NAIS is a three days away, and the anticipation is building.   Jason Ramsden wrote last week a nice post about his enthusiasm for the conference, and  I value his recognition of NAIS’s journey in the past few years toward a fuller embrace of 21st century learning and the initiatives the association is taking to facilitate its member schools in becoming Schools of the Future.

Peter Gow wrote in a parallel way about the NAIS evolution and advance brilliantly three years ago, in an EdWeek commentary entitled The New Progressivism is Here.

My Hopes:

1. That the WiFi works, and works well.  It was awful in San Francisco, and erratic in Chicago; it makes such a big difference to have fast-flying WiFi.

2. That the electrical outlets are in high supply (and that I remember to bring a power strip so as to better share outlets if they are not.)

3. That I keep it all in balance. Yes, it is my fault, but I stuff way too much into these 55-odd hours: Learning in sessions, blogging, tweeting, visiting with old friends, excitedly meeting and making new friends, enjoying time with my wife who attends with me, and this year presenting also in four separate sessions.  Too much. (If I hurry past you without an extended conversation, please accept my apologies.)

4. That the online element, the fourth dimension of conferencing, continues to improve and thrive.  I love the way tweets in the #naisac11 hashtag stream, and the many blogs which are collected in Chris Bigenho’s excellent NAISAC site, enhance the experience; I love how they add a whole other dimension to my learning, processing, and thinking.   This additional dimension was significantly better last year than the year prior, and I expect it be better still.   Let’s keep it positive, respectful, friendly and encouraging; let’s thank Chris for his heroic work; and let’s keep the conversation going.

5. That panels work, because sometimes they do, brilliantly, and sometimes they don’t.   I find myself presenting much more often than I ever have before, and I am becoming more familiar with the pros and cons of different formats.   In preparing proposals for this conference last spring,  I was excited to reach out to some terrific people I know to put together panel style session on blogging, the CWRA, and Leading/Networking in 21st c. learning, and I did so with a strong sense that panels were preferable.

At EduCon, though, I found myself frustrated with panel formats that felt stilted and stultifying, and I wished for opportunities for presenters to break out of their impanelment and let loose with their ideas and stories.   This same frustration I heard echoed today in a tweet from Jonathan Mergy:   “Looking at sessions for #naisac11 now after #iGen experiences, but concerned hour sessions w/multi presenters = not enough time.”  I understand that frustration, but hope the multi-presenter sessions I am participating in will not disappoint anyone.  We’ll do our best.

6. That we learn more about the demographic, financial,  and enrollment trends of our industry, which is being buffeted by the ongoing economic difficulties.   I look forward to Pat Bassett’s take, and to learn more about how the National Association is working to assist schools in need.    Of course Fred Bartels is right to ask the question of some affluent private-independent schools, should public purpose missions entail a sharing of precious funds with the increasingly financially starved public education sector.   But many private schools too, perhaps more so those outside of major metropolitan regions like Fred’s NYC regional school, are also facing very severe financial challenges, and it is important for us at these annual conferences to take stock and reflect on the broader financial sustainability of what we do.

My Plans:

1. Wednesday: I’ll be attending and contributing  in a small way to a three hour Wednesday workshop, Schools of the Future, the Conversation Continues.

2.  After the SoF session Wednesday, I’ll be heading over to Dupont Circle for a casual reception for St. Gregory alumni.

3. Thursday morning: I always attend the President’s Breakfast and Annual Meeting.  Pat Bassett, is, I think, a genuinely inspirational and extraordinarily perceptive association leader, and I always appreciate his valuable perspective on the state of our nation in NAIS.

This is also when I, as a voting member, vote for the slate of new NAIS board members; this year I may choose to abstain, out of my mild disapproval that the very many fine EdTech directors who were nominated for such an honor were passed over by the nominating committee.   As I wrote in August, our NAIS Directors of Educational Technology and (related positions/titles) are a valuable brain trust for our association; as a group I observe them to be thinking most deeply about where learning is headed, and most effectively using technology and social media to communicate, learn, and create new alliances for our educators.  It is disappointing that this group of leading edge educators has no membership on the board which is, more than anything else, intended to help create the future of our association.  (Maybe next year?)

Attending the Annual Meeting means missing Workshop Session 1, from 8-9 on Thursday; if I were to attend a session, I’d almost certainly be attending Static Systems/Dynamic Ideas: Managing Tradition and Innovation in Our Schools with some of my fine social network colleagues Jason Ramsden, Linda Vasu and Karen Blumberg.    About their exciting session, it says:

Carol Dweck’s research revealed that a growth mindset is a critical ingredient in student motivation and achievement. How, then, do we shift the dominant leadership paradigm in our schools to implement a growth mindset through the use of small changes that have lasting effects? Join us as we lead a discussion on managing tradition and innovation in our schools.

