Monday, December 5, 2011

The Best Conference I Ever Attended Without Leaving My House

The problem with conferences is that they are rarely held in my dining room. The coffee never tastes like I make it at home. And I can never leave the conference early enough to pick up my daughter from school.

That is, until I attended the Global Education Conference.

The Global Education Conference is a free, online conference that is held in November across time zones and in a variety of languages. For some reason I missed out on the conference last year but this year I was thrilled to participate, volunteer, and guest present at the conference. In fact, I still am participating! Since all the sessions are recorded and posted online, I am still selecting sessions to listen to and watch that I missed during their live presentation.

GlobalEdCon11 uses Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate) as the medium for the conference. This tool felt like magic as I logged on, watched presentations, chatted with participants, followed web tours, and even kept two windows open at once so that I could quickly move back and forth from one presentation to the next (oh, and one more window so I could tweet #globaled11 all the great things I was learning). Of course, I had to laugh when the first session I volunteer moderated was being presented by someone about 15 miles from where I live! No matter, the very next sessions was hosted in The Hague, Netherlands. Never has it been so easy to learn what your neighbors are doing in the classroom as well as those across the world.

I loved setting my alarm for 5:30am so that I could shower, make coffee and have a quick headset check before joining my amazing colleagues Michael Graffin and Deb Frasier who presented about their Global Classroom Project. Michael, in Australia, and Deb, in Ohio, were both equally enthusiastic about all the projects that are growing and blossoming as a result of their hardwork. It was great to be hiding in my basement as my kids woke up while simultaneously learning more about what Michael and Deb are up to. I even got a chance to grab the mike and share a bit about Authentic Voices! (See post “We Have Authentic Voices”)

And on the flip side for the day, for several nights running, I could tuck in the darling son and darling daughter and then throw on my headphones and see what sessions were open. I got over my shyness of joining a session late by the second night and just popped into the sessions that sounded the most relevant to my work. I really enjoyed learning more about Google Lit Trips, the Youth Media Project, and Robert Fogarty’s Dear World. Reading the comments from others in the chat was often as engaging as the presentations themselves. At a live presentation I find it much harder to engage those around me in conversation about the content of the presentation. With the chat room it felt almost like an obligation to keep the conversation going.

One big takeaway from the conference (in addition to my already obvious joy at the convenience of it all) was that there are so many educators reaching out and collaborating across classroom walls and country borders. We are truly in a Flat World now where the only thing stopping a teacher from doing a Global Project is, well, the teacher. I came away even more committed to working with teachers to help them consider Global Projects and to support them with building Global Projects. It was just my luck that during the conference itself an elementary teacher reached out to me about planning her first Global Project as she was so inspired by the #Hana62 classroom project. In addition, I got to meet with our school division’s MYP coaches and share a number of different Global Projects I think are immensely worthwhile. I hope all of this leads to more Global Projects for our students.

Prior to the conference I had sent out a massive email with information about the conference (confident that everyone would feel as I did: its free! I can participate in my pajamas! Global Education is so important!!!). So my heart did a little flippity-flip when a teacher wrote back about how much she was enjoying the conference. Here is her list of favorite sessions she went to:

  • SPOTLIGHT: 7 Steps to Flatten Your Classroom: Simple Steps from the Flat Classroom Project - Vicki Davis, Teacher/ IT Director
  • Get Out of the Classroom with Virtual Field Trips - Jayme Linton, Instructional Technology Facilitator
  • Globalize Learning with Local Opportunities and Technology Tools - Rita Oates, PhD

    (click here to access the recordings for these sessions)
I am looking forward to learning about how her attendance at the conference impacts her work with students. I also hope to collaborate with her to consider how we can share what she learned with more teachers and get the global bug to keep biting.

Alas, there is a down side. I am now addicted to listening to sessions. There were so many excellent speakers and fabulous ideas; I feel like anytime I’m not listening to one of the sessions, is time wasted. Here are three sessions I still haven’t attended that I’m dying to listen to:

  • Chris Dede: How Immersion in Virtual Environments Helps Students in the Real World
  • Alan November: Leadership: Managing the Transition
  • Dr. Bronwyn Stuckey: Play2Learn in Quest Atlantis
  • And about 50 others! (click here to access the recordings for these sessions)

I found I needed to start adding links and notes to myself in my Global Projects and Resources Diigo group. I need a way to process all the ideas I’m getting and a system for aligning these projects with our curriculum. I also want to be intentional about providing teachers some first steps about how to start a global project.

Oh, and I can’t wait for my next online conference. My slippers are ready.