There’s much to write about EduCon Day 1, but here are just some quick thoughts before heading over for the final sessions:
*Science Leadership Academy is a special place. There are tons of schools out there that have more technology, better facilities, etc., but I think we’d all be hard pressed to find a school that has a more positive, deeply connected culture than this school. You talk to the teachers here and they tell you they feel like the luckiest teachers in the city of Philadelphia. They are passionate and committed to the principles that they have developed together. When the students talk, they talk with empowered voices. They don’t just attend this school; they live this school when they are here and when they are not. This culture of caring and respect is sticky in their lives, and they too seem to sense the uniqueness of what’s happening here, at the school and at the conference. And then there is Chris, who is just one of those unique individuals who is smart enough, charismatic enough, caring enough and invested enough to pull it off. I don’t know about the rest, but he’s coming closer to hero status in my eyes, someone who embodies totally what educational leadership is all about and has no agenda, none, other than to do well by his students, his teachers and his community. And, by us.
*I sat in on Tom’s session that made the case that School 2.0 is not far afield from the principles set forth by the Coalition of Essential Schools. We didn’t even mention the word “technology” for the first 45 minutes, and I was struck by how problematic, in my mind at least, the whole “2.0” piece is because of the obvious ties to technology. (Does that make sense?) As the second sentence in the description about this conference says, “This is not a technology conference.” But it is, because in large measure, technology is what is driving the conversation that schools must change. Tom talked about how in the 70s and 80s, we were discussing these same ideas, and now, after an interlude where school reform has been beaten down by NCLB and standardized assessments, there seems to be some heat building under that reform fire again. It is, I think, because of what is now possible in large measure to these tools. As Chris says often, “Technology is not additive; technology is transformative.” So the question becomes, how do we square great principles with great technology to make great schools as SLA? And the bigger question, the more frustrating question that many of us kept coming back to throughout the day, is does it scale? I asked Chris last night if Philadelphia is now looking at SLA as a continuing experiment or a model. Without hesitating he said “Oh, god, I hope it’s not a model.” Grrrr… I understand why not, but I think there are a lot of folks here who are looking for those concrete takeaways that help them get from where they are closer to here. And, that are at their core hoping the answer is that it’s just not possible to do without building from ground up.
*Finally, the one real head twister that I got yesterday was during Chris’s own session when he was talking about how his thinking is moving away from the “having kids publish globally to the world” product piece of all of this a “let’s focus on the process of community building and publishing within the walls” approach. (Not his quotes btw, just my attempts at paraphrase. You can always go to the videotape.) Using Moodle, SLA has established a vibrant, important ongoing discussion that extends not only what happens in the classroom but also deepens the sense of connectedness that these students and teachers feel. The culture of sharing and participation that is created within the local community is more important almost that making those connections outside. (I asked one of the students in my session about how connected he felt outside of the school, and his answer was all about his connections inside the school…interesting.) On some level, this is an “a ha” moment for me that I’m going to be writing more about at some point.
What a cool world it is when you can bring a couple hundred passionate educators together in a special place like this for two days of really rich conversation without ever printing up a flyer, buying an ad, creating a marketing piece or making a poster. In all of our conversations about Twitter and blogs and Second Life and whatever else, the pure power of network connections that can make face to face connections like this happen is never far from our minds, at least, certainly, not mine…
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