My day at Educon 2012

This was the sec­ond year in a row that I attended Educon for the Sat­ur­day ses­sions.  If you’ve never been to Educon before it is held at the Sci­ence Lead­er­ship Acad­emy (SLA) in cen­ter city Philadelphia.

If you have never been to Educon or SLA it is a very unique school and a very diverse conference.

The school is a part­ner­ship school between the City of Philadel­phia and The Franklin Insti­tute and “…and its com­mit­ment to inquiry-based sci­ence, SLA pro­vides a rig­or­ous, college-preparatory cur­ricu­lum with a focus on sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, math­e­mat­ics and entre­pre­neur­ship”.

Educon is a three-day con­fer­ence which draw pre­sen­ters from around the coun­try and around the world. You are very likely to see peo­ple like Will Richard­son (@willrich45) and Gary Stager (@garystager) in the halls talk­ing between ses­sions with atten­dees and giv­ing pre­sen­ta­tions of their own (see below).  The conference’s guid­ing prin­ci­ples are:

  1. Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thought­ful and empow­er­ing for all members
  2. Our schools must be about co-creating — together with our stu­dents — the 21st Cen­tury Citizen
  3. Tech­nol­ogy must serve ped­a­gogy, not the other way around
  4. Tech­nol­ogy must enable stu­dents to research, cre­ate, com­mu­ni­cate and collaborate
  5. Learn­ing can — and must — be networked

It is this last point… that “Learn­ing can — and must — be net­worked” that I think is one of the best parts of the con­fer­ence and learning.

I attended three-hour and a half ses­sions from Con­struc­tivism to Social Media PD to New Media Lit­era­cies and learned some­thing from all of them.

SESSION ONE: Con­struc­tion­ism from Top to Bottom

I started my morn­ing with a cup of Stager… Gary Stager.  If you are ever in the need of a jolt to wake you up and get you think­ing, that is what Gary can do for you.  Gary’s long­time work with Sey­mour Papert, 1:1 pro­grams and con­struc­tivist learn­ing can together is a ses­sion focused on learn­ing by doing.  Hav­ing stu­dent con­struct their knowl­edge to a project-based learn­ing approach where they actu­ally “con­struct some­thing”.  This is the key to any of Gary’s pre­sen­ta­tions.  In order to accom­plish this he bases much of what he says on the idea that a “good prompt is worth a 1000 words” and it is through this the best learn­ing can occur.  He states that to get stu­dents engaged a you need:

  1. A good prompt chal­lenge, prob­lem or motivation
  2. Appro­pri­ate mate­ri­als [to help solve the challenge]
  3. Effi­cient time
  4. A sup­port­ive cul­ture (includ­ing expertise)

By pro­vid­ing this type of learn­ing envi­ron­ment learn­ing becomes a verb, rather than a noun.  School become a place were stu­dent can learn and explore on their own, but also have access to the exper­tise and guid­ance a teacher can provide.

Good stuff!

SESSION TWO: #chats and #camps: Exam­in­ing the Impact of Social Media-Fueled PD on Class­room Prac­tice and Stu­dent Learning

I post a lot on Twit­ter to the var­i­ous #chat tags and attend a num­ber #camp con­fer­ence so this ses­sion intrigued me because I have often won­dered what comes of all of this time and how does it affect learn­ing — per­sonal and in the classroom.

The ses­sion was run by  Jonathan D. Becker (@jonbecker), Mered­ith Stew­art (@msstew­art), and  Bud Hunt via Skype (@budtheteacher) and focused on col­lab­o­ra­tive work around a cou­ple of core ques­tions in a Google­Doc (tinyurl.com/towhateffect) and group dis­cus­sion. The pre­sen­ters guided and mod­er­ated the dis­cus­sion which range from how social media has changed people’s work habits, where they go for ideas, inspi­ra­tion and exper­tise, to how do know mea­sure the effec­tive­ness of it all through research.

It was in this dis­cus­sion that there was a great deal of debate. The valid­ity, acces­si­bil­ity and under­stand­ing of the avail­able research was the focus of many com­ments and discussion.

Hav­ing teacher engage in an eval­u­a­tion of their teacher through reflec­tive prac­tice and adap­ta­tion was a theme that devel­oped.  Many of the issues I have with dis­cus­sions of this sort is that the idea is con­fused by the name(s). Action Research, Prac­ti­tioner Research and Teacher Research were all terms used in the con­ver­sa­tion and is what I think is the biggest prob­lem… WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?!?!?  All three may mean the same thing or they could mean some­thing totally dif­fer­ent.  How is a class­room teacher who may be unfa­mil­iar with the writ­ing around these research method sup­posed to under­stand whether you are talk­ing about one thing or three dif­fer­ent things.

Bring things down to the core ideals and teach those… sim­plify things to this level and remove all the jar­gon and I think we will ALL be in a bet­ter place.  Keep things a sim­ple as pos­si­ble and allow edu­ca­tors to design meth­ods for eval­u­a­tion that they under­stand in clear terms that make sense.

SESSION THREE: Col­lab­o­rat­ing with New Media Literacies

At the end of any day I need a pick-me-up… some­thing that will get me going, keep me mov­ing and think­ing.  Karen Blum­berg (@SpecialKRB) and Don Buck­ley (@don­buck­ley) from The School at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity pro­vide just that!

If you’ve never been in a room with either of these two you don’t know what you are miss­ing.  Lis­ten­ing to Karen is, in all the best ways, like drink from a fire hose.  She has so many good ideas and thoughts from the work she does at The School that they can all come out at one. Don, her boss, is a renais­sance man who takes a sci­en­tist approach to edu­ca­tional tech­nol­ogy and really make you thing about things as any good sci­en­tist would.

Their ses­sion on New Media Lit­era­cies focuses to a large degree on the work of Henry Jenk­ins (@henryjenkins) and the 12 New Media Lit­era­cies (see below).  The pre­sen­ta­tion and dis­cus­sion that went on really help me make sense of what peo­ple should mean when they talk about  “21st Cen­tury Skills” — another piece of jar­gon that has many definitions.

These lit­era­cies can help pro­vide a focus for learn­ing in school that will have a real impact of the idea of prepar­ing stu­dents for the “real world”.

If you haven’t had a chance to hear either of these two won­der­ful edu­ca­tors speak I encour­age you to do so and if you have an oppor­tu­nity to visit The School you should jump at the chance.

12 New Media Literacies

  1. Play
  2. Per­for­mance
  3. Sim­u­la­tion
  4. Appro­pri­a­tion
  5. Multi-tasking
  6. Dis­trib­uted cognition
  7. Col­lec­tive Intelligence
  8. Judg­ment
  9. Trans­me­dia Navigation
  10. Net­work­ing
  11. Nego­ti­a­tion
  12. Visu­al­iza­tion

IN THE END

By the end of my day at Educon I had not only attended three excel­lent ses­sion that made me think and ques­tion the things that were being dis­cussed, but also had the oppor­tu­nity to talk to many dif­fer­ent peo­ple from many dif­fer­ent places.  This to me is one of the things that I enjoy most about Educon and holds to their prin­ci­ple of “Learn­ing can — and must — be networked”.

Com­ing together, talk­ing, shar­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing with the atten­dees is just the kind of net­work the we must engage in our pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment, teach­ing and learning.

Thanks to all of those involved in putting Educon together! It was a plea­sure to attend.

 

 

 

About William Stites

Currently the Director of Technology for Montclair Kimberley Academy, "Blogger in Chief" for edSocialMedia.com, husband and father to two crazy kids who make me smile everyday.
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