What Didn’t Disappoint me Last Night

Yesterday, I live blogged an address delivered by Tim Magner at the MEGA Showcase at the Friday Institute.  Magner is the Director of the Office of Educational Technology with the U.S. Department of Education.  The single commenter of that blog expressed disappointment that we did not receive a…

..grand ideas for how to change our education system to better prepare this generation of students to compete in a global market.

I commented that I was not disappointed, because my expectations were lower.  I have to say that I was impressed with Magner.  He’s smart and he has an amazing command of the issues, the programs, and examples of innovative working classrooms.  Only once did he sound like a Republican, when he expressed doubt that more money would be coming for technology, explaining that when we ask for money, enterprising reporters will find evidence of waste, publish it, and people won’t vote for more funds.  We’ve been hearing this for more than 20 years now.  We react the way that we do about waste in government, because we’ve been trained to.  Waste is not necesarily a bad thing.  It is can be a byproduct of risk-taking and innovation.

Magner is telling a compelling story about a need for new teaching and learning, for new classrooms, for a rethinking of the entire system.  I do have to admit, however, that I am no more optimistic that we’re going to be able to pull it off.  He said that we have no common language for reshaping a vision for 21st century education, and he is correct.  It’s why the new story has to be plain, simple, and energizing.

The best part of the MEGA meeting, hands down, was the show case.  There were probably thirty groups represented, mostly classroom teachers who were demonstrating various projects going on in their classrooms.  I wish I could remember all of the ones I saw (and I only had time to see about two-thirds of them.  The high points that I remember:

  • Gaming in elementary school
    Gaming at high school

    Two classes were using video games in the classroom.  An elementary school (Williford Elementary School) was using Quest Atlantis, developed by the Center for Reseearch on Learning & Technology at the University of Indiana.  The other was a high school class (Enloe High School), which was using a game developed by the science teacher, on a gaming platform developed and supported by HIFIVES at North Carolina State University.

  • I didn’t see any classes that were blogging, but did see two that were using wikis.
  • I had a conversation, via iChat, with a teacher in Lee County (above) whose class is visited regularly by pre-service teachers at North Carolina State University.  This was especially cool and very-doable.
  • I saw a video about bullying produced by three middle school children.
  • I saw a class that was podcasting.

So much of what I saw, we weren’t even talking about one or two years ago — brand new conversations.  Alas, there are far more classrooms out there that still reflect, all to closely, the conversations we’ve been having for decades.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.