Opinion |

What Can We Learn From Andy Kessler’s Idiotic Speech

By Betsy Corcoran     Apr 19, 2013

What Can We Learn From Andy Kessler’s Idiotic Speech

Wednesday evening found me sitting in a ballroom at theluxurious Phoencian hotel, nervously wondering if our little company would berecognized at the GSV Education Innovation Summit. Preoccupied? A little self-absorbed? Guilty as charged. 

But part way through the dinner, I was jittery for entirelydifferent reason: the evening speaker, a former financial analyst andself-styled commentator, Andy Kessler, had launched into a diatribe againstteachers. What he had to offer was unadulterated stupidity. Looking at thefaces around me, I saw nothing but bewilderment and anger. The tweetsstarted. 

When Kessler had finished, there was a weak smattering ofapplause, signs of relief that he had finished. The evening's emcees took tothe stage, looking stunned. They offered a toast to teachers. The eveningrolled on.

I'm sorry the evening rolled on. Yes, EdSurge got a prize and I got to smile for the cameras--but I'm deeply sorry that I didn’tseize the moment, grab a microphone and challenge Kessler on the spot.

In the wake of that embarrassment, it's important to talkabout why Kessler's remarks were not just inappropriate--but in fact, should bea rallying cry for every participant in the education technology community.

Whatdo we know about learning? We know we learn from one another. We learn from greatteachers.

All the products in the world--from pencils to laptops toadaptive software or robots--can only support what is inherently the most humanprocess of all--teaching and learning. And teaching and learning areintrinsically rooted in caring, something that no silicon or software-basedproduct can even remotely deliver.

Teaching and learning start at home. As parents, we thenshare the joy--and the challenges--of educating our children with teachers,people who care deeply about our children.

In Newtown, Conn., a teacher died using her body to try to shield a childfrom a gunman.

On that day, teachers steeled themselves--held themselves together--to protectchildren, instructing them to cover their eyes and hold hands and walk throughcarnage. They inspired us. They taught us with their actions.

How dare Kessler hold teachers in disdain.  

The technology industry has long failed educators. It hadfailed for decades to produce tools that were usable in classrooms or schools.It instead sold to schools the same products that were designed for offices orfactories and shrugged when teachers complained that the tools were not designedto work for them.

All that jazz about "listening to customers"? Fordecades, the technology world turned a deaf ear to education. It's as if GM slapped wings on the side of a Cadillac and tried to convince United to use thevehicle to fly people from one place to another.

And now education is hot. It's the industry of the moment,the place to be.

The three-day conference in Phoenix was a wonder: 1,400people, the vast majority representing companies that are now eager to selltools to educators. Make no mistake, this was a conference aboutbusiness--about all the gears and mechanics of building companies, creatingproducts, selling to customers and so on.

Can the industry support teachers and learning? Possibly.Great products can do it. Cars with wings won't. Great products are built when developerslisten to their customers. Is the technology world listening to teachers? 

Because technology has made it possible to look up every recordedfact with a few clicks of a smart phone, you could even argue that kids in thefuture won't need to know many facts at all. They won't need all those bits ofstandardized knowledge that we try to test them on.

Our children will need to know how to learn. They will needto be inspired and to know how to be inspirational. And that means they willneed teachers.

It's up to the industry to prove that it's useful: up to theindustry to prove that it can build tools that fit different teachingenvironments, different styles.

Technologists--or aging former financial analysts--who tryto bully either teachers (or for that matter, parents) into thinking thattechnology is "the solution" are simply that: bullies. 

The rallying cry that Kessler's talk should inspire is this:technologists should commit themselves to working very, very hard to understandingtheir customers: teachers and students.

"You say you want a revolution?"  

So here it is: Industry has to change. Industry needs to listen deeply to its customers, to educators. So far, few companies have grasped the essence of education--that learning--great learning--comes from inspiration. It startswith curiosity and joy and wit. It starts with people. With teachers.

Listen to educators. Listen to our teachers. Build the toolsthey need--not the ones that are just easy for you to build.  

