Posts Tagged ‘educon’

So, I’ve been thinking about when the right time for professional development is. Is there even an answer for this?

In an ideal world, professional development would happen just-in-time. The practicalities of this approach are a challenge. It’s hard to plan to attend conferences if one waits for just the right time and certainly hard to get a good airfare or hotel rate. Online, asynchronous professional development to the rescue! I’ve participated in and continue to participate in plenty of that type of learning. It’s a great option that is weather resistant and family friendly. On an individual level, I can do a lot on the spur of the moment.

CCO Public domain image by Antanias on Pixabay

CCO Public domain image by Antanias on Pixabay

However, there are some events worth the effort of planning ahead. Bigger events, national organization events, for example, do take time to plan and don’t change dates because I have had a tiring week. Whenever I plan and attend conferences, whether they are informal EdCamps, conversation driven EduCon, or conferences with big presentations like Project Zero or ISTE, I come away tired and glad to have attended. I am wondering if I can train myself to be ready for learning at a particular time of year or at a particular location. I am not being silly here. Habits are powerful. For example, I have trained myself to sit silently in a room with other people for an hour and not find it strange. For me, this habit is inextricably linked to the time and place. Another example–when I was younger I was lucky enough that my family went to a very simple house in the Poconos regularly. We didn’t have any TV or cable or anything there (it was the dark ages, there was no internet); I got used to and came to appreciate that time there was different, and more importantly for this discussion, I got in the habit of changing my mindset upon turning in the driveway. Conditioned response anyone? It is clear to me that I can and have done this on a small scale for myself. How can some of those habits of mind, attitudes, conditioned responses be applied to professional learning?

An entire faculty is never going to be in the zone at the same time. (And, if everyone were in the zone at once, wouldn’t that be some kind of foul anyway?) Maybe it is more realistic to think about the routines we can develop to do some of the get-in-the-zone work for us. How can I/we engineer that turn-up-the-driveway response when there is a schoolwide initiative that requires professional development?


Public domain image from

Public domain image from

So, I’ve been thinking about going to some new conferences.

@TeacherDebra and I were talking about this the other day. I am a regular attender at some solid events. I’ve been a regular EdCamper for years and attended the very first one in Philadelphia. EduCon and I are well acquainted. I’m not a stranger to ISTE. We go to various local events through ADVIS or other organizations. You get the idea.

Anyway we were talking about how we need to get out of our bubble. We love the events we attend, share what we learn, and present at times. We also see a lot of the same people and sessions at the events. And, while these are topics we love and people we are always happy to see and talk to, we are looking to break out. We are wondering what we are not hearing about? Who we are not meeting (I’m not great at that part)? What we are missing?

Then the other evening, I was making a cake and my husband was reading to me from a NYTimes article by Frank Bruni while I mixed ingredients (a slight variation on this grapefruit cake from Saveur). So nice, right? He was reading about how Facebook, or whatever other boogyman we might accuse, is not to blame for the various bubbles we put ourselves in, but rather we are the makers of our own bubbles.

We’re the real culprits. When it comes to elevating one perspective above all others and herding people into culturally and ideologically inflexible tribes, nothing that Facebook does to us comes close to what we do to ourselves.

No one is keeping this ‘other’ information from us, we are not seeking it out, or not seeking it out forcefully enough.

This is what Debra and I are going to do–intentionally go outside our self created bubble. No unseen force signs us up for conferences against our will. We sign ourselves up, we make the choice to look, or not look, for new options. Well, next year, we are busting out.

Any recommendations for us?

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by kjarrett:

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by kjarrett:

So, I’ve been thinking about conferences. I didn’t go to EduCon this past January. Now that it’s gotten more popular and you have to register sooner; I keep missing out. This past weekend I went to EdCampPhilly, which was also at SLA this year. I’ve been to many an EdCamp.

