Tales from Camp, v.1

I just spent a week at camp! Specifically, a summer learning camp funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education and the Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE) through the GAINS initiative. I was at Math Camppp – not a typo, the three ‘p’s represent the precision, personalization and professional learning referenced in the book Breakthrough by Fullan, Crevola and Hill. Our camp was located on the sunny shores of Lake Simcoe at the Kempenfelt Conference Centre in Barrie, Ontario. A Literacy Camppp was hosted a few hours away, in Parry Sound, Ontario.

Over the next few entries I’ll post some of my reflections and insights related to some narrow themes (like the current state of mathematics education in Ontario), and some broader ones (like the role of technology and social networks, what constitutes juicy professional learning and the zero sum game of over valuing LITERACY over literacies.)

Across the Water, Over the Land and Through the Air

Math Camppp (#mathcamppp) was a face to face and online gathering of over 200 K-12 classroom teachers, district personnel and school administrators from across Ontario. Our focus was on exploring the concept of proportional reasoning through an emphasis on developing conceptual understanding of important math through problem solving. As we gathered together on the first night a few of us were delighted to see some of our tweeps f2f for the first time. We were quite sight, clustered around the buffet, handhelds out, the Geek Brigade assembled. Over the course of the week, the diverse dots of my PLN were connected, often with the facilitation support of tweeps from around the province (and beyond) thanks to @TechieAng and @r_o_y_a_n.

By the third day, we  were connecting with our tweeps from the other camppp in Parry Sound through some common followers. By Friday morning, we were tweeting highlights from Alec Couros (@courosa) and Marian Small’s (@MarianSmall) between the sites, sharing common messages and making connections around the key messages and big ideas. This, of course, is not novel or unique. There are any number of mediated professional learning experiences that occur on a regular basis within and across social networks.

And that is my point:  it is evident that we are in the midst of a wonderful shift in education and we have social networks to thank (or blame). No longer are passionate, innovative educators just left to the often harsh whims of the learning culture within the four walls of their school, they (we) have the choice to access a support network of  professionals from around the world. They challenge us, they fill our buckets and they expand our horizons.

A true learning community is build upon trust, common purpose and the belief that every idea is improvable. We also know that, as Richard Elmore says, “Isolation is the enemy of improvement.”  Are we seeing, through social network, the breakthrough that we though we would never see in school-based professional networks? Will these networks grow and sustain change? Will they impact learning in school-based networks positively or create even more tension? Thoughts, anyone?

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