After a Year Away

The Lausanne Laptop Institute is over, and I’m waiting in the Memphis airport for my flight to Denver, and then on to Portland, Oregon.

The tone and texture of the Institute this year was different than other years. There was less information about classroom integration. There was less big picture discussion and ideas. There was straightforward information about how programs are being done. I hope the design is a bit different next year—more for teachers, and more big picture discussions for the experienced.

I really enjoyed listening to and talking with Gary Stager. We need more critical voices. No question.

Tablet programs also seemed popular this year, but I will admit that I didn’t hear convincing discussions about how they are worth the extra cost and fragility. Yes, kids can take notes on them as if paper, but isn’t that automation instead of innovation? Also, some kids, even with $3,000 worth of tablet, still prefer paper. (Fair disclosure: I do as well.) One sage suggested that tablets were more successful for programs with reticent teachers, because they are a closer approximation to the traditional ways of teaching and classroom practice. The price tag still doesn’t make sense to me, except in certain math courses and for certain kids who love them and can really get the value out of them.

The keynotes were meant to be thought-provoking, and one in particular provoked my thoughts. In fact, I did a complete post about it, and then removed it, my first time doing that on this blog. In other words, I had a strong negative reaction, and I’m not certain yet how to phrase the reaction, but I know it’s a good idea to ponder it for awhile yet. In sum, there are plausible visions of education in the near future that I’m not terribly supportive of.

Finally, I’ve actually been watching US news and reading US newspapers for the first time in a year. Overall, the financial reports are relatively startling. Also, after being away for a year, the gas and food prices are surprising here. Ditto for the bank closures and mortgage issues.

My one takeaway from that news is that maybe our technology programs also need to be careful in terms of their short and long-range financial basis. If some of the current financial woes are based on growth funded on credit, perhaps we need to review or tech programs and determine what is based on solid returns and what is based on credit (or hoped for returns). The next 1-3 years could be interesting and challenging.

Okay, time to think about boarding.

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