Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Futureweb WWW2010 Conference Day 1 - Afternoon Panel

The afternoon panel of WWW2010 was an interview with Sir Tim Burners-Lee (the inventor of WWW) and Danny Weitzner (previously with w3c and now with the Obama Administration) conducted by Lee Rainie (Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project). This session was really about how the web needs to serve humanity properly and what are the ways to accomplish that vision. The discussion mostly revolved around the Net Neutrality debate and how the FCC and government needs to be involved to prevent ISPs from blocking or degrading content. That users should be able to use any ISP they want, any application they want, and access any content they want. The discussion never went into "The Internet is a fundamental basic right," but they were pretty close to getting there. Weitzner (who kept prefacing everything with "I used to work at a non-profit trying to fight the government and now I am the government trying to make the changes I was pushing for - so this is weird") tried to focus on how the government was trying to close the access to internet barrier by funding the "middle bone" connecting the backbone to more rural areas of the country and then having ISPs charge from the middlebone to homes rather than all the way back to the backbone. This is the heart of the NC Connectivity project and I have high hopes for this in the Northeastern part of our state. But they recognize that infrastructure is only part of the problem, that 30% of Americans have never used the Internet - Why? Is it access or is it lack of understanding? I think it could be a mixture of both and I'm glad to see that a technology infrastructure person doesn't just think - "If you build it they will come."

Now of course the Q&A portion came up and I asked my question - "What is the future of education in the Internet Age? How do you envision the classroom of the future?"

I didn't exactly get the answer I was looking for. Burners-Lee answered that he learned best in an individualized, customized environment. That he would want the latest and fastest computer, a fast internet connection, a large monitor and huge speakers. That he would connect to other people around the world, but that learning didn't have to occur in the classroom. That last bit gave me hope, I don't think that the size monitor students have will make such a huge difference, but I do like that he is thinking of learning and the classroom outside of school walls. I was blown away by what happened next - Danny Weitzner asked me what a future classroom could look like. I responded with the best 60 sec elevator speech I have: (written much more eloquently than I actually said it)

Technology in the classroom should be ubiquitious, it should involve constant contact to the internet. That students do not need to be in a classroom to learn and that they should be making global connections. That project-based learning should be at the heart of the classroom - working on real-world problems and solutions. That our students may come up with the answers to problems that we have never been able to solve if we would give them the opportunity to do so.

At the end of the day - getting the nodding heads of the crowd and Vint Cert, just about made my day.

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