ThinkTank 2011: Making Connections

Last week Lenovo hosted ThinkTank 2011 at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, and while there was no predefined theme, one clearly emerged. Whether it was the keynote addresses, the sessions, the Evening Gala or just casual conversations, it was clear that making connections was a common theme for everybody who attended.

Technology is a right not a privilege for our students…Every child needs access to digital information – Salcito

For Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector Education for Microsoft, making connections means finding a way to bridge the gap for students without access to the internet. In his keynote, he stressed how Shape the Future is looking to ally private and public partnerships to bridge this divide.

Tenure is flawed. Teaching our children should be a privilege. - Rhee

On day two, Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst.org, argued for more connections between the evaluations of teachers and the performance of their students. Although highlighting the importance of identifying and developing teacher leaders and principal leaders to improve learning outcomes for our students, her talk underscored the contentious battle in education circles between measurement and creativity. This tension was mentioned by Salcito in his keynote as he cited the work of the people at ATC21S, where they are working on assessing and teaching 21st century skills.

No two kids, no two teachers, no two schools are alike. Standardization is a marketing tool. - Blake-Plock

Speaking from his experiences in the classroom, Shelly Blake-Plock concentrated on the urgency to enable our students to make connections in their learning. In particular he noted that schools which block social media are missing the importance of connected learning. He also stressed the need for new means of assessing our students.

The connections I was able to make through Think Tank have opened opportunites not just for myself as an educator, but for my students and school as well. - Katie Jiang, Kenan Fellow

As always it is a great opportunity when you bring people from around the world together to have conversations about how technology and education can work together to improve the future for our children. It is amazing to hear of the great work being done in so many schools across the globe. During the Education Gala at the Air and Space Museum, Lenovo recognized two special programs. At Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, a STEM focused public-charter school outside of Atlanta, they are exploring the “Infinite Possibilities” of learning when administrators, teachers, and communities commit to providing the ultimate in resources, and not just technology, for our students. Here the important message is connecting students to their learning by making it as authentic as possible within the STEM fields. Second, for the students involved in the Student Global Leadership Institute hosted by the Punahou School making global connections is imperative to addressing the environmental issues that threaten our planet. A year-long collaborative, this program, in its second year, will bring together students from five countries to collaborate on energy use worldwide. (Look for more details in a post next week). Having attended ThinkTank on previous occasions in my former role as a technology director this was my first opportunity to have a chance to see it from the inside. It is amazing how much time and energy goes into producing such an event, and I am grateful for all the people who work tirelessly to create a powerful opportunity for educators to connect and share. I am looking forward to another great ThinkTank next year, and I hope to see some of you there as well.