Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reflections on the Montreal #GAFEsummit

Yesterday and today, I had the privilege to attend and speak at the Google Apps for Education Summit in Montreal, Quebec. A full weekend devoted to learning, connecting, collaborating, and sharing. After reflecting on the weekend, and obsessing about how I'm going to change things up in my classroom, here are some thoughts about what made this event the single most empowering, inspiring professional development event of my life.
Image: EdTech Team

The culture at the event was warm, inviting, and positive.

No matter who you were, what you knew, or how you felt before this event, I believe that every single participant felt the power of the culture of learning that permeated this event. Every single person, from the magnificent and inspiring presenters like Jenny Magiera (@MsMagiera on Twitter), down to the people I had a chance to get to know quickly from a passing comment in the hall, could feel the "Edu Love" (to steal a phrase from my own personal inspiration Tanya Avrith - @edtechschools on Twitter). It was a place where learning is celebrated, risk taking is encouraged, and failure is okay.

Respect for ourselves, each other and our commitment to our profession was clear.

Image: OpenClipart
You could see respect among attendees evident in the conversations, the smiles, and each session was about becoming better at what we do. Not just becoming better at teaching, but at reaching our students and leading them to discover and share our excitement about learning. Knowledge is a powerful thing, and encouraging students to believe that they can learn empowers them. I know I feel incredibly empowered this evening, thinking about all the new things I can now do, or new things that I've seen that I can't yet do, but I will be able to when the time comes to learn how.

These are people who understand what the future holds.

No, they're not clairvoyant. They won't pick tomorrow's lottery numbers or make a fortune in the stock market. They can see that the future will require people to be equipped with the techniques to adapt, to innovate, and to collaborate in new and exciting ways. If we want to teach those skills, we need to practice them, understand them, encourage them, and live them. Without a doubt, every single person that I had the opportunity to meet this weekend gets it.

I have friends.
Image: OpenClipart

I don't mean buddies to go watch the game. I don't mean people who will "like" my status on facebook. My friends are not limited by where we live, what we earn, or how we look. I have friends who share my vision, my enthusiasm and my passion for doing the best we can. My friends have high standards. My friends are not content with the way things are. My friends see the way things could be, and they are working hard to create change in the world. My friends are sharing what they do, not for publicity, but out of a genuine desire to make education better. My friends are smart, creative, talented, funny, supportive, and unique. And my friends lift me up. They make me more than I would be without them.

And finally, what stuck with me the most was this:


We need to keep doing what we're doing, because what we're doing will change the world.

Pretty grand announcement, I know. But I truly believe this. By innovating, reflecting, and redesigning what education means and how it operates, we will give our students new tools for success in a new world. By thinking critically about what we do and how we do it, we can create change at the most fundamental and important level of our society: how we raise our children.

Thanks to the EdTech Team for putting on a great event. I can't wait until the next one!

To everyone who was at the event: keep tweeting, blogging, sharing, talking, and innovating. You are the change - be who you want the world to become.