Anyway, I was chit-chatting with some folks when Hadley Ferguson appeared. Hadley is an EdCamp Original and a great person to have in your PLN. If you don’t follow her already, you should go to that now (@HadleyJF). Hadley, Philip Cummings (you should also follow him @Philip_Cummins), and I all presented together at EduCon several years ago. Our session was about Making Thinking Visible and we demonstrated and modeled a number of strategies from the book by Ron Ritchhart. It was a bit nerve-wracking initially, but it went pretty well. I wrote about it before.

One of the folks in our session was Brad Campbell. (You should follow him too @BrdCampbell). He was also at EdCamp on Saturday. And, of all the wonderful things, he came up to Hadley and then to me to say that he still uses strategies that we shared and thinks about our session. I was so flattered. How lovely of him to tell us. And, how many times should I be saying something similar to someone else myself! Hadley and I both admitted that we needed to remember our own session highlights a little more in our own teaching.

This got me thinking that you just never know what will stick. I mean I thought that our session was pretty good. I was very proud of us. And, I’m sure a lot of the folks who were there don’t remember it. And, I’m sure that even people who thought the ideas were good at the time have forgotten or not used the information. This does not offend me. The same thing happens to me at conferences. When I think back to all the sessions at the many EdCamps, EduCons, NAIS, ISTE, etc I have attended, it’s not always the ones that wowed me in the moment that end up having the biggest impact. It’s really hard to predict what will stick because it’s really more about what is relevant now. Relevant could mean I can use this idea in class on Tuesday, or relevant could mean I’ve been thinking about this topic recently, or relevant could mean I’ve been thinking about something else entirely, but somehow this other idea brings it into better focus. So, since I can’t predict what will be useful, what should I do? Wait for the perfect session title, conference theme? NO.

My best bet is to go to the conference, go to the EdCamp, go to the session that might be good, because in the end it might be what sticks. I just read in my Alumni News from college that one of the things that makes people happy is good conversations (An hour-long lecture version also available, conversation part starts at about 30:00). Well, this makes total sense to me. I find most conferences totally invigorating. Seriously, I come home wound up and taking a mile a minute. Things get done; blog posts get written. And the thing is, I don’t actually even have to learn anything new. Since there is a limited amount of information that I can keep in the front of my brain, I appreciate being reminded of stuff I technically already knew, but may have filed a little too far back. It’s the great conversations at the conference that make my brain spin, in a good way.

So this Saturday, Brad reminded me of something I shared with him. How great is that? And then, I went to a bunch of good sessions and hit the jackpot, I think, with the last one. (More on that later.) Several great conversations, one happy me.

What do other people expect to get out of conferences?


20101006 - PRIVATE - IMG_7904So, I’m still thinking about EduCon. The first conversation that I attended was presented by three impressive ladies:  Pam Moran, Becky Fisher, and Paula White. I knew from past experience that I would not be disappointed spending 90 minutes with them. I follow all of them on Twitter, try to keep up with that they write, and have either attended sessions with them before (f2f or virtual) and/or met them. Rather than sum up their presentation, I am sharing what ideas it brought to my mind.

The topic was writing, but we quickly moved to communicating more broadly. One of the things that I have written about before is having my students record themselves reading their essays. I was remembering this as the conversation bounced around ideas about grammar and punctuation. One of the things I like about teaching in the lower grades and at an independent school is that I do not have to give a single grade for writing or reading. Instead I have a skills list that allows me to comment on a student’s ability to do many of the individual parts of writing. So as I wrote last year, listening to my students read their work allows me to focus on the communication of ideas and not get bogged down by the grammar and spelling errors. I need to comment on them too, but I don’t like to have that be the only thing. It reminded me that I need to do this more. I have tended to keep this for more personal essays rather than expanding it to analytical writing. Although everyone could probably use some speaking practice, there is a limit to what I can cram into the school day/week/year. It might be that I should focus on having those students who struggle with the mechanics record more of their essays. It may not be as critical for everyone as some are quite proficient in being able to write what they think.

