Random Thoughts

NCCE Day 2

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Yesterday I spend the day listening and Ustreaming (archives on the site) sessions throughout the conference as well as visiting the “pit” (vendor area).

Here are my take aways:

  • In the Pit there was a Interactive Whiteboard company set up down almost every aisle. Classroom clicker systems (like this one) were running a close second. In a down economy with budgets getting slashed…this is what is hot? To me these are add on devices for the classroom and what I feel we need to be focusing on at this time is changing the teaching in the classroom…not adding “stuff” to the classroom. There is so much good free stuff out there…but you can see where the momentum is.
  • A rough count of the conference schedule brings up Google 13 times. Everything from Earth, to e-mail to iGoogle you name it….if Google created it, it was probably covered. The only thing I didn’t see was how to search better with Google. I could have over looked it but didn’t see a session on actually using and teaching the use of Google to kids, just using the tools that Google has to offer. 
  • An interesting discussion by IT Administrators talking about the types of things that are holding them back within their districts. One recurring theme was a lack of policy. Not so much that the policies that are in place are bad, just that many schools do not have a policy for what should be blocked or unblocked, or what is deemed “Educational”. Not many educators are pushing the boundaries because they do not know where the boundaries lie.

Do Schools Kill Teacher Creativity?

I’ve been thinking about the TED Sir Ken Robinson video today and wondering if what he talks about not only applies to students but to educators as well.

This was a conversation that came up while having dinner with Tim Lauer last night. This notion that teachers do not feel they can be creative. The conversations in the conference rooms is one that sounds discouraging and lacking the energy to make change.

In every session at some point a presenter will say “Now, I know this is blocked at your school, but….”

The feeling I’m getting from this conference is that it’s more about the tools rather than the conversation. In one session a presenter mentioned Twitter and then told the audience he wasn’t going to go there and motioned like it was over their heads. Isn’t this the exact place that conversation need to be happening? If an educational technology conference is not the place for these conversations where is?

I’ve also heard a lot about PD funds being cut in different districts here in the Northwest but can’t find any sessions on creating a Professional Learning Network or using the power of connections and the Internet for true authentic professional learning.

So….what I’m hearing is a conversation that centers around tools and not learning. A conversation that is about doing stuff instead of being creative with stuff. A conversation that is not pushing but rather “show and telling”. Don’t get me wrong I love to show and tell as much as the next educator but I also want to be pushed, to have convesations that make me think, that are deeper than setting up an iGoogle page or using Moodle in a blended classroom enviornment. I want to be pushed to be creative….

Do Schools Kill Teacher Creativity?

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. I think your section on creativity is the key. Technology has to potential to be an amazing game-changer, but right now, we seem to only have a vision for using tech to do the same things we already have been doing. In my opinion, we need to focus on getting kids to THINK and to CREATE. Those are the two things that are largely missing IMHO in schools right now. Students are almost exclusively being asked to answer our questions and so they spend their time working on lots of essays, practice sets, quizzes, and tests. They work hard, but they don’t actually create anything; nor do they have to think creatively about real issues that matter.

  2. Jeff, Thanks for streaming yesterday. I appreciated the opportunity to sit in on a conference that I was not able to attend. I agree that one of the most valuable free tools for professional development for teachers to tap into is a Personal Learning Network. I rely on mine to lead me in new directions, bounce ideas off of, share resources, test new technologies and learn from. In our backchannel yesterday, the sharing that was going on was invaluable. I bookmarked a dozen interesting resources. Sir Ken Robinson encourages us to be creative. Many teachers are exploring the options that some of these technologies like Skype, Ustream, Twitter offer. By demonstrating our use of our Personal Learning Network to students in using these and other tools, we are sharing lessons in lifelong learning. The possibilities are exciting. Here is a link to a video where a ‘teacher on the sea’ and ‘teacher on the ice’ converse for the first time via satellite phone: http://vg.sitesalive.com/a-call-to-antarctica

  3. Jeff, I have enjoyed your thoughts from this conference. Today’s post reminds me of one I made two years ago, experiencing the same frustration at the TCEA convention in 2007. Here’s my post: http://inspiredclassrooms.wordpress.com/2007/02/12/my-2007-tcea-experience-things-i-learned/

    We should absolutely be encouraging teachers to be creative, out-of-the-box thinkers,rather than drone deliverers of the state’s objectives. Unfortunately, these conferences may be a true indicator of just how far down the wrong path we may have wandered down.

