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I had two immediate impressions when first picking up the iPhone SE. First, ‘wow this feels small!’. Having gotten used to the iPhone 6 and 6s as the new normal, the SE really does feel like an iPhone mini when you first handle it.

But the second, which followed seconds later, was ‘… in a good way.’

I’m old enough to have used the very first mobile phones, which were ginormous. For many years, the primary goal of manufacturers as they introduced successive models was to make them smaller and smaller. Smaller was newer, sexier and more hi-tech.

Picking up the iPhone SE gave me that feeling all over again. It didn’t feel like a step down, it actually felt like a step up. It was like ‘wow, Apple has managed to fit (almost) all of that 6s tech into this much more pocketable phone.’ And yes, this thing fits sideways into jeans pockets, and gives no sense of being at risk of falling out of other trouser pockets while cycling.

My third impression – and I think this is something I could only say to a tech audience like you, because you’ll understand – was feeling like I was welcoming back an old friend. I remembered how much I love this design. It truly is a classic that looks every bit as great today as it did when it was first introduced …

There’s nothing wrong with the design of the iPhone 6/6s. It’s slim, sleek, stylish. But I never loved it. It was good design, but it never felt to me like great design. The iPhone 4/4S/5/5S – that was great design. And the iPhone SE is, once more, great design.

Non-tech friends will be rolling their eyes right now. “It’s a phone, for wotsit’s sake!” But you all get it, right?

I’ve always felt the antenna lines on the iPhone 6/6s looked messy, so it felt great to get back to the old top-and-tail approach.

I’ve said before that – for a company which prides itself on details – Apple seems to have absolutely no idea what color Space Gray is. Every gadget it produces has a completely different shade. But on this occasion I was absolutely delighted to see it, because this version of Space Gray looks … silver! Silver and black has always been my preferred combination, so finally a new iPhone that gives me the look I want.

The main visual difference from the 5S is the matte edges instead of polished ones. I actually really liked the polished sides, but I know many disliked the ease with which they got scratched. I thought I might be disappointed by the matte edging on the SE, but it actually looks just as good. Oh, and I always did prefer the round volume buttons.

The camera bump on the iPhone 6/6s annoyed many of us, who thought Apple was taking the thinness game just a step too far. The SE looks miles better without it.

And it’s really not at the expense of much extra thickness. Sure, the SE is very slightly thicker, but really – an extra 0.5mm is nothing.

That last photo does illustrate one usability issue I had, though: I had to get used to the power button being back on the top. I’m very used to having it on the right-hand side, and think that’s actually a better position for it.

Usability

Of course, form is nothing without function. I may greatly prefer the aesthetics of the SE, but the big question was whether it would pass the usability test. Now that I’m used to that bigger screen, would I find the smaller device fiddly to use?

I said last week that I wasn’t expecting the smaller screen to be too big a deal. As I noted then, my (newly upgraded) iPad goes everywhere with me, and my iPhone is actually my least-used device.

My iPhone fills the somewhat small gap between things that are convenient to do on my Watch and things that are easier and more pleasant to do on my iPad. 

When I do use my iPhone, Siri is my primary means of interaction. I dictate messages, have it open apps for me and so on. So that again was another reason to suspect that the smaller screen might not pose a problem. However, theory is one thing and practice is another, so it was only by trying it out that I’d find out whether or not I was right.

First up, I wanted to compare how the two phones felt in my hand. The iPhone 6/6s has always felt ok, but as soon as I held the SE it just felt right.

Of course, the smaller screen does translate into a missing row of icons on each screen, so four fewer apps.

I made a mental note to do some rejigging, but two factors mean that this probably won’t be a huge deal for me. First, the fact that I don’t use hundreds of apps in the first place. Second, my usual way to open an app is to ask Siri to do it for me, or to search for it – so which screen it’s on isn’t really important.

Of course, the screen size makes a big difference when it comes to some apps. As Zac noted in his own first impressions piece, you’ll really see the difference in a web browser. But web-browsing on my iPhone is not something I do: my iPad goes everywhere with me, and that’s what I pull out if I need to surf the web.

