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educon 2.3 and our Rocks/Sucks Research Edition

I spent the weekend downtown at Educon 2.3.  This is one of my favorite conferences.  I love the power-shiftiness of this event.  How conversations engage most anyone who wants to participate.  How very smart educators connect across age level specialties and disciplines to discuss how we might work together to make schools better, to help learners learn.

I wanted to share the conversation I helped to conduct with my buddies Gwyneth Jones and Shannon Miller, with a little closing big think help from David Loertscher.

The Future of Student Inquiry/Research involved two conversational strategies.  First we discussed tools, skills, and dispositions our learners most need to conduct research today.  The three of us shared our own ideas and resources and then we had small groups put their own best ideas in our virtual buckets. My new practicum student, Jenni, organized the response into a little video.

During the second part of the session we hosted a Sucks/Rocks/Not Sure: Research Edition debate.  I first encountered one of these led by Dan Callahan, at edcamp Philly. (Dan tells me he encountered this format at Bar Camp.)

While I was a bit nervous, this part of our session quickly turned a little magical to me.  We posted our signs Sucks and Rocks signs at opposite points in the large room and a Not Sure sign in the middle. (I am including the graphics Gwyneth created in case you want to try this at home.)

SucksrocksAs we brought up each of the concepts in the slideshow, we asked participants to take a stand and move to a sign.  After the groups formed, we had the most ardent advocates in each group discuss why they were standing near the sign they had selected.

What was most fascinating to me was the opportunity to share and argue and laugh with so many of the other stakeholders in the research process. We heard from English and social studies teachers both passionate and lukewarm about such things as formal citation and term papers. We saw most of the room endorse Wikipedia for its links, coverage of popular culture, and as an opportunity for teacher media literacy.

We had wonderful conversations.  We learned more about each other.

Please feel free to use these materials at your own conferences and/or inservices

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Ahhhh, looks like I missed a great one! Thanks for the links (and actually I’ve used the Sucks/Rocks technique with students, too. Works well to encourage discussion of characters, themes, social justice ideas!)

  2. It was an exciting time & a great learning and sharing experience! Thank you to everyone & mostly you, Joyce!
    The Daring Librarian


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