Tag - intel

Tools, technology, and magic: technology in education

I was thinking about technology the other day at a Learning Series Alliance conference put on by Intel in Las Vegas.

Teachers are at one time the biggest problem and the greatest asset for any transformation project in education. That’s simply because people are the biggest problem and greatest asset for any organizational change in any institution, and teachers are the biggest group of employees in most education systems.

When it comes to technology, teachers are all at varying levels of comfort and capability. The reality is, unfortunately, that many of the current teachers in North America and western Europe cut their teaching teeth on chalkboards, paper, and pencils … and technology (especially student laptop programs) takes that whole paradigm and flushes it viciously down the toilet. The pedagogy – science and art of teacher – needs to change when the kids get information and creation appliances. But most teachers haven’t been educated, trained, or raised in an information-intensive learning environment.

Which brings up tools, technology, and magic.

Tools are things we know, are familiar with, and don’t even think about. Think hammers, shovels, and pencils.

Technology is simply a conglomeration of all tools that were invented and popularized after we were kids. Think computers, flatscreens, and Tesla electric vehicles.

Magic is stuff that is so amazing we can’t even imagine fully understanding it and using it. Think particle accelerators, ion drives, and fusion generators.

See the similarities?

Scientist and author Arthur C. Clarke famously said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The problem in education is that too many teachers are in that phase.

Many people now view most technology – PCs, software, web apps – as simple tools. They are understandable, useful, and comfortable. That group, however, is dwarfed by the huge cohort that views that same set of of tools as technology: stuff invented since I was in high school that I use but that are not really, completely, and totally native to me. And, on the far side of the bell curve is a still large group – probably larger than the tool natives – who view this same basic set of technology tools as magic.

This is a key problem when introducing technology into schools.

Accelerating change in education to better use technology to enhance learning depends on at least two things:

One: critical mass
Moving a critical mass of teachers at least one step up this chain … so that the magic teachers are now tool technology teachers, and the technology teachers are tool users, and the tool users are expert engineers.

Two: pedagogy
Popularizing and standardizing the excellent knowledge, skills, and tactics that have already been developed for technology-rich education so that they are as standard and obvious to teachers and textbooks, chalk, and pencils have been for decades.

The Prophet of Cheap – Forbes.com

Negroponte’s latest plan to save the world is a computer that would exceed anyone else’s expectation for performance while costing less than anyone else’s forecast of what’s possible. By 2012 he aims to build a touchscreen tablet PC for poor schoolchildren that uses less power than a modest lightbulb and is unbreakable, waterproof and half the thickness of an iPhone. The projected price: $75.

“Essentially, we want it to be a single sheet of plastic. No holes, no moving parts,” says Negroponte, director of the One Laptop Per Child nonprofit and founder of MIT’s Media Lab. “We want it to be so simple that it hardly has a design.”

via The Prophet of Cheap – Forbes.com.


Some pictures from my recent trip to Portland, OR …

We were meeting a group of people at Intel, which has a fairly major presence in Portland. It was my third visit to an Intel office – head office in Santa Clara (Silicon Valley), Intel Shanghai offices, and now one of their Portland offices. I had a 4-hour presentation (!!!) which went extremely well, thankfully.

And, as you can see above, I was fortunate enough to have an afternoon in Portland to do a brief photowalk. The side-benefit? It was the first Thursday in the month … and every first Thursday Portland art galleries stay open late. So it was very enjoyable to stroll downtown and stop by at least 15 different galleries.

My favorite painting of the night was this one by Claudio Tschopp:

I am now a senior VP at Intel (not)

The funniest thing happened today.

I’m currently in Shanghai, China, meeting key Intel people who work on the Classmate PC project. We have been meeting for two days, walking around the campus, eating in the cafeteria, and working in open-door conference rooms.

We just discovered today that the buzz on campus is that I am Intel EVP Sean Maloney. This is hilarious, for a lot of reasons – not least of which that I became a bit of a hot commodity around the building, with a couple of Intel people (who knew who I really am) choosing to be seen in my company longer than they may have needed to. But also because one of my key contacts at Intel suggested that I learn a bit of an English accent and when I come back, continue the charade.

The only thing is that since Sean is a least a decade older than me, I’m not sure I’m flattered by the mis-identification. But I’ve been assured by several of my contacts at Intel that Chinese people sometimes have trouble distinguishing white people … and we do both shave our heads.

I’m really am tempted to cultivate an English accent so that next time I visit I can impersonate him on purpose and have a little more fun!

Intel HQ in Santa Clara

I recently visited Intel’s Santa Clara headquarters for meetings with their emerging markets platform group. It’s the first corporate HQ I’ve seen with an integrated museum and gift shop.

Here’s a small selection of photos of their facility:

We're on the BBC

Many months of hard work are culminating at BETT as Intel is announcing the new Classmate PC, for which my company is building a critical component.

And it’s nice to see the world take notice. Here, from the BBC:

The laptop comes preloaded with educational software, including Algodoo, a 2D simulation environment designed to explain physics, and the Easybits Magic Desktop, a simplified Windows-based interface.

Emphasis added by me, of course. Of course, it’s much more than a simplified Windows desktop. Much, much more. But I’ll let the details come out on the EasyBits website.

There are some nice screenshots (well, actually pictures of operating Classmate PCs) on the recent ArsTechnica post from CES … particularly the one half-way down.

That’s featuring something a little different than Magic Desktop, but it’s also from us. Again, there will be more details from the corporate website fairly soon.