Tag Archives: ISTE 2016

Art, Educational Enlightenment, & Inspiration

Whenever I grow frustrated and disillusioned about technology integration and educational reform, I now have a new place where I can go to lift my spirits — ipadartroom.com! I had the privilege of listen to Cathy Hunt twice at ISTE 2016, and I will seek out any session that includes her whenever I have the opportunity. The work she is doing with her own students at St. Hilda’s School in Australia and with thousands of other students around the globe is mind-blowing. Cathy constantly finds new ways to inspire them to blur media, techniques, academic disciplines, and digital & analog possibilities to create art that is radiant, remarkable, and revolutionary. Best of all, though, is that those stunning pieces are a byproduct of her real aspirations and accomplishments. More than anything, Cathy wants every student to become a self-confident, independent thinker who makes conscious, thoughtful, authentic choices and who is able to collaborate effectively, accept and receive genuine feedback gracefully, and challenge the status quo regularly. She is an artist in ever sense of the word and creation is her constant state of mind.

Cathy takes the exact same approach when she works with other educators. One of my sessions with her was a BYOD class focused on using iPads to create visual art. And, while we made some incredibly cool images during our hour together, Cathy’s deeper intent was for us to recognize that we can do tremendous things with our students through technology tools, especially when we start to breakdown the barriers schools tend to naturally generate. (In other words, to tell our students, “do,” when our initial reaction is to scream, “don’t!) Cathy even told us that the apps she had picked were ones a school would usually not select. One of them, MegaPhoto (a ridiculously large collection of selfie filters), would seem frighteningly frivolous to most educators, even those deeply committed to educational technology. Yet, Cathy rapidly showed us how effective it could be as a creation and creativity tool. And, while we were using it to generate some truly incredible images, her real hope was that we would see how the apps students already have on their own devices can be some of the best options for breaking education out of it continued twentieth century, teacher-centered mindset. By opening ourselves to apps and options like a MegaPhoto,our classrooms can become more engaging and more student-centered while also helping student tap their own innate potential and letting them see the miraculous things that are possible when they become more intentional and thoughtful in their decision-making.

And, exciting as those prospects are, Cathy also made sure that we know the process will be messy, uncomfortable, and scary. The best picture Cathy displayed at ISTE 2016 was a table covered in painted papers, surrounded by students some of whom were still actively painting, while the others were holding iPads and photographing sections of the art (coming frighteningly close to wet brushes filled with paint, fresh painted paper, and uncover palettes of paint). Even the most die hard technology enthusiasts had to have cringed when they saw it — I certainly did. And, that is exactly why Cathy included it. If education is truly going to adopt real transformational reforms, we have to take tremendous risks. We have to let students get paint on their iPads, and rather than shame them for that, we need to celebrate that they were bold enough to capture a brush in mid-stroke as paint sprayed off the bristles. The technology coordinator in me, who loving cleans student iPads each summer to make them pristine again, feels nauseous at that prospect. But, the committed reformer knows that reality rings with pure truth and is elated by it. Letting go means letting go. Knowing and learning is MORE important than the tools we use to get there. It is the ultimate example of NOT letting the tech drive the teaching. Those of us who for years have equated the importance of a one-to-one device to that of other tools like pencils and pens now have to accept that device damage should be treated like a broken tip, especially one that results from enthusiastic, passionate writing. I would never fault a student for breaking her or his lead because the student was so engrossed in writing a piece that she or he pressed too hard, so how is getting paint on an iPad because the student was so committed to capturing an incredible image any different. Without risk, there is no learning. And, embracing risk means accepting the consequences, unconditionally. Perhaps, that lesson from Cathy Hunt is the one that I will cherish most of all!


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Filed under Classroom, Digital Art, Education, Insights, ISTE, Risk, Student-centered, Technology

Stellar Standards for Students

Amid my many ISTE 2016 highlights, ISTE revealed their updated student standards. It had been nine years since ISTE had made changes, but this new set of standards goes well above a “freshening” of language. In a multitude of ways, these new standards underscore the fundamental shift that has started to happen, and needs to continue, where students are becoming the ones to drive content, classrooms are becoming hubs of active engagement, and teachers are shifting into mentoring and curating roles. The transformative changes are being enables by technology because tech allows students and teachers the chance to do things in a typical classroom that were never possible before. For instance, an iPad or a Chromebook allows any user to become a global researcher, an author, and a publisher. Students can pursue a passion, learn about it from some of the most accomplished experts, compose their own realizations and insights about the topic, and then share those with the entire world. Doing that most certainly has more impact then walking to the school library to read a few paragraphs in an encyclopedia so one can handwrite those ideas into a few paragraphs that no one other than the teacher will read.

