Where to begin…
EduCon was something of a different experience for me this year. Still part of the mix: plenty of inspiring moments, great food, an amazing school filled with inspirational kids and gifted educators/administrators. But I (re)learned a few things!
“Make new friends, but keep the old … one is silver and the other gold.” It was GREAT to be with so many of my friends that I had not seen since NECC, but it was just as powerful meeting people whose blogs or forum postings I’ve read over the years, and even some people who I’d just met for the first time. The standard EduCon attendee comes equipped with an uncommon sense of life purpose that makes even a routine conversation over a bagel and a cup of coffee into something truly inspirational.
“Less us, more them.” That is one of Gary Stager’s favorite quips, and it’s sound pedagogical advice. As I reflect on our Session 1 presentation, School Newspaper 2.0: Students Using Participatory Media to Build Community, I find myself wishing I’d skipped the slides and simply let the kids talk about their experience in our club, how they brainstorm and create content together, what issues they are exploring as a result of their online presence, and a million other things. It got a little better for me as EduCon went on, because thanks primarily to to Kristen Hokanson, our session Network Globally ~ Act Locally: bringing global learning to local learning communities was much more interactive and learner-focused. After advising so many people to choose sessions based on whether or not it would be a conversation (vs. a presentation), the extent to which I did more of the latter leaves me with something of an empty feeling inside, honestly. Like a missed opportunity. :(
It’s all about conversations – and connections. This is to me the essence of EduCon. It’s true we do get moments like this at “boat shows” like NECC but at EduCon it’s the rule, not the exception. There are at least three conversations in this picture; the connections are clear and powerful. The room was full of them. So were the hallways. What did we talk about? The National Writing Project. Opening up schools like SLA. Opening up our own classrooms to the same thinking that powers this school/community.
Students are Teachers and Teachers are Students. The magic of this school/community has very little to do with technology, 1:1 laptops, Web 2.0 tools, or anything like that. (To be honest I didn’t even realize SLA was a 1:1 school.) The magic of this school is profoundly inspiring teacher/student interaction. But don’t take my word for it. Check out SLA student Sarah Pinard’s comments on Will Richardson’s blog post. (There are several in the thread, read from the top). I’ll quote:
“All night I could not think of one way that technology had helped me learn math. I have never sat down and learned math in that fashion, math has always been taught to me through teacher-student interaction.” – Sarah Pinard, SLA Student
It’s school budget time right now. We’re facing the most challenging economic environment since The Great Depression. We’ve got to choose wisely. What big-ticket items will your district be investing in? Desktops? Laptops? Servers? Software? Infrastructure? Services? Ask yourself this question: will those investments measurably improve the quality (and quantity) of teacher-student interaction? Let’s hope so, because in my view at least, that is the ballgame, folks!