Google education guru: Classroom laptop bans make no sense

Google Education Evangelist calls for cultural change at universities to embrace technology in helping students learn

Google education guru: Classroom laptop bans make no sense
Bob Brown/NetworkWorld

Google Chief Education Evangelist Jaime Casap’s oldest daughter scored a full ride to college on a swimming scholarship but she only lasted one semester out of frustration with the lack of technology at the school. She had been used to taking notes on her laptop in high school, for example, but was told she couldn’t bring her device into the college classroom. 

“I’ve been in education for 10 years and I remember talking to CIOs at universities saying technology is not a differentiator for their schools…that students don’t pick schools based on their technology,” says Casap, an adjunct lecturer in innovation at Arizona State University, where his daughter wound up attending and graduating from. “I can tell you that’s starting to change.”

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Casap, speaking at the Campus Technology 2016 conference in Boston this week, served up the  anecdote about his daughter to shed light on what he sees as a need for higher education institutions to change how they use technology. Casap, who dealt directly with universities early on in his Google career, now works mainly in the K-12 field, or what he described as conference attendees’ “future customers.” 

Casap’s style of relaying his company’s vision of the future of learning in higher education is personal. Those of us who caught his my-life-is-an-open-book talk at the conference learned that Casap grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y. (“not the Hell’s Kitchen from today where you would want to live…”), that his mother escaped from poverty and an oppressive regime in Argentina, that he has three kids whose ages range from 2 to 23 (“I can only handle one kid at a time”), and that he has spoken into “the most powerful microphone in the world” to young students at the White House. His experiences have given him a great appreciation for the value of higher education, but also unique ideas of how to improve it. Among them: working to open this month the unconventional Phoenix Coding Academy to 9th graders interested in a tech-infused education.

Casap emphasized that “I’m not on the college is broken bandwagon, I’m not on the education is broken bandwagon, I’m not on the teachers are terrible bandwagon,” pointing out that so many people from around the world want to come to America to go to college. 

“It’s not that education is necessarily broken, it’s that the world has changed,” he said. “Our job is to do what our forefathers in K-12 and college did 100 years ago and ask what’s the right model to build to focus on the [globally-connected, knowledge-based] economy that we face.”

While much has been made of the potential of technology, from TV to MOOCs, to boost education in the past, Casap said the speed at which technology is changing our lives now makes it imperative for universities to come up with ways to embrace and exploit it in the name of student success.

The Google evangelist said that we are armed with plenty of knowledge now about what sort of instructional models work, and don’t, for different groups of people. “We don’t even need to build anything new – we can just go back 5 years to some of the

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