Photos From EduCon

Another EduCon has flashed by and I’ll have more to say about this weekend a little later. For now, here are a few images I caught from this year’s conference.

The Friday opening panel offered their insights on the topic of curiosity. Moderated by Zac Chase and featuring Stephanie Sandifer, Antero Garcia, RaFranz Davis, and Milton Chen.

Chris Lehmann, SLA founding principal and our host for EduCon.

One of the EduCon discussions, this one wrestling with how to help students find the truth in current events.

Always looking for a new angle to picture the weekend.

Zac Chase, always passionate about whatever he’s presenting.

Cannoli shells waiting for the filling. I was hungry.

Picture Post #17

A random assortment of my photographs from the past couple of weeks. More, of course, in Flickr.


Umbrellas used to decorate the ceiling of the walkway to a parking garage in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. Nice idea.



I don’t do still life work very often, but I should since it helps me to better learn my camera. I like this particular shot from a session with Kathy in her studio.



From EduCon last January, Chris Lehmann, founder of both the conference and Science Leadership Academy and all-round nice person, in one of his more relaxed moments that weekend.



Some birds taking a rest on Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River between DC and Virginia. Considering how long we’ve live here, I can’t believe it was my first time visiting the island.



Just a random shot from a local crafts store. My wife is into this little corner of maker so I find myself in these places a lot.

School 2.0

As a kid I was never good at book reports in English class. I’d rather discuss the work with others who had read it than produce 500 words about it. Although my writing has improved over time, I’m still not much better at book reviews as an adult (certainly not with as much reach in this field as Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg).

So I’m probably breaking a few rules of the genre by saying right up front in this post that anyone who calls themselves an educator should read the new book by Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase, “Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need“. Better yet, give a copy to your principal, superintendent, school board member, and especially to anyone who fancies themselves an education reform “expert”.

The book is laid out as a collection of 95 essays, mirroring the 95 theses that Martin Luther nailed to the church door in 1517, setting off the Protestant reformation. I’m pretty sure Chris and Zac don’t view their work with quite the same historical heft as Luther’s, but the format makes reading it fun and very accessible.

I have become very poor at reading books or other text in the traditional linear design (probably due to the nature of working on the web) and School 2.0 isn’t laid out in that format. The authors allow, almost encourage, the reader to jump around hitting the “chapters” in the order of their choosing. Which is especially nice in the ebook with a hyperlinked table of contents.

Even better, however, is that the Chris and Zac didn’t intend for people to just read the book. Each of their essays includes a few leading questions and suggestions for extending the ideas through conversations with your colleagues, students, administrators, or parents. This book is more of a professional development tool than a solitary reading experience. A work intended to generate rich discussions around the questions of what school should be and how do we get there. Maybe even to affect change.

Anyway, go get a copy, open it to any page and begin exploring. No matter where you land you’ll find wonderful ideas for creating the kind of schools our kids deserve.

To finish this possibly lame attempt at a book review, here are a couple of my favorite thoughts on the topic of instructional technology.

Technology is and must be a transformative element in our schools. Fundamentally, it changes the equation of why we come to school. Whereas previously, we came to school because the teacher was there, now we come to school because we are all there together. Technology can allow us to embrace a more finely honed sense of community in our schools.

Anything short of a vision of educational technology use that allows students and teachers to inquire more deeply, research more broadly, connect more intensely, share more widely, and create more powerfully, sells short the power of these tools – and more importantly, sells short the promise of learning and of school for our students.

Many more great discussion starters where those came from.

Join The Conversation

Next weekend I’ll be heading up to EduCon 2.2, the most unique conference I’ve ever attended.

For one thing, it’s relatively small, although with 500 people registered this year, it will be a little more crowed than the first one in 2008 where 75 or so of us showed up, not knowing what to expect.

But the big difference with EduCon is that the sessions, for the most part, are not lecture/demo presentations or hands-on workshops. And it is not a conference about technology.


The concept of EduCon-founder, and principal of the Science Leadership Academy, Chris Lehman was to get a bunch of interested and interesting educators together to have conversations about how we can change schools to better fit the way our students learn and the real world in which they live, as well as to grow networks of people who would continue those discussions long after the conference ended.

I’ll be leading one of those discussions and, while my topic does address technology, it’s concerned with why schools have remained isolated islands of status quo over the past twenty years, while the rest of the world has been fundamentally altered by computers, networks, and communications tools.

My session is titled “Why Has Technology Failed to Bring Substantial Change to American Schools (and what can we do about it)?” and this is the short description, the in-50-words-or-less explanation of the session in a way that will attract an audience.

The authors of Disrupting Class ask “Why haven’t computers brought about a transformation in schools the way they have in other areas of life?”. Excellent question. Join us for a discussion of what we can do to change that situation. Bring any and all ideas to share.

The proposal for this session grew from my growing frustration with American education and the two-faced embrace of techie tools while at the same time rejecting the transformative possibilities they offer.

Schools in the US have spent billions of dollars in just the past decade to buy laptops and software, install networks, connect classrooms to internet, and train teachers.

However, walk down the halls of your average American school, especially high schools, and you’re likely to see a teacher-directed, lecture-demo formatted lesson, with little or no technology use by either teacher or students.

Over the past few years, the most visible example of technology use in the classrooms of our overly-large school district has been interactive whiteboards, devices which chain teaching to standards of the previous century.

Talk all you want about “student engagement” and “interactivity”, these boards are little more than expensive electronic extensions of blackboards and chalk, controlled by the teacher, and locking the learning focus on them, not the students.

Anyway, IWBs are a topic for another rant and only a small piece of the discussion that I’d like to have in Philly.

If you’re coming to EduCon, please join us at 12:30 Sunday afternoon for what I hope will be a wonderful exchange of ideas on this topic.

And don’t think you must agree with the premise to participate. Feel free to let me know that I’m full of crap and that I’ve missed the mark entirely. Bring evidence of my cluelessness, however. :-)

If you’re not able to be at the conference in person, you can still attend and join the discussion online through the generous efforts of Elluminate who will be providing an interactive room for each session.

Links to the Elluminate rooms will be available from the conversations page on the EduCon site.

Now, if they can just keep the snowy weather out of town for the weekend, we’ll be golden.

A Good Reason to Visit Philadelphia in January

Last January, Chris Lehmann organized EduCon 2.0, an incredible and very unique little gathering at his school, the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

It’s hard to call the event a “conference” since that calls to mind a formal agenda with structured sessions and lots of vendors hanging around waiting to sell something.


Instead the few hundred of us who attended spent two plus days engaged in conversations about education, technology, innovation and how to bring all the pieces together to improve teaching and learning.

When you include the great interaction with the amazing staff and students at SLA, it was pretty much impossible not to come away with a head full of new ideas and some great inspiration.

Since he didn’t learn his lessons from last year (putting this together is a lot of work! :-), Chris will be hosting EduCon 2.1 on January 23-25, again in Philadelphia at the SLA. Details, including the conversations already scheduled, are in the wiki.

If you’re within driving distance of Philly, please consider joining us. If you can’t attend in person, there will still be plenty of opportunities to participate through uStream, Twitter, and other back channels.

And, for even more thought-provoking fun, plan to come a day early to join Constructing Modern Math/Science Knowledge, created and driven by Gary Stager.

While I will be certainly be at EduCon (with warmer clothes this time!), unfortunately, I can’t come on Thursday. But considering the people Gary has lined up, it should be a pretty intensive day.

Chris notes that Aaron Sorkin wrote “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

Ok, so it’s time to show up!