Now There was a Debate

David Jakes Capturing the Debate
Will Richardson
Gary Stager

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea I had this much writing in me.

I finally watched last week’s debate at NYSCATE between Gary Stager and Will Richardson. I was not surprised to hear my name invoked, though it was startling to hear it as an impetus of that event — a challenge that Gary made months ago in his blog to debate me or any of the other Web 2.0pian evangelists out there. He claimed during the exchange, that we keynoters arrive from the airport, suddenly appear behind the pulpit, have our say, and disappear again. That’s rubbish! But it’s not the point of this writing.

I was not surprised to see that there wasn’t any thing that Will and Gary seemed to disagree about in any substantial way. There wasn’t anything said by either that I’d disagree with in any substantial way. I could certainly pick out minute elements of what both of them said and make a case for its wrongness from some perspective, but I just don’t see the benefit.  They were both eloquent and inspiring.

I think that most of us pretty much see education through the same glasses, and agree that students and teachers should be using contemporary technologies as tools of the trade. Gary likes using computers to help students learn to work ideas with logic and math (programming), and Will concentrates on using technology to work ideas with language (blogging). This is a rough interpretation of how the moderator (could not understand his name) characterized them. You can read a great review of the discussion in Gary’s latest entry (Will Richardson & Gary Stager – Live: The Bootleg Video) in The Pulse, and see the video here (recorded with a $100 digital camera by our friend, Dave Jakes).

What I was reminded of, while watching Will and Gary, was a debate that I saw many years ago at a CoSN conference in Washington.  I was at the conference working a booth for ThinkQuest, but somehow got invited in to attend the banquet and see a debate between then Technology & Learning editor in chief, Judy Salpeter, and Todd Opeheimer, author of a recent (1997) controversial piece in The Atlantic Monthly, The Computer Delusion.

Both debaters brilliantly hit their targets.  Neither came even close to hitting each other.  It was unsettling to me.  Then I realized early the next morning that they were each speaking from visions of education that were as different from each other as night and day, missing each other completely. 

Oppenheimer spoke from an education system that assumed a static world — where the job of education is to teach the child.  I like to refer to it as teaching children to be taught.  His perspective reasons that the same teaching tools and techniques that served children in the industrial age, will serve them just as will in an info-conceptual age (or whatever you want to call it).

Salpeter, on the other hand, spoke from a world of rapid change and a dramatic shift in the world of information, where teaching children to teach themselves and the literacies to accomplish this should be our goal.

I’m not sure why this little piece of history came to mind.  But today begins my state’s educational technology conference (NCETC), and I’ll be here for four days.  I know that I’ll be having lots of conversations, and I suspect that much of it will be about the roll of education right now.

Image Citations
Martinez, S. “Jakes ustreaming richardson stager nyscate keynote.” SMartinez’s Photostream. 20 Nov 2007. 26 Nov 2007 <>.

Smith, Brian. “Will Richardson – Stager/Richardson Keynote.” BrianCSmith’s Photostream. 20 Nov 2007. 26 Nov 2007 <>.

Smith, Brian. “Will Richardson – Stager/Richardson Keynote.” BrianCSmith’s Photostream. 20 Nov 2007. 26 Nov 2007 <>.

6 thoughts on “Now There was a Debate”

  1. I had Gary as a prof in grad school at Pepperdine. He takes some getting used to, but his brashness forces you to think and rethink what you believe in, and forces you to come up with good arguments. I can’t say that I loved his class, but I definitely learned a lot.

  2. I guess for all the perceived disagreement that looked forth coming, I was surprised at how much they ended up agreeing on. I also think the best realizations was by David Jakes.

    When the moderator asked what post of the other blogger they would like to comment on, and Jakes realizes, “They don’t read each others blogs.”

    So, if Will and Gary don’t read each others blogs, who does?

  3. Greetings from Newark Airport. My flight to Chicago is 3 hours late…

    Thanks for your blog. Here are a few points I wish to clarify.

    1) I’m not sure that I suggested that David Warlick was shot behind podiums and back to the airport. His daily reports from the field indicate otherwise. If I left the impression that David was one of the “hit & run” keynotes, then I apologize for the implication.

    2) I read everything Will writes and have been very public in my affection for his book. I will not put words in his mouth, but I suspect that he reads some of what I write as well.

