At the Wireless Ed Tech Conference Oct. 20-21

[Note: This article was originally submitted as a reply to Harry Keller‘s comment (10.19.11) on Bonnie’s “Who Speaks for Teachers?” (10.16.11). -Editor]

Nice response. I read it while at a conference that is very different. I was sitting with a group of teachers at the time. We were at the Wireless Ed Tech Conference, Oct. 20-21 in Washington, DC. I cite it because this conference was sectioned into Business, Technology and Education, and allowed networking, but also allowed the people attending to go to other sessions. Click here to read their research document and to download Chris Dede and Marie Bjerede’s “Mobile Learning for the 21st Century: Insights from the 2010 Wireless EdTech Conference” (March 2011).

The fun of the conference — a conference is fun? — is that it was not a big box carnival of things to buy. It was ideas to think about and engaging in conversation with people who were educators, policy makers or researchers. And everyone was allowed to ask questions. We were not in carnival mode with so much going on that there was not time to think. Carefully crafted, this conference allowed networking time. It was assumed that we would network, and we did.

There were real teachers at this conference, and some of the content and activities met their needs. We were able to see the big ideas, to meet the mentors, to be involved in the dialogue that is so usually top-down. We heard Chris Dede, Elliot Soloway, and Shirley Malcom from Digital Promise and James Shelton from the Department of Education.

The teachers said they were frustrated because they did not seem to have a voice in their local schools and districts. They were new teachers and keenly interested in education, but the politics of place had them stumped.

Good reason. There was a session that reflected practice and a conversation with or a view from the superintendent’s office. The superintendents were selected from the area, and since I know all but one of them, it was interesting to see that top-down often reveals exactly why those teachers may be frustrated. I also had a shock. We were talking mainly about wireless access, but the strategies of most except Jack Dale were restricted access. I had already asked far too many questions so I did not speak out. But there needed to be strategies that do not clamp down on the very technology that the conference was all about. No one but Dale of Fairfax addressed or acknowledged the impact of NCLB.

I thought it was funny, or sad, that we really did not get to hear their views on the use of mobile technologies. I think they were cheerleading their districts, and the focus of the conference got lost. I really wanted to know if they were using mobile technologies, but superintendents are about the business of promotion usually. Dale gets kudos for speaking out about the fact that testing gated what teachers could teach and that he was happy about NCLB being one choice. Later, we found that ESEA was going to be put forward in a different model, but I applaud Dale for seeing the elephant in the room. I wanted to say something to him, in private … but thought better of it. Now I wish I had said how much I appreciated his veracity.

There was an outreach from Digital Promise. We have all been frustrated with the idea of it. They had to wait for funding, and all of their funding is not in place yet. They are still organizing, but they came to say this: “According to the statute, Digital Promise’s purpose is ‘to support a comprehensive research and development program to harness the increasing capacity of advanced information and digital technologies to improve all levels of learning and education, formal and informal, in order to provide Americans with the knowledge and skills needed to compete in the global economy'” (“Who We Are“).

Digital Promise was “founded after more than a decade of effort.” It “has been endorsed by virtually every major national association of educators and educational institutions, libraries, and museums” (“Who We Are“). I guess that took some time. A decade is a long time to put this in place, don’t you think? I told you that I knew about it back in 2004.

Perhaps the idea of the educational DARPA was on their minds. Funds, although modest, have been put aside for such a project. We were enthused about that. Click here for the article.

The educators, the teachers, did not have as big a voice in this conference. But since the conference allows for feedback, I am sure that, since they did allow a student to talk, more than graduate researchers will have a voice in the next conference. Tom Carroll of NCTAF talked about the fact that we, many of us as teachers, are artisanal in education. We go to a conference, snatch little pieces of the offerings, and craft a great teaching example in small pockets of excellence. His concern is that we need to create knowledge networks where the vision of what we are doing is shared. Click here for their article on that vision of shared knowledge.

Of course, if the conditions don’t change, what is the motivation to become a real teacher? Carroll says that the skilled teacher level has become diminished to the point that, in most classrooms, we have mostly teachers with one or two years experience who may not be there to stay. Those are not the artisanal people who would create the new ideas, do you think?

I can’t forget to mention the electricity of Elliot Solloway. He always gives me hope. Of course, Detroit turned him down on the use of mobile technologies in their system. Remember the vision of the supervisors? Top-down may need to hear from the middle and reform their message by hearing about informed practices that are national. Or so says Julius Genachowski!

One Response


    (RTTNews) – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, hoping to narrow the nation’s digital divide, said the regulatory panel plans to redirect resources to help expand mobile broadband infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.

    To help expand high-speed Internet access, regulators are seeking to retool the $8 billion telephone subsidy program for landline service, the Universal Service Fund.

    Speaking to attendees at the 2011 Wireless EdTech Conference last week, Genachowski said access to broadband service is no longer the luxury it was just a few years ago.

    Today, technology has made way for interactive learning devices and distance learning, connecting students wherever they are, he said.

    The charge for regulators, educators and the nation is:”How can we harness this technology to benefit our country and the world?”Genachowski said, noting the “enormous economic potential” for expansive mobile broadband connectivity.

    “There is no question that today being digitally literate is essential to participate in our economy, and there is no question that these technologies provide the opportunities to equalize opportunity,” he said. “The costs of digital exclusion are growing larger.”

    Although the United States has mobile innovation that’s”the envy of the world,” the nation has significant gaps and challenges, the chairman conceded.

    In particular, there is a broadband deployment gap in areas of rural America, with about 20 million people living in areas without broadband service.

    “We have to fix that,” Genachowski said, adding that there are over 100 million Americans who could have broadband but don’t.

    “We have to tackle that,” he said, “and we have other infrastructure issues we have to address,” including spectrum gap.

    He added, “We’re on a very good path, as long as we take care of our mobile infrastructure – spectrum — to make sure that the very exciting demand we’re seeing for broadband does not outstrip supply.”

    As for “modernizing” the Universal Service Fund program, Genachowski said the move would not only help expand broadband access but doing so would also likely be a boon for the U.S. economy and job creation.

    To get there, the FCC has reached out to the private sector “to take significant steps” to address the broadband adoption gap.

    “If we can get 100 million more Americans online that doubles our online market for businesses,” Genachowski said. “This is a win-win.”

    Created by the FCC in 1997, the Universal Service Fund supports phone service to schools, libraries, the poor and high-cost areas of the country, as mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

    I thought you would like this news, Bonnie

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