Ulearn13 – Keynote: Ken Shelton

Inspire and Motivate Through Transformational Teaching and Learning

US Educator, Ken Shelton, was the opening keynote for this year’s Uearn13. When he received his invitation to come to NZ to speak at ULearn13 he said he was so excited he thought he might swim!    

Ken’s presentation provided a perspective of a youthful, enthusiastic and optimistic user if ICTs as a vehicle to engage and motivate learners. He modeled this by making extensive use of online tools – including a collaborative backchannel on TodaysMeet which was used by delegates to record their responses and reflections on the things Ken shared. As he noted, “the smartest person in the room is the room” and so this provided a space for delegates to add their collective wisdom.

Unfortunately Ken experienced a little difficulty near the beginning of his talk, just as he was connecting us to an online polling site – thanks to a contractor somewhere in the North Island who managed to severe the fibre connection, causing it to be re-routed through a ‘throttled’ line – causing problems for the more than 1000 concurrent users attempting to connect to an international site at the time!

Despite this, Ken made a valiant come-back, and went on to challenge us to think about “What does it mean to transform?” and “What does transformation look like?”. The transformation theme was really at the heart of his message, urging us to think about how we need to consider embracing the opportunities that ICTs provide us with in education to actually transform practice, not simply replicate things we currently do by substituting new for old ways.

This was a familiar message to many of the delegates who have been at the vanguard of ICT innovation for a while now, but for others it was a timely and refreshing challenge, reminding us new and inspiring ways that we cannot become complacent.

Ken demonstrated that the foundations of pedagogy and learning haven’t changed – just our way of doing things. When it comes to using ICTs in the classroom, the foundations of use, the reasons for use etc. haven’t changed – but what we use, how we use it and what it does for us – the items themselves and the mechanisms of gaining access to them have changed. This, according the Ken, is where the transformation occurs.

Ken emphasized that fun can change behavior for the better – using video clip of the Stockholm experiment changing stairs into a keyboard to illustrate how a simple thing can significantly alter behavior. 

His key message – “all we need to do is use one thing to make a huge difference. Don’t get hung up on the technology – focus on what you want to achieve – the pedagogical intent. Sometimes a very simple change produces a major result. It’s not necessary to always think of making big changes, multiple changes etc.”

Ken also exhorted delegates to consider taking risk when they return to their schools and classes, emphasizing the value in risk and asking, “Are we risk assertive, or risk avertive?”

If there was something missing from Ken's presentation from my perspective it was a more compelling argument regarding why this transformation is necessary. We've become very used to hearing speakers implore us to embrace these new technologies in our schools, frequently based on the argument that they create learning that is more engaging, more motivating and more authentic for learners. But this on its own appears not to be enough to convince the literally thousands of teachers and education leaders who don't attend conferences such as ULearn. Nor is it enough to convince politicians and holders of the public purse to invest the significant amounts of money required to provide the support and resources needed to achieve this. 

That said, the challenge Ken left me with was to think again about what it means to genuinely transform what we are doing in our schools – and in our education system. He also reminded me of how important it is to take risks and be creative in order to allow the real potential of the ICTs become apparent in what we’re doing. 

There’s plenty more of what Ken shared contained in the shared Google Doc that has been contributed to by many delegates. A recording of his full keynote is now available on EdTalks.

One thought on “Ulearn13 – Keynote: Ken Shelton

  1. Derek thank you for your comments. The why is just as important as the need and the how. In any future talks on this topic I will be sure to emphasize the why, which is at the root of engaging and motivating today's student. If we make effective use of ICT's, which in many cases are a significant part of our student's lives, we can provide them with a fun and engaging learning environment.

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