Discussing Big Ideas In Education Technology

Encore: December 17, 2015

Technology is rapidly changing the world around us, but the education system may be struggling to adapt.

That’s the focus of a national conference held this week in New York City. Hosted by New York University’s Steinhardt School and EDGE, a company that supports education technology startups, National Education Week brings teachers and school administrators together with entrepreneurs and innovators to address issues in education, a $6 billion industry.

EDGE’s co-founder Jonathan Harber says advances like tablets and iPhones have changed the landscape of teaching and learning in K-12 schools, higher education and even corporate training.

“It used to be really important to memorize, now everyone walks around with a smartphone that has every fact in the world in their pocket,” he told MetroFocus Contributor Andrea Vasquez. “So teaching and learning are now starting to evolve to catch up to the world, which is evolving around them,” Harber said.

As the conference wraps up, we sat down with Harber, NYU Steinhardt School Dean Dominic Brewer and NYC Department of Education Chief Information Officer Hal Friedlander to discuss the creative ways technology is used in the classroom and how the conference is moving it forward.

Here’s our Q-and-A, which has been edited for brevity and clarity:

What is National Education Week?
Brewer: “National Education Week is a real recognition that the problems…in education can’t be solved by any one sector alone. So we have to bring together the K-12 system, higher education and the private sector which…is amazingly innovative and vibrant here in New York but it hasn’t really been galvanized into an action oriented community, and I think that’s what the conference is trying to do.”

What are these problems in education?
Friedlander: “I think the problems that we’re addressing are the complexities around educating students that have always been there. I think the opportunities that technology brings are ways to bring innovation in the classroom, ways to do teaching in the classroom that prepares students for the world that they’re going to encounter when they graduate and go into careers or go into college. So the world is changing around us and thew world needs students that are prepared with skills both in technology but also with skills in general that understand how technology intersects with everything that we’re going to do.”

How is technology improving teaching and learning?
Harber: “One innovation is actually creating this ecosystem where public sector k-12 higher ed corporate training entrepreneurs, financiers work together. In many ways like what Silicon Valley has done for technology, we think New York is going to be the hub for education technology. We have one company, Kinems which is taking Microsoft kinect technology and allowing students for occupational therapy and special ed to interact with their hands and legs with cognitive skills. We have a company called open online academy, which is actually an NYC architecture professor was the founder, that is doing an online school for the building and infrastructure industry to make sustainable buildings and take what the Western world has learned from design and architecture and bring it to parts of the world where 90 percent of the population live in substandard housing.”

What is being done here in New York City?
Friedlander: “Well as I mentioned before there’s the computer science for all initiative so that’s a 10-year initiative to bring computer science to every student. And those opportunities are going to look like learning to code but they’re also going to look like taking the lessons the underlying conceptual stuff that people need to know to code and bringing that into academics like science, like reading and mathematics because it’s not just learning a computer language it’s learning how to problem solve, it’s learning how to collaborate and communicate. It’s learning how to address problems with new technology and build your own skills.”

He added, “There’s need for all kinds of differently technology, innovation to come into the classroom to help students along. And we’re seeing the beginnings of that with 3-D modeling. We’re seeing the beginnings of that with personalized learning. We’re seeing the beginnings of that with virtual reality, and use virtual reality in arts programs and science programs, but that’s just really the tip, that’s really the beginning, and as more innovation shows up, teachers are eager, they’re hungry to bring that into the classroom and bring that to students.”

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