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EduCon First Reflections

As time allows this week I’ve been sifting through my notes, links, and thoughts from this past weekend at Educon, two days and one evening that flashed by very quickly.

Although I haven’t landed on any Eureka! moments yet, this fourth edition of the conference had a slightly different feel to it, in a very positive direction.

In it’s short life, Educon has always been very unlike other professional gatherings I attend, small with an energetic, slightly chaotic atmosphere.  Unlike most education conferences, almost all of us spent those few days in Philly to connect live with some of the people currently in our virtual networks.

A running unwritten theme woven throughout the discussions, both scheduled and not, was a search for ways to change the direction of education policy at all levels.  No one walked away from SLA with definitive answers to that problem, of course, but maybe some of the seeds sown will grow into solutions.

If that positive attitude I always get from Educon hangs around for a while, I have a few ideas of my own, based on several sessions and many conversations, that will form the basis of another post still getting organized in my disheveled head.

Anyway, that’s my first rambling pass at making meaning out of the weekend.

Now go read what some of my fellow attendees learned at Educon, especially Chris, our host, who does a great job of putting everything in context.

EduCon 2.3

It hardly seems possible but the fourth edition of EduCon starts on Friday and I’ve been looking through the conversations, trying to get a little organized before heading to Philadelphia for the weekend.

It’s hopeless. There are just too many good sessions on the schedule and I’ve got at least two tagged in each block.  But that speaks to the unique nature of this conference.

EduCon is relatively small meeting, capped at 500 participants, with no big vendor displays and a focus on conversations about changing education led by some incredibly interesting people.

Which means all of us in the sessions, very often including the SLA students running the cameras, have the opportunity to be an active part of each presentation, not just a passive member of an audience.

Anyway, when you put all the pieces together, it makes for a great few days of connecting and learning from both people I regularly follow than those I have yet to meet.

If you can’t be there in person, follow along virtually.  I think the discussions will be streamed through the Elluminate rooms linked on the Conversations pages. Plus all the tweets, blog posts, photos, videos, and whatever else people use to share their learning.

And hopefully the snow can take a break long enough for me trek up 95 and back.

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.

EduCon Proposal

Since EduCon 2.2 proposals were due today, of course I submitted mine just a few hours ago. Nothing new… I usually do my other homework assignments at the last minute as well. :-)

EduCon is something unique among the many education-related conferences out there.

Sessions don’t involved being lectured at or about playing with the coolest new tools. It’s all about the “opportunity to discuss and debate ideas” dealing with just about anything to do with education and learning.

Anyway, my little proposal borrows ideas from the book Disrupting Class, in which the authors note that we’ve spent a lot of money on computers for classrooms while getting very little change.

In the book Disrupting Class, the authors make the observation “While people have spent billions of dollars putting computers into schools, it has resulted in little change in how students learn.”

They also ask “Why haven’t computers brought about a transformation in schools the way they have in other areas of life?”

Excellent question. Certainly there are plenty of answers, including this one also from Disrupting Class “…the way schools have employed computers has been perfectly predictable, perfectly logical – and perfectly wrong.”

But the focus of this session will not be about placing blame. Instead let’s discuss what we can do and what is being done to change things. Come join us for a discussion centered on these ideas and bring any and all ideas, whether from your personal experience or elsewhere. Invite your friends and colleagues who aren’t attending EduCon to be part of the conversation from wherever they are.

With any luck, the program will see fit to include that in the agenda. I did a session at the first iteration of EduCon and it was a great experience.

If you haven’t made your plans to attend EduCon, do it now. If you’re not able to come to Philly in January, watch for how to participate from wherever you are through a variety of back channels.

EduCon Reflections Dump

Before I can go to sleep (and while the pills are beating back my headache), I need to post a couple of thoughts on this weekend’s EduCon 2.1.

None of this will be about the actual content of the discussions. I need to spend some time reviewing the archives and my notes, not to mention the posts and tweets by other members of the group.

After the excellent experience last year, I was a little worried that the sophomore event might suffer from growth.

That’s what happened to EduBloggerCon, the NECC pre-event that was a wonderful meet-up with 70 people in its first year. When the numbers jumped to 200+ the second time around, it was more like another day of conference sessions than a collection of discussions.

The same thing didn’t happen to EduCon.

Chris and his planners did a great job of growing the number of participants, adding some additional structure, and still keeping the conversational feeling.

Something else that’s been running around my head most of the weekend, is that I need to do some additional work on my personal network.

At a minimum, that probably means rebuilding my aggregator and Twitter feed. It will probably also include some re-evaluation of what I’m doing with this space.

Anyway, that’s enough reflecting for tonight. More EduCon thought dumping later.

In the meantime, the dates for EduCon 2.2 have already been set for January 29 – 31, 2010, again in beautiful Philadelphia (sorry to whoever tweeted about a change in venue to the Bahamas :-).

If you’re at all interested in the reform of public education, plan to join us. Better yet, be part of planning the weekend.

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