Five Reasons Higher Ed Should Embrace K-12 Conferences:

I’m pretty lucky: in my career I seem to have one foot in the K12 world and one foot in higher ed. This gives me a unique opportunity to make some observations.

Here, in no particular order, are five reasons that I think university professors should attend a K12 conference:

  1. Professors are typically content areas in their field. That does not necessarily mean that they know how to DELIVER that content. They may not have ever taken an education course. And with adjuncts making up more and more of the higher ed workforce, how do universities check to see if they actually know how to teach?  I’ve taught higher ed for fifteen years and have never been observed.  Where have I learned many of my teaching techniques? From my K12 friends at conferences.
  2. K12 conferences are all about innovation in the classroom. I spoke to a group of professors in June that had never heard of Voxer, Flipgrid and were terrified of Twitter. Why are K12 teachers so willing to try new things and some professors are so entrenched in the lecture (or God forbid) reading PowerPoint slides?
  3. Higher ed conferences have such a different vibe – it’s more about demonstrating research results. Actual pedagogy is rarely mentioned. K12 conferences are all about sharing resources and ideas. I’ve seen questions asked in a higher ed conference during a session when the obvious intent is to demonstrate that the questioner knows six-syllable words and wants to appear smarter than the presenter. This does not happen at K12 conferences. Oh sure, there’s posturing to the “edu-celebrities” – but overall, the mood is all about sharing resources, techniques and ideas.
  4. The ironic thing is that K12 teachers are so interested in getting kids “college ready” –  yet I’ve had students tell me that they feel being in a college classroom is actually a step backwards.  The “sit and get” technique of “teaching” still dominates higher ed classroomsResearch shows us that student engagement can lead to increased student success and retention. In this economy, what college administrator wouldn’t want that? Even a tenured professor would leave a K12 conference with ideas of how to increase classroom engagement.
  5.  Every administrator is interested in enrollment numbers. What better way to get your university in the minds of K12 people than to present to/with them?

Maybe I write this because the thought of having my higher ed AND K12 friends all at the same place is too exciting for me to describe. But I think the students would benefit from it – and isn’t that what it’s all about?


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