Silicon Valley: Transforming learning through technology and teaching
You might not think that a panel discussion on education technology with the Secretary of Education and the Chairman of the FCC would excite an auditorium of high school students, but at Wednesday morning’s tour kick-off event at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, Calif., the air was electric.
Alejandro Castro Pena, an honors student who recently moved to the U.S. from El Salvador, previewed his video “We Are The Future.” Castro Pena and fellow students made the video in conjunction with the John Lennon Educational bus, and with a little help from a few members of the Black Eyed Peas. The video, which included clips of Arne autotuned, brought down the house. Watch the entire event here.
Castro Pena introduced Secretary Duncan, who then moderated a panel discussion on education technology with Khan Academy founder Sal Khan, English teacher Catlin Tucker, and co-founder of Coursera Andrew Ng. One of Tucker’s statements really stuck out to me. She said, “I don’t think tech is going to save education. I think great teachers with great tools are going to save education.” Arne often echoes this when he says that all the technology in the world won’t replace a great teacher at the front of the class.
Sacramento: Leading reform at the local level
Our second stop of the day took us to the Sacramento Public Library, where Secretary Duncan participated in a discussion with dozens of California mayors and school superintendents.
Arne spoke about the importance of parental engagement and lamented that historically the Department of Education has “underinvested in parental engagement.” He noted that ED’s Promise Neighborhoods program is one step toward a greater commitment, but he also said that he has requested for Congress to double the amount of money for building the capacity of parents to engage in their children’s education. Rather than dictate family engagement programs from Washington, Arne wants the Department to find programs that work at the local level and provide them with the resources they need to flourish.
Reno: Sending more Hispanic students to college
After making our way through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Arne joined students and community members for a town hall on college affordability and issues impacting Hispanic Americans at the University of Nevada Reno.
The panel, moderated by Univision anchor Anya Arechiga, also included Associate Vice Provost of the University of Washington Luis Fraga, a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The questions for Duncan and Fraga were diverse, ranging from career and technical training to how to pay for college. Some of the highlights included Duncan reiterating that “we desperately need to pass the DREAM Act” and that education is the best investment our country can make. He also gave a shout out to ED’s new website for accessing financial aid for college: studentaid.gov.
After a great first day on the road, I could go on, but I’ll let the Secretary wrap up the day. Enjoy this video as the Education Drives America bus keeps rolling across the country:
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital engagement and is blogging and tweeting his way from coast-to-coast during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.