Sunday, February 27, 2011

Themes and Thoughts from the NAIS 2011 Annual Conference

This year I volunteered to tweet for the NAIS conference, held at National Harbor, Maryland (across the Potomac from DC). The theme was "Monumental Opportunties: Advancing Our Public Purpose". As ever, the line-up of keynote speakers was fabulous and perhaps the most valuable experience, outside the great networking opportunities that always take place.

Reviewing my tweets, I realize that the actual theme was closer to "Making Good Choices and Guiding Change". What follows are a collection of my tweets which I think will sum up the most important takeaways.

Understanding choices. Sheena Iygenar's keynote The Art of Choosing was a wonderful guide to rethinking the way we guide and manage others.
My tweets:
  • Relationship between leadership and choice - as leaders we are defined by our choices.
  • Effective leaders don't just empower themselves with choice, but others around them as well.  
  • No choice or too many choices - workers felt leaders were either dictators or incompetent.
  • Choose with wisdom and compassion towards others and you are on your way to mastering the art of choosing.
The Hole in the Wall project. Sugata Mitra described his experiment with computers and village children. He has made fascinating observations about how children can and will learn by developing their own pedagogy.
My tweets:
  • Left learners with a problem with no pedagogy - the children developed the pedagogy.
  • When teachers can be replaced by a machine, something needs to change. When learners have interest, they learn. 
The rider, the elephant, and the path. Dan Heath spoke about the topic of this book, Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard.
My tweets:
  • We say change is hard, but we accept change willingly in so many instances. There are times we embrace it. 
  • The emotional part of our brains is like an elephant, with the rational part the small rider at the top. Who wins? 
  • Analyzing problems comes naturally, analyzing successes does not. Successes can point the direction for successful change.
  • Find the "bright spots" in your school. Why are the best teachers, best students the way they are? Study your bright spots. 
  • What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. - Ambiguity is the enemy of change.
  • People have the wrong model of change. We think it's: analyze, think, change. But it's: See something, feel something, change.  (His example was the Embrace Life: Always Wear Your Seatbelt video.)
  • By shaping the path the change becomes easier - when the situation changes, people change. 
  • If you want change, failure is part of the deal. Struggle en route is inevitable.
Democracy requires an educated public. Elizabeth Coleman of Bennington College gave an impassioned talk about the importance of broader, deeper thought.
My tweets:
  • No more damning evidence of the education in this country than the quality the public demands from the media. 
  • Democracy - if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it never was and never will be. (Thomas Jefferson)
  • We measure by one standard - are our children able to compete in the global economy? Values have diminished. Liz Coleman
  • We have professionalized Liberal Arts to the point that they don't provide heightened civic behavior, which was their hallmark. 
  • The values and voices of democracy are silenced with devastating consequences.
  • We only have ourselves to blame when we hand over responsibility to someone else. You have a choice. 
  • You get no credit for moderation if you are just applauding the status quo. Go for the gold.
The future of knowledge, talent, and innovation. Anya Kamenetz views education from an unusual perspective. She emphasized that there are so many ways to learn now, that traditional education is outdated and insufficient. Her comparison was the demise of the music industry - has it killed music? No, quite the opposite, now there are more ways to access music, publish and find an audience, and participate than ever before.
My tweets:
  • Conforming in the name of accountability we focus on left brain skills and we lose creativity. 
  • The Future is Open - Content, Socialization, Credit/Assessment are the three buckets. 
  • PLNs - YouTube - we help each other learn- spontaneous learning in the wild. Schools should jump on it! 
  • Linkedin career explorer - Data-driven career planning- find out what others in your position have done
How technology can humanize the classroom. Salman Khan spoke with energy and enthusiasm about the way tutorials like his can flip the school experience, providing students the time they need to absorb difficult concepts, then allowing the teacher the opportunity to build on their knowledge.
My tweets:
  • Learning from online tutorials offer more options - repeat, review, move ahead, struggle with the concept. No one is watching you.
  • Flipped the teaching with tutorials: Technology humanized the classroom - kids are teaching each other and teacher gets to mentor.
  • Khan's vision is by seeing how students do on site, it can increase student - to- valuable time with the teacher ratio.
  • Self-paced learning - who are the fast or slow students? Maybe the fast ones were just assessed at the right time.  
  • Disruptive technologies used well can actually humanize the classroom.
I am sorry to say I had to leave before Geoffrey Canada spoke in order to get back to school. Overall it was a wonderful series of keynotes inspiring making good choices and guiding change.

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