The Tuesday morning keynote session at the International Society for Technology in Education's 31st annual conference and exposition in Denver asked the question: “Innovation and Excellence: Buzzwords or Global Imperative?” It's an especially important one to consider, given the tremendous technological and curricular changes afoot in today's schools.
Rather than asking one industry leader to ruminate on the topic, conference organizers assembled a diverse panel of “global education enthusiasts” to reflect on a range of questions about the role innovation and excellence play in 21st century classrooms around the world. The panel was moderated by Jennifer Corriero, co-founder and executive director of TakingITGlobal, an online learning community for youth interested in global issues and creating positive change.
Joining Corriero on-stage were:
- Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C.;
- Terry Godwaldt, director of programming at The Centre for Global Education in Canada;
- Shaun Koh, a student from Singapore currently studying at the University of Michigan; and
- Jean-Francois Rischard, former vice president of the World Bank and author of High Noon: Twenty Global Problems, Twenty Years to Solve Them.
Corriero structured the session as a dialogue among the panelists. Here are some of the highlights of their discussion:
What does innovation and excellence mean from an education systems perspective? “Innovation and excellence in education require the confluence of three agendas: the new skills agenda; the new learning, teaching and education technology agenda; and the new global citizenship agenda,” Rischard told conference attendees, revisiting remarks he made during the conference's opening keynote address on Sunday, June 27. “Innovations aimed at turning out as many students as we can who are equipped with [these abilities] will lift our chances of solving the world's problems.”
From a classroom perspective, how do you cultivate education and these skills? “We live in a very unique time in history,” Godwaldt said. “We have these global problems, but at the same time we have the tools and passion to address them. Students are networking [online] to research [problems and come up with] smart goals for solving them. They share these goals not just with their classrooms, but with all the schools connecting at that time. That turns into action plans, then global campaigns for change. All of this is done through wikis, social media and so on. With these things, we bring the world into our classrooms.”
From a student perspective, what are your hopes and expectations? “I love it when technology makes me go, 'Wow! I had no idea you could do that,'” Koh said. “But remember: Technology is just an enabler. You need passion too. Don't forget why you started teaching. The technology just makes it come alive.”
How do you scale innovation, development and the nurturing of 21st century skills? “It's important to flip the conversation,” Cator said. “The real question is, How do you think and learn in the 21st century? If we could get that conversation about learning going, I think that could begin to change the game.”
How do we measure education's impact? “I don't think we have the best measurements today,” Cator said. “You know, as teachers, that you intuit a lot of what you teach. We need to stay the course but also scale out the best things we can. It will require a complete systems approach, a grassroots and top-down new design of assessments and systems.”
Where do we need to go in terms of student assessment? “I get the feeling the curriculum often doesn't give you that much leeway,” Rischard said. “Standardized tests … [don't] leave much wiggle room for innovation. 3M employees, for example, are given a certain amount of time and budget for innovations of their choosing. We need to make … room for this in education.”
“The kicker is that [places like] 3M and Google trust their employees. We need to trust our teachers,” Godwaldt added. “We need to empower them to use the tools they desire to use [in their instruction].”
How do we create students who have a global mindset and appreciate a global culture? “That's a complicated question, because there is so much to do,” Rischard said. “Teach world history, not just U.S. history. Introduce more projects aimed at problem solving; problem solving involves solutions, and you must do much deeper thinking to find solutions. Think multiculturally. It would take some nudging, but not too much; these new generations are already networkers, so they are sort of de facto global citizens.”
“I like to say I was educated in Singapore, but I grew up on the Internet,” Koh added.
As the session drew to a close, Rischard expressed concern about the world's rush to embrace new ideas and new technologies. “There's a digital divide,” he said, “between the people who are charging ahead with these things and the people who control the curricula and the standardized tests.”
Cator agreed, noting that the highest levels of the education community are “probably the most reticent to change. It's not about age, it's about mindset,” she said. “We do know systems are slow to change, but with the Internet and opportunities for grassroots movements, it's possible to change systems very quickly.
“We can inspire each other,” she continued. “Let's start on the platform of what we have. I think it's possible to change systems with grassroots-inspiring campaigns.”
To view a video of the keynote session in its entirety, visit the ISTE 2010 Ning.
Excellence at Home and Afar
The June 29 morning keynote session opened with remarks from ISTE CEO Donald G. Knezek and the presentation of several awards.
Citing the themes of innovation and excellence that would be addressed by the keynote panelists, Knezek asked attendees to consider the following questions: “What are the key criteria? And how do we measure impact?”
For ISTE, which Knezek described as “the go-to organization” for countries seeking a “partner in developing and implementing their education technology goals,” innovation and excellence begin at home.
“ISTE is almost everywhere,” he said. “We're working to appropriately address Digital Age skills through the development of standards, frameworks and curricula for educators and for students.” The goal, he added, is to achieve “global reach and local impact.”
Among other achievements in the past year, Knezek cited ISTE's partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to advance the ICT Competency Framework for Teachers.
Knezek also reminded attendees that ISTE “is here to support your advocacy efforts” and thanked them for all they have done to advance education technology in the past year. He touted recent organizational initiatives that are “breaking new advocacy ground” – among them, a Tweeting for Education Technology campaign that sent 1,600 messages to Congress, the ISTEadvocacy Channel on YouTube and the Ed Tech Action Network.
Knezek concluded his remarks by introducing some of the winners of ISTE's 2010 Online Learning Special Interest Group (SIGOL) Online Learning Award and Special Interest Group (SIG) Media Specialist Technology Innovation Award, along with the winner of the Outstanding Teacher Award.
The first-place winner of the SIGOL Award is a team of Baltimore County Public Schools teachers led by Cecily Anderson, an English teacher at Catonsville Middle School in Maryland. Anderson and six district collaborators were honored for their project entitled “MSA Reading & Math Blast! An Exemplar of 21st-Century Learning.”
The second-place winner is Jennifer Garcia, coordinator of the Learning Resources Centre at Academia Britanica Cuscatleca in Santa Tecla, El Salvador. Garcia was honored for her “Research Using Social Networks” project.
The first-place winner of the SIG Media Specialist Technology Innovation Award in the primary school category is the team of fifth-grade teacher Anne Sullivan and librarian Patricia Svendsen of Joseph W. Martin Jr. Elementary School in North Attleborough, Mass. The two were honored for “The Literature and Engineering/Design Project.”
The first-place winner in the secondary school category is the team of 10th-grade teacher Sarah DeMaria and librarian Cathi Fuhrman of Hempfield High School in Landisville, Pa. They were honored for “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Movie Trailer Project.”
The 2010 Outstanding Teacher is Karen Rose, a third-grade teacher at Harry McKillop Elementary School in Melissa, Texas.