Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#ConnectED Canada

This past weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Alberta for the first ConnectED Canada conference. There were so many different events and people that impacted me greatly that it's difficult to process it all and get it into words...however, I will try!

First off, a big hats of to Erin (@erincouillard), Neil (@neilstephenson), and George (@gcouros) for all of their work co-ordination, organizing, preparing, and running the conference and related social events. As someone who spends a great deal of time coordinating events such as Family Math Night and EdCampWR, I am fully aware of the dedication and work involved in taking on a project this size. Kudos to these three fearless leaders and to the staff and students of the Calgary Science School that opens the doors to their classrooms to provide us with a window into their learning.

I was most impressed with the manner the students presented themselves, their pride in demonstrating their work, and their genuine interest (and ability) in communicating their learning. I can't help to be a little envious of their learning spaces, with wide open areas, couches, and non-traditional classroom furniture that promotes collaboration and invites learners to move to a place more suitable and/or comfortable for the task at hand. It was interesting to see the students working in a 1:1 mobile device set up, with students using iPads, cameras, and laptops to research, record, and present their learning.

 Having this access to technology has really helped them take their learning to the next level and share it easily. I enjoyed seeing the QR Codes posted on the walls so that others classes can see what other students are working on. In fact, I was blown away by how much the student tour guides knew about what other grades/classes were working on. You really got the sense of a learning community. When students are involved, they frequently steal the show, and in this case, there was no exception! They were definitely a highlight of the conference for many attendees.

The Saturday break out sessions were very thought provoking and included some great debate and sharing.  It always amazes me the conversations that occur when you place passionate educators together in a space and let them talk.  The "educon/edcamp" model for these sessions allows people to connect, collaborate, and become active participants in their learning.  This usually only occurs during breaks and lunch time at regular conferences.  By switching up the format, these discussions are taking place everywhere and are not limited to brief gatherings in the hall.  It allows educators to personalize and control their own learning, a choice that we value when working with students and appreciate even more when applied to ourselves.  During Tom Fullerton's (@tomfullerton) session we had great discussions about professional development that is driven from the top down and how effective this really is.  I loved Tom's analogy of "PD being like shoes" with "value coming from a variety of models".  Not only did he win over the women in the room, but he makes a valid point about the time and place for different forms of PD.  With educators entering the conversations at different starting points, it becomes increasingly apparent that various levels, forms, and models of PD are needed to address the diversity of teacher learners' needs.

 This was very evident during my own breakout session on using Twitter in the Classroom.  I had to admit that I was a little stressed out about the format of my session prior to it beginning.  I have not attended Educon but have been involved in edcamps, and I was a little concerned that my session involved too much "showing" and not enough "sharing".  This fear went out the window as soon as I asked the participants where they were in their own social media use and with respect to using Twitter professionally and with students.  After polling the audience, only 5 educators were on Twitter (three of them had just joined that day) and NONE of them were using Twitter with students.  Although this hinders my planned discussion about how people were using Twitter in Education, it allowed me a chance to start fresh and introduce a new concept to this audience.  That excited me.  So, my session became more of a "presentation" but I am OK with that because it was where the group was "at".  It was also great to hear the feedback from session participants that claimed they were "wowed" by my students' use of Twitter and social media.  Thanks Verena Roberts (@verenanz), Julie Gummesen (@juliegummesen), Fiona (@fina_bro), Laurie Besenski (@besenski), and Preet Dhaliwal (@tweetteacher) for taking the time to talk to me specifically about my session.  Your feedback was much appreciated!

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the new additions to my PLN over the course of the weekend.  I think I received over 150 new Twitter followers over the 3 day conference!!  It's always exciting to meet people face to face that you've been following for a while (such as my new lilac loving buddy, Michelle Baldwin - @michellek107).  There were many opportunities for this, especially with my western colleagues.  I thoroughly enjoyed the online and live dialogue with new friends, Aaron Akune (@aakune), Steve Bloom (@teckteach), Wayne Deptuck (@wdeptuck), Robert Wielgoz (@rwielgoz), Rosalind (@rozgoldsmith), Valerie Irvine (@_valeriei) and Lindsay Bingley (@lbingley).  I look forward to continuing these conversations online!  I also found it ironic that I had to travel to Calgary to finally meet Ontario Tweeps, Tania Sterling (@taniasterling) and Brian Harrison (@bharrisionvp).  All of these new connections have lifted me up and will help sustain me through the last few days of this school year (and beyond).

The one theme that kept popping up, session after session, discussion after discussion, and during the social events was that of RELATIONSHIPS.  Relationships matter!  I also took some time to nurture existing relationships with friends from the Unplugd Summit, reminiscing about the event and the relationships that developed from the experience.  It was a great pleasure to take some time to spend with Zoe (@zbpipe) hearing about her adventures in Jerusalem and touring Banff with Rodd (@thecleversheep), and most importantly, my amazing travel buddy, Alanna (@banana29) who took care of me every step of the journey.  The Unplugd Summit had a huge impact on me both professionally and personally.  So much so that I just couldn't resist attending Zoe and Rodd's Unplugd session.  To hear what you missed, check out my livescribe pencast recorded that day.

This conference was such a full and rich experience, from start to end.

One thing you won't hear from this cat is "I attended #ConnectEDca and all I got was this waterbottle!"

Thanks ConnectED Canada! 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Kim,

    I appreciate the detailed reflections and agree with your point about the importance of relationships~I found that regardless of where we came from in Canada, we could relate and share a common bond as educators. I also found it so rewarding to have face to face conversations with the tweeps I had not yet met (you included).

    It was a great weekend of learning and connecting. My only regret: I left my ConnectED water bottle at the airport in Calgary. Oh well, I've got the perfect reason to go to next year's conference...