NECC 2006 began with a bang on July 4, with an opening reception and fireworks display over San Diego Harbor. It continued that way Wednesday afternoon, too, with an inspiring keynote speech (and stunning visual images) from famed photographer Dewitt Jones.

Jones discussed what he considers are the four keys to creating a meaningful existence–vision, passion, purpose, and creativity–and what he believes are the means to achieving them. Using photographs and stories gleaned from his travels to illustrate his points, he urged conference attendees to “transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.”

Many of the lessons Jones imparted were drawn from his experience as a photographer for National Geographic magazine. In one example, Jones said he came upon a field full of dandelions. Rather than seizing the moment to capture a great photograph, he decided to come back the next day. But what he found the next day was a field full of “puffballs” instead.

Jones was disappointed, but he set out to find a good shot anyway. After much searching, he hit upon a stunning solution: He photographed a puffball from underneath, silhouetted against the sun.

His point? We should reframe problems as opportunities. “There’s more than one right answer, more than one solution,” he said. If you lose the fear of mistakes or setbacks, then “you begin to embrace change, rather than fearing it.”

That’s an apt lesson for today’s educators, who find themselves in a profession that traditionally has been slow to change.

So, how does one capture that “extraordinary” vision? Jones outlined four key steps: (1) Train your technique; (2) Put yourself in the place of most potential; (3) Be open to possibilities; and (4) Focus the vision by celebrating what’s right with the situation.

Though Jones did not speak to educational technology in particular, his words of inspiration and advice seemed to resonate with audience members, who gave him a hearty ovation when he finished.

Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education, introduced Jones by saying his keynote speech was meant to “rev your creative engines.”

Vision and creativity are traits considered “essential” to educational technology by conference attendees, in an informal poll that Knezek conducted with the help of personal response system technology. When asked, “What do you think is the most essential element for transforming education for the digital generation?” 44 percent of audience members chose “visionary leadership,” followed by “redesigned professional growth” (24 percent), “digital tools and content” (15 percent), and “individualized instruction” (10 percent).

“If we’ve learned one thing, it’s that technology must be systemic to be effective,” Knezek told those in attendance.

For continuing coverage of NECC 2006, check back at eSchool News Online throughout the week.

Links:

NECC 2006
http://center.uoregon.edu/ISTE/NECC2006