It’s OK That One Size Doesn’t Fit All!

Why are we trying to cookie cutter everything?

I just spent the weekend following the 2010 Reform Symposium Online Conference. You might have seen me tweeting a few resources and quotes from presenters using the conference hashtag #rscon10. This conference was organized by Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkely, Jason Bedell, and Chris Rogers, These were the moderators I saw pretty much in every session. If I left anyone off that list please accept my sincerest apologies. The presentations were delivered via the Elluminate platform and I was able to catch several presentations by some great education leaders such as Steve Hargadon, Nick Provenzano, Steve Anderson, Sylvia Tolisano, Paula White, Tom Whitby, and Sue Waters. If you missed the live version of any of these, please be sure to carve out some time and check out at least one or two. You won’t be disappointed.

A lot of you that are reading this probably attended at least one session of the Reform Symposium. Whether you attended just one session or every single one I hope you learned a lot, even if it was just one new tool, strategy, or a boost of support for the upcoming school year. In my opinion, if you gleaned one thing from one session, it was worth the time. I was excited to hear so many people speak. Some of which I have heard in person, some I’d never heard present face to face or virtually, and some of the presenters I call good friends.

I’m not quite sure where to start with the point of this post to be honest. I’m already fearing that from this point on that it’s going to sound like a rant. To a degree I’m ok with that.  I’ll try my best to not let it sound like one too much. However, I have a bit of a beef. A bone to pick I guess. I’m not going to call out anyone by name of course, because while there are individuals that began my thinking on this post, I still respect these people for the work they’ve done and the work they continue to do.

This has to do with some conversation around the conference hashtag mentioned above. From what I understood and observed in a couple of instances (tweets), the Reform Symposium wasn’t enough about reform in education. I don’t know if this was because these individuals were looking for the actual word “reform” to be used more often, or because the ideas were not radical enough or fresh enough in their opinion. I’m not really sure. However, there was one conversation I observed that really was burned into my brain. First a tweet was sent out about one of the tools that was taught during the session going on at that moment. Apparently it wasn’t high-end enough for a conference called the Reform Symposium for this person. Then one of the conference organizers sent out a tweet in response and asked this person if they were actually in the Elluminate session at that moment or if they were just following the hashtag. This person’s immediate response was, “Wouldn’t waste my time.” I wanted to immediately reply and express how disappointed I was in their firing back of such a response so quickly. I felt the comment was a low blow for those that have put in so much time from their already busy lives organizing the conference and making it a reality and also for the current presenter as well as the numerous others.

I don’t think I would have been disappointed as much if it had come from anyone else. Again, I respect this person. It’s a person I’ve seen present in person and been able to have casual conversation with. Even as I started my journey in which I get to travel and present at conferences and provide workshops for teachers in others parts of the country, this person provided me guidance and offered advice.

You know what, I would have been disappointed that someone could have cut something down so quickly regardless what kind of contributor they were to my PLN.

How could one respond with “Wouldn’t waste my time,”? It shocked me. Well I know you saw it as a waste of your time, but I know a lot of other people that didn’t. To refer back to the title of my post, since when has reform been about making things one size fits all? Why are we trying to “cookie cutter” professional development? I hope that it’s safe to say that this person was in the minority during the entire weekend the Reform Symposium took place. Were there tools and resources shared that I’d heard before? Of course there was. That happens everywhere, whether the conference be virtual or face to face. As I said, I’ve seen this person present before and even then there were some components of the presentation I had heard about before. I didn’t throw my hands up and walk out saying, “What a waste of my time!” Instead I see it through the lens of, “Yeah so I know this tool already, but I hope to learn a new way to share it with teachers or with students!” I would say the great majority of the time I do. I learn something new. I don’t ever want to be at the place where I think, “Nah I’m good I think I’m done learning now.” It’s exciting! Isn’t this is what reform in education should be about? Offering lots of avenues, tech related or not, for us to grow as educators and ultimately bring about a positive impact on students? What’s significant in a session, virtual or otherwise, isn’t the same for me as it is for anyone else. What brings about reform in my district isn’t what bring reform in another. It’s not one size fits all. I would have expected more from this person.

I was invited to present at the Reform Symposium. I was bummed to turn down my first opportunity to present virtually. However, it just didn’t work out due to previous commitments. If there’s another I hope I am invited again to present. If the Reform Symposium wasn’t enough about “reform” for the other party, I expect to see them make presentations next time as well. I know they’ll be welcome. I’ll be anxious to see a presentation that meets their expectation of reform.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your insight.

4 thoughts on “It’s OK That One Size Doesn’t Fit All!”

  1. I too was bothered by some negative chat during a few sessions, but I could only be bothered for a moment since what I was seeing and hearing is Reform to a T. It takes each of us, one tool, one resource at a time, to an audience of thousands or an audience of 1 to move forward. I don’t mind the pace of Reform or the necessity to repeat things ad nauseam. I’m excited when an idea catches hold and we’re all learning together, at our own pace, without a cookie cutter in sight. Thanks for the post!

  2. I know the person and tweets to which you are referring. The tweet, and I’m paraphrasing, said something to the effect of: I would’ve expected something more than Glogster from something named the Reform Symposium. I was offended at first. I have a thick skin; I take criticism well and take very little personally. However, I felt that was an insult to a qualified and dedicated educator who was presenting as well as to all the hard work that Chris, Shelly, and Kelly put into planning. Furthermore, he was not even in the session at all. I started to write something sarcastic (I am much better at not utilizing this natural skill with my students.), but I saw that Chris handled the situation much more tactfully and professionally than I would have. I took a step back and decided to give the gentleman the benefit of the doubt and recognize that one poor tweet should not discredit an educational career. It does show, though, how careful we need to be with our online reputations.
    I was not following this person beforehand, although I have seen him in discussions before, so I do feel as though I know him well. While he did have at least 1 positive thing to say later on in the conference, I do not feel that it was professional behavior. Criticism is fine when it serves to help people grow. That was not the case here and his point seemed only to insult. I would be happy to reassess later. I do fully admit the possibility that his comment would have come across differently if it were said in person. It is hard to tell if something was meant jokingly in 140 characters.
    What we set out to do was help educators to better serve their students. A great number of educators of all different experience levels participated; if we helped any of them grow in any area, then we did help to “reform” education. Our job is not done, but judging by the tweets, discussion, and blog posts, many people felt like the Reform Symposium did help them grow.

  3. Although I’m sorry I missed the session, I think a comment like this is way off base. We can’t assume that all teachers know how to use Glogster or any other Web 2.0 app, for that matter. At my school, I know I’m one of 50 teachers who know Glogster.

    If I thought like the negative commenters, I’d never post a new video to Learn it in 5. People obviously need to learn these things or they wouldn’t be viewing the vids and they wouldn’t be attending the symposium. We got over 53,000 page views in just our second month, so people definitely want to learn these simple Web 2.0 tools.

    I know Glogster and many of the other things that were scheduled at the Symposium, but I would have attended all of it if possible and will go back and view as much as I can. As educators, we are never too expert.

    I was part of a wonderful onine conference by @KellyHines a few days ago. I had experience with virtually every app she showed, but I learned a little more that I can use later about each.

    The sort of narrow mindedness expressed in the comment mentioned here is what hurts education.

    Thanks to all of the producers of the Symposium and to you Kyle for your thoughts here.

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