Educon 2.3 – Foster Change by Leading and Sharing

What has changed in your school or district in the last year? This is the question I mulled over on my ride home from Educon.

There were two sessions that I thought of as I drove. The Same as it Ever Was, but Does it Have to Be with Leo Brehm and Beth Knittle and The Ethical Obligation to Teach, Learn & Share Globally with Dean Shareski and Alec Couros.

Why these sessions?

Well, I’m concerned as to why I’ve been going to Educon for four years, yet I am still hearing all the same concerns from the attendees.

Beth and Leo

 

If our schools are not doing things correctly, what is it that we want?

We attempted to answer this question in Beth and Leo’s session. They put together a wiki and I’m hoping to see the folks that were there add to it. Here’s what we talked about together:

  • We want learners who can troubleshooting/problem solve
  • We want to focus on thinking skills rather than just skills
  • We want to look at what’s working and clone it rather than work on fixing what’s broken
  • We want self-motivated learners
  • We want the school community to be filled with adult learners (we are all learners)
  • We want to cultivate a lifelong love of learning

Beth recommended viewing  The Tribes We Lead TED Talk by Seth Godin as a resource for inspiration. What he says makes sense to me:

  • You can make change by leading
  • You should connect with people for ideas
  • What we do for a living now is finding something we want to change and assembling a group of people to change it
  • We should organize people who want to talk about something and have the same desires
  • One person can’t do this alone, but together we can get it done. We just need someone to lead us
  • We’re waiting for someone to show us where to go next

What is it that we need?

The group shared examples of what was happening in their schools. Some stories were encouraging and others were what seemed to be a recurring theme of schools in need of help. Here’s what we brainstormed:

  • Learners need to know it’s okay to fail
  • All learners should be empowered in a school
  • Schools should provide/allow for flexible learning environments
  • Learners should be encouraged to be passionate problem solvers
  • We need more time
  • Let’s not focus on the minute details, but work towards a common goal
  • Realize that it may be curriculum redesign that is needed

How are we going to get there?

This brings me back to Alec and Dean’s session as in both our small group and large group discussions, people shared stories.  Is this the solution to our bringing on change? Should we all just talk about what is working and then replicate it? I’m thinking so. What do you think?

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I want to listen and soak it up

Beginning today, January 28, 2011, is the 4th annual Educon. This is my all-time favorite conference. It’s a huge reunion of like-minded educators, all gathered in the same place to learn something.

For two years now, I have led sessions with Liz Davis, but this year we made a decision to go to Educon, network, learn and participate in the conversations.

Would you like to participate, but can’t make it to Philly this weekend? Here’s how:

  1. Join the EduCon website and post a short bio and photo
  2. Browse the Detailed Schedule and read about the conversation offerings, sketch out which sessions you would like to view. (all posted times are EST)
  3. Follow the streamed Elluminate sessions by going to the EduCon conversation page and click on the Elluminate link.
  4. Follow the twitter hashtag #educon
  5. Post questions, offer links and resources, from the comfort of your own living room, all throughout the weekend in the forums.

By the way, for those of you not familiar with Educon:

http://educon23.eventbrite.com/

EduCon 2.3 is both a conversation and a conference.
And it is not a technology conference. It is an education conference. It is, hopefully, an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

I hope to see you there, whether in-person or virtually.

Is it information overload?

It’s been a week since Educon2.2. Countless blog posts have been written and the stream of Tweets with the #educon hashtag is still, well, streaming.

So, a week later, this constant stream of information brings me back to the conversation that Liz Davis and I facilitated. I think the quote from Sarah Houghton-Jan that we shared before we began our protocol last Sunday really resonates with me now as we are generating all this content about Educon, and I am curious as to what everyone is doing will all the information.

“We have become far more proficient in generating

information than we are in managing it.”

When people ask you where you find the time to do all that you do and read all that you read about education, do you stop and ask them what they are doing with their time? Do you ask them how many countless hours they spend watching commercials or TV in general? Do you ask them what they listen to while they are exercising or commuting? What do people do with their time?

