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If you want to know the future . . . use less technology

Not sure where I’m going with this but I’ve headed back to the TED talks and have gotten hooked all over again. If you haven’t been there, it’s just like YouTube but smarter. You can spend hours listening and watching beautiful video clips of some of the best speakers around. stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds.

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives in just 18 minutes. Not only can you learn tons about stuff you never knew you were interested in but, as a teacher, you also get great examples of how to hook and hold an audience.

I’ve been thinking about video games lately and went back over my gaming author list to see if there was any cross-over at TED. Ran across several and started with Clifford Stoll, author of High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don’t Belong in Schools.

Stoll spends his 18 minutes talking about a wide range of topics (while reminding me of the crazy professor in Back to the Future!) and starts off with a few references to education. One of my favorite quotes is:

If you want to know what society is going to be like in 20 years, ask an . . . experienced kindergarten teacher. They know.

And as the author of High Tech Heretic, he of course spends some time sharing his view of technology in schools:

Cool new things are not the future . . . to me the question is – what will society be like in the future when kids today are phenomenally good at text messaging but have never gone bowling together?

Stoll’s talk and my memories of High Tech Heretic did get me thinking about an earlier post by Doug Belshaw that talks about how the technology focus has changed over the last few years.

. . . Three years ago educators were looking to using new technologies to move towards a new model of education. Nowadays it seems to be all about bragging how you’ve used (web) application X before anyone else has. The edublogosphere seems to be overrun by educators who know the what but not the why. They’re impressed by those who can ‘leverage the power of the network’. This means, in practice, seeing how many people following you on Twitter respond to a shout out for information/hello’s whilst you move out of the classroom and into a consultancy role.

In my office, we have a name for people who focus on the “what but not the why.”

Shiny People.

As in . . . people who like shiny, new things. (you know . . . like crows) In other words, playing with gadgets becomes more important than the learning.

I admit that I can be a Shiny Person. Just this morning, I was busy creating a list of all the cool toys I could show to a group of high school teachers later this week. And it was a great list. Comic Life, Google Tools, Shelfari, xTimeline, RSS feeds, video games, social networks, the kitchen sink . . . you know . . . the good stuff.

But after Stoll’s presentation and a few minutes of reflection, I probably need to go back, rethink my list and really know the why of using it.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Thanks for the link to the video, Glenn! I think we can all be ‘shiny people’ sometimes. We just need to make sure we counter it by focusing on pedagogical uses of the cool stuff that comes our way… 😉

    April 3, 2008

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