Yesterday, I wrote about two of my big picture takeaways from the first day of Educon. Day 2 indeed continued that pattern. I still heard references to student voice and student passions in every session. And my assumptions continued to be challenged, and are continuing to be challenged today as the “Educon hangover” sets in and the extra thoughts that didn’t fit into the weekend are leaking out into the Twittersphere.
There were a couple of other big themes that surrounded everything at Educon this year. They aren’t anything new, but I believe that because they keep coming up and aren’t going away, they might qualify as enduring understandings about learning.
Earlier this evening, Dean Shareski tweeted:
I believe that connection is a multiplier. When we learn something alone, it has power. But when two people learn and share together, we both get twice as much out of it. There’s a (forgive the word) synergy in the learning process when we are connected with other learners.
Then when we share the learning with others and they share it, it gets multiplied exponentially. There’s some truth to the criticism that the edublog community (and many of those who attend Educon) can become an echo chamber of the same ideas circulating round and round, over and over. But consider that every day, new faces join this community. They have some catching up to do, and when we “rehash” an old idea in getting them up to speed, we can also refine and rework it.
Every person who chews on an idea and then passes it along to the next person adds a layer of value. Chris Lehmann constantly reminds those who praise him for what he has done at SLA that he “stands on the shoulders of giants.” We also stand on each others’ shoulders.
It can be intimidating to enter a connected community. It’s easy to bounce around, watching everyone else who’s already connected and think that there’s no room left. I understand that a few people experienced this at Educon and left feeling isolated. I’ve been contemplating whose responsibility it is to correct this. I do believe this community is a welcoming one: in the couple of years that I’ve been actively Tweeting and blogging, I’ve found dozens if not hundreds of people willing to hear my ideas and engage in the conversation with me. Those who jump in and start contributing and looking for ways to connect won’t be disappointed. (As if to reinforce this exact idea, as I was writing this post, I saw a link to this document from Chris Lehmann’s session at Educon. Check out the highlighted sentence that one of the participants added.…)
But I think we also need to go out of our way to invite new voices into the conversation. We need to model our own learning community after the ones we want to see in our classrooms and schools. If any student feels alienated, we’ve not done our jobs as educators. Likewise, if a fellow teacher-learner feels we’ve created barriers to entering the conversation, what does that say about what we really value in a learning community?
The last theme is that we need to take action. This also happens to be the eventual cure for the echo chamber. This also happens to be the hard part. In several sessions, we were really good at explaining our reasoning, at expounding on the principles, at building a case and building a theory. When the leader asked, “So what do we do with it? How do we put it into practice? How do we make this happen?” There was generally silence.
I’ll be blatantly honest: I’m not sure I know the answers to those questions either. But I do know that this year—instead of having an awesome weekend of connecting with other educators and learning from them and reflecting on the process in a blog and then forgetting about it until next January—I’m going to follow Lisa Thumann’s lead and create an action plan.
At the same time, I’m reminded that talking or writing about something is taking an action. Words are powerful, and words can change the world. For me, words are often the best way for me to have an impact on someone else, so blogging and talking about these ideas is my first step at taking action. But I don’t think we can stop there.
I wrestled a great deal this weekend with whether change needs to happen through evolution or revolution. This isn’t a new dilemma, but I thought about it from the action angle this week. In my sphere of influence, it often feels like all I can do is chip slowly away at bits of the corners, and I wonder if that will be enough to ever make any kind of difference for kids. Then I realize that while I’m chipping, I can also keep talking about the ideas, and perhaps I can help others decide to start chipping at their own corners of the problem. If enough people chip slowly, it won’t be slow any more.