I’m at ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) in Philadelphia and everywhere I turn there are passionate educators who are focused on making a difference. It is energizing to be in the company 0f so many people who share the same passion I do. While I’ve been here I have had the opportunity to reconnect with friends as well as finally meet in person those I have been following on Twitter. Between the meetings, twitter feeds, dinners and serendipitous run-in’s I’m completely overwhelmed with information. I believe reflection is critical in order to process new information, make sense of what it means for me, and figure out a way to implement this new found knowledge (otherwise what’s the point of learning it in the first place). Sometimes I need to reflect privately, while other times I need a sounding board. A trusted confidant (my husband, a family member, a friend, a co-worker) to challenge my perspective and push my understanding to a new level. Being a social butterfly, it’s hard to force myself to reflect privately while I’m surrounded by thousands of people who share similar interests, but I feel it’s necessary to at least start the process now before my thoughts become faint or even worse disappear.
Attending ISTE has always been bitter-sweet because I’m here to work (I have to be in certain places at certain times), which makes it impossible to sit in on all of the amazing sessions and keynotes I would love to attend. But thanks to the #ISTE2011 Twitter feed (and the collective belief that these ideas should be shared) I can review the content on my own time. I just need to make sure I schedule time do do it.
My information overload started Sunday evening. I’m a big fan of John Medina (Sunday evening keynote) after stumbling upon his Brain Rules a few years ago. Unfortunately I didn’t get an early enough flight out and I landed in Philly as he took the stage. As soon as I could turn on my phone the tweets poured in. I felt as if I was there and enjoyed not only hearing his thoughts on education, but various interpretations of his thoughts through the people I follow.
With all of the information being shared here at ISTE it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with what to focus on. Depending who you ask you will get a different answer about what we need to do to improve education. Literacy skills, inquiry, 3D, global learning, assessment, mobile devices, student engagement, collaboration, Web 2.0, iPad, iPods, Google Docs, eBooks…..the list goes on and on. And there is an opportunity cost of spending my time learning 1 thing and wondering if I should be focused on something else. There is no magic bullet. There is no 1 size fits all. It has always bothered me when people say “this is the model 21st century classroom” because learning environments need to be flexible (the tools I need to use will change from one day to the next depending on what we are learning) , and they are forgetting that learning happens everywhere, not just within the classroom walls.
This morning I woke up early to go for a run through Philly. As I have posted before, I love to run. My hotel was next door to City Hall so I didn’t mind getting lost on my run knowing I had William Penn to guide me home. I ran to the Philadelphia Museum of Art just so I could run up the stairs (I refrained from pumping my arms in the air and yelling “Adrian!”) and then continued towards the river. When I turned around to head back to the hotel I had to be careful to keep my eye on William Penn while at the same time watching my step so I don’t trip and fall (which has happened too many times to count in my running tenure). What a perfect analogy for what we are trying to do in education. We have a vision (this year’s theme for ISTE was “Unlocking potential”) for education. I believe in this vision. I believe in the power of unlocking a child’s passion. So how do we do that? What does this new learning environment look like? We need to be sure we watch our steps along the way so we don’t trip and fall. But if we spend too much time watching our step, we forget to look up and run the risk taking a wrong turn. We must not forget that it’s about learning, and it’s about the children. Once we understand that, the proper tools will fall into place and will be used appropriately.
Almost 4 years ago I became a mother. I take this job seriously and I love my children with all of my heart. I realized in order to be the best mom I could be, I needed to spend more time improving myself. I needed to be selfish. I need to take time every day to grow, so that I’m a better version of myself than I was the day before. I owe that to my children. I will not wait for someone to provide professional growth opportunities for me. Yes those conferences, meetings, calls etc. are important, but for me I will not solely rely on those opportunities to learn. Every day I wake up wondering how I can contribute to learning environments. Every day I follow people and publications that share that same passion. Every day I learn something new from these people that I didn’t know the day before, and I grow. It is because of this that I am able to be the mom that I am. It is because I’m passionate about what I do that I have an insatiable thirst for new knowledge. I’m not perfect, I make many mistakes. But learning from my mistakes has been powerful and I have no intention of ever being perfect.
This morning I took some time to watch Chris Lehmann’s closing keynote. There are many favorite quotes I wrote down, but the ones that stand out the most were:
“I want 4 things for our children… I want them to grow up thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind.”
“Technology in our schools should be like oxygen: invisible, ubiquitous, and necessary.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Chris I have never met you, but I am inspired by your words. Thank you for such a powerful message, and a reminder of what our vision should be. Let’s stop talking so much about the tools, and start talking about education.
You don’t have to be in the education industry to make a difference in education. Every day people learn, and you can contribute to their learning and assist in unlocking their potential. When people are passionate about what they do, there is no stopping them. Imagine what this world would be like if we all took on that responsibility.
If you are not sure where your passion lies, take some time to figure it out. Once you figure it out, surround yourself with those that share your passion. It will change your life.