Where is the Fresh Stuff?
At conferences, I struggle with the content being "fresh." It seems so often, we are hearing the same messages. Old wine in a new bottle, so to speak. Excellent stuff for anyone who is new to conferences, but there are a lot of us who stopped learning a long time ago. This is one of the reasons why I haven't presented in a few years. At this point, I don't think there is much that I can bring to the table that isn't already being shared in A101, B201, and C301, at any given time. Recently I was asked to keynote a conference in December. To be honest, I was shocked and honored, but then when I considered my message, out of respect for the audience, I declined. I think more people should start looking inward and thinking about what they are truly offering before submitting proposals to do breakout sessions. But hey, that's just me.
Topic du Jour
In the past few years, there was the concept of the Digital Natives to warn everyone about, then the tablet revolution along with the never-ending cry for BYOD. Soon enough the cloud was upon us, and lest we forget the Flipped Classroom. All intertwined are messages of Project-Based Learning; which most teachers are still struggling to (truly) understand. Now we have Common Core, Marzano (being sorely misinterpreted and mismanaged) and teacher evaluations systems, all of which we are effectively ignoring at these conferences. Overheard at ISTE: "Any session that mentions 'assessment' will have me running for the door," and "If I hear Common Core one more time..." and "I don't get why Pearson or any of the companies that are systematically destroying education are allowed to be here." Rather than ignore these awful intrusions into our educational ecosystem, why not provide teachers interesting ways to make it all work AND still be creative? I did not see any of that at ISTE.
Pretty soon, there will be a "break-out something new" to talk about. Something that will light everyone's fire again. I don't know what that will be, but I'm venturing to guess it will include a device that is something like an iChromeMacPCbook. The newest best, biggest network of connected teachers will be ADE-GCT-DEN-MSPiLs who will help us figure out the latest way to reach the newest generation of learners.
I commend Microsoft for giving away 10,000 Microsoft Surface RT to ISTE attendees. I'm still learning about mine. I love my iPad, and I'm willing to learn to love other devices, too. Especially for the sake of education. I currently use a Macbook Pro and a Windows PC. I love my iPhone and enjoy an excellent working relationship with the good people from Apple. I also enjoy my relationship with the folks from Microsoft. Will the RT be the perfect device for education? I doubt it, but I know that we have yet to find the perfect solution.
On a personal note, it saddened me to see and hear some of the snarky comments being made about this effort by MS.
|Image from Twitter.|
Let's learn together*
So, why do I continue to attend? Because I still learn a lot. I learn from the same people who give those presentations, as well as those who don't. It is the organic conversations that evolve without planning; the ones where anyone can pull up a stool and join in. It is the conversation I had in the Bloggers' Cafe with: Kristin Hokanson, Lisa Parisi, Adina Sullivan, and Scott McLeod, about women and leadership. (Read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.) It is the conversation about religion with Lisa Parisi, Deacon Paul Wood, and Scott Floyd. How to properly eat at a Brazilian Steakhouse (with Chris Lehmann). I learn so much from casual conversations with the people I deeply respect and seem to have gotten it right such as: Joyce Valenza, Andrew Ko, Scott Kinney, and Hall Davidson (he's not as manic as you think).
These conferences and these conversations help steer me back on the right path. Somehow, when I engage in these conversations, I feel as though my words have some value. Throughout the year, so much happens that causes me to lose focus of who I am, my value, and my purpose as an educator and manager. I often arrive at ISTE almost deflated. By the time I step into the taxi to head back to the airport, I feel full again. Full of good reasons to keep on. Full of ideas and strategies. Full of feelings of contribution. By the way, I hear this same sentiment from other folks as well. Is it just women who feel this way? (Again, read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.)
By next year, I hope for one thing. I would love to see my friends and other educators who are a part of fantastic networks such as Apple Distinguished Educators, Google Certified Teachers, Discovery Educator Network, Microsoft Partners in Learning, etc. expand out and join more than that which they are currently a part. There is much crossover and so much to learn from each other. There is so much to give and learn. Why limit yourself to one group where the echo chamber can become deafening? Listen for new voices that challenge your ideas.
Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.
*Let's Learn Together
If you attended ISTE13 and received a Surface RT, (or just if you use a Surface RT) please complete this brief form to provide feedback that we can all use to learn from each other. This is not associated with Microsoft or any other companies. It is my way of providing a space where we can share information as we explore this device. After you complete the form, you can see the results which include input from others.
Images from CommonCraft Cut-Out Library.