As a student in a building crowded with technology specialists and educational instructors, you could definitely say that I was taken right out of my comfort zone by the Edscape Conference 2014. Never before had I seen such an assembly of experts from all over the country, each spreading their own message and collaborating simultaneously. And so what I had originally thought to be just another technology seminar, ended up being an eye-opening experience to say the least.
The conference kicked off with a presentation from keynote speaker, Josh Stumpenhorst, renowned educational instructor and IL Educator of the Year in 2012. During his presentation, he mentioned a couple of key points regarding the role of educators in student growth. According to Stumpenhorst, “If you’re teaching now the same way you were teaching 10 years ago, you’re probably doing something wrong”. There’s no question that the world is constantly changing; whether for better or for worse is debatable. But what’s not debatable is that the learning methods of this generation should not be limited to those of the previous generation. But what is the role of the educator in this ever-evolving system? The answer is simple, but it’s easier said than done. Stumpenhorst, for one, feels “It’s our responsibility as educators to tap into student passion and allow them to be innovative within and without the classroom”. As children, we were insatiably curious, eager to learn about anything and everything that crossed our path. But as we developed within classroom, that curiosity was suppressed, and took a back seat to mastering the curriculum presented to us. So what we need now is to rekindle this curiosity in students in any way possible. In Lincoln Junior High (Naperville, IL), Stumpenhorst has implemented “innovation days”, during which students are given an entire school day to work on a project in their field of choice. What better way to give students the opportunity to explore passions outside of the established curriculum. That being said, we at BHS are not lacking in outlets for student innovation either. Our branch of TED Ed, for example, encourages students to pursue innovative ideas and share them with the world.
But If I’m being honest, the highlight of the conference was meeting, Sandra Paul, Director of Technology at Sayreville Public Schools. As soon as we were introduced, I could tell that Ms. Paul was genuinely interested in what my classmates and I were doing at BHS Help Desk. Talking to her, I realized that what we do as Help Desk students is bigger than the Burlington community. Since Help Desk has taken off at BHS, word has spread about the benefits of a student-run help desk within any technologically advanced school. But that aside, I think it’s safe to say that Mrs. Paul encouraged me to pursue my passions outside of the classroom. Her appreciation for what my classmate, Manas Purohit, and I hope to accomplish in the realm of technology is truly inspiring. I’m not going to lie; heading into Edscape, “networking” wasn’t exactly something that appealed to me. But now I see the value of being connected to others of the same interest in a world where opportunity is almost omnipresent. And to think, that’s just one of many key take-aways from today’s experience.
All in all, attending the Edscape Conference was an experience to remember. What my classmates and I have learned here simply can’t be taught inside the classroom, but is undoubtedly just as important. So thanks to Mrs Scheffer and BHS as a whole for giving me the opportunity to grow and explore beyond the confines of my comfort zone here at Edscape.
P.S. I was one of three BHS students presenting at the conference! If you missed our session, take a look at the presentation linked here.