Will Education Ever Keep Up with Technology?

The pace of technological changes are undermining traditional schooling and are costing billions of dollars to deal with, say panelists at Tuesday’s day-long Middle Georgia Digital Economy Summit.

People are both driving the changes and needing more help because of the changes, panelists at the summit told a crowd of about 230 people.Mike Hall, director of information technology for the Bibb County school system, had an easy answer for how teachers can stay on top of technology.

“They’ll never catch up,” he said, suggesting veteran teachers can become facilitators of knowledge to help students find the information they need.

It won’t get easier once they’ve graduated, said Rebecca Lee, Central Georgia Technical College’s vice president for economic development.

“The need to skill, retool and reskill the workforce will never end,” she said.

Art Recesso, a Middle Georgia State College administrator, said policy makers are asking how to support younger people to learn with technology, while some students are already learning online. Educators have a mindset of hiring full-time people to work on campus all the time in expensive buildings, but a whole new network of education is being built, he said.

Such networks rely on Internet connections, of course. Company representatives on an infrastructure panel said people are putting always-increasing demands on computer networks that meld cellular, Wi-fi and wired connections.

Mike Skudin, vice president of access engineering for Windstream, said the demands on his company’s network increase about 50 percent a year. That means investments in the core of the network, but also locally, to homes and neighborhoods, panelists said.

Technology is also creating jobs. Brian Shield, vice president of information technology for the Boston Red Sox, lives in Georgia, and has a half-dozen technology operations in Georgia to help the Boston organization. Technology is helping the Red Sox connect better to their fans, such as helping them find the shortest lines for a restaurant. It’s also directly helping the team by wielding data, such as showing how David Ortiz almost completely stopped hitting to right field after a wrist injury.

“I always wanted to be part of the club. I thought it would be more on the field, but this is good,” Shield quipped.

Another discussion focused on crowdfunding, using websites to raise money for charities and entrepreneurs. Gene Wright, founder of the Georgia Crowdfunding Association, said churches have been using crowdfunding for years without actually calling it that. He said it’s better than raising capital through what he called the Three Fs: Family, friends and fools.

Ron Stebenne, who launched FundOurCommunity.com, said he’d worked to get new playground equipment through a school PTA or a new van for a church.

“I found out writing grants was painful. I’d rather get a root canal,” he said. “... And now we have a better way, and it’s faster.”

One panel focused on what’s called a makerspace. SparkMacon, one such effort, is being launched. Participants wanted to know how to get children involved, how to have makerspaces stay successful, and how to address questions of liability.

The conference was being discussed online with the Twitter hashtag #MidGADigital. The conference is tied into a Middle Georgia digital economy plan, which is scheduled for release at the end of the year.

In closing comments, Kennesaw State University student Travis Allen compared the current education system to the Titanic, an unwieldy ship that wasn’t maneuverable enough to avoid hitting an iceberg. Americans have been afraid of change and therefore afraid to learn, said Allen, who founded the iSchool Initiative, a nonprofit that teaches school systems how to use cell phones for education.

“I believe we need to go from a fear of “don’t change” to a fear of “what will happen if I don’t change?” Allen said.

©2014 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)

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