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Learning Library Blog Josh Stumpenhorst: See your limitations as building materials
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Josh Stumpenhorst: See your limitations as building materials

By Team ISTE
July 1, 2015
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ISTE 2015 Closing Keynote speaker Josh Stumpenhorst is a mind reader when it comes to understanding attendees’ last day of a conference. 

“You saw something you liked this week, but you’re already worried about going back and asking your administrator about that.”

He knows because he’s been there. The junior high school history and English teacher spent his first ISTE conference in Denver in 2010 taking notes, hanging out in his hotel room and eating bad food. This year, he was ISTE’s closing keynote speaker, sharing his brand of pushing the limits in the classroom.

The difference boils down to one simple attitude, he said. The procedures, rules, laws and school policies are like boxes.

“It’s very easy to complain about those boxes,” he said. “We have a choice. We can sit and complain about why we can’t do something. Or we can take that box, like a small child does, and turn it into something, build something.”

It's all about innovation  not about using technology for technology's sake. Before you ever put your energy into figuring out how to get more technology into your classroom, you first need to ask why. Stumpenhorst explains in the video below:

The clock is ticking, he reminded everyone — an entire generation of students will pass through the halls while educators take time to weigh the risks. So now is the time to act.

“We think of pushing the limits as a physical thing, an exercise for our bodies,” he said.

But in education, it’s what comes next after you realize there is no silver bullet, no technology you can find that will fix things. Stumpenhorst urged educators to find inspiration in projects their colleagues are doing, such as:

  • Pernille Ripp’s Global Read Aloud project, which gets kids around the world reading a single book and connecting with each other about it.
  • William Chamberlain’s Comments4Kids, which invites students and teachers to comment on blogs.
  • Chris Craft’s maker project, which has kids creating prosthetics for kids.

The emphasis is on connecting the students to the world they will live in, giving them meaningful tasks and validating their efforts in ways that resonate among students, regardless of what motivates adults.

Stumpenhorst’s own Innovation Day has seen a young man give his first concert and a girl sell her first book on Amazon. But he wants to do more.

“We can’t tell them they can only be a genius on Friday between 1 and 2,” he said. Educators should encourage students to start meaningful conversations on Twitter to make learning a 24/7 endeavor.

“The silver bullet is you,” he said. “Superman is sitting in our classrooms every day and walking our halls. No technology replaces you.”

For the overwhelmed, the fired up, the daunted, the unsure and the confident attendees, Josh Stumpenhorst had one final encouragement: “We have to be willing to put ourselves out there and know we are going to fail. But there’s going to be someone to pick you up. Some of our students jump off that ledge every single day just by coming to school. And sometimes we are the only thing that stops them from hitting the pavement.”