The buzz and conversation about educational technology was in the air as soon as I walked into the IntegratED conference. Educators were getting acquainted, chatting about the latest technology they were using in their classroom, and looking at and discussing which workshop sessions they would be attending. I immediately was very glad that I was in attendance.
As I walked into my first session, “Curiosity, Technology, and Learning Cycle” by Ramsey Musallam, I again could feel the excitement from the audience and from the facilitator. Ramsey, a high school chemistry teacher from San Francisco, California, was very high energy, passionate, and engaging. He was discussing a study from Cal Tech about presenting the brain with high and low curiosity items and then tracking what parts of the brain would light up. He captivated his audience as he talked about the idea of “involuntary curiosity” that can be generated by three different things: surprising result, anticipated solution, or missing information. Ramsey uses many video clips and photos in his classroom, as well as simulations, online answer submissions, and links for exploration to generate this involuntary curiosity. As he showed us examples of each of the different ways to generate involuntary curiosity, I found myself sucked in, and certainly wanting to know more. He suggested that there is a “sweet spot” between knowing enough to be curious, and knowing too much, where the curiosity falls. The technology that Ramsey used was not anything difficult or earth-shattering, but it worked well for what he needed it to do. He used Google forms to collect online answer submission information from his students about various questions, and then had students post videos of their activity to a blog email address where all videos would automatically embed. What continued to resonate with me, as I listened to and watched Ramsey, was his passion about his students’ learning, and his overwhelming desire to have his students engaged.
Next, I attended a session by Zac Chase, who spent many years teaching middle and high school English in Florida and Pennsylvania. His session was called “Choice, Motivation, Electronic Things”. Zac mentioned a study by Paris & Turner in 1994, “people are not motivated, it is the situation that those people find themselves.” Motivation comes from participants getting choice, challenge, collaboration, and control. As he talked I also saw that excitement, and passion about student learning in Zac Chase. I saw this great desire to create the right environment for learning. Zac created an environment and an opportunity for each of us, the participants, to help each other collaboratively on our current projects.
As I continued to attend sessions, I continued to experience this passion and motivation from facilitating educators to make students’ learning experiences meaningful, interesting, and inspired by curiosity. I found myself becoming more and more excited watching these facilitating educators speak, and listening to participating educators talk about their experiences, see their selfless sharing of resources and expertise with one another. This magic, this dedication to students’ learning as teaching continues to shift to use more and more technology in meaningful ways is so exciting. I am encouraged to see the level of passion, and excitement that exists in the educators that will be incorporating the technology. Without it, educational technology would certainly fail. It is inspiring to see that it is still about the people, about the dedicated educators that will drive this next generation of education as we inspire our students, feed their curiosity, give them a choice of technological tools, have them collaborate together and then get out of their way!