Words that inspire

The panelists provided unique views on global learning.
The panelists provided unique views on global learning.

Live ISTE Blog – One of my favorite quotes comes from Uncle Ben of Spider-Man fame… “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I’m pretty sure that Stan Lee wasn’t thinking about ISTE keynotes when he penned that well-used phrase. However, that’s the quote that comes to my mind when I consider the impact that a well-thought out, well-delivered keynote can provide.

After years of attending conferences, I’ve seen terrible keynotes, great ones, and everything in between. I’ve seen solo keynote presentations, panel discussions, and a plethora of combinations and permutations there of. After all these years at conferences, I’m still amazed and thrilled when I see a keynote speaker or panel that “sings” with its message. What do I mean by that (because I’m definitely not talking about karaoke)? I mean that I appreciate all the keynotes where the message is clear, powerful, and well-delivered, and it resonates with the audience.

Overall, I really like keynotes. It’s the theory of “Educational Amway” to the highest degree. That’s why I became a tech trainer. Instead of teaching 20-30 kids, I could teach 20-30 teachers at a time who each teach 20-30 students. That theory is magnified with keynotes. When you’re doing a huge keynote presentation, the potential base of students that you can affect is even greater… You might be speaking to 200-300 or 2,000-3,000 or more educators, and that’s why I like keynotes. That said, it’s imperative that organizations really consider who they bring in for keynotes because it’s not just the message, it’s the way that information is delivered. Just like how we encourage our teachers to engage all learners, it’s important that all keynote presenters do the same with the audience.

In Tuesday’s keynote, “Innovation and Excellence: Buzzwords or Global Imperative?,” the audience was treated to a panel discussion that included Karen Cator, director of the Office of Education Technology, U.S. Department of Education; Jean-François Rischard, former VP of the World Bank; Shaun Koh, a student from Singapore; and Terry Godwaldt, director of programming with the Centre for Global Education. It’s rare to see panel discussions for a keynote session, but I enjoy that format. The goal of a keynote should be to get audience members to question… It should challenge listeners to think… It should inspire us to action. Panel discussions expand the opportunities for inspiration. With four opinions, often divergent, you can quadruple the potential connections with the audience. With four styles of delivery, you can reach more learners.

Tuesday’s keynote was a powerful panel. Godwaldt brought a global perspective in a charming way. Koh offered enthusiasm and insight of a youthful voice. Cator provided passion and some of the most well-thought-out ideas. Rischard contributed solid ideas as well, albeit in a tone and energy level that brought back memories of multi-hour college lectures. Although I began watching the keynote in the theatre, I ended up going to the Bloggers’ Cafe to watch it on ISTEvision so that I could observe reactions of my peers.

Several of the ideas and thoughts resonated with the audience (me included), and there were just as many nods of the head as smiles and thoughtful expressions. As with the best of keynotes, whether you personally agreed or disagreed with the statements by the panelists, their comments made you think. They made you discuss. I hope that the majority of conference goers who listened in will also be empowered to action as well. The dialogue is open… Now what will we do with it? As Karen Cator said, change can happen quickly with a motivated grassroots movement.

Ted Lai is the director of Technology and Media Services in California’s Fullerton School District.

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Laura Ascione
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