The #ULearn13 conference last week, for me, was a blur of workshops [check out the end of this post for the full list of my resources] and working with the Social Media team in CORE to blend, integrate and support teachers to look at connecting their practice.
I would have dearly loved to have got along to more of the sessions but, even so, I had plenty of kōrero with an amazing bunch of educators across NZ. Highlights for me were undoubtedly the connections with people: CORE eFellows ’13, the bandwagon-busting showcase taster from Nat Torkington and the keynotes from Mark Pesce [Google doc] and Dame Anne Salmond – meaty, crunchy, wide in scope, refocusing on the guts of what education is for.
Four ideas in evolution
Having been part of several of these conferences – and blogged about their usefulness as part of wider PD – it felt like there was change in the wind in relation to the often-focused upon technologies / e-learning space. For example:
- There was an increasing thirst for the ‘why’ (not just the ‘how’): It was excellent to see references to UDL, the integration of the ATANZ conference with a focus on inclusive practice, and Dame Anne Salmond’s breathtaking keynote which focused us back to how education is part of social impetus for change for those who most need it. Several teachers talked to me about the desire to line up their pedagogy with the purpose. Not just the apps but the socio-application.
- There continues to be a growing understanding of the value of connection and making practice visible: Other than the increase in activity in social media usage compared to last year’s ULearn, the notion of blogging practice, sharing stories, partnering for TeachMeets and Quadblogging appear to be gathering momentum.Of course, this may be the choir singing chirpily to itself but the flurry of blog posts post conference suggest otherwise. Check out posts from: @kasseylee11, @hull_karla, @fuse711, @robeanne, Monika Kern, Derek Wenmoth, and Juliet Revell – and these were just the first few I picked up from Twitter in the 48 hours after the conference closed!
- The value of research into praxis: The research stream on Thursday highlighted a rich array of studies that pointed to exciting innovation and new thinking in education. One educator who attended told me she had been told off by her colleagues for being “boring” because she chose to attend the stream… But the short, punchy presentations opened new doors for those who were there, I’m sure, and pointed to the way our profession must be grounded in effective exploration and rigorous search for understanding.
- The belief that a useful conference should align with a wider framework for professional learning for educators: I had several conversations, but also noted a range of sessions, that positioned the breakouts in terms of wider learning journeys and inquiry, such as the spotlight by Claire Amos. The conference need not be a ‘one off’ if delegates select and synthesise leaning against their in-school goals and personal inquiries.
Space for change?
So, if I was Queen of the World and could wave a magic wand, it would be great to see some of the following developments set in motion, not just for ULearn but for educational conferences in general:
- Get the why up front: Deliberately convene keynotes, breakouts and spotlights that open up the social impact of education. This includes meaningful integration of inclusive practice and cultural responsiveness.
- Focus on knowledge creation and application as well as process: By all means offer support for pedagogy, but foreground the point and purpose of effective activity in relation to knowledge application, creation and intent.
- Keep discussing the process of professional learning as well as the content: Let’s look to position professional learning, be it a conference or a tweet, within a framework of professional learning
- Make space for research, debate, argument and discussion: One of the most rewarding weekends for me in recent years was spent at Kiwi Foo. If I could wave that magic wand, I would open up opportunity for deliberate questioning, challenge, spotlighting of research and disruption of assumptions around what we think of as education. Unconference/EduCamp but with grunt and meat. Let’s make space to discuss future building.
A full list of resources from my sessions:
- ULearn Mobile: Motivation and meaning-making: Slides | Shared Blog
- Effective e-Learning: Shared Google site inc. slides
- The blog that sank the Titanic: Cultivating digital citizenship, with Dr John Fenaughty: Slides | Shared doc
- ULearn Research proceedings: Online social networking and its impact on NZ educators’ professional learning