A More Interesting Conference than I’d Expected

Keith Krueger of CoSN

Feb 18 03:00: I don’t know why, but I’d forgotten that the Peabody Hotel was known for its chocolate.  It’s the reason I’m up at 3:00 AM — I have no doubt.  I’m in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I’m starting to believe that the superintendent in Missouri I worked with the other day was right, when he said that the recession was not affecting the midwest to the degree that it was both coasts.  TICAL, the organization I’m working for today, had to cancel their administrators conference in California, but the version they put on in Arkansas seems to be enjoying full attendance.

In just a few hours, I will enjoy breakfast with superintendents across the state (and many from California), and then have the morning to just attend sessions. 

Feb 18 09:45 Breakfast is over and I was frankly inspired by some of the stories, and saddened by others — especially as some of the superintendents were from California.  Arkansas, it seems, is not in nearly the dire straights that much of the rest of the country is experiencing.

I am now sitting in a session being presented by Kieth Krueger, CEO of CoSN.  The session is called Learning to Change, Changing to Learn: Global Lessons.  We all received a CD with the L2CC2L video at the superintendents’ breakfast, along with a new video with quotes from students.

Feb 19 05:30 Sitting at a table, just out side the Great American Babel Bakery and just next to a working 110 Volt electrical outlet. 

I took lots of notes from Krueger’s presentation, but deleted them when I just saw that his slide stack is available as a PDF file here.

Most of the research on the impact of technology in education, that he shared indicated little to no impact — until he got to recent studies done by Becta in the U.K. where enormous investment has been made in technology.  What has accompanied that investment are efforts to redefine and retool education to reflect 21 century realities.  They found dramatic advancement in learning, when that investment was accompanied with enthusiasm and support.

A U.S. metastudy came to two conclusions.

  1. We’ve often over-promised what technology can do.
  2. When there is appropriate vision and adequate professional development, Technology can be a powerful, transformative tool.

We are making progress when it comes to teachers.  63% of teachers say their technology skills are “somewhat advanced” or “advanced”.  Yet most of them use their skills for e-mail and Internet research, not changing teaching. (CDW-G Teachers Talk Tech Surevey 2006)

From the student perspective (customer), they are expressing growing frustration that schools are “irrelevant”.  We teach them all in a cookie-cutter style, while, in their outside the classroom information experiences, they learn at their own rate — and they do a lot of learning outside the classroom.  Krueger talks about individualized instruction.  I prefer talking about personalized learning.  It implies to me a more active and direct involvement by the learner.

Krueger then depressed us all by talking about what technology gets from the Obama stimulus package.  That deserves its own blog post.

This one caught my attention.  88% of the voting public believe that 21st century skills are important and should be integrated into the classroom.  What actually struck me was the 10% who said that 21c skills are important, but that they should not be taught in school.  Where does that come from?

The next slide indicated that 99% of people say that 21st century skills are critical to the future economic success.  Yet school and district administration continues to run against resistance among parents and community.

We finally watched the new student-version of the Learn to Change, Change to Learn video.  Here are some of the quotes that resonated with me. 

  • “I can make anything that would have been ordinary, extraordinary.”
  • “I just started making music a few months ago.  I’m learning how by trial and error.”
  • “I’d say that being able to experiment with technology is what is good about technology.”
  • “Video games are about coordinating and communication.”
  • “When you have access to everything, you get to know yourself better, because you have to choose what to use and what not to use.”

I then saw a presentation by ,California superintendent of the year, Bob Price about using video clips for communication.  It was basically a viewing of funny, moving, and thought-provoking video clips, mostly available through YouTube, that can easily be incorporated into presentations and lessons.  We also received a CD with the videos that he showed, and some that he avoided showing to the less adventurous-in-spirit Arkansas educators.

That said, one of the most interesting aspects of this unique conference was that of collaboration.  The TICAL project is a state (California) funded initiative to assist school superintendents in their efforts to modernize their schools with contemporary technologies.  The project seems to have been hugely successful in California, less by measure of penetration, and more by its impact on the school systems that are participating.  Super after super told me that their TICAL Cadre was their learning network.  It was the one entity that pushed them to learn and act in new ways to address today’s educational pressure points.

Another aspect of the conference that was intriguing was the interactions between California administrators and the majority, administrators from Arkansas.  The west coasters, who seem constrained on almost all sides and all levels by an apparently dysfunctional government, were impressed and envious of an education environment that seemed to be encouraging and providing for innovation in teaching, learning, and education management. 

Both of my sessions seemed to have been well received, though I recognized that I was preaching to the choir in many instances.  The truth of it, however, as David Wells and I talked about this the other morning in Vermont, is that we’re not preaching to the choir.  A Choir assumes that church is in session.  We’re still preaching to the missionaries, and missionaries come to conference to learn new language and to collect new stories.

I’m finishing this, scrunched up against the inner wall of in a silver torpedo,  jetting through the atmosphere, about six miles up.  I’d hoped to post this within the wifi haven of the Little Rock airport, but too much to type and much more dancing around in my artificially pressurized brain. 

Till then!

5 thoughts on “A More Interesting Conference than I’d Expected”

  1. While reading this I kept going beck to the Ben Grey thought about what do we really mean by 21st Century literacy.

    21st Century skills were mentioned several times, but I really wonder what is meant by that and if those skills are truly important when they are defined.

    Are 21st Century skills being able to use technology or is using technology a 21st century skill? Either way technology really just makes it easier to move learning from practicing in contrived situations to working in a real life environment.

  2. I kept thinking as I was reading about what was meant by 21st century skills.

    I go back to the Ben Grey (@bengrey) discussion http://bengrey.com/blog/?p=52 about 21st century as a buzz word.

    21st Century skills were mentioned several times. I wonder if the 21st century skills are meant to be skills using technology or skills that are enhanced by using technology.

    My thought is that 21st Century skills transform the classroom from a place where learning takes places through contrived examples into a place where learning happens in the actual real world.

  3. Thank you so much for your thought-provoking presentations–it was well received by all the leaders of the conference and it helped put things in perspective for us all. The multimedia you used for your presentation was not less than extraordinary! My feelings are that there are many less hurdles to jump over in Arkansas compared to California thus the push for change is more seamless. My feelings are that California leaders are wrapped up in state mandates and oversight that implementing and modeling 21st century skills and a new “landscape” is almost secondary. We at TICAL are hoping to instill this paradigm shift to our California leaders with the help of the cadre who are very much the heart of the project. Leadership 3.0–the California Conference–is ACTUALLY STILL ON, but due to budget freezes in the districts attendance is expected to be down–we are persevering and hoping to engage the leaders across the state one superintendent, principal, or c&i person at a time if we need to. Thanks again for assisting us leaders in Arkansas, California, and the entire planet with thinking about this new world that are students are being raised in. You helped us understand that the answers are not necessarily right in our face, but rather the thinking process must change for us to develop a meaningful education system in our stagnant 19th century facilities.

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