“So how as the conference,” Samantha, my wife, asked when I called her from the airport. “It was incredible!” I exclaimed. “Okay, what was it about?” she asked. I quickly replied with a chuckle, “Well, the essential question was how do we sustain innovation in education?” Her response was priceless, “Wow! That’s…. a lot to take in.” I replied, “Yes, it was a lot to take in and it’s exactly what I needed.” Again, her response was priceless, “so, it stretched you.” Boom!
I have a bad back, mainly because of a bulging disk, but also because I don’t stretch. My hamstrings are in knots so it creates tension in my lower back. I hate stretching! It takes too much time and quite frankly it hurts! It hurts because I don’t do it. I know what you’re thinking, “If you would just stretch then it wouldn’t hurt.” No kidding, but what we are talking about is a knowing-doing gap. I know what to do, I’m just not doing it. On the other hand, I absolutely love learning. I equate it to mental and cognitive stretching. It’s a painful, daunting process at times, but it is also so rewarding.
Many of us who attended Educon 2.4 experienced this cognitive stretch throughout the weekend in the form of conversations and panel discussions. Educon helps to close the knowing-doing gap when it comes to grassroots education reform. You see, the presenters, participants, those who followed on Twitter or watched it from the live video stream, were primarily educators who are “doing” the work, not just individuals talking about want needs to be done. This same group also searches for better ways to do what is best for today’s learner, and not once did we spend an entire session discussing how to make a better standardized test!
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension.” It is hard to argue against that because what he referred to was the learning process. When we let ourselves engage in the learning process and try to wrap our minds around an essential question, such as the one posed at Educon, we find ourselves in deep conversation about the purpose of school, the future of education, what IS learning, why use technology, and what is innovation. Yes, it can be philosophical, but it also gives us all a chance to dialogue about what we are doing, how we are doing it, how we can learn from one another, and what we can do in our classroom, school, and community right now.
Educon was just the stretch I needed to be a better leader for my students, staff, and community when I return to my building. It gave me a chance to step away to think, listen, reflect and also learn with others. Thanks to Chris Lehmann (@Chrislehmann), the students at the Science Leadership Academy, and The Franklin Institute for hosting this amazing conference.