Last week, while I was on vacation (doing homework, mostly), I also attended one day of the Southeastern Regional Rural Education Summit at Lipscomb University. As part of attending, I submitted a summary to my M.Ed. professor for class credit. I decided to share the summary with you too.
The Rural Education Summit was an interesting discussion of the issues facing rural education today. The Summit made excellent use of Twitter throughout the day, both by projecting the search results for the hashtag (#ruralsummit) on the screen and by allowing the audience to participate by tweeting questions that were then asked of the panel. You can check out some of the comments and questions here: http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23ruralsummit. Some of the websites that were mentioned today are here: http://www.delicious.com/library_chic/ruralsummit
I feel like I learned a great deal about the issues facing rural education. The attendees and presenters agreed that some of the main issues were the recruitment and retention of teachers to rural areas, the emphasis (or lack thereof) on the connection between education and job preparedness, and the impact that professional development has on rural teachers especially. The first two panels focused primarily on the connection between education and employment opportunities, with Kevin Huffman (TN Department of Education commissioner) and Bill Hagerty (TN Department of Economics & Community Development commissioner) on the first panel. The second panel was much larger, but had a similar focus, with more discussion of the vital connection between education and employment.
The breakout sessions I attended included Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Training and Using Technology for Teacher Professional Development. The first breakout session, Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Training, was an interesting panel discussion that also covered many of the questions from the audience. The panel discussed what can be done to improve recruitment for school districts, how school districts can retain teachers (which might not be as big a problem as originally thought) and how to improve professional development for teachers. All of the panelists provided concrete advice and data. The second breakout session, Using Technology for Teacher Professional Development, was an interesting look at several projects that the National Research Center on Rural Education Support is working on. The projects included Targeted Reading Intervention – reading intervention for grades K-3, done entirely online, Rural Early Adolescent Learning – a program to help middle schools students retain their desire to learn, and Enhancing Rural Online Learning – a project to help students taking AP classes via distance education to have support similar to what they would have in a regular classroom.
The third panel discussion was made up of “breakthrough rural educators”. The panel members were all award winning teachers or representatives from rural districts doing innovative things for their students. There were several interesting programs discussed, including e4TN and the GEAR UP grant.
Today’s Summit was my first foray into education conference attendance, and I really did learn quite a bit. It’s always an interesting experience to attend something as an outsider. The breakout sessions I attended also helped cement the thought that teacher professional development is a vital and rapidly-changing part of the education landscape, and it is where my primary education interests lie.