April 29th, 2008

YottaByte Group: The future for Oregon tech education


When I first sat down with Derek Brandow and Jason Gallic of Eugene-based (but hopefully making the move to Portland) YottaByte Group, I didn’t know quite what to expect. And by the time we said our good-byes, I was shaking my head in disbelief.

And since that time I’ve been struggling to get this post written. Struggling because of that—literally jaw-dropping—disbelief.

Disbelief that something so obviously right, necessary, and critical for our community—and the future of our communities—hasn’t already been done. Disbelief that these guys would have any difficulty finding funding for something that promises to change the future of technology in Oregon and, likely, the rest of the world. Disbelief that educators everywhere wouldn’t be clamoring for this model to help students.

To put it bluntly, the conversation was quite the “Well… duh!” moment for me. Why wouldn’t everyone be behind this thing? Why aren’t we doing this already?

So what’s this exceedingly obvious—yet heretofore untapped—idea that makes YotttaByte such a winner in my book?

Well, to put it simply, they’re rethinking the educational system—especially as it relates to innovation and technology—in today’s K-12 environment:

The current model for both public and private schools has not changed significantly in the last 100 years. The longevity of that model is a testament to the greatness of its 20th century design. However, the design is beginning to crumble….

The time is now to create the schools we are going to need for our children to thrive (not merely survive) in the 21st century.

And the YottaByte team has a compelling vision for how this might occur.

From my admittedly ignorant standpoint, I see it falling somewhere between the concept of alternative schools and the traditional gifted and talented programs.

Like an art student focusing on painting or a musical student focusing on an instrument, YottaByte students would work in an environment that allows them to focus on technology and innovation.

Once up and running, YottaByte promises to create intensive and collaborative schools that help these students exercise their artistic talent—in this case an artistic talent that manifests itself as problem solving and technical discovery—with students around the world.

In their own words, YottaByte will be:

Preparing children for collaboration, innovation, and contribution in a global marketplace.

Hearing them tell it, it’s a compelling vision for how technology could—and arguably should—be approached if today’s students are to get the kind of technical grounding they’re going to need to manage the sheer bulk of digital information and power at their feet. And to wring every last ounce of potential out of the collaborative technologies we have at our disposal. To get the right people fixing the problems. Not just the people who happen to be there.

It’s a pretty powerful concept, and one in whose Kool-Aid I have deeply imbibed. Because what YottaByte is proposing is not only a brilliant idea, it’s just the right thing to do.

I’m looking forward to continuing my coverage of YottaByte’s progress as they continue pitching this story and building out their proof-of-concept schools.

It’s going to be an interesting ride.

For more information on the YottaByte Group and their vision for technology education, visit YottaByte Group.

Background that may help (or may not)

11 Responses to “YottaByte Group: The future for Oregon tech education”

  1. Les Tipton says:

    It sounded to me like babble, you gave me no information, Sooooo try again and tell me something!!!!

  2. Rick Turoczy says:

    I’m sorry, Les. That part was buried right here:

    “From my admittedly ignorant standpoint, I see it falling somewhere between the concept of alternative schools and the traditional gifted and talented programs.

    “Like an art student focusing on painting or a musical student focusing on an instrument, YottaByte students would work in an environment that allows them to focus on technology and innovation.

    “Once up and running, YottaByte promises to create intensive and collaborative schools that help these students exercise their artistic talent—in this case an artistic talent that manifests itself as problem solving and technical discovery—with students around the world.”

  3. Linda George says:

    I am psyched and excited for your students. I think this is a concept, indeed a new paradigm, and I am rooting for everyone’s success!
    Pave the way!!

  4. Mike Vogel says:

    I’m a total tech enthusiast and a parent. Technology and elementary education don’t really go together. Kids need to learn fundamentals and how to reason and troubleshoot before they can apply those skills to technology.

    With the speed of innovation, I can’t imagine most technology used by a first grader would be relevant by the time they got to high school. Will keyboards even be used in ten years?

    Also, just to nit-pick their mission statement, I’d rather prepare my kids for a global community, not a global marketplace. Technology gets outsourced, creativity doesn’t.

    You can prepare kids for collaboration, innovation and contribution without ever hitting an ON button.

  5. Brandon says:

    Mike is right. You need to be able to read, write and do simple math – and thats the goal of elementary education. The time to specialize is later.

  6. Rick Turoczy says:

    Not to imply—in any way—that my experience is the appropriate one, but I was introduced to coding on a TRS-80 in third grade. I am sure that this early introduction to technology and logic has shaped who I am today in a very positive way.

  7. kfox says:

    I have met the YB guys before and was very impressed, would love to teach for them some day. There was always a computer in my house, and while it was not central to my early education it was nice being comfortable with the technology when my peers were not.

  8. Mike Vogel says:

    I also grew up coding BASIC on a Commodore 64:

    10 PRINT “MIKE IS AWESOME”
    20 GOTO 10

    It’s great for learning logic, but I don’t think that’s how kids engage with technology today. In a sense, computer technology was in its elementary stages the same time as we were, so it was a good match. Not so much anymore.

    I point this (and my previous comment) out because I think they are the type of arguments YottaByte may encounter from parents and/or educators. Knowing some of the resistance they face might help them successfully cater their mission.

    Also, YottaByte should check out ThinkQuest, which is sponsored by Oracle:
    http://www.thinkquest.org/

  9. @ Mike Vogel, You have some great comments about age appropriateness and the use of technology in schools. To clarify, The YB Group is catering to middle and high school students. These kids have reached a couple of places in their development.
    Cognitively, kids at this age are moving into a place to think more abstractly. This is critical to what we are cultivating in kids.
    Socially, kids are using technology in rich ways. However when they come to school they have to ‘power down’ (see PEW International reports on technology in schools). Generally speaking, they don’t have access to useful technology, or people who engage appropriate uses of technology for learning in schools (although there are many teachers out there blazing bright trails).
    We hope to connect with kids as they emerge into a place of abstract thinking, and create a rich environment where they can integrate technology into their process of learning, among other things.
    We’ll leave the three ol’ Rs to the established system for the time being.

    @Les Tipton- have we met?

  10. Never Mind says:

    Site sucks. Ate my response because it didn’t ‘like’ my email address. Sorry for being so international.

  11. Rick Turoczy says:

    Dear anonymous Intel employee “Never Mind,”

    If Silicon Florist is the sucky site that ate your comment, I apologize.

    Not that you’re going to recreate it, but I’d love to have it as part of the conversation.

    If you send it to siliconflorist at gmail, I’ll make sure it gets posted.


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