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Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

It’s the Experience that Matters: EduCon 2.3

It’s been a week since attending EduCon 2.3 and I’ve been reflecting on takeaways from the process of being present before, during, and after the conference.

First, I thank the SLA team for their hard work in putting together an opportunity for educators to gather from all over, either face to face or virtually, and experience opportunities to learn from each other. I’ve had the role of planning conferences and it’s no picnic. For Chris, the teachers, the young people, and the family members who assisted with the planning and running of EduCon, it’s certainly a labor of love that comes with both headaches and rewards. The SLA team deserves positive feedback about their work as educators and as students. We educators have received enough negative press to last a lifetime of recent. When any of us in the educators’ PLN hear our work makes a difference, we should all appreciate that.

I also enjoyed the informal time I spent with the young men and women attending the Academy. In the presence of young people pretty much anywhere, I am reminded that generations come and go, but teenagers across time sustain that almost breathless joie de vivre that fuels our tomorrows. This group was no exception. I had a chance to play a little ping pong and start a game of chess which didn’t get very far and the kids were quite gracious, even the young men that I kicked off the ping pong table so one of my female tour guides and I could bat a ball around the room a bit (sometimes we females have to assert to be seen.) I also found out from my tour guides that these very bright and talented kids step over school boundaries just as kids have done in the past, the present, and the future. I would have been disappointed to hear otherwise and appreciated their refreshing honesty.

I must admit though being present in formal conference sessions gets harder with each conference I attend.  It’s really difficult to find time to connect informally F2F with virtual colleagues who offer as much as the planned presentations. I wanted F2F time with a lot of participants that’s more than a bump-in-the-hall “140 character” experience.  It’s also difficult to be on a schedule, bell or not, when sometimes I want the session to keep going and other times, I’m more than ready for one to end. At the same time, it’s next to impossible for me to not attend sessions for several reasons: 1) the presenters typically have spent a lot of time preparing 2) I feel guilty skipping class (good student syndrome) 3) I always learn something of value. For the record, the #nwp session I attended offered great conversation, new information about digital age writing, and several technology takeaways that I’ve already shared at “home.”

In the 1980s, Joyce and Showers researched effective professional development that increases the likelihood of transfer into practice.  They found events-based development such as simply attending conferences results in very little transfer. In other words, a school district doesn’t get much bang for investing bucks in conference attendance- unless follow up actions are set in motion. I wondered on the way home from EduCon 2.3 what difference it would make in my work to have attended and, conversely, what difference my attendance would make to anyone else. In my professional life, it’s one of the most important questions I ask myself routinely.

In reflection, EduCon 2.3 was a different experience. Unlike most multi-state conferences, I already knew many participants from the virtual professional learning network. It was also different because the flow of virtual conversation has continued the forward motion of professional learning beyond the boundaries of Philadelphia. The intense and passionate duologue posts between Chris and Ira over the course of the week about the merits of 3i, SLA, and EduCon created a different kind of engagement of audience in processing questions that challenge and provoke critical thought.  Franki and Mary Lee at a Year of Reading captured highlights of sessions that allow learning to continue beyond the four walls of SLA classrooms.  And, Philly Teacher, Mary Beth, shared perspectives on sessions that resonated in her world of teaching. All provide value as reflective pieces.

Joyce and Showers found that when a community of professionals study together, learn from each other, and help each other to process innovations of practice, the likelihood of transfer of learning into practice increases. I think one of the transfer takeaways for me is that for many educators, it’s the virtual learning community that provides contemporary job-embedded support for transfer into practice.  It’s where some of us find peers who help scaffold learning. It’s where others offer connectivity to new learning opportunities that push our thinking beyond the horizon. That’s what made EduCon 2.3 work for me – the idea that after leaving Philadelphia, I continue to learn from the experience and others who shared the experience with me. It’s the experience that matters.


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About pamelamoran

Educator in Virginia, creating 21st c community learning spaces for all kinds of learners, both adults and young people. I read, garden, listen to music, and capture photo images mostly of the natural world. My posts represent a personal point of view on topics of interest.

Discussion

6 thoughts on “It’s the Experience that Matters: EduCon 2.3

  1. I wanted to thank you for your leadership in my session on gender diversity. At least 7 people have mentioned they were in your group and said you really pushed their thinking. I am glad you were at Educon as I and others learned from you. Sometimes, being in a community is as much, if not more, about giving value rather than just being about personal value gained. Thanks for your willingness to give.

    Posted by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach | February 7, 2011, 8:21 am
    • Thanks for that- the take aways from listening to the men talk about their own personal experiences, their daughters, and their professional lives points out the need for gender in the workplace conversations to be owned by both sides of the X chromosome. I attempt to learn from peers no matter where I land or in what setting. We all need to be challenged to ask tough questions, reflect deeply on our own limitations of thinking, and hear other points of view. Both the men and the women in the gender conversation provided that opportunity.

      The melting pot of informal and formal conversations can be as much of a learning experience as we choose to make it- anywhere, anytime. Enjoy the day!

      Posted by pamelamoran | February 7, 2011, 8:35 am
  2. I think this is a really accurate summation of the EduCon experience, Pam; how do we bring those informal conversations back home? I’ve written some and thought a lot about red teams and skunk works. I feel like much of the planned time I have spent with others in the county has been productive and important for my learning, but most of that time with other teachers, administrators, and central office feels like a conference session at which I want to be the good student.

    How do our conversations become more like un-conversations? How do we talk together with the people who aren’t attending class? How do we keep supporting the work and growth of our Chrises while listening and reacting to our Iras?

    Sign me up to stand outside those meetings and talk in the hall.

    Best,
    C

    Posted by Chad Sansing | February 7, 2011, 8:39 pm
  3. Pam, Great post and I agree, EduCon is a powerful experience for learners because people are largely already pretty scaffolded up and are exceptionally interactive before, during, after. Your leadership in many ways stands out on that woman–loved how you were tweeting everything in your own district’s sessions. Most importantly may I support,

    “sometimes we females have to assert to be seen.”

    Amen sister. Thanks for doin it.

    Kirsten

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | February 8, 2011, 10:00 am
    • Thanks, Kirsten- I see a different and more powerful model for “conference” evolving than the traditional one-time “event” model we are mostly used to attending. Educon +social media are taking potential of attending conferences to not just support individual transformation work but also to support transformation across multi-districts. If this new model were to take root- edcamps, unconferences, process conferences such as this one, and virtual conferences- the power of grassroots educational reform ( #blog4reform) might become a catalyst for the nation. Right now we sorely lack critical mass to effect that shift.

      And, I still find too many situations, in which young and older women, are cast into a role of neither being seen or heard. Perhaps, because of my generation’s efforts to change that, I am more sensitive than younger women are to those situations- but I know it still occurs. Both sides of the X chromosome have to own that- men to learn how to be more inclusive- women to learn how to communicate I want a place at the table- ping pong or otherwise.

      Posted by pamelamoran | February 8, 2011, 11:34 am

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