Professional Development

When Should We Vote With Two Feet?

When Should We Vote With Two Feet?


I love Edcamps. I think the biggest strength of the Edcamp model is choice: you choose to attend, and you choose which sessions to attend. And, while you’re in a session, you choose whether or not to stay. It’s called voting with two feet:

Edcampers are encouraged to leave sessions that do not meet their needs. This provides a uniquely effective way of “weeding out” sessions that are not based on appropriate research or not delivered in an engaging format.

Stepping outside of the Edcamp realm, most of the time I hear people present, I choose to hear them present. In the last year alone, I’ve been lucky enough to hear from Ken Shelton, Diane Main, Alice Keeler, Jon Corippo, Rushton Hurley, Jim Sill, James Sanders, Mark Hammons, Wendy Gorton, and even Patrick Pichette. Oh yeah, that would be Google’s CFO.

So yeah, I’ve been around some #eduawesome presentations. Few teachers have the opportunity to hear from this caliber of presenter. Most of us regularly suffer through Death By PowerPoint. In fact, most of us expect it. I even tested it out once. At the beginning of my presentation Video Killed the PowerPoint Star, I started off with a joke–the first slide shows an outline, and I ask the audience to read it. Bullet point by bullet point, they respectfully and diligently read it. Here’s what kills me:

People are willing to sit through bad presentations.

Heck, they even expect it. Indiscernible graphs, bullet points, cheesy clip art, and tiny text are the norm. And these make us worse teachers. We actually become less effective after sitting through these slides. The bar is lowered, and expectations drop. The result? Our students get less–less engagement during our own presentations, less passion.

The answer? Surround yourself with quality. At conferences, only sit through eduawesome talks, and leave during bad ones. This is easy at Edcamps. I challenge you, though, to leave during bad presentations at other conferences. At some point, your spirit will require it. The biggest challenge, though, will arise when you are forced to sit through a presentation. It will come in the form of a staff meeting or district-mandated professional development (I use that term loosely). So what do we do in those cases? I’d like to think that you should leave. Realistically, I will probably stay. The last time I checked, though, we are professional educators. If a presentation is harming your professional life, you owe it to yourself to act. I’m not sure what that looks like, but I don’t like the idea of just sucking it up and sitting through bad sessions/meetings/presentations/PD.

A Professional Learning Community WITHOUT the Internet!?

Think about the word network. Seriously, stop for a moment and think about that word. For me, I think about computers connected to one another, or maybe a big brain/master computer that allows other computers to talk to each other. After a while of thinking, I tend to think about the verb: to network, as in, “I’m going to ISTE to network.” It wasn’t until I started reflecting on this today that I realized these two words are related.

Network and network are polysemes–words with the same spelling and distinct but related meanings. (It’s a version of a homonym.) It’s curious to me that in the year 2013, these once-distant words have such similar meanings. I’ve blogged before about begin a connected educator. Heck, I even teach a course on it. It just occurred to me how important essential the internet is to my professional learning. I can’t imagine teaching without it.

The sense of community I feel as a teacher is profound. Twitter, Google+, and the internet in general are a significant part of that. At the Next Vista Awards last month, I met an eduawesome teacher.  We talked about video, ed tech, music, beer. But, he’s not on Twitter or Google+. So… I don’t even remember his name. Contrasting that with a conversation I had a year ago at ISTE. I met Corrine Okada, we connected on Twitter and Instagram, and we continue to collaborate and communicate.

We take the ability to communicate with anyone around the world instantly (and for free) for granted. We can connect with teachers globally like never before. ISTE recently announced award recipients (and I’m one  of them). Within a couple hours of an article being posted, educators from around the world were congratulating me. Again, we take communication like this for granted. If you stop and think about what’s actually happens, it’s amazing. Erin in Michigan and A.J. in Philly are congratulating me. It’s super stinking cool!

twitter mentions

When I think of technology in the classroom, my first thought is always about what I can do in the classroom with tech. Thinking about students and tech is always second. I’m wondering how my students might respond to a prompt about their learning network. I think the answer would make me sad. I’ve never even asked my students how they use the internet to develop a personal learning space. I don’t think they’ve even thought it was an option. So, while I’m edustoked to have a supportive, robust learning network, I need to spend some time considering how I can support my students in developing their own learning space online.