The other idea that came up for me was the public nature of students writing for a real audience. I am totally for student writing getting beyond the classrooms and hallways. When blogging and using wikis for  writing came up, there was, of course, some push back as to security. There was the usual conversation about students not sharing personal information online. It’s a pretty techie crowd, so we moved on quickly. But, then as we talked about giving students choice and writing about ideas and following their passion, we were talking about students being personal. I have a few things to say on the topic:

  1. It is more of an issue for elementary students; I get that.
  2. Schools routinely publish pictures of students who play on teams or win awards in newspapers or online. These pictures include first and last names as well as year of graduation and sometimes town of residence.
  3. Personal is not the same as private.

I think that we really need to expand the conversation to a distinction between personal information (I like soccer. I love to swim with my family in the summer.) and private information (I live at 123 Main Street. My social security number is). There is a lot of education conversation going on right now about personalizing learning and students writing about authentic interests and sharing those thoughts. Great, no problem, in my opinion. My students are only a few years away from being able to join social networking sites using their real birthdays where they will undoubtedly share both personal and probably some inappropriately private information.

What they are doing now is blogging. Blogging about their ideas and interests. They are neither picking on other students nor navel gazing. I like to think that they are learning to share publicly what is personally of interest. I hope they catch the blogging bug, and get a real serious case of it. Maybe that way they will not be so tempted to fill their networks with pettiness because they will have already built networks around shared interests and ideas. (Cue the dramatic music, sunrise with silhouetted person etc.) Ok, that might be a bit of wishful thinking. But it is still true that we are blogging. It is also true that we have had, and will continue to have, conversations about what is ok to share, what is not ok, and what is a gray area that depends on family comfort levels.

Spending 90 minutes with Pam, Becky, Paula and the other educators in attendance not only gave me a chance to see some of the great work that other students are doing, but it also inspired my to think more about ideas that have been swirling around in my head. Time well spent, for sure.


(creative commons licensed photo by Nicola since 1972)


Read down a little and then imagine this scene with teachers (so more women) and better snacks and some comfortable chairs

So, I’ve been thinking about EduCon and conferences. EduCon is always in Philadelphia at SLA. I live in the area and can get there easily. So, even if not every session I attend is earth shattering, and really that is a lot to expect, it’s worth it to me for a number of reasons: ideas, interesting people, good conversations with people I don’t see everyday, short travel time.

I’ve been trying to read what others have written about their experiences at EduCon. Shelly Krause (@butwait) keeps an unoffical collection of blogger reflections here. There is a real range. Some people can’t get enough of it. Other attendees found the conference not different or ground breaking enough. Personally, I was looking for great conversations around what to do better and I found that in many (not all) sessions. I don’t think it’s that I had low expectations. I expected to hear some new ideas. I also expected to have to bring something to the discussion myself. The attendees at this conference are generally not people who haven’t done a lot of thinking already. The low hanging fruit is gone. If even half of the several hundred people in attendance could be truly innovative on command, the last weekend in January, in the midst of whichever dramatic weather Philadelphia is featuring this year, then the world would be a very different place.

I think I might feel differently if I were traveling a long way and paying lots of money. Last year I went to ISTE, which was also in Philadelphia. It’s not free, but my school covered registration and a little more for train tickets. So again, a no-brainer for me. However, this spring ISTE is in San Diego. So, let’s see– registration $, flight $$, hotel $$, food $, extra childcare and babysitting while I am gone $$. That’s approximately $$$$$$$$, which I could ask my school to help cover. However, as I was talking with Hadley Ferguson (@hadleyjf) about it she made some good point. First, it’s a lot of money (well, this was not new information, but she got more thoughtful as she went on). Second, she said that she didn’t need more ideas so much as to implement the ones she already had. Isn’t that the truth!

Let me be clear: I am sure I would find new and more ideas at ISTE this June. And yet, I haven’t even made sense or sifted through all the ones I got last year or ideas from the many edcamps I have attended. I have some ideas that I have been meaning to implement for a while. I got to thinking about what kind of PD I really need. Here’s what I decided.