    How many of those interactive whiteboards or clicker systems you mentioned were packaged and marketed with software that could “help teachers cover the state standards” or something similar? All of them?

    Thanks for being a part of my learning network.

  4. Jeff, I really like your post — to me it boils down to: it’s about the LEARNING, not the tools. Authentic learning using technology is great — using technology only because it’s cool or funky or because the product was heavily promoted is NOT what education is about.

  5. I appreciate your viewpoint, Jeff, and believe me – even some of the local folks were frustrated by the offerings this year. I was one of the 13 Google session presenters and I felt like it was WAY too much for one conference. It’s fine to have some session on tools but it needs to be balanced. Richard Kassissieh blogged about the same thing yesterday http://www.kassblog.com/?itemid=923.

    I am hungry for the type of sessions you mentioned. I want to sit around with smart people and discuss important issues about creativity , learning, and engaging our students in authentic and unique ways.

    I love the connections to my PLN at conferences but next year I would love to see sessions/workshops that focuses on student learning at NCCE. We need “outsiders” like you to motivate us to change how things are done and make a difference. I know it has made me reflect on my presentations. Thanks.

  6. Interesting reading your thoughts on NCCE. It is interesting because my big thought this week has been that it is not about the nouns but the verbs. This is actually what Marco Torres said at ITSC, but it was my thought as I went through the NCCE conference. As I sat with other teachers from my district, I kept hearing we could do this, but we don’t have the stuff to do it. I really don’t believe that is true. Stuff is nice, and it makes it easier, but I have found that having stuff doesn’t really improve the doing. It is about building learning communities, learning from each other, being resourceful, sharing everything. I also was one of the 13 Google Presos. Actually thought about doing a PLN preso and shared the power of my PLN in both of my sessions, but after a glut of PLN sessions at other conferences, I figured it would be the same here. I agree, the focus was on stuff, but the gain was in networking and conversations with others on the journey.

  7. Hey Jeff,
    I sounds like the teachers at this conference are behind the times so perhaps showing and telling is the right thing to do for 97.5% of the attendees. After all, awareness has to be the first step and real understanding isn’t going to happen until the teachers begin playing around with the tools themselves. It’s slow and frustrating for those of us considered “early adoptors” but it is what it is.
    I wish I could find it but I know Apple did some research years ago talking about the different levels of understanding teachers go through when they first begin to use computers with students. I always remember how interesting the article was because it sounded like they were talking about me and my person journey from history teacher with an interest in computers to an Technology Coordinator.

  8. One of the hard things about ed tech lately seems to be that the people who are out in front are frustrated that the rest of the teachers are not coming along as quickly. Fundamental change is time consuming. It is also hard work. I have heard colleagues sell the snake oil that technology will make your teaching easier. It does not. At least not right away. It make it much better and richer and eventually some of that might come easier. But not at first.

    At my school this year the teachers who did not jump on early are looking around and seeing the wonderful stuff that their colleagues are doing. They want to know how they did that. We have had to dust off old professional development and reuse it. I am happy to spend time moving the second wave through the changes, especially since they can go to their friends for help when I am not around.

    I guess I am just saying big conferences by their nature speak to the majority as they age. To many iGoogle and Mooodle will push their creative envelope. When it was all new to us the conference was amazing. It still is, just to a new batch of people. Let them have their day. And, keep presenting so that when this group gets bored we can push them as well.

  9. Pingback: Reflecting about my own learning – edtech VISION

  10. Wow, Jeff! I have been finding your thoughts (this post and the last one) so very interesting as an educator who has been international for the last 8 years, and is “returning” to North America next academic year. Hopefully, I’ll be in graduate school and *not* teaching, because if I am, your observances give me little inspiration about what I might be going into.

    If nothing else, your posts have made me grateful. I had no idea it was really so focused on tools and closed-off learning environments stateside. It makes me so very sad.

    What you’re saying in this post in particular reminds me of what Clay had to say about it when he suggested that tenure exists so that teachers can be creative in their teaching — a concept I disagree with, but in a strange way, you both seem to be questioning the same concept: why are teachers not creative?

    I know what you mean, though. I have watched that Ken Robinson video several times (at least 6 times now, as I also use it in workshops) and I have also thought, like you, that it applies to teachers, students, and well… probably everyone (yes, admin too!).

  11. Muriel Hall Reply

    These days, most PD does seem to be about the tools. Unfortunately, I think so many teachers are bogged down with assessment and curriculum that they don’t have time to learn how to use the tools, let alone allow themselves to let their creative juices flow. How unfortunate!

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