I attended the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference in Denver Colorado from June 27-June 30, 2010. There were thousands of attendees at the conference, many sporting ipads or other small mobile devices, and all there to connect, collaborate and communicate about my favorite topic - educational technology. I would like to reflect on the people, the places and the practices as the basis of my conference experience.
The people included the random individuals I met during shuttle rides, walking to and from the conference centre, session presenters/researchers, session participants and many of the vendors. I follow a few more individuals on twitter and a few more follow me too! I have a stack of business cards and list of blogs to review. I now have faces and voices to associate with many individuals whose work I had only read before or names I had only heard of before.
Beyond the Colorado Convention Centre (CCC), the places of learning included the online spaces which amplified the conference experience for me. I already felt like a participant at the conference before I even arrived due to the pre-conference tweets. In the online space, I was able to see a video tour of the CCC and knew exactly where to register before arriving, I knew how much the shuttle should cost from the airport to downtown Denver, I knew many of the presenters and bits about their presentations without ever having met any of them in person. I downloaded the mobile app, pre-selected the sessions I was interested in attending and even created my conference planner in advance. During the conference, I was able to keep up with the daily edition news, follow tweets with the #iste10 hashtag and even view broadcasts of some sessions that I didn’t attend in-person. I know the online spaces will continue to be a wealth of information and learning for me beyond the sessions I was able to attend at the conference.
The conference offered a variety of professional learning opportunities which I will refer to as practices. The session type I was most unsure about was likely the one I benefitted from most. This was the first time I attended research paper roundtable sessions and was impressed by the depth of dialogue and questioning that occurred during these sessions. The informal nature of the research roundtable sessions was appealing and the opportunity to discuss first-hand with the researchers made this type of session more interactive than the large formal ballroom presentations. It was during the roundtable sessions that I networked, exchanged business cards or online contact information with other school leaders and made more connections with conference participants than during any other session.
As I reflect on my experiences in attending the ISTE conference, I definitely gained a deeper understanding of learning today through the people, places and practices that were part of my conference experience. Moreover, there were three categories that emerged for me as highlights from the conference and areas I would like to learn more about: (1) Global Citizenship, (2) Leadership for innovation and transformation and (3) Participation in Networks.
1. Global Citizenship is Critical in Education Today
Jean-Francois Rischard, an economist and author of “High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them” asserts it is critical we focus on resolving urgent global issues over the next twenty years before the problems become impossible to solve. I found a Pdf document which includes a summary of many points made during Rischard’s keynote.
The global issues can be described according to three categories as defined by Rischard:
1. Global commons – tackling issues pertaining to physical spaces in the world
2. Global Conditions – taking care of all humanity
3. Global Rules - establish world-wide rules and new types of accountabilities
He emphasized that the tools we use to solve problems need to change. Students can and should be part of the problem solving. Networked governance is needed (i.e. global issue networks)- “Global networks should appeal to universal values, and seek to resolve global problems in the spirit of global citizenship.” Personally, I found the keynote message an indisputable reminder to make global citizenship an embedded part of what I do professionally and personally.
Similarly, Alan November’s session focused on the importance of empathy as a 21C skill. The supporting article: Digital Learning Farm: Students as Contributors
He suggested students should graduate with knowledge, skills and networks. November demonstrated some simple search techniques that can be utilized to help students search more critically and retrieve information with multiple perspectives (i.e. including site:ca to retrieve information from Canada; other country codes can be found here ) . I reflected on Rischard’s keynote message as well as the complementary message and presentation by November with the following questions: How can we foster global citizenship and incorporate global issues in the curriculum? How can educators help students become active citizens in tackling global issues in collaboration with other students around the world? How can we advance global problem solving? How can educators encourage students to have a global voice?
2. Leadership is necessary for innovation and transformation
Is leadership the missing link to 21C technology integration? According to Timothy Lewis and Margaret Rice, the researchers from the University of Alabama at the roundtable session, leadership is necessary for successful technology implementation including professional learning for superintendents. They discussed a study examining superintendents’ perceptions, knowledge and professional learning preferences relative to the Alabama instructional leadership standards. The findings from the study indicated that superintendent professional learning is the key to successful implementation of emerging technology designed to increase student achievement. The researchers suggest professional learning should focus on visionary leadership and leaders should experience digital-age tools in practice in order to promote a digital-aged learning culture.
