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Tuesday Keynote: Inspiring Leadership

Today's keynote address at the annual ISTE conference, which kicked off after a synchronized dance by robots and a breakdance by real, live humans, featured Stephen R. Covey, author of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, who joined the fully-packed auditorium via teleconference.

Covey discussed the first three habits of highly effective people (be proactive, begin with the end in mind, and put first things first) as they relate to personal leadership as well as teaching students to be leaders. "Leadership is communicating people's worth and potential so clearly that they're inspired to see it in themselves," he told the audience. "Leadership is a choice, not a position."

Covey's most recent book The Leader in Me discusses how the principles outlined in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are being applied to schools across the globe. "When identifying the 'end in mind' many people confuse the means for the end," said Covey. "When acquiring [certain] technologies become [teachers'] end, the sad result is that once they have obtain these latest technologies, they totally forget there was a purpose behind obtaining the technology."

Instead, teachers should focus more on creating productive and responsible mindsets in students, said Covey. "No one fully knows the future that young people will face," he said. "The first thing we need to help today's students is to empower them with effective mindsets."

Teachers should be helping students see their full potential, said Covey. "If all we focus on is the ever-mighty test score, we will never see students as they truly are," he said. "Seeing students only as test scores is the worst form of identity theft we can commit." That comment drew applause from the audience.

Covey then turned the stage over to Muriel Summers, the principal of A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Summers spoke of applying Covey's 7 principles to the school, a paradigm shift that increased end-of-year test scores from a 67 percent passing rate to 97 percent.

Summers also invited two graduating 5th-graders to join her on stage to talk about how technology helped improve their experience at A.B. Combs. One student spoke of a mentoring program that paired up students from the elementary school with students from the University of Florida through teleconference. Another spoke of a foreign exchange student who spent several months at the school and the relationship they have built through technology since he has returned home.

Summers invited the audience to reflect on a quote that inspires her. "We only get one chance to prepare our children for a world that none of us can possibly predict," she told the audience. "What are we going to do with that chance?"

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