These are my notes from Bruce Dixon’s session, “Emerging Trends that Redefine Education in the 21st Century,” at the 21st Century Learning @ Hong Kong Conference on 18 September 2009. Bruce is the executive director of the Anywhere, Anytime Learning Foundation (AALF.) MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

The official description of this session is:

As we head towards the end of the first decade of the new millennium, high expectations have been set for schools to meet the needs of the continually discussed 21st century learner. To give some perspective on this, it is worthwhile to explore the trends that are emerging, that will leverage technology and that have the “potential” to genuinely transform education in substantial, meaningful and sustainable ways. Bruce’s presentation will present a context and framework within which teachers and school leaders can re-imagine what technology might make possible for schools in the future.

Are we ready for this?

I’m probably going to ask more questions than I’ll answer. The 1:1 space has been with us for the past 20 years, for the past 15 years I’ve been fortunate to work with many schools around the world working to build transformed learning environments using digital technologies.

I’ve traveled to 40 countries in the past 4 years. This has provided me with time to reflect – in those reflections hopefully I get to ask myself more questions about what I’ve just seen.

framework “21 steps” we’ve rolled out via AALF as an effective implementation strategy for laptops in schools

Plug for AALF: no cost, it’s a meeting place for those implementing 1:1 or considering 1:1
– the fact that all computers are moving to having their own computer is not as significant as what comes next
– we are working (on research page) to build a body of research focused on 1:1 learning
– links to 60-70 studies around the world looking at effective

What does this make possible?
– where are we handling with this?
– we don’t want to get distracted by many of the

slide of kids with laptops (see Will Richardson’s post, “If Every Student Had a Computer”)

What if every child has a laptop

about a quarter of our attendees here are principals

when you say you’re going 1:1, 2 main responses by admins
1- 1 group says learning will be transformed when we give kids laptops
2- another group says, when we give kids laptops, we can get on with what we’ve been doing

That is truly where most people sit, many of us are naive and think simply giving students access to these devices

to have NOTHING happen you have to work pretty hard at it, but it is possible
– generally empowering students to have voice WILL lead to change

we have to be very conscious of these perspectives, because they can really distract us

outcomes are pretty simple
– where we teach must change
– when we teach must change
– what we teach must change
– how we teach must change

“we have an obligation to make this happen, and to transform schools” – by regional director in Australia
– if we start with that premise we’re in a good space
– need to talk about the nature of that change

Levy and Murname: How the demand for skills has changed
– I spend a lot of time talking about this future of our kids, the students being fully functioning
– OECD statistics, from preso in Jan 2009 (Andreas and PISA)
– shift in jobs when our kids will leave schools
– in just 40 years, there has been a dramatic shift in the number of jobs, the type of employment, that will be available to our young people when they leave work

drop off in routine manual work
drop off in nonroute manual work
also drop in routine cognitive work (those are all easy to digitize and outsource)

job skills available: nonroutine analytic, and nonroutine interactive

Example: Advertisement for “Queensland’s tourism department offers ‘the best job in the world'”
– Top 50 short-list announced
– Queensland tourist ad
– how can you differentiate yourself to get people to come to your state for tourism
36,500 thousand people applied with a two minute video
Queensland’s tourism department offers ‘the best job in the world …

backfill of this idea with my niece: she had a creative/art background, not a technology/computer background
– the idea of how they did this and followthrough is the sort of skill sets we have to build in young people

Have to better articulate what we mean by transformation
– it doesn’t mean doubling the length of your lessons! (some people start there)
– what does transformation look like to you?

some areas in North England, when they got their share of pounds to rebuild their schools, they are not rebuilding schools: they are building community learning centers
– they had so much disenfranchised students in school, they had to rethink their entire concept of schools

2nd question: what is your role in making that happen
– that is not just someone else’s job
– we’ve all got a role to play in this

1:1 took off because a lot of people said: I can make this happen

Engage in a conversation

Seymour Papert question: “The question isn’t which is right, it is why we haven’t had so much conversation about the questions”

How well do we understand virtual pedagogies
– photo of 1929: lady sitting on “pedal radio” – first ‘virtual school’ in Australia
– I don’t think we know much about virtual pedagogy yet

underneath it all, when we talk about virtual learning, we see very little people thinking creatively
– just like people pointing a camera at a stage and calling it a movie (AS BRUCE REFERENCES, THAT IS WHAT WE DID AT THE DAWN OF THE MOTION PICTURE ERA)

Access at home vs school
– idea about whether we use computers at school or home has changed dramatically
– we didn’t pay as much attention to time it took and what we provided

In too many of our schools, the technology emperor has no clothes!
– politicians and journalists around the world, who ofteh (unfortunately) define and drive the education debate, focused on misleading things like student to computer ratios

Research (Christensen and other) say actual stats on use of
– when Australia had 1:5 ratio about 5-7 years ago, the survey showed across the whole of our country 59% of kids spent less than 59 minutes in front of a computer each week at school
– that was a model that wasn’t working

Seymour and many others content: as long as we view computers as a SHARED resource, we were/are never going to leverage the power of computing


Intel diagram showing learning environments

OLPC and Intel: recognized we were not addressing the needs of the majority of the developing
– now we have 1 million students around the world with computers in 1:1 environments
– does OLPC have problems, of course!
– consider the impact a computer can have in the hands of YOUR kids, consider what it means for students and teachers in the developing world

Intel is involved in 1:1 programs in over 60 countries around the world
– some people say: you should spend that money on books or food
– really? is that what their future is built on?

