Tuesday, January 29, 2008

EduCon Conversations were NOT about Technology

Friday morning I found myself standing in a starkly naked room filled with empty desk and chairs that replicated those that the Founding Fathers of the United States Government sat in as they deliberated the future of their new nation. Two centuries ago, a brilliant group of passionate men came together to craft a document that would lay the foundation for a vision that would shape the future of their country. These men were so committed to crafting a document that reflected the best of their deep thinking and strong convictions that they gave up on the tasks of ‘tweaking’ the Articles of Confederations and created a brand new document – The U.S. Constitution .

As I listened to the Independence Hall guide, I thought back to the recent conversation responding to Will Richardson’s Some New Year's Dreaming post, debating whether whether a change in education could come about by evolution, or whether revolution was the only hope for transforming our schools.

These thoughts were the perfect launching point for what was to be 2 and ½ days of conversation amongst some of the most passionate, caring, and thoughtful educators I’ve had the privilege of meeting. Two days of conversations about the possibilities for education when the right combination of passion and pedagogy are supported by transformative tools left participants of EduCon 2.0 emotional and inspired as they returned home to continue the work of transforming our 21st century schools.

Emotions, reflection, call to action, manifesto’s, and yes… more conversation continue far beyond the weekend, and extend way beyond the walls of the Science Leadership Academy, where Chris Lehman (visionary Principal and leader extradonaire) and his learning network hosted this fabulous Un-Conference. If every participant finds themselves able to channel the emotion, energy, and inspiration from Educon 2.0 to "just win more than three" colleagues as Kevin Jarret's Educon reflection suggest … than the weekend was truly an agent of change.

But the change agents, were not just those who attended, it was also each of you who participated in the conversation remotely through U-Stream modeling the power of transformative tools in learning. As many of us stated over and over again this weekend – it was not about the technology. The transformative part was not that we were using U-Streams to record or wikis to post our notes. The transformative part was that the sessions were set up as CONVERSATIONS not presentations. And these conversations would not have been the same without the hundreds of remote participants contributing through the backchannel chat; nor would they have been the same without the collaborative features of wikis to dynamically share knowledge throughout the weekend and beyond; nor would they have been the same had they not been extension of many prior conversations happening throughout the edublogosphere.

For those of you who missed the event – it’s not too late to participate. The hundreds of pictures already on Flickr will provide visual cues to the energy level that was present. My favorite was the photos of the MAC Lab noticeably void of computers adjacent to the photos displaying the white Apple branded laptops visible throughout the school, in the hands the students whose job it was to care for and use the tools in the service of learning. But more symbolic to me than the laptops in those photos were the white lab coats worn by the students at SLA – the uniform of inquiry.

While some of these bright and inquiring minds brought the voices of students in the conversations, others offered a wonderful service to the community unable to attend by operating video cameras that made the conversations available through U-Stream. Each of the wiki pages that accompanied the 6 strands of “conversations”, not only contain notes, digital handouts, and links, but also contain an archived U-Stream video when possible. And for those who prefer their conversatoins in a 3-D space, check out the space Konrad Glogowski created for Virtual EduCon in Second Life. The richness doesn’t stop there; hundreds of blog posts tagged EduCon provide insights, reflections, and opportunities for the conversations to continue. So whether you were in Philadelphia this weekend, or elsewhere, transformative technologies coupled with thoughtful, pedagogically sound format for a “conference “ -- or “unconference” has provided you with an entry point into the conversation. May you join the conversation! Thank you to all who contributed to Educon and the learning that is extending from it.