Dear New Tech Network:

August 11, 2011
Lydia Dobyns

Lydia Dobyns

Dear NT Network,

Were you able to carve out time this summer for rejuvenation and reflection? Mine happened in a most unusual place– the New Tech Annual Conference in Grand Rapids. It was a school spa intensive: intellectually stimulating, emotionally moving and downright fun. Nearly 1,000 educators all connected by the same driving question: what can we do to deepen the impact we have on the lives of our students?

Trust me when I say “you had to be there” to appreciate that a conference can give you so much that you feel as though you will burst from the waves of ideas for the coming school year. To my fellow attendees I say “thank you for giving your all”. For anyone who was not able to attend I say mark your calendar now for 2012. Spending time with educators away from the daily challenges during the school year is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries.

The conversation hasn’t stopped either. I would like to share some of the conference blogs: Chris Fancher from Manor New Tech urged us to bring it on and noted that the math sessions were full to capacity with math teachers ready to collaborate and learn from each other.

NTN’s own resident math guru Geoff Krall wrote about Alfie Kohn, an agent provocateur in education and our opening session keynote.

Jillian Darwish of Knowledge Works challenged us to realize how technology is changing the face of education (as well as the students entering our classroom) and to accept this change as something we need to work with and embrace.

First time attendee Ken Olson took away five key things:
1) That he was now part of an amazing network of people;
2) That team building is key;
3) That culture is job one;
4) It’s important to think about what we need to know even if we really don’t yet know we need to know it; and
5) Communicate and collaborate.

And one of my favorite all time quotes came from a NYC teacher who said that to her “Echo was the eye to the soul of PBL”.

There were many firsts this year at NTAC. This was the first conference we explicitly invited superintendents and directors to spend a convening day before the general conference began. We also invited those that might be interested in becoming a New Tech in 2012. Over 90 people attended from 36 school districts for their first NTAC experience.

I was also heartened to see the enthusiastic response we received for our new school-wide literacy and problem-based learning in math teaching tools aligned with the Common Core standards. This is a major initiative for NTN; we hoped that schools would respond positively – and you did! In our everyday lives, we often get caught up in the mundane – the various challenges of life – some as simple as the weather and others more complex. But no matter – these day-to-day challenges get in the way of thinking deeply of the work we strive to do at NTN. Spending time immersed in NTN thought processes enables us to ponder our overall mission and aspirations and then apply them.

As Barbara Jordan, the late U.S. Congresswoman, said: “What Americans want is simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” I believe that the degree to which we succeed — the numbers of students of every background we help realize this promise – directly correlates to our ability to listen carefully, observe keenly and act thoughtfully.

This year’s NTAC conference gave us the opportunity to share our common ideas as to how we are going to help America realize its promise. We must never forget our heritage – that our roots are embedded in the New Tech classroom.

With warm regards, Lydia

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