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NECC 2006

I am feeling the swell of information and excitement today after a series of great sessions.

The keynote speech today was given by Nicholas Negroponte, creator of the one laptop per child initiative. It was very exciting sitting in the audience and hearing him describe the transformative power of placing this tool to connect with the world into the hands of a child. Especially a child who takes nothing for granted, and where the only hope for advancement is through education.

As is now the case with any sort of conference with even a smattering of tech connections, many people have written up their thoughts about his speech:

Favorite quotes from Negroponte’s speech:

Supporting Windows on your laptop is “like a fat person using their energy to move their weight.”


“If Intel and Microsoft are against it… we must be doing something right.”


I’m paraphrasing this one: “It broke my heart to come to cambodia, and find that these kids were learning Word and Excel, like that was somehow going to secure them a job”

My next source of inspiration came in the form of Gary Stager, who delivered a rousing, shoot-from-the-hip presentation entitled: Preventing your one-to-one dreams from becoming nightmares.

I decided to attend this session in a very last minute fashion, and I stationed myself close to the door, in case things got ugly.

I could not have been more wrong.

A number of things stuck with me from his speech, things that perhaps were in the sub-concious, or things I have been simply unable to articulate to the right people. The real power of the internet is the opportunity for collaboration, and the opportunity of empowering yourself to publish your ideas. As he said, the power of the internet is not “dopey notions of things like webquests.” Going to some website to write down when Abraham Lincoln was born doesn’t somehow make it more exciting or engaging, because it is on the internet.

Another idea floated, that some of my teachers have picked up on, is the idea that assignments should be broad enough to be satisfied in a number of ways… meaning a number of methods of problem solving and a number of methods of production and communication.

Also, he dissed the clicker/voter things that seem to be all the rage at the moment. Companies would love nothing more than to sell thousands of those things and “turn all the teachers into Vanna White.”
Both Negroponte and Stager hit on the idea that teaching computer programming is all about teaching kids to learn, think and problem solve. Both used Logo as an example. (Don’t I feel special for having written down this spring in my draft curriculum, “LS – Logo”)

Okay, enough from me, here’s some from the community:

Finally– Will Richardson on the Read/Write Web. Again, an excellent, excellent presentation. “Why web 2.0 changes everything”. It’s not about the technology, as Will says, its again this idea that the empowering and amazing thing is that now every kid is a newspaper, a textbook, a radio show, a television show and a movie. Students can publish to a worldwide audience and it is incredibly powerful.

One moment from Will’s speech was especially poignant. He showed a Coors’ beer commercial from about 5 years ago, I love football and the Twins, etc. And then presented some teenager’s MySpace profile. The link was obvious. “We should not be afraid of MySpace, we need to teach MySpace.” And by teaching MySpace, that means teaching about society, culture, ethics, and what is of value in this world. MySpace is not some separate little thing that we can block kids out of. MySpace is real life. And if we’re worried about what our kids are doing and saying in that virtual space… we need to be teaching and leading in every space.

We’re fighting a battle of relevancy with our students. We block access, we cut off communcation, and we dictate how technology will be used, and in the end, schools are losing relevance with kids.
What can we do to regain relevance? We change the way we teach. Teaching in the past was linear. Life is not like that. Life is not a linear set of steps to get from Point A to Point B. Life is a mess, the internet is a mess, myspace is a mess, we need to teach how to navigate, interpret, understand and shape the mess. I’ll bet you have heard the phrase, “How are you going to learn if you don’t get your hands dirty?”

[tags]necc, necc06, necc2006[/tags]

Categories: EdTech.