Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Peace, Love and EdTech

This week the halls of South Montgomery High School are bright with planning committee members, tech support, volunteers and presenters sporting the Peace, Love and EdTech Conference tie dye tees. Sixties tunes filled the space as 120 attendees made their way through two days of offerings and connected over 180 devices to the building's wifi to download apps, contribute to backchannels and access presentations.

Will Richardson, a familiar voice in Indiana due to his work with Powerful Learning Practice Network, opened each day with keynote messages that he’s shared internationally.  He spoke to the audience as an educator with over two decades of classroom experience, as a parent of two teenagers and as a passionate advocate for changing schools.

On Monday, Richardson’s message “Learning in a Networked World: For Ourselves and for Our Students” took the audience through a reflection of what type of learner they are.  After walking us through the time of scarcity of information and into today’s abundance of information, his point was “better matters little if what people need and want is something else.”  Sending attendees off to day one sessions and workshops, Richardson noted that this rethinking of who we are as learners has to start with confusion. He urged attendees to let that carry into their morning breakout sessions.

Teachers for South Montgomery received the iPads they will be using in the classroom next school year. While there were packed sessions around learning their new tool and its potential uses, there were also great discussions occurring in sessions with titles devoid of references to devices or tools. On Monday, these included sessions such as Failure to Grow: Risk Taking and Technology Integration and the popular Ditch That Textbook session. These sessions were lead by an administrator and a former instructional coach and by a classroom teacher; all of whom were willing to share their materials and resources publicly---one of the things Richardson called us to do as learners and professionals.

On Tuesday, Richardson noted he rarely does back-to-back keynotes with the same audience and joked about the likelihood of an audience returning to hear more of his message. Today’s talk about “Bold Learning for Bold Schools: Making the Jumpfrom Traditional to Modern Learning” began with Richardson reminding us that yesterday’s talk was meant to confuse us. Then he proceeded to open with more questioning.  He shared hard truths and talked about the hard work that comes with moving away from institutionally organized learning.

Richardson actually had us raise our right hands and take an oath before we made our way to the day’s sessions. The oath was two part. In the first breath, we all repeated, “I want to be found” and in a second breath… “by strangers on the internet.”  The next two sessions I’m going to briefly note were lead by two professionals that took that oath long before the Peace, Love and EdTech conference. I’ve linked their Twitter accounts so that you can follow them and the learning they share. Today was the first time I met these educational leaders, but I feel like I’ve known them much longer because of our interactions through #INeLearn.

Carol Gardiner's session "The Engagement Application” was a great conversation around understanding how technology has changed the parameters of the powerful teaching and learning strategy, engagement.

Allie Holland’s session “Digital Citizenship” focused on developing positive examples that you can point to when a concern arises, how to address problems that do exist and the overall necessity to be having these discussions not just in your schools but in the extended community.          

Conversations were not limited to sessions. The conference committee thoughtfully arranged for lunch conversations to take place around topics. I invite you to continue those discussions on Twitter using the #INeLearn hashtag. Join us on Thursdays for chats and connect with some really great strangers.

Resonating in my thoughts as I wrap up this conference post is a comment Will Richardson made early in the morning of day one, “Your students are all receiving a device and that’s cool, but that’s not going to change anything unless you change how you learn.” 

With eleven conferences left on the calendar, The Summer of eLearning not only heats up in July, it offers you several options for professional growth. When will you take time to learn something new or better yet, learn in a new way? 

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