Social Professional Learning? The Story of #ITEC14

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Iowa and present at the Iowa Technology & Education Connection fall conference. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and connect with so many inspiring educators over the course of just a few days. Upon arriving in Iowa, I discovered that a weekly twitter chat that I participate in (#iaedchat) would be broadcasting live from Des Moines. Twitter has completely changed how I view and approach professional development, and also the idea of ‘knowing someone.’ Although I had never met or spoken to anyone on the #iaedchat team, they are a group of people that I consider to be friends and colleagues. After learning and sharing with one another virtually over the past year, it was so exciting to be in this space where these teachers and administrators gather weekly to discuss and pose questions to all the rest of us across the country. Although they will all say that the smartest person in the room is the room, the energy in that space that evening was contagious; confirming the passion that these people have for what they do every day, working with kids.

Over the next two days, the conference unfolded. The two keynote speakers were Adam Bellow, Founder and President of eduTecher and eduClipper and ISTE emerging leader, and Peter Reynolds, NY Times best-selling author and illustrator. Adam and Peter each presented inspiring messages about technology, education, and creativity. I particularly like how Adam emphasized ‘living a life in beta’ and that we live and teach in an amazing time where technology can help us create amazing things. Yet, education seems to be at a crossroads with a dichotomy emerging between the maker movement and standardized testing/CCSS conversations.

I then had the opportunity to attend break out sessions on a variety of topics. These included ‘Speedgeeking’ with tech tools, Connecting the Dots, Lessons from Entrepreneurs, Let Kids Be Amazing, and Mirrors & Windows for e-portfolios. I also led a presentation on Re-imagining Libraries. I loved the energy that all of the presenters and panelists brought to their sessions, and was so excited to meet many of the educators and administrators I’ve learned so much from over the past year, like Shannon Miller and Adam Bellow pictured. I think of them not only as mentors but friends, who I am very grateful to have been able to meet in person.

A common theme that emerged across many of them was the idea of how connecting with others ignites passions. This reminded me of the 4 lenses we’ve been discussing for student learning, and how they are applicable to professional learning too. In each setting, presentations were language-based, and meaning centered, and human, though the social learning piece is most interesting to me. While there was not much, if any, social learning/talking during presentations/sessions, some of the best learning took place either in the hallways between sessions or on Twitter via the conference hashtag (#itec14). This idea of social professional learning seems quite powerful, at least in the context of ITEC, yet typically lacks more formal acceptance. I wonder: What it might take for this type of learning to become more established? How might we spread the idea of sharing shamelessly with others, particularly in the field of education?

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