Thinking back a decade or three, I remember the cool kids from the next town over throwing the epic all night house party on the swanky side of the freeway. There weren't invitations, just word of mouth, nor was there was a no-go list, but those who ventured across the overpass to stroll the halls of the social event of the season had to make it past the front door with an air of confidence that said, "Who me? No sweat, I go to gigs like this all the time!"
After slipping through the front door, it wasn't long before I realized that everyone, regardless of their parent's zip code, carried the same baggage, packed with the same insecurities, as the ones that I brought to the party: am I dressed right, do I have the right things to say, is someone going to shout across the room, "Hey, you don't belong here!" Looking back at a gig like that, I realize there were really two types of people on the non-existent guest list: those who had the courage to crash the gates and those who stayed away for fear they wouldn't fit in.
Fast forward to 2015 - the hottest party in town: Cue Rockstar! An exclusive who's who in the world of EdTech Uber-Stars. Just like a modern high school prom, from a distance, status seems to be sorted by numbers of Twitter followers and badges earned from conferences traveled. As an outsider looking in, I hoped that nobody would notice that I wasn't sure if I could make it past the gates: Am I smart enough, do I really know enough to attend a gig with people who have presented at ISTE, would somebody shout out from across the room, "Hey, you don't even have a Voxer account!"
I just got home from three days at the Northern California Ed Tech event of the season. Once I crashed the gates I realized that what brought these people together was a common courage to learn. Every presenter and every attendee seemed to share a spirit of comradery and a true commitment to exploration. I learned about creating animated GIFs while in the middle of an after hours frisbee golf game, at lunch I taught a woman I had never met before to use ITTT, at every one of the six sessions I facilitated - I learned as much from the participants as they could possibly have learned from me and over breakfast a middle school teacher blew my mind with the most innovative idea I have ever heard about developing a tech-camp taught by kids for kids.
Cue Rockstar looks as glamorous as the Hip House Party on the right side of the tracks from the long view across town, but upon closer inspection, the three day gig turns out to feel more like a backyard Cheeseburger BBQ filled with friends and family all reunited to celebrate our similarities. My take aways include creating BitMojis, rockin' MineCraft, putting the You in YouTube, drafting Digital Badges, but most importantly, that investing an ounce of courage yields friendships and connections that foster life-long learning.