Saturday, October 26, 2013

Does Anyone Watch Cooking Shows for the Spatula? An ECOO Reflection

Another conference complete, and another set of thoughts swirling through my head! That's the feeling I now have after attending ECOO 13 - Bring IT, Together. Anyone who attended would attest to it being a great conference - well organized, very diverse set of sessions, excellent keynote presenters, and a wealth of information gained through many discussions. I always find myself walking away from professional development such as this, with a hundred new ideas to try, and a hundred more questions that need clarifying. Many of these thoughts and questions have been shared by many, as the twitter stream (#ecoo13) provides such confirmation. However, like last year, I thought I would share my 5 takeaways from the conference. Here they are, in no particular order of importance, significance, or any other ranking:
  1. Teachers Role in Educating Peers - I found myself in a number of conversations with other teachers who are attempting to teach other teachers edtech. The same questions always surfaced, with the big one being - "How?" How do we encourage other teachers to adopt educational technology, and integrate it effectively into their teaching practice? The answer to this question - No one knows! For a long time I have thought that this is unfortunate; however, I am beginning to find this encouraging. I don't believe there ever will be a definitive answer, nor do I believe there should be. As well, I think that it is a continuous process and we have to use a different set of tools to help & encourage our peers; and one way will not work with everyone. The simple fact that we are having this discussion is the encouraging sign. What it shows is that many teachers have realized that we have a place in supporting each other, and we can learn from each other along the way. In my mind, that is so much more profound than if we had found a single answer to apply to everyone.
  2. Students Need to be Creators & Collaborators, Not Just Consumers - I heard this mentioned in a number of sessions, and from both Amber Mac & Jamie Casap (keynote presenters). I love how this indicates just how much the conversation is changing with regards to the 21st century education. I have found the focus of many 21st education conversations to be about how to deliver information, access information, and a little bit about creating; using this cool new app, that cool new website, etc. However, 21st education has to be about more than consuming, and I loved how many people referred to this.
  3. Wifi is as Important as Electricity - Now don't get me wrong, this is really a statement of context, and depends on a whole range of things. However, when it comes to 21st century education and the way a classroom should function today, I think this is very true. As mentioned previously, we want our students to be collaborators, creators, curators, critical thinkers, and communicators, and to engage in these activities across borders and with others around the globe. In order to do this, we need to focus on ensuring that connection is reliable. I hope one day we do take wifi for granted, as we do currently with electricity. That will signal to me, that we have realized how important it is to communicate with others around the globe.
  4. Technology SUPPORTS Pedagogy and Content - I also love the fact that much of the discussion moved away from "Here's a new app" to "Here's a new app, and this is how it supports learning in my classroom". Any new app, website, or other piece of technology, is a tool just like the pencil, typewriter, or any other classroom tool we have used throughout history. Technology is just a tool, how it's used is what matters. There were great sessions and conversations around SAMR, TPACK, the 4/6 C's of 21st C skills, and what goes on in a truly 21st C classroom. When it comes to any educational technology trend, I think this is very important to remember. Whether it's blended learning, BYOD, or the flipped classroom, the focus and conversation has to be about the classroom - NOT the tech tool. I like to think of it this way - I don't watch the food network to see what spatula the chefs use. Who would? I watch to see the creation.
  5. The Value of Conversations - As great as the sessions were throughout the conference, I made sure to take a break each day so I could engage in both real conversations and those on Twitter. I find these conversations are where I learned some of the best things. I wish all PD realized the value of informal conversations, where teachers could come together and just share anything & everything (it's also probably why I think edcamps & unconferences are so great). 
There is a lot to think about now that the conference is finished. Lots to consider, lots to attempt to implement, and lots to further research. 

2 comments:

  1. Great post, Jason. Thanks for sharing your reflections on the ECOO conference.

    If you have PD funding for this and other conferences consider yourself lucky. At my school we have funding for 2 days for 4 dept. members and I get in free for presenting. Last I checked, most conferences are 2 days minimum.

    Regarding teachers buying in to tech., I have always found that they/we have to find some usefulness in the app. If it doesn't save time, why bother? Being a risk taker helps too.

    Re: conversations, you're absolutely right! Besides the conversations, I've always believed that getting a few teachers together in a room swapping memory sticks can be great PD.

    Thanks again,


    Mike Goldberg, TDSB

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