The world is watching (and contributing)

On Sunday, at the end of the last day of EduCon, I attended a phenomenal session.

Wait — that’s wrong. It was not a “session” — that’s not how we do things at EduCon — it was a conversation, with multiple voices, not a one-way dissemination of information.

And I did not merely “attend” — I contributed, as did the other people in the room (we even had a remote contributor from California).

So let me start over, because as we discussed during our conversation, words matter.

On Sunday, the last conversation at EduCon, I had the privilege of contributing to a phenomenal conversation led by my good friends Megan Howard and Jill Gough.


I came to the session because Jill and Megan are smart, thoughtful folks. What they did, aside from facilitate a great conversation, was to be flexible and pull in two leading educators to enrich the conversation — one local, one from California.

Before the presentation even started, Megan apparently talked with David Jakes, who agreed to add his wisdom to the conversation.  Here’s what Megan wrote on Twitter:


If you could click that link at the bottom of Megan’s tweet, here’s what you would see:


Let’s break this down — Jill and Megan decided their session would be enhanced by letting David Jakes read this thoughtful piece he’d just written at EduCon, titled Words Matter: Report Card.

Megan was thoughtful enough to add David’s name to her printed program, giving him space to do something that was new for him — read his words aloud. That set a great participatory tone, and showed how, at EduCon, there are no presenters and session attendees — everyone contributes to the learning conversation. Megan and Jill chose the topic, brought in sample report cards/progress reports for us to look at through a “gallery walk” that got us moving, and invited contributions from the group.

The second remarkable thing Jill and Megan did, which happened organically and represents so much that is wonderful and thoughtful about EduCon, was pay attention to Twitter.

From Twitter, they learned that Grant Lichtman, in California, was following their conversation:


Megan and Jill apparently contacted Grant and asked if he would mind taking notes as he listened from California (he’s a phenomenal note-taker because he captures the essence of what people are saying). They casually mentioned that Grant was taking notes in a shared Google Doc. They said this so matter-of-factly that I thought they’d worked out that arrangement with Grant well in advance of EduCon.

Here’s how this jazz-style collaboration came into being, from the vantage point of Grant’s Twitter stream:

(for those new to Twitter, read from the bottom up to get the Tweets in chronological order):


Our EduCon conversation was streamed live (that’s how Grant was able to contribute) but it was also recorded and it’s posted on YouTube, so you can check out the conversation for yourself.  It runs about 90 minutes.

Below is a picture of the notes that Grant started from California (others have added to the notes as well), available in full in this shared Google Doc.  These notes give you a flavor of some of the topics we discussed:


And if you want to see the section where David reads his piece, at the 30-minute mark, you can jump right to that point in the video.

Finally, we were fortunate to have a high school senior (not from SLA but from another school in Philadelphia) also join us. He made stellar contributions, as noted on Jill’s Twitter stream:


His contributions were also appreciated by conversation participant Shelley Paul:


This conversation showed how, when you’re learning about a topic in a group, you can involve people from all over the room (such as David Jakes) and from all over the world (such as Grant Lichtman), using tools as simple as Twitter and Google Docs.

* * *

Video Process Point: For those who want to jump to a certain point in a YouTube video, here’s a cool trick that works on most videos (you can’t usually skip the ads):

The URL for the conversation is

The URL is used above is

By adding #t=XmYs to the end of any URL of a YouTube video, you can start the video at the X minute and Y second mark.  In this case, I plugged in 30m25s


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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2 Responses to The world is watching (and contributing)

  1. MPNEngaged says:

    Reblogged this on mpnENGAGED and commented:
    The kind of flexibility seen here is amazing. The spontaneous learning quite profound.

  2. Not your typical college minute promo during a football game halftime break, but worth every second!

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