ISTE Students and Lectures

3 Things You Can Learn From ISTE’s 2016 Closing Keynote

1 Jul 2016 by Desiree Samson

“Education has the tremendous power to teach us who we are.” — Michelle Cordy

From the moment ISTE 2016 began, the energy was electric. More than 15,000 people — educators, vendors, speakers, reporters and students — came together for one purpose, to work toward positive student outcomes.

Usually in storytelling, you start from the beginning — but let’s start from the end, the closing keynote with third grade teacher from Ontario, Canada, and Hack the Classroom blogger, Michelle Cordy. Cordy stood on stage in front of a packed auditorium and said that she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else than at ISTE speaking to educators, except for one place — back in her classroom with her amazing students on their last day of school. A closing keynote becomes that much more powerful when you realize the speaker is getting choked up as she shows the audience a Brady-Bunch like collage of her students.

ISTE Collage

Cordy talked about her desire to have her own magical school bus in the classroom, so the students could truly be a part of the curriculum. She undoubtedly embodies the spunk of Miss Frizzle. Her closing keynote struck the perfect balance of energizing the room and addressing the actual realities of implementing technology in the classroom. Here are three things you can learn from the #ISTE2016 closing keynote:

1) Show up and refuse to leave.

Cordy’s opening comment to the room was to “show up and refuse to leave.” She reminded everyone that educators have a vitally important job — worthy of a place at the table. It’s important that educators, and those involved in the education technology community, not only show up and voice their opinions, but refuse to leave — remaining steadfast until they are heard and action is taken. But to Cordy, it’s not a fight. It’s a decision to be resolute in working toward positive student outcomes.

ISTE PowerPoint

Oftentimes, people will say that teachers are on the frontlines or in the trenches, and she said she rejects the war terminology used toward her classroom, asking, “Who are we at war with? Definitely not our students.” Teachers need to go into their classrooms not equipped to go to battle, but equipped to open the minds of students and make education come alive for them.

2) Move from disruption to stewardship in your classroom.

Cordy discussed the importance of not getting swept away by education technology or new initiatives. After showing a montage of the Magic School Bus where Miss Frizzle’s students were anxious, shouting or even fearful of the “adventure” ahead of them, a packed auditorium was filled with laughter as Cordy said, “Miss Frizzle says to ‘Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy.’ Yes! But she almost killed her students in every episode.”

ISTE PowerPoint

It is important to do what Miss Frizzle said. To take chances, make mistakes and even get messy — as the magic happens outside of your comfort zone. But Cordy reminds everyone that you are still responsible for the most important thing on that journey — the students — and educators need to be mindful in the process. She said, “We need to play a long game on a short track. Have a vision of what we want to achieve in education, and get our friends and fellow educators to help us with the little things along the way.” 

Cordy has a one-to-one iPad initiative in her classroom and believes that technology can transform learning for students, but underscores the importance of the process.

3) Expand your network.

Cordy talked about how the shape of your network matters. She discussed how graphite and diamonds are both formed from carbon, but they are very different based off of their structure and their interactions. It’s important to have a network but to understand the shape of your network. Cordy said, “You shape your network and your network shapes you.” Anyone who is involved in education technology has the responsibility to take what they know and share it with their network — their community.

ISTE PowerPoint of graphite and diamond

Whether you attended ISTE 2016 or not, you can learn from this passionate teacher who closed her keynote by saying that sometimes students come to us with stories written on their hearts, false beliefs of who they are and that it’s our responsibility to rewrite those stories. So take your seat at the table, be mindful of the choices you make for your students and shape your network so you can truly make a difference in your classroom.