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Q&A with Tom Snyder Founder: Tom Snyder Productions in 1980 Hallmarks: Creative and collaborative curriculum products for the one-computer classroom Award Winners: TimeLiner; Fizz & Martina's Math Adventures; Geography Search; Decisions, Decisions; and more. Q: What has been the biggest turning point in education
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Q&A with Tom Snyder

Founder: Tom Snyder Productions in 1980
Hallmarks: Creative and collaborative curriculum products for the one-computer classroom
Award Winners: TimeLiner; Fizz & Martina's Math Adventures; Geography Search; Decisions, Decisions; and more.

Q: What has been the biggest turning point in education technology over the past 25 years?

A: Simple-the word processor. Sometimes the Guttenberg revolution is described as an innovation of "moveable type." That deserved being a revolution. Now with word processing, we have a new revolution, which I will call the innovation of the "unbelievably moveable type."

Q: In what ways has technology failed us in education?

A: It kind of did a strange double-edged sword trick. It reinvigorated discussions of pedagogy in the West. Instead of Vygotsky (a Russian developmental psychologist whose work in the early 1900s had a profound influence on education) sitting on the back shelf, suddenly esoterics were sexy and had a new life. That was good. For instance, the appearance of Logo refreshed discussions about constructivism, narrative, etc.

On the other hand, technology distracted even very sensible and intuitive teachers from insisting on what they have always known, which is that after the dust settles, the most important element in schools is the teacher and his or her relationship to groups of kids.

Q: What has been the most essential change driven by technology in education?

A: Software has enabled the notion of honoring student work, as in the portfolio area. Student composition and production became more tenable with the new systems.

Q: What will the student's backpack of the future contain?

A: No matter what media capabilities a student-carried computing device contains, it will allow one to compose text (that is, write and read). Even if voice recognition becomes two orders of magnitude better, there will be some friendly form of symbol manipulation. We humans are for the time being defined by that ability, and we define with it.

Q: How is today's education leader different from yesterday's?

A: Not at all. All schools, public and private, are still looking for that one strong person who can galvanize. There is no school in the country that would reject a dynamic and caring person with an excellent track record dealing with faculty, kids, and parents, even if this person admitted that she had just bought her first computer a week ago.

Back in Time
Issue: August 2002 Technology & Learning

  • "Netwise Teens: Safety, Ethics, and Innovation"
  • "Back to School Software and Web Resources"
  • "Training the Trainers"

News and Issues:

A T&L Quick Poll asked readers about where they stood on mandatory Web filtering in public libraries. Thirty-seven percent of respondents felt that it should remain in place to protect children, and 63 percent felt that libraries should be exempt from the CIPA mandate. Soon after the poll, a federal court exempted libraries from CIPA constraints.

Senior editor Kristen Kennedy reported on new product trends, including literacy tools, elementary and middle school math skill-building programs, and digital media production and editing packages.

Trend Wach reported on Alpha Smart's heftier DANA. "Going the way of Microsoft and others, who are developing tablet computers that offer both keyboard and pen-based features, the Dana lets users either type in data or write with a stylus directly onto the screen. This newcomer to the field looks like a solid contender in the race for the next best wireless computing option."

Meanwhile:

  • The Euro becomes legal tender in Europe.
  • The U.S. Congress authorizes President George W. Bush to use armed forces against Iraq.
  • J.K. Rowling publishes Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

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