It was a nice little walk home from one building to the other last night at the Kempenfelt Convention Centre. I’m with friends, old and new and one missing but whose fingerprints are clearly visible at every turn, at the annual Waterloo Regional District School Board’s summer professional learning activity. Depending upon who you talk to, this event is now in its 19th or 20th year.
The premise is fairly simple – get enough learners and facilitators together in one place with computers attached to the internet and use the concepts of Open Court to learn or consolidate your learning on various topics. The logistics are anything but simple though.
Members of the IT Department have set up their own sandbox, as Mark Carbone calls it, so that we can do our activities attached to the Georgian College network. At the outset yesterday, I took a few pictures to record a sense of what was happening and they’re available here. The pictures don’t really do it justice though; you need to experience it. As you wander through the convention centre, you’ll see small groups working on activities like:
- create web pages with a district hosted instance of WordPress;
- create web pages with a Rapid Web Development tool;
- learning how to use a SMART Board and create Notebook files;
- making music with iTunes, Finale;
- making connections to the online world with a myriad of Web 2.0 activities;
- learning how to use classroom response systems;
- Google Documents;
- working with assistive technology;
- iPad 101, 201, 301, 401;
- using probeware in the science classroom;
- photo and image editing;
- creating Comic Life and Bitstrips documents;
- and professional discussions everwhere you turn.
Once the initial learning happens, the goal is to dig in and use that learning on projects to get ready for the new school year. There is an incredible air of focus as you watch people who could be golfing or travelling but instead have opted for three days devoted to their own professional development.
There are glitches, to be sure. As I write this post, the internet is down again so hopefully, things will be better soon and I can get it uploaded. Unlike traditional conferences where outages and problems would be severe show stoppers, here you’re literally just a couple of seconds away from going outside for a walk by the lake or a quick game of basketball with your wife. For all the high end technology that’s necessary to pull this off, you’re only steps from a mind clearing moment. I hope that people who get to live near settings like this appreciate what they have.
My friend Ron Millar had asked me for years to join the group as a facilitator and for years, I had to pass. This event had always conflicted with OSAPAC and I couldn’t make a commitment. I left OSAPAC last year and so was able to enjoy the event for the first time and got invited back this year. It didn’t take much more than a second to respond in the affirmative when the invitation came.
Sponsorship would be necessary to help absorb costs and the IT Department, IBM, and Apple Canada have all supported the event. I’m constantly amazed at the power of being connected. There was a Twitter hashtag that you could follow #CATC11 and the outside world was responding. I gave a very quick demonstration of Zite, my go-to news source, and shared one of the links that it offered yesterday “100+ Google Tips for Teachers” and it was interesting to follow the retweets of that message by the rest of the world whose learning continues wherever they happened to be. They didn’t know the setting I was in when I sent it.
That was the order as we were working into the evening and we vacated the building to see the sun set over the bay. There’s always something spectacular about seeing sunsets here. As the picture shows, I missed the actual sinking by perhaps two minutes. Oh well, there’s always tonight.
As I wrap this post, internet access is still unavailable but it really doesn’t matter. I could just as happily go for a walk instead of fretting about it. Maybe I’ll get around to uploading it tomorrow.
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