Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Success of EduCon 2.0 Demonstrates a Groundswell of Grassroots Enthusiasm for...

... what? That's the question. The "technology-oriented but not really" ambiguity of EduCon was a strength, in bringing in a distinctly varied but like-minded group of people together. But while the Open Minds conference tells you something about the increasing interest in open source in education, or NECC tells you about the strength of the ed-tech marketplace, I'm unsure about the larger significance of EduCon.

I would say it demonstrates the desire of individual teachers to break out of their isolation and learn from each other despite administrative and organizational barriers. But I'm not sure how many people there were just classroom teachers. I would guess less than half. I do think EduCon shows that people like it when people they respect host cheap, informal conferences, and that the web greatly facilitates this process. It demonstrates that social networking technologies are good for networking socially, and we still like to meet people face to face.

But I can't pick out a distinct pedagogical agenda, one that not only lacks historical precedent, but I can't find one that doesn't have significant, widespread, foundation-funded contemporary implementations.

This isn't a biting criticism; nobody claimed that the objective was a unique revolutionary manifesto. I'm just trying to make some meaning of the thing as a whole. I do have a couple thoughts about where I'd like EduCon to go. It would be great if we had a venue for education speakers that was the equivalent of an after-hours club where jazz musicians go to play the stuff that is too out for their regular nightclub gig, or the little comedy club big names go to to try out new material. At times EduCon had that feel, and those were my favorite parts. I guess the other direction I'd find interesting is to pull in a few more experts from outside the ed-tech network and make it more explicitly about cross-pollinating between the school reform and tech leadership communities. Chris is one of the few people who might have the juice in both worlds to pull that off.

Overall, though, I'd call the EduCon a big triumph for Chris, Marcy and the rest of Science Leadership Academy, and more thean anything else, I just hope they can do it again.