complexity and fast change. This period of intense change has created a need for a new generation of students, with new mindsets and different knowledge and skills, to address problems.

“Change is so fast these days,” Rischard said, adding that if plotted on a graph, change curves will often shoot straight up instead of taking a gradual arc.

A new economy is emerging based on an economic revolution and a technological revolution, which has produced inexpensive computing and communication devices. New products emerge, many of which educators see in their classrooms, but the emergence of new technologies also creates stress, he said.

Global problems, such as climate change, can no longer be solved nation by nation–nations must collaborate, and it is imperative that students learn 21st century skills such as problem solving and collaboration to prepare, Rischard said.