Technologies in Education Forum 2013

Logo for The Atlantic's Technologies in Education Forum 2013This past week, we attended the 2013 Technologies in Education Forum hosted by The Atlantic. We heard a lot about the innovations taking place in schools across the country as well as policies at the governmental level that are enabling us to engage learners through the technology that’s become a part of our everyday lives. Here are a few of the things we’d like to share.

You might also take a listen to the inaugural installation of our new podcast series EdTechCast, where we’re talking this week about our impressions of the forum and exciting developments in educational technology! Click here to listen: ETC #001 – Technologies and Education Forum 2013 (click on the link; player will open in a new window)

Hot Topics:

  • Gamification

1.2 million students in the U.S. fail to graduate from high school. 28 million people harvest their crops on Farmville every day (The Gamification of Education). How can we harness the potential of games for fostering a love of learning? How do you motivate individuals to do things they might not otherwise do? Games meet students where they live when they’re not in school: In immersive, interactive environments where learning happens organically. The “subject matter” of the game — be it physics or biology or art history or foreign languages — is only one element in the learning process. Games can both build students’ knowledge in traditional academic subjects while at the same time fostering skills like collaboration, communication, and problem-solving that are essential in our 21st century information-based society.

Check out “Moving Learning Games Forward: Obstacles, Opportunities, and Openness” at Education Arcade for some provocative insights on game-based learning, where the authors note that game players “regularly exhibit persistence, risk-taking, attention to detail, and problem-solving, all behaviors that ideally would be regularly demonstrated in school.”

And check out some educational games at GlassLab!

  • Flipping the Classroom

The idea of the “flipped classroom” has been around for years. Before the internet, teachers could send students home with a reading assignment to do in preparation for class, where they would do the really juicy work of analyzing that material. In the digital age, flipping the classroom means moving not only reading assignments outside of class time, but lectures as well, by pushing materials online to enable even more space in the classroom for discussion and critical evaluation. Students confront the content of a lesson at home by watching lessons, doing reading, working through PowerPoints, listening to podcasts, and the like. When they get to class, they’re ready to engage at a deeper level with the content of a lesson by discussing with their peers and with their teacher, requesting clarification, revisiting concepts, and receiving feedback.

Check out this overview of the “flipped classroom” concept and the discussion that follows in the comments section: The Flipped Classroom Infographic.

  • Learning Positioning Systems (LPS)

What if we could use technology to help guide students through their learning in the same way a Global Positioning System (GPS) helps guide us to our destinations by using data about where we are now, where we want to be, and what to do if we get off-track? What if students had personalized information at their fingertips that would help them choose the right college for them with the ease and accuracy they experience when viewing recommended movies on Netflix?

Check out Richard Calcutta’s article “The Future of Education Will Be Driven by Data” for more on the concept of Learning Positioning Systems.

Speaking of LPS… Northern Virginia Community College’s “GPS for Success” program is at the forefront of “positioning” students for successful lifelong learning. The program targets recent high school graduates making the transition to college life, and puts them in close contact with a community of peers, professional advisors, faculty, and mentors who help them plan and evaluate their own academic performance. Students take an active role in in identifying their learning outcomes as well as resources, assessment strategies and an implementation timeline for achieving those outcomes. Learn more on NOVA’s website: GPS for Success.


“Don’t iPads and TVs and computers just turn kids into zombies?”

“We live in a screen age, and to say to a kid, ‘I’d love for you to look at a book, but I hate it when you look at the screen’ is just bizarre. It reflects our own prejudices and comfort zone.”

– Hanna Rosin, National Correspondent for The Atlantic. Check out her article: The Touch Screen Generation

“Don’t students sometimes need to do things that aren’t fun? Learning isn’t always fun and easy and bells-and-whistles.”

“Doing something that’s hard, and doing something that’s boring and not relevant, are not the same thing.”

– Richard Calcutta, Acting Director, Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education. Check out Calcutta’s talk: “Games for Learning – Taking Fun Seriously

“What are the challenges both for students who maybe have never learned in this kind of gaming environment but also for the teachers? I would think that there’s a learning curve for them in implementing games effectively.”

“A game-based classroom doesn’t look very much different from a more traditional kind of classroom. So if you’re thinking that students are sitting in front of screens and sort of zoning out, that’s not what happens. Game-based learning doesn’t have to be digital. It can be board games.”

– Rick Brennan, high school social studies teacher and co-founder and CEO of Histrionix Learning Company. Check out his game “Historia” developed with fellow social studies teacher Jason Darnell: Historia: Gaming the History of Civilization.


Recommended Reading:


Giving Our Children a Fighting ChanceBook cover for Giving Our Children a Fighting Chance by Susan B. Neuman

“A compelling, eye-opening portrait of two communities in Philadelphia with drastically different economic resources. Over the course of their 10-year investigation, the authors of this important new work came to understand that this disparity between affluence and poverty has created a knowledge gap–far more important than mere achievement scores–with serious implications for students economic prosperity and social mobility. At the heart of this knowledge gap is the limited ability of students from poor communities to develop information capital. This moving book takes you into the communities in question to meet the students and their families, and by doing so provides powerful insights into the role that literacy can play in giving low-income students a fighting chance.”

Book cover for The Best Writing from The Atlantic's Technology ChannelThe Best Writing from The Atlantic’s Technology Channel

“An anthology that showcases the site’s kaleidoscopic approach to covering the tech scene. This isn’t a book merely about technologies—it’s one about the ideas that animate them, the people who create them, and the users who transform them. You’ll find everything from an exclusive account of the technology that powered the Obama campaign, to an investigation into what makes a stock photo; memes to space; drones to abortion; philosophy to animated GIFs.”


Book cover for What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and LiteracyWhat Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee

“James Paul Gee begins his classic book with ‘I want to talk about video games–yes, even violent video games–and say some positive things about them.’ With this simple but explosive statement, one of America’s most well-respected educators looks seriously at the good that can come from playing video games. In this revised edition, new games like World of WarCraft and Half Life 2 are evaluated and theories of cognitive development are expanded. Gee looks at major cognitive activities including how individuals develop a sense of identity, how we grasp meaning, how we evaluate and follow a command, pick a role model, and perceive the world.


What’s Your Take?


What are your thoughts on digital learning and the integration of technology in education? How do you use technology in your classroom? Are you a fan? Are you hesitant to use it? We’d love to hear from you!

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