GAFE Summit Los Angeles – Ken Shelton

Kenneth Shelton courtesy of

Kenneth Shelton courtesy of

I am so excited to be in Los Angeles at the Google Summit at Harvard Westlake. Harvard Westlake is not only a great school, but my good friend Moss Pike (follow him on twitter) is organizing this conference!

The Keynote Speaker is Kenneth Shelton. His topic is “Why Technology Matters.” Ken tells us that he wants to use this time to discuss how we identify the word “technology,” how students use it, and how it can and should be used. He says that he looks at technology as a way to accelerate learning. It doesn’t make a bad teacher good, but it allows a good teachers to become better!

One of the greatest hurdles facing educators in technology is anxiety. On the other side are teachers who can’t get enough technology (self-identified)! Ken next shows us a series of images that can all be identified as “technology,” things like: bicycles, erasers, stoplights, etc. Technology doesn’t have to involve electricity or plugging in. So he asks us “what is one word that highlights how we feel with technology” and shares a tinyurl for us to submit our thoughts via a Google Form. Ken shows us some of the responses which range from “frustrating” to “empowering.” I personally feel that technology itself is neutral, it’s how you use it.

“We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.” – Carl Sage

Technology Myths

Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives – this has been a popular concept in the realm of educational technology and I’m happy to see Ken knock this one out. I find it frustrating and an unnecessary barrier. We all grew up with technology, it has just changed. Additionally, just because a student knows how to post a status update or search a map doesn’t mean that they can harness it effectively.

It’s Easier than it Looks – Technology use is not the same as effective use. For example, we don’t give students the keys to a car without driving lessons. It looks easy, but it’s not. We cannot just give kids tools and then let them run. Kids may be better at figuring things out, but that doesn’t mean they can use it meaningfully.

It’s Harder than it Looks – Technology has become more user friendly and there are numerous resources to learn how to use them.

Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Blooms Taxonomy – Ken steps into controversial territory when he says that Blooms Taxonomy is a myth. It shifts regularly and requires a strict protocol and hierarchy. Ken states that in the digital age they are no longer hierarchical, you can create to understand without going through remembering. You can blend creating with application and understanding. You don’t have to follow it from the bottom up.

A New Philosophy

Advantage of NOT Knowing – When you are in the creation phase, you have a million opportunities for an outcome. You have an advantage of not knowing and thus can explore. We are used to getting the result we are looking for, we get frustrated. When this happens in the classroom, we try to shield our students from knowing that. There are millions of possibilities and we should embrace it! By focusing on the result that we want, you ignore the thousands of other possible options and outcomes.

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.” – Lao Tzu

If you embrace change, then you can do many more things than you envisioned.

Strong Meaningful pedagogy hasn’t changed. What has changed, is how we can incorporate meaningful tools and processes into our classroom. Do we embrace innovations or do we stick to our old ways? You have to try the new thing and adapt. The more you experiment with new tools, the better you get at them. We have a fear of trying something new; we don’t want to fail or stumble. However, if I knew that everything would be the same in 5 years I would be horrified. We have to try new things while stumbling along the way.

Students need good boundaries.

Most rules and boundaries in education apply only to the physical boundaries of the school. We need to expand our conversations about rules to things that take place outside of the physical construction of a school; this includes the digital realm. If we want to keep students safe, then we need to have meaningful discussions with them about digital citizenship. Talk to them about building a positive digital footprint. What will someone find when they google your name? The case of Justine Sacco is the most famous recent case of “digital shaming.” While her case is a good one to highlight about how an errant tweet can create chaos, it also brought about a new discussion about how powerful digital shaming has become. In fact, Monica Lewinsky just did a TED talk about this

I really think that it is necessary to discuss our reaction to people’s online behavior. Does an errant tweet really necessitate a public shaming by millions of people worldwide? Is this a new version of cyber bullying?

In addition to discussing what to post online, it’s a good idea to talk to students about contributing meaningfully. Do we need a million cat videos? Probably not… When my students create something often, I do like to encourage them to put it out there – build your own portfolio of what you want others to see. Kids are making stuff and putting it out there all of the time. Are we discussing with students and parents what they are putting online? Let’s talk about responsible use!

We need to support students, parents, and teachers to use technology in a responsible and product manner. If we don’t support our stakeholders and give them support, then we are setting them up for failure. The tools are important in that we must use them meaningfully.

The last component of why technology matters is to plant the seeds of intellectual curiosity.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sa.” Antoine de Saint Expuery

Technology can open up new worlds for students in a responsible manner and build a sustainable model of motivation. Technology can give students a voice; children that are shy or struggle with communication skills can harness new technologies in powerful ways. Students can make their thinking visible, show their work, and create a powerful narrative.

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