If you haven’t heard Gary Stager speak about computing in school, you are truly missing out.  He is cutting to the ideas he feels are pedestrian, but in such a way that you end up feeling that way too.  For example, the other day I discussed the idea of the term 21st Century skills.  Stager characterized them this way:

This talk of 21st Century Skills is redundant; These are the things that rich people have wanted for their children since the 18th Century.

and he’s completely correct.  We could go back further and ask the Greek’s if they valued communication, collaboration, and critical thinking and our answer would be a resounding yes.  Our discussions of these skills, regardless of their origin, are here, and Stager addressed them in the form of what we should be doing with computers.  Interestingly, he feels that going “online” is the most boring thing you can do with a student.  Rather, he says, we need to engage students in meaningful activities that involve the use of the laptops in ways that the students didn’t think possible.

Here are few more soundbites:

Regarding the funding of school technology programs:

Making educational decisions based on price is educationally and morally wrong.  The best thing that could happen would be for schools to get out of the business of technology.  I’d like to see states give tax breaks for parents to buy their kids laptops.

Regarding the use of certain terms in education:

When we use words like pilot, program, initiative we guarantee a high chance of failure.

Regarding students and video games:

The person who learns the most from video game software is the one who made it.

Regarding the use of video to help students explain their work:

Video is an incredibly powerful medium for telling learning stories.  It helps make invisible thinking visible

Regarding the phrase “It’s not about the technology:”

I say it is about the technology.  We have to look at the technology and decide what about it that does matter and then act upon that.

What I enjoy about how Gary challenges my thinking is that he leaves no sacred cow un-tipped.  I have said the phrase “it’s not about the technology,” countless times, and usually in a mode to pacify angry teachers who feel overwhelmed by what we are doing.  It’s going to take me some time reflect on what the means now.  I’ve been pushed a little here.

For more information on Gary Stager’s Constructing Modern Knowledge Institute in July, follow this link.


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