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Technologies in Education Forum 2012

More than 250 high-level education policymakers, industry leaders, technology experts, and gamers gathered at The Gallup Building in Washington, D.C. for The Atlantic’s second annual Technologies in Education Forum on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. The full-day program featured six sessions focusing on emerging policies and cutting-edge technologies available to educators, particularly those teaching science and math.

Paula Kerger, President and Chief Executive Officer of PBS, kicked off the morning with an urgent argument for using technology to educate and engage children in learning. Kerger asserted that children develop most emotional, social, and learning skills before age five, making high quality early education essential for toddlers.

Panel discussions looked at the role games play in learning for both students and teachers. Robert Torres, Senior Program Officer of the Gates Foundation, said that games should not only be thought of as learning environments, but also should be used to assess what students are learning. Dreambox CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson shared her vision as the leader of a company which supports math education through individualized instruction. Dreambox uses sophisticated software to ask, “What’s the right next lesson for this student?” Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for Innovation and Improvement James Shelton rounded out the panel by arguing that technology cannot replace teachers but does augment their effectiveness. This last observation would be a recurring theme throughout the day’s program.

Other experts convened for a panel devoted to the role technology and STEM education play in workforce development for 21stcentury jobs. The Apollo Group’s Satish Menon suggested that the “consumer for learning is the employer” with the student constituting the product that a given employer receives. Moderator Derek Thompson of The Atlantic pressed Microsoft’s Andrea Taylor on the role Microsoft should play in education.Internet Innovation Alliance President Larry Irving asserted that “every company in this country has a stake in how we educate our young.”

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Deputy Director Tom Kalil followed the panels.He broke news when he revealed that the focus of this year’s “Race to the Top” – a federal grant competition rewarding education reform efforts at the state level – will be on instruction tailored to individual student needs. After a day of dialogue about how technology can facilitate adaptive learning and easily adjust instruction to accommodate students with varied abilities, Kalil’s revelation highlighted that the administration is also embracing technology as a vehicle for learning.

News Corporation’s Joel Klein closed the program  with The Atlantic’s James Bennet. Formerly the Chancellor of New York City Public Schools, Klein said school districts must do more to prepare teachers for a digital world – and classroom – through continual professional development. In addition Klein noted that one of the ultimate outcomes of education must be on “getting kids who are prepared to participate in our democracy.”


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