I enjoyed a fantastic keynote on Tuesday morning at #ISTE12. Dr. Yong Zhao spoke and I would love to share some of the quotes and insights from the morning.
A lot of the ideas that are shared in keynotes may not be necessarily new from what many have heard before, but it is the ability of the speaker to brilliantly frame thoughts and give real world examples that help bring it to life for myself. It is also how they make you feel when you walk out from the audience.
Zhao talked a great deal about how in the area of education, we often measure ourselves by things that do not matter in our world. For example, he shared how China was ranked number one in 2009 by PISA scores, yet it is still not happy with the education system that it has built within in its own country. According to Zhao (paraphrased), they are looking for creative innovators that also have an entrepreneurial spirit that is actually more evident in the United States. Yet often the skills that we are teaching our students in schools are not to be the ones creating opportunities, but simply looking for them. Zhao framed this when he stated, “entrepreneurs, not just employable.” There is no question that standards have to and should be set extremely high for our students, but are we setting the right standards?
Here are some other quotes from his session with some of my own thoughts:
“Reading should be the floor, not the ceiling.”
I loved this simple saying. Many people believe that with technology in schools, we are getting rid of basic literacy skills but that is actually the complete opposite. We are actually wanting students to have literacies in many areas such as different forms of multimedia, and reading is essential to building and developing these skills. We want to go way further than reading.
“Confidence underpins creativity and entrepreneurship.”
I thought this was such a powerful statement. Often we are talking about preparing our kids for the “real world” but really excelling in our world is important. Confidence is key in pursuing goals and lofty dreams but isn’t that what we want for our kids? I actually saw this picture and thought about some of the people that target schools for being too “soft” on kids:
Confidence is something important in our kids and helping them to build it is something that I believe is important.
“Education is not to fix someone’s deficit, it is to enhance their strength.”
Building on the last point, confidence should not come from simply filling heads with untruths, but actually finding a child’s strength and helping them build upon that. This is not only with our students, but also with all educators. How do we build upon our staff strengths? Too often we are looking to fix things, when we really need to continue to build upon the great things they already do. This leads to confidence overall, which often leads to also overcoming those weaknesses. Focusing on strengths first can be a very successful approach to whole school and culture development.
“Why are some areas more creative than others? Because of three things: Technology, talent, and tolerance.” (Paraphrased)
Zhao referenced Lady Gaga in this part of the talk and as he talked about her, he stressed how talented and creative she is, yet a certain amount of tolerance is needed for her to do the different things that she does. Whether people like her or not, she is extremely popular and successful. Technology wise, she has reached out in amazing ways to her fans and has built more than just a fan base, but seemingly a movement. Do schools focus enough on these three areas? They should if they don’t.
“Others are not out competitors. They are not our collaborators, investors, our customers.”
As Patrick Larkin and I did our own session at ISTE, our focus was mostly on the idea of schools as being collaborative in a global environment. Always focusing on what is best for kids helps all learners win, because ultimately, what do schools achieve by hiding their best ideas? It may be something that works in the short term, but if we can learn anything from the music industry, is that if we do not learn from what is happening in our world, we stand to lose a lot.
I would like to focus on this last quote that was actually made by Don Knezek before Zhao spoke:
When organizations collaborate, kids win.
This was such a powerful quote for the work that we are trying to do in Parkland School Division and one that I will be surely using in all of my presentations.
The focus is ALWAYS the kids.