NYSCATE’s closing keynote this year featured two very well know speakers on Educational Technology. I was a fan of both coming into the keynote. I am not coming out, although I do still highly respect them both and will continue to follow both online.
Will Richardson and Gary Stager took to the stage with a moderator and a series of questions. Will is well known for his blog and book on Blogs and Wikis. Gary is a nationally recognized speaker and has been a visionary in ed-tech for some time.
The questions were designed to put them at odds, focusing on issues that the two were known to disagree on. Everyone was expecting a bit of rough and tumble in the conversation.
It was played by both, although I heard “I agree with… but” way too many times from both of these gentlemen. Gary is very passionate and was compelling to listen to. Will was reflective and appeared a very good listener.
I can’t help but express that I disagree with Gary on a number of his points. He stated that “all curriculum is bad”, suggesting we operate our schools without curriculum. He was clear in his belief that we should give all kids computers without any consideration to the readiness of the teacher. I cannot state how strongly I feel that we cannot provide any guaranteed quality of education without a core curriculum. I do feel that curriculum contains too much content and should be more skill based, but to suggest that teachers work with no curriculum and teach what kids might be interested in, might be current, might work, or what might spark the teacher’s passion with no clear path is irresponsible.
Will talked about teachers effectively modeling good use of technology and be comfortable in an understanding of how a particular technology works before implementing it in a classroom. Gary doesn’t care if the teacher even has a computer. Gary’s thinking can only lead to inconsistent education for our kids, lack of alignment, and the schools with the most money and resources getting the best teachers and giving kids more opportunities.
Will’s approach is more cautious. I agree with him that school needs to expand beyond the when and where we have kids in front of us and that time may even be able to shrink. Yet we still need to be their guide. Teachers need to know a clear path of what it is they want their students to be capable of accomplishing and guide them in the process to learn the skills they need. Teachers need to create the opportunities for learning and discovery and a place where they can make “safe mistakes”. If teachers do not understand the way students are doing their work, they cannot teach them safe, effective, ethical, enjoyable ways to learn. We need to stop worrying about the content, and allow students to discover and create the content while learning skills. Teachers cannot do this if they cannot model and guide the students. They cannot come close if they have no clue as to the environment they expect kids to do accomplish things in.
I also did not agree with Gary that all kids need to learn more about how the computers they use work. He made it clear that he feels they all need to understand how the computers were programmed. Personally, I do not think this is at all essential. Just as many of us have no idea why our cars run when we turn the key, why our televisions show us pictures, or why our refrigerators keep our food cold; we do not all need to understand how to create a word processor that will allow us to move text the way we want.
The conversation between Gary, Will and the moderator was civil and ended peacefully. It did what it needed to do, and that was to make me think. This was a great end to a conference and the fact that I am home writing this less than 3 hours after arriving home is testament to that. Thanks to both Gary and Will and the NYSCATE organizers as well.
See the Keynote at: