Saturday, September 27, 2008

Learning 2.008: Further Reflections

Edubloggercon at Learning 2.008

As I settle back into life in Qatar after being in Shanghai the full realisation of the power and potential that is Learning 2.008 dominates my thinking on this final sharing and reflection blog post. Under the direction of Jeff Utecht and the team of organisers, including the hard-working Flat Classroom colleague Simon May, the event, hosted by the Shanghai Community International School attracted over 500 participants from as far afield as Australia, Canada, the Middle East, and many regional Asian countries.

Our first get together was at the restaurant Elements Fresh where a small but vibrant 'EdubloggerCon' took place. Here we discussed how to make the shift happen in schools and heard from classroom teachers, coordinators, librarians and others telling their stories of Web 2.0 adoption. I took some excellent video footage of participants talking about their tipping point into education, international education and into making a difference that I have yet to edit and publish...stay tuned for this as it will be good!

Jenny Luca (David Warlick in foreground)

New friend Jenny Luca, from Melbourne Australia (pictured above) was an active participant and writes a frank blog post as to how she sees the conference. There were a number of vibrant, passionate women at the conference advocating new learning and teaching modes that reaffirmed my belief that educational technology is not just a male domain, despite the dominance of men in the first rank presenters, and (not surprisingly) in the Tech Directors unconference session I attended (I was the only female tech director at this session ;-))

Links on the Learning 2.008 Ning: The 'keynote' presenters I strongly suggest you explore are David Warlick, Alan Levine, Jeff Utecht, Clarence Fisher, Brian Crosby, Ewan Mcintosh, David Jakes. Other presenters who have 3 sessions available on the Ning include Kim Cofino, Julie Lindsay, Tod Baker. Also, Primary school teachers check out this session by Chrissy Hellyer called 'I'm not kidding, It really is this easy'

The opening of Learning 2.008 - I love the laptop glow

I had a lot of fun with friends Kim Cofino, Chrissy Hellyer, (both at International School Bangkok) and Tod Baker (Tianjin International School). As conference presenters (green dot and blue dot) we banded together, agonized over our presentations, sought each others opinion and support about length, image source, presentation style, room facilities etc etc. We were a great team and I value the friendship and collegiality.

Kim, Chrissy and Tod in Shanghai

It was also a joy meeting Alan Levine, from the New Media Consortium, the group that publishes the Horizon Report each year. Alan's session detailed the development of the report and its evolution to now have an Australian version in the pipeline. I am also keen, and spoke to Alan about this, to have a K-12 Horizon Report that details emerging technology trends at this level of education in comparison/contrast to the College and University levels. In his blog post about being in Shanghai, Shanghaid, Alan writes:
"International School teachers are a fascinating, vibrant set of digital citizens; forsaking the norms of western life to teach in places like New Delhi, Saigon, Bangkok. It was fun to see them struggle to answer the question, “So where are you from?” as it has many layers. Living far from family, they are really wired in terms of communication technologies, but seem to struggle like teachers all over with how to integrate the flood of new technologies in their teaching."

Jabiz (Intrepid Teacher), colleague from here in Doha (although we seem to have to go to Shanghai to catch up in person!) writes an erudite post, and I really like this part of it:
"The participants of this conference, by their presence alone proved that we are a group of diverse educators determined to find better ways to learn. No one truly knows the secret answer, because there is no secret answer. We, and I say we with pride because I learned that I too have ideas to offer, are simply trying to find ways to educate children as best we can. Technology is not the answer. It really doesn’t have much to do with technology at all. It has to do with community and the sharing of knowledge and ideas!"

Other new friends who I now consider part of my online community are Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch. These two inspiring women are from the same school just outside of Warrnambool in Victoria, Australia. Anne is taking a class into the Flat Classroom Project this semester and Jess, known for her Ning TechnoLanguages, is in China for 6 weeks with students on a Chinese language immersion program in Nanjing

Me with Anne, Kim, Jabiz, Tod and Jess

One of the best outcomes of Learning 2.008 was seeing the 3 teachers from my school here in Qatar attend and participate and marvel at how much there was to do and learn.
In the words of Andrea back on our school Ning:
"I had a very enjoyable conference. I learnt so much! It was very inspiring and a real privilege to attend. Are you able to inform me when there are any conferences being offered similar to this one. I would like to attend a PD like this yearly and I would pay for it myself cause I think it is so worthwhile. I can’t wait to get my children involved in all this wonderful IT material available to them and to me."

As a side-trip in a brief escape from the conference I was on a mission to buy a tenor saxophone for my daughter. Armed with a map and determination I found my way to Best Friend music, the Yamaha dealer recommended in a road not far from Nanjing Road. There I ordered the saxophone, was escorted to the nearest bank by the friendly shop assistant (photo below), and went back just before flying out to pick it up. I took this photo as a souvenir of my efforts.

So, for me Learning 2.008 was a mixture of hard work, good fun, exciting travel experiences, collegiality and continued community building with educators who I continue to learn from everyday. With its combination of presentation sessions and 'unconference' sessions it provided opportunities for people to share experiences and best practice at difference levels and fostered ongoing conversations and debate about where we have come from and where we are going. It is a model that other international gatherings could look at emulating in some form. As I continue to plan for our event here in Doha in January, the Flat Classroom Conference, I am taking on board ideas that include fostering social learning and providing time for casual gatherings that are focused on what the participants want to talk about, not only what the presenters want to present.

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jennylu said...

Like you, I felt that I had made a friend, and a fellow Melbournite at that! I truly believe your great work should have been given greater prominence at the conference. I would love to have the opportunity to work with you on collaborative projects and anticipate what might be.

Alan said...

It was such a treat to meet you Julie! The work you do and share exemplify best of the best practices in education, and we at the NMC are just ecstatic about the research the kids in your project provide.

Cyber Monday Deals said...

sounds like a ton of fun. i am jealous.
cyber monday

Anonymous said...


I want to start by thanking you for not only reading my post, but taking the time to quote and link to it. After the conference I am feeling much more connected than I did before. I am not sure if this is because I actively writing and commenting more, or because I can now put a face and a personality to many of the people I follow online, whatever may be the case I am glad to have this rejuvenated sense of community.

This reflection on community building is one of my min points of interests this year. It is one thing to be involved in a network, but how do we create meaningful, lasting relationships?

As our professional relationship matures, I hope we will start to build on our friendship as well. I enjoyed the sessions you presented as well as the time we spent out and about in Shanghai. It is a shame we cannot work together in the same building, but I look forward to working with you in some facet soon.

Anonymous said...

As usual, it was such a pleasure to spend the long weekend with you Julie! It has been such a pleasure to get to know you in person over the course of the last two years - I feel so lucky to be working closely enough (geographically speaking) to be able to connect like this, face-to-face with some regularity.


I definitely think there's something to the personal, face-to-face, connection you make at these conferences.

I truly believe in the power of the network, but once you are able to make the connection of the mind that you read and connect with online, to the whole person that you meet at conferences like this one, I think you are able to take that friendship and collegiality to the next level. We're lucky that we get to do this so often!

suman said...

Topic of flat classroom conference is a best way of learning......