The #BLC14 Top 5 Countdown

This is a rather late reflection, but one that I was sure that I wanted to write after the amazing week I had attending #BLC14 or Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston, hosted by Alan November. In order to try and organize all my feelings and thoughts after experiencing my first BLC, I've managed to summarize them into my top 5 favorite things about BLC. Here we go!

5. Multi-window, multi-device, multitasking FUN!

My first pre-conference session at BLC14 was "Learn to Code, Code to Learn" hosted by Mitch Resnick and the MIT Scratch team. The first thing I did upon arrival was to setup my Macbook, turn on my iPad and pull out my iPhone. Alan happened to sit down next to me during this session and commented on how I had three devices going at once. He then proceeded to ask his son, Dan, to come and take a photo of me "working" on my devices! Reflecting back on the conference, I had all three devices going in almost every session. It's about the right tool for the job. In most scenarios where I am multitasking through multiple devices, I find to be somewhat stressful because I'm trying to accomplish more than one thing at once. Whereas, during BLC, the use of multiple devices simultaneously was not only enjoyable but exciting! I was trying to keep up with all the wonderful ideas being thrown at me, document them for my own personal use, tweet them to share with my PLN, and at the same time research further into topics being presented to find supplementary resources. This personal experience helped me to gain some perspective into my new post this year as an IT Integration Specialist. When you are using technology meaningfully, it is not an "add-on" but it enhances learning. By the way, this session with Mitch Resnick and the MIT Scratch team was amazing! I walked away with many ideas for how to use Scratch in education, including but not limited to a global collaboration with @Jrene79! Hopefully I'll get to share more about this on my blog as the school year goes on. (P.S. Dan or Alan, if you're reading this, could you tweet me that photo with all of my devices if it's still around? I'd love to add it to this post!)

4. Thought Provoking Keynotes

To speak to an audience that has barely woken up and is still in the midst of finishing their first cup of coffee, well...let's just say you'd better be GOOD! This year Alan waved his magic wand and provided the formula for some amazing keynotes by Michael Fullan, a TED-like talk featuring Sara Wilkie, Shilpa Yarlagadda, Shannon McClintock-Miller, and Darren Kuropatwa, and the final keynote by Alec Curos. Here are some highlights and some of my favorite moments during each of these keynotes:

  • Sara Wilkie's "Big 6 of Professional Development"

    1. Heavyweight Teams: Bringing people together from different roles to get outside voices and to “think, imagine & wonder”.

    2. Learning by Doing: Have you worked side-by-side with your students and taken on their perspective to develop learning?

    3. Differentiated by Teacher Input: We all know that people learn differently. We differentiate for our students we should also be differentiating for teachers.

    4. Action Research: ongoing documentation, reflection and self-assessment such as teacher digital portfolios (learning journeys)

    5. Public and Collaborative: What is the purpose of learning something new if we don't share it? To make learning public creates ongoing discussion, multiple sources of input and perspectives.

    6. Learning to UnLearn (and learn again): Something teachers are notoriously bad at doing is "letting go of control" and learning that it's ok. Sara refers to this as the "heavylifting" because it is difficult to really take time out to ask a lot of questions to assess how your learning can impact the way you teach.

  • Alec Couros talks about how in today's world, all the infomration out there isn't just merely for our consumption. "We don't just enjoy, we participate"

To emphasize this point he showed this TED Talk which is pretty amusing, but goes to show that we truly do live in a "culture of participation" and it's important that our classrooms reflect this.

3. Sharing my ideas and my learning

Leading off of #5 on Sara's Big 6, that professional development should be 'Public and Collaborative', I was fortunate enough to have met Alan at the iPad Summit in New Delhi and was invited to present at BLC this year. As someone who is a very new presenter, I have immediately felt the benefits of sharing my learning with others and creating that conversation which deepened my own understanding and self-reflection. I started to learn more about what different people were facing in their classrooms and was forced to look at my own learning from a different perspective.

2. Soaking in all the ideas and inspiration

Just when I thought I had no more room in my brain for any more information, I recieved yet another inspiring idea that I just HAD to pack away...somehow! Here are a couple practical things I learned, I'm featuring the tools presented at Kathy Cassidy's and Lainie Rowell's session on iPads in the elementary classroom. I'd really love to try these out in my practice this year:

Chirp: Send files, links, photos and notes through sound! An easy way to push things to your students' iPads Make sure your volume is up!


Storybird: A web-based story creation tool using work from various artists to inspore storytellers everywhere!

Socrative: The feature of this tool I am looking forward to trying is the ability to create online rocket "races" that are not just about speed but also accuracy.

Pics4Learning: An online bank of pictures that also provide proper citation for students.

1. The people you meet...

...especially the ones from you PLN! :) I had the great chance to meet @KathyCassidy and @andrew_mcgovernin person. Of course, my PLN did a lot of growing during BLC14 as well! I met so many like-minded educators who really motivate me to keep learning and trying new things. There are too many wonderful people that I could not possibly name them all, but here are a few among the MANY. Fellow international school educators @CKWriter, @SWorsnupand@tracywins@MelSilkwho was probably the first person I met at BLC14 and kindly calmed my nerves about presenting.@MegSnee who wore such a friendly smile all the time that you just had to say "hello" to her! Finally, a group of educators I had dinner with one night, including@KathyCassidyand@CKWriter, along with @clonghb, and@juleong. They offered not only professional inspiration, but some laughs, good times, and sharing of good food.

Thank you Alan November for hosting such an inspiring conference, and for inviting me to be a part of it! :)