The Power of Connections

Late Saturday night, I returned home from #FETC (Future of Education Technology) conference after spending 4 days in warm Orlando, Florida.  This is Florida’s EdTech Conference and I was so impressed with the number of educators from all around the state.  Also impressive was the large number of educators from other states and abroad.  This conference had over 8,000 attendees, hundreds of sessions and presentations and so many exhibitor booths I couldn’t even begin to estimate!

As I get older and more experienced in my EdTech Coach role, I am finding that the sessions touting the best apps in a certain number of minutes or the newest tool just don’t appeal to me any more.  I want depth of knowledge!  I know there is a place for these sessions and there are folks who benefit greatly from hearing these ideas.  I find that many of the sessions have similar topics that I’ve heard before, and I hope I don’t sound snobby for saying this!  I’ve been attending conferences and PD like this for years – I’m HUNGRY to learn more and tend to join in as quickly as I can to give something new a try.

However for me, I keep thinking of something the legendary Tim Stahmer said to me years ago – the best learning at conferences often happens in the hallways!  I found this to be really very true at #FETC.

I connected in-person with educators from my #PLN that I’ve only met online before.  I walked up to a woman I knew had to be Tammy Neil, based on the sound of her voice!  (Thank goodness it was her!  That would have been embarrassing!)

The connections and conversations were so powerful! We talked about everything and anything from our experiences with Google Expeditions, Standards Based Grading, Sketchnoting, 1:1 Work in our Schools, and so much more.

I met and connected with some real life Edu Rock Stars – and yes, I feel like a nerd for even typing that! But these authors and educators who share their stories freely, open themselves up to conversation and questions and respond to many of us any time we reach out are really moving education and our practice forward.

We met up for lunch one day with other folks from #EduMatch.

And during our poster session, Kendra and I were able to chat with so many educators from around the country about using Twitter for our PD.

During lunch on the last full day we sat down with 3 educators from Minnesota that we hadn’t met yet.  We had a fabulous conversation about the work being done in our district around standards based grading.  One thing that really stuck out to me was when it was said “Our teachers feel like they are the only ones doing this work – being asked to change their practice” and here we were, sitting with educators from Toronto, South Carolina, Virginia and Minnesota, all sharing the same story.  That is powerful.

Now, how can we replicate this experience to help our teachers feel the power of the #PLN?

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