So far, in a very quick test of my main apps, the difference really only makes itself apparent in Facebook, where you do see pretty much one post less on the smaller screen.

But again, I use my iPad if I want to do a full catch-up. The only time I use my iPhone for Facebook is to upload a photo or do a quick check while standing on a train platform or similar. So I’m guessing I won’t be too bothered by this, but we’ll have to see.

The SE does have the slower, first-gen Touch ID. I was conscious of this the first few times I used it, but it quickly faded from consciousness. I have the same sensor on my iPad, so it’s the same experience on both devices.

Speaking of touch, one other difference between the two phones is the lack of 3D Touch support on the smaller model. The feature really impressed me when I first got my 6s, so much so that I even considered it a good enough reason to upgrade from the 6. Yet, as time went by, I found myself using it way less than I’d expected to.

I tested the camera against the iPhone 6s and, like Jeff, found the results identical. The FaceTime camera is another matter, of course. I’m really not a selfie guy – I prefer to remain on the other side of the camera – so I haven’t tested this yet. I will.

In Jeff’s feature comparison, he pointed to the lower contrast ratio on the SE display. The iPhone 6s has a 1400:1 contrast ratio; the SE offers just 800:1. I wasn’t seeing the difference in everyday use, so I copied over a bunch of hi-res photos to compare the results.

Plus, of course, photos simply look better on the larger screen. If you want to share photos on your phone, I would say there’s no question at all that you want the 6s/Plus rather than the SE.

But again, if I want to share photos, I pull out my iPad, not my phone. So in practice, it doesn’t really have an impact. All the same … I care about image quality, and the comparison between the two did make me flinch slightly.

Overall

So, where am I at so far? The iPhone SE scores big wins in two key areas: pocketability, and design. I’ve already waxed lyrical about that in the introduction, so I won’t do so again here.

It also just feels more comfortable in the hand. That’s partly size, of course, but – paradoxically – I actually find the straight edges of the SE more comfortable than the rounded ones of the 6/6s. Thickness, by the way, is simply not a factor. In real life, the difference between the two is miniscule.

There is an obvious difference in real-estate. If I used my iPhone for web-browsing, I wouldn’t be writing this: the SE wouldn’t even be in the running. But mobile browsing is what my LTE iPad is for. So I’m still thinking that the reduced screen real estate isn’t going to prove an issue for me. We’ll see.

Touch ID speed is a non-issue for me. The jury is, though, still out on 3D Touch. My view at this stage is I probably won’t miss it once my fingers realize it’s not there, but that one needs more usage to be sure.

The contrast ratio of the screen does bug me. It shouldn’t matter, given my usage patterns, but it could prove to be one of those things that annoys me even though it really shouldn’t. Again, let’s see.

If I balance out the pros and cons so far, pocketability and design are by far the standout factors. Both of those tell me to keep the SE and sell the 6s. As with my 9.7-inch iPad Pro diary, I’m not expecting to write any interim pieces – I think it will just be one more after a week’s use – but I will update if anything significant strikes me in the meantime. Watch this space …

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Leagoo Elite 1 Unboxing And First Impressions

Leagoo’s main selling points for the Leagoo Elite 1 are its fingerprint ID, octacore chipset and FHD 1920 x 1080 JDI display. Well at least those are the main features they point out on the included product leaflet, but there are other worthwhile features at play too.

The fingerprint ID comes built-in to a physical button with Sapphire Glass Surface, there is 3GB RAM, 32GB internal memory, RGB LED notification, customisable gesture controls, metal chassis, micro SD card memory support, dual LED flash and even a physical button for taking photos.

There are also some suspect features on the Leagoo Elite 1 specifications sheet too. Apparently the rear camera is a 16 mega-pixel shooter while the front is a 13 mega-pixel. I think we are all well aware of what this means, and what we are actually looking at are interpreted figures. The actual sensors are still good though, the rear being 13MP and front 8MP. Also that front camera has auto-focus. A rare feature for a front camera especially so on a phone costing less than $200.

