Documenting the #RCAC13


During October and now December, I’ve had the privilege of co-chairing two conferences with two amazing folks – Cyndie Jacobs and Doug Sadler.  Both events were instrumental in bringing together Ontario Educators for an event of learning, sharing, and reflection on practice.  The most recent event was the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee’s Symposium 2013.  Hashtag for the event was #RCAC13.

This is a really unique event.  Unlike ECOO which tries to reach out to the province, the RCAC Symposium’s audience is Directors, Superintendents, Principal/Vice-Principals and technology leaders within districts and schools in Southwestern Ontario.  There are lots of PD events for this type of people but the RCAC Symposium allows for a smaller, intimate, intensive, one day learning event about technology and teaching.  I’m not aware of any professional learning event that attempts to do this in the same way.

It’s always nice to sit back and reflect on a conference when it’s complete.  If you have more “that worked wells” than “wish we’d done thats”, it’s a success.  My sense is that we had more “that worked wells”.  It wasn’t perfect – as my co-chair noted, “if it’s all working perfectly, you’re not using enough technology”.

The biggest thing, and it’s always a technology conference bugaboo, is that the internet worked – and worked well.  We’ve gone through a number of different attempts over the years with the Lamplighter Inn and this year’s implementation seemed to work nicely.  I had only one complaint and it was shown to me on a computer that was connected and we looked at an email together so…

In this post, I’d like to share three ways that the conference was documented for me.

The first was just one of those things that fell into place.  My co-chair, Doug Sadler (@sadone on Twitter) and I were having a last minute check of things on our “minute-by-minute” document on Wednesday night after all of the helpers had headed off to bed.  We were pretty happy with the way things were shaping up and, as we typically do, we were sharing our latest technology finds.  He showed me this new app (Noom Walk) that he was using as a pedometer on his phone.  I showed him a graphing app that I used (My Tracks) for much the same thing but I thought it would be a hoot to try out the app that he showed me.  Besides, my old pedometer had gone through the wash and no longer works!  He indicated that his goal was to walk 10,000 steps a day.  My dog would love being with him!

Next morning, I was up and working on things at 4:30am and I just slipped my phone in my pocket as I was out to check the setup in the ballroom, the foyer, and the breakout rooms.  The restaurant in the hotel wasn’t open when I was ready for breakfast so I hopped in the car and headed out to Tim Horton’s.  I had to get some donuts for a purpose during the conference anyway so it was no biggie.

Then, Symposium hit and the typical tasks were done.  Checking that presenters were good to go, moving door prizes in and out of the big ballroom, walking and talking with people, attending a session, etc.  At day’s end, it was a matter of packing up all the stuff, filling the car, and heading home eventually to be greeted by the dog who needed his evening walk.  Later, I had a chance to sit on the couch and wondered why my feet hurt.  I remembered – Doug’s app – I looked and it had indeed been counting for me.  12,157 steps!  That’s a lot of walking.

The second documentation was pictorial.  Yes, I had my phone and took some pictures but they pale in comparison to having it done right.  But, here’s a picture I took anyway – the Lamplighter Poinsettia tree.

Poinsettia

Andy Forgrave had his amazing camera and tripod on the go.

Now, I know he probably would have taken a ton of pictures but he put together a nice collection in a Flick gallery.  If you couldn’t join us, or if you just want to remember, take a look here.

And, finally, what’s a technology conference without Twitter.  We used the hashtag #RCAC13 and put it right on the cover of the program. There was no excuse for not knowing what the hashtag was.  People didn’t miss the opportunity.  Tweets were flying from all over the place.  Certainly, the majority of them came during the two keynotes but you’d find them in every breakout session as well.

All the way home, I could hear my smartphone chirping away letting me know that there was another tweet in the works.  I was dying to read what was happening but, of course, you don’t tweet and drive.  Upon my arrival, there were a lot of private messages but certainly even more to add to the activity from the day.

To keep track of things, I created a Tagboard of the day’s tweets.

I also put together a Storify document of all of the Twitter activity.

