Thursday, November 1, 2012

When Innovators Connect: A Concept Becomes a Movement

In a recent post, George Couros describes the need to spread “pockets of innovation” well beyond the walls of a single school. He says,
If these great ideas spread, we are more likely to create a positive culture in schools than if we kept them to ourselves.
The Heath Brothers referred to this idea as “finding the bright spots,” and it has seemed to hold true with every attempt at change I’ve ever had.

However, what happens when pockets of innovators are no longer limited by the constraints of time or space?

Meet Demetrius. (He’s on the left.)
Demetrius is a technology integrator for a private K-12 institution in Thessolaniki, Greece. Demetrius helps to organize TedX Thessolaniki, volunteers for the K-12 Global Education Conference, and is a general authority on all things “geeky.” We met during my travels this fall. We shared our stories and learned about each other. What sparked our initial conversation and meeting? Yup, you guessed it. He might want to run an Edcamp.

My first reaction was: How does HE know about Edcamp? Think about this. Before digital networks, innovators persisted and spread throughout their organizations or local areas. And that was likely the end of the story. But now, innovators can connect with other innovators throughout the world in real time.

What started as a crazy idea shared by six educators who attended a Barcamp unconference in Philly has multiplied exponentially over the past three years. With over 120 national and international events, the original Edcamp Philly team has been nothing but awed by the number of educators willing and ready to host their own local events.

Because of this idea, two people who may have never met are now colleagues and friends. All of this happened because a concept empowered both of them to be active innovators in a community much larger than themselves.

So, what happens when pockets of innovation are no longer limited by the constraints of time or space? Quite simply, a concept becomes a movement.

So, what did we do to take a concept that had been tried in several different forms and make it a movement?

Uh… well….we don’t really know. (And that’s the truth folks!)

But…. Here are my best guesses!

  • We tried the idea at the right time. In May 2010 when we hosted the first Edcamp Philly, Twitter was growing as a professional development tool for educators, and it was starting to gain traction. Without Twitter, no one would have known about Edcamp beyond the Philly area.
  • Teachers really needed something positive within their control. Edcamps are events that lie completely within the control of the educator. It is very empowering to take back ownership for your professional learning. Given the climate in America regarding teacher proficiency, it seemed to be the perfect reaction to all the negativity in the media and political spheres.
  • We let go. If we had tried to control or regulate the concept, we would have stifled the innovators we were trying to reach. While we love to help and offer suggestions, people are free to run their own event. This has allowed people to try different things and share them in the community. The support within the group of Edcamp organizers that I know has been incredible.

So, how do we continue the positive momentum of Edcamp and teacher empowerment? How do we help the pockets within our local schools to spread? Let’s find out together!

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