I always look forward to Google’s I/O conference to see where the future of technology and innovation is headed and today, once again, didn’t disappoint.

This was the 10th I/O conference for Google. This is where Google shares what it’s working on so developers know where the platform is headed… and what they see as the future of technology.

daydreamsetThe theme of this year’s conference could not have been more clear. Artificial Intelligence (AI) was definitely the theme of this year’s conference. Whether it was their new device Google Home, their new apps Allo and Duo or their new Virtual Reality (VR) device, the future belongs to AI and machine learning.

Machine Learning, or where machines teach themselves, to me, has the greatest impact on education. The idea that a student could soon be sitting at home and simply ask their Google Home device “How do I solve this problem?” and instead of the device giving the answer, it talks the student through how to solve the problem. It will ask the student questions, respond to those questions and actually teach the student. Now….yes….this is what parents do (and should do) and I’m not saying I want students talking to computers all the time. But it does open up some interesting possibilities for the future.

As usual, it’s the stats that get me really thinking about how we in education will continue to evolve.

300 million people were online when Google was founded.

3 Billion people are connected via mobile today.

Think about these numbers.
When you think that roughly half the world’s population is connected via a mobile device, you can’t help but think what that means for education on a global scale.

Or, what that means for your students and their ability to connect with people from…well….anywhere. What are we doing in schools and classrooms to better understand that we need to be on mobile devices? Really grasping that these devices are where people spend the majority of their time.

Over 20% of Google search queries in the US are done by voice.
Over 50% of all search queries are done on mobile devices (both stats from this year’s keynote).

Take one second and ask yourself, how does this change your classroom?

Now, figure this layer: Google states that they translate over 100 languages and over a billion words a day. Many world language teachers are still frustrated with this technology. Is it perfect?

No. But it’s getting better…every day….and every time you use it.
It’s not going away. And it has forever changed languages globally.

So, how do we embrace this new technology and make it part of our teaching? Where do we use it? When do we allow students to practice with it? When do we discuss where it’s useful and when it fails?


What a great quote from today’s Keynote:

What if we can achieve a lot more in education with technology assisting us than we previously thought possible?
What if it changes the way learning happens? What if we had to rethink teaching and learning because these technologies exist today?

We need to understand in education that the world is adopting and adapting to these new realities. How are we doing? Are we taking time to step back and think bigger than this assignment or that activity to truly consider what is happening in our phones today?

We might not like it, but we live in our phones. Not just us…everyone! Students, parents, our community at large, everyone lives in their phones. Once we accept that, then we start to harness these devices to:

  • Remind students about upcoming school work and events
  • Engage parents in students lives
  • Inform parents about what is happening in the classroom
  • Engage and inform our communities about the work that educators are doing

If we are not in their phones, they aren’t hearing us.

Often I have conversations with schools about their new website and the thousands of dollars they spend in making it easy for people to navigate through it.

What I rarely see is a school website that truly engages people in the conversation of education, that connects the school community in social conversations that lead to deep links back to the website.

People don’t “go to websites”…they go to web pages…that they click on from a social update. If your website does not include social, you are not engaging your community and, in fact, I would argue, you are disconnected from it.

In the end, what today’s announcements meant are nothing more than we continue to march forward into an unknown future and breaking barriers faster than we ever thought we would.

In our lifetime we’ll see electric cars, self-driving cars, and even flying cars become mainstream. Things that were only seen on the Jetsons years ago. That is what we’ll see in our future.

But what about our students? What will they see?

  • The only phone they know is a smartphone.
  • The only car they will drive will drive itself.
  • And the only jobs that will be available are ones where people are working with computers or machines in harmony.

Their world only gets more connected from here.

And we need to prepare them for that future.

Not our past.

This post is cross-posted on the Eduro Learning Blog

I wanted to share this documentary that I was fortunate enough to be asked to be a part of. Nate Becker, a high school student in Marysville, WA, asked me to sit down one day while I was there doing work as part of our Eduro Learning contract with the district, to talk about technology and education. I had no idea what the questions were going to be or where he was going with his line of questioning. Below is the documentary he created based on his own knowledge and research and how he views the use of technology in his own school system and life.

