CEO of ISTE Offers Insight, Advice on Changing Field of Technology Education
Donald G. Knezek has been a classroom teacher for over 12 years, a technology coordinator, and now as the CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), he is helping to connect educators across the globe to the latest technological innovations for the classroom.
“Maybe ISTE is a bit misnamed,” he admits, “since the organization’s goal is to provide insight into learning effectiveness and effective schools. It so happens that technology is our favorite toy, our tool” to promote effective and relevant learning.
ISTE has grown to 20,000 members in 85 countries since its inception 33 years ago. Though most are from the United States, Knezek said that membership is rapidly growing overseas. ISTE is diverse not only because of the sheer number of countries its members hail from, but also because of the wide array of specialization they have. “You don’t transform education with just technology coordinators, or even with superintendents,” he said. The network created by these professionals benefits all members; they all have access not only to the vast amount of knowledge ISTE has procured over the years, but to the peer-to-peer sharing that takes place when they interact.
Five years ago, the organization worked to reach out to their “best and brightest,” as Knezek put it, and repackaged that information in the form of traditional books, issue papers, conference sessions and a few webinars. In an age where crowdsourcing and social media are commonplace, the members themselves are trusted sources of this information.
If asked what new devices are on the horizon, Knezek says it’s almost impossible to predict. Five years ago, he saw that mobile computing would become more compact and come down in price. Other than broad predictions, innovation happens too quickly to cast one’s gaze that far into the future. One thing is for certain, though: we are just seeing the beginning of this trend. Devices will be untethered, portable, and with high-resolution screens.
He’d recommend a high-end slate or tablet, like an Apple iPad, to educators or administrators looking to make the best purchases for their schools. “It’s a little bit of a guess,” he said. “We don’t have the pedagogy all figured out for that. But I can’t see recommending somebody go into hard-copy books. Those things change — they’re out of date so fast.”
The children growing up now, a generation of digital natives, expect their media to be interactive. “They want that click-through capability,” he said, for which traditional print media doesn’t cut the mustard.
Within a five-year window, he sees every student having a digital learning device. In many cases, the kids are already bringing these mobile devices into the classroom; the next hurdle is to open up the platform so students can access the school’s network. Ideally, he’d like to see schools, and districts, team up to purchase content resources, like full-text and primary-source databases that can be accessed anywhere.
While a district may not be able to purchase an iPad for every student, they may be able to supplement for those who can’t afford the devices, while also allowing students to use the devices they already own. He sees the free and reduced-price lunch model translating to free and reduced-price tech devices.
Content and knowledge today is not just in textbooks, Knezek said. It’s online, and in order to participate in the “real world” outside of school, they will need to be able to make sense of and use this information. #