The ConnectEd Canada Conference: Connecting and Reflecting

I have been struggling to write this post mostly because I didn’t want a repeat performance of this:

There was so much that happened and so much that entered my brain during the time I spent in Calgary for the ConnectEd Canada Conference. I arrived back at school and many wanted to know, “So, how was it?”…. A garbled mess ended up coming out highlighted with bursts of “awesome”, “amazing”, “so cool”, “blew my mind”, “wonderful”. My colleagues, I understand, were not able to piece together the transformative experience that I had just gone through. So, I stopped talking about it, mulled it over, read blog posts about it, read the Google Docs and Slide Shares that were created from the sessions here and sat.

Before attending, I honestly had no idea what ConnectEd was all about. My friend Tia Henriksen sent me a link one day and said I should go. It looked like a good time, so I signed up. Even the night before I left, I wasn’t really “in to it”. The weather forecast for Calgary was not good; I am miserable when I am cold, and I hate packing.

Thank goodness I had great travel companions (@TiaHenriksen, @RobynThiessen, @teacherdiana1, @KLirenman and @EMSCarlson) who lifted my spirits. After attending the tweet up that night, I realized quickly that this was NOT going to be a normal conference.

I think the best thing that I experienced at this conference was the connecting (the name ConnectEd Canada is perfect).

  • Connecting with the students at Calgary Science School, who were very eager to share and were aware of the kind of learning they were participating in.
  • Connecting with the teachers at Calgary Science School, who not only spoke about inquiry and student led learning, but practice it each and everyday in everything they do.
  • Connecting with the speakers, who all gathered and led “unconferences” to stimulate and allow the participants to share and teach each other.
  • Connecting with teachers and admin. from my OWN district, some whom I have never met before, and excitedly discussing how all of us can go home and influence our students, our schools, and our district.

I wrote about the value of Twitter for educators in my last post. This conference was a perfect example of discussion and face to face meetings stimulated by Twitter.

This was written at 12:50 a.m.. I stayed up intil 2 a.m. reading, sharing, and continuing conversations!

Met these people at the cocktail reception and found out through Twitter that they were sitting at the table next to us.

Then, as quickly as I had been thrown into it, the conference ended and we all headed home.

Coming back from Calgary, I admit, I felt a little let down. I felt like I just test drove a Cadillac and came home to drive an ’88 Ford Escort. However, after three particular district events, the final Engaging Digital Learner Series Dinner, the tweet chat debriefing about ConnectEd on #sd36learn and the Innovative Learning Grant Celebration Day, it hit me that we are a distrct that’s got it going on!

It is often said that sometimes you need to leave to appreciate what you have at home. I truly believe that my district, the Surrey School District, is leading in B.C. for innovative, inquiry based, student led, collaborative, technology integrated education. There are many schools in our district who are on their way, which means we are on OUR way, to changing the face of education.

I recently attended a retirement party and was talking to another teacher who retired a few years ago.  She stated that she was very concerned for the future of education and that she was glad that she “got out” when she did. I responded, I hope passionately, by saying that my view was different.  I can feel that we are in a great time in education.  I can feel the excitiement and the hope. I am so fortunate to be an educator at this time of great change!

Thanks to the ConnectEd Canada Conference and Twitter, I came to realize even more that I am fortunate to be in a school district who supports and encourages us in this movement. I will continue to share and celebrate (particluarly through social media!), to promote this feeling, so people in my district and beyond can see and hear about the great things that are happening right in our own backyard.

So, I will absolutely be at next year’s ConnectEd Canada Conference and everyone, watch out! I will be bringing MORE of my district family with me. We will be exuberant, proud and definitely wearing matching t-shirts!… Now, that’s if we don’t host it next year! ;o)

The Value of Twitter: An Open Letter to Stephen Toope, President of UBC

Dear Stephen Toope,

I saw this quote from you, the President of UBC, in my issue of Trek recently and it made my heart sink. I’ve been thinking about your statement for a while because I wanted to try to understand where you were coming from and what message you were trying to convey.

I am quite shocked that the president of an educational institution like UBC, and specifically an institution that trains teachers, would make such a statement.  I am sure you have heard your share of backlash from this quote. I just wanted to present to you my thoughts as a UBC alumni, an administrator and a teacher.

When I joined Twitter not that long ago I, too, had my heels dug deep. I viewed Twitter as another time waster I didn’t need to introduce to an already busy life. Initially, I did not see the value of it either.  I joined, though, because some of my colleagues wouldn’t stop gushing about it and because I secretly wanted to prove to them that I would hate it. So, I joined and jumped in with both feet… boy was I ever quickly eating humble pie.

Twitter has flattened the walls of society.  I am able to directly connect with people I could never dream of connecting with before. Recently I attended the ConnectEd Canada conference in Calgary. Through Twitter I was able to easily connect with the organizers, the speakers, and fellow attendees.  What made it even more exciting was that we made an effort to meet face to face and connect even more. The conversations I have had, and the potential projects these connections have sparked, are all a result of Twitter.

Twitter has been a tool that has led to deep reflections and connections in the education community. It also has been an outlet for people who are too shy to share at conferences, workshops and meetings. But, you suggest that nothing of importance can be communicated in the limited number of allowable characters Twitter provides. As well, you are concerned with the immediacy of the medium. Why does it have to stop at the limited number of characters? You can just send another tweet! Why do you have to respond immediately?  You can quote people and respond to them later, sparking more conversation at another time!

I am proud to say that my school district has welcomed Twitter.  We have our own hashtag stream where people from the district and outside of the district share, collaborate, and celebrate all in the name of improving education. We also have recently started holding a weekly chat time every Sunday night where people who are interested gather on our hashtag stream to chat about a preplanned topic. The topics have included inquiry based learning, assessment practices, and success stories. Weekly chats like this are happening all over Twitter.

I invite you to join twitter… even under an alias! Give it a try.  Take a look at the many hashtag streams related to education that are out there.  You can not negate the potential of a tool without trying it yourself. Oh, and if you do, let me know @teachermrskhan so I can follow you!


Iram Khan