The Ohio Education Technology Conference (OETC) is a 3 day technology conference held in Columbus, Ohio with over 5,000 people attending. At this point I have lost track of how many I have attended (6 or 7 I think?) but it is a good event. Usually around this time of year, old man Winter has us dreaming of riding roller coasters (at least it does for me) and our batteries a little low from the reality of another school year and the many items that go along with it. OETC is a great escape for 3 days and the batteries are recharged as we come away armed with new information and ideas to explore when we return to our schools.
As I looked through the conference sessions the buzz words in education stuck out in almost every session. These buzzwords are the words we have been hearing for over a year now and include the likes of PARCC, Online Assessments, Online Testing, Common Core Standards, IIS and many others. One observation I have made over the years is that each year the conference appears to have a list of buzzwords that are making their rounds within the education community. Netbooks, Smartboards, Student Response Systems…do any of these sound familiar? My concern is that we are creating an environment through PARCC, Online Assessments, Online Testing, Common Core Standards and IIS where we become so focused on the test or the data from the test that we fail to create an environment that is similar to real life. We fail to develop within our students the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace and beyond. Furthermore these new online tests are going to require an investment of technology and infrastructure all of which cost money that I fear will be used by many only during the testing window and not used outside of it.
Take a moment to reflect and ask your self…have you had to recall an obscure fact that was on a test 10 years ago or did you have to solve a problem while working with various departments and create a solution that wasn’t one of the four possible answers? My understanding is that the new assessments are focused more around the second part of my question but the sample questions have been few and far between. This has me worried moving forward because my desire would be for an assessment that is centered around project based learning and requires students to work together to create a solution and not work in an isolated silo which is not reality.
My favorite moments at the conferences usually happen not in the sessions but the short amount of time walking between sessions and the after hour social events. It is there that we are not restrained by a pre-determined amount of time or a topic but we are free to explore, debate and reflect upon what we are hearing. A group of dedicated individuals many of whom I have met through Twitter and then finally in person, took the reigns in 2013 and created OETCx (The OETC Unconference). I can’t find who said it but they described (maybe not accurate here…paraphrasing my own words here) OETCx as the place for those who challenge the traditional methods to gather and discuss. Someone else I think mentioned the now famous Apple commercial from 1997 titled Here’s to the Crazy Ones (see below).
So as I prepare to make the short 10 mile commute to the convention center to pick up my registration packet for the conference I can’t help play that commerical on repeat. I challenge myself and colleagues from around the state that may be seen as the crazy ones and for those who see the possibilities of education being truly different to not be shy and timid but be vocal. Join us on Tuesday Jan.28th 2014 for OETCx at the conference and for the after hour events!