When we talk about creating meaningful stuff to share with the world. This is the type of stuff we are talking about. This isn’t an assignment that can be done in a class period or even a week. This type of learning and creative works takes time and a lot of energy.  Kudo’s Nate….I hope this is the first of many documentaries in your future.

It is my last training of the summer. Finish up these two days with MIT students from Whitworth University and then two weeks of not traveling or speaking. It’s 9am and everyone is slowly coming in and getting their laptops and iPads set up for the day. I too am getting set up, frantically trying to figure out the projector system, trying to link the two rooms together so that both projectors showed what was on my laptop.

wwmit2I’m introduced and for the first time I stop and scan the room. 43 future teachers sit in front of me. All of them preparing to enter a classroom that looks a lot different than my first classroom. In my elementary education program’s technology course, we were graded on whether we could thread a projector properly both to play and then know how to rewind it. In that same class we had to build a web page. You know…..it was 1998….and this Internet thing might have some purpose in education…so we built a web page from scratch…I mean coding HTML not the program scratch. 🙂

I digress…..I’m looking around the room excited that I get to help shape the thoughts and ideas of what education is in 2015 and in the future to the next generation of teachers. But this isn’t just the next generation of teachers……this is the next generation.

“How many of you are 34 or younger?” I asked.

All but about 8 hands went into the air. I smiled…..shook my head……and realized for the first time, they have arrived.

wwmit3I’ve been talking about and following this generation for awhile now. Heck, everyone has been. We have more research about this generation than we do about any generation before them. Here’s a White House report on Millennials, here’s all the Pew Research on them, or do your own search…..there is plenty to read.

The oldest of them graduated high school in the year 2000 and the youngest of them just last year. This generation is the first true technology generation. They have grown up through this amazing time of personal computers and the Internet. They are connected and being connected is a way of life. One student even proudly admitted to being one of the first million users on Facebook. That’s this generation! The generation that jumped from MySpace, to Facebook, to Twitter, to Instagram without flinching.

Just as further proof of this generation’s way of thinking when it comes to technology, I set up collaborative notes in a Google Doc for them to take and use over our two days together. Now I do this a lot in my presentations and usually it goes like this: I explain what a Google Doc is, why we’re doing this, what implications this has for the classroom, and then wait, sometimes up to 5 minutes for people to volunteer to take notes.

And then there are the Millennials. I showed them the link and by the time it loaded on the screen in the front of the room 4 different people were writing on the document. Most of them had never seen or used a Google Doc before (No…they don’t know everything!) so to see each other writing in real time was just as cool to them as it is for a 3rd grader the first time.

Off they go….writing, deleting each other’s stuff…..talking….not listening to me and figuring it all out. I started to laugh, shook my head again and just let them go. By the time I got done explaining how we were going to use the doc to take collaborative notes 3 people had already put their name in the table to do it.

My two days with them were fantastic…..the conversations I had with others like me…..us non-millennials….were really good as well. Non-millennials for the most part have a different way of approaching technology. They want steps and procedures not chaos and discovery.

wwmitI’m excited to have Millennial teachers in our schools…as they are different in many ways from any other generation before them. I’m not excited about their technological know-how. That still varies greatly based on a number of factors. What I’m excited about is how they approach technology and the fear they don’t have about just trying things out and figuring things out as they go. That mindset when it comes to technology education is their biggest asset.

Of course I had to be put in my place as well. As I’m preparing to do the opening Keynote for 14 school districts here this coming month, I have titled the Keynote: Preparing for Doc and Marty; seeing that they arrive from 1985 on October 21 of this year. So I ended our two days giving them a sneak peak of the keynote….except…..the oldest of the Millennials were 4 when the movie came out….maybe only about 10 millennials had actually seen the movie. My whole message was ruined. The jokes fell flat and it was pretty much a disaster. Lesson learned.

There’s nothing like realizing you’re getting older when a movie that helps define your generation isn’t even known by the next. Wake up Jeff…..it’s 2015!

