The summer professional development season has begun in full earnest! I attended and presented at the #evillageNWI conference in Valparaiso this week. I hadn’t intended to participate in this particular conference as it is 4 days before the district conference where I’ll be volunteering, but one of the keynote speakers caught my eye.
Ken Shelton’s education career mirrors mine in several ways. Fourteen years in the business as a Middle School STEM teacher (his speciality is technology, mine is science), Masters in EdTech. He’s a globally sought after speaker on Educational Technology and is passionate about what he does. I’m not internationally known, but hey, who knows, right? Thursday morning, he changed my life.
As I sat in the ice cold gym of this small high school across the road from a soy bean field (hell, if that ain’t a picture of Indiana at its best, what is), I listened to him talk about teachers and students using technology for good, not evil. I smiled to myself, because I tell the students all the time, “use your powers for good, not evil,” I never really had a guiding hand for them as I’d say that to them… now I think I do.
Ken uses media to amplify the voices of students.
Through various techniques, including using that damned phone that’s always attached to their ear, he teaches students AND teachers how to “speak up” out there about themselves, their lives, their environments, the community, the world. This generation of students are making change in ways that I could have never done 35 years ago when I was in middle and high school. They can use social media… technology to rattle cages, make pronouncements, defy authority, save the world. He has taught children to not fear their power and to use it.
I’ve struggled with helping my students see their power. Yes, there is always one or two per group that pushes out and speaks up and everyone is in awe of their courage to do what needs to be done and how they fight back against the naysayers and critics. The rest of them though, their voices are quiet, hidden, small whispers of “I wish I could”, that we sometimes hear but usually never even know exist.
Amplification of voice. How can we, as teachers, as the adults in the lives of children who just want to figure out who they are in this world, to help them be heard? Ken has several suggestions, all of them amazing. My favorite was Storycorps: the nonprofit storytelling group that wanders around the country, the world, recording the stories of humans. They’re creating an archive of the human experience. I downloaded the app. I’m going to use it.
He also, in one of the breakout sessions, taught some of us how to use pictures to create a mood and how teaching students to express a mood enhances their critical thinking skills and makes learning a completely different experience for them. Seeing the world through a different lens. Talking loudly. Amplification. As educators, we should be amplifying our voice, modeling it for our students so they too, can amplify their voices.
He ended his keynote, in that cold gym with two questions. I present them to you now: