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Reflecting on EdcampIdaho

On the eve after a super inspiring #EdcampIdaho I feel tired enough to sleep, but somehow I can't turn off my thoughts. So I guess I'll blog. 

When the alarm went off at 5AM on Thursday, the day before EdcampIdaho, something other than the early wake up had me in an anxious state of mind. You know, when something you have anticipated for a long time has finally arrived, and at that very moment you get that combination of butterflies and some introspective thinking? I oftentimes wonder if I am unique in this way or of others experience this. But for a few moments, as I quietly got ready for a trip that would take me away from my family, including my new daughter for the first time, some random thoughts entered my brain. 

Am I really making a difference in my job? 
Will this trip be worth the time, money, effort, and time away from loved ones? (Thank you Dave Guymon for the great discussions on this btw)
Am I in over my head? 
Is education really "broken"? Can we really make a difference? 
How am I going to get things ready for the upcoming school year? 
How can I be better at my job? 
Do I know enough to contribute to some of the best and brightest educators in Idaho? 

Anxious excitement. Anxcitement. Call it what you wish, but I think it is a result of our brains knowing that some risks, challenges and stretching/growing opportunities are approaching. My response is to introspectively ponder questions and do some soul searching Eventually they calm down and I proceed to other tasks, but those first few hours of anticipation are surreal to me. 

I then proceeded to tell my wife goodbye (This never gets any easier) and drive 70+ miles to an airport. I then flew from Spokane to Seattle, followed by a change over and another flight from Seattle to Boise. That in itself was a trek, and I rarely travel alone, so it was more time to ponder the big (and little) picture questions of EdTech. I then hopped in a rental car and drove for 2.5 more hours to my destination: Hailey, Idaho. This was really happening. A year of planning, discussing, chatting, and organizing with some of the brightest, and most humble educators in Idaho was coming to fruition. #EdcampIdaho was upon us. 

For anyone who doesn't know what an Edcamp is, I highly recommend you check out the articles and information about them on the Internet. But more importantly I urgently encourage you to find one nearby and attend one. Basically an Edcamp is Professional Development that is 100% learner focused and remixed to create a fully engaged, collaborative day of sharing and learning. This wasn't my first experience with this "Unconference" model so I knew what was in store for those of us who were in attendance. I have to say that despite my confidently optimistic outlook, my expectations were still greatly exceeded! There is nothing like spending a day with passionate, willing learners. That's right, learners. Today we shared, laughed, debated, listened, and most importantly MODELED what we want for our students. 

But even though I could keep illustrating how powerful and authentic the learning experiences were today, I want to focus on something else. Some of the people I'm grateful and blessed to work and learn with. Because I think this is just as important as the professional learning that took place.

I want to start by saying that I have "known" Dave Guymon digitally for just under 2 years, but before this event, I had not met him face to face, unless you count a couple Google Hangouts. Dave is just as kind, bright, and funny as he is online, but his humility is what most greatly impacted me. I also appreciate Dave's devotion to his family. He also opened his new house to me for 2 days/nights and led us on several outings, despite living here for just a few weeks. Just this fellowship was worth the trip in itself. Thank you Dave. #makewayforthefuntray 

Marita Diffenbaugh is one of the most passionate EdTech advocates I know. She is also kind and also quite knowledgable in many areas of EdTech. I am inspired by how willingly Marita shares what she knows without looking for recognition or accolades. She is also a fantastic encourager and coach. Thank you Marita.

Tami Rigby is also every bit as easy to talk to as she is online. You can't be with Tami for more than a few minutes and not have her positive energy rub off onto you. It is rare to know someone for such a short time yet feel at ease talking to that person. Tami is one of those people. I am already looking forward to working alongside Tami again. Thank you Tami. 

Janet Avery is a multitasking machine and is always finding something positive to say. I know this to be true both online and in person. (see a pattern here with these exceptional people?) I was so impressed that Janet's husband and son joined her for this trip and both willingly helped and participated! Janet has been a big catalyst for #EdCampIdaho becoming a reality and I am inspired by her servant leadership. 

Tim Rocco was the ultimate host the last 2 days! He organized food, coffee, Tweetups, camp-outs, and much, much more. Much had to be done behind the scenes, and Tim spared no expense for all of us. From the technology infrastructure to make it all possible, to things like coffee (have I mentioned coffee yet?) and other things like willingly loaning sleeping bags, pillows, and more. I'm inspired by your leadership Tim, and I look forward to working and learning with you in the future. Thank you!

I am really grateful to get to work with you all.
Thank. You.

Of course there were so many other awesome people I learned with the last couple days, that it is impossible to list them all. But I'm grateful to now know Paul Zimmerman (hashtag teamandroid) better, and excited to share all things Android and EdTech with him in the future. I see some Google Hangouts in our future? #nerdalert And of course I can't leave out fellow North Idahoan and Vandal Jim Windisch. You really couldn't find a nicer guy than Jim and I admire him for making an extra special effort to attend! 

With all this being said, there is much for Idaho Educators to celebrate. Despite all the challenges we face today we took the time today to learn and share together in a way that was new to many. We learned about Project Based Learning, Google Apps for Education, Things that Suck, Blogging, BYOD, iPads, Grading/Assessment, and much more. But as exciting and important as those things are, I think the most important outcome of the day was that we modeled what we want learning to look like for our students. We stepped out of our comfort zones and willingly learned with and from each other. We used resources we found online and the vast and unique experiences we all bring to the table. We showed each other all the different ways we can connect and learn alongside one another and how we can make what we do even better. Your school districts, and students are all fortunate to have such bright, passionate, and dedicated educators! Today we showed Idaho that the way to improve what we do is to be #bettertogether. To connect online, share stories, help one another, and enjoy the journey. Way to go Idaho!

Those stretching questions that I had pondered early Thursday morning are already transforming into ideas, optimism, and drive. Today Dan Massimino said "the smartest person in the room... is the room." Boy was he right. I'm happy I get to return to my family tomorrow, but I'm also happy I made the trip. 


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