As another school year finishes up here in the Northern Hemisphere I find myself, like many educators, reflecting on this past school year. As we reflect we start to think about what we would do different if we had to do it all over again and luckily for educators we get that opportunity. We get to continually improve our trade, continually test out new ideas, new ways of doing things and see how they work.

Google created this little video of sound bites from students talking about how they would change the classroom if they were the teacher.

As I watch this video and listen to these students what I hear is that they want to have more control over their learning. Take the technology piece out of it for a second and what I hear is “I want to learn my way” and “I want to do things that excite me”. Technology just allows those things to happen easier than ever in the classroom.

So as I reflect and think about the year to come (I’m no longer in a classroom but I do substitute from time to time). I want to think about what these kids and millions like them are telling us about education and then come up with a list of how I want to teach next year.

If I were the teacher:

  • Every day, every student would feel special.
  • I wouldn’t teach from a lesson plan, I would make the whole day up as I go.
  • I would ask students what they wanted to learn about and find a way to make the standards fit their passion not their passion fit the standards.
  • I would have a conversation with students about how they want to be assessed.
  • I would give them the skills that unleash the power of the Internet so that they can learn anything, anytime in anyway possible.
  • I would give every students a voice in the world.
  • I would let my students know that I’m human and have bad days too.
  • I would make it a goal to ask more questions than give answers daily.
  • I would invite the world into our classroom and introduce our classroom to the world.
  • We would create and share something publicly daily.
  • We would all learn together; from each other and with each other.

What is your list….you probably are a teacher so as you reflect back on this year, on a career, or just what are you thinking about for next year what would you do if you were a teacher?

What has becoming somewhat of a tradition….ok…it’s really just my geek side coming out (yes this would imply I have another side….not sure what that is though), I sat down on Thursday last week to watch the Google I/O conference. For years now I have watched the Google I/O conference as well as the Apple’s WWDC (coming June 8th) for no other reason (or so I tell myself) than to fill in teachers at my school what was announced and how it might impact them. When living and working in China and Thailand this meant staying up until 2am or so to watch it live and write an email that would be in every teachers inbox by the next morning. Now living in Seattle it means a cup of coffee, four devices and watching it on my TV.

flickr photo shared by pestoverde under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license
flickr photo shared by pestoverde under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

It also means I no longer work in a school or have teachers to send this to…so you get my thoughts this year. Basically a brain dump of things I’m thinking after watching Google layout the next year and beyond of the future of technology.

Education was at the front of this year’s talk. I say that every year of course because I hear and see things through an educational lens. For example, Google’s new Photos app (Android, iOS) had nothing to do with education…or they just made it even easier for students to take pictures, create movies, stories and share those photos with their classmates and teacher. A common photo app on both Android and iOS devices with unlimited upload and storage space for all the photos and video you want to take. Yes…this can and will impact some classrooms.

“Please take out your phones and record via videos and photos your experiment today please. One person in your group needs to be the recorder for the experiment and I expect to see written notes along with video and image evidence of what happened.”

Google Expeditions

One of the biggest educational announcements was the release of Google Expedition. A virtual reality toolkit for educators being released, I’m going to guess, in time for next school year. Using Google Cardboard and any Smartphone (again both Android and iOS) you turn every classroom into a 3D immersive experience. This is very early stages but if you think 2 or 3 years down the road what this means for classrooms it could be very powerful.

“OK class….please get out your cardboard and we’re going to go live to Martin Luther King Jr. speech today. Group A  you will be viewing it from the back of the crowd. Group B I’ve put you in the middle of the crowd and Group C you are towards the front. I would like your group to experience the speech from these different perspectives and then discuss how your view and angle of the speech impacted you and notice the people around you within Cardboard. How did it impact them?”

What if we can “be there”. Instead of saying “Oh…you had to be there to see it, or to feel it” can we get one step closer of actually being there?

Google Sidestepping Universities

However, the announcement that has me still thinking and still blowing my mind is the announcement Google made about teaming up with Udacity to offer an Android Developer Nanodegree. Udacity has been rolling out these Nanodegrees for awhile now and this latest announcement from Google just adds to what could be a real movement in higher education.

