More Than Just The Box

Today has been a busy day at ISTE 2011 for me. I did some time at the booth and then went to a couple of sessions. Pat Yongpradit talked about what he is doing with XNA in his school. He’s seeing some great involvement from and retention of young women in his schools because of an after school computer club for girls. These girls are making games that are relevant to them. Bryan Baker (with a small assist from me) talked about programming for Kinect for Windows. The SDK came out late but already Bryan is developing curriculum and projects for the Kinect for next school year. He is planning on some integration across the curriculum by having his students create simulations that relate to other subject topics. Very exciting stuff especially as he demonstrated some of his sample projects with a volunteer from the audience. Later I attended an event from Dell offsite where Mike Rodrigues, global VP for education, gave a short talk about what Dell is doing.

Much of his talk was about specific partnerships Dell is involved in with different school districts. He seems a lot more interested in fitting solutions to district needs rather than asking districts to fit what they do into a pre-packaged solution. But one of the things he said that really resonated with me is that “it is not all about the box. It is about all the things around the box.” Surprising to hear from a company that is best known for selling that box in some ways but it really makes sense. All too often in the history of computers in schools the “answer” is to toss some boxes into classrooms and expect magic to happen. Generally the magic doesn’t happen and the box – the computer – gets the blame.

It doesn’t matter if you are talking teaching computer science, computer applications or planning the infrastructure for a school or a district buying the hardware is only a small piece of the process. So it is nice that Dell recognizes that.

Later in the day I attended a birds of a feather around the subject of certifications, in computer science and information technology, for high schools. Of course the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certifications was part of the discussion. I really od believe that there entry level certifications are a good start for a lot of students. And not just students in career/technical schools (though these are an obvious place for them) but for all sorts of students who want to demonstrate what they know in a standard way.

In between things (not that there was a lot of in between) I has some good hallway discussions. Tomorrow I hope to hang around the Blogger Café a little bit. But honestly there is more to be done at ISTE than anyone could possibly do.

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