I need the following:

  • Dedicated time, duh, and not an hour here or there, but a whole day or days.
  • To do some pre-sifting of ideas before this dedicated time begins.
  • A group of colleagues who want to meet and collaborate. A lot.
  • A space with good wifi, power sources, and proximity to food, water, and bathrooms.

Here’s my idea:

  • I don’t go to ISTE.
  • I do meet with some amazing, interesting, and interested teachers during that time.
  • We come with ideas that we want to evaluate and/or work up into units/lessons/game changing events.
  • We meet in groups and work on whatever projects grab us.
  • We meet some more and revise what we did.
  • We share this with whoever cares to listen/read.
  • Some of those ideas that we have so many of, turn into action.

Who’s in?

I’m thinking Phila area around the time of ISTE. I can work on a location. I have ideas a plenty and energy to commit. What can you contribute?


(Creative Commons licensed photo by Johanna Kollmann)

So, I’ve been thinking about EduCon, which was last weekend at Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia. This is the third year that I have attended.

This year I not only attended, I presented. I didn’t do this alone; I’m much too much of a chicken for that. Hadley Ferguson (@Hadleyjf), Philip Cummings (@Philip_Cummings), and I were a team. I have to say that when this whole idea began sometime in the fall on twitter, it seemed like a great idea. I think it went something like this: I saw some part of a conversation Hadley and Philip were having about EduCon. I replied to the both saying I would go to a session on the topic they were discussing. Next thing I know, Hadley has started a google doc, and we are collaborating on a proposal. The details are really a blur.

Well, it turned out we were accepted. (see our listing here) So, that lead to more collaborating, using google docs and skype to work out a real plan for the session. We all teach 5th-8th grade students, so we over plan, because upper elementary and middle school students don’t really do well with slacker plans. Even if you don’t use the plans you made, it’s best to have one or two to spare.

Well, I am happy to report that we had a very respectable number of people at our session, which meant for a reasonably full room. And, none of them left midway through. (Participants are encouraged to change sessions if they are not pleased.) There were even people following the livestream feed. There was lively discussion, people moved around, shared ideas, and left without throwing things. Victory!

Becoming Risk-taking Educators w/ @wendye40 & @hadleyjf 29/366/2012 #366project #educon

Philip's picture of us after our session.

This was the first time I had presented for people other than my colleagues or in-house events (Board of Trustees, alumni, prospective parents, etc). It was great to have a co-presenters. I can honestly say that I really enjoyed working with Hadley and Philip in both the planning and presenting. I think we did a good job combining solid discussions of risk-taking with practical “visible thinking strategies” (based on the book Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and  Karin Morrison) that people could take back to their classrooms and use with all sorts of discussions. I know I got a lot of ideas from the people in the group and enjoyed talking with those participating.

We were all a little tired once it was over. Luckily, I had some chocolate with me, because I usually travel with snacks as I think it is the responsible thing to do. Anyway, I will write more about what I learned in other sessions and the ideas that got planted in my brain. But, I think I also learned a lot being in the role of presenter. I really did all those things I want my students to do. I truly collaborated with people who are not within my school building, learned a ton in the process, and shared my  new learning with a wider community.




So, I’ve been thinking about probability, the probability of getting selected for things.

53/365 - May 11, 2008 - Above AverageLast week I heard back from 2 different things I “tried out for.” First, I found out that I did not get picked to be part of Seth Godin’s “Medicine Ball Sessions.” This was not a big shocker as it was a long shot for many reasons. My super-supportive husband, upon being emailed this information, replied, “Seth is dead to me. We’ll drown our sorrows in crafts.” (We were going to a craft show that weekend. So nice. And, side note, I bought a great hat at the craft show. Sorrows officially drowned.) Then, on Sunday I heard that a proposal that I worked on with 2 other teachers did get accepted for EduCon, which is very exciting and a little nerve-wracking at this point.