The “NanoDegree” offering a narrow set of skills that can be clearly applied to a job, providing learners with a bite-size chunk of knowledge and an immediate motivation to acquire it. (NYTimes, 2014)

nanodegreesThat motivation being both AT&T and now Google are backing these degrees saying they will consider graduates of these degrees as being qualified for hiring within their companies. So instead of going to University and having to take all those classes you don’t want to take or you know don’t really point you in the direction you want to go, you get a Nanodegree instead. $200 a month for 8 months or so? Basically I get a degree for $1600? That’s a lot less than any public University where I live.

Now I could go on and on about where I think this is going and the future of nanodegrees. What I really want to focus on is what do students need in order to complete one of these degrees?

If we go to the “Prerequisites and Requirements” section for the new Android Developers degree. We see a list of prerequisites including some background knowledge you’ll need in Java and other programs. All of which can be found on Udacity’s website of course. But the one that caught my eye was this one:

Dedication and Mindset

In addition to 1-2 years of prior programming experience and intermediate technical skills, students are expected to demonstrate the following characteristics:

Resourcefulness: Ability to search for and find solutions in documentation, backed by the belief that all problems in code are discoverable;

Grit: Ability to work through challenges and persevere when code breaks and tests fail.

Growth Mindset: Belief that intelligence is NOT a fixed entity, and can be boosted by hard work in the process of learning and practice.

Let’s make these just a bit less techie for a second:

Resourcefulness: Ability to search for and find solutions in documentation, backed by the belief that finding problems is just as important as solving them.

Grit: Ability to work through challenges and persevere when things don’t go as expected and failure is seen as leading to solutions.

Growth Mindset: Belief that intelligence is NOT a fixed entity, and can be boosted by hard work in the process of learning and practice.

Are we making sure that students that graduate from high schools all around the world this month are leaving with this Mindset? I hope so….because this mindset will get you farther in life than any degree no matter how major or nano it might be.

Photo Credit: rwentechaney via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: rwentechaney via Compfight cc

I read an article today titled: Why Hoboken is Throwing Away All of its Student Laptops. It only took me two seconds to figure out what the issue was here….I’ll give you a clue….it’s not the laptops.

There are some interesting quotes and lines in this article that caught my attention. Now I don’t know this school district, I give them an A+ for trying something at least. It sounds like they got caught in the netbook era of computing and just couldn’t get out. What follows are some of my thoughts around what went wrong here.

“We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation,” said Mark Toback, the current superintendent of Hoboken School District. “It became unsustainable.”

Problem #1: The funding cycle

Changing the mind set of thinking that technology is a one off capital expenditure rather than an operational cost. Technology, much like textbooks, paper, crayons, etc. need to be updated. This is issue #1 with our current system. Here the school was given stimulus money from the government…that I’m guessing…as usually….needed to be spent ASAP and on hardware. So it’s great we have this now…but thinking long term…thinking past year 2 or 3 needs to be a focus when starting a program.

None of the school administrators who initiated Hoboken’s one-to-one laptop program still work there. Toback agreed to share Hoboken’s experiences so that other schools can learn from it.

Personally I believe this is a solvable problem: Hire administrators who understand the changing nature of schools when every student is connected. Yes…you are going to have administrative turn-over. But hiring leaders who understand what giving a laptop to every student really means is on the School Board, the Superintendent and leadership. There are good administrators out there that get these changes….hire them….and then allow them to hire teachers who “get it”.

This year alone, schools are projected to spend almost $10 billion on education technology, a $240-million increase from 2013, according to the Center for Digital Education.

Problem #2: The Need to invest in PD

Students on devices
Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

Really this is the issue of this entire program and the entire way the system is structured and goes back to a post I wrote (along with others) about professional development. The National Staff Development Council still recommends 25% of funds for any new project be earmarked for PD. Why…because that’s what it takes! Meaning in this coming school year $2.5 Billion of it should be marked for professional development. To this day I don’t know any school that does this (if yours does please let me know!). Does this mean lest technology? Absolutely! Does it mean better use of the technology we have available? Absolutely!

