This week I took my PLN building offline. Initially I was just going to Internet NZ’s NetHui, however when @fionagrant offered up a seat to the Tai Tokerau Educamp, I got up at stupid o’clock on a Saturday to make the journey up to Whangarei to see what these camps are all about. The week was hugely rewarding not only because I meet so many people, but also because I met people I had interacted with on twitter. Nevertheless four days of back to back conferencing, means I’m pretty tired, but the conferences were unlike any I have attended in the past
NetHui was a multi-stakeholder conference initiated by Internet NZ community organisations. The first two days of the conference were more participatory discussions on different aspects of the internet such as cyber citizenship and overall internet governance while the third day bought the discussions into a panel format.
The last day I spent in a corner with my laptop (laptop battery is currently dying a painful death) quite happily tweeting while listening to keynote speeches and report-backs from panels. Unsurprisingly for a conference full of internet junkies the #nethui twitter stream was highly active which bought in further conversations and learning from people in different cities and even countries!
Towards the end of the day I tweeted that I wished my university education was like the conference. However reflecting on this further I’ve realized that my learning is like NetHui. I’m well accustomed to having facebook and chats via text with other students in my course about the week’s bulletin board/upcoming assignment/teaching experience. I’ve proclaimed my love of twitter and obviously reflective blogging is aiding in my practice. So perhaps what I want to do as a teacher is facilitate an environment for my students’ learning to resemble a conference like Nethui.
This could be done by
- Starting the day with an interesting keynote speaker (the @lessig speech from NetHui was brilliant as was Rod Oram’s) perhaps a child like Adora Svitak.
- Encourage students to blog/tweet about their ideas, opening up their learning to people outside the classroom.
- Offer students workshops to choose from, information booths to browse between sessions and spaces to have break-out conversations.
- Ask students to present their own sessions, scaffolding where necessary.
- Have students interacting with different people then they would normally encounter, experts, students from other classes, other schools, other countries.
One of the key issues that came out of the last day was the digital literacy of New Zealanders or lack there of. We have a high level of internet usage but in general we use the internet to shop and pay bills but is there more we could be doing. Are we only to be a nation of shoppers? How do we learn to unleash the potential of ultrafast broadband?
The general consensus from hui was that learning was something ‘done’ to them. A lot of speakers from the floor were concerned by the idea that we are currently developing digital literacy with people learning from each other. But really isn’t one person acquiring the knowledge and then sharing it with others, who then share it with more people go to the very core of what education is all about? It’s like a virus, software or otherwise.
Which is where unconferences like educamp come in. Educamp is basically a group of educators, some people have things to learn others have things to teach, and we learn from each other. I found the experience highly stimulating, especially during the smackdown session at the start of educamp where lots of cool ideas and apps were floated from the floor. What was also rewarding is that I was able to help others learn how to create a google doc and what the docs can do, the basics of twitter (I consider myself by no means an expert on twitter). I also managed to actually put into action what one astute NetHui attendee had remarked, don’t let a geek touch your device!
Speaking as a geek, it is to just take the device away and do whatever it is that the user wants do for them issuing long rambly instructions as I go. I know from last semester (and my own experience as a learner) that this sort of teaching is not very effective. It is little wonder that tech remains a great mystery to large sections of the population. So for anyone who happens to reading this blog who has some techphobia my advice is be open to learning from geeks, but keep your hands on your working device at all times!
What did I take away from this week?
- To be digitally literate means that you need to commit to be a life-long learner yourself. You need be open to pulling out ideas and tools learning with them, playing with them, and then passing on your knowledge to someone else.
- The importance of collaboration in learning. At educamp a not yet graduated teacher was helping out teachers with decades of experience to get to grips with new tools which benefited both parties. The real teachers were learning about new tools they can use in their practice while I had an opportunity to explain how tools work without taking over and doing it all by myself meant that I was also learning too.
- Be open to learning from anyone, experts come in different forms. Effective organisations take a bit of expertise from one person and add it to someone else’s expertise and share, something I need to think about when I’m looking for a school to work in next year.
But perhaps the most important thing from this week is that I have a vision of what I think a classroom might look like, sound like and feel like for students. Now I’ve got to learn how to effectively implement that vision into my teaching practice. I expect that might take some time, certainly a lot longer than the 6 months I’ve got left in my diploma.