But this got me thinking about averages. Because it’s all about perspective here. If I think about it as a test average then 1 out of 2 is not so great, to put it mildly. However, if I change my perspective to batting averages, then I’m batting .500, which is quite a different story. So, I’m choosing to go with batting averages on this one. I like the sound of it a whole lot better.

Sometimes is all in how you sell it, even if you’re just selling it to yourself.


(Photo by meddygarnet used under creative commons license)

So, I’ve been thinking about EduCon again and sessions in general. What makes a workshop, session, speaker good?

20080702 cookbook 03I recall reading a description of one reviewer’s process of reviewing cookbooks. This reviewer and cook was going to be on a panel discussion about several cookbooks. He described a conversation he had with another panelist in advance of the discussion. The other panelist asked him how many recipes he had tried from the cookbook in question and if he didn’t think it was critical to have tested most of the recipes. What the reviewer explained was that he was looking for inspiration. He gave an example: since there was a good-looking recipe for lamb stew, he made a lamb stew. He didn’t have or like some of the ingredients so he did something else, it brought back certain fond family memories, he enjoyed the stew, and was planning to speak positively about the cookbook. (I am so sorry I don’t have the reference to this. I did look, but it is probably several years old at this point. My best guess is that it was either in the NewYorker Magazine or the New York Times. If this rings a bell for anyone, let me know and I will put in a link.)

The memory of this article popped back up in my head recently. I have been thinking about EduCon and what I got out of each session. I didn’t take many notes this year, and I was thinking about this, wondering if that was a bad sign. But I’m a glass half full person. I’m putting a possitive spin on this because I think it was a totally worthwhile event for me.

I am going with the cookbook review plan I mentioned above. I arrived at the conference, looked through the not-glossy handout of sessions, which I had already looked at online, and attended many different sessions. Like my unnamed cookbook reviewer, I sometimes came to a session because of a familiar sound to a topic and then found I lacked some ingredients I would need to use the recipe being described. But, it’s my job to take inspiration from these other teachers’ work, look around at my ingredients, and create my own version.

For example, I attended a session by Diana Laufenberg (@DLaufenberg), Zac Chase (@mrchase), and Rosalind Echols about an interdisciplinary unit they were teaching in high school at SLA. (Watch Diana’s TEDx talk.) I loved the maps tool that Diana showed that had links to all the students projects, I appreciated the spirit of adventure and risk taking that Rosalind displayed with her science fiction idea. I was heartened to hear about the time it took for the three of them to work together before they were comfortable enough with each other, their school model, and their students to attempt this level of collaboration. I am still thinking about some of the things they talked about. And, I teach neither high school nor science.

I also attended Yoon Soo Lim (@DoremiGirl), Kyle Pace (@KylePace) Elizabeth Peterson (@eliza_peterson), and Michelle Baldwin (@Michellek107) session about arts integration. I don’t teach art or music perse. I do talk about art in my social studies class (I like to dust off that art history major every once in a while). I got to see Michelle’s drumming circle, hear about Yoon’s choir and setting the constitution to music, and talk to others about the many challenges to true subject integration. Not only did these educators share their ideas, they also shared their desire to be included in the regular Ed classroom, their interest in being incorporated into the larder grade level planning. It made me think about not just the number of times I connect with my specialist subject colleagues but the way I do it. Do I just expect them to support my content? Am I seeking cooperation or true collaboration?

Cookbooks, or at least the ones I buy, also have beautiful pictures and sometimes I like simply to look at the ideal images of meals I know I will never make myself. It’s pure eye-cany and all about the unreal and the imaginary. There is something to be said for this kind of workshop session as well. Sometimes the presentation is ideas and discussion that goes well beyond the scope of my classroom. For me, that’s great too. I love a good sweeping, big-idea discussion that lets me think about what I would do if I got to be queen of everything education. An hour well-spent at a conference or unconference does not have to be about anything practical.

So I got to see all different lamb stews, or veggie casseroles if you prefer. Now, it’s up to me to make my version. I can take a little from here, a little from there, look at the raw ingredients at hand, consider what I can get a hold of, dream big and plan small. Not only does what I create not have to be the version I saw, it can’t be that version. I’m making it.

