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.