Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Connect to Learn: It’s More than One Day

On Monday, 800 or so educators got together to learn.  We started the day with five extraordinary BC educational leaders who shared their insights for 20 minutes each (“ed talks”).  Kieran Egan, SFU professor and author began at the beginning – quite literally – with early man and our toolkits for making sense of the world.  Chris Kennedy, SD45 superintendent, shared his thinking about our latest tools from the digital world.  Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser, faculty members at VIU and co-leaders of the Network of Inquiry and Innovation asked us key questions for engagement and made us promise to ask them (my favourite:  ask your students if they can name two adults in your school who believe they will be a success in life – if they can’t, you have a simple strategy to quickly and effectively improve their learning).  Nanaimo’s own Gary Anaka, shared some key strategies for using the learner’s best tool:  the brain.  Participants then chose one of the four keynotes for an in-depth presentation on the topic.  After lunch, there was a selection of extraordinary sessions, most developed by our own teachers to share their passionate inquiry and thinking on teaching and learning on our focus themes (co-created at our Imagine day as ideas that matter to us) of technology, building community, teaching to diversity, strategies that work, inquiry, engagement and assessment for learning.  (See our Twitter archive of the conference.)

Notes on the morning keynotes by @drea_laj
The day went off without a hitch (well, no big hitches at any rate), because of the amazing, mostly invisible, behind-the-scenes efforts of the PD team.  Jan Thorsen, the PD committee and the NDTA office staff worked many long hours planning, organizing, setting up and trying to ensure that members’ needs for engaging and meaningful professional development were met.  At the venue, Ted, Joel, Linda and a team of student helpers worked tirelessly to ensure that the day went smoothly.  And it did!

And while I loved every minute of the presentations I attended (I wished I could have attended all of them!) and was very appreciative of the effective organization, the best part was simply seeing the space filled with passionate, curious, thoughtful, learningful colleagues and all the conversations I had between things.  Lately I’ve been thinking that the content of our PD is less important than the process.  These events rarely tell us something new.  The best events, surely, connect with, challenge, deepen, extend, add to the work we are already doing.  What’s best about them isn’t what we learn while we’re there, but the conversations sparked that continue after the conference and the connections inspired that stick to create new learning partnership.  After all, the learning that matters most happens when we dig in to apply the ideas, even when we’re busy, and try to add, refine, adjust, expand, extend our practice to serve our students.  That’s when the continuing conversations grounded in our common experience and the partnerships forged matter most – so we can keep at the hard work of deep learning long after our day together.

I am so grateful to the presenters who inspired our further learning, to the organizers who made the day happen and to the educators who continue to act daily to make a difference for our children.

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