Some Reflections on Day One of the NJEA Conference

High Tech Hall presentation about Skype (Kevin Jarrett)
What I like about the setup of this conference and the take-away that I will likely continue to talk about is the concept of a conference within a conference. This is the NJEA annual conference for teachers. They are not tech teachers, language teachers, or math teachers. They’re teachers. But the association has, for a number of years, established a High Tech Hall, a large section of the exhibitor’s hall where ed tech leaders from the state, mostly classroom teachers, hold poster style conversations, present in a classroom lab setting, engage in an attached EdCamp, and other activities. It is interesting to watch so many teachers come around and start asking questions and having WOW moments, who didn’t come here to learn about tech.

On a broader level, I am extremely impressed with this 40,000 attendee conference. I understand the frustration that is often expressed about teachers’ unions. I also understand the potency of fear in achieving political goals, and fear requires the creation of a big bad monster. The underlying theme here, however, is that the future of education rests with teachers, and that we will not achieve our goals by simply making teachers work harder or with more fear. It will happen by helping teachers to work smarter.

I would like to comment on a couple of phrases I’ve heard a lot of here at the conference. The first, I Tweeted about early this morning. It read,

Most heard phrase yesterday, “Small steps!” Do we (our children) really have that much time?

I understand the phrase and why it is spoken. But how much do we (teachers) say, “Small Steps…” to our learners. The future is here. The world has changed. Can our children continue to wait on their teachers to take small steps.. Enough about that.

The other one, I’ve written about before, as have others. It’s “engaging.” “We need to do this, that, or the other, because it engages the students.” The assumption is that engaged students will learn — and it’s a reasonable assumption to make. But I think that if we are going to sell these ideas of more “engaging” learning experiences, then we need to try to be more specific as to what is going on. Why is the student engaged and how is that engagement resulting in better learning?

Enough for now.

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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.