Simulpost with TechLearning
So many educators, like myself, attend online conferences and webcasts and use our RSS feeds as our primary sources of education. These tools have revolutionized my life and my classroom! I am a better person, mother, teacher, and person because of them. So, with the proliferation of peer to peer (P2P) types of communications why do we still need face to face (F2F)?
I am thinking of this because tonight I am nestled in a hotel room in a rainy night in Chicago getting ready for the TechForum conference tomorrow. (Sponsored by Technology & Learning magazine.)
I can give you a couple of reasons I still make the effort to have F2F with those who are the best.
1 – Surround yourself with the best – become like the best.
We carefully watch the friends of our children because we know that our children will become like them. Likewise, I have always taken the philosophy of finding the best most inspirational people and doing whatever I can to be around them and learn from them.
Although I am presenting, I have a notebook and am ready to take notes tomorrow on all the things I will learn. I’ve already had great conversations tonight with Gwen Solomon, Judy Saltpeter and some of the other amazing writers and editors at T&L. I already have several ideas of things that I need to do and things I need to share with others!
Here is my strategy for attending a conference – I ask people who’ve been before
“Who are the most amazing people that I’ve got to hear?”
Then, I schedule to go to see the people, EVEN IF THEY ARE PRESENTING ON SOMETHING I (think) I ALREADY KNOW. The reason more educators don’t get inspired is because they think they know it all already and they don’t hear from the best. The best will always work to add the most innovative and exciting things to their presentation, even if it is on an “old” subject.
Although I consider myself pretty proficient in RSS, this year I sat in on RSS session with Will Richardson (See his RSS guide for educators.) and I learned SO much (like how to RSS a delicious feed). I also learned how to teach delicious to others! This directly impacted the horizon project I’m working on now, and I already knew RSS!
So, since I’ve started planning my conferences around people and not as much around topics, I’ve been so much happier. (I still have one or two topics on my hot list, but work hard to hear from those who others say are exciting or that I know.) I come away inspired and amazed every time.
And I’m not saying those people need to be super popular, I enjoy hearing everything that my friend Stephen Rahn in Georgia has to say. He is a great educator with the best interests of the classroom at heart and although he is not on “the circuit,” he is on my circuit!
When I had the ability to invite a guest to TechForum, I asked my WOW2 friends, who is a very cool educator in Chicago, they all answered, JANET BARNSTABLE! She is a pioneer in Web 2 classroom practices, and was globally collaborating even in the 80’s with a dial up connection. I am also so looking forward to meeting David Jakes.
(Note: The “people factor” also affects what I decide to attend. Because I am a classroom teacher, I can only attend a few conferences each semester because I like to be in my classroom and at home with my family, so this time, I picked to come to TechForum because of the people involved. Likewise, I’m going to Maine’s educator conference in the fall because of Cheryl Oakes. That is why I plan to apply to participate in the K12 online conference — it is about the people. Are they inspirational? Are they forward thinking? Are they ethical? Are they wise? and most importantly… do they have a heart for kids?))
2 – Engage all of your senses and jumpstart your thoughts.
When you go to a conference and meet people, you then engage every sense in learning – you’re talking about ideas over dinner. You’re chatting casually. You’re thinking. Often it causes Ah Ha moments and when you can see people, you can also pick up their body languages and nuances that you wouldn’t if you were reading an e-mail.
I find that I am focused and more engaged because of my presence at a conference.
3- Hear yourself think.
As a teacher, I spend so much time talking, answering questions, and facilitating their classroom, when I get away I often find I can think more clearly. It is like the artist who steps back to observe his work – sometimes stepping back is a good thing.
Even in the busy airport, I found as teacher that it was unusually quiet for me. Quiet, because I didn’t have to say a word! I like to sit back and listen and learn. I need to be on the receiving end sometimes.
4 – Refilling the pitcher
If you’re always pouring water out of the pitcher without refilling the pitcher – you’ll end up with a dry pitcher!
My students say that I go to a conference already in overdrive but come back in an even higher gear. I often create podcasts for them about what I’ve learned. I love to “blow their minds” and push their “horizons” with new things, websites, tools, etc. Because I teach “how to learn new software,” they can count on some new things that I’ll mention but not necessarily give a “point and click” instruction about.
By going to conferences and attending high quality, amazing people’s sessions, I always become filled back up again.
(Note: When I taught professional development for teachers, there was only one kind of teacher I had difficulty instructing: the know it all! Usually the amount of knowledge that someone actually knows is inversely related to how much they think they know. It reminds me of the old farmers adage – “The greatest man I’ve ever met is the man you think you are.” Humility and willingness to learn are prerequisite for adult level learning, that is what I try to have.)
Onward to today! I look forward to meeting so many cool people! How exciting!
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