By Carl Hooker, CIO Advisor
Being beckoned to a beautiful, sun-filled land where the weather is always perfect can be a hard thing to do in life. All kidding aside, I was recently honored to be included amongst a group of educators and forward-thinking leaders to the SchoolCIO summit in La Jolla, Calif., sponsored by Tech & Learningmagazine. The 2-day summit was filled with thought-provoking discussion and engaging conversation, but above everything else, there was passion.
On the opening afternoon, we were invited to visit the CalIT2 labs on the gorgeous University of California – San Diego campus. The first amazing thing about the visit is that anyone can get any research done here with the scenery of the campus is a major feat. Following a troubling 20-point turn by our nimble bus driver, we were dropped off at the front door of innovation central. In this lab we were able to witness how powerful information and data can be when visualized on a large scale.
They introduced us to 4K screen technology (4 times the definition of HD) and what a difference having a large image portrayed in such high quality can do to the senses. Their 21-channel surround sound theater was captivating to the senses, and left many of us craving more. We we able to visit both of their experimental visual labs as well. The first of which worked on modular screens set up as blocks. On one wall, they had stacked 36 of these 4K screens in a 4X9 pattern across the wall. They took high-res images like a landscape view of El Capitan, and showed us with “Enemy of the State”-like quality, how close they could zoom on the climbers on the mountain. We could even see the expression on a child’s face as she played soccer in a nearby field.
Besides being just a cool, big screen, we got to see the advantages of having all of this data available on one screen, particularly with science and medicine. In one example, they zoomed in to an electromagnetic image of a dyed rat brain and showed us how with this new large screen, doctors could see new connections inside the cells of the brain that were previously thought to only travel between synapsis.
We also got a peek into the Star Trek Holodeck-like 3-D Next Cave. In this room, you could walk around the room with your 3-D stereo glasses and actual travel in and out of a ruin in Egypt. I have to admit, after about 5 minutes, it was a bit of a nauseating experience, but the potential was certainly apparent. During the Q&A session, someone asked about how we could assault other senses in the future. On the topic of smell, UC San Diego research scientist Tom DeFanti said he knew how programming worked and that there are always bugs out there and for those reasons alone, he wouldn’t want to get into Smell-o-Vision any time soon.
On day 2, we were treated to a breakfast chat and presentation by Google Education Senior Evangelist Jaime Casap. Jamie really hit on some major points about not only Google’s role in education, but also the ever-changing face of education because of technology disruption. Indeed, many of us that consider ourselves innovators still do some non-innovative things, and that’s ok. He mentioned that technology isn’t really technology if it existed before you were born, a statement I agree with for the most part. He also talked about how we all “suck at searching” and that we really need to become better at it in order to really teach kids the right ways to use it. His final analogy is that technology needs to become as ubiquitous and transparent as the desk. In his words: “You wouldn’t send people to ‘desk’ conferences, would you? Maybe you would, but I’d feel bad for anyone that has to go to those.”
For the rest of the day we broke into small groups to discuss topics that were pertinent in our districts. Topics included mobile computing, cloud computing, virtual & blended learning, and technology’s role in professional development (my topic). All the groups worked on answering essential questions that will be published in the September issue of Tech & Learning, but here are some comments made by the groups at the end-of-the-day wrap-up.
The blended learning group each had their own views on what true blended, virtual learning looks like. As attendee Matt Federoff observed, it seems that if you have four people discussing blended learning, you’ll get five different answers. The mobile learning group concurred that a school bus model of mobile learning will be the way of the future. In this model, students will choose to take the school bus (district-provided technology) or drive their own car (bring their own device). Cloud computing will be where all data ends up, but districts are taking different paths to get there. Web-based data, information and collaboration in a device-agnostic world will be the way mobile learning will stick.
As for the PD group, we talked a lot about moving training online. Dayton ISD had a successful year one of online eCourses through Eduphoria. Employees were able to take and test out of their mandatory training (e.g., blood-born pathogens online over the summer at their leisure, rather than wasting 2-3 hours of seat time in the week before school). In Maine, Andrew Wallace turned his librarians into true media ed tech specialists and reorganized how learning would take place for his staff throughout the year. As for Eanes, I mentioned our “Apple Core” Academy, iTunesU and the idea of generating buzz by putting on your own mini-conference like iPadpalooza. Being progressive, our group elected to put together an iMovie trailer to sum up our day.
All in all, there were many great minds that I was honored to learn alongside during our two days in La Jolla. We learned, we laughed, we grew as a group. I made some connections that will benefit my district for the coming years as we press into a more modern approach to learning. Henry Thiele summarized the event in his closing comments (and tweet): “We are retiring the phrase ‘21st century learning’ and replacing it simply with ‘learning'.
About time, if you ask me.