Monday, 30 April 2012

Two Great Conferences

So over the last month or so I have spent two Saturdays at conferences. It is always an iffy proposition, taking the chance that the PD will be good enough to miss out on family time. These conferences were both put on by people in our School Board. Both conferences were great, although very different.

The first conference was an "Unconference" Link: or use the QR code below.

The concept is that instead of going and having a keynote speaker and then attending a rigid schedule, you simply slip into different "conversations" facilitated by someone who is leading the session. Rather than being preached to by an expert, the voices rose among us, and we learned from each other. Upon arriving at the conference, the schedule was fleshed out as people attending the conference added their names to the list of facilitators. It puts me in mind of Teacher's College when the person up at the front of the class said "You should never teach the way I am teaching you now. Lecturing is proven to be ineffective for many learners..." In our sessions the facilitator began the conversation, but then encouraged others to lead, and even to take the conversation in new directions. It put me in mind of the new ideas around teaching math, where we have the students teaching, and sharing information whenever possible. The facilitator took a back seat and allowed us to earn from each other. This is exactly like how we should be teaching. And it worked.

Another big concept was that if you were in a session that wasn't working for you, you just slipped out and joined another session. In this way, everyone was virtually guaranteed to experience worthwhile discussions that were geared towards their own areas of interest. It was an excellent opportunity to learn from others, and how others are tackling the idea that technology is a central part of education moving forward. Everyone had a voice in these sessions, and we genuinely learned a lot from each other.

The second conference was "Waterloo goes Wireless". Link: or use the QR code.

It was a more traditional in that it had a keynote speaker, but there were interactive, voluntary additional activities one could engage in during breaks. This allowed for impromtu learning as I played a game, and ended up learning several new ideas during my lunch break. The PD sessions had tons of ideas and information shared in them, and again I leaned a lot. My biggest "uh-huh" moment was when I realized that the web 2.0 moniker "Social Network" has always put me off. I suddenly realized something as I experienced many different web 2.0 sites this weekend. The web has moved from 1.0 (the static information internet) to 2.0 ( the interactive, fluid communication internet). This doesn't mean that the internet has become a stagnant repository of everyone's gossip, but rather it means that everyone one is learning, sharing and collaborating to create new ideas and information on the world wide web. It is exciting stuff, and I hope to make better use of it in my teaching practice.