Last month I went to 2 conferences: I started April at the Teach Tech Play Conference and ended it at Energise 2017. These two events were such a breath of fresh air.
Admittedly, the locations were a major help. Teach Tech Play was in Melbourne so I got to have a weekend exploring there before the conference started. And Energise 2017 was in Queenstown, where I didn’t have extra days to explore but the scenery was amazing enough at the venue:
These different locations also meant that the teachers at the conferences were a different group than I regularly see at conferences in the upper half of the North Island. This means that I got to meet lots of educators that I knew through twitter and also to meet new faces that I hadn’t interacted with before. (A special shout out here to Rachel Chisnall who I met face to face for the first time the night before we presented a workshop together – led to great opening lines about welcome to our workshop, we met online). Now, I really like the crew of educators that I have got to know over the years at local events, but it was great to break out of that chamber and interact with different people for a change.
The timing was also great. Term 1 had felt like a struggle for me. Ending the term with a couple of bursts of enthusiasm, passion and inspiration was just what I needed to get my excited puppy back on about learning.
There was cool tech to play with at both: I got to have a go with a Hololens at TeachTechPlay and Surface Pro’s at Energise.
There were inspiring keynotes at both: the highlights for me were Ewan McIntosh (http://www.notosh.com/) opening Teach Tech Play and Ian Taylor’s (http://arl.co.nz/) opening keynote at Energise. Both of these speakers wrap inspiration and strategies up in great story telling.
But all of these points could describe almost any education conference these days.
What really made these two conferences stand out for me was the genuine teacher-centred approach and feel of these events.
Neither event had exhibition stands. At Teach Tech Play if companies wanted to be there, they had to run a workshop and participate in other sessions like the teachers. Energise was run by Cyclone but even their staff were told their sessions had to be based on tools or strategies rather than get us to help you. This meant that lunch breaks were spent having learning conversations with teachers from other schools rather than wandering display stands, being sold products.
Energise had really thought about the timing of the workshops. Day 1 had two 2 hour workshops so that you could get much deeper into a topic and then Day 2 was shorter bursts on more practical ideas or tools to take back into the classroom.
Both conferences had thought about how to get the 2nd day starting off on the right foot. At Teach Tech Play they provided free barista coffee and encouraged people to join a Coffee Edu system – basically sit in the cafe and chat about learning topics that you want to discuss. Whilst Energise started with a surprise – a drum session that had us all laughing and heading to workshops full of energy.
Teach Tech Play ended their conference with a student keynote – students from 2 schools had spent the conference undergoing a Design Thinking challenge with NoTosh about teacher conferences and designed a more interactive session to end Teach Tech Play.
We ended the conference with a high energy, interactive session that was so much better than going back to sit down and be talked at for the final hour. This block at the end of conferences often has me dreading it (or even worse – skipping out to head home early). This was an awesome way to end the 2 days.
So, to Arnika MacPhail, Eleni Kyritsis, Steve Brophy and Corey Aylen: Thank you. Thank you for designing your conferences from a teacher perspective. The extra time and effort involved in the planning was absolutely worth it. You created events that stepped out from the standard conference offerings. Teach Tech Play and Energise are two conferences that this learning junkie will always remember.