Sunday’s Opening Keynote session was introduced by ISTE President Helen Padgett who emphasized that students need to walk into school and feel like they are taking a “step towards the future, and not a step back in time”.  This sentiment rang true in the constant challenge we have as instructional technologists to bridge the distance between digital immigrants and digital natives.  Padgett mentioned notable strides and achievements including that at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C.  The school is a prime example of the success of community partnerships.  Ninety-eight percent of its students have been accepted into colleges (including ivy league schools) including Stanford, Cornell, and Duke. 


 Another notable point is that the National Educational Computing Conference will no longer we called NECC.  It will officially be called the ISTE Conference beginning with next summer’s conference (ISTE 2010) in Denver, Colorado June 27th-30th.


Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers:  The Stories of Success was the Opening Keynote speaker for the conference.  His keynote focused on the question of “meaningful learning environments” a nd what it takes to create them.  He proposed 3 preconditions for it to happen and related them to, of all subjects, Fleetwood Mac!  Here are a few notes from his keynote address:

 Effort is essential for meaningful learning…

The success of Fleetwood Mac has taken 20 years and 26 albums. 

“We telescope how long that learning takes place”…”underestimate how much time, energy, and struggle” is behind a successful organization, classroom, individual

There is a 10 year rule for success and proficiency proposed by psychologists…10,000 hours of practice necessary…which comes to 4 hours a day for all successful individuals

 Effort…successful learning doesn’t begin with a talent, but with an approach to the task

Example:  American students-will say you have to have a “talent” for math to be good for it.  Asian counterparts-to do well at math takes effort.


Perseverance is essential…you must “build on your failures”…

We tend to embrace the capitalization learning style:  where people build on their strengths until you reach an optimal state

But this is not the only kind of strategy.  We need to try the compensation strategy.  Instead of building on your strengths, you compensate on your weaknesses.  When you find success from the compensation strategy, the results are much more meaningful and weighted.

Example:  In NFL Football, the top 50 draft pics underperform compared to the 51+ draft picks.

“We need to have respect for difficulty.”

So the big question is…”How do we set up an environment where students are enabled to “flex” their compensation muscles?


Feedback is a critical aid to effective learning…

We incorrectly think our learning/experience has to be linear.  “We value and treasure the role of timely and targeted feedback as an aid to effective learning”

Feedback lies at the core of effective learning.  We must take time to not only solicit feedback, but evaluate the results to see how we can improve.


Summarizing point:

“Sometimes the struggle in learning something is where the learning lies.”




I thought his address was an interesting way to start the conference.  It did help me think about how I can help teachers adjust their paradigms to broaden their scope of the opportunities and potential they have their classrooms with technology.  Providing professional development for my teachers to improve classroom instruction is a challenge.  Some thoughts on professional development I have to parallel Gladwell’s address:

1.  Effort-

Develop a professional development plan and stick with implementation for several years.  Results may not be apparent until later. 

Increasing teacher effort in attending professional development-Work with administration on paid time, substitutes, professionl recertification points, etc.  Work with community partners to provide snacks, freebies, assistance, etc., Align training with teacher planning periods, inservice days; Align training to support school’s improvement plan and critical curricululm and instructional needs

2.  Perseverence

How do you keep teachers from quitting on implementing a technology tool if it “fails” the first time?  I see this problem often.  I never feel technology fails.  Most of the time, any snags in implementing the technology tool was because of lack of planning and lack of understanding the tool. 

I’m stuck here…please offer suggestions!

3.  Feedback

Provide a “feedback/closure” session with teachers after a collaborative project; solicit feedback  from students on what was learned and what could have been improved; develop improvement plans from feedback

Does anyone have any concrete suggestions on “how” to set up these preconditions in a school/classroom to create an effective and meaningful learning environment for teachers (professional development) and students?  I’d love to hear your responses!