This will sound a bit curmudgeony, but so what? I’m not going to be attending ISTE 2010 since, to be blunt, I feel like attending too many conferences puts you on the “conference circuit.” (it’s also out of state during a tough economy).

Once you’re on that train, you’re focused on discussions that capture people’s attention, engage folks, but DON’T MAKE A DARN DIFFERENCE when people get back to their schools and classrooms. Yes, I’m saying, all this talk about leadership and research is too doggone confusing for the majority of K-12 teachers. . .yes, yes, I know YOU are different. I’m talking about trying to make a steak while juggling eggs, washing dishes, taking care of two toddlers at the same time that you just throw up your hands and let the dishes pile up until later, put the eggs down, and focus on cooking and ensuring your toddlers don’t over-run you. There’s only so much multi-tasking possible, isn’t there?!?

It’s the equivalent of presenting a fantastic Web 2.0 tool and then expecting teachers to accomplish the following:

  1. Learn how to use the tool well enough that it becomes part of their practice. Why should people learn 100+ Web 2.0 tools when they don’t have but a fraction of time to even use 1 tool? Something’s wrong with this.
  2. Use the tool within the context of their school. Context…it’s an important thing to be aware of, yet we continue to deploy solutions that are designed–and we say they are–to TRANSFORM that context, destroy the culture that many people are happy with. No one, unless they are a deviant, wants to be a change agent. Yes, it’s a sorry fact, but while it’s nice to talk change everywhere else, some just want to go home and relax without the expectation of change…it’s the “I’ll move your cheese, but don’t you dare think you can move MY cheese” phenomenon.
  3. Even if you have leadership support to accomplish change and turn around a school, school change only lasts as long as the people are there, usually 3-4 years. (where’s that research study when I need to cite it). And, once leaders “turn things around” they do the smart thing and move onto some place else so that they don’t have to live with those consequences…living change can be hard work, too…harder than making change, if you know what I mean.
  4. Web 2.0 tools involve putting some parents’ kids cheek-to-jowl (virtually) with kids from someplace else. Unless you change the culture of the school, what liability and accountability issues are you going to have to deal with?

I just finished reading Vicki Davis’ proposal and Scott McLeod’s. I’ll be blunt, they’re both chock-full of high-falutin’ ideas. But the truth is, I’m tired of hitching my carriage behind some writer’s idea of what could be in business but is designed for education since they’re the chosen keynoter. While research may say something, the fact is, research has been speaking up for years in school change and reform…and you know what? People aren’t listening.

So, what’s my idea for an ISTE Keynote? Well, I’m not going, but I’d like to put all these book authors turned speakers, megabloggers on ice and get back to the hard tacks. Find me an inner-city, public school teacher in the trenches who’s using technology with her students for the last 7 years, who has found measured ways to introduce technology as part of her core content instruction, and that would be someone to listen to.

That would be someone inspiring, life-altering, etc. Until then, maybe a silent keynote would be best. An hour of silence to appreciate that our very system of schools is all goofed and radical reboot is the first step.

Update 12:07 PM: And, if you must vote for something, try Brian Crosby’s suggestion.

All that aside, I applaud ISTE for putting this opportunity out there for discussion! Brilliant!


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure