During my undergrad years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, I was a member of a fraternity. People have different connotations for the prototypical "frat guy," but I didn't see myself as one of the privileged, cocky, and boisterous individuals that are often portrayed on television and in movies. What I remember most from that experience was the immense sense of belonging that I felt. The community that I was tied to included not only my particular fraternity, locally and internationally, but also to the larger Greek system on my campus. I felt an unspoken connection between myself, my fraternity brothers, even members of other fraternities. Like many societies, secret or not, there is comfort in belonging.
I connect and reflect on that experience because it most closely relates to feelings that were conjured up during my recent experience at InstructureCon in Keystone, Colorado. For 3 days, I was part of a group of like-minded, positive educators and thought-leaders from a variety of locations and backgrounds that shared a common vision – making teaching and learning experiences more closely resemble the way that people communicate and learn today, while preparing them for a future that is unknown. The reason that this was such a moving experience was that, for 3 days, I did not feel like I was part of the minority, by which I mean part of a relatively small segment in the profession that seems to share my disposition about the role that technology should play in education. In some ways, it does feel like a "secret society". We don't lurk in the shadows nor do we have a secret handshake, but we recognize and are drawn to others that are part of this community. Sometimes it is through something they say, how they talk to others, things that they Tweet or just through the vibe that they emit.
Events such InstructureCon are so critical to continuing the mission that we are an integral part of. Without opportunities to think differently, challenge the status quo, and learn from others' experiences, there is a significant risk that the approach to teaching and learning will not change and we will continue to produce graduates that do not possess the skills necessary to thrive, let alone survive, in the world that awaits them.
In my role as an eLearning Specialist, there are many times that I feel like I am alone as I fight this uphill battle for our kids, my own included. Then, I take a step back and realize that I am not alone. There are others on my amazing team that feel the same way. Then, there teachers out there, putting theory into practice every day, no matter how challenging it is. The RCS NextGen Leadership Cadre is just such a group of teachers that are taking risks and tolerating failures, both big and small, because they truly believe that the lasting success that their students will experience will greatly overshadow the momentary failure. Beyond my school district and its visionary leaders, there are others in my region that gather, collaborate, and help each other pursue the mission. Finally, on the national and international stage, there are events like InstructureCon that feel more like a family reunion than a typical conference. Even though we all don't know each other, it feels like family because we are all connected by our passions, professions, and philosophies.
To Instructure, I am thankful that you value your customers enough to create such an amazing production for educators, from Kindergarten to Higher Ed. To the amazing keynotes and presenters, most of whom are mere mortals that are working with students every day, thank you for your insights and sharing your experiences. To Richmond Community Schools, thank you for valuing me enough to send me as well as my colleagues out to forage for the key ideas, innovations, and skills that we can bring back to share with our staff. Finally, to the group that truly became my family for 3 days, I want to thank Richard, Tim, Joani, Melody, Kathy, Hunter, Mike, Joanna, and Megan for making the experience so amazing. From Hack night to the Cadre's outstanding presentation and everything in between, InstructureCon 2017 will remain fixed in my memory for many years to come.