On Saturday I spent roughly 17 hours listening, speaking, sharing, collaborating, and learning at the Reform Symposium. For those of you that were not there, you missed something truly special. This was my first such experience with an online and FREE conference and it was nothing short of amazing. During the morning I fired off an email to a colleague about my participation and they asked me what the presenters were getting paid. My response was, “nothing.” They were all volunteers giving their time and expertise to share their knowledge with all of us. To me this was such a critical key to the success of such a conference and the power behind it. This was a group of professional educators giving freely of their time to share their knowledge with other educators that will ultimately help student learning. I do not know of any other profession where people would give up their Saturday to learn and share with others all because they thought it was the right thing to do. What is even more amazing is that these people are sharing with complete strangers in most cases. I knew some of the participants through my interactions on Twitter, but by and large we were all just names on a registration spreadsheet…but we universally believed in learning from each other to do our jobs better for kids. Personally, I gained 90 more Twitter followers from this one day and therefore 90 more people in my PLN to learn from!
Some of the specific highlights for me was the keynote speak from Dr. Alec Couros during the middle of the conference. Dr. Couros spoke about why networked learning matters and gave some great advice and insights into his work which is truly inspiring. Another highlight was the open discussion on parental involvement conducted by George Couros, Amanda Henson of Parentella, Monika Hardy and her student. This was a great session because we got to hear what some people were doing in terms of involving parents in real examples and not theory or speculation. For those administrators reading, look at the work of George and his use of social media to inform and educate for some great insight and forward thinking.
I also attended sessions on using Glogster, Diigo, Student Centered Classrooms, and some great discussions on mentoring and classroom management. Another highlight is actually going to sound bad but it was when one of the speakers, Nick Provenzano, was unable to attend his session due to a power outage. In most conferences there would be a sign on the door that it was cancelled. Instead, the great moderators picked up the “mic” and brought in some great people like Jerry Blumengarten and Tim Gwynn who stepped in and helped Kelly Tenkely one of the moderators. Another of the great moderators worthy of mention was Shelly Terrell who most in the education world and certainly the Twitter world know well. I offer a whole hearted and truly genuine thank you all I have mentioned and the literally hundreds of other educators that helped put on the symposium that those that participated and helped me learn. It truly was a learning filled day that I am currently still decompressing from.
It is my understanding that they run another of these learning opportunities in the summer and I would encourage everyone to participate! Yes, as the title stated, late in the evening I did enjoy a fine beer while sitting in one of the sessions. I don't know any other conference where you can do that! In closing, I created this short little “rap” based on the song Vanilla Ice…and Mick Jagger and David Bowie… Below are the lyrics for those interested!
Yo PLN let's kick it!
All right stop collaborate and listen
Symposium is back with the latest edition
Sharing grabs ahold of us tightly
Keepin us up both daily and nightly
Can I learn any more yo I don't know
Turn off the lights and my screen glows
To the extreme I rock tweets like a vandal
Light up the chats and teach folks in the pan handle
Click, search the hashtag that booms
We teaching your brain with an educational boom
Deadly when I blog a dope remedy
Anything less than insightful is a tragedy
Love it or leave it you better participate
Get to the sessions cause speakers aren’t late
If there was a problem yo we’ll solve it
Education is changing while teachers evolve it...