An Electrifying Celebration | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation

An Electrifying Celebration

TC's Academic Festival 2012 highlights the power of technology to transform learning

TC’s Academic Festival 2012 highlights the power of technology to transform learning

“Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.’ Well, as you’re going to hear today from an outstanding cast of speakers, technology involves us in many ways. It transforms us from passive spectators into active learners. It puts vast amounts of information at our fingertips and empowers each of us to become creative seekers of new knowledge. And it exponentially increases our capacity to form new connections and undertake collaborative endeavors in what become powerful crucibles of learning.” 

Greeting more than 550 alumni, friends, students and newly admitted members of the 2012-13 incoming class as “people who embody the best of TC”, President Susan Fuhrman kicked off the College’s fourth annual Academic Festival, thematically entitled “Rewiring the Learning Landscape.”

The full day of events at Academic Festival included:

  • a keynote address by global economist Jeffrey Sachs, who focused on the power of information technology to address “an unprecedented challenge facing humanity” – a crisis of environmental sustainability that, for the first time in human history, “threatens the entire planet”;
  • a plenary speech by Matthew Pittinsky (Ph.D., ’08), CEO of Parchment, Inc. and founder of the pioneering distance learning company Blackboard Inc. Pittinsky discussed technologies that facilitate personalized learning and argued that the emergence of these tools dictate the preparation of a new generation of teachers with the skills to analyze and use data on student performance;
  • the presentation of the President’s Award for High Distinction to Pola Rosen (Ed.D. ’80), founder and publisher of the New York City weekly, Education Update ; the presentation of the TC President's Medal of Excellence to Pittinsky; and the presentation of the College's Medal for Distinguish Service to Sachs.
  • the presentation of Distinguished Alumni Awards to Kevin Jennings (M.A., ’94), former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Safe and Drug-Free Schools, and now CEO of the non-profit Be the Change; Lucille Joel (Ed.D., ’70), Professor, Rutgers College of Nursing, and past President of the American Nurses Association; John King (Ed.D., ’08), current New York State Commissioner of Education and co-founder of the Uncommon Schools charter network; comparative education scholar Harold Noah (Ph.D., ’64), TC Professor Emeritus and former Dean; and the internationally recognized consultant Robert Schaffer (Ed.D., ’52). Betty Perez-Rivera (Ed.D., ’03), Director of the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence of the New York City Department of Health), received TC’s Early Career Award; and
  • a full slate of panels and presentations by TC faculty, alumni, students, staff and trustees, ranging from “Realizing the Promise of Technology in the Classroom” to “Social Media and the Adolescent Mind,” “Banking On Our Future: Kids and Financial Literacy,” and a “WeBop!” music improvisation session for young children.

Fuhrman also noted that the Festival marked “the beginning of our countdown to the 125th anniversary of the founding of Teachers College,” a year-long celebration beginning in March 2013 that will “commemorate one of the greatest stories ever told in graduate education: how Teachers College played a leading role – first in educating generations of New Yorkers, and then in shaping the future of education and the development of related fields of psychology and health in America and throughout the world.” 

Citing the recent publication of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, author Jon Gertner’s history of the fabled AT&T skunkworks, Fuhrman drew an extended parallel between that institution and Teachers College:

“Both institutions were household names. Both were hotbeds of innovation that yielded astonishing breakthroughs and discoveries in the 20th century… Both encouraged innovation by bringing a powerful mix of researchers and practitioners from diverse disciplines into close quarters. The big difference: Bell Labs’ heyday as an R&D powerhouse that could invent the future has long passed. TC’s best days for educating the future are still to come.”

In addition to commemorating historical achievements, the College’s 125th anniversary celebration, Fuhrman said, will “inspire us to look ahead to a future where we are the nation’s premier address for sparking a renaissance in learning that will truly yield staggering gains for our schools, our organizations, and all of humanity.”

“Obviously, to paraphrase William Faulkner, the legacy of our past achievements isn’t really past,” Fuhrman concluded, “It lives and breathes through our work today.”

Published Tuesday, Apr. 24, 2012