ICOT was easily the best conference that I have been part of. It provided a mass of ideas and thoughts in a good balance of keynote and breakout sessions. I met lots of great people that I had known only over twitter previously and also had great discussions with completely new people. Everyone of these discussions was a valuable addition to my week at the conference and many of these people have now become part of my wider personal learning network through twitter. There are a string of great comments and blogs coming out (see other blogs on these links by Karen, Matt and Stephanie) but here is my final wrap up of the conference.
For me personally, one of the greatest moments of the conference was seeing (13 year old) Hana Olds speak. She spoke with confidence about her beliefs and learning and in many ways encapsulated what was coming out of many of the other workshops. Her quote “I don’t want to do a project, I want to do something with a purpose” really struck me and I told anyone who would listen. The main points I took away was that she wanted her learning to involve:
- a topic/context she had a passion for
- a task that required persistance
- and be something that had a purpose
To see more about Hana and her passion, persistance and purpose click on this link to see a story about how she came to write a book about Swee Tan or even better yet, click here to buy a copy of the book.
The other emerging superstar of the conference was Ewan McIntosh of No Tosh. His opening keynote gave 4 commonalities to great learning: 1. Know the why 2. Provocation to jar the mind 3. Trust the process 4. Live to perform. A lot of conversation coming out of his keynote was getting students to move from Googleable to UnGoogleable questions (for more on this see his blogpost here from last year). He articulated his main points clearly and absolutely provoked a lot of thought about practical ways teachers could ramp up their practice. In fact, he did this so well that his breakouts were packed for the rest of the week.
I was lucky enough to sit beside John Edwards at Martin Renton’s breakout. This session was great and I got a lot of practical ideas about how to push my students deeper with their thinking and encourage conceptual progression. My main takeaway from this session was about questioning students to confuse them so that they can then develop deeper understandings. But the breakout was made even better by the questioning that John Edwards gave me in the discussion parts. For every response he would push me further and deeper in my thoughts. It was exhausting but exhilirating and I took a lot out of the session thanks to his questioning.
It would be remiss for me to glaze over a controversial (for me) moment of the conference. In one of the keynote speeches, Kerry Spackman launched his Knights Institute as a plan to create change in New Zealand society. This plan has an admirable aim to to make the greatest possible long term sustainable improvement to New Zealand society. It approaches this aim with a “top down” approach. Now, this is not terrible in it’s own right as everyone has the right to their own perspective. That we differ on top down or bottom up as the ‘best’ approach doesn’t particularly phase me but the manner in which he put forward his perspective offended me greatly.
The Knight’s Institute has 3 levels to their organisation which were introduced to us as: 1) Knights; 2) Knights’Associates – those with influence; and 3) people like you, the Knights’ Agents. So there we all are, sitting in front of him, having just been told that we have no agency to cause change in our society. History shows that this is inherently wrong as change has been made in society through public pressure ove and over in the past. Otherwise why would we know the names of Rosa Parks? Even ignoring history and focusing on ‘now-story’ who does he think has caused such dramatic change in the Arab Spring? So, I think that his name for those of us “with no influence” is quite prophetic – the Agents, as in we are the ones who truly have agency to cause change in our society.
ICOT 2013 was a brilliant experience. Thank you so much to those who spoke in either keynotes or breakouts and challenged my thinking to start the year. But an even bigger thank you to those who added to this in discussions over food, coffee and beer as the week progressed. Can’t wait to start provoking thoughts with my students and you all over the year!