ISTE explores global solutions to education reform

Students should connect across the globe, not just across the classroom.
Students should connect across the globe, not just across the classroom, panelists said.

ISTE 2010 opened its third day with a panel discussion featuring global perspectives on how education can best benefit from excellence and innovation.

Karen Cator, director of the U.S. Office of Education Technology in the U.S. Department of Education (ED), former World Bank Vice President Jean-Francois Rischard, student Shaun Koh from Singapore, and Terry Godwaldt, director of programming for the Centre for Global Education in Edmonton, Canada, shared their opinions on how U.S. education, and global education, can improve.

“I see innovation excellence in schools as a confluence of … a new skills agenda, a new learning-teaching-education technology agenda, and a global citizenship agenda,” Rischard said.

A new skills agenda involves innovations aimed at cross-cutting 21st century skills. A new learning-teaching-education technology agenda involves deeper-reaching learning experiences using technologies such as Web 2.0 and video, and a global citizenship agenda involves “turning out as many students as possible with a new global mindset equipped to solve global problems,” he explained.

Godwaldt said one ideal component of education entails students doing in-depth research and sharing their ideas with interconnected schools, and from there, developing action plans and global campaigns using message boards, social media, and Web 2.0 tools.

“We can break down those four walls that confine us into the classroom and turn the classroom into the world,” Godwaldt said.

“Technology is just an enabler of what you already have–a passion to teach,” said student Shaun Koh. Otherwise, he added, “you’re just going to bore your students” with uninspired technology.

Educators and stakeholders need a variety of perspectives from across the globe to revolutionize education, said ED’s Cator. And technology enables learning to occur not just in classrooms, but anywhere students have a desire to discover a new fact or skill.

“We need to get better at identifying where learning happens,” she said.

Twenty-first century skill creation is essential for today’s students, who will need those skills to enter the workforce prepared for the global challenges ahead, panelists said.

“I see [21st century skill creation] happening every day. … It just takes a teacher with a desire and who has access to the tools,” Godwaldt said.

Koh told attendees to listen to students, no matter how “crazy” their ideas might sound.

“Listen to your students and watch them and see how they interact with each other,” he said.

“Classrooms need to have discussions on contemporary issues” to bring 21st century skills to the forefront, Rischard said. “Conversations on these issues, using wonderful new technologies that enable global communication and let students become engaged,” are a large part of raising globally-aware students, he said.

All the panelists agreed that too much emphasis is placed on assessment, and that the education industry would benefit from stepping away from “the test” and focusing on that spark that occurs in a classroom full of students who are engaged in real-world learning with technologies that enrich—not prohibit—learning.

“I have a feeling that you’re curriculum doesn’t give you that much leeway,” Rischard said, drawing applause from the audience. “It’s a dictatorship of the standards test.”

“The National Education Technology Plan sets the platform for what we need to do to transform education, and a piece of that is the opportunity to transform learning,” Cator said.

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