Celebrating Education with #CoSN, #20toWatch, and 100 Posts

Tuesday, April 5, 20164:06 PM

This was a big week.

I spent the last three days in Washington, DC at #CoSN16, the annual conference for the Consortium of School Networking. This was not only my first national conference but I was there as a part of the National School Board Association's 2016 20 to Watch. For more on the program and winners, read the NSBA Press Release and my local Ossining Patch.

It was an honor and thrill to be recognized as a part of these 20 technology educators and leaders in the country, who really all blew my mind with their work and ideas. The intelligence, vision, and passion in the room wowed me as we shared our successes, challenges, and ideas. It was amazing to have the opportunity to connect with each and every one of the other honorees and to connect and learn throughout #CoSN.

On a personal level and as an educator, blogger, and professional, I made so many meaningful connections. I enjoyed talking with awesome people, like Jonathan Rochelle and Jaime Casap from Google, ISTE President Kecia Ray, NSBA's Anne Flynn, fellow #20toWatch honorees like Tom MurrayJon Corippo, my #njed buddy Regina Schaffer,  #edtechchat's Alex Podchaski, plus so many more.

Because of my trip, it's been a light week for blog posts but I have to recognize a Schoenblog celebration, too:

This is the my 100th post on this blog and my one year blogging anniversary is coming up on April 7.

In just under a year, I've written over 100 blog posts on this site and for a handful of others. To see some of my guest and featured posts, check out Adam's Guest Post Library. In that time, I think I've become a better writer. I know I've become a more consistent writer and blogger. I also think I've become a better educator and coach. Now I want to continue to refine and evolve, and to better define my niche. For now, that's become sharing stories of edtech and education from my classroom and practice, with the hopes that others can learn from or appreciate my successes and challenges. I hope to better define what that looks like tomorrow.

I had a lot to celebrate this week but it was also a conference experience that validated so many of the conversations I'm having in my professional circles and school--and you probably are, too. Hearing that these ideas and my work are so often aligned to national trends and shifts was empowering and validating. Despite the IT and Technology Director focus of #CoSN16, my experience was really a celebration of education. Below, I'll discuss some big take aways from the events, highlighting Tweets and images along the way.

1. Innovation, Iteration, and Creativity: Skills of Tomorrow

Every conversation that focused on concepts like 21st Century skills, student centered learning, or the #FuturReady initiative all came back to these three ideas. Provide opportunites for student to create personal learning experiences, value creativity, and foster a culture where failure is the first step in learning. As David Schuler said on Monday night, "If every pilot works, we're not pushing the envelope enough."

2. Digital Access, Equity, and Data: The Next Big Questions

Education is the great equalizer and technology should make that even more so, but unless all students and communities have access to technology, and schools do more to promote digital equity and citizenship, these gaps will never close. So many schools are doing great things with technology to transform education--or at least making efforts and progress towards change--but internet and device access is a non-negotiable. Data and security was another big theme of the conversations and keynotes; as we use more and more technology, third party services, and new platforms, who owns and protects the students' data and what are they doing with it? Before we can make transformational and organizational change in education, we need to do more to address these questions of privacy, of data, and of equity.

3. Information Technology vs. Educational Technology

CoSN is a conference that is clearly aimed towards technology directors and information officers so the focus on infrastructure, services, and security makes sense. But the #CoSNCamp was a fantastic opportunity to bridge the gap between information and instruction with an unconference schedule. This was my favorite part of the conference; At #CoSNCamp, I got to hide away my heavy briefcase under a tent, relax comfortably to enjoy the keynotes, and talk with Googlers and tech leaders around a campfire. It was great to balance the formality of the event with a little bit of #edcamp culture and meaningful discussions.

4. What can we ADD to our classrooms?

A lot of the conversations we had and the speakers I heard were positive and forward-thinking, and they often validated the great things that already go on in our schools. Jaime Casap summed it up for me when he described Google as providing technology solutions because "technology is there to support what great learning can be." He explained that education needs to evolve and change but it's not broken; it just needs to up updated to our current (and future) world and economy. Not everything in education is good--clearly--but we need to hold on to the good, the powerful, and the transformative ideas and then ask what we are missing.

I write this sitting on the Amtrack at Union Station, waiting to depart back home. It was exciting to attend a conference outside of my region and an honor to join the ranks of past #20toWatch winners. The experience has certainly made me eager for the next big learning opportunity. But for now, I'm excited to return to my classroom tomorrow. On Friday, I'll be at another conference, this time presenting at #LHRICTLI with my students Zoe, Mike, and Melanie, about their views on the 21st century classroom. Next week, we'll all blog about the experience.

What big education or #edtech conference should I attend next? What's your favorite conference experience? Why? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.

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