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At Infinite Loop.

April 9, 2010

Given that there is a three hour time difference between Toronto and San Francisco, it felt later than it actually was when we arrived at our hotel in downtown San Francisco.   But the weather was pleasantly warm even at 10.00pm, and the bright sunshine in my hotel room when I woke up was all the encouragement I needed to get outside for a little bit before our first engagement of the day.

That engagement was at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino

At Apple

an address which will be instantly familiar to all Mac devotees.  It is the world headquarters of Apple and my colleagues and I spent a very useful couple of hours there discussing Educational IT .   We were also introduced to the iPad, and I have to say that after half an hour of hands on exploration we were all completely converted (not that I wasn’t pre-disposed to be , anyway !).    The product does seem to have the potential to be, as Steve Jobs Apple’s famous CEO put it, a “game changer” – it is intuitive to use and feature rich.   iPhone apps , such as Evernote, which I use regularly, seem even better when ported to the device and new apps are already pointing to many innovative uses.   A European release date for the hardware is apparently imminent, as every Mac focussed website will tell you, though we got no inside info at all.

From the sunny Apple campus the group went on to  the world HQ of National Semi Conductor, where Don MacLeod – orginally from the Isle of Lewis –  is President and CEO.    NSC has been in Scotland  – there is a manufacturing plant in Greenock – for forty years and the long term relationship the company has had with Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprise (and their predecessors) has been mutually advantageous.   I wanted to thank Don for the work he has done, and is doing, as a Global Scot , a network which is of great benefit to Scotland and our economy.

I met more Global Scots at the evening reception , but before travelling back to San Francisco I called at the magnificent campus of Stanford University at the town of Palo Alto where , in 1939

The Garage that spawned Silicon Valley

Hewlett Packard started the tech development activity that led to what is now called Silicon Valley.   The garage where it began is now a preserved historic monument !

Prior to the  meeting  my colleagues  and I snatched half an hour to sit  in the sun outside a little cafe in the main shopping street  and watch the Californian world go by .   It is a world which for many –  though not all, given the number of homeless one sees on the streets of San Francisco –  seems a very privileged and  pleasant  one of  some comfort.  No wonder they call this the Golden State – its climate is wonderful, and there are many , many opportunities to succeed.

At Stamford Professor Daniel Schwartz

Stanford University

talked to us about his research on , amongst other things, the idea of “Teachable Agents” and the use of technology to improve individual educational  outcomes.   It was an intriguing insight to some important research which will have an effect on my thinking about how the educational journey takes place for each young person and what we can do , in policy terms, to make it more successful.    It also touches on how we support teachers, which is a key issue.

Stanford is a good example of a world class American University which has raised very large sums from its alumni, amongst others, in order to achieve and maintain its high ranking.   Most of those we meet here are intrigued about our focus on free access to education and many who hail from Scotland  are strong in support of the opportunity it gives, and has given to them.  Our challenge  in Scotland is to make it work within a very competitive  contemporary higher education world.   I am sure we can do so.

It took about an hour to go from Stanford back into the centre of San Francisco, where the SDI Scotland Week  reception was being held.   It was jointly sponsored by the City of Edinburgh Council as their clipper ship, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is presently in San Francisco , taking part in the round the world race having been sent on its way by the First Miniser lat August.      The reception was very well attended, and the crew seemed to be greatly enjoying their experience.   Edinburgh is getting a lot of publicity as a result and by co-inciding with Scotland week here  the effect is multiplied.

Jim Mather commemorating the Scots who fought at the Alamo

It is obvious that the momentum of Scotland week continues to build across North America.   There will always be those whose narrow perspective leads them to mutter about “junketing” but even a brief glance at the itinerary for my trip, and those of Fiona Hyslop and Jim Mather  (who was at the Alamo yesterday and will be in New York for the Tartan Day Parade on Saturday) will show that there is real traction being gained for Scotland – and particularly for tourism and business in Scotland – by every day that  a minister spends here (providing of course that the schedules are full and focussed).        If cities, other local authorities, trade associations and others also piggy back onto it, then the value is increased exponentially.

Eventually after talking to many of the guests – including

With Les Allan and the SDI's Calum Lancastle

Les Allen who is about to open the first Goals Soccer Centre here in America –  I finished up having dinner in a restaurant on the sea front, down at the  Fisherman’s Wharf. area.    But the long days are taking their toll so instead of writing up the blog when I had finished, I was in bed and asleep by 11.00pm.   Now I am paying the price – dawn is just breaking as I write this and prepare for another busy day ; and of course  it looks like another sunny one too !

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