4.  Sheena Iyengar is the opening keynoter Thursday at 9:30, and her research on choice is familiar to me second-hand; it will be great to learn more from her.  In my early years of NAIS attendance, I often thought that I had to focus only on extracting the really practical, news I can use, information for my particular positions and work projects.  Now I realize that it is the big thinkers who offer me the most value, expanding my mind in ways I often have no idea how I will use.   But eventually, I do– educational leadership in contrast to management is about the big ideas, and we all need to be better leaders for today’s fast-changing world.

5. In Workshop Session 2, from noon to one Thursday, I will be co-presenting a session:

21st Century Learning at NAIS Schools: Leading and Networking for Progress
Join the founder of the national Partnership for 21st century skills and a panel of three NAIS heads to discuss their visions of 21st century reform and to share ideas and brainstorm opportunities for forging a network of NAIS school-leaders committed to supporting their schools evolution in becoming “schools of the future.” Hear about the team’s public and private collaborations to reform U.S. education.
PRESENTERS: Jonathan Martin, St. Gregory College Preparatory School (AZ); Michael Davis, Colorado Academy (CO); Mark Hale, Greensboro Day School (NC); Ken Kay, EdLeader21 (AZ)

But if I had the opportunity to attend a session here, I’d probably attend

Virtual Education and the Independent School: Capture the Best of Both!
What are independent schools doing to meet the needs of 21st century students in your school? Join us for highlights from individual forays into virtual education. This panel discussion will include best practices, real-life success stories, strategies for identifying and overcoming obstacles, resources, partnership information, and an overview of 21st century learning.
PRESENTERS: Linda Nelson, North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NC); Christopher Bagg, Catlin Gabel School (OR); Molly Rumsey, Online School for Girls (TN)

6. In the third Workshop Session, from 1:30 to 2:30, I’m excited to attend the Speed Innovating Session, and have registered for the following three, though I have to emphasize strongly how hard it was to choose among the many great options.
Essential Tech Leadership Skills: What Every Head of School Needs to Know
Geoff Wagg, The Episcopal Academy (PA)
School Change Hitting the Pavement: Real World Examples of Technologies Empowering School Constituents
Arvind Grover, The Hewitt School (NY); Alex Ragone, Collegiate School (NY)
Leadership and Social Media
Antonio Viva, Walnut Hill School for the Arts (MA)
If I were to attend another session, I’d be drawn either to the featured session with Wendy Mogel or to one of these two:
Making Change That Sticks, Gently
Many academic administrators and teacher-leaders lead “all-volunteer armies”: appealing to the better angels of a faculty’s nature rather than mandating change. Two veteran practitioners – a former academic dean and a chief diversity officer – share their experiences and thoughts on bringing good ideas to fruition, and changing school cultures, with carrots and not sticks.
PRESENTERS: Peter Gow, Beaver Country Day School (MA); Rebecca Yacono, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School (TX)
All About Alignment: How Schools Can Better Prepare Students for a Flat World
Schools today are challenged more than ever to prep students – not just for college but for the newly-flattened world of the 21st century. We’ll look at “bright spots” in schools that best align with the demands our students will soon face. Then, leaders from the field (K-12 and college) will discuss how to better align our teaching of content, skills, and perspectives with what the future requires.
PRESENTERS: Jeffrey Bradley, Educators’ Collaborative, LLC (NH); Chester Gillis, Georgetown University (DC); Geoffrey Jones, The Potomac School (VA); Kevin Mattingly, The Lawrenceville School (NJ); Nancy Meislahn, Wesleyan University (CT)

7.  From 3 to 4:30 I will be at the general session with Dan Heath, who I did enjoy two years ago in Chicago, and whose book Switch has a lot to offer about leadership and change.

8.  At 4:30,  I am curious to try to connect with the fine people at Ed Social Media for a presentation they are offering on the topic Surveying the Social Schools: Shining a Spotlight on 5 Schools having social media success.  Ed Social Media is doing some terrific work for our association; I’ve been slow to catch on to their high quality, and I want to get to closer to their work and support their cause.

9.  After the Social Media session, it will be time to go visit with the great people at the Klingenstein reception from 5:30 to 7:30; I know this will be a place to see many friends from my Klingenstein Visiting Fellowship experience.

10. Later Thursday evening, around 8, I am looking forward to visiting with some of my good friends from my NAIS INH New Head’s group, an experience I enjoyed in the summer of 2000.  We plan to gather at the National Pastime Bar and Grill at the Gaylord.

