Lessons Learned from Music City

Eduflack has definitely enjoyed his time down here in Music City for the National Reading First Conference.  The entire experience strengthened my commitment to evidence-based reading and made even clearer (if that was possible) that Reading First is working, particularly for the schools, teachers, and students it was designed to help.

Yes, the experience has led to some rants (from me) this week.  But it also has left me with a few general observations:

* Particularly impressive was the bulletin board for attendees to “plant their flag” on a map of the United States.  If you don’t think RF is having an effect, all you need to do is take a look at how many people have come from near and far to continue RF information sharing.

* For years, we have heard that RF was “wired” to promote certain curricular programs.  If that were the case, the RF Conference would be the perfect place to showcase those on the “golden list.”  But did you know conference organizers do not allow an exhibit hall, and haven’t since the conference first began five years ago.  Why?  Organizers say they don’t want to be seen as endorsing any commercial product.  It is a strong statement to make, particularly when virtually every other education industry conference has an exhibit hall bursting at the seams.  The Reading First Office and conference leaders deserve kudos for taking such a noble stand and are worried about even the perception.

* Branding is important.  A strong, unifying logo can go a long way to promote a movement’s message, goals, and efforts.  But sometimes, too many logos can just be clutter, and Nashville is the case in point.  Virtually all materials down here at the conference are branded with three separate logos — the old U.S. Department of Education tree of knowledge seal (which is seldom seen in recent years), the official Reading First logo, and a special Fifth Annual Conference in Nashville logo.  It is all a little too much, with little to hold all three together.  And where’s the NCLB logo?

* Reading guru Tim Shanahan is now leading the charge to crosswalk what we know about reading research through the National Reading Panel with what we know about teaching reading with ELL/ESL populations.  His presentation, found at www.shanahanonliteracy.com, is well worth the look.

* RF seems to be a veteran educator game.  There were few newbie teachers making the rounds in Nashville.  Those veterans MUST take what they have learned here and in their classrooms and share it with all of the teachers back home.

* All of the sessions and the strands have Eduflack thinking.  Do we really know how to effectively teach adults?  Do we know how to teach professionals?  Gathering thousands of adults in big ballrooms so they can hear lectures seems to conflict with what many say is necessary of an adult learning community.  Is the time coming for a sea change in professional conferences?

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