- You meet the people behind the twitter handles and Google+ profiles. In doing so, you realize pretty quickly they are just as passionate in person as they are online about student learning and achievement and sharing their knowledge and resources. You also learn they are just as keen to learn from your teaching as you as from theirs.
- You learn in teams and collaboratively. As a result, each attendee's strengths in digital pedagogy is amplified due to the co-operation and support of others in the PL sessions. With an unconference's topics being decided on the day and by those in attendance, the topics are relevant and highly current to today's classroom and in today's context, uniquely owned.
- You are challenged to get out of your comfort zone and work with complete but focused strangers. In my case, I presented on #studentvoice in the opening smackdown and then ended up in the first break-out session leading a group on the same topic. Despite it being my first educamp, I felt welcome and most notably that my perspectives and contributions were as valuable as anyone's.
- The same digital challenges are constant almost regardless of context or school demographic (as are the solutions). By sharing the challenges and the solutions, faster, safer progress in terms of teacher and student modern learning, engagement and positive academic outcomes are more likely. From infrastructure concerns to device choice to the appropriate level of app and student freedom, by discussing these issues face-to-face, they are solved effectively and via a collegial and empowering process.
- You make highly valuable additions to your professional learning network. To engage in person with like-minded passionate educators can only inspire and enthuse you and also serves reminds you that you might be alone in your classroom physically but that you have a whole team of professional educators backing your beliefs, digital pedagogy and student-centered learning.
- You realize what a good job you are doing now. Obviously every educator wants the utopic modern learning environment delivering ultimate student journeys and destinations equipped with the most optimum digital resources. What you do pick up in the face-to-face engagements is how to work around your current deficits and how to maximise what you've got. You also ultimately learn or at the very least, are reminded just how secondary devices and infrastructure are to student-centered theory and practice.
In closing, although digital learning online has immense benefits particularly in terms of global and/or long-distance collaboration, face-to-face digital learning has considerable benefits in terms of on-sight connections, tactile learning and arguably an effective embedding sensory "classroom".
Regardless of the digital and/or in-person context, one theme is prevalent, together is faster, more enjoyable and vastly more effective for teachers and students. Go #teamlearning!