There are many key drivers for 1:1
– laying down an economic foundation for future growth
– big ones: unlocking the possibility of personalized learning, and expanded pedagogical opportunities


Christensen: notion of technology helping us realize the dream of personalizing learning for every student

quick history on what we used to do
– many of us used to say, “computers should be used in schools more”
– schools gave courses on Microsoft Office, but teachers went back to the classroom and there weren’t computers there
– and students didn’t have computers either

If you don’t take away anything else from this session, remember one thing: If you can go to your fellows in your school / faculty / colleagues, share stories about how when technology is ubiquitously available it increases your pedagogical capacity


Keep your eye on the ball
– Article: “Governor terminates textbooks for schools”
– someone forgot to tell Arnold that kids will need a computer to access those online textbooks
– hundreds of millions of dollars now being invested by publishers in online textbooks now, who are NOT invested in learning transformation

most of those approved digital textbooks in CA are just digital with pictures and a few links
– not a big change

in other places, we DO have educators rethinking what a textbook actually means and is

Article: “Laptops Win Over the Skeptics, Even in Maine”
– this started with Seymour Papert’s vision and Alan Kay, vision in Maine
– what this can engage young people in doing

OLPC story of Uruguay
– Portugal: has Prime Minister whose thinking has profoundly transformed, wanting to build a knowledge economy
– fundamental part of that is provision of laptops to students in secondary and primary school (Intel Classmate in primary)
– also broadband wireless everyone in the country

This Headline from NYT: “Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops”
– why?
– “laptops got into the way because they did not fit into lesson plans”
– “it’s less clear if laptops have improved standardized test scores”

successful 1:1 student laptop implementation: 21 steps framework

Getting laptops is just giving every kid a uniform and a bat and ball

Ratio of students to computers in Australia
– finally Australian government has followed the lead of countries like Uruguay and Portugal

Some people will say kids have computers at home and kids have memory sticks
– my question: where is the keyboard attached to the memory stick at school

What will ubiquitous computing enable in your school?

I always use this slide about Papert
– back in 1968, Alan Kay and Papert did this drawing
“More and more I was thinking fo the computer not just as hardware and software but as a medium through which you could communicate important things.”
– “… an instrument whose music is ideas.” (I have this quotation on my wall)

More quotes from Kay and Hillis “The Pattern on the Stone” i 1998
– “an imagination machine”

Notions of equity: financial, pedagogy, implementation

think about the 90% of teachers back in your school who are NOT here today
– our responsibility is to do something about this, to take action

pedagogical equity
– 30 years ago there may not have been many differences between teachers and their pedagogy
– think about the things we are learning and seeing in this conference, in the flat classroom project
– key is to improve our pedagogical capacity, to enable students to get more complex ideas that they would not be able to get otherwise

A tech rich learning environment can
– offer almost unlimited opportunities to significantly address learner diversity
– promote new dimensions of pedagogical innovation
– give us a platform to better understand teaching effectiveness and leverage what personalization offers learners
– challenge us to look for more appropriate and effective means of assessment…

Notions of accountability for this should not scare us
– accountability scares us
– if we don’t face up to it, we end up with dopey stuff like NCLB
– I don’t know about you, but I was proud of the things I’m doing in the classroom
– the more transparency we bring into the classroom, the more the public will listen to use as educators (instead of politicians and journalists) and support us in our work
– ultimately we want to make us accountable: accountable to the kids

Finishing ideas: the teacher in a contemporary classroom understands (from Michael ____)
– the more powerful technology becomes the more indispensable good teachers are (unequivocally: there has never been a more exciting time to be a teacher)
– that learners must construct their own meaning….

Gary Stager quote: “Any teacher who thinks they can be replaced by a computer probably should be.”

Bruce’s take on the technology adoption cycle
– groups are: The adventurers in the leading edge
– the “unwise” are the laggards:
– with technology comfort level
– the transfomers: what’s possible

those transformers need YOU, they need coaches, to see what this technology makes possible
– how we can engage kids in more complex ideas, that gets the teachers on board

“the unwise” pay a lot of attention to the “transformers” in the middle

Remember the words of George Thomas Scharffenberger in 2004
– technology is inert: whether it transforms or subverts is entirely up to you

Papert in 1998: “My goal in life is to find ways in which children can use technology as a constructive medium to do things they could not do before: to do things at a level of complexity that was not previously accessible to children.”

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One Response to Emerging Trends that Redefine Education in the 21st Century by Bruce Dixon

  1. Gary Stager says:

    Thanks to Bruce Dixon for mentioning me.

    However, the actual quote is “Any teacher who thinks they can be replaced by a computer probably should be.” It’s not original. I can’t remember who I cribbed the line from.

    This is but one problem with live-blogging. It’s a big game of “telephone” wrapped up in a feeling of altruism.

    Anyone interested in really hearing/watching me might start at

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