ISTE Reflections

I often hear folks talk of going on a “vacation” to re-charge, and I can understand taking some days off to not think about work. But I always really feel “recharged” when I am inspired.

I had the great opportunity to hear a second time Professor Yong Zhao from the University of Oregon, keynote on Tuesday at ISTE 2012. If you advanced the following YouTube video in about an hour, you too can view his presentation.

I think the experience was kind of like an outstanding TED Talk, where you’re shown something so incredible that you almost tear up the message or accomplishment approaches a profound level. Here, Zhao advocates for focusing our efforts on creativity and authentic student passion over only focusing on standards.

Our own state Standards of Learning and now the Common Core Standards in focus in many other states are not all bad. I can view the impact standards have had on education in Virginia over the past ten years. But as Zhao so comically pokes fun at former President Bush’s national goal on reading, the place for standards are in the role of a foundation. I really believe this. Literacy and numeracy are core concepts students must master to be competent citizens. Zhao and thinkers like him however do not believe that all students must know all the same content, throughout their school careers. Instead, we can make education engaging by focusing students’ learning opportunities around things that really matter to them.

I’ve never felt more dedicated towards doing the right thing for students. I also heard from Sir Kenneth Robinson, Dr. Gary Stager, Dr. Willie Smits, Marc Prensky, and actress/neurobiologist Dr. Mayim Bialik. It seemed to me a set of common themes were laid at this conference that set for me a multi-year agenda of where we can focus locally, at the state level, and nationally.

One of the key pair of themes I heard was on empathy and making global connections. Alan November joined the two concepts together in his call for developing global empathy.

I believe public education still has room for us to really engage students. There are so many buzzwords that fit into the picture of how we accomplish this, from computational thinking to product and procedural-based learning to the aforementioned global empathy.

G21 was but one means by which we can begin to improve learning opportunities in Goochland. But the inspiration I received from hearing so many speakers goes beyond the tools to which we have access.

I hope it’s evident why I call for change in my position as an instructional technologist. Please watch the video above. Dr. Zhao is far more articulate and august in his call for changing our focus than I have ever been. I believe in the potential of our students and want for them the best. Whatever we call the effort, or how it comes about is not important. What is important is that we come to share a vision of what we want and how we will arrive there. I look forward to working with you upon your return in August.

If you would like to leave a comment about what the video meant to you – or on ideas on how we start to move there – I’m opening up my comments on this post. Thanks for reading!