This is the first in a series of posts highlighting a few of my favorite EdTech presenters.
This first post showcases good friend, Rushton Hurley. Rushton is one of those presenters who often finds himself at conferences followed by groupies. Rushton’s EdTech groupies are those who stumbled onto one of his presentations by chance or on a recommendation, and then can’t get enough of him so they follow him throughout the day showing up at every presentation he does. Trust me… I’ve seen it. Rushton and I go back a few years; I’m not really sure where or when we actually met. It may have been while we were both presenting at the now defunct ILC (Innovative Learning Conference) in San Jose, CA. Rushton and I have shared some great meals (and laughs) at some bizarre local restaurants. One in particular in Orlando that we attempt to recreate every year at FETC. Only Rushton can retell the story (with exceptional clarity) of our first “experience” at Shiraz Grill. He and I have enjoyed a sunny drive down the coast of Fort Lauderdale listening to retro soundtracks, and it was with Rushton that I bit into an actual pearl while enjoying fried oysters. He is one of those rare presenters who walks the talk, and makes you feel energized and confident after talking with him. Be sure to check out one or more of Rushton’s sessions: W078: Using Digital Video of School Successes for PR and Team Morale • W092: Significantly Enhance Staff Meetings Using Free Technology for Collaborative Professional Development • C409: Preparing a Staff or Major Change • C709: Making Your School Something Special
- What is your background in education?
I started teaching in 1989 in Japan, and after some travel in different countries, settled into a certification program in northern California in 1993. I’ve been a teacher, principal, and an educational nonprofit guy ever since, with experience at all levels, kindergarten to college, in public and private schools, traditional and charter schools, and religious and independent schools.
- What unique message do you bring in your keynotes?
I try to mix a message about technology’s possibilities for teaching and learning with insights on the personal and professional experiences of educators and campus leaders. My thinking is that acting on a possibility for meaningful improvement is mostly a function of one’s head knowing what to do, but being spurred to do so by one’s heart.
- What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you while presenting?
While running a two-week workshop in the Philippines several years ago, my team dealt with limited to no air conditioning in the hottest month of the year, not enough space for the huge group we had, intermittent power, far less bandwidth than we’d been promised, and an earthquake. All of that said, it was probably the most meaningful experience of my edtech career – the teachers were so hungry for what we were showing them, and so excited about what it would mean for their students.
- Is there anything (related to edtech) you expected to see fully embraced in schools by now, but are disappointed to see it has yet to be fully adopted? Briefly explain the barriers.
No. While there are plenty of things I would love to see farther along than they are, ideas for new tools and techniques happen as a process over time, and the real joy is seeing individual teachers figure out what they are capable of doing, much like seeing the facial expression of a student who realizes she or he can do this or that. The real barriers teachers face revolve around confidence and a willingness to put comfort in its proper place, in my opinion.
- What do you see happening in Charter or private schools that you think our public schools could learn from?
In my experience, most public charter and private schools understand the need to tell the stories of their successes, and most traditional public schools have real difficulties with this. I just wrote a book called Making Your School Something Special, and devote a large part of it to how to foster and share stories of success. The idea is not merely to communicate more effectively with the larger community, but to build a professional environment to which any teacher would want to contribute.
- What is one compelling reason for parents to keep their students in public schools?
The main reason parents choose local public schools is that they are free to attend. That may sound like a flippant answer, but parents’ decisions to send students to traditional and charter schools over private schools are more about their ability to choose than what they understand to be the advantages of the public schools. A family with the financial ability to choose a private school might still choose a public school if the public school effectively tells its own stories, has students doing projects that reach beyond the campus and benefit the community, and offers a diversity that is hard for many private schools to attract.
- If you weren’t in education, what field would you be in?
I’d like to think I could have made it into the Foreign Service, working in consulates and embassies to help with programs that foster and strengthen international understanding. My wife thinks I would have ended up meditating in a temple on a mountain, but I suspect I’m too ADD for that.
- What kind of kid were you?
Like many teachers, I was a kid who “got” school. I knew what I needed to do and got it done, and cared about getting all the points I could. Understanding that not everyone needed to be that way, and that there were plenty of other possibilities for motivating students, was an important part of my early teaching experience.
- What are you most excited about right now?
My nonprofit, NextVista.org, is building a collection of hundreds of short videos to help English language learners around the world. We connected with people making cool things happen for kids in rural Afghanistan, figured out that there isn’t a quality library of free materials, and are working to fill the gap. It could help millions of people!
- Anything else (message, links, etc.) you would like me to know and/or write
I’m always happy to have people sign up for our newsletter (nextvista.org/newsletter) and take a look at our current contests (see the home page at nextvista.org). I’d love for folks to give the book a look – find it here.