Repeat the title in your head a few times. Did you get an odd desire to click your heels together? If so, it would be understandable. If you truly believe in the sentiment that “there’s no place like home,” then you would be directly channeling one of the main themes of this post. What might the others be? Personally, I love to travel, but I also love home-field advantage. Also: I love to learn. Follow below as I briefly highlight an exciting upcoming week of learning for local educators… one that even includes a day where folks from our wider region are invited to share in an informal exchange that is commonly referred to as an unconference. But first, if you’re local, you’d better click over to the Edweek SJSD wiki. Open slots are going fast.
Our district is currently in a very interesting place and time. We have a couple of building-level initiatives that have readied staff and students for the creation of a 1:1 ecosystem. The essence of that reality is one where the entire community is equipped with a laptop and empowered to utilize digital tools to transform learning in ways we cannot currently deliver. By this time next year, we will likely have 1:1 schools representing all three levels (elementary, middle, high). While we no doubt still need a certain amount of boot-camp type catch up to do in support of those plans, we also have early-adopters and innovators to support at a different level. Much in the same way we now expect it for our children, we owe it to our staff to provide differentiated opportunities for learning and development. Consider this week a squirt of gasoline onto the fires of those staff members ready to push forward with innovation at this time.
Format is everything
Can opt-in PD work in the Summer? We’re betting it can and will with this format. In fact, a couple of the sessions are already nearly full, and the others are filling up fast. And all this for a week in June? Wait: don’t they know this event is still two months away? Don’t these educators know that Summer break will have already begun by that time? It seems as if we have some people anxious for this type of experience with these sort of session leaders. More on our four guests later. So what’s so great about the format?
In short: everything. Think back to the last conference you attended. Walking into your room, finding a place to sit, and doing just that… sitting for an hour or ninety minutes before packing your things, getting up… and walking to the next room to do the same. In that typical format, real transfer of learning is hard to come by. After a few hours it can all start to blur together. That approach certainly can work for some things, but for many types of deep learning, you have to be very disciplined to emerge from the typical conference with anything close to “deep learning.” Finally, what about logistics? Sure, air travel to far away cities can be exciting and fun, but have you priced what it takes to send a couple of people to a conference several states away? Registration, airfare, room & board, etc. Imagine sending a couple hundred people to the same conference. Impossible.
If you’re a Dad like me, yet another three day weekend away from my adorable females is a tough sell at times. So, we decided to bring the conference home to Saint Joseph. There’s something to be said for sleeping in your own bed. There’s also something to be said for learning in the same room for an entire day, from the same gifted leader. In fact, there’s something to be said for actually experiencing and interacting in the learning event, as opposed to merely seeing or hearing about it. And what about being in the same room with 60 of your local district colleagues, all experiencing something new, in depth, and then having a huge body of future collaborators emerge from the room at 3:00pm? Finally, there is also something be said for the economics of it all. Several hundred district educators to the same conference? Good luck trying it any other way.
The week at a glance
Rather than spell it all out here again, I’ll be smart and point you to the EdWeek wiki. Be sure to check out the day-long sessions listed by date/session leader over in the right sidebar. Clicking those will land you on a page for each session complete with bio, and as time goes by, more and more information about the session for that day. In short, four friends I have learned much from in the past will be visiting us that week. I have interacted and shared with them both digitally and face to face, in conference sessions and informally. I really can’t wait to introduce them to you, and you to them.
Karl Fisch will be coming to us from Colorado, and kicking off the week for us on Monday. Skipping for a moment to Wednesday, we will have Silvia Tolisano in from Florida. Thursday brings another Coloradoan in Michael Wacker, and our week will be wrapped up on Friday with a visit by Dean Shareski from Saskatchewan, Canada. The wildcard of the week, is Tuesday. On Tuesday, we will be holding a local unconference in the Early Childhood section of the Webster Learning Center. That might just be the most different day of all in terms of overall format (in some ways). Please read my description of the day and try to imagine it in your head. After attending a similar event this past Autumn, I had several teachers ask, “why can’t we do this back home in our own district?” My reply: ”we can.” And so we will. I think you’ll like it. In fact, due to the fact that this day could easily accomodate more participants, we will soon be opening up this day to our regional friends. You know who you are, right?
So, go… check out the schedule, see what you can attend, and register online. Other than the unconference, all sessions will be capped at 60 participants in order to make sure the sessions have the setup required for truly active learning. I, for one, can’t wait.
Artwork*”Not in Kansas anymore…” by DrStarbuck on Flickr.
*”Presentations.” by peruisay on Flickr.