Adam Bellow Inspires ISTE 2013 Attendees to “Change the World”

ISTE 2013 was truly a conference that lived up to the promise of one of the large banners outside the San Antonio Convention Center: The energy was palpable! And the attendees were so passionate about the power of technology to transform teaching and learning that the gathering ended on a supersonic high note with Adam Bellow’s closing keynote. (If you missed it, be sure to watch the video.)

Introduced by ISTE President Kecia Ray and CEO Brian Lewis as an “educator, entrepreneur and connected learner,” Bellow donned his Google Glass and kept the crowd in the palm of his hand with a presentation infused with energy, humor and optimism.

Bellow said he named his speech “Change the World” because it was something that ISTE attendees were already doing. “Since I was 3, I’ve wanted to change the world,” Bellow said. “So I became a teacher, because teachers do that every day.”

Then Bellow took attendees on a trip down memory lane—very recent memory lane—with an energetic video of ISTE 2013 that he recorded with his Google Glass as he navigated the conference. “ISTE 2013 rocked!” he said. “Ed tech is not the icing on the cake; it is the dough.”

Appealing to all learning styles with his engaging slide presentation, upbeat music and passionate narrative, Bellow described the ways that technology engages students in learning. Early in his career, he would ask students to write a report on the Globe Theater. Today, using technology tools such as MineKeeper, students can take what they learn from their research and build an actual replica of the historic venue. With tools such has Raspberry Pi, the youngest learners are also creating their own games, musical instruments and more. Learning this way, according to Bellow, is the difference between learning how to eat and learning how to cook.

Yet, he said, today’s education world is faced with troubling dichotomies, such as:

  • We celebrate students as “makers” because of inexpensive technology tools and then evaluate them with standardized tests.
  • Schools block Facebook access for students but have their own school Facebook pages.

Bellow attributes these contradictions in behavior to fear and advocates for schools to embrace more of a “startup culture.” This doesn’t mean that they need cool décor and video games, but rather that they should become environments that “respect failure, embrace curiosity and grow dreams.”

Bellow believes that we should have an individualized education plan (IEP) for every learner—students, teachers and administrators—focusing on individualization, not standardization.

Issuing a call to arms, Bellow said to his fellow ISTE attendees: “Nothing is impossible. This is an army here. We must lead the way. It is not about technology. It is about us. If you believe you can change the world, you will.”

From the rousing standing ovation that his colleagues from around the world gave him at the conclusion of his speech, it was apparent that  his powerful message inspired all of us to return home and continue to change the world.

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