Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Inaugural #edchatnz Conference 2014

Wow. I made it.

I was so worried that I wasn't going to be able to go. I wasn't allowed to go on the Friday. I was truly gutted. Not only because I wouldn't be able to see the speakers on N4L and the modern learning environment at Hobsonville Point Secondary School but because I'd miss out on that first day of fan girly squee. I was so looking forward to meeting all my friends face to face for the first time and I spent Friday at school wishing I was in Auckland with them instead. It felt like everyone else had gone to Disneyland without me.

I went up Friday night, nervous butterflies in my stomach. Had dinner with my bestie Steven and Nick who cooked the most amazing dinner yet. Must be all of those MKR episodes they've been watching. Dragged Steven along with me to meet my friends at Marina Restaurant and Bar.  I knew I'd be fine once I got there but just needed him for a tiny bit of support but mostly so he could see how amazing these Twitter connections I've been making are.

When walking in I saw Mr Beech (@beechEdesingnz) - who promptly told me I need to start calling him Terry.  Matt Nicoll stood up and gave me a massive hug. Was SO cool to finally meet him. They walked me and Steven over to the rest of our friends at the table still. Terry said, "Danielle is over there in the hoody." Had no idea where she was. Was expecting someone with black hair like her shadowy profile pic haha.

Before I carry on - I must say how incredibly surreal and weird it is meeting people who you know but who you haven't ever met. Making those connections with my colleagues over Twitter has been so transformative for me as a teacher, a future leader and for my own personal growth.
Matt introduced me to the table - Anne-Marie, Monika, Danielle and a few others who I hadn't talked with before.

Meeting Danielle was the coolest experience. She turned around and said, "Hi Alex" and I said, "Danielle?" They had had a massive day of hugs and meeting each other and other than Matt this was my first time I was meeting one of my eduheroes. I reverted to a nervous fangirl haha and when she stood up and said, "Alex Le Long!" We hugged it out, and I went and sat down trying not to stare at her. I was so excited and happy to finally meet her! Seriously. The weirdest feeling meeting people you know you know but haven't met face to face yet.

Next meeting was with Monika Kern who I had done a few twitter chats and learnt from during a TeachMeet and catching up with Anne-Marie Hyde who is my Twitter mentor from Rotorua :)
We were sitting down and talking for ages when eventually I was sitting next to an English woman, Matt and a new guy I met that night. The new guy - Heraun? - was telling me I should talk to the lady by Matt about whatever we had been talking about because she worked at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I looked at her again, then said, "Ros?" She looked at me and I said who I was. We both stood up and I jumped up and down a little haha another fangirly moment - and then sat down again explaining to Steven who this amazing person was and how I talk with her all the time on Twitter.

It must have been weird for Steven even though he's a teacher too - to see me speaking so openly with people I had only just met face to face. But the reality is that I've been talking with these friends for months. Intellectual conversations around best practice, struggles, needing mentoring, gaining advice, inspiration and friendship. Hard too for him because he only ever hears an "It's fine" from me when he asks about how things are going on the phone and hearing the detail I went into with my Twitter mates must have been a bit strange.

The last amazing meet ups I had that night was when Matt took me to meet Philippa and while talking with her, two people walked over to say good bye to them - and as they were walking out - he'd said, "That's @Ginippi." I was trying to be all cool after meeting everyone so far that night, and in the end I couldn't do it and ran out the door, down the steps calling out to Gin. Massive hug again, introductions to another teacher (not on Twitter...yet!) and then they left. 

The next morning I was equally nervous because I was just that excited to check out the school, meet my friends and knew I was in for an awesome day of workshops and presentations.

Personalised PD at it's best.

Started the day with the Face to Face Twitter meet up. It was so cool. Met so many of my friends that morning. @BridgetLCM, @MrsRodgers, @geomouldey, @mrsmoorenz,  @dancewellNZ, @emPOWERed  met loads of new people too.

Danielle led a Twitter chat right there with us tweeting our group mates' thoughts and ideas about the conference so far and their Twitter experiences.

We talked about being the "lone nut" and the importance of remembering our amazing PLN that supports and keeps dancing with us.

Next up was the Personalising SOLO workshop with Andrea Hensen (@andrea_hensenNZ) which was awesome. I learnt so much and also had lots of things clarified as well. There was one guy who seemed like a bit of a heckler but I think he was just trying to understand the taxonomy in more depth and in how it would relate to him and his students. 

During Morning Tea, I was walking aimlessly trying to find some more friends - but it's so hard in a room full of people where you don't really know what they look like properly. I thought about tweeting out to everyone and say, "Hi Guys! I'm by X." But thought it was a bit silly - so instead kept walking around until I bumped into Sarah again and we looked for friends together. haha. 

Finally bumped into a few people Sarah knew - and started talking about how the conference was going. By this stage we were all very used to people grabbing our lanyards and turning them over to see who we were talking to. Mine was turned and then there was a bit of a squeal  - I turned hers over and jumped up and down because I'd just met the one and only @annekenn. 

Caught up and met @raewyndonnell, @MaryWomble, @

Next up was Ros Maceachern's workshop on 'A Brave New World'. She talked about her journey within Hobsonville Point Secondary School and then got us into our curriculum areas. We were asked to think about systems and how they would work in our setting. 

Of course, the English teachers were onto it and got their ideas down (on post-it notes of course!) and then we needed to think about the process in which we were explaining the idea of systems and how to teach it. 

We chose societies - absolutely perfect for my current topics around 'The Hunger Games' and 'Noughts and Crosses'. 

We discussed the different texts we could use to show this and more importantly how we would teach it. Thematically, using the wider context and current events to help deepen understanding. 

Pics to come:

After this, I went to the next workshop which was the one with Pam Hook on SOLO in the classroom. 

She absolutely blew my mind. Such a fabulous workshop. Brilliant ideas and inspiration. 

Taught us about SOLO - from the source. So clear. Like @BridgetCasse said - it's about the learning. It's all just learning. 

She explained hexagons and how to use the rubric generator. I finally get it. 

Pics to come: 
.
After her fantastic workshop we went into the auditorium for the keynote speaker from @karenmelhuishspencer and learnt about learning again. This time digital literacy and research. 

Lastly, we had a massive ending empowerment speech from Danielle where she asked the room who was on Twitter. I put my hand up and looked around the room. Nearly everyone put their hand up. Stoked. 

Felt so good to be a part of this massively connected PLN. 

Loads of prizes were handed out and then thankyous to the Steering Committee and goodbyes with all of our favourite people. 

I stayed behind and hung out with Ros - got some great resources for 91107 and suggestions for 91101 and ideas for how to do the close viewing assessment better. 

She gave me a tonne of resources for Noughts and Crosses and The Hunger Games too. Thanks also to Katie for her resources - and the many others who answered my call for help over the English forums. 

Was great catching up with you all face to face. I look forward to the next time :)

Nga mihi nui ki a koe,

Alex