Monday, June 27, 2011

ISTE 2011 - Day One

I feel very fortunate to be attending my first ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference this year in Philadelphia.  Since I've gotten so much incredible information from attendees at past conferences to which I was not able to attend through tweets, plurks, and blog posts, I want to share my experience.  You can also follow the conference on twitter.  Those tweeting the conference are using the hashtag #ISTE11.

I could write dozens of blog posts on what I learned just during yesterday's opening keynote and my interactions with members of my PLN.  Actually, I'm sure that the experience will lead to numerous posts in the future, but in order to keep this post reasonable, you'll have to forgive me for using a bulleted list.  Here's a snapshot of my learning and experiences from the first day of ISTE 2011:
  • It's hard to imagine the scope of the conference before you experience it.  I've been to other 10,000+ people conferences at the Pennsylvania Convention Center before, but nothing has been like this.  Almost every space in the 3 connected buildings and 4 floors is being used.
  • Meeting so many members of my PLN was a wonderful experience.  These educators have been incredibly influential in my career.  Interacting with them has fueled my passion for teaching, but I had only met two or three of them in person before yesterday. It's a strange experience to introduce yourself to someone who've had discussions with for years, yet it happened many times yesterday.
  • As soon as I arrived, I learned a new tool through a discussion with a member of my PLN:  My Brainshark.  It's an add-on for Google Apps that allows one to upload video, pictures, and other files, and then comment on them in several ways (microphone, telephone, etc.) It looks really useful.  I'll have to play around with it.
  • I really enjoyed the opening keynote by Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.  I'm putting that book on my list to read.  Many of the things he said solidified my personal beliefs that our current system of education does not meet the needs of our students, nor our society as a whole.  Here are a few of the many points that he made that I found especially interesting:
    • Brain science doesn't say anything about how we should teach people, but we do know the conditions in which a human brain is designed to function best.  If you were to design an environment that was the extreme opposite of those conditions, you would get a classroom.
    • The emotional stability of the home is the greatest predictor of academic success because instability erodes executive function.
    • The most important quality a teacher can have is "Theory of Mind" - the ability to diagnose others' gaps in knowledge and their brains' punishment and reward systems.
    • Demanding that students do nothing more than memorizing will create a bunch of robots.  There needs to be problem solving and improvisation in order for students to reach their potential.
  • There's a lot of educators here who understand the direction we need to take to revolutionize our education systems.  It's great to be among them.  All revolutions start with a small group of determined people who stick to their convictions and fight for what they believe in.  I feel like I am among those people here, and I believe that eventually we will change the standardized testing culture that is so devastating to our students, and the minds of people who cherish data over learning.