By | July 27, 2013

While visiting the fastest blogger in the west, I’m challenged to complete all my draft blog posts, starting with this one from May 2013.

What happened in May?

Well, Niagara Falls was home to Connect 2013 a Canadian learning and technology conference. My colleague, Dr. Camille Rutherford was on the planning committee so I was privy to the great plan of pulling in many of Canada’s best thinkers in education, which included some of my most favourite people.

Day one, was Alec Couros and his self-confessed “YouTube Party” keynote. Alec does a great job of incorporating current trends and memes and relating them to learning opportunities. He is a really engaging speaker who travels the world speaking at conferences for K12 and higher ed teachers. What I like best about Alec is that he remains grounded, sincere and unassuming despite his social media fame. Alec has influenced my thinking in many ways and its always a pleasure to see him speak. It’s been 3 years since I first met him at CNIE 2010 in New Brunswick, before I even considered taking visual notes at conferences. Indeed, it was that very session and his two drawings that inspired me to start creating images for my own slides.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

After Alec, I was to ecstatic to finally meet Bon Stewart in the flesh. Bon is definitely one of Canada’s great treasures. Her personal “mommy” blog would regularly move me to tears, articulating things I could barely express but completely resonate with. Apart from our shared love of Leonard Cohen, Bon is the kind of scholar I feel like I have a lot in common with, but probably only because I wish I was a lot more like her. Thoughtful, sharp and inspirational, all at once, accessible yet just at the peak of my zone of proximal development, her writing teaches me so much.

Her talk about Networked Educators & Learners explained so much of what we are doing online in a way that is so informative yet leaves us with so many rich questions to explore.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

These sprouting avenues of inquiry were so nicely explained by Dave Cormier’s talk about Embracing Uncertainty. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Dave Cormier’s work. Despite being responsible for coining the term MOOC, I still think he is super smart. Like Bon, he is provocateur of dangerous but essential ideas. After his talk, a woman (whom I know to be a critical thinker and excellent leader) walked up to David and said, “Your talk really bothered me! … (in a good way)”

Our education system needs more Dave Cormiers challenging our assumptions and offer alternative routes for our worn down paths of thought. In particular, this false notion that we can measure learning, let alone identify what learning is. To me, this is the great atrocity of modern scholarship of teaching; that we say so definitely that x is better for learning without critically looking at our instruments. Dave boldly told us to just stop pretending that this measurement is even possible. For many, his ideas are heretical and that’s probably why I think they are so valid. Also like Bon, Dave provides an excellent blend of personal storytelling, theory (post-structural- what?!), and audience participation so that every presentation is fresh and unique and more importantly, incredibly relevant.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

I was also able to attend Rodd Lucier’s presentation about the 7 degrees of connectedness.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe
Rodd invited folks to apply to attend UnPlugd, which is a pretty fun, collegial, learning experience up in the great wide beautiful expanse of Algonquin Park. It’s worth it for the food and canoeing alone but the connections you make with people beyond their tweets and avatars is fairly profound. My experience in 2011 was so good, I returned in 2012. I still have a lot of unpacking to do from those trips that I hope to complete during this *PUBLISH all the drafts!* challenge.

There were many other presentations that I was unable to attend but I did manage to sneak a peak at Zoe Branigan Pipe’s “poster” session where she showcased her grade 6 special ed class and their use of Minecraft in the curriculum.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Overall, it was a well-run conference, although I must confess this is the closest I dared venture into the Exhibitor showcase room.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe
I joke that I wear jeans to conferences with lots of booths as a form of “vendor repellent” so that it is very clear I am not responsible for any institutional purchases.

(The encroachment of tech start companies into our public education system is a whole other post that is really just better summarized by reading Audrey Watters)

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