What a great collection and it’s interesting to work backwards through the timeline to remember what a great day we had.  If you’re not into Tagboard or Storify, certainly just a Twitter search for #RCAC13 will get the job done.

I know that those in attendance, and those who were ineligible for door prizes but joined us virtually all found that something that expands their understanding and learning about how technology makes a difference for students in the year 2013.  After all, to paraphrase keynote speaker Gary Stager, you can’t be teaching the 21st Century learner if you’re not a learner yourself.

And, I’ll award the “Tweet of the Day to Rodd Lucier”…

If you attended the conference or were just following the hashtag, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please add them below.

Expanding the Network


Remember the great experience of #ECOO12?  So many great Ontario Educators all descending upon one location in Richmond Hill.  So many people all in the same place enjoying the presentations, keynotes, and panel discussions.  Those who were unable to make the trip could live it vicariously by following the hashtag.

In addition to the formal events, there was the powerful connections made among the attendees in the hallways, at lunch, in the exhibit hall, and during the fabulous social events.  You’d like to think that these connections make for powerful opportunities that last beyond the event.  That’s always the hope of conference organizers.

In addition to the renewed friendships, there’s the new ones formed on the spot.

Doug, meet Sandy.  Sandy, Doug.

How do you maintain the strength of the connections and expand people’s networks after the event?

I’ve written before about my thoughts of “Why #FollowFriday is so important“.

For a while now, I’ve gone through the exercise of identifying Ontario Educators who are actively tweeting and recognizing their efforts on Friday mornings with my own “FollowFriday” postings.  It’s not that they’re the only important contributors but there’s something special about making those Ontario connections.

Twitter easily facilitates global discussions.  But the Ontario Curriculum and current issues are the ties that bind we Ontarians and are not to be ignored.

So that’s why you’ll see messages like this:

OntarioEducators

from me in the early hours on a Friday.  Early, so that it doesn’t clog up the Twitter stream for those who don’t care – at least in the Eastern Timezone.  Sorry Europe and beyond.

I had a couple of interesting private Twitter messages today that helped frame this post.

1)  “Didn’t you use to post the #FollowFridays quicker?” – Yes, I did.  I had a pretty good set of scripts that harvested names for me and made it easy.  Twitter has changed the rules about how to access messages so I’ve had to scrap the original plan.  My current routine is a little more manual that I’d like so it does take a bit to pull this off but I’m working on it.

2)  “When I log into Twitter, seeing the other Twitter IDs clumped with mine is just like a face to face introduction.  I follow them immediately.”  That’s another activity that’s become organic with this.  Some people when they see a message with their name in it elected to reTweet the message.  I never thought of that but really like it.

OntarioEducators2

What it does is amplify the concept.  It’s almost a decree to follow some new people.  And, doesn’t that allow us to expand the Ontario Network and continue the Ontario conversation?

If you missed the list of people identified this morning, I created the Storify below.

[View the story “#Active Ontario Educators” on Storify]

The complete listing of Ontario Educators is stored in two Twitter lists.

To get yourself added to the list, send me a message or complete the form located here.

What Does Twitter For PD Mean


 

Twitter for PD?  What does this mean?  (Old radio listeners from Detroit will recognize Dick the Bruiser format)

I referenced a couple of blog posts yesterday in my post about hurting yourself with social media.  There doesn’t pass a day when I see reference to using Twitter (or other social media for that matter) for professional development.

I often wonder about this.  I agree with some of the assumptions made but not all of the examples given actually work for me.  I think the joy of it is that it can work at so many levels.  Here are some thoughts about mine.

Twitter Chats
Inevitabily, any discussion about Twitter for Professional Development includes reference to Twitter Chats.  I’ve bookmarked a number of references to my Diigo account and probably the reference to start with is this one. I know that people swear by these online sessions.  For me, I tried and gave up.  I find the time commitment for active participation too much and, if we’re looking for examples of echo chambers, the ones that I’ve participated in just seemed that way.

But that doesn’t mean hashtags are to be ignored.  Put together after the fact using something likeStorify can be a terrific way to quickly scan the thoughts and sharing from a focused event.

