I hope this is the beginning. I hope the #LEA2011 hashtag is just the beginning. I hope the backchannel conversation that took place on twitter last week at the 2011 LEA Convocation is the start of making a good convocation even better. I had a blast, I truly enjoyed myself, and I was not ready to leave on Saturday morning. However, there is room for improvement, which I hope will go into effect at the 2014 Convocation. I hope that the conversation that took place will encourage LEA to make some changes. The backchannel conversation was amazing and during the convocation it even grew. In less than 72 hours, multiple Lutheran educators were joining twitter and joining the backchannel. Even now, 2 days after the Convocation ended, new educators continue to join the conversation. This is a step in the right direction for Lutheran education.
NETWORKING: The best part of the convocation was the networking and fellowship that took place over twitter, in sessions, in the hallways, at the tweetup, and in the hotels. The unique part of an LEA Convocation is the chance to worship, pray, sing, and laugh with one another. I am confident that LEA will always give us opportunities to have fellowship at these convocations and I know Lutheran schools will continue to attend because of that focus.
Seeing old (or future) colleagues, meeting new friends, and sharing learning experiences with 2600 Lutheran educators has provided with me with many great memories. . At the Thursday night tweetup at Rock Bottom Brewery we had 40 people enjoying an evening together. Lutheran educators from Missouri, Colorado, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, and Indiana enjoyed great conversations and great company. Dave Black said it best when he tweeted this comment out shortly after the conference was over:
Using Twitter for education is an even richer experience after our tweetup at #lea2011
PRESENTING: I had the opportunity to present twice at the Convocation and I am very grateful to LEA for giving me that opportunity. In my first session, “Twitter for Teachers,” I was very excited to present the great professional development opportunities through twitter to a roomful of people that included so many former, current, and future colleagues. I was honored that they attended my session. I also had a great experience presenting “Online Student Collaboration” with three of my current colleagues, Amanda Helmkamp, Kara Cornejo, and Kendra Gilmore. I am very proud of all three of them and their ministry and service to Lutheran education. I was honored to present with all of you. In both sessions, I sensed a hunger from the participants to learn about how technology can help them as educators, both professionally and with their instruction. We must keep teaching our teachers how to use technology and to encourage them to try new ways to integrate it into their instruction.
OBSERVATIONS: I attended the ASCD Annual Conference immediately after the LEA Convocation, and after attending both I am trying to determine what the similarities and differences are between the two conferences. In some ways it is like comparing apples and oranges. ASCD has resources well beyond what LEA has to offer for a conference, so it is not easy to make comparisons. I think Lutheran educators would benefit, and need, more professional development opportunities that revolve around 21st Century Learning, Problem-Based Learning, technology, collaboration, student engagement, etc. I would like to see LEA work toward offering more sessions aimed to meet that need. However, in fairness, I think LEA faces a challenge that a non-parochial conference does not necessarily face. Lutheran schools must place a large amount of focus, time, and resources on student retention, recruitment, development, and marketing. I commend LEA for providing some sessions that focus on instruction. I also commend LEA for providing some sessions that focus on enrollment, retention, and well, just surviving as a parochial school. I wonder though, if we can offer more of both types of sessions?
GENERAL: For the most part, I thought the general assemblies were well done. The Skit Guys were hilarious and Leonard Sweet was very encouraging and supportive of 21st Century Learning and Instruction. I previously asked if we could offer more for the participants. I think one consideration is to eliminate one of the general assemblies. By doing that, more sessions could be added. Another way to offer more flexibility would be to shorten the sessions, or have some sessions that are 75 minutes long and some sessions that are 50 minutes long. Perhaps even an unconference format during one point of the Convocation would be a fresh experience to introduce. In the future wifi is a must. There are two main reasons for allowing participants to stay connected. First, any presentation that involves technology is not as effective without an Internet connection. Second, as was proven last week, the backchannel can be a powerful thing. Wifi allows participants to be a part of the conversation in a much more efficient way. (By the way, it was great to have so many people participating in the backchannel who were NOT at the conference).
I am excited about the possibilities for the 2014 LEA Convocation. I hope to see the same networking and fellowship taking place in 3 years, as well as some changes that will make the Convocation an enriching experience for all Lutheran educators.
If you attended the conference, what did you learn? What will you share? What will you remember?