Leagoo Elite 1 Design

The metal chassis gives the Leagoo Elite 1 a sturdy feel, while keeping weight down to a minimum. The chassis has bevels top and and bottom for a nice transition to the screen and rear panel, plus we find additional physical controls here too.

The right side has a total of 4 controls. There are two for volume, the middle button is for power, and the final ‘circle’ button is used as a shortcut for the music player or a physical shutter button when in the camera app.

On the left there is a single tray that is dual sided. A sim lays on one side while a SD card can fit in the opposite side.

On the top the Leagoo Elite 1 has a 3.5mm headphone jack and microphone. While in the base there appears to be dual speakers, microphone and standard micro USB. I say ‘appears’ because only the speaker on the left is functional, the right is just a dummy.

Leagoo have kept the rear of the Elite 1 nice and neat. It has a glossy finish with subtle silver logos and branding. 13 mega-pixel camera in the left corner and dual LED flash to the right of it.

Leagoo Elite 1 first impressions

Im a little at odds with the Leagoo Elite 1. In my brief time with it I’m impressed with the specifications, the build is good and the design isn’t bad either. But I am confused as to why Leagoo felt it is necessary to list the wrong specification details. The actual mega-pixel rating of the sensors is very good for the money (13mp rear, 8mp front) they didn’t need to embellish the truth with interpolated specs. Also the dimensions list the phone at 6.9mm when it is quite clearly more (I measured 8mm), and the use of a false speaker is a silly inclusion too.

These falsifications actually detract from a rather good value device and have me question other parts of the spec. Does the fingerprint scanner really have sapphire glass protection? Is the display really from JDI? The answers to these questions wont affect usage, but they are worries that needn’t be there.

Searching around the web the Leagoo Elite 1 can be found on sale through resellers from between $170 – $180. In my full review I’ll try to answer it the Leagoo Elite 1 is worth the money.

This Is The Htc 10: First Impressions

This is the HTC 10: First Impressions

HTC had stopped listening, but it learned its lesson with the new HTC 10. Back in 2013 HTC unveiled the flagship One M7, and was widely praised for its unibody design, purposefully different approach to phone photography, and overall user-experience. In trying to keep up with the ever-present threat of Apple’s iPhone and the increasingly polished – and heavily promoted – Samsung Galaxy line, though, HTC lost its way.

The One M8 and last year’s One M9 saw HTC trying desperately to recapture some of that One M7 charm, but never really succeeding. Yes, they were metal-bodied and handsome, but where the M7 could make a case for its more unusual features, its successors felt more gimmicky.

The good news, then, is that 2024’s HTC 10 feels as close to the ethos of the M7 as we’ve seen.

Its unibody design is unmistakably HTC from the rear, now featuring deeply chamfered edges that better highlight the dual-finish matte and polish the company has been using for several generations. It’s cleaner than the M9 and nowhere near as iPhone-y as the One A9.

From the front, you first notice how relatively compact it looks, compared to previous One-series devices. That’s because the front-facing BoomSound speakers have been removed in the name of trimming the bezels.

Instead, you get a clean sheet of toughened glass with 2.5D curved edges; subtle, but catching the light nicely when the HTC 10 is on the table next to you. A fingerprint sensor is built into the home button – HTC says it should unlock in 0.2 seconds, and you get support for authorizing Android Pay payments as well as locking individual apps – while the back and task-switcher controls are now capacitive keys that light up either-side. HTC claims that’s to maximize the display real-estate.

The screen itself is a marked improvement over last year’s flagship. A 5.2-inch, 2K panel, it comes in at 564 ppi and covers 92-percent of the NTSC color gamut. Iably more importantly, though, HTC has paid specific attention to touchscreen responsiveness, and it’s not afraid of naming its primary target.

