Imagine this: Take a dozen or so people who spend much of the personal and professional life immersed in technology put them together for three days and guess what they’d spend most of the time talking about. If you said technology or computers you’d be wrong.
BLC featured 600 educators from around the globe focusing on learning. That’s what the discussions in large part focused on. I was privileged to be able to spend time with the likes of Barbara Bareda, Bob Spankle, Sharon Peters, Ewan Mcintosh, Darren Kuropatwa, David Jakes, Joyce Valenza, Will Richardson, Trevor Smith, Chris Lehmann and Christian Long. These folks all represent passionate thinkers and educators who at almost every turn will speak about making learning better for kids. While they worry and lament about bad teaching and schools, they truly are excited about the possibilities.
Here are a few highlights:
- Bob Sprankle…Podcasting with a Purpose…you don’t miss a chance to hear arguably one of the founding fathers of educational podcasting. Bob and Tony Vincent likely represent the finest example of how to use this powerful tool with kids.
- Darren Kuropatwa…Darren and I have done a fair bit together so hearing him present live wasn’t really a new experience. Spending time outside the sessions is where he really shines. Smart, articulate, Darren is determined to make school and learning authentic and engaging for his students.
- Joyce Valenza….if you’re a teacher librarian, you ought to pay attention to what she says. She spent some time with me explaining her concerns with the lack of use of the “invisible web”. Lots for me to ponder.
- Chris Lehmann and Christian Long…Chris Sessums called them the “wonder twins”. Talking with Christian for a couple of hours on Thursday forced me to take a nap. High energy and deep thoughts. He’s headed back to the classroom this fall. All I can say to his students is BUCKLE UP! Chris Lehmann is a principal who’s got it right. My favorite line of Chris’ after he told us about a teacher who was complaining about something, Chris said, “Yeah, but you get to teach!”
- Trevor Smith…I convinced Trevor he needed to come to BLC back in spring and I’m hoping he’s glad he did. Trevor and I work together and he’s got some great plans. Trevor’s been moving forward with things for a while now and I sense things are beginning to get clearer. Not any easier but clearer. Trevor and I were able to touch base a few times and we’re both excited about some of our upcoming initiatives. Watch for good things from his school.
- Will Richardson….I had met Will before and Will has been gracious to support my work in the past but I challenged Will to continue to push the envelope. I did attend his session where he broke form a traditional presentation and challenged the audience to look beyond the tools and coolness of Web 2.0 to what was really important: connecting learners, ideas to fully develop the concept of lifelong learning. I hope Will continues to make people a bit more uncomfortable. We also had our talk about the optimum number of feeds you need to read. I was right 😉
- David Jakes…is grounded. He knows what he believes about learning and isn’t afraid to tell you. He’s calls it like he sees it when it comes to artificial, fluffy student work and offers ideas about how to make learning authentic and meaningful. You also get the sense that he’d do whatever it takes to help kids learn. You have to love Jakes.
- Ewan Mcintosh…Will Richardson called him rock star. He pretty much is. I just love the way in which he crystallizes complex ideas and makes them simple or least I’m able to ponder them a bit more. See Will’s example about his photography lesson. Ewan and I had a great conversation about the lack of myths in North American education. I hope he blogs about it if he hasn’t already. I certainly think that our curriculum and education systems are much more closely tied than that of US.
- Being able to present ideas about Google Earth was important especially after all the hype about Second Life. Google Earth is to me the more critical tool for kids and teachers to focus on. Being able to discuss the implications of learning and developing location-based learning will be a valuable skill for our kids: See Pool Guy Story.
I never went to camp as a kid and my wife suggested this was the closest I’ve ever come to that feeling when camp ends. I don’t know if that’s true, but lest you think this is a post about my sappy experience, think again. It’s about the power of face to face learning combined with great online tools; People and ideas connecting to form the basis of social learning. Each is an important ingredient. All of these people are committed to help kids and not just the ones they get paid to help. Almost all of them have worked with teachers I associate with and work for and have given hours of their time to make learning better for others. They do it because I ask them. That’s how they roll.
There was nothing at this conference that rocked my world in terms of new technologies or even new ideas. Most of these have been roaming around my brain for a while. Some were pretty solid, others needed tightening and still others need some loosening. Both of this was accomplished. The conversation that Darren and I had with Christian really focused on some key questions. Christian asked, “What if all the technology was suddenly taken away?” What have we learned from all this and how do we sustain and develop the connections and beliefs about learning? Hmmmm…..
At one point someone said, “We’ve got to stop talking about all this, and start doing something about it”. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I can’t wait for summer to end.