Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ISTE Recap - Day 4 - The Curse Of Knowledge

Source: ISTE
The final day of the ISTE-palooza felt more relaxed, as the numbers dwindled with the work week and the attendees fell into a rhythm. The emphasis today seemed less about tools for teachers and more about skills for students. Several speakers pointed to the lack of genuine search ability by students who use Google not just as their default research tool but also as their reflexive second brain for information access.

Indeed, Alan November, in characteristic wit and approachability, encapsulated the entire gist of this year's conference in his too-short morning kick-off session about the need for authentic digital use. Ostensibly billed as a talk about what to do during the first five days of school, November effectively marshaled the audience around his claim that before the advent of the web, there were two important concepts to cover: content and skills. Now schools must add “build out your network” as a critical proficiency for today's wired children.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

November also pointed to the "Curse Of Knowledge," a theory in cognitive science described by Steven Pinker at Harvard that claims teachers in effect know too much. Experienced educators have mastered the material already and, therefore, are unintentionally flawed educators. They have difficulty reaching people who do yet know the information. Students teaching other students, however, do not carry this same bias. In fact, the best teachers are those students who truly struggled with the concepts and who understand what it means really to learn.

At ISTE, the same holds true. The temptation exists to feel cursed by the avalanche of knowledge, the overload of "things you're not yet doing." Yet in the Pinker sense, the same is true of teachers teaching teachers; they live on the same plane, within the same general sphere of understanding. Learning between fellow educators, therefore, is efficient and real.



November did offer some intriguing suggestions for the first five days of school, such as spending time on searching, questioning, global connections, year-long projects, and celebrating a culture of failure. Warming up the crowd, he showed the video of "Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap," a winning way to lure any students into a culture of tinkering.

Other highlights of ISTE's fourth day were the informal "playgrounds" that invited casual, collaborative exchanges. Topics centered loosely on ideas such as the maker movement, mobile learning, and creative play.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
In total, the possible downsides to a conference like ISTE are the enormous crowds, the outsized demand for BYOD sessions that force organizers to require pre-registration, and the omnipresent techies staring at you with Google Glass.

The upsides are the exposure to cutting-edge ideas and the access to leading names in the edtech space. Also, meeting Twitter friends in person feels like speed dating mixed with college reunions. Above all, the ISTE reward for us is being honest about what we don’t know and returning to class in the fall armed with an reenergized toolkit of apps and ideas.

Click here for recaps of Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

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