“It means that somehow, as you’re using the HTC 10, it feels like an iPhone,” Darren Sng, vice president of product marketing, says of the company’s refinements. HTC recorded the display with high-speed cameras to make sure it was the fastest in the Android segment: a 120ms response time, versus 163ms for the Galaxy S7, 206ms for Sony’s Z5, and 213ms for the Galaxy Note 5.

It’s not just been an axe indiscriminately falling on the handiwork of HTC’s own software engineers, however. According to Sng, its been a fight based on usefulness and value: does HTC’s app add more than the stock Google version?

NOW READ: The HTC 10 wants to save us from fragmentation

So, the HTC Camera app makes the cut, because it’s more flexible than Android’s alternative, but Google Photos is the default gallery app since it now supports RAW images (it didn’t when HTC launched the One A9, so that device got the company’s own software). In the process, HTC has worked closely with Google to better integrate the apps which made the cut, and ensuring that its own software keeps to the Material Design guidelines.

You might find you need that memory card, too, given the focus HTC has put on photography, and that involves bringing back the UltraPixel concept which had been sidelined to the front camera in the M8 and M9.

For the HTC 10, it’s UltraPixel 2 in fact. As with the original version, it’s all about bigger pixels for more light: not quite as large this time around, at 1.55 microns versus the 2.0 microns of the One M7’s sensor, but three times as many, at 12-megapixels.

In addition to the 12-megapixel stills, the HTC 10 will capture 4K video with 24-bit, 96 kHz Hi-Res stereo audio. Some clever microphone fettling means the phone should be able to handle audio twice as loud as other devices without distorting, useful if you’re trying to record a Taylor Swift concert.

All in all, it’s enough for DXOMark to grade the HTC 10 with a score of 88, conveniently matching that of the Galaxy S7. I’ll need to spend some time with it out in the wild to see if that pans out for everyday use, mind, though the camera definitely loaded quickly in my relatively brief play with it, and seemed to lock focus with no issues.

There’s a surprise for the front of the HTC 10, however. Dumping the old BoomSound design meant there was room for a better sensor there, too, and so you get HTC’s first UltraSelfie camera.

Yes, it’s a terrible name, but the shots should salve any cringworthiness. Not only does its 5-megapixel sensor have 1.34 micron pixels, an 86-degree, wide-angle f/1.8 lens, and the ability to repurpose the display as a flash, but there’s optical image stabilization too, a first for a smartphone camera. The OIS works both for selfies and video recording – at up to 1080p resolution – and could very well make the HTC 10 the phone-of-choice for keen Periscope and Facebook Live users.

So what of the audio? The HTC 10 introduces BoomSound HiFi Edition, pushing the tweeter to the top of the phone and the woofer to the bottom, and giving each a dedicated amp. As a result, HTC claims, there’s a wider frequency response, but since the woofer doesn’t care about the direction it faces, you don’t miss out on low-end grunt even without the driver pointing straight at you.

I’m more excited, though, at the new 24-bit Hi-Res audio support for headphones. There’s a 24-bit HiFi DAC and twice the power from the headphone amp, along with support for upscaling 16-bit to 24-bit audio. Maximum output is 1V with a -104 dB THD+N signal to noise ratio, and -120 dBV noise level at 33 ohm load.

Confused? HTC figured some would be, and so rather than an EQ app – you can download a third-party example from the Play store if you prefer – there’s a Personal Audio Profile which, after asking a series of questions about what types of music you listen to and playing you samples, automatically tweaks the frequencies for what it believes will be the most rewarding sound.

NOW READ: AirPlay is just the start for HTC

That might not be the most impressive audio feature, however. The HTC 10 is the first Android device to support Apple AirPlay out of the box: it’s part of HTC Connect, still triggered with a three-finger swipe and streaming across Qualcomm AllPlay, Miracast, Backfire, and DLNA, in addition to Apple’s hitherto-closed standard.

It’s not to say HTC is only relying on others for its phones’ abilities. The HTC 10 introduces Freestyle Layout for its customizable home screen, for instance, which does away with the traditional grid and allows users to instead position icons and stickers – each of which can launch apps or actions – anywhere on the screen. Eight Freestyle themes will be available to download at launch, HTC says, though of course users will be able to create and share their own.

