FREEPORT — It was in May that Alicia Collin Duell received word she would be a guest speaker at the Information Society for Technology and Education (ISTE) national stage, where she would speak before more than 20,000 people at the four-day conference held in Philadelphia.
Duell completed a master class through TED, which is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED is a place where Technology Entertainment and Design converged in 1984 to cover all topics — from science to business to global issues. Part of the TED mission is to seek a deeper understanding of the world by working with people who believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes.
Duell, who now lives in Elmhurst, is the director of technology and information services for the Wheeling School District. Prior to her current role in technology administration, she was a school librarian, living and working in both the United States and in international schools overseas. She credits her experiences with giving her the freedom to explore, take risks and develop leadership skills.
Duell said she is passionate about taking risks, identifying failure and working to encourage others to do the same. This was her speech at ISTE, and the entire experience at being on center stage in front of her peers made her stop and think about her own risks, admitting failure and delivering a speech to offer hope.
“The ISTE conference partnered with TED to offer a master class, which I completed,” Duell said. “The class taught me how to give a TED talk.”
As a featured speaker at the conference at the end of June, Duell said she had never done a keynote speech before in front of so many people. She admits standing center stage in the main convention hall at the Philadelphia Conference Center was intimidating but as she walked the stage for her 12-minute speech, she was able to share her own failures in life and on the job, and speak about how it helped her grow.
“My speech was a personal and vulnerable story, and I think the biggest point is we need to share our stories of failures, and we in education need to recognize this, to tell stories and allow children and adults not to be wrapped up in shame. This is something I drew from in my master class, and what I realized is it wasn’t hard to get to a vulnerable place,” she said.
Duell said when she was in her master class, she was partnered with a TED coach, who helped her with her draft to get to a personal place and how to apply it with education. She has been an educator for 20 years. In her role with the Wheeling School District, she works closely with teachers to integrate technology in classrooms, and she also works with them as a group.
She said she loves what she does, and her favorite thing is to work with teachers, and when she transitioned to technology education, it was to be part of the evolution of technology that played a huge role in how she saw her educational role grow, but there were failures.
“Working through failures and being able to convey that on the national stage was exciting and scary,” she said.
There is a YouTube video from the conference called the “Alicia Duell Ted Talk” where people can tap into her experiences with dealing with failure and reaching beyond. Duell’s mother Jill Collin of Freeport has watched the video and is proud of the fact her daughter was on the national stage to explore herself and her lessons in vulnerability to others.
“I am proud of her can-do attitude and her many achievements,” Collin said. “I watched her on stage and she did a great job. She took a topic which was very difficult and personal to her and presented it in a way that she might help others. I felt she was poised and self-confident. I am so proud.”
Duell has presented at conferences in Bangkok, Thailand; a Google Summit in Manila, Philippines; and other conferences in the state of Illinois.
She is back at her job in Wheeling with increased confidence. She said the experience was the most public thing she has ever done.
“I work with a lot of teachers and I want to talk and work with them about failure,” Duell said. “I am a leader and part of my job is to help people embrace failure and work beyond.”
Jane Lethlean; email@example.com; @DOGWMN2
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