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'Time for a Revolution'

"We're way past reform," said Jeff Piontek, the head of school at the Hawaii Technology Academy, in his closing keynote speech at the ISTE conference in Denver. "It's time for a revolution in education."

The former science educator and head of the state-sponsored charter school spoke to a packed auditorium on the final day of the conference about the importance of following your passion and infusing creativity and innovation into the STEM subjects. In fact, he recommended changing the well-known acronym, which refers to the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math, to STEAM, the extra "A" referring to the arts, an idea that elicited applause from the audience.

"It's creativity and innovation that's going to drive our economy," said Piontek, criticizing the standardized tests that he said stifled learning and creativity in public schools across the country. Standardized tests "are not a true gauge of student learning," he said. "We need to think about how we actually assess students on a larger scale."

Educators must give students the technological tools and resources they need to become competent global citizens, said Piontek. Teachers must learn to guide students with content and curriculum and trust that the students will know how to use the tools, he said. "When you're in a classroom, you have to know that the culture you're teaching is not your own," he said, referring to the gap between those who have grown up using digital tools and those who have not.

Piontek's comments echoed most of the panelists, speakers, researchers, and educators I heard from here at the ISTE conference this year. Rethinking the way students are taught and assessed, using technology to support learning, and supplying students with the tools and resources they need to learn through real-world projects is a sentiment that prevailed throughout the conference, and one that Piontek encouraged educators to take with them when they return to their schools throughout the country and the world.

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