Friday, September 11, 2015

Play Time PD


EdCamp Tucson is tomorrow, Saturday September 12, 2015. Unlike many unconferences that I participate in this one’s practically in my backyard, only 90 minutes away. Usually I travel hundreds of miles to EdCamps. I reflect on what I might learn on the way there. On the trip home I reflect on how I might apply learnings to my instructional design practice.


A few PD (Professional Development) conferences ago, it might have been CUEROCKSTAR, I heard someone describe PD as play time. I’ve been thinking a lot about viewing PD as a fun enjoyable thing to do.

When I was a child I loved when Papa would take me to the park. His experience and mine while at the park were, I believe, a lot different. Sometimes he’d bring the newspaper to read. Other times he’d watch me for a while then kind of zone out and relax. He worked in a Kaiser steel mill feeding coke into a blast furnace. I can imagine what relaxing in the shade of a tree in a quiet place meant to him.

How I experienced park play time depended on who was there, too. Sometimes there were friends I would run around with. Other times, probably more often than not, there were kids I didn’t know that I could get to know, play with, and learn from. Once in a while Papa and I would have the park to ourselves. I think he liked the quiet: me, not so much.

Fast forward to the present day: EdCamp Tucson. There will be lots of people there. It’s going to be held at CITY Center for Collaborative Learning. It’s someplace I haven’t been to before. Their website says it’s an “umbrella organization” but what does that mean? As it kicks-off we’ll post what we’d like to learn there. We’ll post topics we can facilitate conversations on. All this is standard stuff at an EdCamp; they have no preset agenda. Anticipating what will happen reminds me of my park experience. The best times, the ones that come back most vividly, are filled with memories of lots of kids interacting with each other in varied ways.

I was in Little Rock, Arkansas last week meeting with a development team. On my drive there and back, 2600 miles round trip, I stopped often to take pictures of interesting stuff. One of these times was near the village of Honobia, Oklahoma. It seems that every October there’s this Bigfoot Conference hosted by Christ’s 40 Acres.

Anyway, a little before Honobia was this big Bigfoot T-Shirt sign. I thought: “Kodak Moment”, so I stopped to take a selfie. Being alone it took a few minutes to balance my iPhone on the hood of my Pilot, set the timer so I’d have enough time to press the shutter release then run back up to the sign. I was huffing-n-puffing running back and forth trying to get the timing and my positioning right. Honobia is up in the mountains, high up. I was sweaty and breathing hard by the time I finally got it. Admiring the photo I took while I caught my breath reminded me of going to the park again: good times.


Why do I go to so many EdCamps and PD conferences? Is it for the keynotes? Is it for the pre-conference workshops? Is it for the concurrent sessions? Not really. EdCamps don’t have any of those things. The ATD conferences I’ve been to, the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn and mLearnCon have them and they’re informative and valuable PD resources. But where I really learn is when I interact with others. Talking about what their experience was like and then contrasting it with mine has the most value. How about you? Why do you participate in PD conferences?


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