This will not be pretty. This will not be organized. This will not be thorough, or analytical, or even insightful, perhaps. There will be no links, or references, or resources.

I haven’t had time to process much (if any) of what I’ve absorbed in the last two days, and I’ve probably missed more than I’ve managed to catch. As I have time to go back and review my notes, revisit the sessions (thank you Elluminate!) and think about all that I’ve learned, I’m sure I will come back and share. But for now, it will just have to be raw and unpolished.

First, Educon really and truly is as advertised: it’s all about the conversations. Some were deeper than others, some were more formal than others, but all of them were worthwhile and helped me grow.

There are so many things I will take away from this conference (besides that I will be back and next time I’m bringing more of my friends with me). I think the biggest is the power of a PLN. I would not be here if it weren’t for the network of people with whom I have interacted online through Twitter and Second Life over the last two years. I wouldn’t even know about it, and it happens in my own backyard every year!

I was stunned at how many people I already knew here—and that none of them were people I’d ever met before Friday. All of my connections with people here (and there were dozens) were online.

And that’s the second thing I learned: online makes a huge difference…but it will never replace face to face. Having a live, focused, extended conversation with a flesh-​and-​blood person is such a different experience. Even when I “know” someone online, to talk to them in person, as I had the opportunity to do with many people this weekend, is so much richer. Now that I have added that dimension to all of these relationships, now that there is a real face and a real voice and a real presence to attach to the virtual ones, the conversations I have from this point on with them will maintain a depth that they never had before.

And that’s the third thing I learned: face to face isn’t enough any more. None of these people work with me. None of them live near me. (Well, actually one of them lives a couple blocks over, but he might be moving soon.) If this conference were all we had, the conversations we started this weekend would now be over. But since I already have relationships with them in my online network, we can continue the discussions, elaborate and extrapolate on them, take them in new places and put them into action.

I can’t recall the context, unfortunately—it may even have been in a conversation about Educon—but I remember someone recently using the analogy of drinking from a fire hose in reference to an experience they’d had. That’s what Educon was like for me. A barrage of information, ideas, challenges, thoughts, new paradigms gushing uncontrollably past me. I gave up trying to collect it all about ten minutes into the first panel discussion.

But even what I was able to grab was so rich and rewarding that it will take me a while to process, and some of it I may not be able to act on for a while. Those few drops are still powerful enough to significantly affect my thinking and hopefully will translate into action in my job and in my life. Over the next few days and weeks I will try to go back and gather a few more of the drops that I missed. My PLN will help me find even more of them.

If I had to boil it down to one takeaway from the weekend (and I can’t, there are too many, but I’m going to be obtuse and try anyway), it’s this: Don’t be afraid to do. Everyone here who is doing innovative, exciting, challenging things with students and schools is a practitioner making it work in a real world and a real situation that has the same kinds of constraints and complications that we all do. They are not miracle workers, and they are trying, struggling, and often failing. But they keep doing because it’s going to mean more kids learn more.

Perfect doesn’t happen. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.