Dr. Eileen Lento drops by to talk all things education technology, and her work as the Director of Strategy and Marketing at Intel Education and has been an integral voice with ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) as a board member
for the last four years. Dr. Lento also discusses her role in the upcoming International 1:1 Computing Conference being held in Atlanta, Georgia December 2-3rd.
We dive into issues around BYOD programs, Intel’s approach to education globally and the challenge of providing all children with the best edtech devices. I think you will really enjoy Dr. Lento’s candor and enthusiasm for 1:1 initiatives and the upcoming conference in Atlanta!
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Dr. Rod: First, give me a little background about Intel Education and share with us the approach to education technology and what role you play globally.
Dr. Lento: Intel has a very deep commitment to education with programs you’ve probably heard of like the International Science Fair , and the Science Talent Search , among other programs. So we’ve really been involved with education for quite some time and more specifically, the work I do is around helping jurisdictions that are interested in moving to 1:1 (one to one), successfully.
To get the full benefit out of modernizing classrooms is really a systemic approach. The one thing everybody agrees on is a full focus on students. It’s about the student results. It’s about helping students to achieve and in many ways to achieve differently. It’s a very different workforce they’re entering than the one we entered. It isn’t just a matter of purchasing technology. It’s really about the usage model. So when we work with the jurisdiction that’s using this kind of modernization, one of the first questions we ask them is, “What are you hoping to achieve?” and then, “What does success look like?”
That’s a very interesting conversation because they have aspirations around success for the students. So one of the first steps is to figure out what success in your community would look like, how we are going to measure it, and finally how are we going to document it? This way, there’s a clear understanding of where they start, and where they’re going.
Dr. Rod: Eileen, take us inside those meetings. Talk about the level of expectations that these administrators and community leaders have. Do they understand the full solution, the impact around professional development, and the time it might take to build this in alongside the curriculum, or are they expecting more of a plug-and-play?
Dr. Lento: I think when you read the newspaper and you see stories around districts or jurisdictions that invested in edtech and then something terrible happened, or they didn’t get the results. I think overwhelmingly when you really dig in and look, what you see is that it hasn’t really been a holistic approach. There might be some PD (Professional Development) going on, but this is why I was saying that beyond the children, the content is just one consideration. PD is another consideration.
Many examples exist, but one I always like to use is, in the past, when kids learned about PH in the middle years (acid, neutral, and basic), you had litmus paper, and you’d dip it in. What we know is that the long term retention rates on that aren’t very good and we struggle to apply it. Beyond the three samples that they had, how would you use it in context? Now imagine a classroom that was well resourced with technology and now, they could take their laptops with them out to the parking lots and their teacher could say, “Is that puddle of water over there potable? Would you drink it?” Now they could be testing for PH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and a number of other factors. Then they would have to triangulate that data to make the decision about whether they drink the water. That’s a very different usage model for a teacher to look at, or support, than just dipping a piece of paper into the different samples. PD is really important.
There are other factors that we haven’t even touched on including policy within the school, and policy within the jurisdiction the school sits in. You may recall, a few years back, there were certain jurisdictions in California that where being forced to buy two textbooks for every child, one set for the classroom and one set for at home. That’s a very expensive proposition. I completely understand why they did it. The backpacks where getting crazy heavy. But it’s just not practical when you think about all the things schools have to do.
Funding is another area where you really need to think differently, and the way we used to do it, probably isn’t the way forward. Any organization that was looking at technology isn’t thinking about it incrementally. They aren’t thinking of it in terms of how to do things differently, more effectively, and more efficiently. In education it’s often been an incremental conversation, and incremental is very expensive.
Dr. Rod: Eileen, I’m glad you brought up the discussion about financing and how we can actually do this on a practical stage. Early on, everyone was concerned about underprivileged communities and children and whether we would be able to equip them with devices. How has that played out from your position?
Dr. Lento: Actually, there’s a lot of hype around theft, and when you talk to the companies, that are in that space, it’s actually quite low. On the broken subject, some of the new form factors weren't made for schools. They weren’t made for being tossed into a backpack the way you’re seeing. There are purpose built devices out there that are more durable, and more rugged. There are also different form factors which lend themselves to more durability and ruggedness as well.
Because we fund on property tax in the U.S., there are huge disparities in what is spent, per child, in each jurisdiction. Those things really do matter. Having said that, across the board, I don’t think we’ve had deep conversations about what we aren’t going to do, that would free up money to allow us to modernize and invest properly. I think we’ve been a little slow in that space to respond. But also remembering that we’re talking about schools which are large institutions and change is challenging because it’s made up of lots of people and it’s steeped in history with how we do schooling. Therefore you have to have processes in place to bring people along. You need to manage all the change that’s happening when you modernize.
Dr. Rod: One of the “solutions,” I put that in quotes, to bridge that gap has been Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in districts. There are many who say that it’s just a Band-Aid approach and that most districts that are utilizing it are not thinking broadly.
Dr. Lento: I just recently had the privilege of being in the audience with Julie Evans , the CEO of Project Tomorrow which has the Speak Up national initiative. She presented that the trend to move away from BYOD has already begun.
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