Meanwhile, the old Dot View case has had a higher-res makeover, and is now the HTC Ice View case. Instead of lots of little perforations, the cover is now frosted plastic, through which a special neon-like lock screen glows through. The date/time/weather, app notifications, phone calls, and messages all show up, and you can interact with them even with the case closed.

Best, though, is that you can double-swipe to get to the camera and see the preview through the Ice View cover.

How long does all this new tech last? HTC claims that the HTC 10 will last for two days on a full 3,000 mAh charge – that breaks down to up to 13hrs of video, up to 73hrs of music, 13hrs of browsing, or 27hrs of 3G talktime.

Courtesy of Quick Charge 3.0, meanwhile, thirty minutes plugged in should get you from dead to 50-percent. HTC has learned from past mistakes and will include a Quick Charge 3.0 compatible fast-charger in the box as standard, too, along with the USB-C cable needed for the HTC 10’s new port.

Does the HTC 10 stand a chance? Certainly all of the hardware and software pieces fall together nicely, and if the camera holds up to HTC’s promises then Samsung may have a headache in the pipeline. It’s hard to argue with the company’s strategy when it comes to avoiding Android bloat yet without sacrificing every single tweak and modification that could improve overall user-experience.

All the same, HTC’s problems in recent years have never been solely about product. A marketing budget a fraction of the size of those its key rivals wielded meant getting the One message out never quite carried the required volume.

There is a wildcard for 2024, though, and the HTC 10 may benefit from an unexpected corner. HTC Vive, the company’s virtual reality collaboration with Valve, is grabbing headlines and gaining HTC kudos among a whole new segment. If it can figure out a way to cash in on that novel mindshare, that’s a whole extra chunk of attention that Apple, Samsung, and LG simply don’t have.

Right now, though, there’s no sign of any such integration, but there’s not long to wait before we see how the HTC 10 holds up in practice. Sales kick off this month in a choice of Carbon Grey, Glacier Silver, Topaz Gold, and Camellia Red (which has a black front and a red back, and will initially only be offered in Japan on carrier KDDI), on Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and others in the US, with carriers announcing their own pricing.

HTC, meanwhile, will offer an unlocked, AT&T and T-Mobile compatible HTC 10 direct, in Carbon Grey and Glacier Silver, for $699. It’s available to preorder from today, and will ship in early May.

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Nokia 5.3 First Impressions: Too Much For Too Little

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Announced way back in March, the Nokia 5.3 is finally hitting Indian shores. A decidedly mid-range smartphone, the Nokia 5.3 is once again championing HMD Global’s cause of a clean and secure Android experience.

However, with Xiaomi’s stranglehold on the spec-crazed mid-range segment, and Samsung making moves to regain traction as well, the ho-hum spec sheet of the Nokia 5.3 might not hold up.

Is the Nokia 5.3’s user experience enough to offset the value for money offered by the competition? Let’s find out in Android Authority’s first impressions of the Nokia 5.3.

Design: More of the same

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Nokia 5.3’s design isn’t exciting by any means. Unless you have a preference for simplistic, low-key hardware, there are much better options to be had. In fact, the materials used aren’t particularly inspired either.

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The back of the phone is made of polycarbonate, which, in of itself, is not really an issue. But the plastic doesn’t feel very premium and is a smudge magnet despite the matte finish. Meanwhile, the competition is far ahead with its copious use of glass and metal.

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The circular camera module houses four sensors with a centrally placed LED flash. Meanwhile, a fingerprint scanner is available below. The phone was fast to unlock and there’s a face-unlock option available as well.

The phone gets basics like weight distribution right, but there’s better hardware to be hard. I found the unsegmented volume rocker a bit too small and had to shuffle around to adjust the loudness setting. Meanwhile, the power button sits a bit too high in the frame.

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The notification LED hidden away in the power key, however, is a very nifty addition that I wish more manufacturers would adopt.

