Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Power of Conversation

I feel very fortunate to have been selected through a random lottery to attend #edcampUSA on Friday at the U.S. Department of Education.  It was an inspirational day, and while there are many topics that resonated with me, one stands out in my mind when I reflect on the day as a whole.  There is power in conversation, and it is most meaningful when the conversation involves people of diverse perspectives.  

The first session that I attended, "So We're Here....Now What?," involved a passionate conversation amongst various edtech leaders - Tom Whitby, Steven Anderson, Tom Murray, Adam Bellow and many more.  Back and forth dialogue while sitting in a conversational circle encouraged attendees to discuss their beliefs about leadership and motivation.  The important fact is that all voices were heard and people challenged each other respectfully.  Everyone had the opportunity to contribute and together, we continued to refocus our conversation on solutions instead of harping on the problems.

At lunch, I sat with a Superintendent from Indiana, a teacher from California and a colleague in my own district.  We discussed everything from state funding, School Board support, 1:1 and parent involvement.  We can get caught up in the woes in our own settings, so it's important to hear what is going on elsewhere!  These conversations give us perspective, and I don't believe I would've crossed paths with these women or had as in-depth conversations had it not been for the networking lunch at #edcampUSA.

Many people attended a session on Voxer - an application that allows you to connect with people via VOICE.  

Question:  Why is it that we're seeking an application that allows for audio communication?  
Answer:  140 characters is not enough to have a continuous conversation about a topic without having a message get lost in translation!

Voxer allows you to send a typed message or a recorded message to a group, allowing everyone to hear the inflection in your voice, leading to a better understanding of the message you were originally trying to communicate.  There's fluid conversation and minimal misconceptions since you can discuss topics w/o the abbr. that r often requird thru Twitter to mt the 140 char limit.

Reflecting on my role as a regional director in Pennsylvania's ISTE affiliate, PAECT, I believe that we (as an organization) have a commitment to our members to support in-person events that allow people to connect and learn from each other.  We support online communities on Edmodo, Facebook and Google+, and they have value, but we must not forget about the value of face-to-face conversations as a means to build relationships.

The U.S. Department of Education opened its doors to allow teacher leaders and policy leaders to come together and have meaningful, results-oriented conversations about issues in education.  While online conversations can be effective when all parties have the opportunity to participate, periodic face-to-face events that allow for open, respectful, results-oriented dialogue and action also are also crucial in moving forward.  I hope the U.S. Department of Education can influence State Departments of Education to replicate similar events to open the lines of communication and welcome diverse perspectives in the decision-making process.  At a local level, this is something that all leaders can act upon in order to make schools true communities!

Thank you to everyone who played a role in making this event possible!

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