The session opened with a wonderful performance by the Northwest School a cappella choir. The song of peace was a wonderful way to open the 2012 NAIS Annual Conference in Seattle. The voices of the youth expressing their dream for a day when there would be no war.
This was followed by a high energy song featuring duets accompanied by the group-“Singing Soul to soul, brother to brother, that a cappella sounds good to me…” Rousing applause and a standing ovation followed. What a wonderful group of kids demonstrating the power of message wrapped in song.
During transition, a wonderful media production illustrating the tenets of the theme INNOVATION: Imagine, Invent, Inspire, Dream. I am reminded by the first part of the presentation about a wonderful book I read recently that has a lot to say about innovation. Check out Six Great Scientists by Crowther. This book chronicles the path of innovation of six scientists from several centuries: The life and innovation of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Curie and Einstein.
Pat Bassett takes the stage with thank you announcements out to all involved in this year’s conference followed by an interesting logo by the “Department of Innovation” Do you see anything wrong with this logo?
Yes, the cogs are locked. Schools locked in the past would be like this logo, an impossible situation that locks out innovation.
Pat challenges us by sharing an image of school in 1088 AD. What does your school look like? How different is your school from this image? What can you do to transform your school? Pat shared several images of school architects as innovators with net zero use of water and energy, living walls and a cool river through the building as a way of connecting the outside with the inside. This is an indication of the importance of place and space as an agent in learning
Pat also shared how a teacher took a few items and some free software to design and build what is now called the Cushings iClass Table.
Video of Cushing’s iClass Table
10 Promising innovations for education
- Adopting backward design and mapping curriculum around skills rather than subjects- the 6 Cs: Character, critical thinking collaboration, communication, creativity and cosmopolitanism/ cross cultural competency.
- Documenting student outcomes via formative assessment and demonstrations of learning- Capture in ps-12 schools over 13 years via digital portfolios
- Connecting appreciative inquiry, the strengths approach and growth mindsets- All subsets of the positivist psychology movement.
- Globalizing independent schools
- Stage II greening of independent schools
- STEM and beyond signature programming- robotics, Rube Goldberg and inventors competitions etc
- Professionalizing the profession- rotating schedules to free groups of faculty researchers, online PLS
- Public purpose of private education initiatives
- Online learning consortia for independent school branded courses
- Design Thinking- Incorporating MIT and Stanford Design Lab ideas
Pat Bassett quoting Bill Gates…
“Innovation is the means and equity is the end goal” from the 2012 Annual Letter Gates
Bill Gates was introduced by Bernie Noe as he related stories of the time when Bill was at Lakeside School in Seattle, his early days at Microsoft and his transition to philanthropy to save lives by focusing on what they could do to help those most affected by rotavirus. A focus on how to make the lives better for those who have the odds stacked against them…And now Bill Gates
Bill presented a talk on Fulfilling Technology’s promise to education: How much can technology help us teach and learn.
Bill opened with the wonderful NAIS education he received at Lakeside and how it was the only diploma he really needed- lots of laughter here as he shared a picture of his high school graduation. This is the only time Bill graduated. As Bill and Melinda focused on where to take their foundation, they wanted to help other students have a quality education as well. Bill took us back to his past education, colored chalk and a traditional approach. Now move to today, the formal approach to teaching has not changed much. Bill feels that technology will be a large player in this transformation.
What is a good learning environment? Bill offers One to One as one great option. Think of Yoda and Luke. Luke looks bored, Yoda changes his approach, changes challenge. But since we can’t all have lessons with Yoda, what role can technology play in bringing in a Yoda-ish approach to today’s classrooms? What if you could have a wealth of concepts available as you teach providing elements of student choice as they approach their learning, providing choices that teachers can use to match the students needs?
Bill sees a lot of promise in the use of technology for providing opportunities. He shared a simple graph of the trend of online learning in the US for K-12 students from 2000 to 2009.
How does online compare to face-to-face learning? However, this is not definitive as you must account for teaching styles, methods and the way the courses are constructed. Bill also shared a graph of growth in online learning as indicated by increased investment. From the survey about Online courses conducted by NAIS, the bulk of online courses were developed at the teacher level and then by the director of technology. Now consider the background of your technology director. This is an indication that our technology directors must now have expertise in pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning in complex connected environments.
Four areas of focus for technology in education
- Re-imagining textbooks- Textbooks must change to become interactive. Gone will be the days of static texts that we carry in heavy backpacks
- Scaling our best teachers through materials provided by experts
- Connecting through social networks- connecting students to students, teachers to teachers and learners to experts through various social media
- Personalizing learning- This is a place where the a system indicates new paths for an indiviaul student to take based on
The following sites were mentioned in a video shared by Bill. Each of these can be mapped back to one of the four aspect shared on the shifts stemming from increased use of technology in education.
Another advantage with technology is that it can also help increase the amount of time a student spends on manipulating content.
What about online schools? There was a callout to the Global Online Academy- 16 schools teaching 19 courses across the country. The courses are taught on Haiku and include a variety of topics including a course on 911.
So, with all that is available today, what is holding schools back? Not every student has access to the technology and not every student has Internet access when they get home. We need a format for reading online that is easy and accessible. We need to give teachers time to catch up and learn what other teachers are doing. We need to do comparison studies to make sure that we don’t increase the divide between students who do well and those who struggle. Additionally, The CORE Curriculum is trying to map standards based on the core curriculum. Looking ahead to the future 10 years. This is really a very short amount of time. Independent schools have a unique role to play in this by the nature of our independence. So how do we build the school of the future?
Bill Gates will now take your questions
What skills do you feel our students will need entering the job sector today?
While you can go online today to get information, not all of it is good information. Students need to be able to use new techniques to get information but also to determine the quality of the information. During school, you are used to being confused but many adults are stuck in a mode of “I know what I know” and never get around to learning what they didn’t get when they were in school. Now you can go online and fill in some of these gaps.
What are the implications of your vision of technology for education on band-width?
This is significant. You will need more bandwidth. The good news is that this is really a low cost of your overall technology budget. This however is related to location to urban areas.
How do you get parents and teachers on-board with new ways of working?
This is a big challenge as there are so many constituencies. Example: Parents know how they were taught the subject and this becomes a challenge as they generally don’t have any experience in learning in this new way. They know what worked for them. The process will likely be two steps forward and one step backward: A) Plan ahead, B) Give teachers who are open to the change full opportunity to move ahead. The students will follow along. There is a lot of resistance to change. Education has been done the same way for a long time. You need to pick your early adopters and work with them. This will help bring others along.
What can educators do to bring about a shift in publishing from paper to electronic?
There are many classes taught without a textbook. However, we need hard data on this. Open CK12 has some good books but you have to make sure you students have the device. Devices break and that is another factor that must be considered. You won’t save that much money with the new online texts as there will be new costs.
What is the value of the human connection in a technology infused education?
Personal interaction is very important and there are many aspects that can’t be replaced. However, technology is getting better. Bill tells how he now usually meets his daughter’s boyfriends online as they Skype and in fact, the parents are now meeting each other online before they meet face to face.