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With technology, 'Students can become teachers'

By Elizabeth Chuck, msnbc.com

Think watching movies all day rots your brain? Don’t worry, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is on it.

In addition to keeping the 15 million subscribers of his mail-order movie business happy, Hastings, an educational philanthropist, wants to get the word out about DreamBox Learning – an e-learning site that he acquired in April.

“It’s adaptive, so it learns what level the student is at, and helps students learn more,” Hastings told msnbc.com after participating in a panel on technological innovations at schools at NBC’s Education Nation summit, a weeklong look at education in America.

DreamBox is a web-based program that Hastings is hoping teachers and parents alike will use with students. “You don’t have to install anything. It’s an extraordinary site,” he said.

But as Hasting’s fellow panelists noted, using such learning tools in the classroom requires infrastructure that many schools lack.

“We need the computers, we need the wires,” said panelist Nancy Peretsman, Priceline.com director and a managing director at Allen & Co. LLC, a New York investment company. “We have to be able to make sure the infrastructure is in place.”

Said Milton Chen, executive director of the George Lewis Educational Foundation, “Everyone uses computers at work. Waitresses, mechanics – no one doesn’t use a computer. The only place we don’t see computers are in classrooms.”

Bringing technology into the classroom will complement, not replace, teachers, Peretsman said. “This is about helping teachers become more effective,” she said. “We have to do it in collaboration with the teachers.”

Noting that most of the current 57 million U.S. students are “digital natives” – kids who were born into a digital world – Hastings urged teachers to use their pupils’ innate technology skills to their advantage.

“Students can become teachers,” added Chen. “They can teach their teachers; they can teach each other.”