researchED NYC Conference/#rEDNY: EduCommonSense-apalooza

Though I spent the last work week away at a company retreat, I couldn’t resist tacking on an additional travel day before heading home. This is never how I roll (and especially not how I roll when the Twin Cities’ biking weather is optimal and the list of spring-cleaning tasks has to date logged so few ‘complete’ checkmarks), but the amazing researchED was having its first U.S.-side conference in NYC over the weekend — and as the speaker list included heroes of mine like Ben Riley, David WestonKarin Chenoweth, Daisy Christodoulou, Dan Willingham, and others, there was simply no way I could stay away.

Rather obviously, it was an incredible day for anyone interested in research-based education reform. I could go on and on about all I heard in the sessions, about all the great connections I made, about all the rich (and genuinely fun) conversations I had, etc., etc., but I’ll skip it here. If you want to know more about what goes on at a researchED conference, go see for yourself: conferences are scheduled for Glasgow & London in the months ahead, and I got the feeling from Tom Bennett (researchED founder: follow on Twitter @tombennett71) that he’s interested in bringing it back to the U.S. someday. If attending such an event can’t be in your future, just start by getting to know any of the folks above by following them on Twitter, other places on the web, etc. Write me if interested…I’d be happy to help link you to their work.

I would like to note, however, the event’s general spirit. Because for all its emphasis on objective research, the researchED movement does not, in one of its gatherings, present nearly as academic or stuffy or number-crunchy or elitist as one might assume. Indeed, if reform movements were music genres (and sorry, as a one-time DIY rocker, I sometimes see the world this way), what researchED’s got going would be far more punk rock than anything else. A few reasons:

  1. It was started by regular folks who were unsatisfied by the effects produced by widely accepted forms and wisdom, and its ideas/principles spread — not through mainstream-provided megaphones, but through like-minded folks’ use of the media available to them.
  2. Though the movement’s members all have their own distinct emphasis (or ‘sound’ — think Clash vs Pistols vs Ramones vs Television), all begin from a commitment to purity. Where punks were committed to a purity of expression (as opposed to expression filtered through commercialism), the researchED community is committed to the purity of facts as guides for sound educational practice.
  3. The movement says what it thinks and is not ashamed to do so, knowing full well that the times and the issues require a more direct approach. When Tom Bennett appeared at Saturday’s NYC conference and said that the movement is about being ‘TED with brains’ and helping teachers to identify the rubbish, he knew damn well what he was doing, just like Johnny Rotten did in his infamous comments about Elvis Presley. (Look it up.)

I’ll stop there and say that I’m very happy, first that I could attend researchED’s first stateside appearance — the first U.S. stop of EduCommonSense-apalooza, if you will — and second for researchED’s punk-rock approach to ed reform. As this movement matures, I’ll be thinking of how the punk movement’s Pistols became the Replacements and Nirvana and, rather unfortunately, Bush, then Creed, before petering back to the shadows. For even if what researchED’s got going ultimately follows a similar obscurity-to-mainstream-to-overexposed-to-deflated trajectory, I’ll be thankful for the impression it leaves on many individuals and their subsequent practices.

Thanks, researchED, for a day of learning (and feeling of belonging) I’ll never forget. I’m really glad you’re out there.

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