140 Characters at a time
Anything Meaty?  I got taken to task yesterday for sharing the post about Twitter and Facebook replacing Traditional Teacher Professional Development.

From the title of the article, it was probably justified.  Just getting a Twitter account and doing a couple of Twitter messages and reading a bunch certainly doesn’t cut it.  It’s a modern equivalent of going to the library and skimming the card catalogue and calling yourself informed.  Even if you do use “texting talk” to imply more than 140 characters, it can still be lacking.

Getting a PLN
Creating your own Professional Learning Network is easy.  Just log on to Twitter on any Friday and look for #FollowFriday or #FF links and follow those people.  Put together more than one and you’ve got yourself a network.  If that’s all that you’re doing, it’s the equivalent of hanging around with a group of strangers outside a movie theatre.  It’s nice to be there and associate but that’s as far as it goes.

So, now that I’ve started this post off in a negative fashion – which quite frankly isn’t something I like to do – how can it be productive and why does Doug spend so much time with it?

Lose the Development
I’m not a fan of the term “Professional Development”.  In my mind, it reinforces the concept that someone or something else is doing something to, or for you, to help you improve…just like everyone else at the session.  There was a time and place when this was valuable.  At a Teachers’ College, for example, there are a certain set of skills that should be part of any future educator’s toolkit.  Well all know, though, that once you get into your classroom and close the door, it’s you and your students.

Gain the Learning
If you’ve graduated from that Teachers’ College, your professional needs don’t stop.  In fact, they should probably grow exponentially.  The more you know, the more you need to know.  Have you ever taught the exact same class two years in a row?  Heck, have you ever taught the same class exactly the same way two days in a row?  In a lock stepped curriculum, perhaps a standardized development approach would do the trick.  For all others, learning as you go, on the fly, as needed, is a necessity.

Differentiate
You just know that there had to be some sort of edu-babble introduced into a discussion like this.  Remember those needs?  They now become YOUR needs.  At any quality conference, you are enabled by allowing you to select just what you need during any time slot.  Learning online should work the same way.  Track down and engage in the discussions that feed your present needs.

Build a Critical Mass
I was showing off my RebelMouse page to a friend recently as a way to show how we might accumulate stories for a totally different reason.  Her comments were “You have over 5000 followers?”  Yes, but more importantly, I follow over 3000.  The folks that I follow have been chosen for a purpose.  I can count on them to engage, inspire, and challenge me daily.  It really helps to grow my thinking.  I recall when I did follow 20 or so people.  My impression then was that this whole exercise was a waste of time.  Not now.

Twitter as a LaunchPad
The best learning for me happens when the conversation takes off and doesn’t necessarily stay in the social media.  I like following the links – take me to news reports, research, forums, wikis, and blogs where the meaty stuff resides.  You don’t get the full monty 140 characters at a time but like the library card catalogue, it should be there to tease and inform you about where the good stuff is.

Give Back
It’s one thing to be there and suck it all in.  Anyone who has ever put together a child’s toy where “some assembly is required” knows that there’s much more to the job that simply reading the instructions.  You’ve got to roll up your sleeves, find those tools in the toolbox and then get to the job of doing it.  The same thing happens with social media.  Find and share.  You can do this 140 characters at a time.  While you’ve differentiated for your own needs a set or sub-set of yours will undoubtedly have an appeal to someone else.

Don’t keep your best learning to yourself
You can’t get in shape by watching other people work out at the gym.  You can learn the techniques of the exercise but you don’t get the benefit until you do it yourself.  Ditto for social media.  Did you learn something inspiring, out of the ordinary, or just something that got your through to morning recess?  If it worked for you, it just might be of value to someone else somewhere.  Blog about it; add it to your wiki.  Education isn’t about the person who wins by hoarding the most; the winner will be the one who influences by filtering and sharing or creating the best of the best.

When you look at Twitter and what it can really do, I think you’ll see that it can be an incredibly powerful tool.  Unlike Professional Development where you show up for a coffee and muffin and sit back, Professional Learning with Twitter is work.  It requires engagement, active interactions, creating and sharing your learning.  Isn’t that what we expect from our students?  Should we expect no less from ourselves?

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