This year was the third time that I have been to EduTech. In 2013, I went with Frank, my principal and we noticed that a number of South Australian schools were sending groups of teachers rather than just a couple of members of their leadership team. I must have been in a major blogging slump then because I didn't reflect on any of that conference although Dan Pink was there, so was Gary Stager, Stephen Heppell and Alan November, along with Skype-ins from Sir Ken and Salman Khan. So in 2014, we expanded the group going to include my fellow AP, Anna along with three teachers who represented the Early Year, middle primary and upper primary teams. That conference featured a huge line up of big edu-names, none beamed in, including Sugata Mitra, Sir Ken, Ewan McIntosh and Ian Jukes. I blogged about that experience here.
I think I've become the defacto tour guide for our school because late last year, Ashley, our Early Years Head of School pulled me aside and said that senior leadership had approved funding to take 8 people to the conference in 2015. I know that last year's attendees have all used many of the ideas to improve their practice, to become more connected to others beyond our site and to become drivers of innovation in terms of learning opportunities for our students. So, we ran our process and selected our participants and we headed out last Monday evening for Brisbane. The group was a good mix of year level expertise, experienced and early career teachers, excitement and nerves.
I decided that I wouldn't spend time during talks making notes because I didn't want to be carrying an iPad or laptop around all day - I thought my phone would do the job. Using Twitter, I either posted a quick observation or favourited someone else's tweet to build up a timeline of gathered cyber-notes. I had done my research about who I wanted to see - and was pleased to see that two speakers, Shelly Terrell and Simon Breakspear, who I was keen to see were available after initially being booked out. I even volunteered to speak at one of the four TeachMeet sessions about my Student Leadership program. I hoped to catch up with educators that I normally only get to converse with online but apart from that, I was hoping to be quite open and flexible about my EduTech experience.
Now, I know that EduTech is a commercial event with loads of sponsors, a huge vendor area but I've stated my opinion about that a couple of blog posts back. There are useful things that I might want to consider purchasing for my school and I'm not forced to go to any of the booths. For instance, I got to see first hand the 3D printer that I'd been recommended, and hopefully will be able to cash in on a special they were offering at the moment. The Maker Space area was filled with great making and coding resources (I like Cubelets and Little Bits) but guess what, they cost money.
But the value was in the discussions with my colleagues - What did you think of that? How do you think that would go at our school? What do you need to get things happening? What's challenging you right now? What tells you that you're on the right track? What does this all mean for our students? We sat and listened to Eric Mazur together, then went our separate ways, then met back up and talked and then scattered and then crossed paths again. I got to catch up with online colleagues (Sue Waters, Tom Barrett, Ewan McIntosh), and compare their work with my own, to catch up on the gossip and introduce some of these personal influences to my day-to-day colleagues. I met some more recent online links for the first time as well (Corinne Campbell, Matt Easterman) and chatted with other South Aussie colleagues (Paul Luke, Dave Henty-Smith, Nick Jackson). We got the whole group happening on Twitter - regular users helped the novices to build out their connections in a flurry of first time tweets, retweets and favourites.
If I had to pick a couple of highlights, I would say that the workshop with Shelly Terrell was the number one pick. She talked about and demonstrated online spaces both for teachers and students. She was so easy to listen to and a ninety session passed in no time at all. I also enjoyed Eric Sheninger, whose insights about leadership in a school striving for continual improvement and innovation were invaluable as one who aspires to meaningful leadership. I even bought his book, "Digital Leadership" but stopped short of getting it signed like some did (never understood the appeal of autographs, really). I wasn't as dedicated as I could have been about getting to sessions and missed a few that would have been good. Being a previous delegate, I could tell where the sponsor's sessions were on the agenda and knew when to vote with my feet. I'm not sure what the solution is in that regard - sponsors who have paid big dollars will want their product featured in one way or another but educators are too savvy to get sucked in for anything too blatant.
So, 2015 was still a solid investment for my team. The names weren't as big as 2014 but the conversations we had were just as important. I can't think of any other event that could provide what we got from our two days and expose them to ideas and concepts that will spark action back at the workplace. And I'm looking forward to see how that all plays out.