The Philadelphia experiment – Educon 2.2

Educon 2.2. I’d flown halfway around the world to attend this conference. The merging of minds from across the United States. The conference to go to according to all in the edublogosphere. Now, how do you analyse the experience?

If my intention was to go there to meet the people I network with, then my experience was above my expections. I met wonderful people; the people who share knowledge with me, support me and my thinking, read my ponderings and co-exist in online spaces. People like Susan Carter Morgan, Carey Pohanka, Debra Garcia, Melanie Hutchinson, Silvia Tolisano, Lisa Parisi, Dianne Cordell, Beth Still, Nancy Caramanico, Mark Carls, Paul Wood, Paula White, Ben Hazzard, Rodd Lucier, Michael Wacker, the list goes on and on. From that perspective, the experience was wonderful. It does make a difference when you meet people face to face. Sometimes it’s awkward, but this experience for me was pretty positive. Friendly, interested, involved and caring teachers who are obviously all doing their level best to effect change in their learning environments and beyond.

I attended some interesting sessions where we created content and discussed how we teach and what we can do to make it more interesting for our students and maybe for us too. Ben Hazzard and Rodd Lucier led a session where we created an ebook called ‘Field Guide for Change Agents‘. A lot of fun and a good way to push people into using some tools they may not have been familiar with.

Michael Wacker led an interesting discussion about the place for direct instruction supported by screencasts, podcasts, web conferencing etc in our classrooms. Direct instruction gets a bad rap at times, but I think some educators are kidding themselves if they think there is no place for it in classrooms. Michael created a really useful Google site supporting the session that you should visit.

Sharon Peters and Cheri Toledo led a session about the potential uses of backchannel discussions in classrooms. The backchannel was working hard throughout the session and it was great interacting with people participating in the conference from outside locations.

My intention when signing up for  Educon was to be challenged intellectually; to be exposed to new thinking or ways of looking at things so that I would come back with more to share. The talk surrounding Educon is that it’s all about the conversations. I enjoyed the conversations I participated in, but I did  feel that there was room for some deeper analysis.  I really feel there’s a need to reference relevant research that’s taking place, to have discussions about how we go about systemic change, not just change in our individual classrooms or schools. I felt the the world view was lacking.  Yes, it’s an American conference , but these challenges are being faced in all corners of the world and maybe the solution lies in banding our resources together. After all, that’s what this technology is about; the ability to connect us as one. That is exactly what is happening at the research end of the spectrum. Grassroots educators need to be getting involved in those discussions. Maybe I just wasn’t talking to the right people or sitting in the right sessions. Conversations that took place at ELH here in Lorne were posed as critical conversations and really cut to the chase of how education might respond to a connected world. I felt more of this would have been worth exploring at Educon considering the quality educators a conference like this attracts.

The experience has confirmed what I was already thinking. What is happening in Australia is good. Really good. Our Government and education system is recognizing the need for action and is implementing change from the top down. Sure, we may criticize some of the methods, but at least it’s happening. We have some pretty sharp minds in our sphere who are thinking outside the box and pushing the edges. I’m so pleased to be part of a Reference Group informing ACER, because I think that’s what this push needs; the validation from a legitimate research base that education needs to look at new ways of integrating the connective tools that pervade our lives into the education of our children, enabling them to know how to use these tools to their advantage and how to do it safely and ethically. We need to look outwards, but much of what is happening internally in this country is forward thinking.

Science Leadership Academy, SLA, is a good school. Is it an outstanding school? I’d have to spend quality time in classrooms to work that out. It had the feel of schools I’ve been in where you know there’s a healthy mutual respect between staff and students. There’s common purpose and a feeling of connectedness in their school community. You can tell that from your interactions with their student population; the sheer fact that the conference was supported at a logistical level all weekend by students and parents is testament to that. Obviously leadership plays a large part in that and Chris Lehmann deserves recognition for all he is doing to bring that community together.

One of the great things about Educon 2.2 was that it was supported by Elluminate (with the help of Steve Hargadon) and all of the sessions were recorded and archived in the site. One of the realities of attending any conference is that you can’t be everywhere; invariably, you miss some of the good stuff. I’d encourage you to visit the site and look to some of the archives to see what was happening.

I’m glad I decided to attend Educon 2.2. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet members of my online network and gain some perspective of the US education system. I’m worried that a National Curriculum and the MySchool site are going to push us here in Australia into the testing regimen that pervades the public system in the US. That would be a huge mistake. The flexibility we have to develop curriculum is the thing we have, and need to hold onto, that will aid our students to become the creative individuals we need in our world.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “The Philadelphia experiment – Educon 2.2

  1. Jenny,

    Thank you for this thoughtful analysis of EduCon. What a pleasure it was to spend some time with you in Philadelphia!

    Do you have links to any of the research you feel we should be referencing? Now that I have the luxury of time, I’d like to deepen my understanding of the issues facing education and educators today.

    Perhaps you should return and lead this discussion next year!

  2. Jenny, you’ve written a thoughtful and honest summary of Educon 2.2, your experiences, your current outlook and concerns about education worldwide, as well as here in Australia. The experience has obviously sharpened your existing outlook and focused it toward a clear and urgent direction. Thankyou for the links; lucky for me it’s my day off and I’ll be able to take the time to investigate. Looking forward to catching up in person soon.

  3. Andrew Blackwell

    Jenny,
    Such an inspirational piece. Hope you present this at ELH2010!
    Andrew

  4. Debra Garcia

    Thanks for this post Jenny and I enjoyed meeting you as well. Here I think you have offered a refreshing perspective about Educon and I share many of your thoughts as well. I appreciate the links you posted and I think I need to go back through and review many of the sessions before I get that blog of mine back up and running. Yes your post has giving me an urge to write a few of my thoughts too. I hope to see you present sometime in the future perhaps when those of us in distant Virginia do a road/plane trip to Australia. Keep up the great work that you do for students and educators across the globe.

  5. Hi Jenny. I appreciate your summary of edcon. Very enlightening. Glad you had a good time. I think it proves that you are one of the very best ‘teachnologists’ anywhere.

  6. nina d

    Great write up Jenny. I’ll be following the links. It is about connecting on those big issues, asking the big questions and getting the answers. I’ve loved following your trip. Loved the tweets and enjoyed tweeting some of the people you were with.
    Cheers Nina

  7. Pingback: Blogs, nings and wikis – taking learning out of the classroom « Brave new world

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