Last week, despite coming down with a sore throat and a possible fever, I managed to role out of bed early Saturday morning and travel with one of my colleagues to the Edscape conference at Eric Sheninger’s New New Milford High School in New Milford, New Jersey. Last year, after attending the same conference, this was one that I did not want to skip. Although, I was disappointed as I missed out on conducting a presentation as I procrastinated on my proposal and ended up overlooking the deadline. Next year, this will not happen!
According to the Edscape website, “Edscape is a conference intended to bring together passionate educators who firmly believe that innovation is essential to increasing student engagement and achievement. Innovation begins with a desire to change. Edscape will provide attendees with the inspiration, strategies, and the confidence to actively pursue a transformation in teaching and learning practices.”
The conference keynote was George Couros, a Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division located in Stony Plain, Alberta Canada. Out of all of the conference keynotes that I have seen, this one easily tops the list. Couros’s message was not overly convoluted or research-based, and his slides were not full of countless lines of text. Reflecting upon all that he did, his take-home message would probably be something like, “The world is rapidly evolving, and in order for educators to keep up with our students we must meet them where they are by using technology, by daring to risks and be innovative, and by connecting and working together with other educators from around the world.”
As someone who has a newfound interest in slide design (after seeing Nancy Duarte present this past summer), I am now in the habit of closely observing the ways in which presenters utilize their slides as a part of their presentations and to communicate their messages. Couros took a unique approach by using a great deal of video and photographs in order to “attack” the emotions of the audience (as apposed to going into the intricate details of why change is necessary). This idea of targeting how people “feel” rather than how they “think” is a method that can effectively promote change, but is a tactic that is not often used. In fact, according to John Kotter, neglecting to take this approach is one of the primary mistakes that change leaders often commit.
Another highlight of the conference was the opportunity to sit through a one-hour session with Adam Bellow. After watching Bellow’s TEDx Talk from New York, and his keynote from ISTE 2013 (International Society for Technology in Education), I had wanted to witness one of his presentations in person. Throughout his presentation, he talked about the need for change, while constantly citing examples from the multiple jobs that he has had as an educator, and from the perspective of a parent of children attending school. What was most impressive about Bellow’s presentation was his magnetic personality and communication skills, and his ability to keep the audience engaged even though his slides had self-destructed not long before the presentation took place (as he had announced).
The day ended with a session from Brad Currie and 10 Ways to Spice Up a Faculty Meeting. Currie is someone who I follow on Twitter, as he runs Saturday morning’s #satchat, which I attend on a semi-regular basis. The “10 ways” are hyperlinked above, so there is no reason to list them. However, as an assistant principal, it was obvious that Currie is passionate about this topic, and that he has actually used some (if not all) of these techniques in his very own meetings. Also, throughout the presentation, he constantly cited the work of Todd Whitaker, and he had a few of his books on hand to show to the audience. I have yet to read any of Whitaker’s books, but I plan on doing so in the near future.
Overall, I am glad that I made the trip to New Milford, as there are easily a handful of takeaways that I have from the conference. I am always looking for inspiration and new ideas that can help me to push the envelope with my teaching, and Edscape provided me with exactly what I needed.
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