11. Friday, Workshop Session 4, I will be presenting:

Blogging Heads: Three Heads Discuss Why and How They Blog
More and and more school leaders use the power of blogging to share their vision, market to prospective families, communicate to constituents, and influence professional development in their schools. Three heads who blog will share reasons to blog, the value they derive, and the techniques they use, so attendees can start their own blogs immediately. We’ll also discuss the value of Twitter.
PRESENTERS: Jonathan Martin, St. Gregory College Preparatory School (AZ); Michael Ebeling, Summit School (NC); Josie Holford, Poughkeepsie Day School (NY)

If I were able to attend a session, I’d be interested in either

A Top-Down Look at the Operational Dashboard: What Are Trustees Looking For?
The board and school administrators regularly review key data, such as enrollment, admissions, development, and finances. How do you collect all of this information and present it clearly? Trustees from a dozen independent schools told NAIS what they need in this report. Join us and take home a dashboard template any school can use to look at its operational health.
PRESENTER: Jim Pugh, James Pugh & Associates (VT)

50 Years Later: United World Colleges Adapt to the New Global Paradigm
Learn about the evolution of Kurt Hahn’s daring vision for private schools with a public purpose. The United World College he founded has adapted to changing needs in a worldwide system of 13 schools with students from 124 countries. Take home concrete examples of innovations in learning that breed monumental commitments to the common good.
PRESENTERS: John Braman and Lisa Darling, United World College-USA (NM); Irfan Hasan, The New York Community Trust (NY); Susanne Holste, World Bank (DC); Ayesha Khan, Indus Valley Productions (NM)

12. The General Session Friday mid-morning will be exciting especially because of the appearance by Salman Khan, whose work is indeed most certainly transforming education radically and rapidly.  I have blogged often about Khan Academy, including the following posts:

Also highly recommended for thinking about Khan is Dolores Gendes’ terrific post, What Khan Be Done With It?

13. In the Workshop Session 5, I will be presenting

The College Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA): An Excellent Outcomes Measurement
The CWRA test does a fine job of measuring the value added outcomes that matter most: critical thinking, written communication, and creative problem solving. Two heads from schools administering the CWRA and a CWRA program manager will discuss both how to administer the assessment and the value to be drawn from it.
PRESENTERS: Jonathan Martin, St. Gregory College Preparatory School (AZ); Kevin Mattingly, Lawrenceville School (NJ); Chris Jackson, Council for Aid to Education (NY)

I am sorry to be missing both of these following two:

Leading Change in a Facebook World
School leaders at every level face challenges never before experienced. Understanding the unique needs of the 21st century student, as well as what skills and attributes are in demand, will inform school leaders how best to take advantage of technology and implement change school wide. Join us to learn how.
PRESENTERS: Travis Warren, WhippleHill Communications (NH); Antonio Viva, Walnut Hill School for the Arts (MA)

Disrupt the Old Discourse: Leveraging a Faculty’s Personal Learning Communities
Research shows that interest in collaborating in Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) is on the rise. Take home concrete ideas that can help you disrupt the usual discourse about education by collaborating online with experts and thinkers in your field. This introduction will continue online through the NAIS AC Online Community after the conference.
PRESENTERS: Larry Kahn, The Kinkaid School (TX); Chris Bigenho, Greenhill School (TX); Susan Davis, The Chinquapin School (TX)

This too looks great: what a tough set of choices in this hour:

Would Have, Could Have, Should Have: Lessons on Governance from Years in the Field
Learn from the experiences of long-time heads of school to improve the board and school leadership dynamic – and avoid some of the potholes that others have experienced. They’ll discuss the hardest thing they ever dealt with; how they would have done it differently; how you manage interactions between staff and boards; how heads handle communications with the board; and what to do if the board goes off the tracks.
PRESENTERS: Paul Chapman (CA); Fran Scoble, FNS Consulting (CA); Bruce Stewart, Sidwell Friends School (DC); Agnes Underwood, Carney, Sandoe & Associates (VT)

14.  In Workshop session 6, from 1:30 to 2:30, several options appear, and I have to say I have yet to decide:

Teachers of the Future
The current group of 20 Teachers of the Future, chosen from more than 200 applicants, has been working online and in their classrooms, using multimedia to explore creative approaches to teaching. Find out what they’ve been doing and learn more about the program and how you can be involved.
PRESENTERS: Ioana Suciu Wheeler, NAIS (DC); Kusum Wagle, Washington International School (DC); Matt Scully, Providence Day School (NC); Stacey Kertsman, Saint Mark´s School (CA)

Town Hall: You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers
This presentation is made for you! A panel of independent school experts will briefly discuss their recent trials (both literally and figuratively) and tribulations. Attendees will then have the opportunity to direct questions and “hypothetical” scenarios to the panel. There’s no script: It’s all about addressing the issues on the minds of NAIS members.
PRESENTERS: Michael Blacher, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (CA); Harry McKay, Saint Andrew´s Episcopal School (CA); Jim McManus, California Association of Independent Schools (CA); Darrow Milgrim, Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA, School Division (CA); Gretchen Reed, Westridge School (CA); Debra Wilson, NAIS (DC)

15. As the conference ends, the general session features Geoffrey Canada, whom I greatly expect to be inspiring to our work in advancing public purpose in our schools.

Readers, what are your hopes for the NAIS conference, and what recommendations do you have for me and my readers here at 21k12 for sessions to attend and other things to do while at NAIS?   I’d love to hear from you– share your thoughts by clicking on the Leave a Comment box!