I’m here at the National Center for Technology Innovation‘s annual conference in Washington. NCTI is a research center funded by the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, and works to advances learning opportunities for individuals with disabilities through the use of innovative technologies. After an introduction by the NCTI’s director, Tracy Gray, we were treated to an excellent keynote address by Milton Chen, who is the executive director emeritus of the George Lucas Education Foundation.
Chen called the last decade of education a “lost” one, but says the nation is finally coming into 21st century learning. Based on his new best-selling book, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools, Chen explored how media and technology can spark innovation to redefine teaching and learning for all students and communities. Technology is the way we can become an education nation, Chen says, because it allows us to “move forward and radically change the way we think about teaching and learning in this country.”
For kids who are struggling to learn, to read, and for kids with disabilities, Chen says believes that the future lies in using technology to make school courses more accessible to all learners. For example, there’s technology tools that can make learning Chinese much more accessible and enjoyable for learners. Inexpensive technologies, such as video conferencing, can increase educational exchanges with schools around the globe, to expand our curriculum and engage all learners.
Some programs the Foundation are working on include I Record Educational Audio Digitally, or iRead, where kids in more than 100 K-8 classrooms are using iPods and iTouches to record their reading lessons. The recordings are uploaded to iTunes, where teachers create playlists for each student. Students, teachers, and parents can then review progress, creating a powerful learning loop between all three.
Another program called Opening Minds Through the Arts shows how assistive technology can be used in music and dance to help people with disabilities achieve their goals. Here’s a great video of a high school student playing the trombone using innovative technologies.