What options do we have to help us organize and filter the

information that comes to us.

During the conversation that took place at SLA on Sunday, January 31, folks in our session talked about what tools they used to
collect, aggregate and disseminate information. Here are some of the tools our group used:

  • Delicious
  • Diigo
  • Google Reader
  • Gmail
  • RSS

Actually, I took some flack from Mike Wacker and Sean Nash about using a Wordle to give a visual of what the group was collectively using, but oh well. We used Google Forms to do some group questioning and then could have used the Spreadsheet Gadget to do an embedded Word Cloud in the Spreadsheet, but Wordle has so many more options.

  1. Is there something you are doing with your time that you could eliminate or reduce to pursue something you are interested in professionally? Is that so bad?
  2. Do you realize you are not alone?
  3. Talk with people about what they do to manage their information. We would have never heard about how Ben Wilkoff uses Gmail to manage his informaton without the conversation at Educon. Now we just need him to make the screencast or write the blogpost we urged him to create.
Source: Liz Davis's Flickr Stream

We all didn’t have the solution to managing our information, but we took comfort in knowing that we weren’t alone and in being able to talk openly about different ways to manage all the information.
Is there something special that you do?

Is there someone that helps you manage your information?

Is there something that you heard in our session that you have tried and found to be successful?

Please share.

What is relevant?

I’ve enjoyed reading the reflections post-Educon2.2. There’s been much food for thought. So much that I couldn’t quite pin point what my big take-away from the weekend was. I had Tweeted on Saturday that “mentoring, leadership and individualized learning” seemed as if they were going to be big themes on Saturday, but when I opened my little notebook today, here’s what I saw:

To who was I referring when I wrote this? Was I writing about the students or the educators? I am not sure. It should absolutely be both. Here are my thoughts from Saturday (Sunday is another post in the works).

Disclaimer: I’m putting this all in my own words and not in the words of the articulate conversation leaders.

Session 1: Subversive PD: Creating a culture of collaboration to bring educators into the 21st Century

Danja Mahoney, Michael Springer, and Beth Knittle got us to talk about how to make professional development not suck. (Please see disclaimer.)

Three shared concepts from this session were:

  1. make sure you have achievable goals
  2. encourage your attendees to leave with something tangeable
  3. plan for time to play

These three facilitators did an excellent job in creating an environment where we truly had a conversation. We talked in our small groups as well as a whole group.

I left the session in agreement with many in the room. The best type of PD is individualized. It’s also the toughest, most time-consuming and most rewarding type as well.

Session 2: Taking the load off a learner’s mind: Cognitive Load Theory in Education

First of all. Chris Craft is an excellent storyteller. Second of all. Chris knows a lot of stuff I don’t know. I want to know more.

Cognitive Load Theory:

(We can design instruction that prevents overload.)

  1. intrinsic – our natural level of load
  2. germane – this is what we want for our students
  3. extraneous – what we don’t want

Chris shared that the goal of learning is to effect a change in long term memory. He spoke briefly about what the brain is capable of remembering (chunking) and of  automaticity. The conversation lent itself nicely to Universal Design for Learning and how to reduce extraneous loads for our students.

Session 3: Improving Professional Development with Online PD

Barbara Treacy and  Chris Champion began this conversation with the question “What can and can’t be taught online?”. I really thought my group would come up with a specific list, but instead we began a wonderful conversation about designing effective professional development. The idea is that with the tools available to us today like Screen-cast-o-matic and Scribd, it’s all about the facilitator and the participants networking and using the resources effectively. Ultimately, we can teach anything online.

So, how do we make it relevant for our students be they children or adults? How do we teach with rigor?

I honestly don’t have the two sentence answer. I don’t think it exists. I’m not even working on coming up with it. I am, however, taking pieces of these three sessions and embedding them into my plans for the upcoming weeks hoping for improvement. There’s always room for that.