    3) Being compared to Oppenheimer vs. Salpeter doesn’t seem apt. My friend Todd Oppenheimer is a magazine reporter with no body of work of expertise in the field of education.

    He wrote an article (and then incomprehensible book) attacking the use of computers in schools. Neither Will or I share much in common with Mr. Oppenheimer.

    The comparison works only in so far as two people were on a stage in front of an audience.

    4) My work is clearly associated with producing contexts in which children may have the widest, deepest and most creative contexts in which to learn. That, I believe, is greatly enhanced by ubiquitous access to personal computers that the child may use as an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression.

    I am deeply committed to giving agency to the learner which is why I advocate 1:1 and the use of computers to learn, construct and share ones knowledge across a variety of domains too vast to enumerate. I often speak with specificity of math, science, engineering and the arts precisely because so many others are concerned with language arts. (I believe I made that point at NYSCATE)

    That does NOT mean that I am hostile to children using computers in those contexts.

    1. Thanks Gary, for commenting here. It’s why I do this, for the conversation. I’d not seen you present in public before this video and the one from the Shanghai conference, and I never told you how impressed I was. Keep up the great work…

  4. David, thanks for the references to my photos (I had a front row seat with David Jakes).

    I have to say, I did not get the sense that Gary was speaking about all keynote speakers, however, his statement did prove true for at least one presenter at NYSCATE this year.

    BTW – The moderator for this event was Dr. Christopher Manaseri, Superintendent of Schools for the Brighton Central School District.

    Thanks for your post.

  5. Perhaps you already know about this, but I thought I’d post it anyway just in case.


    Deadline: January 15, 2007

    Critical Educators at Work: Peril and Promise

    This book will represent the combined work of the Critical Educators
    for Social Justice (CESJ) Special Interest Group (SIG) of the American
    Educational Research Association (AERA)—educators and scholars who are
    committed to teaching, promoting, and implementing the principles of
    critical pedagogy in order to establish an educational movement
    grounded in the struggle for social and economic justice, human rights
    and economic democracy. CESJ’s members are committed to cultural,
    linguistic, political, and economic self-determination within
    classrooms, schools and communities.

    The contents of this book will be a step towards encouraging a serious
    educational process that cultivates intellectual rigor, creativity,
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    as a form of critical understanding, plays a crucial role in
    transforming society; therefore, we recognize the significance of
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    founded upon these principles and whose work will be featured in this

    One of the primary objectives of this book will be to promote
    communication and collaboration among critical educators and
    researchers working in public schools, universities, and community
    education programs. Our goal is to document the voices of critical
    educators in multiple settings, who work to unveil injustice, expose
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    will offer insights and reflections on the status of schooling in a
    contradictory society beholden to the interests of a dominant elite
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    critical educators struggling against the status quo.

    In the spirit of a democratic process, the editors of this book are
    putting out a call to all interested authors, contributors, and
    readers, inviting them to help shape the content of this book,
    specifically the themes to be addressed, by submitting narratives that
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    The editors will work with the preliminary submissions of narratives
    to develop the themes of the book and will then issue a call for
    chapter proposals for peer review.

    Critical Educators at Work: Peril and Promise

    Guidelines for Submissions

    We are seeking well-written, well-focused submissions of personal and
    professional narratives describing the perils and/or promise of
    individuals involved in the work of social justice.

    Submissions should include brief descriptions of the author’s/authors’
    work in social justice (e.g., goals and actions)
    work environment (e.g., schools, community projects, academia)
    struggles faced (e.g., roadblocks, policies that impede, relative
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    sustaining factors or supports for the work in social justice

    When possible, submissions should include concrete descriptions’ of
    the process used to address the obstacles to doing the work of social justice
    the results and/or future prospects

    Submissions must be
    typed and submitted electronically as a Word document, RTF file, or a PDF file
    between 500 and 750 words
    clearly written, focused, and grammatically edited

    Not all submissions will be included in the book project; however, all
    submissions will be kept confidential and will be treated with

    Initial submissions should not be confused with chapter submissions. A
    call for chapters will be a later step in the book project.

    Please send summaries and/or inquiries electronically to Karen Gourd

    Please tell your friends and colleagues about this call for narratives
    of work in social justice.

    Deadline for submissions is January 15, 2008.

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