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ISTE 2015 – Keynote – Jack Gallagher

June 30, 2015


This series of posts is from the ISTE 2015 conference, and they reflect my notes from various sessions. – Todd

If you haven’t been to an ISTE Keynote, it is an experience like no other. You get to sit with 7,500 of your closest friends, in front of a massive stage, probably 200 feet long, and at least 25 feet deep. Huge screens (100+ feet wide) on each side of the stage. And incredible live band with a sound that will blow you away. PollEverywhere games going on, tonnes of great visiting – and that’s just the prelude! Some folks prefer to sit in the lounge and watch it via closed circuit TV – but you know there is nothing like the excitement, music, and camaraderie in the live room.

Big City All Star Band from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada…

File 2015-06-30, 9 12 57 AMKecia and Brian recognized a number of ISTE award winners.

A quick Ignite presentation:

Vinnie Vrotny
Director of Technology, Kinkaid School, Houston, TX

Froebel’s Gifts

If Froebel was just starting to develop Kindergarten today, what would he do?

Gift 21 – Circuits -> Harness the power of everything that drives their lives. (Picture of littleBits!)

Gift 22 – Computational Thinking -> Robots, scratch, etc.

Gift 23 – eTextiles

Gift 24 – Reverse Engineering -> Need to provide access to tools, so that young students can take apart stuff, and discover the inner beauty in how things work.

L. Beatriz Arnillas
Director, IT – Education Technology
Houston Independent School District, TX

File 2015-06-30, 9 15 37 AM

Beatriz talked about how their 1:1 initiative was supported. It was not born out of the IT department, rather from the combined wisdom of seven different departments and many staff. One of the things they learned, was in the first year they worked with early adopters. However in the second year they worked with interested and curious people, not early adopters, and working with them, they really transformed the culture. Also actively introduced work with University in second semester, however, should have started earlier. Worked with Principals and Assistant Principals, three year project.

Jack Galagher

Jack is a former educator, and comedian. He opened the day with a very entertaining, and well delivered presentation.

Jack talked a little bit about the concept of cool. Cool is hard to define, but easy to describe. Cool doesn’t happen right away, but it occurs over time. It is out of the ordinary, one of a kind, but later on it becomes watered down, and not so cool.

Jack spoke about his kids and some of their crazy stunts. He has a son who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. They wondered what they had done wrong. He was very bright and well-adjusted, but they had to start working around the system to make things work. Labels are problematic. Son is now 20, was diagnosed at 7. Didn’t want him to carry labels his whole life. Did testing, got the diagnosis, got an aide.

Jack reminded us of how complicated and how many people could not understand or figure out how Autism works. There is a difference between a child with autism, and an autistic child. Now these kids are described in terms of autism spectrum. It’s a huge range of descriptors for kids. No one knows for sure what causes Autism. Currently described as many different types of Autism. His son diagnosed with PDD-NOS – Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. His son appeared distracted, but everything in the room is distracting his attention. A busy room, makes it hard to pay attention.

No matter what Jack tried, his techniques and ideas were not working to help his son. So he started working with his son’s teachers. And let them take the lead. And then, then, Jack started to see how he was squelching his son, instead of helping him. One day his son wrote a script for the Simpsons. He did receive a letter back, thanking him, and asking him to keep writing.

If you allow the student to be involved in the process in something relevant to them, they will be more exciting and willing to do the work. Teachers saw this right away.

School was his son’s life, and it became his place where he fit in, where he learned best, where he liked to learn. It involved computers and extra work, and it worked. It was extra work for his teachers, but they were amazing.

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder need to be treated well. They are not the same, and they do not need to fit into the same mold as everyone else. Certainly they need to fit in to a certain degree, but not at the expense of who they are. There is nothing to “fix” because there is nothing “wrong.” They are just different.

If we get past the fact that people look different, we can learn so much, and grow ourselves. They may have challenges, but they don’t have disability.

Jack’s presentation was heart felt, heart wrenching, and extraordinarily interesting. He told us about his son, and who he is. Thanks Jack for your great compassion, and humility.



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