Barrett: Teachers Key to Promoting Global Tech Use

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Technology plays a big role in economic development, but more teachers are needed to educate users on its usage, especially in emerging economies, Intel's chairman said on Tuesday.

The use of technology is being promoted worldwide, but it won't mean anything until more focus is placed on teachers to provide hands-on instruction on how those tools are used, especially in emerging economies, said Craig Barrett, in a keynote speech to kick off the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

About 85 percent of young users worldwide are in emerging economies, and technology education is one way to get to those markets, Barrett said. African users, for example, don't care about Wall Street news, and teachers could help them make better use of localized content to become part of the world economy. Providing access to knowledge content across the Web could help sustain economic development and promote technology use.

A lot of strides have been made recently to promote computing in emerging economies. Inexpensive education laptops, like the XO laptop from One Laptop Per Child and Classmate PC from Intel, have helped provide the technology, but throwing more money into such tools won't help until the teachers are educated.

"A good teacher is the best tool for a good education," Barrett said.

Innovation to promote technology use in classrooms doesn't need speedy processors or the latest hardware, he said. He gave an example of using the Nintendo Wii controller, also called the Wii Remote, as an input device for Tablet PCs. With the help of special software, the Wiimote has an infrared emitter and accelerometer that can make it an input device on tablet PCs.

Developing that technology cost around US$50, said Johnny Chung Lee, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, who demonstrated the technology on stage.

Improved connectivity is also providing access to more content, which is helping emerging economies grow, Barrett said.

"There is hardly an African head of state that doesn't know how to spell WiMax," Barrett said.

Emerging economies are eager to promote education and economic success, but the U.S. is lagging behind in competitiveness as it doesn't create the environment to promote economic success, Barrett said.

"We don't focus as hard as we should on education, we don't focus as hard as we should on incentivizing ... innovation," Barrett said.

Barrett goes to 30 countries a year to promote technology use worldwide, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president at Intel, while introducing him to the audience.

Intel didn't make any specific product announcements at the keynote, instead focusing on technology use worldwide.

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