(this is adapted from a post I wrote for a NWP blog)
I’ll give Tim Tyson this: he can give an inspiring presentation.
Tyson (http://drtimtyson.com/) was the keynote speaker at the Dublin Literacy Conference in Dublin, Ohio, and if his job was to get this crowd of about 500 teachers thinking deep about the possibilities of technology and new media in our schools, he succeeded. Tyson arrived on stage just after an incredible group of student Japanese Taiko drummers created a joyful roar of rhythms and chanting that woke us all up to the beauty of student creativity.
Once the drums stopped beating and Tyson took the stage, you could barely hear a sound in the room as Tyson first showed us how he was podcasting, screencasting and using such tools as an online polling site (http://www.polleverywhere.com/) that participants in the audience used their cellphones to vote with, with live data spilling onto the large screen in front of us.
But it was the powerful stories of students using technology for learning, for reaching a global audience through research on important topics, and for pushing themselves beyond the normal expectations that had me (and others) hooked on the message. He didn’t mince words either, letting us know in plain language that the time is now for teachers to be tapping into emerging technologies that are central to the life of our students.
He said it is not enough to have the latest equipment in the room. We must also be thoughtful in guiding students to use it for learning and not just for creating random projects with no substance.
“The hard part (of using technology) is not having to plug in the interactive whiteboard,” Tyson said. “The hard part of our job is envisioning instructional practice in a completely different way than we have ever envisioned it before. That’s the challenge.”
And he noted that while assessment of learning is critical, “Too often, grading kills learning,” and he urged us as teachers to find way to measure learning that is meaningful for the students, so they feel empowered and supported along the way.
“The gifted educator of the 21st Century is you — the precious teacher in the classroom,” Tyson said. “We’re living in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and these don’t come around too often. It would be a shame to waste it.”
I hope Tyson’s message got through, and I think it did.
In the sessions where I presented, I tried to remind folks that it is OK to take incremental steps forward with technology, as long as the steps are being taken. We owe it to our students to find ways to engage our young people with technology, and for many teachers, events like the Dublin Literacy Conference may be the only real place where they will hear that message in a way that resonates as loud and as powerful as those Taiko drums.
You can almost hear the beat of innovation from way over here.
Peace (in the rhythm),