Read more: Are there any truly bad Android skins out there anymore?

I certainly don’t mind the lack of third-party bloatware though.

Camera: An average shooter

The quad-camera setup on the Nokia 5.3 is par for the course in the category. The primary shooter sports a 13MP sensor, which is paired with a rather lackluster 5MP ultra-wide camera. Additionally, there’s a 2MP macro sensor and another depth sensor.

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Images from the primary sensor come across as dull, with limited contrast. The shot above has been overexposed and close inspection reveals smearing and a distinct loss of detail.

Outdoors, things improve a bit and the primary shooter captures vibrant-looking images. The exposure, however, still isn’t quite right, and there continue to be significant traces of noise reduction. The 5MP ultra-wide shooter on the Nokia 5.3 just isn’t competitive and captures dull-looking shots with signs of oversharpening and heavy noise reduction.

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The dedicated night mode on the Nokia 5.3 takes far too long to capture images, which means that more often than not, you’ll end up capturing a blurry mess. I just wouldn’t bother with it. Similarly, the macro mode doesn’t inspire much confidence, and cropping into a shot from the primary camera yielded better results than shooting a macro. I’m not a big fan of the selfie camera either. The 8MP camera adds a lot of retouching and gives skin an unnatural look.

You can take a look at full-resolution Nokia 5.3 camera samples here.

Nokia 5.3 specifications

Best Iphone Se Wallet Cases In 2023

Unlike typical cases, wallet cases have garnered more appreciation and popularity among iPhone users. As Apple has released its latest small-screened iPhone at the first annual event of 2024, it is the right time to buy wallet cases for iPhone SE.

Apart from protecting your iPhone SE, wallet cases are important in storing other essentials like credit cards, debit cards, social ID, currency notes and other miscellaneous things. The cases listed here are made by leading makers of iPhone accessories in the United States. The material that goes into the making of wallet cases is of superior quality, and therefore, it can easily bear season’s vagaries.

1. SHIELDON

SHIELDON presents a wallet case made from genuine leather. Typically, wallet cases are bulky, but SHIELDON has crafted this slim flip cover with kickstand and ID card holder. Moreover, there is a magnetic closure, which protects your iPhone SE.

SHIELDON has used high-quality genuine cowhide leather for strength, character, and grain. Apart from sturdiness, this leather case imparts a luxurious feel when you hold your iPhone in hands. The natural material of leather separates each case from other, and you will get a unique case.

2. i-Blason

i-Blason brings a hybrid slim wallet case for your iPhone SE. The case allows you to keep everything in one place; you can store your ID, credit cards and cash in slots provided in this wallet folio case. i-Blason wallet case can easily be converted into a stand case with different viewing angles. This feature allows you to watch videos and movies on your iPhone SE in hands-free mode.

3. CM4

CM4 is another non-folio wallet case that has entered this list. The case comfortably stores 3 cards including credit card, debit card or IDs; moreover, you can also store some cash. Check out that lay-flat screen guard, which gives ultimate screen protection to your iPhone SE. You can easily pull out the case of your pocket as the case boasts soft touch finish. CM4 wallet case is made of soft-touch rubber and premium fabric.

4. TORU

If you are a commuter, Toru wallet case is your perfect companion to protect your iPhone SE. This case offers dual layer protection with matte finish flexible TPU cover. Don’t you worry about those accidental shock and drops on your way! The back cover and slot for card storage is made of Polycarbonate. The rear compartment can store cash, credit card, and ID. Use the kickstand to watch movies and videos on your iPhone SE.

5. ACEABOVE

AceAbove presents 100% genuine leather wallet case for your iPhone SE. This case is a perfect blend of trendy and classic design. Experience a superb touch feel while holding this case in your hands. The genuine leather of the case gently protects your iPhone from scratches and shocking impacts. The case is so nicely designed that every cut allows you to access respective functions comfortably. Two card slots are provided on the folio; you can safely store your ID and credit card there.

