The slogan of the ECOO conference this year was “Inspire, Connect, Teach” and I have to say, the conference sure delivered on all three fronts!
Inspire – I had the pleasure of attending three amazing sessions that had me enraptured!
Alec Couros – I have been following Alec on Twitter for about eight months now and so I knew I had to take the opportunity to hear him speak in person when I could. He spoke on Social Media and what he had to say really struck a cord with me being as I teach media studies at LDSS. He spoke about such topics as offensive content in the media, misinformation, scams and hoaxes, safety and cyberbullying, social networks, and civic/political/cultural engagement. What I really enjoyed about his presentation is that he showed us examples of all these topics but then proceeded to discuss this in terms of what we as teachers can with these topics in our classrooms. I also really appreciated how he took a positive spin on social media. I often feel that too often when people discuss social media it has a negative slant and Alec suggested that it’s here to stay and we are the ones who need to help students navigate these waters appropriately.
Alec also gave the closing keynote and yet again his message for to the group was that social media can be a really positive aspect of our lives. I especially love what he said about professional development. He suggests that every morning when you wake up, you have access to professional development through the internet and Twitter but it’s up to you to engage in these opportunities. I hadn’t thought about that idea before and I think that is one of the reasons that I have Tweetdeck on as often as possible.
Ben Hazzard – He is actually the reason I joined Twitter in the first place and when I found out he was presenting at ECOO, I knew I had to meet him in person and hear his message. In talking with Ben, it is obvious that he has a passion for teaching, but also to help people and for his master’s in education, he created a website called “Teachers Connecting” . The website is a place for teachers to register and then find other teachers all over the world so that they may engage in classroom collaboration projects. The idea is truly fantastic and inspiring and really emphasizes that teachers need other teachers and the website works as a moderator to allow teachers to find other teachers.
While in Ben’s session, I was sitting at a table with Doug Sadler and Mary Kay Goindi and we were inspired to discuss collaboration. From this conversation, Doug and I have made a collaboration plan. He teaches in the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board and they have a wonderful program running where their grade twelve students create videos about such issues as digital footprints, safe internet browsing, social networking, netiquette, cyberbullying, and many more which they then go around and present to the grade eight classes in their area. (You can access their website from here.) I was so inspired by this idea that I asked if we could do the same projects in my EMS 30 (Grade 11 English Media Studies) and from there we have formed a collaboration project involving some kind of video conferencing between our classes and the sharing of resources. I think it will be great motivation for my students to see what others are doing in their community and for them to work with a class three hours away! I really am super excited for this project and I think sometimes things are just meant to be.
iEARN – This presentation was definitely very heartwarming and you could see from the presenters, Jim and Mali, it is a project that is very dear to their hearts. The idea behind the iEARN project is that you register on their website and find a project to do with another class across the world. Jim and Mali discussed projects that they had completed with people in Africa and Japan and it was obvious that all the work and time that went into this project has given them a renewed passion for teaching. I was also really touched by their discussion of peace. In that project that discussed what peace means here in Canada and then were able to see images and text from students in Pakistan and Iran sharing their thoughts about peace. It was heart-wrenching knowing that what we have here in Canada is so amazing and that even though that’s not necessarily the reality for those students, at least they still have hope.
Connect – By far and away, one of the best aspects of the conference!
Twitter has become a staple in my life and even though some people believe you can’t develop meaningful relationships with others over the internet, I truly believe you can and Thursday night was the perfect example! On Thursday night, Brenda Sherry organized a “Tweetup” where all us Twitterers got together for a face to face social gathering. It was such an amazing experience as I was in the same room with all these people that I converse with in a virtual setting. I had some amazing conversations with people who know a lot about me without ever having spoken a word with them. We shared jokes, stories, and ideas and it was like I have known these people for a really long time. I also laughed harder than I have in a long time about topics outside of education (far, far outside for my rural friends… 🙂
The most amazing part though of meeting these Twitter friends in person is the realization that we all share a common passion for our students and want to make the lives and classroom experiences the best possible. In this group of friends, I have found such a strong support network and the desire to inspire change. Change in our daily classroom practice, change in our approaches, and hopefully a change in thinking in terms of skills and ideas related to education. I’ve often heard that education is the last to adapt and interacting with these wonderful people yesterday has given me a renewed hope for our education system.
Finally, in terms of connecting, a group of us returned home from the conference and immediately turned on Twitter and engaged in even more dialogue and begun discussing next year’s ECOO conference. I think that speaks to Brenda Sherry‘s leadership and positivity that one of the first things we did when we returned home was to start speaking about when we can get together again and what we can do next year! I think it also speaks to a core passion when Colin Jagoe was sitting across town thinking of how we could all be together rather than in separate parts of the GTA. From all this enthusiasm, I’m so excited for what comes next!
Teach – and teach it did!
To me, I was taught so much in one day that I can’t begin to even explain how much my head is still buzzing (even after this blog post!) and that there is so much more excitement and sharing of ideas to come! I also feel that being together with such a group of exemplary teachers has motivated me to really assess my classroom practice and think reflect even further on the fact that it’s not the technology that is important, it’s the teaching. I think that message rang loud and clear through this conference and even though we had the opportunity to see a lot of cool and exciting products, we still have to remember that what we as the teachers with the technology as a tool is far more important.
In closing, thanks again to Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen for an absolutely amazing conference and I’m really excited for our future collaborations!