Monday, June 25, 2012

ISTE Daily: Day 2 - Keynote w/ Dr. Ken, Blossom, and a Prescient Pink Floyd Reference

This is going to be a hard blog to structure. There was so much content and so many thoughts running through my head and the structure of a daily blog makes it very difficult to organize in any kind of coherent way. So I think I am going to try chronological stream of conciousness based on my notes and tweets and see where that goes. I will be sure to signpost the snark along the way (debate geeks just chuckled, trust me).

What to do with Downtime at ISTE:
Coronado Island is a nice beachy diversion. It is a short ferry ride (takes off from right behind SDCC) over and is relatively regular in its takeoff. The @wishbabydoc and I had about the best stack of lobster and avacado we could imagine at one of the restraunts, The beach is lovely and the view of the aircraft carrrier is impressive. Because of the ferry schedule, we missed the kickoff celebration which I understood included Batman, so that was a bit of a downer, but you have to go where the sun takes you right?

not-even-an-interlude-sidenote: I love that blogger integrates with picasa/G+ enough to get pictures from my phone. so much easier than copying URL from another window.

Tweet-up and SIG Showcase:
For non- or new- ISTE people, the heavy lifting of communication and PD is often done by special interest groups. these non-exclusive groups hold webinars, maintain mailing lists and wikis, etc. Booths were setup after the kickoff so that people could wander, get added to the lists with a swipe of a barcode, and have an excuse to bump into people.

And the highlight was the bumping into people. I finally got to put names and faces with Twitter handles that I consider some of my closest colleagues in education. Some of them like @artsedtech had distinctive clothing (the batman tie was classic), others had t-shirts with twitter handles. I wore my avatars had and carried my sonic-screwdriver pen. Most people had a system of look at face, glance to nametag to see if it is somebody you are actually online besties with, and back up to face. My wife assures me that women are used to this behavior for entirely different reasons.

I had a geek-crush moment when Tom Whitby, creator of #edchat, pulled me out of a crowd to say "Hi" and introduce himself. It is fascinating how twitter and social networks have allowed us to create geek-cultures of celebrities that we can interact with.

Interlude: The dying of the connection

  • I realized halfway through Coronado, that using my phone for non-stop pics was killing the battery which only had half a charge when I got to the island-of-no-outlets.
  • Powered up the hotspot and switched to my tablet to tweet some things but left the hotspot running through the tweetup.
  • Hotspot died just before the keynote began.
  • The ISTE wifi was not connecting from my seat.
  • I was in a keynote ripe for livetweeting with no connectivity. 

I felt like a one of our students: twitchy, slightly annoyed, feeling like i was suffering a great injustice. But i fired up evernote and persevered.
[end Interlude]

The gathering of the educators outside the keynote was impressive. So many people it was a little overwhelming. This is not surprising given that there were 15,000 people signed up for the conference, but those kind of numbers made me find a wall and people watch quickly...

The Keynote - A Litany of Talking Heads
Awesome videoscreen. The thing was huge. Not just wide-screen huge, but E3/Olympics huge. Good production quality to set the theme through inspiration quotes and photos: Expanding Horizons.

Excellent rich-content project description covering the novel 1984 won the PBL-Contest that was hosted by ISTE. Top submissions and winners were collected in a book that is available iBooks or PDF (seriously?) at

Then we see set-the-stage videos from the President and CEO of ISTE. I hit my first BINGO!! within six minutes. There were so many buzzwords and name drops it was silly.

The iBias showed its head at one moment where the video has the talking-head lead off with iPads and then talk about the transformative potential of BYOT in almost the same sentence, but I will probably let that go or it could take over the conference blogs.

More talking heads: PLN, PBL, Coaching, Individualized, BINGO!! (and my first angrybird giveaway to the guy behind me, although I am not sure if he was using our cards or the awesome ones from @techwithintent.

Next part of the keynote was bizarre. You don't hold your business announcements at the Keynote. Just bad form. We did find out that the Board of Governance had adopted the Carver Policy Model and the outgoing CEO was awesome and the new CEO was going to be really busy but that you should wave to him if you got an opportunity. Trying to keep the snark to a minimum, this was the first moment of what becomes the running theme through my head. There is a disconnect.

"We want to hear from you, the ISTE members" -- "so stop us in the hall and say 'Hello'" Engagement and real connection cannot be done in a hallway drive-by. In all fairness, they are holding a session from 11-12 in Room 5 on Monday to hear more about it, but I will lay some virtual dollars that it is less discussion and more announcement. (I wont be attending. I'm gonna learn me some android apps).

Quick Fact: There are 63 Countries represented at ISTE.

The ISTE.pres the makes a quote that just sets me on edge: "..never before has tech been so deeply valued" -- This was meant to be a feel-good statement, but it just struck me so wrong. Social media is blocked as a matter of policy, corporations are draining schools of money for fancier ways of filling in virtual bubbles (or taking over schools entirely), and the Government sees technology as the next great frontier for standardized testing (note my tweets about the Indiana DOE wanting us to provide numbers and types of computers in our building now so that they can build a better platform for eTesting in TWO YEARS).

I would rather my advocacy organization keep it real.