We also need to understand the type of PD that is required. When changing the classroom in such a dramatic way as giving every student a connected device, schools need to offer PD that goes beyond 1 sit and get institute, or a conference. You have to go beyond 1 PD day dedicated to technology. You have to think different, you have to start over….if you really want to feel the full impact of what technology can do to the classroom you have to give educators the time, space, and freedom to learn.

This is why Kim and I create the COETAIL program. Schools have come to us and asked us if we could do the whole thing in a year or even six months. No…we can’t….it takes at least 3 semesters to do the program and to change the mindset. We’re not after a quick fix, rush everyone through a process type of learning. We’re after real change…and real change takes time, support and dedication.

Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still… teenagers.

I love this part of the article….as I’m reading this, right away I started thinking to myself….I bet they took away all the personalization of the device. I bet they locked it down for the students…….and……

Hoboken school officials were also worried they couldn’t control which websites students would visit. Crocamo installed software to block pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. He disabled the built-in web cameras. He even installed software to block students from undoing these controls. But Crocamo says students found forums on the Internet that showed them how to access everything.

…and there it is. Let’s make this clear BLOCKING DOES NOT WORK, EDUCATING DOES!

Problem #3: Technology is Personal

Thinking that technology is not a personal thing is a trap. Technology is very personal and as soon as you put the type of over reaching controls…which don’t work….in place you force students to “not care” for the device. I’ve seen this in many schools. The more freedom you give students with their devices the better they care for them. In fact…..at my last school (ISBangkok) I would say we had more teacher issues with laptops then we had with students. You see even adults struggle with ownership. When the technology isn’t yours, isn’t personal, we have a hard time taking care of it. More coffee was split on laptops by teachers than any food damage we had by students using them in the cafeteria at lunch time. By blocking websites we force students to be rule breakers. We force them to be hackers….which I guess….is teaching computer skills in one way. 🙂

“Probably in the last few months I’ve had quite a few principals and superintendents call and say, ‘I bought these 500 iPads or 1,000 laptops because the district next to us just bought them,’ and they’re like, now what do we do?” Powell said.

Problem #4: No District Wide Plan

Setting Up Computers
Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

 I have seen and heard of this same issue. Mostly at school districts who have decentralized the technology purchasing process. Principals get to the end of the year have money left and want to buy tech. I was at one district office recently when the phone call came in from the principal. She had money to spend and wanted to know how many iPads she could purchase with X amount of dollars. The Director of Technology told her about 12….then she asked how many Surface RTs she could purchase….he told her about 20. She decided to order those as she could get more devices. The Director of Technology looks at me with a look of sadness on his face. She just wants devices without a plan on how to use them, what she’s going to use them for, or how to train teachers on them. Because the Principals in this school district were responsible for there own budgets and the technology was decentralized the Director of Technology had no say…and was supporting every type of device across the district.

This summer, Hoboken school staff will go through the laptops one by one, writing down the serial numbers and drafting a resolution for the school board to approve their destruction.

Then they’ll seek bids from recycling companies to figure out how much it will cost Hoboken to throw them away.

Problem #5: The Exit Plan

Ah…..the exit plan. To often schools get into a mess like this not knowing how to get out of it. Of course this goes back to Problem #1. If you view these devices as a capital expenditure then you believe they’ll be around for a long time. I’m not sure where this idea ever came from, that you were going to buy a computer and have it last longer than 3 years. But it’s a mind set we need to change. We need to understand that this is a continual budget line that needs to grow with the program and devices. Textbooks continue to go up in price and we find money to buy them…..we need to start thinking of computers as textbooks. Better yet just have the computers replace the textbook line of the budget you might just come out ahead. 🙂


Again….I feel for this school….they did what they thought they were suppose to do…what everyone is doing….and it’s suppose to be easy. You give every student a laptop and BAMM! Learning changes!

If only it was that simple.


1000 Blog PostsSo…this is blog post 1000. Crazy to think and yet at the same time I’m pretty late to the game for someone who started blogging in September of 2005. A quick look of others who I know started blogs around that same time. Dean Shareski is at 2800+ blog posts and Clarence Fisher is 3100 and counting. Both making this 1000th blog post look like nothing!

