Arrived at NECC in time for the morning keynote debate about whether or not bricks and mortar schools impede learning. It wasn’t a great question to begin with, because I don’t think anyone really thinks it’s an either or, either online or face to face, but a combination that’s going to emerge from this. I wish the focus had been more on the topic of learning and what we focus our learning efforts with kids on; that’s the real shift we need to explore. Gary Stager was a last minute addition to the panel, and I agreed with much of what he said, especially the idea that we should do what can be done at home at home and that schools should be places where we focus on projects and problems and arts and service. I find myself being more and more drawn to that vision. The debate had its moments, two great student members of the panel, and I’ll link this to the archive when it’s posted.

But here was the real kicker. Brad Jupp who is a high level adviser to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was also on the panel, arguing that we should keep physical space schools. He pretty much articulated a vision that didn’t hold much in terms of any significant change. But if you want a snapshot of what the problem is in terms of moving any of the conversation forward, here you go: An administrator in the audience directed a question at Jupp that basically asked “How am I supposed to use things like blogs and wikis in my classrooms when I have the threat of lawsuits from parents and others hanging over me all the time?” In a phrase, his answer was “Lawsuits? What lawsuits?” He did go into somewhat of a response about a teacher using Facebook and being careful, but it was painfully obvious that he was basically oblivious to the on the ground concerns and fears that these new technologies have created. Not a clue.

I’m not feeling any better about the ability to move any of this to a different space with that apparent lack of understanding from the folks at the top.