Detaching from EduCon without disengaging

Flying back to Seattle from a really intense weekend of professional development at EduCon.

All in all, the conference was energizing and fulfilling on both a personal and professional level. I had the opportunity to meet people who influence my teaching and philosophy face-to-face. The majority of sessions were designed to be interactive and there were multiple informal, open-invitation meetups every day. The deep-integration of social media was completely natural, with video-conferences, session streaming and heavy tweeting.

Beyond the excitement and enthusiasm of the event, I’m focused on two salient ideas:


  1. EduCon attendees are not special. Apologies to all of the incredible people present, but we aren’t smarter or more creative or gifted in some way that other educators are not. EduCon attendees are most alike in that they generally hold:
    • a willingness to believe that education is an evolutionary and revolutionary process, not a fixed discipline.
    • a recognition that a learning environment should reflect the individuals within it.
    • a certain amount of humility and vulnerability as they admit that they themselves are learners, sometimes learners without a clear vision of their destination.
  2. EduCon should not be a once-a-year mindset. EduCon is in many ways special, but it doesn’t have to be unique. The ideas and format, while masterfully orchestrated by the students and staff at the Science Leadership Academy, are replicable and adaptable. We have frameworks for optimal learning environments, those aren’t just for children – educators should model inquiry-driven learning in collaborative settings too.

This second point was the topic of an Encienda presentation ((Here are the slides for my presentation – they were designed to compliment my words, not substitute for them.

)) I gave at EduCon on Saturday.  Asked to participate about 90 minutes prior to the session, I scrambled a little to get my thoughts and slides in order. I was honored to be a part of the experience and the positive responses were much appreciated.

My plan is to carry forward these ideas and maintain a network of innovation that spreads through future professional development experiences and inspires other to push their own beliefs about learning environments. If you’d like to join me, feel free to accept the challenge and pledge publicly at

3 thoughts on “Detaching from EduCon without disengaging

  1. I didn’t attend Educon (rats!), but this is an inspiring post. Our school is in the planning stages of creating a “lifelong learning” program for professional development, and we are trying to encourage others in our community to join in the creation of something that will be true participatory learning. We are after a culture shift – and using whatever technologies or environments that will allow us to be a stronger community of learners and teachers. I would like to bring the idea of this not being “passive learning” and a “once-a-year” mindset to our community. Thank you for posting!

  2. Nor I… how did you include active learning in that presentation? (I’m putting one together rihgt now so the nudge is apropos ;)) I’m thinking of “flipping” the conference session so that we can spend more time doing and less time getting background knowledge … thinking of providing background knowledge that deeply complements what we do (but that yea, the “slackers” can get along without)… and hoping that people will have, oh, travel and wait time that lends itself to doing some advance investigating.

    1. Hi Sue,

      Thanks for the note. With 5 minutes of auto-advancing slides, I don’t think that my presentation was an exemplary model for active learning.

      I threw out some questions to get teachers thinking about past PD experiences and how they relate to a 21st century model of effective learning. I challenged attendees to take action and commit to taking advantage of PD time to create space for exploration and synthesis.

      One of the quickest engagement activities that I use in my middle school classes and adult PD sessions is the turn-and-talk, a la Mazur and others. Explain a concept to a partner, or share a memory, or pose a question, etc. One-on-one interaction is a great first step and could catch up anyone that didn’t have a chance to digest the pre-conference material you provide.

      Best of luck!

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