Meeting the Future

I happened upon a talk done by Sir Ken Robinson today by way of Dave Caolo of 52 Tiger, and there was a single phrase that struck me and it has to do with education today:

They’re trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past.

You can listen/watch the whole video on YouTube and it is illustrated, which is cool, and I tend to agree with a lot of what he says about education today. Also check out his site and view some of his other videos.


Something Very Special

From Fraser Speirs this morning I got the following quote from Steve Jobs in 1980.

Our whole company, our whole philosophical base, is founded on one principle. That principle is that there is something very special and very historically different that takes place when you have one computer and one person. Very different than if you have ten people and one computer.

That’s the whole idea behind 1:1 computing initiatives in education today.


The Same Mistakes

We were here with netbooks and now we are here again, this time with Chromebooks. Via Daring Fireball we get this report from CNET News about 27,000 Chromebooks going out to some school districts. Here is the quote John Gruber (of Daring Fireball) pulls:

“Students love the tablet. I am not going to hide that from you. They will bow down and kiss your feet,” said Diane Gilbert, an English teacher at Kelly Mill Middle School in Blythewood, S.C., who’s taught with tablets in her classroom. She said that Chromebooks, though, are better when it comes to typing and to letting students publish their work the way she wants it done.

Once again, teacher-directed, teacher-centric technology choices which ignore not just what the students want to use …

… but probably what they would.


Technology in Education

With Apple’s education announcements, there has been an upswing of talk about technology and its role in education. That’s a good thing. It also happens to be something very near and dear to my heart for any number of reasons … the two most prevalent being my education degree and the fact that I now work in information technology.

They kind of go together.

This post is really just going one a bulleted list of paragraphs outlining some of my thoughts on technology in education and in the future I hope to maybe take some of those points and expound upon them a little further.

  • I think it is safe to say that technology, or the internet and computing devices really, are here to stay. Wishing them away isn’t going to change things, so hoping that you can just ignore technology in education isn’t going to change the fact that it is currently important and only going to become more so. What you can change is how you react to that reality. It is the whole “you can only change how you react to things” trope.
  • What we are doing is not working. The current curriculum around technology literacy is not good and not effective and how technology is incorporated in the rest of the curriculum is not good and not effective. This isn’t even taking into account that you can always do better.
  • The worst thing that happened for technology education was Microsoft’s dominance in the 90s. It allowed everyone to get lazy because a “curriculum” could be tailored around Microsoft and Microsoft alone and people could point at their market share and say “who else do you need”. Those days are now gone and now we have plenty of people who cannot think beyond “where is the Start menu”. Shameful, really.
  • Programming and logic courses should be offered, but not required, in every school.
  • People need to understand how technology (computers) works and also how technology interacts as well. There is no reason that a person should not understand how a computer and projector (visit for variety of projectors) interacts with each other, how I/O (on a really basic level) works so that they can at least have a cursory understanding of what might be going wrong.
  • Open up the classrooms to a variety of devices and platforms. Choose technology that works best not technology that everyone else is using. If a lab full of Linux thin clients will do what you need and save you money … THEN. DO. IT.
  • TYPING. CLASSES. Have students typing and learning how to type from a very early age.
  • Teach technology throughout the curriculum. Want kids to learn how to set margins and tabs in a word processor? How about have them mock up an article in whatever word processor they want. Learning about large numbers and statistics? Use a spreadsheet and have them work on setting one up that will calculate totals on-the-fly. There are so many ways to do this where you give kids the leverage to learn while doing it across the curriculum.
  • 1:1 programs should be planned for an implemented pretty much everywhere. Yes, it takes planning and resources and training but it will need to be done at some point.

These are just the thoughts I can get down right now and, as you can tell, it is a lot of “stream of consciousness” prose above. There is a lot of work to do, but we have to start somewhere.


What the iBooks Author!?

I’ve read enough hyperbole on iBooks Author to really fill my plate for the rest of time, but I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring to outline what my own thoughts are about the program from a purely theoretical standpoint.

If you want to read more in-depth coverage on iBooks Author and the controversies surrounding it, I recommend the following:

I’ve read quite a bit on it and I’m just going to have a few things to say … and split this into two sections: what iBooks Author IS and what iBooks Author IS NOT.

Let’s go!

iBooks Author IS

  • An authoring tool specifically for iBooks 2 on the iPad
  • Free, as in beer
  • Related to, but not a part of, iWork
  • Available only on Mac OS X Lion

iBooks Author IS NOT

  • A generic ePub authoring tool
  • Something you pay for
  • Available on any other platform
  • Apple’s attempt to take over ePub


I don’t know. I don’t like the EULA, but I think most of the anger comes from people’s want for a generic ePub authoring tool from … anyone. Expecting Apple to release such a product is … strange.

From where I sit, it seems like iBooks Author is more of a front end to iBooks publishing than anything else. Contrary to some people’s worst-case-scenario-thinking, I don’t think Apple has any standing to sue for control of your actual content through the EULA.

iBooks Author looks really cool, and maybe I’ll use it at some point, but I think that we (as a collectively tech community) need to just take a deep breath and give ourselves some time to just settle down before we start writing some of the ridiculous drivel that has been released so far.

However, I’m still holding out for a really great generic ePub authoring tool. Anyone want to get on that?