Post #BIT14

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.  It was so good, after devoting the past 10 months to the planning and preparation for the Bring IT, Together Conference  to be at home.  My reality check was Jaimie, perched on the cedar chest in the front window waiting for me.

I’m sure that he was wondering why I was sitting in the car with my phone pointed at the house.  But, the wagging tail was a solid indication that he knew who it was.

Sadly, as you’ll notice from the rain drops, our reunion didn’t immediately turn into a dog walk but just a belly scratch.  The walk happened later.

The results from my Fitbit band told the story of activity checking things out – 14,834, 14,465, 15,234 steps for the three days.  Had my friend Peter Beens not driven a few of us to the Falls for the Photowalk, it would have been even more for Thursday!  It was good activity, checking in on workshops to make sure the presenters’ needs were met.  Between me, Jeff Reaburn, and Rob Scott, I think we had that covered.  I hope nobody noticed me crawling up the stairs in the theatre to the audio booth during George’s keynote to get the audio adjusted for his videos.  That’s a really long walk at the end of a long day.

The drive home had me thinking about blog posts for the upcoming week and I hope that I remember my thoughts to make it happen.

For today, though, my thoughts turn to the important things from the past three days.  It was about the people.

Planning Team
I can’t say enough good words about the planning team for the event.  They worked their tails off to make the event successful.  Cyndie and I held monthly online meetings and we used the tools, including our infamous “minute by minute” to take care of all of the details.  We had one simple rule – if it wasn’t in the minute by minute with someone responsible for it, it won’t happen.  While it’s technically our home base for planning, it can now serve as a good reminder of what happened.

The committee, I thought, excelled in its attention to detail.  This was our second time at the Niagara Falls Convention Centre and we learned much from last year.  The Convention Centre learned well too and it paid off with a smoothly run event.  As just one example, we moved our Learning Centre or Unconference Centre and had great response to it.  I don’t know if it was totally change in location or change in mindset that you can unconference within a conference, but it was a popular spot.  Folks signed in on the big wall and Jaclyn Calder turned it into a sweet looking Thinglink here.

If anyone ever asks you “who to follow in Ontario Education”, send them here and have them start clicking.

All of our planning seemed to fall nicely in place.  Audio visual, registration, social media, social activities, door prizes, exhibit hall, food and snacks, scheduling – they didn’t happen by accident.  A great deal of hard work made it happen.  Thank you so much, committee.

Learning With Friends
It’s one thing to talk about your network, but quite another when you get to meet face to face.  It seemed like every time I turned around, there was another person that I’d had interactions with online.  The greetings, thoughts, and memories serve to remind me that everyone is so much more than just a Twitter handle.

As I’m writing this post, I get notice that Colleen Rose had just blogged about her Day 2 and 3 at the conference.

By far, the most touching aspect of #bit14: when we see how students benefit from the changes we make as teachers.— Colleen Rose (@ColleenKR) November 6, 2014

I’m not sure that any other words could better describe the takeaways for educators.  I was so humbled by the high level of thinking and analysis of education that was shared by Ontario classroom teachers.  I’ve said it so often “If you want to know what’s happening in education, talk to an educator.  If you want to know what’s happening in Ontario education, talk to an Ontario educator”.  Find out from the experts; you won’t by reading the newspaper.

If anyone attended and doesn’t think differently come Monday morning, they had to be napping for three days.

I’m not going to name names because when you do, you inevitably miss someone.  I enjoyed numerous trips through the Exhibit Hall in order to visit and chat with all the exhibitors.  What strikes me as being unique was the lower key message.  There was no arm twisting or promises that “if you buy this, your test scores will go up 20%” like I’ve seen at similar conferences.  There’s a distinct feeling that these folks want to work with you for success.

Both Languages
This was a definite goal for both Cyndie and myself.  If we’re really serious about the conference being the place for those in Ontario education to learn, it needs to be friendly to both English and French language learners.  With the help of our good friend and committee member Lise Galuga, we were bilingual from the start.  The website was in both languages.  We made sure that we had at least one French language session in each timeslot.  All three of the keynotes had French in their presentation.  Kudos to Richard and George for working hard at some just in time learning.  Lise shared the master of ceremonies duties to welcome everyone.

The Low
Of course, there are always a few things that don’t go as planned.  We had the potential for the weather for the Photowalk being the low moment but it didn’t happen.  Instead, this is a message to the person that created the low moment for me – I hope to see your name in the blue pages soon.

Location, Location, Location
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it wasn’t just Ontario Educators in the audience.  There were teachers from British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, the United States, and Hong Kong that I met.  It was a nice mix with the people I talked to wanting to know what Ontario was doing.

I couldn’t help but remark on good teaching.  I had terrific conversations with Brian Silverman and Peter Skillen.  All three of us have lived through so many changes, new technology, new promises that this will be the game changer, the new and improved “model” …  And yet, through all of this, one thing remains constant.  Good teaching makes the difference.  You can buy all the you want, but if you don’t focus on the student, you miss the mark.

Isn’t that really the big takeaway?

When Cyndie Jacobs and I were approached to co-chair the conference two years ago, we did on the condition that we were allowed to bring our vision of what professional learning would look like.  We moved the location; we focused on the social and providing opportunities for people to connect both traditionally onsite and informally offsite.  Ontario responded well with the highest attendance in years.  The two of us are truly humbled by the response and thank everyone for your support.

We won’t be co-chairing next year but wish the new committee every success bringing Ontario Educators together for three days of great educator directed learning.  Stay tuned to the ECOO website for the date and get your request for learning in to your principal early.