I recently attended EduTech in Brisbane, Australia’s largest education technology conference with 4 colleagues from my school. It was a great opportunity to join likeminded educators from all over Australia to share and engage in ideas delivered by highly respected professionals and some legends of our time. These speakers are continuing to shape learning in Australian schools and across the globe.
Perusing the programme, I knew exactly who I did and did not want to see. Being connected through twitter, watching TEDtalks regularly, reading educational commentary and blogs means that the names of keynotes and many of the workshop presenters were very familiar to me. This is where I began to wonder, is being too familiar with these ideas and stories and attending these events robbing others who may benefit more from the experience?
Sitting amongst a sea of educators in anticipation of the first keynote, Sugatra Mitra, it was not hard to be excited. I had seen his TEDtalk, read many of the articles and responses to the Hole in the Wall Project, I had even read and tweeted Edna Sackson’s (@whatedsaid) recent post about his visit to her classroom. Needless to say I had a fairly good understanding of Sugatra’s message. Then I sat and listened to stories I had already heard, ideas I already believed and opportunities I believe children deserve. It was difficult to tweet anything to contribute to the dialog that I hadn’t already discussed. It was a challenge to discuss with my peers, ideas that I had not already processed and I thought, how very privileged and spoilt I am! Three years ago, this keynote would have been incredibly inspiring, motivating and uplifting, but yet I felt a smidgen of disappointment. Being connected to an amazingly rich and diverse PLN online has led to an abundance of information and sharing that many of my peers currently do not access.
Why should I continue to have these opportunities at the expense of others? Why shouldn’t the likes of “me three years ago” be given the opportunity to be inspired instead?
Whilst sharing a taxi with Dan Haesler on our way to the airport, I asked Dan, whether he thought it is a waste for the already converted to be attending these events. We briefly discussed the obvious benefits and the challenges we face getting the “unconverted” to make the most of the events and how the financial investment is also a consideration. In the short ride we really didn’t come to any solid conclusion, but to suggest that it would be preferable to take a mixture of “newbies” and “converts”. So part of my responsibility having my school invest in such liberties, is to ensure that I make sure my experience at the conference develops into something more than just a “takeaway” and perhaps open the door for others to access these ideas.