At a celebration of the First Annual Digital Learning Day, students from East Austin College Prep invited community members to learn more about their game design and programming skills. The students take a class called Globaloria, where they use social media to invent, build and share games. All students at this school have Globaloria class every day.
State Representative Mark Strama attended the event. Rep. Strama is pictured, to the right, playing and learning more about games made by Michael, an eighth grade Globaloria student.
I got really interested in technology, professionally, in the late 1990s, which was a long time ago in technology time.
At the time, I worked for MTV, and I was running a national voter registration campaign for MTV called Rock the Vote. And what we did was register people to vote at rock concerts and stuff like that. It was very labor intensive- everywhere we wanted to register voters go, we had to send volunteers and table, and pens and it was cumbersome. It was logistically difficult.
Around that time, the Internet became a big deal. And I figured out that you could eliminate all that extra work just by putting a voter registration website on the Internet. So we created the first place on the Internet where you could fill out a voter registration form electronically on your computer, without having to ship out all of those papers and all those volunteers and all that extra effort and labor.
In 2000, 700,000 Americans used that technology to register themselves to vote, to be able to participate in elections. The old-fashioned way of registering voters, it would have been impossible to register 700, 000 people to vote. It would have been impossible. It would have just taken too much paper, too many people, and too much work. All we did was write some code – Michael just like you showed me – we wrote a little bit of code, we put it up on a server, we published it to the Internet, and 700,000 people used it. We didn't have to lift another finger. That is incredibly powerful technology.
Technology like that has changed everything about society in the 15 years since I first started working with it. Almost everything we do is different, except in the education system. For the most part, we still do things the way we have for over 100 years. In the education system, we are still using paper, we are still very labor-intensive, we are still very old fashioned about it.
Which is why I am very excited to see the way you guys are learning here. Not just because you are using technology, but because technology is enabling you to work in groups, to develop problem-solving skills, and to do the things that in the 21st century work force you really actually need to know how to do. Things that don’t get measured on the TAKS test, or the STAR test, or whatever test. Things that are really difficult to measure, but that matter a lot. The skills you’re using here matter a lot. So in the Legislature, one area where we’ve made some progress: we let schools use the money they used to only be allowed to use on text books, on any instructional materials. Computers, software, iPads, whatever is useful to give you the information and the tools you need to learn.
I think it’s super-cool that you guys are not just using computers to learn how to surf the Internet, you’re learning how to CREATE the Internet. That’s really cool. And I really believe that in ten years, if you keep with it and you finish your education, you will have enormous opportunities. Because all of these grown-ups around you don’t know the first thing about how to do what you’re doing. Michael explained it to me ten or fifteen times; I still don’t understand. It’s alien to us; it’s foreign to us.
When you guys are twenty-five years old, you’re going to be putting us out to pasture. Because you’re going to know so much about the essential things people have to know in the workforce. So stick with it. You guys have real talent. You’re better at this than we are. It’s cool when young people know more than the old people in the room.
I guarantee to you, the opportunities that will be available to you from working with this kind of technology are limitless. So thank you for your hard work on this and thank you again for inviting me.