Big Ideas from CoSN Conference 2010: Innovation, Ingenuity & Insight

March 2010 Guest post from Jeanne Wellings, a Research Specialist in the Florida school system


Innovation Unique to Education

Keynote speaker, Larry Keeley from Doblin, Inc., described the essential elements of transformative commercial innovations and explained how those elements are needed to revolutionize education. In a slideshow presentation, Keeley noted that innovation in education is currently different than other industries. He said educational innovations happen more slowly and in isolation; educators are slow to adopt new, best practices; few districts choose to be early adopters; and “adoptions of proven advances are erratic and political.” Doblin shared  encouraging educational innovations , including greater openness (Curriki and Whyville), new structures (WA Virtual Academies), business model revolutions, experience revolutions (Khan Academy, PASS model, Green Schools), and technology leverage. Doblin concluded that organizations like CoSN can become catalysts for educational innovation by challenging orthodoxies, fostering interoperability, being modular, using measures to identify and expand successful practices, and using incentives to spur adoption. 

National Educational Technology Plan

Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Education Technology, U.S. Department of Education, presented highlights from the new National Educational Technology Plan, released on March 5th. The plan presents a 21st century learning model that is powered by technology. Cator said, “We must ramp up our schools by leveraging the most powerful technologies of the day…Technology is a force multiplier.” The five goals of the plan are:

1)      Learning — engaging and empowering learning experiences for all learners

2)      Assessment — developing new and better ways to assess what matters

3)      Teaching — helping teachers shift to a model of connected teaching

4)      Infrastructure — developing a comprehensive infrastructure for learning that provides all with the resources they need when they are needed

5)      Productivity — improving the productivity of learners and educational systems with technology

Smartphones for Schools

By 2014, 40% of all phones will be smartphones, empowering learners everywhere. Pearson and Nokia have established the Mobile Learning Institute, which shares the latest mobile technologies in classrooms and community centers across the United States and helps educators take advantage of these technologies. The institute helps teachers and students develop essential 21st century design, development, and collaboration skills.  Mark Nieker, President of the Pearson Foundation, described the Institute’s collaborative and prescriptive approach to public/private partnerships: “We found that in sitting down with school districts and community organizations, that if (we) approach that partnership in a way that starts with the needs of the organization as opposed to saying, ‘We’ve got this solution let’s figure out how it works (for you),’ that goes a lot better.”  Together, Pearson, Nokia, and the district/community organization identify two or three things that can make something happen: (1) making sure that implemented programs have an audience within the school district or community, (2) assuring that new practices can and will be supported, and (3) supporting teachers and administrators with tools to put these new resources into practice. Nieker said that if a partnership does not think of these things, it may end up with activities that help kids, but doesn’t help kids as much as they had hoped. More information is available at the Digital Arts Alliance.

Science Competencies for Tomorrow’s World

Findings from PISA 2006 were discussed at CoSN. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) provides comparative data about the benefits of technology-enriched education. One of the most surprising findings is that the digital divide in education goes beyond the issue of access to technology. OECD researcher Francesc Pedro found that a second digital divide exists between students who have the right competencies and skills to benefit from computer-based learning experiences and those who do not. Pedro’s research supports Susan Neuman’s description of a knowledge gap that tends to exist between economically advantaged and disadvantaged children. Neuman says the different types of support young children receive contribute to a knowledge gap that may have serious long-term consequences. In her article, “The Knowledge Gap: Implications for Early Education,” Neuman (2006) wrote, “Rather than closing the gap, allocating equal resources to unequal socioeconomic groups actually appeared to exacerbate the knowledge gap.”

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