New CEO steps up. Quotes someone about the difference between power and freedom (control vs. unleash).


More talking heads. Director of the Office of Educational Technology (another BINGO!! opportunity). She was also just dropping tweet-speak like there was no tomorrow. I wanted to tell her she was #tryingtoohard. She showed video from two more government officials. More Lingo.

I'm aware that this post is beginning to sound negative. I really don't want it to, but I am going to have trouble. One of my unsent tweets was:
the @wishbabydoc points out that we just heard frm 3 govt. officials who never mentioned testing. did they not see that elephant? #iste12
The government officials talked about individualizing and personalizing education, expanding access for all students and teachers, increasing mobile devices and usefulness, increasing connections to tools and resources and peers and experts.

Oh -- and August will be connected educator month -- Woot!

So by the time Ken Robinson took the stage, we had 45 minutes left. but he led off with an #edubros reference and won our heats immediately.

The Actual Keynote: A contrast and quandry
He talks about the past: 10 years ago, no social mobile
The next ten years are even less predictable.

He was funny and engaging. "I heard that Americans don't get irony. That is false. The person who came up with "No Child Left Behind"? Whoever thought of that GETS irony.

He talked about tech being a driver, but not the only one. He talked about the process of education -- of standardization -- as being suffocating. He spoke about personalization as the key.

Children are different in their talents, passions, motivations, and aspirations.
but education is based on compliance and conformity.

Children are organic in growth; Education is linear

Robinson had his own version of talking heads, inviting a panel of guests, including Shawn Covell (Policy wonk for Qualcom), Marc Prensky (author, speaker), and Mayim Bialik (scientist, actress, and Hawker of TI Calculators).

Quick Hits:

  • 1/3 of students in 9th grade do not make it to graduation.
  • There is more global access to mobile phone than to toothbrushes (take that dentists!)
  • The average smartphone user looks at the phone 150x per day

Prensky had the most interesting of all takes: The key is to help students discover their passions. Finding the interface between what humans do well (empathy, passion) and what computers do well (connections, calculations). He gave four tips for teachers:

  1. Listen to students -- they will tell you their passions
  2. Respect Students -- when you discount their networks and PLNs, you disrespect them. The cell phone war is over -- the natives won (ha!)
  3. Overexpect: Student capability is greater when they are wisely connected
  4. Empower teachers to dare to do what is right 
Mayim Bialik was odd. She is smart and qualified. But rather than give an overview of her take, she spent half her speaking time justifying her presence (no one else did) and the other half positioning herself in the role of everyman (I teach, I have kids, I have parent in education), even calling herself the outside perspective. odd.

The upshot of the discussion that followed seemed to be what was already alluded to. The educational system is broken. 
  • It was never designed to make everyone succeed (fallback jobs were plentiful in the factory education model) so it struggles doing that. 
  • Alternative program stress personalized curriculums, relationship between teachers and students and links to the wider community -- why doesn't ever program do this? 
  • Our systems are being used to create a "remorseless culture of standardizing"

Personal Reflection (Because this post is TL;DR and I have to get ready for Day3)

I left the keynote disquieted and challenged. Which is an excellent way to be but I'm not sure if that was the goal. The transformative systems that they kept pointing to included disruptions like the music industry and the ebook industry. But those disruptors were able to ignore the basic assumptions (e.g., music distribution is controlled by the industry) so that by the time the Static Quality (Pirsig reference to the tendency for traditional power models to come back into play after displacement) reasserted itself, the Dynamic Quality (disrupters who create far-reaching paradigm shifts) had already forced it to a new normal. Book publishers still have a lot of power and Apple gave them a ton of breathing room, but Amazon set the paradigm shift. Napster, Kazaa, and others forced the new-normal that Apple was able to concretize.

The panelists seemed to be calling for a charter school or independent school revolution to upset the paradigm. But when you look at the video-heads who preceded them, they represent the money that funds these schools. And they WANT standards and they WANT testing. They talked a good personalization game, but their actions speak to a fond desire to use technology to continue some version of factory model: Widgets get learning, Widgets take tests, America does better in science, People Happy. It a ridiculous stance, but it is our current direction and momentum.

In a snarky moment before the keynote I tweeted: "Imagining the crowd is gathering for "Pudding and Other External Meat Eating Motivators" -- A Pink Floyd reference from The Wall:
If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?
Strangely, my disquiet seems to be the same thing. We all want students to be successful and we all know the current system is not going to do that for at least 1/3 of all students. We seem to have a inkling that technology (wisely used, which opens up a whole new reflection on #dignat to #digcit) can be used to create personal learning worlds that will help us toward success in niche form which would be a fascinating discussion. But that is all viewed as pudding.

The meat of education is testing. And the Government bought the corporate line that somehow this testing (which as it happens takes money from schools and kids and puts it into the coffers of the corporations) and the by-rote stadardization that accompanies it will somehow prepare us for that pudding.

But the Meat is a Lie. So, for that matter is the pudding.

The most important part of that Rock Anthem line is implied: You (the student) has a choice. And sometimes that choice is not the system-approved, tested objective.

Students choosing for themselves. That sounds like a good foundation for a revolution.