Are you my New Camp Girlfriend?

It’s a crowded room. The wait outside is like a concert crowd, only with an exponentially more likely chance of being trampled accidentally by distracted techies staring into their phones instead of watching where they’re headed. It’s been said that attending ISTE helps feed the corporate machine that feeds on education dollars. Although there are certainly a lot of advertisers, and I’m sure I’m going to face a barrage of future junk mail out of virtue of wearing a UPC code around my neck, availing my intimate (or at least email) details to the awaiting sales databases, it’s the connections that will matter. An event like this is what you make of it, and the balance between peddlers and those here to openly share, out of pride or humility, for the good of the group, should be an easy see-saw to traverse. “Spend” your time in the vendors area, or learn from your global neighbour (or neighbor). I say this knowing that the guilty technophile in me will skulk the hallways of the vendor area, looking at all the shiny things.

Sir Ken Robinson will be out soon. Like a bad 80’s A-HA video, I picture him as a hand drawn animation out of virtue of too many times sharing that RSA YouTube clip. Iit will be great to watch him emerge, Tron-like, onto the stage and into my conscience as flesh and bone.  They are sharing a video it would be good to embed here. Expanding horizons. I’ll try to track it down in better internet conditions.  Pulling out all the stops on the stock photo library and the Ed tech quotations. Showing a lot of TV. Odd that the President of ISTE is talking to us in a video, and not face to face.  Feels like a commercial with some ridiculous product placement name-drops. I’m guilty of assuming that everything in these videos is product placement in some way. Is ISTE the vehicle in which corporations find their advertising target?

Talking now about ISTE online courses and their use as Digital Citizenship training. Will need to explore this further as well. (Internet is not reliable.  I have photos from the event I can’t upload, and need to search for some of these links later to contextualize some of this.)

Nets C standards for education coaches have just been released. I’m headed to that breakout next.   Ensures the service model from instructional coaches is understood, and elevates the service offered by coaches beyond fixing a printer fault.

Lots of talking heads in this video.  The President has just acknowledged the support of Q (or Que); I’m assuming that is not the omnipotent being from Star Trek, The Next Generation.

62 non US affiliates in attendance here at ISTE. Does that mean its time to change the name NETS to IETS?

In a room this big, inevitably people end up tweeting out the sound bites of the presenter. With less than stellar wifi, I’m not worried about not being included in that chorus, I’m sure the gist of the keynote will be storifyed and hashtagged for others to follow. It seems the concept of a back channel-as-related-conversation has been superseded by a desire to “report” or “liveblog” the events with @sirkenrobinson just said “quote”, which is then followed by 50 others who found the same sound-bite pithy and shared it, and a chorus of retweeters who wanted to say it but weren’t fast enough, or momentarily lost the wifi connection.

They are talking alot about the importance of creating an online PLN , which I do believe is key, and is a group I depend on for so much. I’m starting to wonder about the blend of online and onground PLNs though. Does fostering the creation of PLNs globally, without highlighting the onground perpetuate a silo, the lone teacher, that excuses us from moving our colleagues next door forward? I know we co-teach, but do we co-learn, or do we save that for twitter.  We must grow externally (I’m not dismissing the power of the unbiased outsider to help us look at things with new lights), but we should also ensure we return that learning not just locally to our students, but also within the other classrooms in our buildings in which we never stand and deliver. Are we creating a camp girlfriend culture, where we change or adopt an online face somewhat different from the truth, in these temporal, surface connections, in an effort to embrace the mythos of the outsider (the calculated “me” I’ve created on the Internet)? Are we as apt to build the capacity of those we work with face to face,in deference to answering a stranger’s tweet? There is social capital born out of being “The Fonz” at our schools. The one who thinks a bit differently, isn’t quite like the rest of the staff, and connects with other, more like-minded individuals online out of virtue having no peers in the immediate face-to-face world. An online PLN is key, but we should ensure that it is informing our onground PLN, and not replacing the need for it completely. Are you the person in real life that you purport to be on twitter? Or is the mythology you’ve created separate from the reality? Are you my camp girlfriend? (this argument is really messy, but it’s what is swirling around as I sit and listen to the keynote)

I know this is hard. I know you have probably tried and failed. You’ve pushed in planning meetings, and perhaps (hopefully) opened the doors to your classroom. I know the naysayers and push-backers, and the lack of anything resembling the essential conditions to move your teaching partners forward makes it hard. It might still be easier right now to say no. No I don’t have the technology at the point of learning. No I don’t need to change my practice because I’ve got this whole teaching thing down (see my black line master binder). No I’m not very techie ( which is the worst, and tantamount to saying, “no, I refuse to learn new things”.)

But here’s the essential question? How many teachers do students encounter in their lives? Is it a sad statement that we speak of one great teacher that changed us, and not the one or two who did not?

Sir Ken spoke of the irony of no child left behind, because programs like it are leaving millions of children behind. It’s a suffocating culture of standardization. Humanity is based on the principle of diversity, and yet the current education system is predicated on compliance and conformity. Not creativity and individuality.  We can’t afford not to individualize learning anymore than we can afford to continue to have one or two visionary, life altering teachers working with our children. We lose a lot of students before graduation. That failure rate would lead to any business failing.  Mayim personified that touched student, sharing experiences of having a tutor who changed the course of her life toward science. There were some odd moments when you realized she was shilling for Texas Instruments. The forth speaker, from Qualcomm, probably should have distributed her flyers on the chairs and then gone home, as she seemed completely out of her intellectual element.

And for those worried about the machines overtaking the role of the teacher. Mark Prensky, the other individual on the panel who belonged, and could comfortably contribute to Sir Ken’s witty brilliance, reminds us that teachers will always be able to deliver empathy and passion better than machines. Teaching students to learn about their passions, and helping kids find and follow their passions, should be the brunt of what we do. Teachers need the ability to see the talents within, and ensured the door is opened to fostering that talent. Not the fillers of pails, but the igniter of fires (to poorly paraphrase the slideshow quote from Yeats).

Welcome to ISTE 2012.

Published by jarbenne

Jared Bennett is the Student Information System Consultant at Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.

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