Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Great Start to EduStat 2012!

Today’s EduStat University 2012 conference kicked off this morning at 7:30 a.m., when educators began to fill the large conference room of The Riverside Hotel in Garden City. Several hundred teachers from around the state of Idaho came together this morning to be a part of Idaho’s first educator conference focused on increasing student achievement through a 21st Century, technology-rich, data-driven practice.

Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna opened the conference, thanking educators for playing a role in the education renaissance that is happening around the nation—a renaissance Idaho, with its forward-thinking Students Come First laws, is helping to lead. Yet, even as Idaho takes a leading role in education reform and technology integration, our state has been lucky to have a number of successful examples from around the country on which to base our approach. Representatives from those successful programs, including Jeff Mao, Learning Technology Policy Director for the state of Maine—which has been implementing a 1:1 program at the state level for the last decade—have come to EduStat University 2012 to share their insights with Idaho educators.

Idaho’s Students Come First reforms were passed to support the needs of students—modernizing the classroom to engage and provide Idaho’s students with the skills they need to find success in postsecondary education and the workplace without the need for remediation. It was fitting then, that, to set the tone for EduStat, today’s first keynote presenter was a student.

All eyes on Adora Svitak as she addresses the EduStat Conference.
 Adora Svitak: "The New Kid(s) on the Block: Youth Digital Culture and Implications for Student Voice in Education

Adora Svitak is a gifted young student who decided at age seven that she wanted to write a book. With the enthusiastic support of her parents, she was first published at the age of 12. She has been a champion of literacy and delivered the speech, “What Adults Can Learn from Kids” at the prestigious TED Conference. Read more about Adora here: http://studentscomefirst.org/speakerSvitak.htm.

At EduStat this morning, Adora shared her insights about digital youth culture and her excitement about some of the changes that have already begun here in Idaho. “I think this is a really awesome time to be both a student and a teacher,” shared Svitak. “This is a world that excites me immensely.”

Adora Svitak explained that change in our schools requires not only creative forward thinking but also an understanding of youth digital culture. By understanding how students today express and interact with each other, teachers can harness student enthusiasm. We see viral memes and creative advertising—everyone is trying to reach kids—so why isn’t education doing the same.

Adora suggests that students today (as they probably always have) love an audience. An audience gives students a purpose for their creation. Whether it is creating an engaging video or presentation or simply writing a report, sharing that work gives students a sense of pride and purpose. Using tools like social media, Adora has connected with her classmates in groups created to support classes she is taking.

Svitak also encouraged project-based learning. Digital tools make it easy for students to creatively engage in projects. It also gives them a platform to share with and teach their peers. Svitak herself has posted videos to YouTube. Students are unlocking these tools outside of the classroom, why create “blue tape zones” that prevent students from the same benefits in the classroom, asks Svitak.

Svitak wants to see technology in the classroom, pointing out that laptops allow student both a venue for content delivery and a means for content creation. And she encourages educators to let students experiment, advocating a “touch the stove” approach that lets students learn on their own and circumvents the attraction that students often have towards items that are forbidden.

Adora finished her presentation by recommending that we reconsider our learning environments. In one slide, Svitak drew chuckles by showing several images, one of which looked like a high school hallway. The others looked like a cathedral and a library. With a voice vote, the attendees concluded that the first image looked most like a school environment only to find out that it was a prison. Svitak encouraged educators not to imprison learning but to open the digital doors to a broader world of learning.

Adora shares a laugh with Supt. Luna after her presentation.

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