Juicy Technology Abounds in the Peach State
The Georgia World Congress Center in steamy Atlanta welcomed nearly 18,000 attendees and exhibit personnel to this year’s NECC 2007. New ISTE president Trina Davis opened the conference with a speech that focused on the importance for digital equity in all schools. She then introduced keynote speaker Andrew Zolli, a futurist who shared his visions for technology, which he sees as replacing human labor for complex and repetitive tasks. “What is left to humanity is the essence of creativity,” he said.
And creativity was certainly abundant on the huge exhibit hall floor, where more than 500 educational product and services vendors promoted more than 250,000 products. This was enough to make even seasoned educators’ heads spin, and trying to take in all the gadgets while balancing some terrific sessions (including two popular panel discussions hosted by Administr@tor) was certainly a challenge.
The digital classroom was a big theme, with the one-to-one movement gaining momentum in vendor offerings. HP announced their Digital Learning Environment initiative, which aims to further the effective use of technology in schools through partnerships with companies like Adobe, SMART Technologies, and GoKnow classroom management software, as well as their HP Technology for Teaching grants.
Keeping in mind that tight school budgets are the number one obstacle to the implementation of one-to-one computing, exhibitors offered some interesting cost-effective solutions that addressed the issue. The StudentMate from One2One Computing is a $399 K-8-specific laptop with a 7” color touch screen that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and web browser. NComputing offered the L200 Access Terminal, a small piece of hardware that lets users share one host PC with up to 30 work stations for just $219. There were also the affordable keyboarding and writing tools such as the Writer Fusion that now features text to speech, writing prompts, and a large graphic display. Alphasmart launched the Neo2 with new capabilities that include turning the writing tool into a classroom response system.
Of course assessment remains an important component in this digital classroom, so on display were products like new easy-to-use web-based gradebooks from both Excelsior and Pearson School Systems. STI launched their Achievement Services that will coach schools on how to take the results they get from the STI assessment product and use those results to create improved learning opportunities.
Vendors are also offering more content to help busy educators better integrate technology into the classroom. SMART introduced its Learning Marketplace, a new content subscription service that offers more than one million copyright-cleared, multimedia learning resources, and Interwrite Learning has added the Interwrite Workspace’s 4,000 digital teaching resources to their Interwrite Pad.
Thinking about technology in new ways was another hot topic, especially coming off the heels of the Department of Education’s controversial study that claims technology does not improve student learning. A new group called The Constructivist Consortium was launched at the show, which represents a collaboration between six publishing companies like Inspiration, Fable Vision, and Tech4Learning. The group is “committed to children, creativity and constructivist learning.” They argue that constructivist teaching is more than just letting kids shape clay; they say computers give students an unprecedented variety of learning experiences, with the ultimate goal being creative expression.
Will technology open the door to creativity for humanity, as Andrew Zolli suggests? NECC 2007 certainly offered plenty of opportunities for schools to discover new ways to be creative, and to strive for digital equity.
NOTE: If you missed NECC 2007, visit http://center.uoregon.edu/ISTE/NECC2007/program/video_on_demand.php to see video-on-demands of select spotlight and lecture sessions, as well live interviews with ed tech leaders.