Into the vacuum came EduIgnites, Educamps and Twitter chats. #edchatnz was started in 2012 by Danielle Myburgh aka @MissDtheTeacher as she felt isolated as a beginning teacher. Danielle calls herself an introvert, and you can see her nerves as she stands in front of a large group of educators on a winter's morning in the brand new auditorium of the brand new Rototuna Junior High School, but she is also a passionate teacher who wanted to do the best for her students and so reached out to teachers across New Zealand and beyond. She established #edchatnz, a fortnightly chat at 8:30pm on a Thursday for Kiwi teachers (and beyond).
From that many other chats emerged for subject areas like English, Science and Maths... and a leaders' chat too. At ULearn (a conference held in the first week of October by Core Education) there has been a Twitter dinner and this is a place where the #edchatnz participants often meet properly for the first time face to face, if they haven't already at an Educamp. #edchatnz has also had two conferences, by teachers for teachers, in 2014 and this most recent one at Rototuna Junior High School in northern Hamilton on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th of August. At $30 it will be the cheapest but possibly the most inspiring PLD you could do!!
There were so many people there from near and far. Some of the participants came in large groups from their school, some in small groups and some were, as Danielle called us, Lone Nuts. There were principals, teachers, support staff (two I knew already were a librarian and an IT technician), professional learning advisors, tertiary lecturers and some education industry personnel.
The conference was held at a school, starting on a Friday for a purpose. Firstly, at the registration desk, after registering and being delegated a tribe (explained later), we were referred to some students from Rototuna Junior High School (aka RJHS) to be our tour guides and take photos on our phones of us in groups with an #edchatnz frame. As I was registering I hear another person say her name, and I recognised it. So I turned around and said hello. What was even better was Melanie (yes, same name!) was also in my tribe. Anyway, her is our selfie taken by one of the students. (Is that still a selfie?)
So we gathered in the hall where Danielle did a welcome along with the principal of RJHS, Fraser Hill. We heard some background from Danielle about how she established #edchatnz, her journey and the purpose of the conference: #possibilities. We heard from Fraser about the ethos of his school and a bit of the journey in his welcome.
Afterwards we went to meet our tribe. My tribe was #kotuku - they were all named after native New Zealand birds, which was cool. Our tribe leader was Alex (@ariaporo22) who I have known for a couple of years though #edchatnz, Educamps, EduIgnites and ULearns, so it was lovely to have a friendly face. Melanie, who I met at reception, @michaelteacher and @MSimmsNZ were people I had conversed with through #edchatnz on Twitter or through NZ Teachers on Facebook and were also in #kotuku. There was also a high school English teacher who we didn't see much because she also had her school production in full swing and two teachers from a school north of Hamilton who were still getting to grips with Twitter, but soon recognised me from the NZ Teachers Facebook page (I'm on it far too much).
Soon it was time to head off to our first workshop. There were also tours of RJHS, which would have been great to go on, because the place looked amazing, but I decided to get out of my comfort zone and go and learn more about Google Sites. I have tried them once before a couple of years ago, but I found them rather frustrating. And then I heard that Google was dumping the whole thing.
But now Google is revamping them. Currently only certain schools have access to Google Sites, kind of as guinea pigs as they work out the bugs. @steve_trotter was having a few technical difficulties with his laptop and the network, as I did too, but I brought a back up with me, so it was a slow start getting going. We had a tu-tu with Google Sites under a username for a school he works at and that was interesting. I thought it was an improvement over the previous Google Sites, but it still has a long way to go before I will be excited about using it. There are still a few things that I did not find aesthetically pleasing, did not have enough choice or were fiddly to achieve.... but the bugs are still being worked out.
After lunch with the #kotuku tribe, there was a mix and mingle in the auditorium with a game of meet people Bingo. This was how far I got in the time set.
We were also made aware of a set of challenges for us. But to be honest, I was so busy meeting people, figuring out where I was and making sense of it all I forgot about these challenges... but some people did really well at them:
Are you ready to be an educational explorer? Complete these missions to open up the possibilities for yourself, your tribe and the others you interact with during the conference. Share your mission progress on #edchatNZ and check out what others have achieved so far as well.
New to Twitter Challenges
New to Twitter Challenges
- Help someone sign up to twitter and send their first tweet
- Share a link that supports a presenter’s idea
- Share something you were challenged by
- Tweet a question that made you think
- Ask a question of a presenter
- Write a question on a post it and place it on someone else’s property so they will find it later
- Meet people from at least 10 different towns/cities
- Chat to someone from Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and an Outside Provider
- Get a Tribe Grelfie that shows something you all have in common
- Get a Tribe Grelfie with the Rototuna eel
- Make something with your tribe to represent yourselves to the rest of the conference (totem pole, secret handshake, sculpture, human pyramid…)
- Make a sculpture with your food
- Play a song loudly from your device that shows how you are feeling as you finish a workshop
- Share one of your favourite edu quotes
- Bust out your favourite dance move
- Quote Star Wars in an educational discussion
- Be the Devil’s Advocate: ask a question from a different perspective to make people think deeper and differently
- Recommend a book that someone could read to learn more about a topic
- Connect someone with a person who could help move their ideas forward
- Give someone deep feedback about their idea/plans
Then it was off to the second session of workshops. I went to a session run by the students of RJHS. During this session the students explained the vision and expectations of the school. They explained how the structure of their timetable worked, how they achieve credits and modules, and how they design their learning with a mentor teacher. The students are expected to be aware of and track their own learning. They also set us some tasks to do that they had done. These tasks required us to use team work, think out of the box and communicate - and many more key competencies, which their programme revolves around.
The first task involved a set of nails. We had to balance on one nail all the rest of the nails. The first three photos below are our failed attempts in our group.
Below left is my attempt to sneak off another group what the finished product would look like. Even then we couldn't do it and one of the students had to show us before we could do it ourselves, bottom right. The student who showed us admitted their teacher had to give them lots of help.
There was also an activity with Lego. Every group was given a box with Lego in it. Every box had the same pieces, the same colour as each other. Again we had to work in a group. One person had to go to a table and look hard at the example made up and then come back to the group. They had to tell the group what to do to make it, but they were not allowed to touch it. After a couple of minutes, the students allowed a second group member to go up and look hard at the example and come back to tell us what to do. This happened probably six more times, but even then a student felt the need to correct our group. This was another great example on how to use the key competencies as a learning task.
So here we were getting all the pieces out and starting with the most memorable bits. @ariaporo22 was telling us what to do first.
As you can see, we had to put on and take off a few times, as each new communicator picked up something the previous one had missed. Also the students came and set us straight too when we were off tangent.
On the left is our final product, and on the right is the original model. I think we did pretty well. It was a fabulous oral language activity, not to dissimilar to barrier games for oral language.
Below are some photos of the things the students talked about in relation to their learning journey.
Next it was time for the students to go home and we headed for the auditorium where we were asked to put the chairs into groups of four and sit down for a face to face Twitter #edchatnz. My group failed to hear some of the instructions, so stuffed it all up, but it was fun to move around and talk to different people on the questions set.
We had afternoon tea and then gathered in our tribes again with the goal to create something as a group to share with the conference the next day and to hopefully contribute to The Pond.
The day ended very late, and it was after 5pm when I really just had to go off to attempt to rescue a cat (that's another story elsewhere!)... and that is really all this blog post could possibly handle apart from me adding the Storify of pretty much every tweet about Day One of the #edchatnz 2016 Conference to the end of this post. Day Two is another post in the writing....