Surprises in Houston

Last week, I spoke at the American Leadership Forum Convocation, one of the semi-regular events that invite ALF members and fellows to listen and to discuss. It was an interesting day in two ways. One was the diversity of the attendees. They were teachers, librarians, school and central office administrators, superintendents, school board members, and business people.

A day of rich conversations
The second very interesting part of the day was that it consisted of my opening one hour address, a thirty minute closing, and a one hour panel discussion among school superintendents, with questions from the audience. All of the rest of the time was spent in conversations, both heterogeneous (groups randomly mixed) and homogeneous (grouped by occupation) — very unconference.

I was able to wonder around and listen to the conversations, and there were several surprises. However, the one main surprise that lots of people expressed was how much the entire group, regardless of their position among education stakeholders, agreed that old school does not server today’s children.

Also, fear became a major part of the conversations. This was partially my fault, because I closed the opening keynote by talking about the We’re Not Afraid blog. I presented the blog as an illustration of global collaboration. But being not afraid became one of the themes of many of the conversations.

A conclusion drawn by one group was that if we are to teach lifelong learning skills, then teachers and leaders should be willing to model these skills, to present themselves as master learners. If we are to practice lifelong learning skills, then we should be willing to ask our students, “How do you do this on the Internet?” or “How did you get your web site to do that?”

It models learning lifestyle and offers respect for the skills and knowledge of many of our students. One of the higher ed folks described how they wanted their faculty to understand social networks, and, perhaps, to figure out how to use them. He said that they paid a 25 year old student to come in and demonstrate their social networking practices.

I guess that the biggest surprise for me, not to mention validation, was the conversation among business people. Here are just a few of the comments I managed to type into my iPhone.

  • We can’t drag this out. Stop demanding pilot projects and overhaul the system.
  • (Classrooms) need to get updated.
  • Technology is not the answer.
  • If I (forty-something) am able help my children with Their homework, then there may be something wrong.
  • Today I don’t need to know everything I just need to know how to find what I need to know.
  • There is a disconnect between what we’re doing in school and what we need for life.
  • Change is going to happen. Are we going to anticipate the change and facilitate it, or are we going to wait and try to rebuild in the chaos that ensues.
  • Drop the text books and give (them) laptops. Textbooks are lousy.
  • Give a sabatical to all teachers to make themselves an expert in some area that could be used by the school (leaning theory, etc.)
  • Teachers talk about lifelong learning, but they are not willing to practice it (lots of paraphrasing)

About to fly. Long Day. Flying with the Sun.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tags: , , , , ,

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.