Speaking at the ATA

6 Mar 2006

I’m writing this post from the airplane on the way back from the Administrators Technology Academy in Jackson, TN. (Though I’m posting it from the comfort of my recliner at home.) It’s an annual event that draws school administrators from around western Tennessee for a day of learning about educational technology. I was lucky enough to do the opening keynote this morning and got the day started by looking ahead to the year 2016 and the technology that we will be using by then. My talk had several themes:

  • Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, and most people don’t understand exponential growth. The implication is that we ain’t seen nothing yet with respect to technological change. If Moore’s Law holds, computer chips ten years from now will be 32x more powerful than the ones we have today.
  • Old teaching methods don’t work with today’s kids. I raised a few eyebrows when I suggested that the act of a teacher consciously deciding not to use advanced technology with his or her students might be considered educational malpractice.
  • The value of factual knowledge is plummeting. I showed how quickly basic facts can be accessed with Google and looked ahead to a day within ten years when all students will carry an Internet-connected computing device with them 24×7.
  • We are in a relevance race. If we fail to utilize new technologies, we risk alienating our students. It won’t be many years before students can homeschool themselves and earn a high school diploma without setting foot inside a traditional school. If schools as we know them are to survive and prosper, we’re going to have to adjust to a world where we’re not the only game in town.

Of course, it was much more exciting than that in person! I tried to come up with some choice quotes to leave with the group. Here are two that seemed to go over well:

If your work can be automated, it will be.

And the question of the day:

What are you doing right now to prepare your students to collaborate seamlessly across cultures in jobs that probably don’t yet exist?

9 responses to Speaking at the ATA

  1. Tim –

    As a school administrator who is often frustrated with many teachers’ reluctance to embrace technology, I am wondering how your address was received. Obviously, administrators who were in attendance were probably supportive of the cause, but I’m wondering what kind of feedback you received on their struggles to get teachers on board.

    Also – do you have a transcript or podcast of your address? I’d like to see it in its entirety!

    — Scott

  2. I don’t have a transcript or recording. I didn’t have it all written out in advance, and I wasn’t sure whether the sound system in the room would work with my recording gear. I will try to record the talk if I get to do it again somewhere.

    As far as the reception goes, I guess I’ll have to wait and see when I get the comments from the conference evaluation form that most of the attendees filled out at the end of the day. There wasn’t any booing or hissing, so I guess that’s a good sign. I don’t think the group overall was very aware of some of the emerging technology trends. Only a handful had heard of Skype, for example. So I was trying to shake them up a little bit without being too critical of the present state of things. I’ll look forward to reading those comments.

  3. Tim [and Scott]
    I was one of the administrators present at the ATA in Jackson. I found the presentation on Blogging and Podcasting in Education to be most enlightening. I was especially interested in using the blogging for student journaling–becoming a published author with a world-wide audience was an interesting slant. Is there a “safety” issue/problem with students publishing personal information as the teacher can not “control” all blog entries?
    Thanks for a great session and some really good ideas. I feel those administrators present were open and receptive to technology and the limitless possibilites it affords. We may not have seemed to be the most enlightened audience you have addressed, but if we knew it all we would not have been there!

  4. Kaye, your question about safety issues is an important one. Recent media reports seem to by overhyping the danger in my opinion. I believe a measured, educational response is appropriate. We should be teaching online safety just like we teach bus safety, behavior around strangers, etc. The online world is as much a part of these kids’ lives as going to the mall.

  5. Hi Tim-
    Even though I’ve moved on to other things, I’ll always be a geek at heart and I enjoy your perspective!

    As much as I agree with you out of my own experiences training teachers and administrators to use new technology, do you think that there is also a risk in embracing new technology simply to keep up? I say this out of an experience I had last week with one of my professors. She is not a very good lecturer – her lectures are very confusing. During a recent review session she forgot the VGA dongle for her iBook and had to use good ‘ol chalk dust instead. As soon as she started writing on the board, things made perfect sense to everyone. By drawing her own diagrams rather than pointing to illustrations on a PPT presentation, we were able to ride her train of thought with her and she did a much better job of illustrating the concepts she was trying to teach.

    My point is that she tried to use technology (and powerpoint isn’t even new technology) but she didn’t use it effectively – I had similar experiences in college. Would you agree that as important as it is to keep up to date, it’s critically important to understand the technology and how it can and can’t be effectively used? And along with that, ineffective use of new technology can often be worse than the old methods it replaces.

  6. Great point, Bjorn. I’ve seen many more horrible PowerPoint presentations than good ones. I don’t think most teachers realize how long it takes to create really good presentations with PowerPoint. Unless you have the skills to make complex animations, there are times when you can’t beat writing on the board.

  7. Speaking to the point of preparing our students for the future that we are unsure of . . . I think every teacher should be required to read _The World is Flat_ by Thomas Freidman. It will really get you thinking – that is if you’re thinking about the kids parked in the seats of your classroom.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Irrelevence vs Irreverance at Tangled up in Purple - 12 Mar 2006

    […] and this perspective from an earlier post by the same person: Old teaching methods don’t work with today’s kids. I raised a few eyebrows when I suggested that the act of a teacher consciously deciding not to use advanced technology with his or her students might be considered educational malpractice. […]

  2. Education 4 the 21st Century - 20 Apr 2006

    […] If I were to add anything to the three questions listed above, I would add a question that I found in this post by The Savvy Technologist. He writes about a recent presentation that he gave at an education administrators conference. After waking the audience up with some very intriguing predictions about immerging technologies and technology integration in the classroom (AND workforce), he left his audience with this question: What are you doing right now to prepare your students to collaborate seamlessly across cultures in jobs that probably don’t yet exist? […]