Keynote Address: Tablet PCs Open an EMMIL


I recently learned of someone seeking a keynote speaker for an important technology in education conference. I subsequently began thinking about what I’d like to hear that speaker say.

First, I thought of the many educators I know who have offered keynote addresses, sometimes to a classroom of students at the beginning of a new school term, fewer to a parent-teacher or a union meeting, as well as some to a professional organization of peers or interested policy makers and journalists. The addresses I remember described student learning in schools and ways teachers showed students how to overcome risks of failure they faced to obtain these accomplishments. Kudos to all of you who offered these memorable addresses!

But these descriptions, with few exceptions, seems to beg for an important follow-up in today’s rapidly strenthening era of ubiquitious electronic communications, at least outside of schools.

As a result, second, I tried to clarify what follow-up might seem useful. It’s the “utility” qualification that causes a problem. It’s difficult to know what we don’t know without knowing something about the unknown’s hidding place, disguise or cloak. What do teachers not already know about our duties, rights, venues, resources, and behavior that we don’t already discuss, whether by fact or opinion?

Then, bingo, something reminded me of the juxtaposition of two facts: (1) most learning occurs and likely will continue to occur outside of schools, irrespective of how many hours of schooling a student attends; and (2) someone in the economic marketplace will likely figure out how to address this learning and tie it together, with or without teachers’ participation (for example, as Google and Microsoft developers have done for communicating information searches, in spite of teachers’ and librarians’ historic efforts).

I think of this as an open venue for innovative, venture teachers, a emerging mass market of independent learners (EMMIL). Tablet PCs, UMPCs, and other mobile PCs (as well as some smart phones and similar devices with less power) have opened this market for commercial development.

I want to hear descriptions of these developments and of how school teachers may use them without having to rely on boards of education authorizations.

How do teachers use mobile PC student learning outside of school to accelerate, complement, or in other ways link to authorized canons of learning, whether or not boards permit use of mobile PCs in schools?

Which commercial efforts seek teacher input in the design, development, testing, and distribution of their learning products?

What perks do students and teachers receive for participating? Teaching requires time, so how much time will a commercial venture buy from teachers?

How may an interested student or teacher apply for participation?

Yes, I listen for these kinds of things as teachers and others interested in education offer their keynotes.

What do you want to hear? (I ask, because some keynoters read this blog, and may find your comments useful as they prepare their speeches.)

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Robert Heiny
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in [I]The Encyclopedia of Education [/I](1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for [I]TuxReports[/I].com.