The new ISTE standards are replete with opportunities for students to become active, engaged participants in authentic, meaningful experiences — locally and globally, but for that to happen, teachers and schools need to let go of some levels of control. And, they need to understand that becoming more student-centered will likely mean school is a messier, more chaotic experience. Of course, it is those very factors that will make each student’s education more genuine and realistic. The next two to three years will be both fascinating and telling as more and more schools confront the situation. The last hundred years of education, at least in the United States, have been steeped in the mindset that the teacher is the “expert” and “knower of all things important.” But, that definitely has not been absolutely “true” for the last twenty years (if it were ever the complete “truth” in any classroom) because easy access to the internet has meant that anyone in the room can find vital facts and information with a simple search. Instead of trying to cling to those old beliefs, we need to find ways to help teachers let go and recognize that it is impossible today to be the sole “expert” in any classroom.

Even though I am a technology coordinator who knows and embraces that reality, I find myself daunted by the consequences of it. When I am the center of the learning, I have significantly more control over what students can and cannot do, my room appears (and is) more orderly and contained, and the is much less risk that students will do something “wrong.” But, it is those exact reasons that I (and every other teacher) must make my classroom student-centered, especially if I want my students to succeed in the world they will face as the twenty-first century progresses. If each student’s education is contained and limited by what I allow, they will never learn to successful navigate the enormous volumes of information available to them, let alone cull from it what is best and most worthwhile. If order and control are the priorities in the room, a student’s education will be stunted tremendously because so little of our world today, especially in the digital realm, has any boundaries, and a vast majority of it a teeming sea of ever changing scenarios. Most importantly, students must be given the freedom to experience risk and failure not only because such things will make them more resilient, but also because so much more is learned from failing and having to reflect on its causes. Nonetheless, a student-centered, noisy, highly active classroom that embraces risk and failure opens a teacher to potential criticism and makes parents highly nervous.

In spite of those concerns, though, we all must plunge ahead if we want our students to succeed in the frenetic, hyper-digital, rapidly evolving world that seems to more a bit fast every moment we are in it. A dear friend, Jack “Wordman” Kreitzer, regularly shares his belief, “There is dignity in risk,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Let’s take these new ISTE standards for students, risk failure with wild abandon, and bask in the tremendous dignity that is sure to be there when we reach the other side.

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Filed under Classroom, Insights, ISTE, Risk, Standards, Student-centered

Inspiration, Investment, & ISTE

I have had such good intentions to write regularly for this blog, only to have far to many distractions pull me in other directions. But, I am thrilled to be writing my first post in well over two years because I have just finish four incredible days at ISTE 2016. The conference was jaw-droppingly amazing (and completely overwhelming). Imagine 14,500 passionate, enthusiastic educators who are actively seeking more engaging and authentic ways to bring technology into student and teacher lives descending on Denver, CO for 5 days of intense sharing, seeking, and searching. Truly mere words cannot harness intensity and excitement of the experience. In no uncertain terms, the future of education was being hatched and conceived in every single moment. To be a part of it is absolutely a blessing.

And, sad as I am that the conference has ended, I cannot wait to start sharing the ideas, insights, wisdom, and wonder that I gleaned from my experiences and encounters. I will do my best to share some of the most astounding items over the next few days. But, one of the most fundamental realizations for me is that I need to begin sorting through my own beliefs, approaches, and growth. Thus, I need to invest myself in making this blog a reality, not just a good intention. I look forward to sharing the things that catch my eye as I build my own knowledge and develop my personal learning network (PLN). I also cannot wait to offer up the successes and the failures that happen at my school — processing and exploring what can be learned from all of it. I hope there are some folks out there who will join me on this journey, and I hope their voices will be raised as well.

This first post back is a short one, but I promise some incredible, mind-blowing items in the days to come (with links to truly brilliant material shared by the fantastic presenters I got to enjoy at ISTE 2016).

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Filed under Blogging, Education, Excitement, ISTE, Leadership, Student-centered, Technology