Saturday, March 2, 2013

Conference Buzz - Reflections from ICE

These past few days were spent attending the ICE (Illinois Computing Educators) conference in St. Charles. 'Twas nice to meet some folks in-person that I had latched onto as part of my personal learning network (PLN).  +Keith Sorensen and I presented a full-day workshop on preparing for your 1:1 classroom. We also presented a breakout session for +Schoology. In between, we visited with vendors, attended poster sessions, and took time to answer email and keep up with social media. 

Like most conferences, there was some good, some not-as-good, and some things that were inspiring.



This brings me to the "conference buzz". While trying to reach a colleague about a lost iPad, I came across +Tom Whitby and +Daniel Rezac hosting a discussion about connected educators and their PLNs. During the group discussion, Tom shared some rough statistical information about connected educators.
  • Of the seven million educators in the US, less than 1/2 million were connected through social media.
  • Roughly half of the ICE conference attendees were connected through social media.
"The unconnected educators catch the conference buzz (by attending workshops hosted by experts in education) about once a year.  This inspires them to rush back to their schools to try a few things that typically fade until next year's conference - then the cycle repeats. Connected educators, on the other hand, connect with educational experts every day. Thus, they catch the buzz daily, and are learning and supported throughout the year."

This comment supported my concept of the "born-again", connected learner. Educators (teachers, and administrators) need to experience the connected learning revelation first-hand in order to model new age "dispositions of learningfor their students. (+Will Richardson) Everyone in our group recognized that the true value of 1:1 devices is revealed when students create and connect with their own PLNs.  How can we expect this to happen effectively in environments where the educators themselves are not connected? I am not a very good swimmer. Try as I may, I would not want my kids to learn how to swim from me. Trying to describe this connected learning revelation to others is challenging. Someone suggested that it was like trying to describe the warmth of sunlight to someone that has spent their entire life in a cave.



Our conversation evolved into a discussion about Twitter and its power as a professional development, and PLN tool.  
I was surprised to learn how many Twitter "newbies" we had in our group. We discussed the Twitter evolution that most people go through moving from "lurking"(just watching), to consuming, to sharing, to creating, and that this process can take months to years from some people. We also discussed how Twitter allows learners to cast a very wide net while fishing for information, and then allows us to efficiently filter our catch to just those meaningful pieces that we need to satisfy our learning of a particular subject. "Everyone's PLN is unique and purposeful."  



Our session concluded with a brief discussion identifying some of the most influential educators in our PLN. Someone commented disapprovingly that many of these individuals were no longer teaching in the classroom. They were out making money by selling their books and promoting their brand. My suggestion was that we, as educators (learners first), need to re-think what defines a classroom while we are redefining our roles as educators. I don't begrudge anyone for making a living by expanding their sphere of influence.

I was glad to have stumbled into this session. It inspired me to tweet my followers and to write this post. It also validated my choices of Tweeps (who I choose to follow), and supported my recent transformation as a connected learner.  For those of you looking to get started, or to expand your PLN - The Educator's PLN was recommended by our discussion leaders, and is one of the best PLN resources I have found.  What is your favorite resource for supporting your connected learning?


photo credit: 12thSonOfLama via photopin cc

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