Friday, September 16, 2011

Some Reflections on Learning 2.011

To start off, I think this is probably the top conference I have been to in my career. I learned many new things and by joining twitter and with all the wikis and blogs that I have bookmarked I can continue to keep in touch with people and continue to learn and get new resources and ideas. When I got the forwarded e-mail about this conference at the end of May I thought it looked like a great conference and hoped that it all worked out and turned out the be a valuable experience. It met all of my expectations. Thank you to all those who worked very hard to make this happen. I appreciate all that you did that I am aware of and not aware of. I will be sure to pass on to others how great this conference was overall. I do have a few suggestions for improvements for future Learning 2 conferences. I know that I have no idea all the work that went into making this conference happen but as it was my first time attending and it was my first International Teacher's Conference, I think there were some thing overlooked since it seemed like almost everyone else had attended before and knew what to expect.

First, it would have been nice to have the website updated a little more about what to expect before the conference. It would have been nice to know that I should bring a laptop or Ipad. At my school each teacher has a desktop computer and so there was not a laptop for me to bring but I could have brought my personal one or maybe bought myself an Ipad. At all the conferences I have been to in the States there has been a computer lab or laptops provide for the teachers attending. I was lent a laptop after my cohort leader suggested I ask but I did not think to ask for one since I was not familiar with anything.  The homework was also hard to complete back in my hotel room since I could not get wifi and on my Ipod was not easy. So, I do have to say Thank You for lending me a laptop to use at the school since I did not have one.

Second, it would have been nice to know about things to do or places to see. Maybe even a map. I did do some looking on websites and also figured there would be information at the hotel where I stayed. There was no information at the hotel but I do not blame the conference people for that. Also, the fact that almost no English was spoken. I could have asked the teacher who teaches Mandarin to teach me some phrases so I could have navigated a little easier while there. I have been to Europe back in high school, have lived in Malaysia for a year, and went to Singapore the week before the conference. In those places English is widely used, so I had no idea that I would struggle to communicate with others in my quest to get around. I was given in Chinese how to get to one of my destinations so I could at least show random people the writing as I tried to navigate my way around with no map. I also appreciate that that was done for me as it made things a little easier.  ( I will never forget my adventure in navigating my way around Shanghai. As my parents said when I talked to them as they went to China last year on a tour, I experienced the real China.)

Third, the e-mail that we got the night before would have been nice to get at least a week or two earlier. I made my purchase (since I did bring my Ipod) but it was put on hold while they verified my information, and I was not able to call the number on my phone as all my calls were barred. So, that purchase did not really help me at the conference. I did e-mail my Mother who was able to make a call for me but it still took time and was not approved until after I had left the conference.

Other than that I was pleased at how the conference was set up. I really gained many things from my cohort. I did not attend any un-conferences because there were so many workshops that I wanted to attend. Of course, I did not make it to all of them, but that is ok. I was glad there were so many great ones to choose from rather than none at all. I thought each group or person that presented was very knowledgeable and able to answer all the questions asked. I like how the wikis are set up so that we can continue to share. From a person who was totally anti-twitter in the last four days I have already gained a plethora of new resources and ideas. During the conference the website was a real asset being kept up-to-date with the schedule changes and everything that was nice. I also appreciate how the schedule was also posted or displayed in several areas when updates were made.  The time for networking was very valuable. I made some contacts that will help me this coming year and also got some suggestions as I start looking for a new job so when my contract comes up I can make that transition. The keynote speakers were all the schiznit. The student speakers were great too. It was also wonderful to have students sitting in on our cohorts adding their thoughts and ideas to the discussion. Great way to have input that students are not worried about offending their teacher or that it will affect their grade. (I have heard some teachers do that but I don't know any personally.) Also, the teachers were able to hear the feedback and hopefully not get offended if they disagree or think they are being criticized.

Other thoughts related to things learned or discussed:
Someone made the comment that sometimes people do not go on vacation to be there in the moment and vacation but rather they are there for the pictures to post on Facebook, etc. That can be true, but some people I know go on vacation (even before Facebook) only so they can brag about where they were. They are also not in the moment but waiting until they return home or see the person/people next that they brag to, so technology has not really made it so people just started going places just for the picture to post.

Another thing for me is that I went to Europe in high school and took hundreds and hundreds of pictures and spent a few thousand dollars to have them developed. I have a box full of photo albums with these pictures somewhere in storage where they will sit for who knows how long until I return back to America. In the year I have lived in Malaysia I have filled one 8 GB memory card and am on my second. All those pictures are on Facebook to share with people back home since almost no one had heard of Malaysia before I moved here. Those photos are starting conversations and teaching people about things in a different country with different cultures and religions that almost none of them will ever experience. Without technology and social media that would not happen. I am being the 5 senses for many people back home to open the world to them and make it more personal than what they see on the news.

I like how there was a great discussion in my cohort on using technology in schools and the balance needed and how it affects people and students. Also, how to work on achieving balance and that not all old ways must be thrown away but can be incorporated with the new to make things better or that sometimes with certain things old ways work better. Just because there is a new way to do something does not mean that everything that has been done in the past has to be thrown out. How can we create harmony with old and new techniques? Books in paper form will never completely be gotten rid of and there will always be a place for books. Books use different parts of the brain and skills than movies and there is a place in the world for both of them. Hopefully books with pictures or even graphic novels can be used to help get a students hooked on reading that doesn't like to read and then the transition can be made to novels or stories without pictures and the students can build up their imaginations reading them.

I went to the Enhancing Vocabulary and one thing that the presenter kept mentioning was how important reading is to everyone. The culture I live in now does not really embrace reading and that is something at my school that we are trying to change. I am teaching reading strategies and we have implemented a school wide silent reading program. We have also implemented a holiday reading program to keep students reading over the breaks to help them to continue to develop their reading skills and comprehension. We have sent articles home showing statistics about how important reading is. It was nice once again to have that viewpoint that reading is important validated at the conference. I also gained some new strategies to use with my students, plus was given some food for thought with strategies I currently use. I am glad that I was not told what I was doing was wrong but that there are better strategies out there and then I was given some of those strategies to use so I would not leave empty handed.

In my cohort we discussed about why we write.
Why do I write? To remember things. To put my most secret thoughts, desires, feelings down that I can look back on and reflect how I have changed, what used to be important and no longer is or was not even a thought that is now a reality. So when I am an old lady I can look back on my life and decide whether or not I feel I lived a good life by my terms and that I did something with my life other than dream about all that I want to do. So when I am an old lady I have not forgotten all that I have done besides reading. To let frustration, anger, sadness, and worry go, so that I can sleep at night. To remember the oodles and oodles of information that I am asked whenever I fill out a job application because some of those things happened more than 10 years ago.

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