Author Profile

Jignesh

Jignesh Padhiyar is the co-founder of chúng tôi who has a keen eye for news, rumors, and all the unusual stuff around Apple products. During his tight schedule, Jignesh finds some moments of respite to share side-splitting content on social media.

Cosn Day 1: Education Reformers Abroad Hitch Their Star To Technology

Sunday, I camped out at the 9th Annual International Symposium of CoSN, also known as the Consortium of School Networking , in Washington, D.C., and learned a ton from an A-list of international education innovators. Listening to folks from Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, as well as some of our own American leading lights, I came away understanding, with ever more precision, how essential technology will be to educating students chúng tôi how this tech-enabled education has the potential to prepare students for what will likely be a great challenge and reward in their adult lives: to work collaboratively across borders in an innovation-driven, global economy. That is, of course, if those of us in the most powerful and wealthy countries don’t screw it up. And, happily, there are more than a few indicators that at least some of those nations are determined not to do so.

Some highlights and some links you can check out:

The keynote speaker was a man named Francesc Pedró, a senior policy analyst with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in France. (OECD is developing tests for measuring critical thinking, problem solving, and other 21st-century skills. These tests could be a model for the way standardized testing in the U.S. could change. Here is an OECD link, not the sexiest website in the world but. . .)

Pedro’s talk was wide ranging. On the loaded topic of learning assessment, he said something that stuck with me. Technology, he explained, is not the most powerful driver of education reform. Assessment is. Because assessment represents the values of our society, those things that we hold dear that ought to form the core of what we teach children. Technology, he said, should enable the process.

Pedro and other speakers also called out a social media tool worth checking out. (Caveat: it is mostly for European educators.) But it will inspire anyone who is looking to link their classroom efforts with those of another teacher and class in another country. It’s called eTwinning and it’s being used by more than 80,000 teachers on more than 36,000 learning projects, involving more than 18 million students. Lots of inspiration and smart, simple ideas there.

Sasha Connors, a teacher from Burlington County, NJ shared some of her efforts to connect her students to peers in India and Afghanistan via Web 2.0 tools like Skype. Connors’s students read their poems and essays to their counterparts and, as she tells it, were transformed by the praise and feedback they got from their Indian and Afgahn peers. Suddenly, interest, enthusiasm and hard work in class and at home, all began to rise. Discussion of Islam, dating, marriage, and the de-bunking of stereotypes (all Americans are not over-weight and infatuated with violence) energized kids on both sides, far more, she reports, than their more traditional studies.

Ken Kay from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills took a moment to distill what he thought the essential 21st century skills would become in the future: 1) the ability to accommodate change and 2) to work in concert on global teams. Interesting, when you think about the long list of virtues touted as “21st Century skills.”

Just about every speaker agreed that the world faces a host of challenges in reforming education: human issues, technological issues, finance issues, language issues. And everyone agreed that the human issues (national prejudices, fears, long-held habits and customs) are and will be the hardest to solve. And everyone agreed that technology would be among the least difficult.

Michael Trucano of the World Bank said that without technology it would be impossible to make a meaningful dent in the inequity issues that plague education reform around the world. He cited his organization’s commitment to enabling a decent primary education for every child in the world by the year 2024 — impossible without technology, especially 2.0 tools.

There was lots of talk about understanding the role of technology in learning. Some call it an indispensable tool, an enabler, a required utility. The interpretation offered up by Karen Cator, Director of Educational Technology at the U.S. Dept of Education, captured my imagination. Think of technology as an environment, the eco-system in which education unfolds.

We, Americans, can get caught up in our national cocoon, living in a big, well-to-do nation, we come by it naturally. Yet I walked away from Sunday’s symposium reminded how swiftly our nation’s fortunes will change for the worse (already we are losing ground by the day) if we don’t embrace efforts to reform the learning process and listen and learn from our global neighbors as we go. What did Darwin say? It’s not the strongest who survive, or the smartest. . . but those who adapt best to change.

— David Markus, Edutopia’s editorial director

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