I’ve seen a jurisdiction in Ohio that employed a BYOD initiative much like they did with band instruments. They used a sliding scale. But what they did was they said, “This is what success looks like. In order to achieve this kind of success, this is the minimum kind of device that we will support. We’ve given you (students) several options that meet these specs and you can purchase.” So it’s not fully the wild, wild, West.
Dr. Rod: Recently, CAEP and Dr. Jim Cabulca released new standards for teacher preparation. You where alluding to our aversion to change in education and this slow moving sloth that is the institution of education here in the United States. Should we be looking at teacher preparation to integrate technology, to give these new teachers an opportunity to test out technology and understand its relevance to the student?
Dr. Lento: I’d like to hit the pause button and step back. A lot of what we’re talking about is change management of an existing system. Intuitively, thinking about what you’re bringing into the system, makes a lot of sense to drive change. If you’re thinking about teacher prep, this is super obvious
Remember, when we’re talking about this technology it’s very specifically for the purpose of improving student learning, and for the purpose of improving outcomes, and helping them with their achievement. If you keep coming back to that student, it really does matter what they do with it. To a great extent in K-12, the teacher controls that. So influencing and shaping our future teacher force is clearly rational, and certainly deserving of attention. But again, it’s another example of a big institution that we need to evolve.
Dr. Rod: I’m glad you keep going back to being student centered. That’s my concern. If we’re not engaging the student with the technology that they already use, and that they use better than we do, what’s going to happen? I was just having a conversation last week about the new enrollment numbers in college that have come out, and that they’re way down. I think that we can be a little bit more creative to engaging students long term.
Dr. Lento: Certainly there is room for innovation here. After all these years, when you walk into most schools, they look highly similar to what we experienced. Even as someone who visits many schools, many of the 1:1’s I see simply replace their pencils with laptops expecting different outcomes. Once the hype wears off, if you’re doing exactly the same thing, you’re going to get exactly the same thing. This really is a systems change and a time to be doing things quite differently. These are very exciting times. I’ve seen examples where parents have huge influence, and when they walk in and see bustling classrooms, it makes them uncomfortable. Parents are coming out of a system where they expect schools to look like the schools they experienced. In all fairness, nobody wants people experimenting on their children. This really has to be thoughtful, mindful, data based change.
When you’re doing this, I think leadership within the community is huge. Part of that onus is on the leadership. What’s necessary is constant communication to all the stakeholders out in the community. Being able to demonstrate, based on data, that we’re making progress towards our vision of success is vital. That way, you continue to have the buy-in, so that when folks come into the school and they see behaviors that they’re unaccustomed to, they also see the data and the progress, because you’ve been communicating with them. Therefore you’re able to move forward. There is a communication strategy, that’s essential to keep progress moving forward, even when things might feel as if they are moving slowly.
Dr. Rod: Intel Education is a sponsor of the International 1:1 Computing Conference in Atlanta, December 2nd and 3rd. Can you talk a little bit about your role there at Intel Education and the impetus for the conference overall?
Dr. Lento: I think that one of the interesting aspects here is that we spent a lot of time focusing on the United States. I tried to be more general and speak to districts instead of jurisdictions but it was predominantly a U.S. focus. When we talked about funding, we landed on property tax. That’s very U.S. in nature. Having said that, our work is international, so we do have examples from around the world. Sometimes as a U.S. citizen, I am worried when I see places around the world that are just leapfrogging us. As an analogy, if you think about telephones, they’re skipping the hard wire and are going right to wireless. They have this opportunity to let go of the past and just move into the future. There are places that are doing that incredibly well all over the world.
What I also see, is the belief that education is completely local. Education is incredibly local. What’s relevant is incredibly local. At the same time, there are lessons that are transcendent. There’s an opportunity to recognize the transcendent lessons that we can all learn from, and move forward with. I think the international conference is a way to get people together to have those conversations.
Each state is very unique and organized. But still, by coming together, they do get best practices from each other that they can take home, and drive forward. Really, it’s an opportunity to learn.
Dr. Rod: Eileen, who should attend this conference?
Dr. Lento: Those interested in modernizing, and maybe moving to 1:1. The term 1:1 is so device centric that people immediately think about the device. It’s really information empowerment at every child’s fingertips. I think that the nomenclature sort of hides that from our thinking.
Dr. Rod: I always like to learn Eileen, about the people in education and why they are where they are. Did you dream, when you were a high school student, about working in education technology?
Dr. Lento: No I didn’t. (laughs) I’ve had several careers and I’ve been working in this one since the late 80s. In the past I did R&D with a digital equipment corporation, I spent many years in the Air Force. I have been a classroom teacher. I spent years teaching and doing research at Northwestern . It was during that period of time at Northwestern that I got involved with education technology.
I found my passion a little bit later in life. I was mid-career when I found my passion. I’m really happy I did. When you think about it though, the fact that I’ve had several different jobs that are really adjacent to one another, there was always sort of a mad science bend to what I did. Children today are much more likely to have many more jobs than we did. My career is actually more reflective of what’s happening today than my dad, who worked for the same company his whole life. My experience is actually more like what folks coming out of school will experience today.