Several months ago, I got an e-mail out-of-the-blue asking me if I would be willing to present at an education conference here in Ohio. I wondered if this was someone who had been to a session I led at a previous conference, or maybe someone who knew someone who had. I was wrong on all counts. The organizers of ECET2-OAC (What is ECET2? What is OAC?) did what anyone does these days when they are looking for something – they Googled. My “Five Rules” workshop was unique, it was timely, and I had one other secret ingredient – I live in Ohio, under three hours from the conference site!
So, plans were made, and I embarked on a trip to Burr Oak State Park, not knowing if I would even know anyone there! But the concept of the event was just so different, I had to see what it would be like. What I found exceeded my highest expectations! Here are some of my highlights from attending ECET2-OAC on October 29-30, 2014.
Dr. Irvin Scott. – Dr. Scott provided the opening keynote. He is theDeputy Director for effective teaching in the educational division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is “the guy” when it comes to the whole ECET2 phenomenon. His story is a testimony to the power of teachers who have high expectations and who are willing to give their students supportive, safe environments to reach beyond what they knew they could accomplish. Hear him talk. Follow him on Twitter.
Colleague Circles – A unique aspect of the ECET2 conference was the Colleague Circles. While I did not directly participate in any of these, they were organized to be a meaningful time for educators from the same building/district to discuss pressing issues with a guided format. The format led each team to come to some clear and definite decisions about how their practice will change going forward, and how they can be a positive force for change in their school.
Snakes! – Even though technology, especially social media, has made the globe a more connected place, we are still very different in the places we come from. Being at a state park in Ohio has its advantages; a serene environment, great spaces to connect, and a ranger who lives for the thrill of putting snakes in the hands of visitors!
A Bluegrass Band – For conferences like this, some of the best conversations can happen in the informal settings beyond the “scheduled agenda”. In this case, the evening’s entertainment was provided by a local bluegrass band! Not only was their music excellent, they spent a little time telling us about how they hand-made their instruments!
Lots of new Twitter friends! – One undercurrent to the conference was an emphasis on encouraging educators to try out Twitter as a way of connecting with other educators outside one’s typical network. Here are some of them: Irvin Scott, Tracy Spires, James Herman, Will Sheets, Derek Hinkle, Melissa Sheets, Connie Cunningham, and Sara Beardsley! Also, check out the OACTeach Chat hashtag (#OACTeach) on Twitter!
New Perspectives – One of my favorite parts of presenting “Five Rules of Design Thinking to Reach All Students” is hearing what the workshop participants do with the material. I feel like I’m doing a good job as a presenter when I learn something new from the workshop. Modeling the process of being a “facilitator of learning” rather than being a “gatekeeper of facts” is important for me when I present to teachers.
The ECET2 “conference model” is intentionally different. It blends some aspects of traditional conferences with some of the “grass roots” level appeal of EdCamp. The result was a fun, informative, and eventful time spent by teaches, for teachers, and with teachers. When teachers spend time out of the classroom, this is an effective way to spend that time.