I’m a person who likes to observe others. I usually observe people’s idiosyncrasies but through that I learn more about them. This week I was at the state technology conference. Now last 3 “conferences” I attended were TN Teach Meet, Educon, and Edcamp Bham, so I almost had a hard time adapting to this conference. Not that it was a bad conference by any means, just different. So as I watched the attendees in my sessions and other sessions I attended I was noticing that you could almost categorize everyone into 3 groups. We talk often about life long learners and that is how we all should be as educators, I think everyone was there learning but the different levels of passion is what makes the difference.
The “Sprinkler” Learner: Remember summers as a kid and getting to play in the sprinkler? You would run though it and hope to get wet as the drops dripped on you. Is was a weird thing because you ran so you would not get wet, yet you wanted to be wet. This is the chick in my session talking on the phone in the back row of the session. (Actually this happened twice as I started sessions, gave them the teacher eye, works on adults btw) Sprinklers are at conferences, some PD, mostly for CEUs or because district sent them. Some may go technology conferences because they know education is changing, yet still intimidated or resistant. Some times conferences are overwhelming and there is a shut down mode. Either way, not a lot of learning or passion is happening here. It’s like the kids running through the sprinkler, going to sessions and Hoping information or new tools “fall on them” without getting them too wet. I am sure I really do not need to share the negatives of this, mostly there is a lot this person is missing. Not much growth is happening.
The “Wading” Learner: When kids and I go to pool, I’m notorious for begging them not to splash me and get my hair wet. I like to wade in the shallow or lounge on the floats. I’m cooling off in the water yet not making the commitment to look like a drowned rat. So the wading learner goes to conferences because he/she really want to learn something. They go in, take notes, focus mostly on sessions that teach tools they can turn around and immediately use. Nothing wrong with this at all, this is just the type of learner. Focus on the what can I use now. The problem with this, especially in the technology area, things change at a fast pace. It’s almost like ice cream for dinner, great at the moment but growling belly later. There is some passion for learning something new but that is the end of it. They will be at next PD or conference to learn something new – which is great – but no learning in between.
The “Cannonball” Learner: “And I need all of you to stop what you’re doing and listen. Cannonball!! *splash*” Everyone needs a visual of Ron Burgundy in his maroon skivvies. Cannonballs are fun, you not only get the jump into pool but you get to splash everyone else. This is the learner who goes to the sessions that focus on not just tools but how they increase student learning. Or stay after the session to ask how to get a twitter account, when the session was not about twitter. Or asks questions that get people thinking. Cannonballs love conversations on student learning, not griping about students. Their convos are on how to change things, not how things suck. These are the people who are at unconferences, on twitter, my PLN! This is what I am used to, biggest reason this conference threw me for a loop. Cannonballs are looking for ways to continue learning. This is where passion takes over. They cannot turn off the desire to become a better educator, learn more and more each day. This is where “life long learner” has real meaning.
I think I can pin-point a time in my life where I was each of these learners. Luckily I am pretty sure I am a “cannonball” right now. I have found my passion and love to jump in! My mom tells me every time we are at pool “Life is too short, get your hair wet!” I think that is a good motto, with education changing the way it is, it’s time more teachers get their hair wet!