Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Celebration of Teaching and Learning

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a local tri-state area conference called The Celebration of Teaching and Learning. This conference, which takes place in Manhattan, is run by our local PBS station, Channel 13/WNET, WLIW21. It has major sponsorship in Chase, National Education Association, New York State United Teachers, SMART Technologies, and United Federation of Teachers. They describe themselves this way:

"What is the Celebration of Teaching & Learning? One prominent educator has dubbed it the “World’s Fair of Education.” We try to make it the place where the best thinkers and practitioners come together to play a role in shaping the future of schools. From that perspective, then, the Celebration is where knowledge meets inspiration."

This is my third year attending. In past years I have had the honor of hearing Al Gore, Tim Russert, Margaret Spelling, Majora Carter, Jean Michel Cousteau, and Jane Goodall, to name a few. I have also learned from Will Richardson, Alan November, David Warlick, and many other people from the educational technology arena.

So this year I was quite excited to attend. And to add to my enthusiasm, I was able to share the conference with Christine Southard, Karen Janowski, Ann Oro, and some other school colleagues. Always makes a conference more exciting to share.

Here are some of my highlights from the conference.

The Electric Company:
It's back and it's catchy. While the cast entertained us, a little girl of about 9 sat in front of us singing all the songs and bopping to the music. It obviously reached her.

Marco Torres:
"Quit, Complain or Innovate"
Marco showed us how using GarageBand to create songs can visually demonstrate fractions to the students. I really must get a Mac for my classroom.

Favorite ideas:

  • "The student is either the recipient of information or the producer of information. Let's make them the producers."
  • "Video is a tool for liberation."
  • "Ask yourself, 'What is an educated person?' and strive to teach to that."
  • "Nouns vs. Verbs - The Thing vs. The Purpose of the Thing - Teach Verbs not Nouns"

Sir Kenneth Robinson
"How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything"
At our second plenary session, Sir Kenneth blew me away. He has such an entertaining way of delivering a message. If you haven't seen his TedTalk yet, you must. This speech hit me so hard we did our Conversations show all about it this week. Look for it on

Favorite Ideas:

  • "Schools are killing creativity."
  • "Start making teaching creativity most important."
  • "Our students use technology differently than we do and it's time to start understanding how." (The example he gave for this was wearing a watch. Children don't wear watches because the time is all around them - phones, IPods, tv, computers, etc.)

Governer David Patterson
He was a last minute addition to the schedule. His speech was given totally from memory.

Temple Grandin
"Developing Strengths and Abilities in People on the Autism Spectrum"

Favorite Ideas

  • "Use the obsession children with autism have and expand that obsession to expand their horizons." (The example she gave was take an obsession with drawing horses and expand it to drawing the barn and the other animals and...)
  • "There needs to be much more emphasis on developing a child's area of strength instead of just hammering away at the deficits."

Danica McKellar
Yes, seeing Winnie Cooper from the Wonder Years was exciting. But she has written math resource books aimed at middle school girls and she has a powerful message for them. Check out Math Doesn't Suck and Kiss My Math.

Favorite Ideas:

  • "Smart is sexy."
  • "One teacher is all it takes to turn a child around."
  • "We don't see beautiful girls as math experts. We need to be aware of our stereotypes of the math nerd in order to bring girls into the math world."

Bill Gates, Sr.
He spoke about the need to equalize education.

Favorite Ideas:

  • "Prepare every child for college, even if they choose not to go."
  • "Bring collaboration into the school setting so teachers and administrators can work together to help each child succeed."

Alan Alda
He introduced his new PBS show, The Human Spark. This show asks the question, "What makes us human?" Follow Alan Alda as he asks experts in many fields this question.

Favorite Ideas:

  • "Be a learner in your classroom. Show the children you are interested in learning."
  • "Enjoy what you do."

Other Big Excitement from the Conference

  • I am a shameless fan of famous people. I didn't really know that about myself but I had two (yes two) conversations with Meredith Brokaw (Tom's wife). She's a lovely, gracious lady who willingly talked with me. I am still excited by that. I also spoke with Neil Shapiro, Danica McKellar, and Marco Torres. Be still my heart.
  • Christine and I got to spend time with Ann Oro (first time meeting f2f), Karen Janowksi, and Lucy Gray. Saturday was a great lunch.
  • Each plenary session started with an Adobe Youth Voices video. Love those videos.
  • Our students came on Saturday. We won The Chase Multimedia in the Classroom Award so they got tickets to come. They heard Temple Grandin, got their picture taken for the Google Blog, and were generally excited by the whole event. This was a day they will never forget.
  • I met some other twitter friends. I love meeting people face to face.

All in all, this conference was eye opening, reaffirming, exciting. I highly recommend it to all next year. Even though it is run by a NYS PBS station, it is open to everyone. In fact, we were told there were people from all 50 states of the United States and some provinces in Canada. Hopefully, I will see you there next year.


S. McCarron said...

So wonderful to share your thoughts, and to share them so well. Thank you.

Kathy Ishizuka said...

Nice summary, Lisa. Thanks. I've heard from educators who wanted to attend but found the admission was prohibitive.

Lisa Parisi said...

Kathy, you are correct about the cost. The tickets are $300 a piece although they are significantly discounted if purchased early. I guess we have to pay for the quality of speakers.

narrator said...

Thanks for the great review Lisa. I sure wish more of us could attend more events.

There's a tax and education policy idea. Ed conference costs - including travel/lodging - could be refundable tax credits.

Because we just have to find a way to get more teachers excited about changing things.

- Ira Socol

Gena Price, Technology Integration Coach said...

Sounds wonderful Lisa, I am green with envy. Thanks so much for this wonderful summary!

Lisa Parisi said...

Ira, I am very grateful to work in a district that supports professional development. Although some costs have been cut, we still put aside a great deal of money for conferences. This allows me to get partial reimbursement for Educon, NECC, and this Celebration of Teaching and Learning. The rest I take off my taxes. It is something we fight for each year as we decide on the school budget.

Cheryl Morin said...

Hi Ms Parisi,

I am doing a mini project on the K-12 Online Conference for my Master's program ( IT and Curriculum) and have to say that I really appreciated the excellent easy to follow key points that you outlined in your presentation "Oh the Possibilities."
Of course I was eager to see your blog and am now encouraged to try to attend the The Celebration of Teaching and Learning conference. Excellent summary. I love the quote by Bill Gates Sr. about preparing every student for university/college, even if they don't go". I totally agree that learning is priceless and the fees are necessary.Now I have another reason to travel to New York City. I live in North Eastern Saskatchewan, Canada by the way!!!
Thanks Again and I wish you and your class continued successes.

colleenk said...

What a fantastic line-up of speakers! It must have been refreshing to hear educational ideas from outside the network. I think it helps to see the bigger picture. I will definitely try to attend next year if possible.

Karen Janowski said...

Excellent summary of an incredible conference. I intended to write up a post in a similar manner detailing my highlights. Not sure it is still necessary.

Schools in Geelong said...

I do mostly After reading this, I should really expend my activity to other stuff too.