David Thornburg | Expert on Educational Trends and STEM

David Thornburg

Expert on Educational Trends and STEM

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Chicago, Illinois, United States

David Thornburg

David is the Founder and Director of Global Operations for the Thornburg Center and co-founder of the Thornburg Center for Space Exploration. He is an award-winning futurist, author and consultant whose clients range across the public and private sector throughout the planet. His razor-sharp focus on the fast-paced world of modern computing and communication media, project-based learning, 21st century skills, and open source software has placed him in constant demand as a keynote speaker and workshop leader for schools, foundations, and governments.

As a child of the October Sky, David was strongly influenced by the early work in space exploration, and was the beneficiary of changes in the US educational system that promoted and developed interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills. He now is engaged in helping a new generation of students and their teachers infuse these skills through the mechanism of inquiry-driven project-based learning.

His educational philosophy is based on the idea that students learn best when they are constructors of their own knowledge. He also believes that students who are taught in ways that honor their learning styles and dominant intelligences retain the native engagement with learning with which they entered school. A central theme of his work is that we must prepare students for their future, not for our past.

Prior to his involvement with education and public speaking, David was a Principal Scientist at the famed Xerox Palo Alto Research Center where, among other things, he invented some technologies in the 1970's that are still in use today. His degrees and experience cut a wide path through science and engineering, and he has taught and designed graduate programs for Universities ranging from Stanford to the University of Sao Paulo, to Walden University where he currently teaches and advises PhD candidates in the field of educational technology.

David splits his time between the United States and Brazil. His long-term work in Brazil also is focused on education, and he has spoken at conferences and consulted for firms and educational institutions throughout that country.

Some of his recent presentation topics include:

Playing With the Future: Exploring Education for the 22nd Century
Algebraic Fluency: Sometimes it is Rocket Science
Constructionism, Duct Tape, and Preparing Children for Their Future
The Role and Opportunity of Open Source Software in Education
The Network is the Computer: The Changing Direction of Classroom Computing
Sharing Stories: International K-12 Student STEM Projects (with Norma Thornburg)
From Cyberspace to Augmented Reality:
Education's Ongoing Journey on the Internet

David Thornburg
Featured Keynote Programs

Forget About The Future, It's The Present That Concerns Me
Preparing Students For Today's World

For many years the presenter has shared visions of the future with educators around the world in the hope that this would influence educational practice. This was a mistake. We don't need to prepare students just for some unseen and basically unknowable future, we need to prepare them for the world as it exists today.

With a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), this dynamic presentation eschews the future in favor of a pragmatic view of today's world. A world where a new class of migrant workers spans the globe working on stimulating high-tech projects on a global scale. A world where cross-disciplinary understanding is needed for success; where 87% of teens have access to primary source materials relating to their studies; where vulcanologists study volcanic eruptions on a moon of Jupiter; where national borders are transparent; where biological species from other planets are put under the microscope; where new microscopic machines are grown, not manufactured. This is not fiction, not a dream, not the future, just reality – as it exists today.

By looking at the skills needed to thrive in today's very real world, ideas relating to curriculum and pedagogy naturally emerge. Forget pie-in-the sky predictions. This presentation explores the world in a way that has implications for every educator, educational leader, and student.

Presentation type: keynote or breakout session
Audience: Educators, educational leaders & students
Duration: 1 hour
Handouts: online

If The World is Flat, Why is My Head Spinning? Education and skills for life in a global economy.

Every one of us has a vested interest in making sure our own children are prepared for life in a world unlike that in which we grew up. This message, shared by the presenter for years, has taken on new urgency as many of his predictions have now come true. This talk expands on Dr. Thornburg's earlier work to explore why the world has changed in ways that practically require our youth to prepare for careers that span the globe, no matter where they may be physically located. The world has not gone flat, it has shrunk to the size of a pin-head where anywhere/anytime access to the benefits of the creative process go a long way to insuring financial independence for today's workers. Listen as we explore trends for the coming years and the role modern technology will play as our world continues to shrink and economic opportunities are found in the empires of the mind, and are less connected to physical places.

Presentation type: keynote
Audience: educators, educational leaders, parents & government officials
Duration: 1 hour
Handouts: online

Beyond the Computer
Emerging Trends in Technology

The face of personal computing is changing rapidly in revolutionary, not evolutionary, ways. This dynamic presentation looks at a few developments that are clearly emerging trends in technology, including:

From running hot to going green: Reduced power consumption
From television to print: Better displays
From fragility to robustness: The Death of the Hard Drive
From start by waiting to can't wait to start! Instant “on” (nearly)
From logging on to showing up: Seamless broadband access
From me and the web to us together: Transparent collaboration and mesh networks
From point and click to wave and pinch: WII, Microsoft Surface etc.
From waiting to exploring: Supercomputer on a chip
From wired to wireless: Growth of rapid deployment infrastructure (wireless vs. digging up streets)
From computers that communicate to communicators that compute: Open cell phone devices (mobile communication devices) Wireless now exceeds wired phones worldwide!

Presentation type: 1 hour keynote or breakout session
Audience: all
Handouts: Resource list

Campfires in Cyberspace
Learning in the Telematic Age

This new presentation updates the presenter's perspectives on four primordial cross-cultural learning environments (campfires, watering holes, caves, and life) as embodied in modern tools for learning and communication. The goal is to make sense of the diverse and rapidly changing landscape of computer-based tools increasingly found in the hands of students. By looking at everything from Moodle to MySpace, and from cell phones to iPods, through the lens of modern learning, the true and growing power of technology as a tool for education can be discerned and developed.

Topics include:
 The four learning spaces in action
 How these spaces map to modern pedagogy
 The role of student hardware; from cell phones to iPods and beyond.
 Why one-to-one computing matters
 On-line domains for learning
 Mapping the future of technology's role in education at virtually all grade levels

As today's storytelling environment moves from the glow of the campfire to the glow of a computer screen, this presentation provides a solid framework for all educators seeking to expand the power of learning in support of all students.

Presentation type: 1 hour keynote or breakout session
Audience: all
Handouts: on-line resource list
Requirements: Broadband Internet access (optional)

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David Thornburg

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