More than 12,000 educators of all levels from across the country and the world are converging on Atlanta on June 26-28 for NECC 2000: Connecting @ the Crossroads. Hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC) and sponsored by the National Educational Computing Association (NECA), Inc., this year's conference will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Attendees will learn strategies and practical solutions for integrating and implementing technology into the educational experience.
NECC 2000 will feature over 350 concurrent sessions and four thought-provoking keynote sessions. This year's keynoters include: John Kuglin, the Director of Educational Outreach and Executive Director for NASA's Earth Observing System at the University of Montana; Dr. Craig Barrett, President and CEO of Intel Corp.; Duane Ackerman, Chairman and CEO of BellSouth Corp.; and Dr. Betty Siegel, President of Kennesaw State University. There are also 180 workshops and an enormous exhibit hall, featuring over 1,200 booths.
The stated themes for this year's conference are: connecting technology to teaching and learning; staying connected with professional development; standards, assessment and accountability; teachers as agents for change; connected communities (schools, businesses and resources); and the eternal question, "where do we go from here?" Educators from all different backgrounds will be in attendance, including classroom teachers, tech coordinators, library media specialists, administrators, teacher educators and representatives from government and industry.
Attendees can also take part in numerous special events throughout the conference. The opening reception, held at the Georgia World Congress Center, is on the evening of Sunday, June 26 and includes food, beverages, music and entertainment. A Monday morning continental breakfast is available in the exhibit hall, and Monday night features a bus trip to the Atlanta Zoo. Tuesday evening's walk/run will provide a little exercise before the night's dance social, held at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and sponsored by Microsoft. Wednesday's closing session will include a preview of NECC 2001: Building on the Future, which will be held in Chicago.
More information on the show and its attendees and exhibitors can be found at www.neccsite.org.
T.H.E. Journal was able to have a few words with two of the keynote speakers at this year's NECC. Each has some interesting thoughts on the present and future of technology in education.
John Kuglin was a classroom teacher for over twenty years and was later named the first technology director for the public school system in Missoula, Mont. An early proponent of the convergence of television and computers, he worked with Cable in the Classroom and was later recruited by the cable industry to create a teacher training program. After some work with the US Department of Education, he is now Director of Educational Outreach and Executive Director for NASA's Earth Observing System at the University of Montana. Kuglin's presentation will highlight and attempt to demystify current and emerging technologies, with suggestions for cohesive implementation.
T.H.E.: Do you think that emerging technologies like broadband and satellite communication will be easier or more difficult to integrate into mainstream education than things like CD-ROM and multimedia were a few years ago? Why?
Kuglin: Well, I tend to think that integration of the new technologies will be easier, simply because mainstream America is getting connected to the Internet. The private sector is working at a feverish pace to deliver zer'es and ones to households and schools throughout the country. Take a look at some of Bill Gates' new ventures. He is teaming up with the cellular telephone industry with some money from Saudi Arabia in a project that involves 288 low-orbital earth satellites that act as computer routers. So as that kind of connectivity and bandwidth continues to increase, it's going to be easier to get people to have access and to embrace it. I also think the prices will come down as a broader spectrum of entertainment will be delivered on the same channels as data is being delivered on. The lines blur completely.
T.H.E.: It would seem that entertainment d'es often drive that sort of technology.
Kuglin: Oh yes. When we first came out with CD-ROMs, there were some educational titles that were coming out, but mostly there were games and entertainment offerings. When mainstream gets into it, deployment is faster and it's much more accepted, therefore costs come down.
T.H.E.: How do you think it's possible to demystify these new technologies to "technophobic" educators?
Kuglin: Well, we're going to demystify those technologies by putting them in the mainstream. Educators are not only going to see those technologies in their classrooms, they're going to see those same technologies in their living rooms. The demystification is also going to follow a traditional path that it has for many of us; that is the fact that our students are going to continue to be leaders in the process. When students are coming in from their multimedia worlds, they're going to naturally expect and gravitate toward the multimedia aspects of learning. That helps the teacher bridge the gap. Again, it g'es back to the comment that the lines of telephone, television, data, and even shopping are all going to blur into an environment that is totally interactive. It's just going to become a way of life and there will really be no demystifying necessary. It's just a way of conducting business.
T.H.E.: What would you say to an educator who says that technologies like the Internet are not essential to instruction?
Kuglin: Well, I'd have to say that good teaching is always going to be based on a good teacher. Technology will never replace the effective or ineffective teacher. That's very important to understand. However, all any teacher has to do is look at any aspect of our society today to see how much a part of daily life technology has become. What educators need to see is that the world they're trying to prepare their students for operates with this technology. The integration and infusion of technology into that world has the same impact on the classroom. It is also important to remember that how those tools are applied in the classroom still revolves around a good teacher with communication skills in a loving, caring, nurturing environment.
I know there are teachers out there who question the value of technology. I think the skills the teachers need to have can be overwhelming because technology is moving so quickly. Staff development is a very important part of the equation. I'm happy to see that staff development is finally being addressed when technology is first brought into the classroom. When this all started, just about all the budgets were built on buying hardware and software. Nothing was spent on training the teacher. Now, with the advent of the Internet and the ability to have online courses, staff development is emerging as a top priority for schools, and mechanisms for delivering staff development anytime, anywhere are becoming more widespread.
I definitely think we're on the right track and are making some positive steps forward. It's very exciting to see the convergence of all these technologies coming together to provide new avenues of entertainment, which can then also carry new opportunities for education.
Dr. Craig R. Barrett is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Intel Corporation. His interactive presentation at NECC will discuss how learning communities are collaborating to improve learning and performance, and will include demonstrations from teachers from across the country who have meaningfully incorporated technology into their curricula.
T.H.E.: What is happening in collaborative learning now? What possibilities exist for the future?
Dr. Barrett: E-mail and Internet connectivity are catalysts for an evolutionary step in collaborative learning. Possibilities for the future are exciting, as digital image capture and data transfer become more and more common in our businesses, homes and schools. Interactive Web-based video holds some interesting possibilities in the very near future as well.
T.H.E.: What is the role of the "connected learning community?" How will it affect learning?
Dr. Barrett: Global connectivity provided by the Internet provides access to real-time information and the ability to share information around the world. This connectivity has made it possible for students and teachers to reach beyond the school walls, beyond textbooks and reference materials to engage in "real world" or "contextual" learning. Examples of the "connected learning community" abound. Students communicate with other students, professionals, researchers, and policy makers around the world from their own classrooms. High school students are conducting environmental research in collaboration with practicing research scientists. Elementary students share language and culture with children and adults in other countries. The roles of the teacher and the learner are shifting, with possibilities for active engagement increasing as technology rapidly evolves.
T.H.E.: In what new ways must parents and communities become involved in the education of their children?
Dr. Barrett: Today as always, caring adults and nurturing communities are the keys to good education for our children. The critical common denominator is involvement. We must continue to find time in our busy lives to invest in the future by getting involved and engaging with the education of our children. Technology can be a powerful enabler here - it can help improve student performance by making learning more fun and productive. And, technology can also be a powerful connection between teachers and parents, uniting them in their common goal to help young people learn and grow.
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.