Is ISTE like Disneyland?

I suspect that Australian teacher-librarian, Jenny Luca, if she is reading this, is worried that I am calling her on the carpet for calling ISTE10, “a Disneyland.”  No worries!

Ian Jukes and others are high energy presenters, not lecturers. There are many styles of communication.

I believe that it was the queen of EduBlogs, Sue Waters who introduced me to Jenny, where-upon I asked her how she liked the conference so far. She said that it was not like the conferences she’d attended in Australia.  She continued, mentioning the stage band at the opening keynote and the speakers she’d already seen, and stated that there seemed to be a need to entertain or to be entertained — that it was almost like Disneyland. Then she gracefully softened her statements admitting that she’d only seen two presentations and the opening keynote and that it was probably a cultural thing — and now here I am blogging about it.

No worries, it’s actually something that I’ve been wondering about for a number of years. First of all, it is important to note that the two presenters she’d seen were Ian Jukes and Steve Dembo, two fantastic speakers, who are both high-energy performers — in my opinion.

I have only recently become comfortable with the idea that this is what I do much of the time.  I perform, and I do not think that this takes anything away from the importance of what I talk about or degrades it in any way.  Someone said once that public speaking is a contact sport.  You have to connect with your audience and there are a number of ways to accomplish this, many of them involving performance.

But I use to worry about it, beginning with a NECC, a few years ago, when Terry Freedman, from England, mentioned that in his country, speakers always left time at the end of the speech for questions. I rarely did this and admitted to myself, a little ashamedly, that I’d not really thought about it much. Sometimes there was time for questions, and I’m always happy when there is. But it’s always after a full hour or more of presentation.

So I started to wonder if an hour (or more) was too long.  But as I’m planning my presentations they always seem to settle on that time frame, an hour, and there never seems to be anything that I can leave out without breaking the story — and it simply goes way against my nature, as a southerner, to talk faster.  The story is important.  I’ve seen too many speakers who get up and simply tell us what we should be thinking and often without any logical sequence.

I want my presentations to run, with a beginning, some fun as background, and some twists for tension and suspense.  It needs to surprise but not be entirely unexpected.  There isn’t anything I can share with you that you haven’t already thought at some point.  It needs to come full circle and it needs to evoke ideas, rather than just deliver my ideas.

I found this video cleaning out my office, and clipped together some tidbits with iMovie.

I worried about my style of presenting when I started working abroad, wondering, Should I lecture? Should I stay behind the lecturn? Will I lose respect if I get out and start walking around? Should I not tell stories? ..or should I be myself?  I am a former middle school teacher and entertainment/performance was part of the job for me, because I didn’t want to scare the tikes and I certainly didn’t want to bore them.  ..and I find adults to be little different. They are typically more motivated (mostly). But we all deserve to have a good time, and if I can make you laugh, or bring a jolt to your understanding through a surprise ending, then I think that’s part of teaching — and I do not feel any less professional in the process.

As for the conference, I think it possibly has more to do with its being huge than its being in the U.S.  When you get that many people of similar mind together in one place, with so much at stake for educators, administrators, and exhibitors and so much kinetic energy being generated by the sharing of so many important ideas — well a little bit of glee is necessary, stirring it in with all that vigor. ?

That said, there may be one more factor that, sadly, is an American thing.  I get the impression that teachers in the U.S. are not held in the same regard as they are in other countries, especially Europe and much of Asia.  We are second class professionals, and unfortunately that has become part of our professional culture.  With this in mind, we do what we can, when we can, and with what ever we can afford, to make teachers feel special.

You think the four-piece stage band was wild.  You should have been with us in New Orleans!

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.