Tuesday, February 10, 2009

News from PETE & C

Sharon Geary and I are fortunate to be spending the beginning of the week at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE & C) in Hershey. Believe me when I say that we wish you were here! There are so many excellent workshops . . . and there's no way the two of us can cover them all. We've got to find a way to get more of you here. Many CFF teachers are presenting, so you might have some workshop preparation in your future! :) I've also talked to elementary teachers from across the state and have been attending K-6 sessions. Join this ning to access presentations and handouts from the sessions!

My plan is to share resources from the workshops I attend on this blog. I'm already behind because the Internet was painfully slow last night. I suppose if you put a couple thousand tech people in one hotel with wireless Internet, a slowdown is inevitable. I will be happy to get back to forward-looking Clarion County and our high-speed Internet!

The highlight of both yesterday and today were the keynote speakers. Dr. Jason Ohler spoke yesterday on "Beyond Essays . . . New Students, New Media, New Literacies." Dr. Ohler is a well-known authority on digital storytelling, and he stressed that students have stories to tell. We need to move from "textcentric" assignments to the creation of "media collages" that include images and video as well as text. He also said that as teachers we need to get over the "an A for anything that moves "syndrome. We have to be the critics, the executive producers, of our students' work, and we must push them to do their best work. Dr. Ohler has many digital resources on his web site and is the author of several books on digital storytelling.

Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, was this morning's keynote speaker. Pink stressed that he's not an educator, but instead a business writer, so he has an outsider's view of what needs to be done in education to prepare our students for success. He quoted a school administrator from Virginia: "We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past."

Pink reminded us that when we members of the middle class were growing up, our parents encouraged us to be accountants, lawyers, etc. Although those "left-brained" jobs that require analytical, logical, and sequential skills are still important, many of these types of jobs are being outsourced to other countries with cheaper labor. To be successful in today's workforce, students will need "right-brained" skills such as synthesis and artistry.

Pink pointed out that during an economic downturn, companies need to come up with big, bold, inventive products that customers don't realize they want. For example, the iPod was launched exactly six weeks after 9/11. He said there's a real disconnect between education and business. Education stresses routines, right answers, and standardization, while businesses need novelty, nuance, and customization. He feels that educators "get it," but legislators do not.

Interestingly, both Ohler and Pink stressed the importance of the arts in education. Ohler said the arts must be the 4th "R," while Pink said we need to infuse art education throughout the curriculum. Pink quoted an administrator from a major Chinese university, who said that the arts are "essential to achieving a competitive edge." Yet in the U. S., arts programs are the first to be cut in a budget crunch.

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