Need for Radical Reboot - Dismissing the ISTE Keynote

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.'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'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 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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Karl Fisch said…
So, did you suggest that? I quickly browsed through the recent suggestions for the keynote and didn't see it. Seems to me that if you suggest it, and folks vote for it, maybe it might happen.

Of course, then you'd have to come to the conference . . . :-)
Anne said…
Not curmudgeony. You are speaking the truth of what it is like in the trenches. Teachers like me who are using tech with kids every day, in my case with first graders, are limited in so many ways. National conferences are so far out of our realm. I agree with @karlfisch. Put your proposal up. I won't be attending for reasons like your own, but if you were able to speak our truth at the conference, I would download the transcript and share it with colleagues and administrators. GO FOR IT!
Scott S. Floyd said…
Nice. I agree.

Now, other than those of us who huddle in the Blogger's Cafe, who would attend ISTE if that were to happen? Is the big name keynoter a draw? Is that person big enough to warrant the money they earn for it?
Brian said…
OK Miguel - here it is ... I've been suggesting something like this for a long time:
"Teacher(s) In The Trenches"
Miguel said…
@Karl - Uhh, I'm NOT attending ISTE 2010 for reasons given. Thanks for the thought. Does this mean you'd consider giving the keynote?
Miguel said…
@Anne - Thanks for your remark about speaking the truth of what it is like in the trenches. Unfortunately, I'm merely a school administrator who blogs but isn't necessarily giving substantive contributions to the conversation. As such, I feel perfectly comfortable in ignoring exhortations that *I* go be a high-priced, book-totin' business turned educator philanthropist with answers by the bushel.
Miguel said…
@Scott, I see your point. However, i suggest to you that maybe conferences ARE paying too much money for keynote speakers and instead should divert that funding to focus groups that represent solutions that work from practitioners.

Miguel said…
@Brian, don't know if you saw it but I linked to your blog entry as an update for people who felt they had to vote. Thanks!
Karl Fisch said…
Well, I think if they end up with a keynote like you suggested, you owe it to all of us to show up. You can stay at my house to save money . . .
Tomaz Lasic said…
Hi Miguel

For my few cents worth - let's turn this thing on its head!

I'd have a wise head walking, talking among the conference participants, sessions, noticing what people are doing, arguing about, constructing, passionate about, challenging them, directing, nudging, laughing with them, drinking coffee with them during breaks etc.

THEN, at the end of the gig, the person would 'note the key' (a punsy take on keynote, I know :-) ) of what was discussed and add his or her own challenge, perspective, insight of someone perhaps better versed, with a wider vision etc.

If this keynote speaker is worth their salt, people attending will recognise THEIR stuff, the things and concerns THEY own but presented, challenged, reinforced from a perhaps unique, insightful angle. And when done right, they will LOVE IT. And when done right, it will be different every single time, recognising the uniqueness of every context, situation, person, school, crowd etc.

But what would I know, I'm just a classroom teacher and heaven forbid I taught this way with my kids in class ... (ahm, ahm :D )

Good post mate. When is your next keynote? (just kidding!)

Take care

Skip Olsen said…
Ran across this quote that tells so much truth about schools, policy, and reformers. "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."--Saul Bellow Talk has never been cheaper.

Thanks for your post.

Skip Olsen
Miguel said…
@Skip, wow, profound quote. "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."--Saul Bellow
Dean said…
Does anyone go to a conference because of the keynote? Who says you have to one anyway? Maybe that's too radical for a tech conference.

I'd rather they spend the money on a great band or a comedian since most keynotes are simply about entertaining. We might as well get someone who's good at it. Then you can relax and spend the rest of the conference leaning.

I like it when you get all curmudgeony.
Angela Maiers said…
I agree with Dean. The conference is not about the keynote, but rather the connections that result when like minded, passionate people come together.

On the keynote angle- have you seen this one? (Kids Are Alright!

It has my vote- let's hear from kids! All this talk, and their voices are missing from most of the conversation.

Maybe that will get you to come...for the conversation, the connections,...not the keynote! :-))
Randy Rodgers said…
Hey, Miguel,

Enjoyed the ;) Seriously, you make a good point, certainly. I know, personally, that the keynotes have never made much of an impact on the teachers I work with. Sessions with REAL teachers sharing their experiences, however, have been really impactful. I will add, however, that, as a lowly peon trying to effect changes in my own district, I have found that there are times when some folks, particularly at the administrative level, just don't seem to hear me. However, put a big shot speaker making a nice check on a podium in front of a packed house, have him or her say the same things and share the same tools I've been preaching for years, and the lightbulb suddenly, mysteriously goes on. It's more than a bit frustrating, actually, but it seems many in leadership need a book or PhD with the name to hear the message.

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