Kentucky Society for Technology in Education Conference, which is held every March in Louisville. The conference proper starts tomorrow, but today there were multiple pre-session meetings for district administrators, technology teachers, CIOs, and technicians. Unlike last year, when as KySTE President I was in charge of the conference and pretty much spent the entire three days standing behind the registration desk dealing with issues, this year I've actually gotten to go to about half of the first day's sessions. And here's what I got out of them:
People are nervous.
Specifically, people are worried about the influx of personal devices and 1:1 initiatives and what kinds of devices to purchase and how do we protect the network from all of these devices and who's gonna fix 'em when they break and how can we teach when 30 kids have a total of 11 different devices in the classroom and how are we ensuring that kids are doing what they're supposed to be doing on these devices instead of chatting with friends on Facebook and what if they look at porn and do we charge a technology fee and how does equity of access fit into this puzzle and what about the teachers who haven't figured out how to incorporate a regular old desktop computer into the classroom much less a tablet or an iPhone and lots of other stuff.
And all of those concerns point to one fact. All of us in the field of ed tech understand that the education technology landscape is changing. Rapidly. And portable computing devices are driving this change. With the price of the iPad 2 dropping in the next few days to just $399, and with high quality 7 inch Android tablets like the Kindle Fire selling for just $200, and with Android cell phones selling in the corner supermarket for less than $100, we're approaching a point in the VERY near future--much nearer than I think most people in education realize--when every child will be carrying around SOME kind of portable computing device.
I've seen both this change and these concerns coming for a while.
About six months ago my school district upgraded our core router, and when we did so we changed the way the router was setup so that devices that couldn't attach to our domain and connect to our proxy server could still get on the Internet. "Transparent proxy" is what it's called, and I described it for months to the administrators in my district as "The Panera Bread Experience." I told them, "IF we institute this transparent proxy" [and we wouldn't have done so without their knowledge and permission] "users will be able to attach to our network and get on the Internet from our network with the same ease that they can do so at Panera Bread." I have no idea why I chose Panera Bread over any other business that provides free wi-fi, but that's not the point. The point was what I said next. "Once that happens, everything changes in the district. Any guest, parent, student, teacher...anybody...can attach to our network and surf the web. It will make access to the web easier. But it's also going to bring problems." Despite my warnings, though, the administrators were all in favor of instituting this change. That Panera Bread Experience was too tempting to resist.
On the first district administrators meeting that we had following the change, I told them that we were up and running, and that true to my word, it was now as easy to get on the Internet in my school district as it was at Panera Bread (to my relief. I wasn't really sure if it would be exactly as easy, and it turns out that yep; it was exactly as easy). And I told them, "I am VERY, VERY excited about what this can mean for instruction and for learning in this district. But I've been saying this and I'll continue to say it--everything changes now."
One of the administrators who'd been listening to me for three months and being silent finally asked, "What do you mean?"
"Have you ever heard of the myth of Pandora and the box?" He nodded. "It's like that." He looked at me uncomprehendingly. "Do you remember the scene in GHOSTBUSTERS when the mean, bearded guy from the EPA made them turn off the power to the grid and all of the ghosts came out and that weird, 80's music started playing and the one ghost got sucked up into the tailpipe of the taxi and ended up in the driver's seat? That's exactly what's going to happen!"
That, of course, told him no more than the story of Pandora did, so I kind of started over. I decided to forgo the analogies and just give it to him straight. "Once you open up your network like that, you give up a lot of control. Yesterday we knew about every device on our network, what the computer name was, who was logged onto it, what it was doing. If the user logged on was a student who didn't have a signed AUP, they didn't get Internet access. Now ANYONE can sign on with their iPad from their house, and we have no idea if that person is a teacher or a guest of the district or a student who has lost his Internet privileges."
"But that doesn't matter," that principal said. "Most kids don't have an Internet capable device with them at school."
"They don't because yesterday they couldn't get on the network. Today they can. We're not announcing that, but how long do you think it will take before students figure this out on their own? And once they do, they'll start bringing their devices in. And even if students DON'T have a device today, they will soon. With the prices of devices falling all of the time, it's inevitable that every student will have a device."
And it is. Consider this: The original Kindle device was introduced in November of 2007. At the time it cost $400. Today the current Kindle closest in specs to that original device sells for $79. That's an 80% price drop in 4 years. Now think about the Kindle Fire. It currently sells for $200. If the Kindle Fire follows that same pattern, that means that in 2016 a device like the Kindle Fire will be on sale for $40. And when that happens, that device will no longer be behind glass in the electronics section of the store. It's going to be hanging from a J-hook at the checkout line. And once that happens, EVERY student is going to own one. My children's school supply lists include a TI-80 calculator. They are twice as expensive as that 2016 Kindle Fire is going to be. If in 2012 we can place a calculator on a school supply list, in 2016 we'll be placing a personal computing device--one that can take the place of that calculator and take the place of a textbook and take the place of an Internet research computer and a host of other devices--on that list.
This is the day we've been dreaming of, folks. The day when every child has access to a powerful personal computing device. The day when students and teachers can pull these devices out and use them in their classrooms as an integral part of having class. The day when the phrase "digital learning" disappears because it's become so embedded in instruction that it's just "learning." This is the day that we've been pining for and wishing for and imagining for years now. It's just beyond the horizon now, just a few years away. It's coming faster than we ever imagined it would.
And we're scared to death of it...
Over the next two days of the KySTE Conference there are going to be plenty of sessions, and many of them are going to be about this coming day in one way or the other. I hope they help prepare us for the coming tsunami. Because, to paraphrase what we said when we were kids playing hide and seek in the backyard, Ready or not, here it comes...
I can't see the video.