Four take-aways from MSPRA; one concern – SCN Encourager 3/21/2014

The MSPRA Spring Conference passed the David Zach test.

Not every conference will.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 4.52.12 PMDavid Zach is a Wisconsin based futurist who gave one of the best keynote presentations I’ve ever heard at the national NSPRA conference in San Antonio in July, 2000.

I’ll spare you my 8 pages of notes, but 14 years ago he warned our group of school communicators that we were about to lose one of our rights.

Given the pending explosion of digital technology, diversity, and change, “the individual right to stop learning” was long gone.

If Twitter had existed then, he easily could’ve tweeted out his next point, “Stop learning – and you’re toast!”

Zach said the future would challenge us to all grow as learners… and also as teachers.

We’d have to acquire new personal and professional skills in order to effectively toggle between both worlds (learner & teacher) to reap the benefits of our increased access to information.

But there was a downside, he noted.

The inevitable “digital divide” would widen the gulf between the “haves” and the “have nots” over time… and this might result in a measurable “resentment gap” in our society.

These are pretty amazing thoughts spoken 14 years ago, don’tcha think?

Zach spoke about “time” becoming our most valuable resource in the future – and because of this fact – we would experience greater and crasser tugs on “our time and attention” like never before.

He made about 20 more right-on-target statements, but nothing was more memorable than how he concluded his remarks.

He said we need to step up, dig in, and restore a spirit of PLAYFULNESS.

“Play is the way we all safely can make mistakes.”

If we desire a world that is safe to learn in, we must create a world that is safe to make mistakes in.

Even more pretty amazing thoughts spoken 14 years ago, don’tcha think?

So what does this have to do with my claim that Zach would’ve approved of the MSPRA Spring 2014 Conference?

Well, here’s another one of my logical twist-arounds for you –

When you go on David Zach’s website, he emphasizes the importance of knowing the difference between a trend and a fad.

And this is where MSPRA achieved a perfect score on its four other presentations.

1.  Growing and leveraging school & business partnerships (trend √)
2.  The growing impact of virtual learning on our schools (trend √)
3.  Growing copyright and artistic license issues (trend √)
4.  The growing preference for appealing visuals and design (trend √)

I sure don’t see any fads in this line-up, do you? (Better not. I’ve already checked them off as trends.) They were excellent presentations.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 4.56.55 PMAnd don’t assume that I returned home from MSPRA suddenly all wiser and more mature. (OK. Maybe no one is making this assumption. But go along with me anyway…) 

When the copyright attorneys mentioned in their presentation that one way to avoid future copyright infringement claims was to create “parodies,” I remember thinking to myself, “parodies?!? Huh?!?”

“How useless is this advice? How will this help our schools? What educational value could ever be expressed in a parody?”

Well, wouldn’t you know it… just four days later I was proven wrong (again).

Social studies teacher Erin Luckhardt of Boyne City Schools (near Petoskey) tweeted out yesterday this video parody which was made by one of her 8th grade students about President Andrew Jackson.

It’s a fantastic take-off on the Johnny Cash classic “Jackson.”

I’m just glad this kid lives up north and not across the street. She’d probably roll her eyes and give me that “you’re a knucklehead” look every time I take out the trash. (Erin probably would, too.)

I’m happy I was able to include a student’s project in the Encourager today.

It reminds all of us who are in our merry band of storytellers and instigators that to be charged with promoting and protecting the wonders of teaching and learning is a privilege.

My guess is that David Zach would label this one of our core principles, and from the foundation of our core principles, we are then accorded the ability to discern trends from fads.

And this was the only concern troubling me as I drove back to Holland from East Lansing.

As important as communications and societal “trends” are, we can’t let the “time and attention” we devote to them pull us away from the essence of what educating children is all about.

Certainly, I’m not capable of adequately describing this essence for you.

Dang, I’m not even as bright as the young girl up in Boyne City.

But G.K. Chesterton nailed it down tight in 1902.

“The fascination of children lies in this…that within each one of their heads, there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs, there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.”

And we all have a role to play in the formation of these budding new creations.

How cool is that?

It’s got to be enough to carry you into a fun and restful weekend.

Tom Page, SCN
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