I still remember setting up this blog in my computer lab in Shanghai. I downloaded WordPress and followed the directions to install it on the little server I was running at the time. I remember coming to the page that asked to name the blog and not knowing what to call it. It’s not something you think about usually until you are faced with it. So I looked around the room and there in the corner was “The Thinking Stick” a wooden bat my friend had given me and that I used when teaching. Mr. U was always known for walking around the room with “The Thinking Stick” when we were doing some really deep thinking.

So that’s how this blog got its name. If I knew that day that my professional life would forever be changed would I name it something else? Absolutely! But you don’t know…..you don’t know if anyone is going to read your blog. Even now some 9 years later I don’t know if anyone reads this. The difference is I blog for me now, for my thoughts, for my own reflection and allow myself to think through things and to share my own learning with anyone that happens upon it.

So 1000 blog posts and probably the turning point for me was this blog post here. I still go back and read it every once and awhile just to remind myself of sitting on the couch and writing that one….a moment for sure.

Not that I have this out of the way…..I can go back to blogging about stuff that actually matters

So by now hopefully you have seen the video about Solar Roadways. If not take a couple minutes to watch it below…. amazingly awesome.

So here’s the thing…I’m all for this…this excites me….this is the future. In fact I have already donated to the cause via their Indiegogo page. But it’s going to be an uphill battle because this is different. You have to think different, you have to plan different…you can’t just go out and continue building roads the same old way. You need to rethink everything……everything!

It reminds me of schools who decide to go 1:1. Buying the computer is the easy part…that just takes money. Much like this project raising the money was the easy part. The hard part is changing the mindset.

What should a road be?

What should a classroom look like?

How does this change the way we manufacture roads?

How does this change the way we lesson plan?

How does this change what we expect our roads to do?

How does this change what we expect our students to produce?

I could go on and on of course but I think you get the point. You can’t just drop laptops into schools/classroom and expect things to change on their own. You have to think different…you have to expect something different. You have to think way out of the box on this one. It’s a #moonshot for sure. So is thinking different in the classroom. Once you give every student a connected device….you need to think different….you need to start over.

I have recently been to a couple of new schools in the process of being built both here in the States and overseas. People are so proud of their beautiful new school buildings where 1:1 is either already in the plan or will be shortly. So we’re giving students a new set of tools to learn with yet building the same structures to learn within. Why is that? In 2014 why are we building schools that on the outside look very modern, a lot of glass, beautiful architecture, yet in the classrooms we get 4 white walls, desks that don’t have wheels, chairs that don’t have wheels and pretty much a stagnate learning space.

In all the schools I have visited in the past couple of year the International School of Turin in Turin, Italy always comes to my mind first when I think about what a modern school should look like. Let the images on their homepage tell the story. In one shot you get a peek inside a primary classroom where there is color and if you look closely you notice the whole wall of windows actually folds open to allow the space to expand into nature. I’m not even going to mention how they worked the old Italian Villa into the new school design or how the school grounds has it’s own vineyard where the students in high school not only talk about chemical reactions but make their own wine while learning it…..no…I won’t mention that because that’s just not fair!

See the challenge in creating solar freakin’ roadways is not really in creating the solar panels. Although that takes vision, time, and incredible knowledge it will be all for nothing if we can’t change our mindset of what a road should be. The human mind is a stubborn thing….we know what we know, we like what we know and if it works why think there might be a better way to do it?

Creating the product is the easy part….changing the mindset is the challenge.

Buying the computers is the easy part….changing the mindset is the challenge.

year2014I’m frustrated….it’s 2014 people! We’re 14 years into this century and the Internet turned 25 years old today. It’s here…it’s part of our culture…part of our daily lives…it’s time we stop fighting it and embrace it!

In 2014…..

