Blog: The Educated Reporter

Innovations in Classroom Technology

With lawmakers on both sides of the aisle touting the value of a computer science education, and President Obama using a video message to urge every American to learn how to code, it seemed like the ideal time to revisit a session from EWA’s 66th National Seminar, which held at Stanford University in May. We asked some of the education reporters attending to contribute blog posts from the sessions

Today’s guest blogger is Daarel Burnette, now editor of the new Chalkbeat Memphis education news site. Stream any session from National Seminar in your browser, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes. For more on classroom technology, visit EWA’s Story Starters online resource. 

Reporters are always trying to identify what, in fact, is “next” in the education world. Almost every press release says its business is the “next big thing” or its model will “revolutionize” education.

Is this just hype from businesses that have strong public relations offices? Or are these companies really onto something? Remember: Plenty of folks warned newspapers that the Internet would be the next big thing in the media world, and many of us doubted those predictions.

Reporters’ skepticism of the education business world is well-deserved. But, as I learned at EWA’s National Seminar in May, some of these innovations are practical and—potentially– influential.

The Innovation Showcase session gave several pioneers a chance to highlight how their efforts could change education. One presenter— Kayvon Beykpour, a recent Stanford alum who founded the Terriblyclever Design company—praised the timeless educational tools universities offer—great professors, peer networking, etc.—that helped inspire him to innovate. His Terriblyclever Design combined several university services into a mobile app and has been purchased by Blackboard where Beykpour now works as a manager.

“Stanford taught me how to learn for the sake of learning,” Beykpour said. “I think what this place and other universities offer is throwing you into a world where people are way smarter than you with resources you can’t even imagine. It’s that vibrancy that inspired me and other people.”

Marcie Bober-Michel, a professor of learning and design at San Diego State has spent several years helping develop a “blended learning” model. Bober-Michel spoke of some of the techniques, challenges and opportunities in creating an effective blended-learning classroom. A blended classroom combines online, mobile and physical classroom settings. If successful, the design has the potential to save universities money, time and space.

Successful blended learning classes force students to prioritize tasks and build their own learning communities. “These classes make them more workforce ready,” Bober-Michel said. “They’re now forced to make decisions on their own.”

Trace Urdan, who works with Wells Fargo Securities, was an expert I found particularly interesting. Urdan has studied closely “Education Inc.,” i.e. the business side of education. Investors predict high returns on education after the economy rebounds and schools are filled with the grandchildren of baby boomers.

Urdan said the education industry is now facing the same transformations that Internet technologies previously thrust upon the music and media industries.

The biggest difference is that public education is thick with regulations that business executives must carefully navigate if they hope to be profitable.

These education start-ups also have to get the word out about their businesses. That explains the ad campaigns of charter schools in the K-12 world and the aggressive outreach of online education vendors. “ At a very macro level, it’s inevitable that technology will change the way education is delivered,” he said.