College presidents debating the future of higher education at #NAISAC15

I was in attendance when four current and former college presidents discussed and debated the future of higher ed. I was beyond stunned by the future-minded ideas of Southern New Hampshire president Paul LeBlanc. The other presidents painted a familiar, but improving version of the current status quo. Mr. LeBlanc, however, discussed a complete "unbundling" of the college experiences from courses to residential programs to assessments.

One of his most compelling points cited that most colleges say that most of their students are ready for the workforce upon graduation, but that most companies say relatively few students are - no matter the numbers, there is something to deal with in that.

I'd love to hear your thoughts

Why touchscreens are not the future

As a technologist people often tell me how incredible they think iPads are. I agree, they are incredible. Then they ask if iPads will replace all computers. I usually say no, touchscreens are not the answer, gesture and voice-based computers are - these folks are helping my futurist predictions ring a little more true. It is nice to be right, for a moment.

Salman Khan takes to the TED stage to present how flipping the classroom is working

via ted.com

Salman Khan, of Khan Academy, builds videos which kids can learn from. They're about adding, subtracting, algebra, calculus, history, and more. His first idea was just to post helpful videos for his cousins. Then, thousands of others kids and teachers started using his videos. Realizing the energy behind them he kept developing content, but also wisely started to build an infrastructure that could enhance how students use the videos.

The data sets he shows are pretty powerful. I do think we have to be careful about data. Jonathan Martin at NEIT2010 did a great job of talking about being data informing, not replacing, judgement.

I think his ideas around using game mechanics are incredible. I have been to so many talks about gaming for education where finding the right balance between play and education has been the discussion. Someone on a panel I was at said 70% play, 30% game. That seems like the oddest approach, and I think Khan's merit badges and other structures are a much better look at ed tools might use gaming structures.

Khan Academy is exciting stuff, and some of my teachers have been engaged in producing their own videos. We're going to see there "the flip" might take our students.

Mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc) should change education. But how can we do it well?

Mobile devices have become so powerful now it is hard to believe. All of the photos and video in this post were shot on my HTC Evo phone by Sprint. Most, if not all, of the middle and upper school students I work with have phones of this caliber. As a technology director I'm often thinking about how standardized systems support ease of adoption and support in schools. At my school every teachers in the middle and upper school has the same laptop, in the lower school, the faculty have the same laptop. Each student in grades 8-12 has the same laptop in each grade. This means teachers know what students have, and the tech team can easily support them as the knowledge needed is limited by the limited models.

But, if the real issue is certain generic capabilities of the tools (photos, video, writing, audio, Internet access), perhaps standardized equipment is not necessary. I am not convinced by this, but am somewhat enchanted by it. People using their own tools in ways that they are comfortable with. Will that meet the needs of teachers trying to utilize technology for higher-order learning? I don't doubt that it could, but I struggle with how to be strategic in an institution doing it.

Are you letting people bring any device to school? Giving them access to your network? Letting teachers manage dozens of different ways of approaching lesson objectives? What are the advantages? What are the drawbacks?

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