Reflection on Edcampusa #2

I tried to write out my thoughts after attending Edcampusa but it became a giant multi-page unwieldy document.  So I figured i would throw out individual posts that draw on some of the things I reflected on after attending…the posts still might be somewhat random, but maybe a bit more manageable if you would like to wade through them…

In almost every “conversation” session I have been in at an edcampusa, any edcamp, or at a more progressive conference the outcome of the conversation is becoming more predictable unless you are new to alternatives to traditional schooling.  When you fill the room with people that you have attended conferences with before, or follow on twitter, or read their blog posts the conversation becomes even more predictable.  If you attend a session on “What does a great lesson look like?  I guarantee you can predict 90% of the bullet points.  The sessions are becoming more predictable at larger edcamps that attract the “popular folks.”  At edcampusa I probably recognized by face 75% of attendees.  Let’s face it, twitter is a lot like high school.  Kind of like meeting the quarterback of the football team ten years after graduation and saying hello Jimmy, and they say who are you??  There seemed to be cliques that travel together from session to session.  There are cool kid sessions, and sessions for others.  I was the only participant in one session, in another session at the same time there were none, so everyone else must have been concentrated somewhere. If there were about 75 people then 71 were split amongst three sessions being led by the more popular names.   I thought it was really interesting that I picked sessions by people I had not heard of before and they tended to be filled with participants that I had not heard of before, and by the end of the day a few people joked that we had been in all the same sessions together all day.  The above is NOT a knock…it is an observation.  I do not know what it means (maybe popular people present on popular topics), but I know that many people in the lower ranks of twitter have made the same observations…which means nothing, just trying to see if the pattern means something, or it is me trying to find something in a pattern that does not matter.  

I do think it is time for the folks who come and jump at the board at every edcamp to take a step back and let other people fill the void.  How do we build digital leaders?  The current ones do not hold sessions at every conference they attend.  They come to be participants.  And please don’t tell me that everyone has an equal opportunity to fill the board.  At two edcamps I attended the board was practically filled before the time that was listed to even start posting on the board.

There were 20 sessions held at Edcampusa.  By my unofficial count only one was led by a classroom teacher. A couple were held by librarians.  Unless I counted wrong, the rest were held by people outside of the classroom, and some by people outside the schools. Because you don’t teach or decided to work for a business does that make you less of a teacher?  Not necessarily. Some people led or co-led 2, 3, and four sessions.  It would have been nice to have had 20 sessions all being led by different people.  It would have been nice for people who always lead sessions to step back and let others in.  

At this conference like others,  there is always this talk about how great teachers are.  If teachers are doing such great things, then let’s see them. I would like to have seen sessions being lead by more teachers and with teachers sharing what they are currently doing inside of their classroom.  I believe it was Steve Anderson who tweeted that it is our moral obligation to share…let’s stop sharing about about what we should be doing or want to do, and let’s share examples of what is being done.  We were at the Department of Education and had the opportunity to show off what we do (I believe Steve also tweeted about how teachers should not be afraid of being accused of showing off when they share), instead we talked a lot about what we want to do.  We had the chance to show an alternative to test prep, an alternative to standardized testing, a chance to show that kids can do fantastic things when not placed in a standardized environment.  I think we blew it.  One staffer mentioned they need specifics, not ideas.  Why did we not have sessions focused on showing off what was going on in the classrooms?  Maybe because there weren’t many classroom teachers there??   I am not blind to the fact that almost everything I have written is my perception based on my baggage, my guess as to what each session was about based on the title, and attending only part or all of five sessions and hearing about several others.  I am positive what I have written was not true of all sessions, it wasn’t for one of mine, but it did seem like a pattern.

On twitter, in edcamp sessions, on blogs, we talk, and talk, and talk about what would be great to do or how to do great things.  I don’t hear from many people giving  concrete examples of what they are doing.  Let’s share, and share, and share awesome things we do with the kids.  How about a break from philosophical conversations.  It is time to ante up and show and tell, and to not be afraid of being called a show-off. Conferences should be full of teachers super excited to share the awesome things they are doing in their class that push corporate ed-reforms off the table.  If we cannot do that, than how can we possibly be qualified to talk about what we “should” be doing.  Stop telling me how great teachers are.  Stop telling me that teachers need respect.  Let me see what they deserve respect for.  Why do you think common core standards and all the testing has slid in so easily?  Because it is not much different from what was already being done.  Some parents still have no clue what has changed because you just can’t tell.

Yes, conversation at conferences energizes.  But so does coming back to school with amazing ideas to implement and a connection to someone who is already doing it. Amazing things being done in the classroom are catch on to the classrooms next door…philosophical conversations?   Not so catchy.  

Your next tweet, your next blog post, in your next session, in your next conversation…share something you do that is awesome.  

Blogging and being on twitter is not the answer, being connected is not the answer, having 5000 people in your PLN is not the answer, having educators come to the Department of Education is not the answer…being awesome is.  Next year I hope that the sessions revolve around not what we want, but what we do that is awesome.  #eduawesome was supposed to be one of the strands this year, I hope it makes a comeback. Being awesome is the number one defense teachers have against the corporate ed-reforms being pushed upon us. 

Awesome is catchy.

By the way….here is what woke me at 2am after Edcampusa:

Edcamp comments…

Some rough comments I made on the EdcampNJ feedback form. 

What to do differently next time?  Ban anyone from putting up a session until 8:30.  When I walked in at 8:30–the advertised starting time–the whole board was practically filled up (a trend at most edcamps).  Now whoever is reading this is probably a savvy edcampy person.  But imagine walking in at the scheduled time and seeing the board filled…what message does that send about spontaneous professional development driven by attendees?  Again, if you are reading this you can say there were some spots open and there were still rooms that could be opened…but you have to stop and look at it through the eyes of someone who is not an extroverted edcamp type.  Does that board looking filled invite more participation or decrease it?

I wonder too if your request for sessions “section” next to the main board goes up first at 8:30, and from 8:30-8:45 only requests are taken from the request list to the main board, and then people can add to the main board.  That would make it a real participant driven conference.  Having the board filled by people who have been planning their sessions for weeks before everyone walks in doesn’t exactly lead to what the people want, but what the presenters want to give…both should be present.  As I have been going to edcamps, I have been trying to gauge what kind of sessions go up first (would love to see a time lapse of every edcamp board).  I wonder if those people who show up early and dominate the board are the extroverted techy types and therefore direct the type information given out at the edcamps…what information is not getting promoted?  Is only one personality type being encouraged to present?

I am a huge believer in not just giving people what they want…seriously give me an old fashion lecture on something I know nothing about any day, but at something like this there can be a blend.

The ONLY reason why I am leaving this comment is because out of the 9 (?) edcamps I have attended in 2013 Edcampnj is the rockingist.  I think it also has the ability to influence all future edcamps.  Edcamps will need to shift and change.  As presently constructed they are as much the future of PD as Second Life once was.