If A Tree Falls In The Forest…

On Saturday the TCDSB held it’s first ever Edcamp. According to the back channel, it was a huge hit.  Attendees got to freely move around through sessions that were moderated (not led) by board facilitators.  The idea was to really get educators to share, network and learn from each other.

My friend Luke McPherson and I got to facilitate a session called “Love, Hate and Continue”.  The idea for the session was taken from #edcampTO two years ago where my friends Pierre Poulin and Francois Bourdon facilitated “What sucks?  What rocks?”.  Attendees came to a round table discussion that was equal parts Dr. Phil and Oprah.

Luke and I added very little to the conversations and instead, egged on the crowd to share more.  Here’s a full list of the notes we took while educators vented, celebrated and shared.


One trend I noticed was that people who came to this Saturday morning PD session were really into the idea of sharing.  Those that were on social media were really keen to talk about how being connected to teachers around the world had really transformed their practice.  It was odd however, that a lot of the same people had a hard time naming people that they learned from outside of the TCDSB.  We did get some “must follows”, but only a small percentage given the number of people that were singing the praises of being connected.  

Most of the attendees were following people in our board.  While I’m connected to a lot of TCDSB people through social media, I definitely have favourites that are outside of our system.  People like Royan, Andrew, Yoon and  Lisa are regular reads for me.  They are part of the reason that I use social media.  If I wanted to find out more from the TCDSB, I’d use our website or our email system or ask about people through the grapevine.  

Maybe we need to make a bank of “out of system”/switched-on educators for twitter newbies to peruse?


Hardware was a big topic.  

Attendees struggled between wanting more board stuff (tablets, computers, devices in general) and less restrictions (more administrative rights on board imaged devices).  They worried about bandwidth, servers and responsibility over BYOD devices.  One teacher said “as a parent I have concerns over BYOD.  Is it right that my child uses something at school but the school takes no responsibility over repairs/maintenance?” These tools are way more expensive than standard pencil case items.  Is BYOD being used as a cost saving measure for the board? Is that a cynical way of looking at teaching students to use their own tools for learning instead of play?


We had a few awesome shares from people that were doing amazing things in their schools.  Elisha Horbay, Christian Barber and Mike D’Addario are currently doing incredible work at their schools.  Elisha has crafted a unit around food and food culture at her school.  Christian has built a DIY teleprompter and has worked with his students to create a news show for their elementary school.  Mike is working with two classes and an after school club to build an arcade game (AND program the games).  I asked them where can we read about their work.  All three shrugged off their work (as if it wasn’t that special), and said “nowhere”.  

These are trailblazers doing amazing things.  More people need to read about their work!  I’m not sure how we can encourage them to record and share more, but it needs to happen.  I was so inspired by all three!  


The big take-away for me was the importance of listening.  The conversations that we had in “Hate, Love and Continue” usually happen in private.  They rarely happen in front of people that can make a difference.  I’m not sure if that happens out of respect or fear.  

I can’t count how often I tell my students that “I’m not a mind-reader” or  "ask for help, and I can help you".  These are not original Stepan-isms.  In fact, I probably heard them through my whole school career both as a teacher and as a student.   It’s good advice that we all need to follow.  We all need to be a bit louder.  We need to ask for help when we need it.  We need to share the good things that we do so others can learn with us. 

Be in the forrest.  Listen for trees.  


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