Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tell Me What to Talk About

by Shelly Blake-Plock

So, in July, I'll be giving a keynote at Lenovo's ThinkTank 2011 event in DC. And I'm thinking about what to say. And I'd like your help. So let me give you some details...

My talk is ideally going to be split up into a piece where I open my mouth and things come out and a piece where we get to hear from you to get some conversation going. Intentionally, I'm leaving lots of room for improvisation; that's where things get interesting.

Also on the bill that day will be Michelle Rhee. Which is fun given that I think both she and myself would be considered to represent different segments of the education reform thing. Unfortunately, one of the problems, (and I myself am guilty of this), is that the folks camped out in the polar regions of the ed reform debate tend to do little more than actively ignore one another whilst in the doldrums between the predictable lobs of grenades. I'd like to go somewhere different in my talk and conversation.

As an independent school teacher with public school teaching experience; a city kid who has taught kids who live on farms; a f2f advocate who currently is planning a year of virtual teaching; a Catholic school graduate who is a  father of three public school kids; a former post-secondary student with tours-of-duty in public, private, and Catholic universities; and as a teacher of Baltimore City Public School teachers in a private university, I see myself both as having a variety of experiences and understandings about how American education works as well as a bit of a twisted up and multiple-personality take on what it all means. Public / Private. Affluent / Not-affluent. Sectarian / Non-sectarian. Urban / Suburban / Rural.

So I'm looking for some clarity.

Shoot over ideas, thoughts, criticisms, hollers, and taunts. I wanna hear the good, the bad, the true. What should I be thinking about going into this thing? Is it just a work of extended ego, or can I make something useful out of this talk? Should I forgo the talk altogether and lead the audience in guided meditation?

Hit me with ideas. I want to help express your thoughts out there.


  1. I am unclear as to your theme or focus-I think that is intentional on your part?

    It would be hard for me to frame this in any way except as to oppose Rhee because I admittedly have extremely negative feelings toward her.

    So my positive way of doing it would to be to focus on the importance of the relationships of knowledgeable, quality teachers with students. This is important regardless of setting or method of delivery (f2f or online). I would also emphasize the need for teachers to be professionally trained, as opposed to TFA guns for hire.

    I also would emphasize the individualization of the curriculum in your classroom as opposed to the standardization movement in this country. By individualizing learning students can go deeper making learning relevant and meaningful.

    This may be the opposite of what you are looking for but it is my 2 cents.

  2. Shelly, reading the description they've put up for you--even if it's one you may have written--I get the sense that the expectation is for you to share your social media experience in K-12 and adult learning.

    One of the neat insights I would love to get from your presentation is probably something you consider "old hat." For example, how you engage students using technology tools, connecting to them (such as Jing recordings to offer students feedback on their writing)...if you can help your audience experience what that feels like, what students learn as a result, you will have gone a long way to helping them understand what makes your work unique.

    That's my two cents. Thanks,

    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org

  3. Get your audience to share the paperless things that they have in the classroom. Get them to speculate about new paradigms of school? Do some of the twitter things that you do in school with them/. Make sure that some of the audience is backchanneling the session to the world. Run a twitter feed on a big screen in real time. Make it an "unkeynote"!!

  4. I'm with Miguel. Sell the power of technology-rich learning experiences (and please drop the hint that this is not the experience for most students but should be!).

  5. Dang. I guess it's too late for advice :) What a freaking awesome opportunity! I would agree, from the description, that they are expecting you to be the 'voice of edtech.' Just a photo of your classroom would be a powerful thing to share. Your screencasting with Jing, your use of Twitter. Wow them with your wow-ness :)


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