When I got back got from #beyondlaptops conference on Monday at school, a close colleague of mine asked me if I learned a ton of new things at the conference. My answer even surprised me, "No I didn't learn a ton of new things. But it was one of the best conferences I've been a part of in a long time."
I think the key thing to note in that statement is 'been a part of'. Not often do you feel like you are a part of the conference. Even though I helped with some of the planning, I really felt like during the conference I was always actively involved as the participant.
Each day was full of conversations that really pushed my thinking and made me question my own practice. I realised I usually walked away each day with was more questions than answers but only because the conversations I was having made me want to find out more. As I flip through my notes now to reflect on my time there, there aren't many. More than anything it's full of"Contact ____ to chat about ____" or a few pictures drawn out of ideas. I spent so much time listening, reflecting and sharing there often wasn't time for taking notes on my computer or notebook or even 'tweet' as the day went on. I found my laptop had more than half its battery full by the end of one day (not a normal thing by any means). It's not often that you have the luxury of focusing only on discussing educational practice without other distractions or responsibilities. These types of discussions are so powerful but often fall to the side when you mix in report cards, parents, paperwork and planning during your prep time.
One of my favourite parts of this conference is getting so many unique perspectives from such a small group of participants (approximately 50). With each school limited to bring 4 participants, the group often consisted of administrators, education technology coaches, EdTech directors and teachers of various subjects, allowing to hear the viewpoints from every side on every given topic. Thus, it forced me to think about teaching and learning in new ways. This helped me to understand the bridge I will soon be walking from teacher to technology coach. By hearing the different perspectives, it provided me insight into the role I soon will be stepping into, but still understanding the role I am currently. Challenges and successes will always be seen differently depending
I believe the idea of travelling with a team from your school is a powerful concept at a conference. Often I have veered off on my own path this year to various conferences because I wanted to continue learning from others. This time was different - we went as a team, with a goal as a team and hopefully now can come back to our school and plan to implement positive changes...as a team. The growth of a school doesn't happen because of one person, rather a team of people who want to move the school forward. By having a team from your school, you can discuss challenges from multiple perspectives to move towards creating a solution. Through discussions, it was valuable to see my own school through 4 different lenses, 3 of which were foreign to me, but together helped gain a more whole picture of our school.
Technology seemed only secondary to the power of face to face communication and collaboration at #beyondlaptops. Technology is often the resource to communicate and collaborate but not the only way. What is more important is having conversations that have an impact, creating connections between and within schools and pushing your thinking beyond your comfort.