Tackling Conferences as a Team

This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend the IB Annual Regional Conference of the Americas hosted in Toronto, Ontario. The theme for the conference was Learning Together, and there was over 1,400 educators from around the world in attendance. With the conference happening so close to my school, we were able to send a strong team of 19 to the conference from across the PYP, MYP and DP teaching teams within the school.

One of the challenges that I have experienced at conferences is often wanting to be in more than one place at a time. Often, there are two or more sessions happening simultaneously that I am interested in going to. The IB Conference is no exception to this rule! With having a strong team of people attending a conference together, it is possible to use technology to help everyone gather knowledge from multiple sessions that are happening at the same time so people don’t have to worry about not being in two places at once.

The first time that I saw this approach being used was at Integrated 2014 in Portland, Oregon. The conference organizers created a hyperlinked GoogleDoc that listed all of the conference sessions and encouraged participants to record there notes in the document for all of the conference attendees to share. Throughout the sessions, participants helped to build a robust document with notes from all of the sessions. After the conference, participants could read about other workshops, click on links and benefit from the shared knowledge of other participants. Even if you had attended this conference as the only teacher from your school or district, you still had a ‘team’ to learn with and from. Although this document was very useful, it was overwhelming the quantity of notes that it included and the context of note taking varied among participants.

If you are fortunate enough to be attending a conference with a team of educators from your school or district, it is a wonderful opportunity to harness technology to fuel a collaborative team approach to tackling the conference! It also allows members of your team who are not able to attend the conference to benefit from the knowledge gained at the conference as the document can be shared with a wider audience after the fact.

In advance of the conference, an online collaborative document can be created in a tool such as GoogleDocs and shared with the members of your team that are attending the conference. When setting up the document you might want to consider what format would make the most sense for note taking. Is there certain information that you would like from each session (i.e., names of the presenters, email addresses, links)? Do you want the notes to be anonymous or would you like people to attach their name to the notes? How can the ‘comments’ feature be used? Can a highlighting colour system be created to help draw attention to action items? One tip is to use the ‘Table of Contents’ feature within GoogleDocs to create a hyperlinked schedule at the beginning of the document to make navigation easier.

Following the conference, it might be helpful to have one person take a few minutes to ‘clean up’ up the document. This does not mean removing any notes, simply looking for places where there are extra spaces that could be removed, making font size consistent, and other things to make the document visually appealing for when it is shared with a wider audience.

In using this approach at the IB conference, I found that my own experience was enriched by the experiences of my colleagues who were also in attendance. I was able to gain knowledge from sessions I did not attend in person and I am able to start specific conversations with people about the sessions they attended.

I hope that this type of collaboration and sharing becomes a standard practice at more conference in the future.



What is a “connected educator” anyways?

I call myself a “connected educator” but what does that really mean.

What am I connected to?
How do I connect with them?
Why do I connect?
What do I get from my connections?

Last night I came across this YouTube video that was produced by the Office of Educational Technology at the United States Department of Education. It is only about 5 minutes, but I think that it explains the power that being a connected educator can bring to your professional practice.

Through various social media tools (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, blogs, RSS Feeds) I have created my PLN – Personal Learning

Visual Representation of my PLN

Visual Representation of my PLN

Network. My PLN is a diverse group of educators from around the world that keep me connected with what is happening in a global context in the world of education. They are people who I have met at conferences such as ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia, classmates from my Master’s program, respected authors, organizations, and teachers who I think are doing awesome things! Having a variety of perspectives and hearing about the challenges that other people are facing has definitely helped broaden my point of view and engage more critically in examining my teaching practice and philosophy.

Working in an small independent school, can sometimes be an isolating experience – as you can be the only teacher in a specific context, but it can also be an amazingly innovative experience because teachers are often encouraged and supported to explore new strategies and methods in their classrooms. Twitter has quickly become like having another Grade 4 teacher in my school, where I can go to look for advice, ideas, and support.

MAET Makers: Round 4: The Final Chapter (…for now)

I just couldn’t let the Raspberry Pi beat me, so I brought it out for one more round to take it down. We have yet to be able to get the Raspberry Pi working despite our best efforts using our “network” to assist.

Unfortunately, I think I discovered my problem was greater than I could fix given the resources I had due to a possibly incompatible SD card, although I was able to assist another MAET student in the online cohort in discovering her problem, and getting her Raspberry Pi working, so all was not lost. As we knew that the problem was with the SD card set up I discovered a wiki that addressed this issue.

SD Card Setup Wiki –

This led me to discover that perhaps the SD card we were using may be incompatible.

SD Card Investigation –

After locating this information I feel slightly better in my networked learning journey. At this point I have been able to find information to confirm that challenges that we were experiencing, and it would seem like this is a common problem that occurs. Without the internet, I would not have been able to access this wiki and discover this information and I may have been left feeling defeated and broken; however, now I feel like the problem is resolvable with the proper SD card.

With this information I was also able to assist another MAET student to get her Raspberry Pi working. As this seemed to provide a solution to her problem, it made me feel positively about networked learning, as I was able to continue to pass along the knowledge that I had gained to assist someone else who was experiencing the same challenge. This is the beauty of having a network where you can reach out to other people and ask for assistance, or get new ideas that you may have not thought of. Although I don’t think I will be using Raspberry Pi in my own classroom in the near future,  my Personal Learning Network on Twitter has been a huge factor in my professional growth, as at times teaching in an independent school can be an isolating experience when you are the only teacher in a specific grade level. I have learned about great books to read with my class, gotten ideas for assignments, found classrooms to Skype with, and so much more. It is great to know that you can also find networks online for learning other new skills like Raspberry Pi.

As part of my “maker” journey, I decided to learn how to utilize a new piece of video creation and editing software that we were fortunate enough to be given access to this week – Snag It and Camtasia. I personally find that learning a new piece of software is much easier when you have a meaningful purpose to utilize it for, and I thought that it would be a great introduction. The tutorials that are available on the TechSmith website are very helpful and there is a healthy online community accessible from their webpage. Personally, I know that sometimes I forget what an asset the internet is and how much is available for assist you out there if you are willing to take risks and be open minded to learning new skills.

Please take 4 minutes to watch my MAET Maker Journey that I have documented for all to see. I hope that it will inspire you to want to utilize the “net”work in order to learn something new or share your knowledge to assist someone else.

Day 2: Quick Fire – PLN Visualization

Today the “QuickFire” challenge was to use a visualization tool to create a representation of our Personal Learning Network (PLN).

The guiding questions were:
• Who do you connect with?
• Where (when) do (did) the connections take place?
• What types of things do you learn from these people?

We discussed a variety of visualization tools, and I decided to try Popplet. Popplet has some basic functions and there is a free membership.

My PLN visualization can be found here: