Tough choice this hour; both sessions are very attractive, but I am sticking with the plan to learn from Andrew Zucker on web 2.0 “realities, not hype.”  From quick glances, it seems clear that the other session, Ten Unsolved Questions of the Brain, is considerably more crowded, perhaps two or three times more in attendance over there.   Funny the psychology that exerts itself upon me to want to follow the crowd.

Arnie Cohen, Head of Lamplighter, speaks of the progress his school has made in just ten years, how swiftly and strongly it has come into the digital age.   Andrew Zucker, we are told, has had a long career in teaching and technology, beginning with years teaching at Milton Academy and then all the way to the US Department of Education.

Zucker begins with a warm endorsement of independent schools: “teachers and parents are still more important than digital media,” and “independent schools have a lot to offer to public schools.”    Zucker encourages us in independent schools to write, publish, and share our good ideas and practices with other schools and systems.

Top three reasons our students’ homework is missing in the new century

  • I emailed it, didn’t you get it?
  • Tech support help was down
  • I had to delete, needed space for iTunes

Technology is here, it has advantages and disadvantages, but we have to reckon with it.    Technology is coming at us like a firehose, one which we have to drink from without getting hurt or drowned.  (Interesting conversation over on Twitter: is Zucker disserving his very purpose of encouraging digital integration in schooling by his expression of sympathy for those who feel overwhelmed by this; is his focus on the fear actually reinforcing the fear?)

Take your time, you need to innovate, you cannot keep up with it.” I like this message, and I think he gets it right:  we must innovate, we must go forward, we must take these steps, but we must not criticize ourselves too harshly for the ways in which we are not entirely caught up with everything.  But while I appreciate the gentleness of take your time, maybe it is too gentle– we must catch up even as we must take our time, both.

Zucker: Why innovate? Why Must We in ISAS Lead? Because:

  1. Independent schools have a higher proportion of great teachers than other schools!
  2. TSL is significantly less at independent schools, (total student load).
  3. Our schools and teachers have significantly more autonomy and less bureaucracy than public schools.

Zucker: Each of the six key education goals can better be achieved by technology:  Student Learning at the Center, but made possible by outside support, quality teachers, learning for all, engaging and relevant learning, and accountability!  For technology transformation, more money is spent on the people and process than on the technology, and we must remember this.

Zucker offers a “Shameless plug” for his book, Transforming Schools with Technology.

Although it seems schools can’t and won’t and aren’t able to change, Zucker brings stats on all the ways in which schools are technologically changing, and swiftly.

Web 2.0 is still brand new, Zucker argues, and that we are still only just learning.  the early web was very slow and very much a broadcast, but it is now interactive and faster and richer and more engaging.

Zucker offers technologies, for free, that we can take home with us to use:

Screen Recordings: This is a way to record video and voice, with a url, to share and email.

Clickers are recommended, with a very brief discussion, and ExamView is also suggested, *but which is not free.”

Poll Everywhere and Surveymonkey come next, as suggested tools for classroom use.

Models and Simulations; Course Discussion and Management Tools Moodle and class blogmeister.

So, this session is certainly well intended and draws upon a great deal of knowledge about technological practices in school.   Unfortunately, it is being presented in a very static way, as a tutorial of sorts for using software tools, and is sadly disappointing as such.

Web 2.0 Myths

1. Students are Masters of Technology.   No, students may know how to use tools, but they don’t know how to use them well, and the vastness of new information does not make them more adept.  The results of the ETS iSkills testing were very disappointing.

2.  Students Watch Less TV: Some research, Zucker says, shows they are watching more TV than ever, up 28 minutes.

3. Students Today Think and Learn Differently: No.  Nobody is a good multi-tasker.

Zucker: We need to teach kids to understand their own brains better, and we need to do so more than ever. Psychology and Brain Cognition learning is required for kids to better make sense of their complex and newly digital worlds.  We need to better understand ourselves.

Curious he is saying this; the standing room only session immediately next door is about exactly this.

Zuckers offers some good suggestions for how schools can and must help kids learn more about their own learning, and I value the (brief) shout-out for Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, which I think is so very important.   Effort counts, and effort is most important whether kids are smart or not.   He also recommends we work harder to provide kids quality study groups.

This Emotional Life on PBS is recommended viewing as part of the broader project of helping kids learn more about themselves.

Andrew Zucker is certainly someone who has spent much time thinking and writing about the role of technology in our schools, and I appreciate his coming here to share his encouragement that we do take the plunge, we do drink from that firehose, that we do empower our kids with digital tools to enable them to research more, collect more data, analyze more, and communicate more their learning.   Zucker’s presentation style was a bit of a disappointment; as he himself remarked it was hard to follow the preacherly cadences of Samuel Betances, and Zucker’s flat tones and “read-aloud” powerpoint presentation came across as less engaging than might have been hoped for.

It was helpful of him to take a reassuring tone, and to offer some good and valuable suggestions for teachers, ideas which ranged across proficiency levels.   But for many in the room, who see Web 2.0 as a much richer, much deeper, and more more powerful tool than classroom teachers have ever had before in the history of education, this session seemed to miss the mark.  Yes, there are areas to be concerned about, but in the year 2010, I think we should race to embrace the opportunities web 2.0 offers, take us to great examples (Urban School in San Francisco, High Tech High in San Diego, New Technology HS in Napa) and great results, while still offering appropriate caveats to be sure.   This, Zucker, I am afraid, did not do.