Keynote Fatigue

By Nancy Flanagan — December 07, 2009 1 min read
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Live from NSDC, St. Louis-I’m a newbie to the NSDC “big” conference, although I’ve been hearing about it for years--its size, scope and innovative practice in professional learning for educators. It takes a good twenty minutes to even understand the twists and turns of registration--NSDC puts its standards into practice by offering extended learning sessions, eschewing drive-by learning snacks in favor of reflection, conversation and substance. One of my personal questions about this conference is: Do conference participants, trained through decades of 6-period days and 55-minute content dumps, really embrace slow and deep learning?

The opener keynoter is Tony Wagner, one of the Big Names in education conferences, a well-known, Harvard-based 21st century learning guru. The question floats around the breakfast table: Who’s heard Tony Wagner before? Lots of folks, in fact. More about Tony Wagner’s presentation later--there are lots of juicy content bits, some new and some familiar--but the man who introduces Wagner makes a crack about the fact that Tony is “still recovering” from being a HS English teacher. Wagner takes the stage and repeats the joke. Considering that the room is filled with people like him--former teachers, now in jobs where they approve their own travel vouchers and have access to wonderful, energizing conferences on a regular basis--it’s no surprise that calling himself a recovering teacher draws laughter, twice.

In her greeting to the membership, NSDC Executive Director Stephanie Hirsh notes that 1.5% of the average school budget is dedicated to professional development. How much of that ridiculously tiny amount is now being spent on a breakfast-with-speaker for one or two people in a district? Collecting a list of inspirational speakers (and Wagner does stimulate some interesting thinking)--is that how we change practice?

Looking forward to thinking more about how good ideas generated and shared at a conference make it into classrooms, used daily by teachers who have not “recovered.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.