When Garth and I go to conferences it is always a bit of a culture shock. It isn't that we are out of touch with the happenings of education, or that we are amazed by revolutionary new ideas, its just that the world tends to shrink when you are a teacher. What I mean is that we spend so much time in the community in which we teach, in the same building, same classroom, same people, same ideas that I often loose sight of how things are outside my district. This shock must be worse for other teachers and administrators whom never collaborate with people from other districts like Garth and I. Most teachers will still tell you that common planning, common assessment and department meetings is a great form of collaboration. Truth is that these are great forms of collaboration; just ten years ago. Working with a teacher or a department within your school is as homogenous a group as you can get. Even if your opinions and knowledge differ (which hopefully they do, you are still so connected by the politics of your particular district that real change/growth is nearly improbable.
Garth and I were able to hang out with some great minds in education. Tim Sisson from the University of Akron and TJ Houston, technology director of Huron Public Schools. Not only are they from different geographic locations, they have very different jobs than Garth and myself. Tim works at the university level and TJ lives in the land of administration. What was enjoyed and gained from conversation with these two guys was far more valuable than any static session eTech may have offered. Garth and I also talked with Eric Curts, technology director at North Canton City Schools and Jeremy Brueck with e-read Ohio. Jeremy is currently working on a PhD concerning technology and curriculum in early grades and he was gracious enough to share the philosophical views that support his doctoral work.
TJ, Tim, Garth and I spent a good eight hours eating, laughing and philosophizing. It was the single best professional development I have had since BLC11. What was discussed, dissected, thrown out, created and fixed in those few hours around C-Bus makes me a better teacher. Now some of you may find it hard to believe that professional development could happen in a parking garage or over some fried pickles, but it really makes much more sense than mandatory PD. The four of us where in a comfortable setting and stumbled onto conversation from mutual colleagues. The most important part of PD should be to interact with different people. People in different subjects, professions and regions. Hopefully at eTech 2013 we can meet back up to rehash old conversations, talk about personal/professional growth over the year and continue to grow as learners.