News and Trends(22)

from Technology & Learning

The global talent crisis, virtual environments for innovative learning, growing software developers, quick-and-easy Web site creation.


That's the percentage of the world's population comprising emerging markets.

At the Autodesk World Press Days in San Francisco in February, Jon Pittman, vice president of market development, employed some startling statistics to bring home the point that we are facing a global talent crisis in science, technology, engineering, and math.

With an escalating infrastructure boom in developing countries, the need for qualified STEM professionals is more crucial than ever. China and India are growing three- to four-times faster than developing countries and are mandated to build the equivalent of the entire U.S infrastructure in the next 20 to 30 years.

India, for instance, is now in the process of building 4,800 new roads. Global banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs predicts China's economy will eclipse the U.S. economy by 2041 and everybody else's by 2016—and that India's economy will surpass Japan's by 2032. At the same time, baby boomers who represent a overwhelming majority of current STEM professionals, will be retiring in droves in the next eight to 10 years, while fewer students are entering the fields of science and engineering—and of those who are, 50 percent drop out, reports the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Pittman says schools need to institute major changes. The solution, he says, is to nurture people who posses "deep disciplinary expertise as well as cross-disciplinary work skills." Instead of siloed departments and courses and a focus on individual performance, we should be giving students integrative, real-world experience. The good news is Autodesk's 13 Centers of Excellence are dedicated to producing just such students. The bad news is there are six Centers in China, six in India, and one in Russia, but none in the U.S. Apparently we're just not hungry enough yet.

Word of the Month


The tagline at reads: "Not school-not home-schome—the education system for the information age." Part of the UK Ministry of Education's drive to institute innovative learning initiatives, Schome operates on the premise that students need time for learning outside of both classroom and home. The model blends physical and virtual spaces, encouraging learning processes and community-building in face-to-face and virtual environments.

Currently, the focus of schome is on Teen Second Life. Education proponents hope to give users "a lived experience of radically different models of education." Archeology, physics, ethics, and philosophy have been the subjects students have explored so far.

Says Gavin Dykes, associate director of the related national Innovation Unit, "We wanted to include the student voice in our 21st-century learning design. We feel it's critical they take the lead and assume responsibility for their learning in order to be prepared for the workplace. If they're just sitting in a chair listening and not talking to anybody at work, they won't keep their jobs very long."

DreamSpark giveaway

In a nod to the power of student innovation, Bill Gates announced recently at Stanford University that Microsoft will give away its development tools to students. The move, Gates said, was aimed at encouraging creative programming—and possibly whetting appetites for careers in software engineering. The tools, called Microsoft DreamSpark, are available free for university-level students and high school students (in 10 nations) via their teachers. Says Joe Wilson, Microsoft's senior director of education initiatives, "Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, Dell—at the time these companies were conceived, their founders were students. Some of the greatest innovations in our space have come from student minds."

Although acknowledging the DreamSpark giveaway as a move in the right direction, Open Source pioneer Sun Microsystems was less than overwhelmed by the news. In a blog post, Joe Hartley, Sun's vice president of Global Government, Education and Healthcare, termed Microsoft's action only "the first baby steps," toward open-sourcing their tools. Hartley pointed out that Sun's Academic Developer Program has given student developers (including high school students who don't need their teachers' thumbs up) free access to their products, and the training to go along with it, for a while.

Others, such as Rob Enderle, who runs a technology consulting firm, see the strategy in Microsoft's move, which could mean a long-term payoff "a decade from now" when kids are in the workplace.

Web 2.0
By Larry Ferlazzo


One of the main benefits to having students create online content is that their creations can be shown to an authentic audience beyond me, the teacher. And I generally want them to take advantage of that opportunity without requiring any additional work on my part. One way I have students do that is by asking them to post work on their own Jottit, where students and family can see their work, and so can I.

Jottit is without a doubt the easiest and quickest way to create a Web site. Anyone, including my beginning English Language Learners, can do it in literally less than 30 seconds. I'd also encourage teachers to view a screencast showing all the ins and outs of the site at

Another option for displaying student work, which is almost as easy to use (and is actually designed a little more attractively), is Tumblr.

The only disadvantage to Jottit and Tumblr is that others can't leave comments about student work. When you want to create that opportunity, as I do in a sister class project we have with other classes around the world, I'd recommend using Edublogs so teachers have prior approval of comments. Of course, there are other blog services around, but the advantage to Edublogs is that it's education-related—there are no ads—and many school districts will allow it to pass through their content filters.

Larry Ferlazzo teaches English Language Learners and native-English speakers at Luther Burbank in Sacramento, California.