Together with approx. 300 other educators from around the country and overseas I spent two days face-to-face at Hobsonville Point Secondary School for the inaugural #EdchatNZ Conference with many more joining in online via twitter etc from the distance. WHAT A BLAST!
Approx. 20 weeks ago Danielle decided to arrange a low budget, high quality face-to-face conference. Together with a group of other passionate educators this steering committee made it happen mainly via virtual meetings - in fact some of the members had not met in person until Friday morning. And didn't they do well! Of course it could not have been achieved without the support of many others, principals and BoT of the Hobsonville Point Schools, presenters who gave up their time, the many students who supported beforehand and on the day, the sponsors incl. Cognition Education who I work for, and especially all those educators who spread the word, booked their travel, relievers, accommodation and joined in!
There was so much to take in, I barely know where to start; from the #shrieking&hugging of tweeps or twiducators who have known each other online for a long time to #grelfies thanks @GeoMouldey for the challenges!)
Amidst the above fun there was a lot of serious work going on. You can find links to presenter notes in the Conference Agenda, and the lovely @chasingalyx has collated individual resources in this blog post.
It was certainly the most exciting conference I have been to yet. I get to talk learning all day every day, but I found myself in f-2-f company of people who were just as nuts about learning as I am :) Danielle set the tone for the conference with an excerpt of this TED Talk by Derek Sivers:
This set us up so well for what was to come. Many times passionate, forward thinking educators feel like they are a 'lone nut'. What transforms a lone nut to a leader is that very powerful first follower who dares to get up and dance with the lone nut. They draw in more, and more, and more until a critical mass is reached and it is no longer 'cool', acceptable, to watch from the side, but you just have to join in. Using this example, who are you in your school or organisation?
I don't want to go on about what happened in every single session I went to, the conversations with people before, during and after the session, both in person and online were at least as important. My biggest learning from this all is that while we might often feel like 'lone nuts' in fact there are lots of others dancing with us; opening our eyes and looking out for them, face-to-face and online, will help us connect and create that critical mass we need to change our practise for our students for the better, a little bit every day. One of the things Danielle reminded us off is that this Conference is not a one-off, it is simply a face-to-face gathering of the ongoing online conference #edchatNZ has been providing on Twitter. Watching how the discussions continued all weekend and today just confirms that (#edchatnz trended in NZ right through from Friday to Sunday!).
What will I do differently? In the rural area I work in we don't get as many opportunities for f2f connection as in cities. My Professional Inquiry for 2014 is around building capability in teachers to connect with PD in blended ways. The #EduchatNZ Conference has proven to me how powerful the online connection can be, so I will more actively spread the word and support teachers to develop their online PLN. Watch this space :)