Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Telling a Story at PETE & C

My seven days at PETE & C allowed me to see a lot of fabulous tools which our students can be utilizing in the classroom. Brilliant podcasts; terrific music compositions; professional-looking movies, cool virtual spaces for learning… Most of the technology, perhaps all, I had already used or had explored at some point prior to this conference. But then again, learning how to use a new piece of technology is not necessarily what this conference is all about.

The biggest thing I took away was a continuing theme I heard throughout my days there. I heard it from all three of the keynote speakers as well as from many of the session presenters: the importance of giving students the ability, tools and confidence to tell a story.

As keynote speaker, Jason Ohler pointed out, stories help us to organize information, remember a place and express the emotion of an event. Everyone has a story; he or she may just need help in finding how to tell it. Keynote speaker, Daniel Pink, described design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning as the six aptitudes of the right-side of the brain which are so crucial to our students’ success. Similarly, Rafe Esquith brilliantly and emotionally demonstrated the importance of creativity, innovation and empathy in a child’s learning experience. The videos he shared of his students' learning celebrations clearly verified that these components matter - really matter - in a child’s learning experience.

Ken Rodoff’s session on Improving Student Presentations reminded us that students need some guidance in telling a story: they need to find the story's “hook” and they need to realize that they are entertaining an audience, not simply completing a class assignment. Mercyhurst College's session on Imagining in Second Life had a very creative way to tell a story – using Second Life islands as a stage for Abraham Lincoln revisions or a gallery for art work.

Students deserve to have all the tools and opportunities they need to tell their story. Technology holds a mother-load of them. As Ohler points out, a big amplifier won’t make a bad guitar sound good – the story has to be good in order to sound good. But whether it’s a movie, a song, a play or a podcast – it’s another chance that a good story will be heard and shared.

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