Having just been to my first unconference, I'm still buzzing with the energy, collaboration, disagreement and accord. It wasn't easy, or comfortable, but it was relevant, and it was VERY ENERGIZING.
This week I head to one of my favourite not un-conferences, ECOO. This is the conference that got me onto twitter, got me building pln, got me blogging, got me into so many different ideas around technology in the classroom that it has changed my practice, it's a fantastic piece of work. It's also the first conference I ever presented at, and I'm presenting there again this year. ECOO works for me on so many levels, but this year I'm worried about the linchpin to the whole thing: the keynote addresses.
This year, as in other years, they've trotted up American presenters who, for the most part, present a consistent polemic of fear, anxiety and need for radical change. It's all very exciting, and radical, and urgent, and necessary, if you're in America. In the U.S. they've demonized the teaching profession (and public service jobs in general), gutted public education (and services in general) and done everything in their power to privatize what's left. In the process they are astonished that they've become uncompetitive.
What I fear is going to happen at ECOO is that two Americans are going to stand up and quote American statistics at us (again), while urging us to throw out everything we're doing and radically revise our failing education system. Ah, the polemics of fear and upheaval; what happens when you let short term business interests (there are no other) run your society.
Except, of course, the Canadian education system isn't failing, it's fantastic. We graduate more students, reach more with special needs and do it at a higher rate than almost any other human society on earth. We have to keep working at it as hard as we have to keep it at the front, but throwing out everything we've done only works for a system that's in tatters, like the U.S. system.
I live in hope that the keynotes will actually research what they are walking in to and not treat us like a 51st state (again). If they don't, expect some snippy back channel comments come Thursday morning. I'm prepared to defend what we have done and what we are doing, it's important.
I've already had to go through this once this year (at great cost to my board), I'm going to lose patience doing it again.
Note: The speakers were fantastic, taking an audience participation approach, heavily using technology (when the hotel internet would work... I thought private business was supposed to be all masterful with this stuff), and emphasizing what we are doing right, rather than what the US is doing wrong. Well done all.