Educon: The Takeaway

Someone asked me on Day One why people come to this conference.  I can’t answer for everyone, but I know for me I come to be inspired, to have the opportunity to talk to some smart people about issues related to teaching and learning and leading in education.  I feel lucky to have some opportunity for that at my own school.  I have many, many colleagues who inspire me daily and who regularly talk about teaching and learning in really intelligent and thoughtful ways.  It’s part of the culture here to do so.  But that’s not true for everyone.  I talked to many people who feel isolated at their schools, who are struggling to do interesting things in the world of standards and tests, and who face a fight every day just to teach in a way that they know would benefit their students.  I actually learn a lot from them.  Sometimes constraints lead to real creativity.  Think about how beautiful sonnets are.

Yes, the general feel of the conference leaves one warm and fuzzy, but there are also “real” takeaways.  Some very concrete lessons I got:

  • Why not have a class for both faculty and students on a topic, led by someone from outside the institution.
  • Have the confidence to pursue what seems like a crazy idea.  Don’t say no to yourself or impose the “buts” onto your idea before someone else does.  Because they might not.
  • Document cameras are really useful
  • We really do need more women in Computer Science, so says Kin Lane, who’s right in the thick of Silicon Valley culture.
  • Being out of your comfort zone is not a bad thing.  It’s how we learn.  Watch an infant/toddler sometime.
  • There’s no one right way to do anything.  Keep asking “What if . . .” to come up with new ways of doing things.

I’ve seen some Tweets this morning about the difficulty of going back to work after Educon.  How do you explain this to people?  I think you just have to pick a couple of things and just do them.  It might be in your classroom.  It might be in the way you approach a meeting.  It might just be sharing something with one of your colleagues.  It might just be renewing in yourself your belief in what you do.  That’s what gives me courage to try crazy things, to say crazy things, and to argue on behalf of my students.  Educon reminds me every year that what teachers do is important and it’s worth doing.