Well. The conference is over. Time to reflect.
Sorry I didn’t post over the last two days. It’s like Chris Betcher said in a post recently, you have to participate in life. If I’d worried about writing posts to update everyone back home I’d never have been able to fully participate and take from the conference what I needed.
What am I taking away?
I went out to dinner with Brian Lockwood and Jabiz Raisdana last night. First up, how great to be able to meet these two and spend some time over dinner having a spirited discussion about our conference experiences. I think we were all surprised at what we didn’t learn. We all felt that we knew quite a lot and that the discussions the conference generated were representative of what we have been immersed in in our personal learning networks. The consensus was that we were able to add to the discussions in a meaningful way but we weren’t necessarily learning anything that wasn’t already on our radar. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not a criticism, it’s actually confirming for us that we are benefiting so much from the time we spend interacting with others and sharing our thoughts and opinions online.
I got to meet some great people. It was terrific to be able to meet Julie Lindsay who I admire so much for all the work she has done with Vicki Davis and the Flat Classroom project. In my opinion, Julie should have been delivering a Ted like talk on the opening night of the conference. She has done amazing work and models her practice so well. Lack of female voice on that opening night was glaring to me. Sheryl Nussbaum Beach couldn’t attend due to illness so there was supposed to be representation, but why Julie wasn’t asked to step on up is a mystery to me. Sheryl did record her own Ted talk which appears on the ning site (and you should go there and watch it) but it wasn’t broadcast publicly at the conference. Note to conference organisers – address the balance.
Kim Cofino delivered a few sessions. I attended one about global collaborative projects and it was excellent. Kim had put a lot of effort into the presentation and used principles inspired by Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen to get the message across. And do that she did. I’m sure she would have uploaded the presentations to slideshare so you should go there to check them out. Do a search for Kim Cofino and see what turns up.
Clarence Fisher presented really well. He’s real; you get such a sense of the classroom teacher who is modelling and sharing. I thoroughly enjoyed any session I attended that he was involved with because I felt the genuine nature of Clarence shone through and this enabled a connection to be made. He discussed how using Web 2.0 tools had enabled his small community (less that 800 in his whole town) to reach out and level their playing fields. His students don’t feel isolated from the world. He also discussed how he teaches information literacy skills constantly as students engage with this medium. They need to behave ethically as digital citizens, they need to know how to filter the vast array of information available, they need to write. Literacy, and how this medium encourages it, was a point Clarence was making. There was discussion about whether or not it needed to be defined as digital literacy or just literacy. There’s no doubt students are honing digital skills, but do we need to classify it as digital literacy? As practice becomes normative with these tools this will just become literacy as we know it.
An unconference session occured with Teacher-Librarians. This was great. There were 17 in attendance and it gave us all a chance to discuss what we are doing with Web 2.0 in our schools and professional life. We established a space for ourselves on the ning and will hopefully stay in contact and find ways to work together.
Just having an opportunity to meet some like minded interesting people was wonderful. People like Jeff Utecht, Simon May (both of whom did an amazing job getting the conference organised), Dave Navis, Brian Lockwood, Simon Power, NZ Chrissy, Tod Baker, Dennis Harter, Ann Krembs, Matt Greenway, Jabiz Raisdana, Mike Romard and our own wonderful Anne Mirschtin and Jess McCulloch. Some were from my Personal Learning Network and others weren’t. The world of international schools and teaching was another eye opener. I had no idea there was such a huge community out there. The majority of the conference attendees were from international schools and some of the tales they told me about their lifestyles made me wonder why I’d never considered it before.
There’s no doubt that blogging has been my entrance point into this world; it has altered my perspective on teaching and shown me how we can do things differently for the students we teach. It has made my voice heard further than I ever thought possible. You probably don’t really need to attend a conference like this one if you are active and self direct your own learning through the very mediums we are trying to see accepted in our school communities. These mediums help us to stay abreast of current thinking. You do need to attend a conference like this if you are not immersed, but are interested and want to know more. If you know nothing, you absolutely should be attending a conference like this to open your mind to new thinking.
If you are immersed, you do need to attend a conference like this if you want to further the relationships you establish online. And that’s important. We are part of this human network and as such, face to face human connection matters.
Speaking of this, today represented an example of the connections we make with our students and parent community. Here I am in Shanghai receiving a phone call from the parents of a child in my class. They are also in Shanghai on a working holiday and wanted to know if I’d like to catch up with them. We spent time together viewing a very foggy/smoggy Shanghai from the Hyatt Observation deck and enjoyed lunch at the Bund, before heading off to haggle at the markets. Thanks Paul, Lucia, Christina and Michael. I really enjoyed the time spent with you.
And thanks Shanghai Learning 2.008. In many ways a transformative time.