Years ago, I was sitting in the lobby of a hotel the day before an NECC Conference – yes quite a long time ago if you look at the conference name and the title of this post! I was with a colleague who had flown with me to share in a few days of learning. As people do, we were going through the paper program with a pen and highlighting in his case or circling in my case the sessions that we wanted to attend.
It was there that he made the comment – “Oh, here’s another ‘How Clarisworks Changed My Life’ session”. As I look back now, it might have been a comment from technological snobbery or jet lag or goodness know what. However, as I think back now, it reflected part of our educational plan. Going to a conference of this sort is very expensive – getting to the airport, parking, flight, hotel, conference registration, meals, incidentals all add up. We were from separate boards so at least the cost didn’t add up to coming from the same employer.
We had decided, in advance, to try to get the most from the conference. We are both very big notetakers and do our best to well document any session that we attend and would share our notes with each other and debrief each other after the event. To that end, we were in the lobby trying to pick the sessions that best met our needs and to ensure that we both didn’t attend the same session. It was our way of maximizing the time spent.
So, why this walk along memory lane?
Yesterday, I read a post from Miguel Guhlin that inspired this post. ”Reset to Zero: Tech & Leadership and Our Learning Odometer“. I always enjoy Miguel’s posts but this one particularly resonated with me. It touched one of my personal passions – professional learning – and had me thinking about PD and, in particularly conferences, from the perspective of an attendee, presenter, and more recently co-chair of #ecoo13.
In his post, Miguel adds a reference to “low hanging fruit”. That’s a term that has seen increased prominence in the past few years with respect to some elements of computer and technology use. Also in the post, he had expressed caution about people who claim that they have nothing to learn. I think that’s why I enjoy his writing so much – with his experience, he could rest on his laurels but doesn’t. He continues to share and model his learning and thoughts and they inspire those who read to continue their own learning. I do disagree with his assertion that he hesitates to do his typical posts because a “quick google search and you’ll find videos, illustrated books, articles, blog entries that explain how to ad nauseum.” While that may be true, they don’t add the “Miguel” touch to them. I don’t want to watch a commercial for a product – the value to me comes when I read how he sees it and, hopefully, how it’s implemented within his school district.
We talk so often about differentiated learning for students – I think that conference organizers and professional learning leaders need to consider that teachers need a wide variety of choices to suit their needs. In a conference setting, the phrase “own the learning” is so evident. As for the “low hanging fruit”, we need to respect that this may well be as high as someone can reach at this point in time! Somebody’s “low hanging fruit” may well be another’s “tipping point”. If I take on the reference to odometer, can we say “your mileage may vary”? Or, how about “no matter what mileage is on your learning, it can always benefit from a new coat of paint”?
For #ecoo13, we’ve tried to assemble a program that meets everyone’s needs. We started by ensuring that there was a French language session in each time slot, a variety of topics per slot, and a range of sophistication in each spot. Should you need more, there’s always the comfy lobby chairs but we’ve set aside an area for an ad hoc learning space and then there’s The Hive where you can share your learning and thoughts with the world via Internet radio. The complete program is available here.