Educon was this past weekend and my head is still swimming. I could use a day or two, locked away on my own, to reflect and sort through all this thinking and questioning.
As that won’t happen (somehow I’m expected to teach and parent and such no matter how full my brain is), I’m dedicating some time several evenings a week to this space. My girls have gone to bed (not to sleep by any stretch as I can hear the music and chatting quite clearly) so this is the closest to ‘me time’ as I’m going to get.
Educon is always an amazing event. I think there are several reasons for that. One is how respectfully participants are treated at this conference. Sessions are conversations, not presentations, so everyone can be involved. Some sessions are more participatory than others, but all offer opportunities for active participation. While there are lots of folks at Educon who could be considered EduCelebrities, they are there participating like everyone else. There is a sense of equality.
Another reason I think this conference is so spectacular is the location. It is hosted by Science Leadership Academy, a public, magnet high school in Philadelphia. The people at SLA, principal, teachers, students, parents, even former students, are all highly involved in Educon. The conference simply couldn’t work without them and that is important. Parents and students are the ones working behind the scenes (and in the midst of everything) to make Educon run smoothly. They also engage in conversations about education with those of us who are visiting. On Friday they welcome us into their school and for the rest of the weekend they work hard to keep things going while adding important perspectives to our conversations.
Due to the location, the size is relatively small. Philadelphia hosted the ALA (American Library Association) conference this weekend as well. That included 12,000 participants (or so I’m guessing, I have no source for that number). We were between 500 and 600. We didn’t like sharing the city with them, they hogged all the cabs. Anyway, as a result, there’s a level of intimacy at Educon that is lacking at other national conferences. (And, if you’re doubting, Educon is most definitely a national conference, I spoke with folks from Wisconsin, Texas, and Canada that I remember off the top of my head.)
Most of the participants in Educon are on Twitter and/or blog. This weekend is a chance to talk face to face with people we engage with regularly online. There is a sense of coming home as we all gather. It’s amusing to hear people say, “Wait, what’s your Twitter name? I think I follow you!” or “Oh my gosh, you’re —– on Twitter!” (Those of us who just use our regular names as our Twitter names are not nearly as exciting.)
The tone of the conference is that we are all learners. I’m not certain how that tone was originally set or how it has been maintained so well, although I’m betting is highly deliberate. But it plays a significant role in making Educon so powerful.
I’m sure there are other reasons Educon is my favorite conference of the year, but this sums it up pretty well. (There goes tonight’s ‘me time’ and I haven’t even begun unpacking the issues/questions/big ideas from the conference!