This past summer, as has been the case every summer since becoming a teacher, I was able to continue learning through participating in some professional learning activities. My second time at the International Society of Technology in Education Annual Conference was big, busy and almost overwhelmingly full of choices. The conference happens on site as well as virtually. Most sessions provided digital materials to support the ideas shared whether it is a website, a shared document, videos or sharing of presentation slides. In addition to attending sessions in person, through a virtual conference registration, participants can continue to view recorded sessions well past the live conference dates. Of course, the real benefit of attending in person is the opportunity to meet and talk face to face with people. It is always such a treat to meet face to face with people who I know mainly through social media. This year, I had the added benefit of attending along with two other school administrators from Holy Spirit Catholic Schools which definitely added to the experience!
Here are a few highlights of some of the sessions I was able to attend:
Ashley Judd, the opening keynote speaker spoke from her heart alluding to her own personal experiences of growing up and moving often from one school to another. She reminded the 14,000 attendees that “when a child tells you something … believe them.”
It was a pleasure to attend Chris Lehman’s session, “Technology transforms pedagogy: Combining the tools and the vision.” Chris Lehman is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, in Philadelphia and I have watched his presentations online over the past few years as I seek to learn more about inquiry based learning. During his session, Chris had participants contribute to conversations through tweeting out ideas around some thought provoking sentence stems:
- Schools should help students become…
- Technology helps me realize my vision by…
- Technology means that I have to let go of…
- In 2014-2015, learning can be…
Thanks to Stacia McFadden for creating this Storify, which captures the Twitter conversations.
As you can see by the responses, there were many great minds in the room – the session hashtag #istetransforms even trended during our time together. Responses to “Schools should help students become…” confirmed for me how on track the new Alberta Ministerial Order on Student Learning is with naming ten competencies necessary for learning, work and life. Chris’ idea of bundling the main idea of what we want to get across to our public into ten words was also a good reminder on being concise, precise and to the point in communicating our messages to non-educators.
Having worked with George Couros as a keynote speaker for our Holy Spirit Catholic 2013 Division Professional Development Day, I made a point of attending his session. Over the past few months, George shared his ideas online and asked for feedback as he planned his ISTE 2014 session, “Conquering the Myths of Technology.” Throughout the presentation, I was reminded again of George’s passion for learning, his focus on students and his conviction in the importance of relationships. George is a talented and empowering presenter – we laughed, we cried, we were inspired – who shared personal stories, research and of course some very thought provoking videos and photographs. You can read more about the myths of technology on his blog, or if you register for the ISTE Virtual Conference, you will gain access to a recording of this session.
Here are the myths, George continues to explore:
Myth 1 – Technology Equals Engagement
Myth 2 – Don’t Talk to Strangers
Myth 3 – Technology Makes Us Narcissistic
Myth 4 – Technology Will Replace Face to Face Interaction
Myth 5 – Technology Dehumanizes
Myth 6 – Technology Makes us Dumb
Kevin Carroll, the second keynote speaker shared his passion for play – every single day. Through the image of one red rubber ball, Kevin helped us understand how he came to know that play is fundamental and transformative in the lives of children and in the lives of adults. He talked about how play – both playground play and organized sport – taught him courage, discipline, how to make sacrifices, deal with disappointment, challenge self and to dream big audacious dreams.
Kevin used the metaphor of the red rubber ball to represent chasing your passion. He identified a few key supports that helped him to be able to get up each day and chase his passions. Three key influences in Kevin’s life were participation in sport, learning on the playground and attending school.
Plato once said that “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a year of conversation.” Kevin elaborated that an hour of bowling, playing cards or softball will reveal a lot about a person, whether they are selfish or empathetic, celebratory and supportive or someone that takes away all the time, whether they are leaders, good communicators, or good at resolving conflict. It all happens in a game. Some of our greatest lessons are learned at recess. Dr. Stewart Brown from the International Institute of Play researches how play shapes who we are through the study of play history. The people we associate with, hang out with, the way we solve problem are all learned in play. “Play is as important to us as eating, drinking and sleeping.”
Kevin expressed gratitude for special people in his life that believed in him and inspired him to continue to challenge himself every day: “I am a mosaic of all of the people who influenced me.” He reminded participants that we were each present in the room because someone had an impact on us. As educators, we are those people who are impacting our youth. We can all be global game changers. Through our curiosity, creativity and ingenuity; through being problem solvers, we are influencing our students.
Finally, Kevin shared the powerful story of the Soccket ball, a soccer ball which generates and stores energy when kicked around. In Abuja, Nigeria, the Soccket ball has brought electricity to the community through active play. In the video, Uncharted Play in Nigeria, James Ajah Eiche explains how “light is life” in this community because it allows students to continue to study even after dark. “Without education, we are nothing.”
What I love most about the ISTE conference is that outwardly, it may appear that the emphasis is on technology, but if you are really paying attention, you soon realize that it is ALL about our students, their learning and how they will shape our future. These keynote talks each underscored the importance of curiosity, connection and hope.