Photo by jspatchwork licensed under creative commons.

So, I’ve been thinking about Educon, or trying to think about it anyway.

I saw this tweet on Monday morning:

kjarrett (@kjarrett)
1/31/11 10:59 AM
Back at school. Doing everything the way I always have. Dealing with massive guilt as a result. #educonshame

When I saw it, it was already a retweet, and I retweeted it as well.

But the thing is, I’m not really feeling bad about not making huge changes in what I do at school right away. First of all, there are plenty of things I do that while they could use tweaking, don’t need massive overhaul, and second of all, I am a thinker. Ok, that might sound all serious, but what I mean by that is that I like to think and rethink, plan and replan, talk and talk some more before I go and make a big change.

This may make it sound like I therefore don’t change what I do much. Actually, I do change things up a lot and with reasonable frequency. Once I’ve debated, maybe just with myself (I try to do that in my head not out loud), I’m totally willing to leap in and make a change on a random Tuesday. I totally support change and the idea that classrooms are vital places.

Now, a few days after Educon, I have lots of ideas in my head that are still in the swirling around phase. And that’s ok. I truly believe in the power of that part of the process. I consciously throw stuff in the back of my head just to let it swirl around in there for a while until I’ve smoothed it out a bit and am ready to make it into something. It’s like those rock tumblers that were big for a while. You know, you put in rocks, tumbled them around for days, and then hoped for a shiny treasure among the group.

I’m an excellent collector and so part of the process of change is tumbling those ideas to see which ones turn into pretty stones ready to be used in some great project and which ones should get tossed or set aside for another time. I know I work this way, always have, even before I realized it. And, I know it works for me.

So, while I share @kjarrett’s view that I’m still doing things the same way, I’m not really feeling any shame about it. I don’t think it will do my students any good for me to leap at change for the sake of change. It won’t do them any good for me not to at least look before I leap, taking them with me. Plus, I know that there are at least a couple of good rocks tumbling around that are on their way to being nice and shiny. All I have to do it keep them tumbling.

So, I’ve been thinking about all the (un)conferences I attended in person or virtually this last year (school year). I of course wanted to write complete, thoughtful reflections on all of them, but as my 5th graders like to say, that is SO not going to happen.

Instead I offer a brief round-up of sorts.

First, I would like to say that most if not all of these events I found out about on twitter, many by following #edchat. If you are an educator and are looking for timely announcements, information, PD, support, or somehow don’t have enough to read, I can not recommend joining and following #edchat more. (See these links for some helpful info on how to do that)

So now to the main events, in chonological order.

Participated all year in PLP as part of a school team.

I went to Educon at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. (I did write about it, twice actually, here and here.) Link to new conference registration etc.

I have attended numberous hour-long interviews/presentations/sessions hosted by Steve Hargadon, The Future of Education, and Classroom 2.0. Join Classroom 2.0 and you can get weekly schedules. Here’s a link to the schedule of many of the events.

In the spring I attended EdCampPhilly, a day long unconference organized by a dynamic group of folks. Now other EdCamp events are springing up everywhere. I’m planning to go to EdCampyNYC on December 4th.

Also, then attended NTCamp organized by Andy Marcinek. I had family stuff to do so only got to attend part in person. Also a great day. I see another event is planned for this winter in Burlington, MA.

This summer, I attended Reform Symposium 2010 virtually. I sat in (through elluminate) on a bunch of great presentations.

At two events I won random door prizes–1 in person and 1 virtually, always nice.

Anyway, the point here is that there are so many options, many of which do not even involve getting dressed or leaving your couch, if you so desire. For me, as not only a teacher, but a mom of two young kids, I have a hard time convincing myself to spend weekend time away from family, even though said family may drive me crazy. But, I have frequently found myself with time available at the last-minute as the planets align just right so that either everyone is playing together happily or napping.

Happy learning.

It’s great to feel part of a community of learners.