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Malcolm Gladwell's Education Connection?

There's only a couple of days left before thousands of ed-tech experts, administrators, and industry officials (13,000 last year!) converge on Washington to attend the 2009 National Educational Computing Conference. Of course, several of us from Education Week and Digital Directions will be on-site covering the conference with stories, blog posts, tweets, videos, and photos. Stay tuned to the Digital Education blog for the latest coverage of the conference. Or follow us on Twitter @digidirections.

Lots of high-profile ed-tech folks will be there, including Chris Dede, Elliot Soloway, Susan Patrick, and ... Malcolm Gladwell? Aside from being an internationally famous author, I'm not sure what his connection is to education. And yet, he's the one delivering the opening keynote at the event. The NECC Web site explains it this way: "As part of ISTE's three-keynote series on digital citizenship, Gladwell will deliver his unique perspective on the ways that intentional practice today influences expert-development of the future." That seems somewhat jargon-heavy, and I'm not really sure what to expect.

At least the closing keynote will be delivered by an educator. Erin Gruwell, the founder of Freedom Writers, an organization that encourages underprivileged students to write, certainly has a stronger tie to education, although her connection to ed-tech is a little unclear.

Regardless, I have to admit I'm excited to hear what both Gladwell and Gruwell have to say. We'll be blogging about both right here at Digital Education, so stay tuned.

Photo by Brooke Williams/Little, Brown and Company/AP-File


I hope that you have read Mr. Gladwell's books. I find Blink, The Tipping Point and Outiers to be very relevant to learning and teaching. Gruwell does wonderful work but she finds imaginative solutions "inside the box" which I am not sure will survive. Gladwell offers ideas from the outside and from a wider context than inside the field.

My complaint is that the keynotes will not be webcast live as they were for instance at the NECC in Phildelphia. I still watch the David Weinberger keynote whenever I need a shot in the arm.


I'm willing to take inspiration and deep thinking from anyone. In fact, I've found some the most insightful comments on a field come from those outside that field.

I agree with Norman C. that Malcolm Gladwell would bring an interesting perspective to the NECC. Gladwell wrote a piece in The New Yorker in December 2008, related to identifying effective teachers (mentioning Robert Pianta's research). Read it here:

In typical Gladwell fashion, he ties together a number of seemingly disparate themes (how to predict if a college quarterback will succeed in the NFL, giving financial advice, and identifying a future effective teacher) in an interesting way. I think educators will enjoy hearing him.

No webcast? I hope NECC changes this decision. I'm not able to attend NECC but would love to hear what Gladwell and the other speakers have to say.

Yes--I agree--I think expanding the context really breathes new life into old ideas---and helps to see the wider interconnections and causal relationships. As for intention,I wonder what happen without it? I would love to hear what Gladwell has to say.

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