Monday, March 18, 2013

Why Every Conference Should Be A Connected Conference-#ASCD13

I've spent the last several days attending the 2013 ASCD Annual Conference in Chicago. Educators from across the country and across the globe gathered to discuss pressing educational issues and talk about how we can all make teaching and learning better for kids, no matter where they are. I have always been impressed with the caliber of speakers here and the level of educational discussion.


I feel like something is missing...

There has been a huge push from ASCD to get educators connected. They have a Twitter account, Facebook Page, Pinterest page and ASCD EDge is a popular community. And during the conference the Executive Director sent his first tweet and talked about the importance of educators to embrace social media to extend their learning.

But it still feels like something is missing.

The hashtag is very active during the conference and there are bloggers and twitterers invited to be members of the press (full disclosure, I was one of those invited).

But still, there is something missing.

After the call to the membership to become more connected myself, Nick Provenzano, Dr. Kristen Swanson and Hadley Furguson were sitting at a table thinking. There was this charge for educators to be connected. But no space, time, session, nothing, to talk to attendees about why be a connected educator or how to make that happen. So in the span of 10 minutes we created #EdcampRogue, an impromptu session where we would gather, talk about the Edcamp Model of PD and how educators can get connected. We received the blessing of ASCD, took over a space in the middle of the conference and proceeded to have 50 educators come and talk about connectedness. It was inspiring. For me, one of the best parts of the conference.

As I reflect about all the conferences I get to attend the more and more I worry about where we are heading as connected educators. People like Nick, Kristen, Hadley and countless others are plugged in and connected and all of us have stories to tell about how this has made us better educators and how it has had an impact on our teaching. And we've all shared these stories with countless folks.

But when are conferences and organizations going to do more than encourage? When are they going to provide spaces, speakers, sessions, webinars and more than encouragement to educators to get connected?

And it's not all about Twitter.

Shocker, I know.

Being connected isn't just about being on Twitter. It's more than that, as any connected educator will tell you. Will they say that Twitter has had a large impact on their learning, sure. But its it the only community they are involved in? Nope.

Being connected is looking beyond ourselves and our teaching and looking at what others are doing. Seeing what innovations are happening in classrooms. Helping kids (and educators) see the world is as close as a screen and there is so much learning that can take place there.

But being connected also comes with responsibility. I believe all of us that are connected have a duty to help those that are not, get connected. And think about the backing we could have if large conferences and organizations set up spaces and specific times to help educators learn about being connected. I think most of us who attend these events would sit as long as it took to work with other educators and talked about the benefits and how-to's.

It could be so easy for conferences to build in time for conversations between sessions. At least time to talk and reflect on the learning and provide space to teach about blogging, Twitter, online communities, etc. Show educators the power of reflection along with the power from being connected and how to make that happen.

So until we can get conferences and organizations to provide us that time and space, go out, create your own space and session, put the word out and help show others the power of being a connected educator.

photo credit: kirk lau via photopin cc
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