Monday, February 23, 2015

What I Learned in San Diego (Besides a Love of Mole Sauce)

There are moments in our professional year that annually produce an opportunity to refocus, reflect, and reengage. In my professional life, the NASSP Ignite Conference is an (if not the) annual professional event that most recharges my professional battery. This year's offering in San Diego was no different. I walked away feeling renewed in the mission of serving the school community, focusing on learning, building lasting environments for creation and collaboration, and connecting our community of learners. In the next several paragraphs I am going to attempt to summarize my learning takeaways.

Takeaway #1: Learning Does Not Always Happen in 75 Minute Blocks
I chose to start with this takeaway because it comes with a mea culpa of sorts - I failed to attend more than one complete session during the conference. Two reasons: 1) I was very busy with my own presentation schedule and found it difficult to balance; and 2) the EdCamp model of moving between sessions has become a part of my learning culture. However, I don't leave San Diego feeling as if I missed out on something or failed to learn. Instead, I leave San Diego with a clear belief that professional learning does not fit neatly into scheduled blocks. There was plenty of learning that took place outside the scheduled windows of sessions. Informal conversations, Twitter exchanges, dinner discussions, and hallway introductions produced a number of opportunities to engage other leaders and to learn.

Takeaway #3: The EdCamp Model Rocks!
I am a dedicated EdCamper having taken part in over 15 as of this week. There is a reason I keep going works for how I learn. What added affirmation of the power of the EdCamp model was the organic growth that was witnessed at EdCamp NASSP. We started with roughly 80 registered participants. By the end of the day we were WAY beyond that. During Session 1 the Twitter feed was on fire with EdCampers sharing resources, posting reflections, and sharing the wisdom of each room. As the Twitter stream caught fire there was a visible growth in the participant group. People were leaving their original agendas and heading to EdCamp for the remaining sessions. The learning was too strong to ignore and the organic nature of the event made everyone an active learner.

Takeaway #3: Connection Makes Learning Stronger
I have long credited my growth and fortune as a leader on my level of connectedness. The NASSP Conference is made up of amazing school leaders and I am fortunate to call many of the rockstars my friends. Connection has introduced me to these rockstar leaders and their willingness to share their wisdom to benefit my students and school never ceases to amaze me. I had the privilege of reconnecting with some of my closest connected colleagues in Dwight Carter, Daisy Dyer Duerr, Jimmy Casas, Jason Markey, Joe Mazza, Eric Sheninger, Derek McCoy, and Dan Kelley as well as connecting for the first time personally with leaders like Dennis Schug, Dan McCabe, Erik Buckholtz, Bill Ziegler, and John Bernia. Together, we not only improve each other's capacity as leaders; we also improve the capacity of the schools we serve.

Takeaway #4: Remind is a GREAT Company
This shoutout may not be a traditional takeaway, but Remind deserves their own space. They not only provided some great swag for EdCamp but also did an amazing job of engaging the leaders they met in San Diego in conversations centered on learning. Often in education companies are focused on profit (hi, Pearson) or brand; Remind is focused on learning and that is why they are rockstars!

Takeaway #5: Leaders See the Need for Meaningful Digital Leadership
In my travels between sessions I stopped by a number of session rooms to see where the people were. Attendance in sessions often tells the story of the learning culture of a conference. In past years I noticed that many session were equally filled. This year was different. The session focused on digital leadership were PACKED! Sessions in the Tech Studio and Learning Labs focused on digital learning were standing room only. The message was clear in San Diego - today's leaders recognize the need to be active and effective digital leaders in their schools.

Takeaway #6: All Conferences Should Be in San Diego
I am just going to leave a few photos for this one...