(Cross-posted and audio here)

I had the distinct pleasure to lend my voice to the #140 Character Conference in Boston today.  I sat on a panel with my very good friend Patrick Larkin, and my newest friend, Kirsten Olson.  Our panel discussion was entitled, Real Time Education – more on that later, for now, I want to spend some time reflecting on the #140 conference.

Jeff Pulver is the organizer of the #140 conferences.  While his impact on the role on the use of the internet for both voice and video communication is too vast to describe here (learn more here and here) I really admire the work he is doing with the #140 conferences (click here to see Jeff explain the #140 conference himself).  According to the conference website, “the #140conf events provide a platform for the worldwide twitter community to: listen, connect, share and engage with each other, while collectively exploring the effects of the emerging real-time internet on business.”  The conference brings together individuals from a variety of backgrounds and business sectors.  But, the most exciting part (to me) is that Jeff is not shy at all about the message of education reform so he insists on having educators present at every conference.  The result is that in a room full of celebrities, CEO’s, entrepreneurs and social media gurus, educators are given equal status.  Many thanks to Jeff for cultivating that.

Those of you know me, know that I value Pat Larkin’s friendship and collegiality greatly.  What many people don’t know is that our children attend school together and, in fact, he was my son’s first basketball coach.  Yet, we didn’t know each other beyond the acquaintance level until Pat reached out to me on Twitter with the following tweet:  “@baldy7 Hey we know each other I live in Stratham and our kids go to school together. I am a principal in Massachusetts.”  Since that tweet, Pat and I have become close friends, trusted colleagues and have worked in concert to cultivate two interwoven PLNs.

Which led to the opportunity today for me to meet Kirsten Olson.  Shelley Terrell works more closely with Patrick than me, so when the #140 conference was looking to put together its Boston Educator Panel, it was through my connection with Pat that Shelley extended an invitation to me.  Kirsten is an author, consultant and author of the bookWounded by School.

My point with both of these stories that is that whether by tweet or through my network, opportunities arise to make connections with others and I am so glad that I chose to make the connections that I did.

Our story was simple, one that many of us who think and write about the shifts needed in education tell and hear all the time; the need to shift away from the traditional, institutional model of schooling to a more connected, personalized approach. Our story today, however wasn’t being told to educators- some of whom may be too entrenched in the institutional model of education to see another way.  Instead, it was being told to celebrities, CEO’s, entrepreneurs and social media gurus who also happen to be mothers and fathers. So, when we told them not to stand for the status quo, to demand more from their childrens’ school, they knew exactly what we meant.

Why? Because they know that their jobs don’t employ old, tired strategies. They know that their jobs require them to collaborate, problem solve and redevelop. They know that their jobs demand they find, vet, assimilate and create new information, and they know that their kids are not being taught how to do those things in their school.

Ironically, I’ve been struggling lately with balancing my role as a parent with my beliefs as an educational leader. Both Will Richardson and Alec Couros have shared similar stories as of late. But as I sat on the panel today, asking the several hundred parents in auditorium to not accept the status quo, I realized that I needed to listen to my own advice and do the same.

About the author
Tony Baldasaro is a Community Leader with Powerful Learning Practice and the Personalized Pathways Administrator at the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) in Exeter, New Hampshire. Tony chronicles his transformation as an educational leader at TransLeadership and on Twitter at @baldy7. Read more about Tony here.