Graded School‘s Innovate 2015 Conference was hosted in our campus last week. Innovate is just about that: “innovating” and re-imagining” the school. Such description was very true to the real innovation spirit of the presentations from guest speakers and teachers.
Nowadays I hear a lot of talk about making the most of conferences, and not letting it be just that moment of inspiration that fades away. Below you will see my attempt to record and reflect on my personal learning during Innovate and how I tried to reach out to others as well. As I write this blog post, I expect to solidify my take aways even more. Another good source of ideas for making the best of a conference experience is Silvia Tolisano’s New Forms of Learning: How to Participate in a Conference 2.0 Style? post about Innovate 2013.
1. Twitter can be your main notetaking tool
The conference hashtag: notes from others
Nowadays, most conferences have a hashtag where participants share their learning and connect with others. Our Innovate 2015 Conference hashtag was #innovategraded. You can see below how you can view all Twitter posts under a specific hashtag. That can be done either by searching the hashtag on Twitter’s search box or by using an online application like Tweetdeck. The conference hashtag then becomes a powerful source of notes from all participants. Even people who were in the same sessions as you may have a different type of note or perspective to add.
Your own Tweeter feed notes
My own tweets work specially well as a personal storage for conference notes. It is where I share main ideas, snapshots of the presentation, and links to resources. My own Twitter stream is where I go back to remember something I saw or heard. It does take some practice to “take notes” on Twitter, as you need to listen carefully and write down remembering to always use the conference hashtag or add a speaker Twitter handle (2username). Sometimes I do a quick search on Google for a resource mentioned by the speaker and share as a tweet. If I miss anything from the speaker in the process, there is usually somebody else who has tweeted about it, so I look at the conference hashtag.
2. A conference hashtag requires exploration
Storify the conference
If conference participants are active twitters, then the conference hashtag may become a bit overwhelming to skim through. Luckily, some people may use the Storify application to create “stories” from a twitter feed (hashtag). See this Innovate 2015 Storify by Ange Molony . You can also create your own Storify, which is a good way to go back to the conference feed and highlight tweets from a particular perspective.
Engage in conversation
A conference hashtag feed is a great place to find new people and try to make connections. So Twitter is not just about creating posts. It is also about interacting with others, asking questions and getting feedback. Below you see some of my interactions. Lisa Goochee was actually not physically in the conference, but as you can see she was following the conference hashtag and asking questions.
3. Your freehand writing has a special place: Sketchnoting
Many people are now talking about sketchnoting. Basically, it is a way to take notes using keywords, images and structure. It helps synthesise and organize ideas visually and is a great way to learn and remember.
You can watch this Sketchnote Primer video by Brad Ovenell-Carter to get an idea about the strategies involved. I am just a beginner but already addicted to it. I use the Paper App for the iPad to do my sketchnotes, as it is easy to use and creates nice effects with ink that makes any poor handwriting or drawing look better. But anyone can certainly use paper and pencil , or whiteboards to create sketchnotes.
During this conference, I tried to create a summary about game principles from Joey Lee’s workshop as he was speaking. You can see that I need more practice with fonts and drawings, but nobody should be shy to share any sketchnote. This one I shared as a tweet with an image on our conference hashtag.
4. Share Big Takeaways Within Your School: Learn from Others
After taking your own notes during the conference, talking to peers, looking through the conference hashtag, there is usually still a lot of thinking to be done. Apart from that, you had to make choices during the conference that prevented you from seeing workshops that might be interesting to you or that you may not even know were interesting.
Sharing take aways from the conference is a form of thinking and digging deeper into your learning. You have to select resources that support your take aways and also synthesise. It is interesting to see what others have learned and you will have new learning and discoveries.
Below you see snapshots of a shared Google Doc in our Graded High School on conference take aways. You can also refer to Ange Molony’s blog post Re-Imagining School at Innovate 2015 that includes the Middle School shared learnings.
5. Write a Blog Post about Your Big Takeaways
If you already have a blog or want to start one, it is the perfect final touch to any learning experience. A blog post is where you connect all the pieces of your learning and add all the critical thinking elements. Then you share your blog post on Twitter of course! So, even though this blog post is about the ways I learn in a conference, I will also share my final thoughts.
Innovation was the theme of the conference and this theme could really be seen across the workshops. Active learning with the students at the centre, taking control of their learning path was key. Either in the form of classroom design where the teacher may not even have a desk, or in the form of design thinking strategies that allow divergent thinking and surprises, or even in the form of a “Genius Hour” that releases creativity and passion.
Connected to these ideas is the notion of teacher letting go of control, acknowledged by participants as being hard but worth it. On this line, I think it was important to acknowledge that approaches like Project Based Learning are hard work and don’t come easy. So students passion, interest and voice play an important role to keep the working going for all involved. And if we want to have authentic learning, then we need to acknowledge that as in life, authentic problems are hard. But if you care, these problems are worth the work. It is a tricky balance that will keep us learning for a long time to come.