Note: The bulk of this was written at nearly 11:30pm on Saturday, 30 January 2010, upon arriving home from EduCon 2.2. I just wanted to get these thoughts down before I went to bed and lost the feeling I had at the time; “post-production” tweaking was done with the benefit of a clearer head and a few hours of sleep.
I’ve just walked in the door from Educon 2.2, a conference structured as a series of breakout conversations about current and future issues in education, facilitated by classroom teachers, professors, researchers, and students, among others.
I was fortunate to attend sessions led by Gary Stager, Ben Hazzard & Rodd Lucier, and Jon Becker & Justin Bothan. In between I spent time walking around the conference site, Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, and taking in the classroom setups, the facilities, and even the little details like the posters & flyers on the walls. The majority of what little down time I had, however, was spent speaking and rubbing a friendly elbow with many people with whom I had heretofore only corresponded online via Twitter or Facebook.
Doubtless, there will be a flurry of blog posts over the next week about how great EduCon was (and it was!), and what people’s favorite presenters or sessions were, or what have you. What’s on my mind right now, however, is the value of the time spent in between sessions. I imagine that most folks at EduCon have a few things in common:
- we fancy ourselves “progressive” educators (for whatever that might mean to each of us)
- we are proponents of increasing student access to technology
- we believe that there is a significant degree of change needed in the American education system, from the federal level down to individual classroom practices.
I don’t know that these phrases always describe the majority of our colleagues outside of our little online pseudo-social circles.
While it’s easy to look at the folks congregating in-between (or in some cases, during) sessions and cast aspersions that they’re prioritizing socializing over their own learning, consider how isolating the teaching profession can be in general. Then, place yourself in a small subset of educators who can be defined by the above criteria. For teachers who work in districts where their passion is not only ignored, but sometimes actively discouraged or prohibited by colleagues and superiors alike, social sessions with like-minded people are a necessity for sharing ideas, blowing off steam, and, as someone I spoke with earlier today said (I forget who, sorry!), “remembering that we’re not crazy”. In some cases, it can feel like a deep exhalation.
There’s always been talk of the dangers of the “echo chamber” effect in ed-tech circles online. Yes, it’s a valid concern, but considering how far the pendulum swings in the other direction for most of us in our professional lives, it’s not as if there’s not plenty to bring us ‘back to reality’. Indulging in some off-the-clock camaraderie, perhaps even at the expense of a structured, scheduled activity, is not only acceptable, but vital to our continued advocacy in the face of continued opposition. The sessions gave us plenty of food for thought about what we can do differently (or do more of) in our classrooms, buildings, and districts, but the shared food, drink, and laughter outside those sessions nourished our souls.
And I’m definitely going back next year for seconds.