Opinion |

What Can We Learn From Andy Kessler’s Idiotic Speech

By Betsy Corcoran     Apr 19, 2013

What Can We Learn From Andy Kessler’s Idiotic Speech

Wednesday evening found me sitting in a ballroom at theluxurious Phoencian hotel, nervously wondering if our little company would berecognized at the GSV Education Innovation Summit. Preoccupied? A little self-absorbed? Guilty as charged. 

But part way through the dinner, I was jittery for entirelydifferent reason: the evening speaker, a former financial analyst andself-styled commentator, Andy Kessler, had launched into a diatribe againstteachers. What he had to offer was unadulterated stupidity. Looking at thefaces around me, I saw nothing but bewilderment and anger. The tweetsstarted. 

When Kessler had finished, there was a weak smattering ofapplause, signs of relief that he had finished. The evening's emcees took tothe stage, looking stunned. They offered a toast to teachers. The eveningrolled on.

I'm sorry the evening rolled on. Yes, EdSurge got a prize and I got to smile for the cameras--but I'm deeply sorry that I didn’tseize the moment, grab a microphone and challenge Kessler on the spot.

In the wake of that embarrassment, it's important to talkabout why Kessler's remarks were not just inappropriate--but in fact, should bea rallying cry for every participant in the education technology community.

Whatdo we know about learning? We know we learn from one another. We learn from greatteachers.

All the products in the world--from pencils to laptops toadaptive software or robots--can only support what is inherently the most humanprocess of all--teaching and learning. And teaching and learning areintrinsically rooted in caring, something that no silicon or software-basedproduct can even remotely deliver.

Teaching and learning start at home. As parents, we thenshare the joy--and the challenges--of educating our children with teachers,people who care deeply about our children.

In Newtown, Conn., a teacher died using her body to try to shield a childfrom a gunman.

On that day, teachers steeled themselves--held themselves together--to protectchildren, instructing them to cover their eyes and hold hands and walk throughcarnage. They inspired us. They taught us with their actions.

How dare Kessler hold teachers in disdain.  

The technology industry has long failed educators. It hadfailed for decades to produce tools that were usable in classrooms or schools.It instead sold to schools the same products that were designed for offices orfactories and shrugged when teachers complained that the tools were not designedto work for them.

All that jazz about "listening to customers"? Fordecades, the technology world turned a deaf ear to education. It's as if GM slapped wings on the side of a Cadillac and tried to convince United to use thevehicle to fly people from one place to another.

And now education is hot. It's the industry of the moment,the place to be.

The three-day conference in Phoenix was a wonder: 1,400people, the vast majority representing companies that are now eager to selltools to educators. Make no mistake, this was a conference aboutbusiness--about all the gears and mechanics of building companies, creatingproducts, selling to customers and so on.

Can the industry support teachers and learning? Possibly.Great products can do it. Cars with wings won't. Great products are built when developerslisten to their customers. Is the technology world listening to teachers? 

Because technology has made it possible to look up every recordedfact with a few clicks of a smart phone, you could even argue that kids in thefuture won't need to know many facts at all. They won't need all those bits ofstandardized knowledge that we try to test them on.

Our children will need to know how to learn. They will needto be inspired and to know how to be inspirational. And that means they willneed teachers.

It's up to the industry to prove that it's useful: up to theindustry to prove that it can build tools that fit different teachingenvironments, different styles.

Technologists--or aging former financial analysts--who tryto bully either teachers (or for that matter, parents) into thinking thattechnology is "the solution" are simply that: bullies. 

The rallying cry that Kessler's talk should inspire is this:technologists should commit themselves to working very, very hard to understandingtheir customers: teachers and students.

"You say you want a revolution?"  

So here it is: Industry has to change. Industry needs to listen deeply to its customers, to educators. So far, few companies have grasped the essence of education--that learning--great learning--comes from inspiration. It startswith curiosity and joy and wit. It starts with people. With teachers.

Listen to educators. Listen to our teachers. Build the toolsthey need--not the ones that are just easy for you to build.  

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