How can leadership drive mind shifts and culture shifts? Lemke discussed seven key design elements during her session, Innovative Leadership in a Participatory 2.0 World. The seven design elements included:
1. Own the innovation don't delegate creative work; actions should include technology, multimedia social media and electronic communications should inform decisions
2. Drive change through creativity and knowledge; be informed get connected with customer; learning is very social yet we test individually; need to assess teams; associating - making connections; questioning - imagine opposites wonder, question the unquestionable; observing - Student voice; failure is an opportunity for learning; networking
3. Shift from rules to shared principles; research shows effective teachers positively impact percentile growth; flexibility, creativity and adaptability relationship found in teachers; progress biggest motivator for workers
4. Establish PLC; walkthrough site visitations; few studies show relationship of PD with achievement
5. Shape culture; look for positive deviance
6. Digital access and infrastructure - need solid devices and network
7. Accountability - exhibitions, combo achievement tasks; engagement leads to deep learning
Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, shared the importance of articulating a clear vision in his session, Beyond Tools: Thoughtful 21C School Reform. His presentation is available at http://www.slideshare.net/chrislehmann or at the Practical Theory site - http://www.practicaltheory.org/serendipity/ (links to videos also included).
I appreciated Lehmann’s metaphor: technology is like oxygen where he accurately described technology as ubiquitous, necessary and invisible. Lehmann described the innovative practices at his school and attributes the transformation to a continual process of aligning practices with the common vision. He discussed alignment of core values, such as, inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection with indicators for success. For example, project based learning is used as a method of assessment instead of typical end of unit tests, for students to demonstrate learning outcomes and their level of performance. Inquiry is at the heart of the school vision which aligns with project based learning methods. Lehmann asked us to examine one system or structure in our schools and consider how we can change it to better reflect our core values/mission.
Here’s some great questions for consideration and used by Lehmann during his session:
Who are the stakeholders? How can they be brought into this vision? What fears to do you need to address? How will the student voice be part of the discussion? What is the worst consequence of your best idea? How can you mitigate them? What are the obstacles to this change? How can you overcome them? How are the lives of teachers different in this model? How are the students’ lives different? How will you deal with the change?
3. Active Participation in Networks is Essential
As educators, do we block or enable the very tools that were used to win the last presidential election?
I saw Kathy Schrock present over a decade ago when she was teaching a whole generation about the ABCs of the Internet and evaluating websites at a time when schools were setting up dial up connections to the Internet. At the ISTE10 conference, I was equally impressed seeing Schrock present her session recommending “A Dose of Twitter for Every Day of the Year.” I am a tweep according to Schrock and agree that twitter has become one of my trusted and most frequently used professional learning networks. Her session provided many suggestions on how to use twitter more effectively. Schrock’s presentation an various links can be accessed at http://sites.google.com/a/kathyschrock.net/twittercure/
The panel discussion regarding “Unblocking the Web to Unlock Learning” was fascinating due to the variety of practices and perspectives that emerged from the audience and the panel members. The wiki used during the session can be found at http://filterclimatecheck.wikispaces.com/
It was evident there is not one common method of filtering across schools. Certainly there are types of unquestionable media that require filtering; however, the manner in which all other media is filtered is not easily agreed upon by teachers. The process of blocking or unblocking sites is also different across districts. In some cases filtering resides with IT personnel or as discussed during the session, in some districts teachers have the authority to unblock sites they deem educationally appropriate. There is a tension between keeping students safe yet providing learning opportunities for responsible and appropriate use. Should we restrain or train? How do we make decisions regarding social media that we ourselves have never utilized for learning? How can we determine how to use social media and mobile technology effectively if they are blocked/banned and can’t be accessed in schools? How can leaders shift mindsets for learning? How will leaders gain in-depth experiences with digital devices and online environments in order to cultivate 21st century learning environments?