Playing with ideas at Educon

I don't go to conferences to get new ideas. I've been down that road. That's not to say that there's nothing for me to learn but as connected as I and many others are, it's rare that something will be shared that is completely new. I attend conferences to play with ideas. That's why Educon is a great conference. It fosters and encourages playing with ideas. 

I was involved in leading 2 conversations and both were learning experiences for me. Darren Kuropatwa and I led a session called "What's Wrong with This Picture?" I learned a lot during our planning stages and since Darren and I have never presented together before, it took some time to get our cadence and feel. We both felt there were some good things we did and also some things we would change if we were to present this again. Educon sessions generally focus around rich conversations using a variety of formats and strategies but the idea is for as many as possible to participate. Darren and I wanted to see if we could get our participants to play and explore with ideas around imagery. We were a little concerned it may not work due to time constraints, equipment and simply because it's not normally the format at the conference. We were both blown away with the quality, imagination and thinking that went into their work. Take a look. Upon return the conversation about critical thinking, media literacy, quantity vs quality emerged. The strong takeaway for me was that a little play can lead to important conversations. While I know that part of the Educon mantra is about moving away from shiny tools and discuss the big questions about school and learning, I think we do both. I'm going to be sure to incorporate that more into my work.

Darren and Shelley

I've had the privilege of working with Alec Couros on many occasions.  In our session about an "Obligation to Share" we really wanted to drill deeper into the terminology, have folks share some of their stories and then discuss cultural shifts and barriers. I've had this on my mind for quite a while so I thought it would be a great opportunity to see if others were having similar conversations in their local situations. The stories that were shared were quite amazing in themselves. The lasting idea that came out of this was in various conversations with Shelley Paul. These conversations were a mix of face to face, blog posts and tweets. As Shelley and I talked it became clear to me that as leaders we need to be storytellers and help others begin sharing and see that sharing is just what we do. I'll blog more about this idea later but it was Shelley who helped flesh out this idea much more clearly than I had before. 

Educon is a great way to spend a few days. Thanks to Chris and crew for once again doing an outstanding job. There's lots of time and opportunity to gather and connect. I'm blessed that so many people are willing to spend time with me and connect personally and professionally. For me it's equal parts learning and party. Which is nice. 

Photo of Darren and Shelley by Kevin Jarrett

Photo of knowledge isn't in our heads by Darren Kuropatwa

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  • Mary Cantwell

    We were lucky to have a chance to catch up with Shelley in the afternoon on Sunday and she could only say great positives about her interactions with you and your session. Listening to her describe her conversations from your “What’s wrong with this Picture?” made me very regretful that I left early. Thank you for this posting and I appreciate your take on Educon and your spin on things. Thank you

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  • Thanks Mary,

    There were some risky things we played with during that session and in fact I was a little nervous and was pointing people to attend other sessions. it did turn out to be a good learning experience for me anyway and from what I gather others felt the same. The great thing about Educon is you really get out of it what you invest because the sessions and format invites everyone to make meaning for themselves.

  • Dean,
    Thanks for the validation of our conversations. I came away with a commitment to model more sharing in my own “sphere of influence” and to work on encouraging my school leaders to be “narrative champions” for teachers. George Couros offers a powerful model of that. I think you are right that teachers aren’t always likely to share their stories not because they don’t like to share, but because they may not realize their stories are “worth” sharing. I also think (as we discussed) that sometimes teachers may not share because they are too busy living/making their stories to “stop” and share them — an administrator, colleague or other “narrative champion” may be pivotal for them (and those with whom they share). Your sharing about the wonderful work and “out loud thinking” of Shelley Wright has made positive ripples for many (including a Chemistry teacher at my own school). Your sharing about your participation in DS106 is what nudged me to commit to engaging and sharing more online. I am grateful every day for those who openly, generously share their thinking, learning and challenges in online spaces — they shape who I am and strive to be as an educator and a human being. I can’t imagine any better learning environment than “sharing is just what we do.”

  • Hello Dean – and thank you for this post. I’ve read it twice today and have sent it off to many. As “seasoned” teachers we sometimes get caught up in thinking that we have to head to a conference to learn new ideas and because of this many choose not to attend anymore. This may be just the conversation that needs to be opened up and discussed in a few places.

    Thanks again for your ideas and thoughts.


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