Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TLI – Tech Expo Draws Educators Looking for Inspiration and New Ideas

Approximately 300 people attended the LHRIC's annual Tech Expo April 5, an event that attracted teachers and administrators from dozens of local school districts as well as vendors from 21 educational technology companies.
Dr. Yong Zhao speaks at Tech Expo 2013.

Dr. Yong Zhao, an internationally known scholar, author and speaker kicked off the day-long event with an entertaining talk on creativity in education, or more importantly, the lack of it.

In his presentation titled, "Global, Creative and Entrepreneurial: Defining and Delivering High Quality Education with Technology," he questioned the idea of creativity and if indeed it applied to today's education system.

"In human history for a long time we didn't have a need for it and in fact most of the time we don't use it," added Dr. Zhao, author of over 20 books, including "Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization" and "World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students."

Surprisingly, Dr. Zhao is not always a fan of creativity, especially when it comes to some of modern society's inventions, like high-rise cities in his native China where pollution is at its highest.

But, he conceded, creativity is needed when it comes to shaping an education system that intends to adequately prepare students for the 21st century working world.

"America has been one of the worst education systems in terms of homogenizing kids, and the Common Core is trying to make sure our children are homogenous, not creative," Dr. Zhao added, referring to the Common Core Standards that states across the country will be implementing in the months and years to come.

Because of the changing economy and as a result, the shrinking middle class, Dr. Zhao said students must acquire different talents, skills and affinities. "Traditionally, we did not need people to express their individual talents," said Dr. Zhao. "But in a new age, we have to because special talents can be very powerful and useful."

The spotlight speakers included Travis Allen, founder of the iSchool Initiative, a student-led, non-profit organization dedicated to revolutionizing the education system through innovative technologies.

In his presentation, "Becoming a Mobile Learner," Allen described his journey into the world of digital technology, from playing video games as a child to quickly adapting to social media after acquiring his first smart phone at age 16. Allen recalled "doing everything" with his phone, quickly realizing there was a "huge gap between education and real world experience."

At the time, there were no cell phones allowed in Allen's Georgia high school, and Allen still believes this is true today. "They are bound to four walls and a desk and they are killing creativity," he said. "The current education system is built on an outdated and antiquated model that fails to account for the different learning styles of today's digital natives."

While still a high school student, Allen spent four months making a YouTube video about his beliefs, talking about where he felt education could go if mobile learning was allowed to take hold in America's classrooms. The video went viral and Allen created the iSchool Initiative as a result of it.

"The power of an idea can lead to so much," noted Allen, who has since presented in over 26 states and three continents. "With technology today, our youth has more power than ever before." 

The day's other speakers included Karl Fisch, the director of technology at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Co., and the original creator of the "Did You Know?" (Shift Happens) series of videos, in addition to representatives of local school districts and vendors attending the event.

They covered topics such as flipped learning, cloud networking, engaging students with language through technology, iPads in education, the use of Google Plus, blended learning and the Common Core, and the uses of SuccessMaker to support data-driven instruction, among other interesting discussions.

To add your own views on some of that day's topics, go to the specially created collaborative Google Doc at