Connectedness, or lack there of…
Josh Stumpenhorst touched on this already, but this was a conference of “haves” and “have nots” – those who have a digital presence and those who do not and it was evident the first session I attended today, Eric Shenninger’s session on anytime, anywhere learning and the power of his PLN. As I looked around the room I saw many good friends, all of whom I met through social media prior to knowing face to face, and I saw a number of folks whom I have never met or seen before and who, by the nature of their questions, did not have a digital presence. To them, Eric’s presentation was a new science, full of fancy technology, massive amounts of time, and otherwise divergent from their mission to educate their children.
And then, later in the day I say Dr. Kevin Thomas talk about cell phones in the k-12 classroom. His talk was full of great data on the use of cell phones, some of the misconceptions about texting and the written language (great stuff by the way), and some of the benefits of students and teachers using cell phones to communicate, collaborate, and learn together in the classroom. (You can read my notes and download his PowerPoint here.) Throughout his talk, I was wondering why I hadn’t heard of this data before or, for that matter, Dr. Thomas himself. I mean, this was good stuff and it was his doctoral research that unearthed it, why was all this new? At the end of the session, Dr. Thomas shared his contact information and there it was. Or perhaps wasn’t. Dr. Thomas wasn’t on Twitter. When pressed by Tom Whitby why, Dr. Thomas said there was only so much time in the day and twitter wasn’t something he could take on.
And then I had a conversation later in the day with an former colleague of mine in Exeter. He said that he saw me in “that principal’s session” (Eric) and asked if everything he said was true. I assured him that he was, but privately thought that if my friend was on Twitter, he would already know Eric and he would know that yes, Eric really is that connected. When I said to him, “So you haven’t figured out this whole ‘Twitter’ thing?” he said, “No”, and just like Dr. Thomas cited time as his limiting factor.
I know that I am now biased toward the connected world within which I now live, but the biggest take away for me from ASCD was that as many strides as I thought were being made in connecting educators through social media and other web 2.0 tools, the heart and soul of our profession still isn’t connected. Twitter, Delicious, and other web 2.0 tools are still foreign to most and looked at as big wastes of time. There was no app for the conference, which was probably okay because I saw more highlighters and sticky notes than I did iPads. Wireless service was spotless all weekend, but I have a feeling that was not because the systems were superior, but because their weren’t enough users to choke the system. Pen and paper were the dominate way in which most took notes, which is fine I suppose, unless you want to share them easily with others.
Speaking of sharing…
A few weeks ago I grabbed hold of some notes that Wes Fryer took at a conference he was attending. As you may already know, Wes is famous for taking feverish notes at conferences and publishing them immediately on his blog. I took a moment to thank him for his work since his notes were timely and helpful. His response to me was essentially, “as long as I am already taking notes, why wouldn’t I share them? It’s so easy” So, in coming to Philadelphia this weekend, I decided to channel my inner-Wes and not only take notes as much as possible but, also publish them for others to use (I’m not sure I liked the mechanism for publishing – a link on my blog- but it was quick and easy for this weekend).
I lost count of the tweets and “thanks you’s” from folks across the conference (and on twitter). I realized right away that people were benefiting from my notes and as the conference went on, more and more were using them. I was humbled by the number of positive responses that I got.
But, there was a bigger takeaway for me. As more and more people came to depend on my notes, the more responsibility I felt to take high quality notes (duh). So, I paid attention more, I was more careful about the language I used, I searched more diligently for websites and videos shared during presentations. I wanted my notes to be the best representation of the learning that was taking place in that room and, as a result, I became the most focused learner in that room. I learned more because I knew others needed me to.
While I thank all of you for your kind words relative to my note taking, it turns out you all pushed me to be a better learner. Thus, I owe each of you a “Thank You”.
And a final note on the Keynote…
Sunday’s keynote speaker was Dr. Atul Gawande, doctor, author, Harvard professor, and overall renaissance man. He spoke effortlessly about the similarities between medicine, education, and our need for lifelong coaching to properly serve people, all while keeping both professions on equal footing. He wasn’t a doctor talking down to us, he was a fellow professional interested in making our collective work better. His talk was passionate, simple and elegant. He was a gifted story teller who seamlessly and effortlessly talked for 60 minutes with just a single 1/4 sheet of paper of notes. As I thought more about it later in the day, I realized it was the first time in a long time that I had seen a person talk without a single piece of media to help tell the story. And you know what, he could have talked for another hour and I would have hung on every word as if it was his first.
I guess, I connected with what what he was saying…