ASCD part three: Great Opportunity

As I have wandered in and out of sessions and chatted with various people throughout the ASCD Conference this weekend, I have come to a realization. There is more opportunity for growth and change at this conference than any other one I have attended. The perfect example of this was during the EdCamp session I attend on Saturday afternoon. Now, I went to this session largely because I know some of the people in the room and just wanted to sit in what I knew would be a solid session. I sat in there with some of my friends and we chatted on the side a bit and even contributed to the presentation. While sitting there and listening to some of the questions from the audience, I was a bit taken back. Had these people really never heard of the EdCamp movement? That question started me thinking as I continued down the hall and on to other sessions.

I have been to ISTE, ICE, IETC, METC and a host of other conferences that have lovely acronyms. At most of those, I have presented to rooms full of nodding heads and looks of affirmation. My conversations in the hallways, happy hours and lounges are largely the same. “Hey, we need to get more people on board…” or “Yeah, I agree, that is what I am doing too.” Bottom line, most of those conferences are efforts in choir preaching and not real change. With that being said, there are certainly people at some of our smaller state-level conferences that do walk away “changed” or inspired. Yet, most of us are all saying the same thing and agreeing with each other. Back patting is always nice, but does it lead to positive change?

Back to ASCD…many of the sessions I sat in were full of what I would consider uninformed and unconnected educators. I mean no offense by that comment but it is true. By uninformed, I mean they are not plugged into the world of educational trends that are pushing our profession. I am not claiming to be an expert but I was shocked when people did not know about people like Alfie Kohn or Sir Ken Robinson or even things like the Khan Academy. Or as I explained earlier, how have these people not heard of the EdCamp movement, especially those in the Philadelphia where it was essentially born. On top of that, many of the attendees of ASCD are not connected with other educators outside of their schools or districts. To think of the potential learning that can happen through connections, it is sad to think of the many that are not connected. Obviously, I am a bit biased and think Twitter is the best route to take, but bottom line is, we need to be connected. I did see a handful of people signing up for Twitter as the ASCD Tweetup at night, but I bet some were just doing it for the free water bottle. I hope I am wrong.

In reflecting on all of that, many of “us” connected and informed educators need to step out and present, work and get involved in conferences like ASCD. There is a tremendous opportunity to truly improve teaching and learning through events like these. It has been abundantly clear to me that many of the things I take for granted and assume everyone knows, is not actually true. I want to challenge myself to step out of the role of preaching to the choir and start bringing these ideas and opportunities to those less informed and less connected. On a positive note, I think the educators coming to ASCD want to improve and be informed...which is a good sign. 

For those that have not attended an event at the Convention Center in Philadelphia, there is a super long and awesome escalator. In a lame attempt to include a picture I took on my phone...let's use the metaphor of the escalator and do our individual and collective best to get more people up that escalator of metaphorical educational growth... :) 


Ann said...

First let me thank you for your invaluable input in our edcamp session. You helped put some of those fears of, "How can this possibly work?" to rest. When we wrote our proposal for the ASCD session, we did it for the reasons you mention in this post and with the audience in mind. Edcamp style pd is a little difficult to wrap your brain around until you actually see it in action. I hope some of the administrators in our audience will take that leap of faith that is required to create change in the static format of PD in their schools and districts.

PNaugle said...

Hi Josh,
One of the things I love doing at conferences is finding a few "newbies" to sit down and have long conversations with. I really enjoyed working at the Newbie Lounge at ISTE last summer and helped a couple of educators discover the power of Twitter and edchats. It is too easy for those of us who "get it" to just hang out with our like-minded friends instead of reaching out to help some others "get it". I set a personal conference goal to make lasting connections with at least three "newbies". Think of the change we could help bring about if we all set a similar goal.

DebbieFuco said...

Josh, thanks for posting your ASCD12 experiences and reflections. You are correct that in many cases attendance at the conferences is and effort in choir preaching and not real change, however, it is nice to meet with like-minded people who reinforce that you are not alone in your thinking. The reason I took on the challenge of researching and studying for a PhD was for this very reason. I knew there were awesome educators out there who were truly interested in learning in order to improve their practice and in turn improve student learning. Social media has reinforced this ‘hunch’ to a degree I could not have imagined, but why are there still so many educators who are not engaged and connected? Like you stated, “It has been abundantly clear to me that many of the things I take for granted and assume everyone knows, is not actually true.” I would like to accept your challenge “to step out of the role of preaching to the choir.” I have informed my school that I am not returning to my present position next year and have no future plans at this time (Yikes!), as I am completing my dissertation. My goal will be to find a position where I am able to “get more people up that escalator of metaphorical educational growth.” Thanks, again!

cyndiejacobs said...

I like your summary of where, essentially, many of the attendees here at #ASCD12 might find themselves on the 'networked educator' continuum. I've been encouraging many folks (most a lot younger than me!) to explore Twitter as a professional learning tool. I'm still amazed to hear the reasons why they can't or won't try. Where are the risk-takers of tomorrow?