EducampBOP – a challenge to secondary school teachers!

winter landscape with rainbow.Well, today was my first “Educamp“. I have thought about going to several over the years but have never quite made one. Mainly because they are on Saturdays and my boys have always had some sort of sports fixture. But also because there are very few, if any, secondary school teachers at them. They are not aimed solely at primary and intermediate schools but IMHO they tend to be the teachers who are most inclined to share. It is a shame because there are so many secondary teachers out there who do such great things in the classroom that are worth sharing. The “unconference” style means that everyone has a voice, everyone’s ideas are valued, there are no “experts” there are just learners and colleagues (and, of course, friends). However, today, I was there to learn and to meet people.  In my new role as Connected Learning Advisor I am keen to meet as many teachers as possible from all sectors and BOP and Waikato are the regions for which I am responsible.

I would love to see if we could gain some traction for a similar sort of event for secondary teachers. I am unsure if it is because secondary school teachers are too locked into their subject specialties or because there is too much competition with regard to exam results to want to share too much?  I know that each subject area has their own “conference”; languages have “Langsems” all over the country when teachers share what they have been doing, but these cost a significant amount of money and not all teachers go because of confernece costs and the relief costs on top of that.  What if secondary teachers just got together and shared their pedagogy, how they integrate technology, the tools they use?  So many approaches can be used and adapted across subject areas and as junior programmes are re-organised to be more open, task-based, cross-curricular and student-centred, there is a need to share practice and learn from each other.

Tweeting is normal at such events and the power of the “tweet” is being realised by more and more teachers.  Powerful learning not just for adults but for students too.  I wonder what the breakdown of users is between primary/intermediate and secondary teachers in NZ? My bet is that primary beat us hands down!

#28daysofwriting Day 2 Hats

Just going to squeeze this one in barring distractions!  Why is it that despite all the preparation and planning that I do in the holidays, the first week at school is complete  chaos?  The last week has been manic.  I know that I have also been training for the Oxfam Trailwalk so this weekend more than 7 hours were spent pounding the concrete,  the gravel,  the sand and the grass.  But even so,  I feel like I’m lurching from one thing to the next.  I do have several metaphorical hats to wear at school which adds to the mix but this year I have escaped having a form class.  Truth be told,  I’m actually quite missing that contact with the students first thing in the morning but ssshh!  I’m sure I’ll get used to the extra time it frees up!
a stall selling hats of all different typesOne of my hats is a digital one; I am the “eMentor” for our staff and support them using tech in the classroom for teaching and learning. The beginning of term is always busy helping new staff get to grips with new systems and supporting others as they make the shift from beach brain to teacher brain and they grapple anew with all the techy challenges they were sure they had mastered last year!
I said in my last post that I needed to redress my work life balance. Strangely, I do have balance in my job.  My next hat is that of Outdoor Education Coordinator.  Three weeks of the year I get to leave technology and the four walls of my classroom behind and enjoy time with our students and staff on school camps.  I really don’t think you can overestimate how much benefit kids get from learning outside the classroom when they are challenging themselves and putting themselves outside they comfort zones.
Finally,  but actually most importantly is my sombrero; my last hat.  I am a teacher first and foremost and I love teaching.  I have had to reinvent myself as, sadly, the importance of learning languages is simply not recognised in New Zealand and learner numbers are falling rapidly across the country.  My first second language is French but I now teach Spanish and am learning alongside my students.  It has been a steep learning curve but a welcome challenge and I am enjoying how it has made me think about my teaching methodology.  I can’t be lazy any more,  I don’t have the language at my finger tips like French and I don’t have a store of lessons in my head for the days when I really need to “wing it”!  Fortunately,  I have a dear colleague in a nearby school who has helped me immensely.  It has made me reflect that we cannot be islands.  We have to build bridges and causeways to connect with others and share good practice.
Oh,  my 28 minutes are up!  Time to stop.  Feels odd.


A mad few days of PD

I have been lucky enough to enjoy a rich seam of excellent discussion and professional and personal learning over the last few days.  Here are my round ups of the days before I forget everything!

Thursday 14th November
ILEP Meeting the Challenge – Building on TPDL

Friday 15th November
ConnectED Kura Hakari13 – celebrating 2013

Friday / Saturday 15th & 16th November

Curso de Cine en la clase de espanol

advert for Spanish cinema course
More on the Spanish cinema course after I complete the course next week.  Now down to some catch up work for school after I have cheered my boy on as he races Round the Bridges in Hamilton.

Ulearn13 – a reflection

images from Ulearn13

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.  graphic of top tweeters after the first 24 hours at Ulearn13

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.

ulearn13 conference dinner delegates - theme "all that glitters"

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!


tee shirt with words "I'll stop learning when I'm dead. ....maybe"