  • School wide wifi that works should be a given…if school wifi was as fast and reliable as Starbucks…we wouldn’t need Starbucks!
  • Every school should open up that fast and reliable Internet to the public after 5pm every day and all day on weekends. 
  • Youtube, facebook, and the rest of web should be unblocked at schools. They have 4G phones in their pockets you’re not blocking anything anyway!
  • Every teacher should have a laptop
  • If a school does not provide a device students should be allowed to bring their own
  • Teachers should be held to the NETs for Teacher standards
  • Administrators should be held to the NETs for Administrator standards
  • Wikipedia should be considered a valid source and we should teach students how to use it
  • Cyberbullying/Digital Citizenship should be part of the main curriculum not an add-on curriculum
  • Coding should be offered as a Modern Language Class
  • Every student should have a place to publicly share their knowledge, creations, ideas
  • Teacher evaluation should include the use of their PLN
  • Every teacher should be required to have a Skype/Hangout account to access professionals in the field
  • School libraries should cut their non-fiction book budget and put that money into creating an inviting place to do research (see Starbucks), have devices to read on and check out for students and community. 

Help me out by adding yours to the comments!

In 2014…….


Fort Campbell combat engineers learn Nashville District’s ‘civilian missions’CEO of Intel Brian Krzanich took to the Internet last week to encourage engineering students to stick with their programs and to shed some light on the fact that America and American companies are desperate for engineers. Not just in the tech sector but in other sectors as well.

On my recent trip back from visiting ISG in Saudi Arabia, I sat next to an Agricultural Engineer on his way back to Seattle. He had been out for 3 weeks traveling Europe, India, and 3 countries in Africa. As he talked about his traveling adventures I couldn’t believe how much he was traveling…so I had to ask him why the company didn’t hire others. His answer:

“There aren’t any Agricultural Engineers to be had.”

That’s worrisome really…..we all need food and as our population grows we’re only going to need more. Here is someone who has dedicated his life to helping the global community produce more food for our growing population and the company can’t find anyone trained to help him out or replace him when the time comes…he’s hoping to retire in 5 years.

Forbes predicts that there were 1.7 million Cloud-Based Technology jobs that went unfilled globally in 2012 and the outlook and predictions moving forward aren’t any better. So this isn’t just an American problem….it’s a global one.

At a K-12 level what are we doing to prepare students for these jobs? We can’t force students to be engineers but are we giving them the experiences they need in K-12 to even be in a place to think about engineering as a career?

Kalyani Mallela, 29, said engineering is a foundation applicable to all industries and fields, enabling people to do anything from build chips and wearable tech devices to fix flood problems and innovate medicine.

“It’s the ‘why’ and the ‘curiosity’ that make me a good engineer,” she said. (Fox Business)

Are we teaching the ‘why’ and tapping into and fostering the intrinsic ‘curiosity’ in students?

Programs such as DiscoverE’s Future City competition, which asks U.S. middle-school students to imagine, design and build cities of the future, have become crucial to these efforts.

“There’s a whole bunch of kids that have creative ideas but might struggle initially with math and get left behind,” Shaddock said. “We need to do more of stimulating kids’ interests in how things work, how to solve problems in the world around them and build on that stimulus and curiosity.”

studentengI think of a recent science classroom I visited where students were copying an image out of their textbook and labeling it…exactly like it was already in the textbook. I was told that this is a good lesson because students learn by copying and handwriting things out…….OK…….I’m trying to figure out where that skill fits in the quotes above. How does this help us understand the eye, stimulate kids’ interests and help to solve problems? It was a 45 minute class and at the end of it each student turned in their ‘assignment’ to be graded. 45 minutes on copying an image out of the textbook onto paper is good learning? I’m having a hard time with this……

The end of the article gets to the heart of the point and what the industry is asking from K-12 schools:

“I think Satya said it well the other day,” Krzanich said, adding that it is the responsibility of parents, teachers and lawmakers to “foster creativity” among America’s youth.

“That is what’s key,” Krzanich said, to “try anything and not be afraid to fail.”

The industry is asking us to “foster creativity” and to “not be afraid to fail”. Yet the IB and AP exams are right around the corner….as I was reminded once again by an AP teacher, “I don’t have time to be creative or fail….I have to prepare them for the exams.” And that is the reality in a nutshell. As long as teachers feel it’s their job to prepare students for a test instead of fostering learning, the disconnect will remain.