Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the annual ISTE conference in Denver along with 16,000 other practitioners, numerous sponsors, many entrepreneurs, and innovators, and an impressive set of vendor booths. Whether you are in this space, in the education system, or not, this is a must read! I had not been to this event before, and I was reminded of the amazing buzz you have when that many educational leaders and innovators are together in one place! Not only did it give me a chance to meet one-on-one with customers in a casual setting, but I spent time with entrepreneurs and practitioners (aka teachers, principals and administrative support) talking about what is needed to transform Education with IT from many aspects. It was clear to me that Lewis Fowler should be part of the solution of the future around transforming education. Below outlines my insights from the event, and key messages that really resonated with me.
What are the key themes trying to be supported or solved with IT in Education?
Student Engagement, parent engagement, preparing kids for a world of technology, schools are laboratories for social change, digital citizenship and much more. Whew, that is a lot to cover at one event! Let me continue with my favorite session, there were hundreds to choose from.
Keynote Speaker - Ruha Benjamin
This session was really incredible to me. Ruha, the Assistant Professor in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton, was a passionate and compelling speaker. She covered ideas around how technology is tied to social justice or injustice depending on your perspective, algorithmic discrimination, and reimagining the default settings of technology, which sort of blew my mind. She closed with how “Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, they bar the seeds of the character of future society…They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity. Or leave entirely to their own devices …they belong to the community and share in its purpose.” Read more about Ruha and the conference here.
I really had not thought about how important having each and every child not only have access to technology, but that it is necessary to have it become a core curriculum. For generations only courses such as Math, Science, and English have always been required. Technology, even today, in most middle and high schools is an elective. What is the problem? Well, with technology being so pervasive in the world, truly it is almost everywhere, if we do not require fundamental technology skills, the social gap may get bigger. I reflected on this message... have I seen it? Well yes, I have. In the past, I have regularly spoken at my kid’s middle school in their technology elective. I have seen that by middle school, there are only 3-4 girls in the classroom. Crazy, right? So, if we want to solve having more diversity, in this case gender, then maybe the speaker is right. Let us make technology mandatory, and then, everyone will have equal opportunity. Will this make more girls be more interested in technology? Maybe not, but it might help. We saw a demo from code.org prior to this keynote speaker showing how easy it is to teach the “concepts” of coding, analytics, etc. through what felt like a game, but with the intention of teaching coding fundamentals.
I personally left the event feeling optimistic about the future technology can play in solving key areas in education, and how it can advance us as a nation. I walked away with many ideas to ponder and discussions to be had about where students, educators, parents, and the greater community need to focus. It also confirmed that transformation, technology enablement, organizational effectiveness and outstanding execution capabilities will all be key capabilities Lewis Fowler can bring to the education vertical. Last, but not least, I will leave you with my favorite quote from the event, “Teachers can change the direction of history.”