In the past few years, I’ve been pretty darn lucky to be able to speak at quite a few conferences. I’ve also been blessed enough to include in my network dozens of people that do the same, whether it’s for a living or ‘on the side’. I’ve found that for the most part, presentations tend to fall into one of two categories.
1) What we (educators) should be doing.
2) What you can actually do right now.
I’ve always gravitated towards sessions in the former category. I like the ones that make me think, that encourage me to breakdown my ideas about what education means and h ow we do it, and then to rebuild them with new ideas and information. But rarely does that make much of a concrete difference in reality. When I do keynotes of this nature, I truly hope that I’m inspiring educators to reach farther, think bigger, and to become the very innovators that they currently look up to. But I always through in at least a few concrete ideas that people can do ‘on Monday’. Why? Because more often than not, those are the things that people scribble down and actually come back to.
I hear the same conversations on Twitter again and again. ‘We don’t need tools, we need pedagogy, we need understanding, we need new policies, we need leadership, we need political reform.’ And at the same time, I keep thinking to how many emails and comments I’ve received from people along the lines of, “Thanks so much for showing me Blabberize, I used it with my students and they were more engaged than they’ve been all year!” Will that change the education system in America? No. But for one classroom and one teacher on at least one day, it made a difference.
I’m not saying Blabberize is the most wonderful thing in the world. It just one of hundreds of Web 2.0 tools. But what is wonderful is that it made an old lesson new, that it energized a teacher who was then able to energize her students. To me, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
I’ve heard so much criticism of ISTE over the past few days because so many of the sessions at NECC are what many consider to be ‘low level’. They’re discussions of tools, of toys, of websites and widgets. That won’t create any systemic reform in education. But if even a fraction of the teachers who attend learn a few new tricks and perhaps hear about a network like the DEN, Classroom 2.0, Plurk, or Twitter… isn’t that enough?
I like to think that my Top 10 Web 2.0 presentation has more in it than just a list of websites. I try to really focus in on why it’s important for teachers to delve into that world, how they connect together, and how to change their mindset it the way they use them. But more than anything, I hope to make them look simple, accessible, and within their grasp. And if a roomful of teachers see that presentation and leave thinking, “Wow, I really believe that I can do that stuff he was showing” then I’d consider it a success. Maybe I won’t be the one making broad sweeping changes to the US Education system. I can live with knowing that in a small way I’ve helped a group of teachers look at their lesson plans through new lenses, and maybe inspired them to do just one thing differently. If they can use some of these new technologies to make learning exciting again for the students, then I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Is that such a bad thing?