Yesterday I drove to New Milford, New Jersey to attend Edscape, a tech professional development day organized by New Milford High School Principal and tech-ed thought leader, Eric Sheninger. I decided to attend the conference because I knew it was time that I started meeting all the wonderful educators that I follow on blogs, Twitter, Google+ and other Internet education idea threads. Mr. Sheninger has shared many, many wonderful ideas about innovation related to schools, schedules, pedagogy and philosophy with educators and others throughout the world, and I wanted to show my respect and gratitude as well as learn more at Edscape.
It was a bit daunting to attend an event with people that you tweet with, but have never met. I found myself scanning the crowd for "familiar" faces. Interesting enough, it wasn't the faces that drew me to people in my PLN, instead it was the conversation. When I heard people remark in certain ways, I recognized their voice and commitment from the blog posts and tweets I have read over the past year. That's when I'd ask, "Do you Tweet?" and "What's your Twitter name?" I met many more educators that I later added to my PLN for future connections and learning.
I was fortunate to meet and hear Tom Whitby, co-founder of #edchat and creator of the Educators PLN, both venues that allow teachers all over the world to exchange innovative ideas, practices and questions to best serve students' educational interests and needs. As Tom described current professional development practices, I found myself in awe of what he's done to eliminate educators' sense of isolation as well as to speed up idea-exchange and innovation.
Other workshops introduced me further to Google aps, iPad learning and the role of tacit knowledge in education. The keynote speaker, Diana Laufenberg, an educator at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, discussed inquiry driven education. She noted five categories related to inquiry based education: inquiry, research, presentation, reflection, and collaboration. Laufenberg demonstrated that inquiry based education naturally encompasses the 4 c’s of 21st century education: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking skills and communication. Further, she noted that "More standardization does not lead to more innovation," and "Inquiry driven education is student-driven." She explained that teachers at the Science Leadership Academy have advisory groups, and each faculty member mentors a capstone (senior) project. Advisors do not police or control, instead they guide and help. Their capstone project is similar to the Google 20% during senior year, but it’s guided. Finally Ms. Laufenberg noted that inquiry driven education is community based, collaborative and relevant, and it's done best in student-centered, caring academic communities.
Edscape offered me an opportunity to learn in a new environment. Similar to most education conferences I attend, I was struck by the level of investment educators demonstrated with student success as the focus on a beautiful, fall Saturday. I encourage all educators to extend the PLN experience by attending an edcamp, conference, unconference or workshop sometime this year--it will give you the chance to meet educators you follow and learn from on the Internet which in turn will continue to deepen your professional repertoire, efforts and result.