PREAMBLE…As I sat down to draft this blog post I was faced with the inevitable question: How am going to summarize all the wonderful things I learnt at ConnectedCA without sounding completely scatter-brained? Two days later and I still do not have an answer for this. In fact I came up with more questions: What session was the most meaningful to me? What were my big take aways from the conference? What part of the conference did I like the most: the twitter reflections, the sessions, the wonderful speakers on Friday night or the informal face to face conversations at coffee/lunch?
If I had to sum up my experience at ConnectedCA I would say this: Questioning had EVERYTHING to do with my excitement, my engagement, and my learning. I walked in to the conference not knowing anyone, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what was expected of me. Throughout the three (amazing, jam-packed, cognitively challenging) days my questions grew as new learning experiences presented themselves to me:
- How did CSS administration and teachers create such an engaging learning environment?
- How can I create an inquiry based classroom for high school students?
- What is practitioner research?
- What am I doing here? (Yes- it crossed my mind many-a-times as I sat amongst administrators, superintendents and edtech “gods”… I patiently waited to be found out as the rookie edtech who didn’t have a blog!)
- Can I somehow collaborate with other colleagues within my school to increase inquire-based learning for my students?
- Am I ready/capable to be the lone nut in my school to help facilitate change?
Relationships were SO important at this conference, whether it was building a PLN on twitter, having face to face conversations with people at lunch, discussing practice/pedagogy between sessions, or participating in small/whole group chats during sessions. I have never met so many people with such a wealth/depth of knowledge and such a passion for DOING THE RIGHT THING for kids, themselves and education. @gcorous repeatedly mentioned the importance of networking and building connections at the conference and for the first time at pd I was openly asked, encouraged, and challenged to participate collaboratively in my learning.
“Culture matters”. Plain and simple. While at this conference I was pushed out of what I now realize was my comfortable learning zone. In fact, I was SO far out that by Sunday I knew there wasn’t ANY CHANCE that I would ever return to “comfortable“. I wasn’t prepared for a culture (especially at PD) that was SO collaborative and seamless that feedback and reflection flowed together as naturally as a river over rocks.
I believe the kick-off day on Friday, when I had the distinct pleasure of being toured around by an energetic Gr. 6 student, definitely set the stage for establishing this collaborative, inquiry-based, learning environment that the conference was all about. Calgary Science School was unlike anything I had ever witnessed before. The rooms were open, the kids and teachers were engaged, the students learning was proudly displayed on bulletin boards everywhere, and there was an unmistakable energy within the school walls.
Saturday and Sunday built on this energy with numerous sessions that I can only describe as pedagogy-shifting. I would like to briefly share some key take-aways I had from the sessions:
1) Practitioner Research (@tomfullerton)
- The object of research is self-discovery.
- Students must become teachers and teachers must become students.
- In what ways does my PD incorporate elements of self-study?
- Do we construct successful teachers with meaningful pd?
- If my students need help I need to model the strategies of how to be a successful learner.
- Kids are not cans that information can be poured into.
AND MY FAVORITE: As an educator I want/need to be vulnerable, flexible, and open to new experiences.
2) Inquiry based learning (@wrightsroom)
- A change in pedagogy (to inquiry) can be THE most rewarding experience.
- The process of “unlearning” must occur (first with me and then with my students).
- Use the curriculum content to teach inquiry skills.
- Reverse Blooms taxonomy (experience first- learn “rules” later).
- TRUST- the touchstone for using technology in the classroom.
- Tools: googledocs, delicious, symbaloo (to name a few).
AND MY FAVORITE: “Rekindle the curiosity”… within myself, my students and my classroom.
3)Collaborative teaching experience (@deidrebailey, @amydawnpark)
- Collaboration is NOT handing out someone elses resources. It’s about building ideas, resources and learning experiences together.
- Administration who know their staff can witness the benefits to student learning when a”joining of minds” occurs between teachers.
- Collaboration needs TRUST and TIME (shared planning time or shared reflection time).
- Collaboration can be a deeply meaningful learning experience because teachers can lean on one another, question/challenge one another, and reflect/digest together.
AND MY FAVORITE: LOVED CSS’s exemplary learning and teaching beliefs (which were posted within each classroom).
THE NEXT CONNECTION…
I would like to end this ConnectedCA blog post by saying that it WAS THE BEST PD experience I have EVER HAD. The last week has drastically changed the way I think about learning, education, and my role within it all. I have never felt more rejuvenated, tired (learning is tiring, but SO worth it), or willing to sit down and reflect upon my practice and pedagogy.
There have been SO MANY tweets, blog posts, comments and conversations in the last week, but I wanted to leave off with two comments that resonated deeply with me.
@deidrebailey tweet: “there is genuinely not enough time in a day for me to re-think all the things I would like to rethink.”
@tomfullerton comment on my first blog post: “you’re exploring twitter, wordpress and skype and their implications on teaching and learning, but I think the real impact results from the connections you’ve made and will make using these technologies.”