Sunday, January 29, 2012

Educon 2.4 Reflections 2012

Lisa & Liz Presenting at Educon 2.4
There is always so much to think about on the way home from Educon. And this year was no different. As I sit home unraveling my experience, I am feeling a mix of emotions. As always it was wonderful to see my old Educon friends and meet many new ones. I attended some interesting sessions, presented an Encienda (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide), and presented a session with Lisa Thumann.

Here are some of my take-aways.

Boy is this a heady experience! Educon lives in the brain. It is a conference of ideas and ideas and ideas. Each session tries to think positively about ways we can improve our educational system. When I leave the conference I often feel my head is going to explode. The next step is to take all of these swirling pieces of something in my brain and put them together to create an actionable step in my professional life. That is the biggest challenge.

Boy do I dislike panels. I finally came to the realization that I just don't like panels. It isn't the panelists, it isn't the setting, it isn't the topic, it is the structure itself. First of all, I'm not afraid to admit I have a short attention span. Listening to people talk, without being able to interact with them, is not my favorite type of learning. I can stand a lecture if it is well crafted with a story to tell and an interesting message. The problem with panels (for me) is that the topics jump all over the place. I often feel like the panelists are just vying to get their voices heard (as opposed to having something to say). There are occasionally bits of genius mixed in, but I find it hard to pay attention enough to catch them. This year I watched the Friday night panel in the overflow room (next year I might watch from Mace's crossing ;-). If I follow the Tweets, I might glean more than if I were in the room.

Boy does the Educon crowd use social media well. The aggregation of information through a single hashtag is brilliant. I know I can look back and learn from the sessions I couldn't attend. This level of comfort brings the technology the closest to "oxygen" than any conference I've been to.

Boy are there a lot of good teachers at Educon. Half of what I learn by attending sessions are pedagogical teaching methods and protocols that I can try in my classrooms. I don't just come away with ideas, I come away with methodologies that I can use to support learning (regardless of the content) with my students.

Boy have I heard a lot of this stuff before. I can't deny I'm getting a little jaded. Each year we talk about the same ideas - giving students more choice, students as teachers, problem based learning, innovation, 21st century learning, higher level thinking, blah blah blah blah blah.

Using the What if, and, and, and protocol introduced to me by David Jakes, What if Educon did the talking and the walking, and each one of us left with one concrete action that we could bring back to our schools, and we made a connection with one other person who promised to support us in that endeavor, and we publicly shared our progress on completing that action, and we came back each year and built on that action until all the little pieces made a big change? Wouldn't that be cool!


Pete Rodrigues said...


I love the idea of supporting one another in concrete work. I wrote about the same thing last year. You walk out of Educon thinking about what next - but I really feel like the further you move away from that community, the harder it is to maintain the "next", even with support like twitter, etc. Hopefully your idea will catch on. Thanks!

emily said...


I laughed when I got to your line about Educon doing the talking and the walking because just moments before I read your post, I tweeted my first tweet from back home, which was that after all that good talking, I need to go in tomorrow and truly walk the walk in my district. Maybe it's because I have only ever been to 2 edcamps (I'm sure you don't remember but you actually explained Twitter to me and showed me how to set up my Macbook in Boston last spring!) and this was my first educon, but there were some huge takeaways for me this weekend, perhaps none bigger than committing myself to really seek out the support of those with whom I interacted this weekend - particularly since I often find that support lacking in my building (or maybe I'm just not doing enough to find it). I am inspired, rejuvenated, and excited to apply some of the strategies I have learned, even the small ones. I dragged along one other person from my district. He was completely new to all of this, but now we go back in solidarity, hoping to find more like-minded educators. Thanks for sharing your post! I enjoyed reading it and your encienda presentation. Hope to see you in person again soon.

Teach Children Well said...

Great post, Liz. I'm one that likes the panel format--enjoy the jumping around. My next step is applying SLA principles (and others) to unit planning with greater depth. I created this template to guide the planning of new units and revision of existing units. I'l love feedback and ideas--that's my action step as I leave Educon. Would like to learn about, and support others' plans. Thanks for posing the challenge.

Mrs T said...

I really enjoyed your post! This was my first year that I joined in on EduCon and it was a wonderful experience. I definitely agree that EduCon is a heady experience, I had a difficult time blogging today about my thoughts because there was so much information.

Mr. G said...

Great post Liz, and thanks for inviting folks to comment on your last paragraph in Twitter. That's the sort of specific task that it would be good to leave Educon with. I think we need -- as you suggest -- more concrete actions.

This was my first Educon, and I feel like I made a connection with several people who might support me as I start a new school (we only spoke for a few minutes, but we have that Newton connection going and I'd love to keep in touch).

I love the idea of publicly sharing our progress on completing that action (I'll be doing that on my blog and on my school's web page, which I plan to launch by mid-February -- but maybe we can set up a google doc with our Educon resolutions... I'll work on that)

I loved your final bold "Boy have I heard a lot of this stuff before" :) I got tired of hearing this sort of thing at conferences and then coming back to my school where change came painfully, glacially slowly and would only be contemplated after several committee meetings.

Imagine what it would look like if you took the folks at Educon, divided them into groups of 20, and said "okay, you 20 people: move together to this new place and start a new school that embodies Educon -- go."

Tony Baldasaro said...

Hi Liz,
Great observations. I'd like to add two more if that's okay.
1. There are a lot of administrators at Educon... and that's a good thing. I'm not one who believes that leadership is defined by a title, but the reality is that strong school leadership (by title) is important for schools to make that leap. To have that many leaders there, engaged in the types of conversations that Educon is known for, is really important.

2. The fact that Educon is on a weekend, so our schools are not operating back home, and the level of intensity around the conversations take place, allow participants to immerse themselves like few other events can. This can be challenging for those who seek solitude to reflect purposefully, but all in all, the intense immersion is a welcome change to catch all craziness of other events.

@brianfahey61 said...

Great post, and I agree. In an endeavor the dialog needs to evolve or else we lose the energy, enthusiasm and push toward new thinking. It's the same with a lot of initiatives in schools. It's the oldest theory in the book, right? John Dewey and learn by doing.

Janet Abercrombie said...

From reading the Educon tweets, it seemed like the conference was more cognitive than practical. That definitely has its place. I love being around people who imagine things that have never been done before.

I hope I can learn from them and make the ideas practical (because that's what my brain has to do). I'm excited to hear how other people turn these ideas into reality.

Janet |

Lisa Thumann said...

I thought about our conversations at Educon and came to the conclusion that it's up to the attendee to make it a worthwhile experience. It's not whether or not the conference was good, though it was, it's more about what you do with the information.

So, I am going to have to decide what I want to take away and how I am going to make a change in the way I teach or learn with it.

Let's make it a goal that next year we talk about what that change was, how we addressed it, and what the new outcomes are.

Thanks Liz!!!