The ISTE opening keynote – what I wish had been said

I know  this is not fair – Monday morning quarterbacking what someone else said in a keynote. I respect people who keynote, it’s a very difficult job to be entertaining while delivering a coherent, interesting message for a large, diverse audience. I cringe when people criticize, yet here I am doing it.

I did a quick blog post a few days ago about the keynote by Jean-Francois Rischard, the author of High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them. His book identifies urgent global issues and proposes better, alternative methodologies for developing solutions. According to Mr. Rischard, the effectiveness of any solution to a global problem hinges on technological innovation and collective action, including action by students.

But as I was listening, here’s what I wish he was saying.

  • These global problems must be solved by including people who are traditionally not included in solutions to big problems. These problems cannot be solved by the “usual suspects” – governments, military, big corporations, etc. We must find ways to include people who do not usually get invited to the table – people in small countries, the poor, and youth. The voice and energy of these traditionally disenfranchised people are necessary to solve these problems.
  • Technology is a solution to bringing these voices out and including people who are not at the table (yet.)
  • Youth must be at the table for the solutions of the future to be viable. They are the ones who will live there, they are the ones who will solve the problems.

In my mind, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) movement is based on these ideas. Putting the power of the computer directly into the hands of children around the world means that these children have unprecedented access to information and ideas that can change their lives and their communities, and perhaps the world.

And why bring this message to ISTE 2010? Because these educators are where these youth are, and understand technology. Youth are not going to suddenly rise up and do this by themselves – the Facebook group “I hate BP” is not going to solve the oil spill problem.

Educators are like sherpas for the future. By guiding students to develop a global perspective, problem-solving skills and a voice, they are creating capacity for these students to gradually solve larger and more global problems. Students may not start by tackling global warming, but by helping to clean up the local marsh. The skills of collaboration, teamwork, creative problem solving are the same. Having an educator who can guide this process and help students learn these skills as they tackle real problems is crucial.

I think Mr. Rischard missed the point by saying that we should develop curriculum for K-12 that does this. I believe students learn these things by DOING them, starting at a smaller scale, but really doing things that matter, and with guidance from adults who have a real relationship with their students.

I’m reminded of my own daughter who was a theater and choir kid. The TV show Glee is essentially about her. One year the school board had to cut the budget and decided to cut field trips and transportation – but allowed an exception if the students were “participating” in whatever the event was. It meant that the football team kept their busses, but the drama trip to the Shakespeare performance was cancelled because they would be “just watching”.

The drama kids were of course upset and decided to “do something about it.” Luckily, the drama teacher was trusted by the kids, and they shared their frustrations and plans with her. She worked with them – past the plan to TP the board members houses to a plan to go to the school board meeting. She helped them understand that they could frame their argument in an educational context rather than an “it’s not fair the jocks get everything” argument. And she could do this because she was willing to listen — and because she listened to them, they listened to her.

The happy ending to that story is that they got the policy rewritten, and got a lot of praise from the school board for their thoughtful arguments that the creative process needed both participation and expertise. The clincher argument (thought of by one of the students) was that the policy would have allowed a trip to a “Color Me Mine” – one of those do-it-yourself pot painting storefronts, but not a trip to the art museum.

The point is that if we want to solve global problems, we know we need technology, we know we need the students who will solve these problems to come togther, and we know we need educators willing to develop real relationships with youth along the way.

The thousands of educators at ISTE 2010 hold the key to all of these.


-Posted from the Blogger’s Cafe at ISTE 2010

8 Replies to “The ISTE opening keynote – what I wish had been said”

  1. This isn’t bashing. This is more like a “translator” so the disillusioned keynote attenders (and twitterers) could understand what the speaker apparently could not communicate to his audience on his own.

    I have two sadlies:
    1 – It is sad that it still must be spoken that technology can be a vehicle for global change. How can people not see this by now?
    2 – It is sad that we “put on hold” the passion of young people to change the world for the better. From honest field trips, to limiting their input on solutions to global issues. I love your sherpa description for the role of the teacher; it better serves the potential of what students can do now, not just later.

  2. My parallel noticing is that all of what we are engaged in as professionals this week is in opposition to what all the “experts” are saying learning opportunities and education should be like for our kids: participatory, self-directed, collaborative, etc.

    I am hungry for a workshop that engages me, that includes me and encourages interaction…so many people talk the talk…I need someone who walks the walk.

    I understand that it is difficult to engage an audience, but no workshop I’ve attended has even attempted to engage.

    In order for teachers to move beyond direct instruction and dissemination of information, I would argue that they must be marinated in this type of learning as a student themselves.

    Let’s see some of that – ISTE presenters!

  3. Here here… I agree

    However, no one is commenting on the 45min of the clapping for everyone involved with ISTE from napkin folding to past presidents. Can we have that done in a PechaKucha? It was way too long for my(our) short attention span. I almost felt that the keynote felt short of time and had to jump right in.

  4. Stefanie, you have articulated what I was feeling all through the conference until the last two sessions I attended. One on Tuesday evening and the other on Wednesday morning. In the first one in particular “Leading Effective Technology Integration in Schools,” we were talking about what effective tech integration looks like and how to help teachers learn how to use technology in menaingful ways for our students. Then the presenter, Jo Williamson, Kennesaw State University with Hoke Wilcox had us work in small groups to create a framework for integrating tech in a learner-centered activity of our own creation. It was the best session at the conference for me. I was so excited I wanted to go home immediately and share with my administration what I had learned. Instead I created a Wallwisher board and sent it to them.

    Kudos, to those presenters who get it!

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