Ignite Sessions: The New Faculty Meetings?

Hey, educational administrators, were you present at ISTE’s 1st round of the Ignite sessions? If so, you may have walked away with a revolutionary way to conduct future faculty meetings. No, I’m not insinuating the donning of Google Glasses, the viewing of television shows with your colleagues, the production of original puppets, or the throwing of a raucous HTML coding party. I’m referring more to the way these presenters delivered their educational wisdom: a five-minute, 20-slide, bullet-fast, and highly energetic mini-presentation known as…the Ignite session.
This fast and furious method of broadcasting is sure to not only add revolutionary pedagogical ideas but also to spark a professional learning flame that feeds on courage, connections, creativity, energy, vision, and humor. According to comments from the ISTE 2014 Conference attendees, sounds to me like six characteristics needed in many faculty meetings.


Let’s get this straight. Every presenter at an Ignite session exhibits courage. Wouldn’t you be nervous speaking in front of this crowd in such a manner that is reminiscent of Fed Ex’s talented speed-talker, John Moschitta? Well, Stacy Hawthorne not only demonstrated courage by sharing immeasurable wisdom in 300 seconds, she spoke of it, too. In sharing her three keys for success, Stacy reminded teachers and students that the questions asked, not the answers spoken, are most important, “that all walls and boundaries have ways around them”, and that the true magic happens outside people’s comfort zones.  Right on, Stacy.
Wouldn’t it be cool if all teachers were asked at some point to display five minutes of unimaginable courage while sharing their teaching expertise at faculty meetings? Sure, educators will be apprehensive, insecure, and reluctant. But a fire will be ignited, no doubt, and that flame will light the way for the entire learning community.


Seriously. Isn’t that what faculty meetings are about? Connections? Connections with colleagues. Connections with students. Connections with communities. Connections with best practices. Connections with the reasons why educators entered the profession. Using the best tools and best practices to connect. Yep. Connections.
In her riveting message about rebranding digital citizenship through the educational use of technology tools, Tanya Avrith proved that the secret lies in connections. Her powerful view, “It’s not digital citizenship…it’s citizenship,” emphasizes an underlying and necessary reason why an Ignite session as a faculty meeting would rock: teachers will not be fragmented by can and can’t do labels but merely connected by passionate and empowered educators seeking improvement.


“When you learn, create, and share, you give passion a chance to go viral.” This quotation from Rafranz Davis speaks volumes. In one of the most compelling examples of creativity I have witnessed in quite a while, Rafranz Davis validated her claim by sharing her nephew’s creative, educational journey.
Faculty meetings under the guise of Ignite sessions would be no different. The results would be an awakening of educators’ passions for learning and teaching while catapulting them into a previously unachieved realm of creativity. “Learn, create, and share?” Yep. Rafranz knows exactly how to breathe oxygen into a glowing ember of possibilities.


Just imagine the energy generated by tapping the shoulders of ten teachers and saying, “Hey, I believe you got something special to offer our faculty. How about condensing that pedagogical power into a five-minute stick of educational dynamite?” Think about it. 10 teachers X roughly five minutes per presentation = nearly sixty minutes of awesomeness. That’s plenty of time to annihilate the zombie-like atmosphere of many faculty meetings. Sounds like an hour of power to me.
In fact, this newfound energy would be palpable, and if you witnessed Jennie Magiera’s passionate and hilariously gut-busting appeal to educators to create their own professional learning experiences, you know exactly what I mean. Heck, after five minutes of Jennie’s edu-bomb jokes and on-point advice to reverse the discontent with professional learning, I was ready to call all of my colleagues from East Hall High School and request an impromptu Ignite session that very moment.


I am not sure who was more amazing, the Google Glasses-wearing Matthew Newton or the tech-savvy English teaching Jen Roberts, but both amazing educators made one thing clear: the ability to envision the potential in all students and in all educational resources is paramount. Matthew Newton distinctly articulated this element of teaching and learning by illustrating a collection of uses for wearable gadgets as assistive technology. His message was clear. Google Glasses are a vital, educational tool. Jen Roberts would definitely agree. In fact, she said, “Teachers need to be futurists; that is the nature of our business.”
However, educational administrators need not wear Google Glasses or seek reassurance from fortune tellers, all that is needed to predict the success of an Ignite session as a faculty meeting is a timer.


Perhaps one of the most overlooked components of a cohesive and efficient staff is humor. Maybe Winston Churchill had it right when he said, “A joke is a very serious thing.” To be honest, I can’t tell you how many times I laughed during round one of the Ignite sessions. I lost count.
An Ignite session as a faculty meeting would be no different. According to William Arthur Ward, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” Let’s agree to substitute “education” for “life” and call it even.
So, educational administrators, were you present for round one of the Ignite session to witness a valuable structure that could change faculty meetings forever? If not, no worries. I’m sure you heard the sparks no matter where you were.
After all, inspiration can be loud.

John Hardison

John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC).

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Dominic Bigue

Thanks for the thoughtful remix of the opening ignite session! I was hoping to hear some highlights and you hit the mark. Sounds like a powerful mantra to take forward with our colleagues into the new school year! Courage, connections, creativity, energy, vision, and humor... make it so!

Sherri Spelic

Wow! There's so much enthusiasm in this post that I can hardly wait to share it with my ed leader colleagues. Faculty meetings are often an underused resource to connect colleagues and showcase passions. With the numerous examples you provide, I get both a sense of the excitement unleashed at ISTE and the potential to grow it in our immediate learning communities. The statement "you had to be there" is officially history. Thanks!

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