A week back at school and the stimulating discussions, interactions and keynotes at Ulearn13 at Claudelands, Hamilton, seem to have faded into the dim, distant past. My head is still in a state of confusion; the demands of what I need to do at work at odds with wanting to get to grips with the seeds of ideas sown at Ulearn and in the interactions since then on Social Media. I wake up at night after dreams in which I am not really sure what is real and what is make-believe!
Anyway, as I am the world’s best procrastinator, instead of writing my reports or processing all the data from the medical forms for Year 10 camp that looms in Week 7, I have spent today in the garden, at the Hockey Club AGM and presentation (my youngest gained an award and I ended up on the committee – what is it about my hand that seems to have a mind of it’s own!?) exploring BlendSpace and other tools I found out about at Ulearn13 and thinking about how I could use them to help me synthesise my thoughts.
One of the sessions I went to at Ulearn13 was “10 tips to socialise sustainability of elearning” which was facilitated by Megan Iemma and David Kinane. It was affirming to realise that I already knew and used most of the tools that they talked about but I was pleased that I also learned of some new ones.
A colleague had decided not to go to Ulearn this year as she has been before and felt that she wouldn’t learn anything new and that someone who hadn’t been before would benefit more from being able to go. Another who was very excited at her first conference last year realised that she needed to pick her sessions more carefully in future as this year she ended up attending similar sessions to 2012, and she has come so far in her own learning that she was ahead of many of the other attendees. My perspective is that there is always something new to learn, the conversations that you have are invaluable and the opportunity to share and to learn is infinite. However, I am also aware that the cost to schools to send teachers to conferences such as this is huge. This year we were lucky as there were no accommodation costs as Ulearn13 was here in Hamilton and so we could send 8 teachers.
Picking breakouts is a fine art and I think there is an evolution. The first year everything is new and you are so overwhelmed by the choice that there is an element of potluck. Having said that the descriptions now are more specific and it is easier to filter the different sectors. I know that in my first year I ended up at some very specific Primary sessions at which I found little that I could adapt to Secondary. Nevertheless, it is always interesting to know what is happening in early years, after all they are our future students.
In subsequent years, when you understand the system better, you can be more judicious in your choices. I can now recognise speakers’ names, identify sectors and spot themes. I also don’t feel obliged to book every breakout – the interactions in the Social Media space and in the Trade Hall are just as valuable as the Breakouts, Spotlights and Research Papers. The Twitter chat backed up with blogs and reviews and videos of Keynotes and presentations on Slideshare and websites allow more people to “virtually” attend conferences, but nothing really beats the face to face interactions, connections, and shared experiences.
I have also had a play with Martin Hawksey’s TagsExplorer which I encountered whilst I was doing my MOOC in January. The visual display of tweets is fascinating and so I decided to create one for the EdchatNZ last Thursday evening. It took me a while but I eventually got there ( just not good at following instructions!) It only picks up tweets within 7 days so when I tried to do one for Ulearn13 it only aggregated the tweets from Friday onwards. Interesting to note though the level of interaction over the weekend following the conference.
So, where to now? I am still processing ideas, still following tweets, trying to keep up with schoolwork, wondering how to maintain my focus on the day to day stuff and keep my thoughts from flying away and being lost somewhere in my hyperactive brain so that when the holidays come, I can retrieve them. Watch this space!