Educon was the first education conference I ever attended in 2010. I credit this conference for opening up my connected educator life and rethinking what an educational conference should be and can be: a conversation. Educon is without pretension and has always been a comfortable experience no matter how long you’ve been teaching or how “connected” you think you are. It’s a forum that allows all voices to flourish, be heard, challenged, and engaged.
This year I had the pleasure of leading a conversation with Lyn Hilt on “Reinventing your PLN”. Our conversation was generated by conversations Lyn and I had been having regarding the evolution of digital networks since we both dipped our toes in the stream of these networks. We both noticed a trending pattern of how users engaged in their networks and how quickly one could get lost in the rapid stream of constant content. In short, we felt the tweet below from Bonnie Stewart best articulated our challenge:
This was the trend we were seeing in our networks and we wanted to engage in this conversation in order to step back and refocus the lens of our respective networks. We started our session by asking participants to engage in a conversation about why they attended our session and what they hoped to take from it. What we learned was that we had several diverse pockets of participants in digital networks. Some had signed up for a Twitter account, but had not actively engaged in the medium. Some were looking to organize their networks and found it difficult to keep up with daily. And some participants wanted to know how to develop digital networks within their school or district. For Lyn and I, this presented a great structure for the next phase of our session.
We then asked participants to look in the mirror and define who they were in their networks. We divided the room into four categories: Cheerleader, Captain, Counselor, Carpenter. We then explained briefly what each role was and asked participants to connect in the section they saw themselves. We gave participants five minutes to discuss why they selected this section and then share out. This activity further articulated not only how people saw themselves in their respective networks, but further articulated what we hoped to solve in our session today.
For the remainder of the session we had groups discuss the dilemma’s within their networks. As participants discussed these dilemmas, we had them post them to a padlet wall. The group shared out and eventually we looked towards crowdsourcing solutions to these issues. Ultimately, participants walked away with new ideas and insights on how to organize their digital networks, how to engage with them, and how to use them to impact their professional learning. Shortly after our session ended, we received a Tweet from Scott Coleman in reference to our session.
For Lyn and I, this is what we hoped participants would leave saying. Not so much that it was our favorite, but that we could help focus this type of learning and provide a smooth path towards learning and engaging with digital networks. Our session fit right into the conversation model that Educon promotes; however, we wanted to make sure the conversations and connections at Educon could continue beyond this past weekend. We hoped that participants of Educon and our session would leave full of insight and new ideas, but also further engage in conversation using digital networks such as Google+ and Twitter.
I hope that those who attended Educon for the first time this past weekend will continue those conversations and constantly reexamine their networks and how they engage with them. Thank you Chris Lehmann, Diana Laufenberg, and all of the SLA parents and students for continually hosting one of the best conversations in Education. It truly is “the best bake sale in education“.