This is my reflection on Darren Kuropatwa’s 2010 K- 12 Online Conference video and keynote presentation, “Intersections.” Although I watched this video for the first time in October 2010 when it was published, I took twenty minutes today to watch it again and see what new insights I could glean from Darren. I’m following the video reflection rubric for my Spring 2011 “Technology for Teachers” course at the University of Central Oklahoma as I write this. I’ve cross posted this to both my 9 am section’s class blog on EduBlogs and my 11 am section’s class blog on KidBlog. All my students are watching and reflecting on this video as part of their week 4 assignments for our course. Darren’s 24.5 minute keynote presentation is a masterpiece of interlaced digital storytelling. If you have not seen it yet, take a few minutes and watch it soon. (Then share your reflections online and with others in your face-to-face learning community!)

1. MOST SIGNIFICANT TAKEAWAY

There are so many wonderful ideas in this video presentation it is very difficult for me to distill my learning points down to a single takeaway. That’s the assignment, however, so as Darren encourages I’ll “give it a go.”

In the video, Darren wisely observes, “Serendipity befalls those who give it a go.” He provides great examples of this with his professional blog, “A Difference.” The story of how Dan Meyer and others chimed in to redesign math lessons he shared is remarkable. Because Darren is so connected to other educators, transparent in his thinking, and generous in the way he shares his ideas,”serendipitous” learning experiences surround him. I’m reminded of a comment Clay Shirky made in his fantastic book, “Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.” I’m currently listening to the book via Audible. Shirky observes “human character is the root for explaining human behavior, not technology.” Darren’s stories he shares in this presentation are an example of this. It’s easy for outsiders to point and say, “Gosh, look at all the amazing things Darren can do because he uses technology.” It’s true the connections technology has afforded Darren and his fearless uses of those technologies have been critical enablers for the learning dynamics he uncovers in this presentation. It’s false, however, to conclude technology is the key factor. As Shirky observes, CHARACTER is the key ingredient. The passion, transparency, generosity, and humility which shine through Darren’s work and commentary are the keys. Darren’s willingess to “give it a go” is a key element, and in many ways it’s a key catalyst. Character, not technology, however, defines the relationships Darren continues to build and the learning which is possible for him and so many others thanks to the strength of those diverse relationships.

2. CONNECTIONS WITH MY OWN LIFE

In his keynote presentation, Darren answers the question, “Why does it matter when you connect things?” with the following statements:

Social presence matters because it builds social capital. Social capital provides the interpersonal glue which supports us each and every day in our communities of practice, our communities of inquiry, and professional learning networks.

artsncraftsphoto © 2007 Eric Hunsaker | more info (via: Wylio)

This resonates with me because I continue to be the daily beneficiary of “social capital” built through virtual connections to hundreds of educators around the world. Another great observation I’ve gleaned from Clay Shirky in the past week is the idea that “going global” isn’t a matter of organizational size today, it’s a matter of scope. Darren’s “scope” as an educator is global. Through his blog, professional wiki, Twitter account, Flickr account, and other virtual spaces in which he “digitally invests,” he’s made and continues to make innumerable connections with other people who share common interests. In some cases, these are people who also share common values about things like learning and education. The opportunity to be influenced on a regular basis by people who share many of our values and professional passions is incredibly powerful.

Darren also discussed in this video how professional, virtual connections can (and perhaps inevitably) lead to personal connections. As I’ve continued to learn and work with Darren (since 2006 when the K-12 Online Conference started) this has certainly been true for me personally. It’s wonderful to have opportunities, even brief ones, to meet face-to-face with people who have become such important parts of our learning network.

Darren Kuropatwa and Wesley Fryer in Oklahoma City

3. IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHING PRACTICE

I really like the way Darren wove the stories of wolves (about technology and using tools,) thinking Russian (trianglulating on truth,) and Aesop’s fable of breaking sticks (the power of working together) to illustrate the TPACK model of technology, content and pedagogy.

One of the implications of watching this video a second time is a personal desire to learn more about TPCK and integrate it into the courses I teach and presentations I share. I heard Matthew Koehler and Punya Mishra present about TPCK in March of 2007 at the SITE conference in San Antonio, in a presentation titled, “Confronting the Wicked Problems of Teaching with Technology.” I love frameworks which help me better understand complex ideas and identify practical ideas for accomplishing related goals. TPCK is a framework which holds a lot of promise in that regard, and Darren inspired me (through his stories as well as wonderful juxtaposition of media images with his message) to learn more about it.

I posted more of my notes I’m not including in this post to an Evernote notebook I’ve shared publicly.

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2 Responses to Learning from a Master Teacher: Darren Kuropatwa #k12online

  1. dgende says:

    Wes,
    Thank you for your insights about Darren’s K12 session. It definitely merits a second viewing. I attended his Educon conversation and he is truly inspirational!
    I presented a TPACK webinar last Friday as part of the PLP TPACK Fridays, I was thrilled to see Darren as one of the attendees!
    Here is the wiki with my resources for using the framework in teaching Science: http://bit.ly/fBlXeC

  2. dkuropatwa says:

    I’m fascinated and humbled that your main takeaway from my little talk was about the importance of character and that Dolores mentions TPACK in her comment.

    A while back I shared some research I had been reading about the characteristics of strong TPACK math teachers. What most struck me there was the last bullet point which essentially underscores the importance of teachers modeling good character.

    When I put my K12 Online presentation together I didn’t explicitly underscore this point but it seems more obvious to me now; particularly in connection with the story of the wolves.

    Thanks for sharing this with your classes Wes. I hope to visit each of their blogs in the next little while and leave footprints behind in the comments. 😉

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