Another whirlwind three days of stimulation, learning, exploration, interaction, meeting new people, meeting up with old friends, putting faces to twitter handles, sharing ideas and having fun.
This is my fourth Ulearn and I think I an finally getting the hang of it! My first was in Rotorua, the sole representative from my school, and I had never been to such a big conference before. I was lost figuratively and literally, I knew not a soul and felt quite daunted by booking breakouts, making notes, finding my way around, plucking up courage to speak to people, I really felt like the new kid on the block. But I was so inspired by the speakers at the keynotes and in the breakouts I went to and went back home with my head full to bursting with ideas. It took me weeks to process my detailed notes!
In subsequent years I have managed to persuade colleagues to come along too and this year I was one of eight delegates from my school. The opportunities for sharing what we have learned is going to be huge.
I have always avidly taken notes at every session I have attended. Sometimes I have then diligently transcribed them and created reports that nobody reads. I have blogged about sessions that have particularly inspired me and shared Google docs with colleagues. Feedback to staff at school has been ad hoc, mainly through the conversations I have with members of my department and others as I support them using technology and during interval and lunch time but also more recently through or PD sessions that this year are focused on blended learning.
This year I decided that I was not going to frantically scribble notes but instead join the rich seam of twitter interactions and use the comments and conversations that ensue to reflect on the sessions. It was energising! The key messages were tweeted and re-tweeted, quoted and referenced and have since been Storified or blogged, and tweeted out again for further comment and reflection. More people were tweeting than ever before and the depth of comments and interactions is getting better and better. There are still the soundbites but if you can keep up – and I have to confess that I struggle – the replies, favourites and retweets tell a really rich story.
But the most exciting thing about this year is that I was awarded an e-fellowship. I have to confess that this dominated my experience of this year’s conference. Wednesday was spent trying not to let the secret out to friends and colleagues whilst bursting with excitement and anticipation on the inside! On Thursday morning I had to avoid arrangements to meet up with colleagues as we (the e-fellows) were to meet at 8.30am to get instructions about the “announcement”, and Mark Pesce’s excellent keynote was spent in a whirl of congratulatory tweets after we were presented on stage prior to his speech. I was amazed at how many people came over to me to congratulate me, I had not quite realised how many people I knew or who knew me. Isn’t it strange that you think that people don’t know who you are even though you know that you recognise others. I tend to think that they are more well known than me and that I am just, well, me!
The next challenge was my own presentation on Friday morning. My first time presenting and on the morning after the night before! “All that glitters” was not really glittering in our presentation room as some delegates wandered in looking decidedly ragged! The conference dinner was fantastic, the music was great, we danced until our feet were sore and sang until we had no voices – well, some people did. I confess that I reluctantly left at 11pm but not before a good dancing session.
So, I will share more notes and reflections of the sessions I attended but for a start here is my storified version of Dame Anne Salmond’s closing keynote. It was an inspiring, thought provoking speech that encapsulated many of the themes and ideas of the conference. It is just a shame that so many had to leave to catch planes before they could hear it. And for those who couldn’t be bothered to stay, you really missed out.
…and the take away from the conference – lifelong learning. I want this tee-shirt!