NECC with students? Do we dare?

This past week has been very busy as I have been working in construction/painting fields, something I did before I turned to the profession of education. There have been some really long days which, combined with working in some warm temperatures, have left me with little energy for any type of work except reading. I haven’t even been doing much on Twitter or Jaiku although it’s fun to get caught up on what others are doing. As I look at another week with some fairly long hours, I want to make some comments before I find it’s Friday already!

As I was perusing my RSS reader, Dean Shareski’s post on  the current state of the edublogosphere. He comments that it is beginning

to show more signs of maturing and is looking less like an echo chamber. While I have no clear data I can point to several discussions of late that engage both sides of an issue in some fairly poignant debate.

I find that this is definitely the case. I’ve noticed the same thing, been part of the discussion and rather like the fact that there is more going on than just back patting and elbow rubbing. Being a member of Classroom2.0, I have also noted that people are beginning to seek out ways to collaborate on projects. A first step attempt at this is the teach2.0 wiki. Here, teachers are gathering and beginning to share ideas about various projects and topics they would like to explore as educators. The project is moving ahead and people are beginning to jump in and edit the pages, which is a crucial step in building a collaborative online working environment. I know that there are different avenues to explore as teachers begin to explore how technology can enhance the experience that teachers are giving their students. Different teachers are bringing their experience to the table and helping one another learn how to use different tools that can enhance what they are doing.

I also found the post by Karl Fisch discussing students at conferences with some interest. I then ventured over to Scott McLeod’s site for some more discussion and then to Durff’s blog for yet more. What struck me was the way in which many of the teachers viewed the whole idea that students would have to present and this really didn’t excite many of them. Now, I’ve seen some great student presentations on various topics. I’ve seen some duds. My questions is “why do they have to present?” Would they have to do what the adults do? For what reason? What benefit? As a few of the comments have suggested, they really don’t want to have students giving analytical presentations or the like. However, could they not use the tools to create something that they could then give to attendees? Isn’t that what we’re trying to do, get them creating and thinking?  From my comment on Scott’s site

Asking for their input and giving them the chance to express themselves would be a great idea. Why would they have to present the first time? Why not have them report on sessions, create summary paper that has pics, comments from session goers and presenters and then, using technology, put it together to be given out to participants – making it all part of an extra-credit class or a camp for those students who are interested in such things. Would be easier for the camp to arrange for the legal matters to be covered than for an individual teacher or school. The students could be local or they could be from different areas, gathered before NECC to learn necessary skills and then for a few days after for debriefing – maybe their comments could be done interview style and shown in a session at the next NECC. You could also have kids podcasting and having a kind of online session where other students could contact them to discuss their opinions on what is going on at the sessions, a kind of concurrent session.

We don’t need to patronize them – they get enough from others. We can make their input worthwhile, positive and have impact if we allow them to create – maybe they could do a closing testimonial video capture all the great moments and synthesizing them into a presentation. They could add their comments as they visit every session and report back on the session.

I don’t think that forums like NECC is really where you’d want to have them present at this moment in time. Many teachers are still freaked out with the idea of having students have input on school issues as I’ve found out while getting things ready for a discussion on our school student code of conduct. In the end, adults still want to make sure they or someone “has the right to veto things that won’t work.” We want them to be leaders only as long as they don’t buck the system too much. Now, I don’t always like the students who push the line, test the rules or, through their actions, demonstrate disrespect for others. However, it has made me reflect on why we have the line drawn where it is, review and give voice to the rules we do have and reflect on my actions with students. I’ve actually demonstrated that, as a leader and adult, I can make wrong decisions but I will own them and apologize for them. I read to many comments and posts where the condescending voice isn’t what bothers me but the lack of respect for those with any type of opposing opinion. As people who “walk the talk”, we can be much more influential by what we actually do than by what we say or how we say it.

By including students and allowing them to create their own voice in such forums like NECC, we create an opportunity for even greater growth and understanding for those students and maybe, just maybe, we will have some of those naysayer’s begin to see options for using technologies that they never thought about. It’s all about expanding our experiences and our options. Including students really makes most adults nervous – heck it made me nervous the first few times. However, if we don’t try to make them like the adults but allow them to explore and give feedback, they become yet another filter for what it is we doing.

This brings me back to how I began this post. There are several good debates and discussions taking place in the edublogosphere. Most of them demonstrate the professionalism that would be expected while a few include some pretty heated exchanges. I’m guilty of being involved in one heated exchange but that’s part of the whole lifecycle of blogging. I guess everyone needs to decide for themselves how hot they can stand the kitchen.

I agree with Dean that this is indeed a great opportunity for people to enter into debates or discussions. As professionals, we  must be accountable for what we write and be prepared to defend what we say if taken to the task. Ever so often, people make statements but do not explain themselves when questioned. It’s the “because I know better than you.” attitude that permeates  their responses that we, as educators, must guard against and we all must be willing to check what we say and then explain it or answer the questions put before us. Otherwise, we have gone no further than the staffroom where the loudest and most abrasive get the most attention when, in reality, they have very little to offer to a real discussion.

So what are your thoughts on  having students as participants in forums like NECC? Are we still to wary of including them that we’ll dismiss what they have to say because it isn’t analytical enough or professional enough? Where do you stand?


  1. Reply

    Your recommendation to include student voices in NECC is brilliant!

    I attend the National Association of Independent School’s People of Color Conference about once a year. While the adult conference is convening, a National Student Leadership Conference is also convening at the same time. The NSLC is designed for students of all races and ethnicities, and is designed to teach anti-racist leadership skills. On the last day of the conference, the students present to the adults what they have been discussing and producing. It is my favorite aspect of the conference for me as an adult.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if NECC could do something along the aforementioned model?

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