Teacher Only Day – UnConference

Newlands College had its inaugural UnConference this week and the day was a brilliant success. For me the high points were:

  • The opportunity to hear from voices I haven’t heard form before that are often hidden in the staffroom,
  • The personalised approach to the day where everything was extremely valuable because I made sure it was,
  • The opportunity to lead discussions and facilitate.

It was overall an outstanding day – the best PL I’ve experienced.

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Session One

I ran a session called ‘Developing your Professional Network and Online Learning Through Twitter‘. This session ended up acting as an introduction to the tool. 10 people came without twitter accounts, 10 people left intending to use twitter and tweeting on the day’s hashtag: #NewlandsUC. Everyone was photo 2 (1)introduced to the basics around hashtags and handles, everyone had sent a tweet and knew of the power of #edchat. We also set up another session to develop twitter in the classroom.

Session Two

A session on blogging was set up by GW. Here we heard that blogging a tool that the languages faculty wanted to exploit and myself and others were able to give them some guidance around how that could happen. Using google apps for education, every Y9 student will have a blog next year.

For the last 15 minutes of this session I visited Google Classroom where I was very interested by the interest it was getting. Having being using Google Classroom for a couple of months already I am incredibly aware of the limitations of the tool. However, when I first heard about it I guess I was just as excited as my colleagues are now. I see it as a workflow solution, not a learning management system and I put forward those ideas in the conclusion of that session.

Session Three

I floated here, visiting the provocative “Let’s get rid of the timetable” to begin with and contributing some thoughts about project based learning. The restrictive timetable does hamper this potentially inspiring education model, the idea of embracing the community and trusting students with a less structured approach to learning is a future reality. I would love it if Newlands College jumped on this train and led the way. The model set out by Albany High School has proven to be an exciting approach to education and it is unlocking potential in students that silo-ed learning simply does not have the capacity to do.

In this slot I also visited a discussion on what the Y9 classroom will look like next year with BYOD – which was being dominated by some cynicism. I think a lot of the fear around this switch that is to occur will be found to be premature. Once the devices are with us, we will be able to navigate the pitfalls – but more importantly we will be working with the reality not the hypothetical. The last session I floated into was a Y9 Drama discussion. How to use BYOD in a practical classroom that doesn’t write. We discussed how video or voice apps might be used.

Session Four

I put this session up, titling it “Guidance and ICTs: Promoting Student Well-Being and Monitoring with Technology” and was fairly surprised by what happened next. Expecting a small group of guidance leaders in the school, the session was overwhelmed by 30 plus people, including a diverse range of subjects and also a number of teacher aides. I intended to look at how we used ICTs to monitor and consider things like KAMAR, digital markbooks and how google offered ways of tracking achievement and engagement. We didn’t get there, and instead I had to a navigate a range of views and ended up facilitating a discussion around promoting digital citizenship. Two takeaways that came out were the need for all of us to promote positive use of devices in all of our contexts, and the need to offer more education for parents in this area. I’ll be following this second idea up!

Session Five

Twitter 2.0. The word on twitter got out and the room was swarmed by another 20 colleagues wanted to know about this tool. We all set up accounts again, tweeted the Unconference hashtag #NewlandsUC and followed #edchat. Then we got into more advanced discussion around how to use the tool in the classroom, how tweetdeck could solve some workflow issues, following #edchatnz, and the potential to use the tool to track our staff professional learning – hello #newlandsPLD.

Session Six

Mark Osborne had arrived by now and he was part of a session titled: “How do we lead eLearning?” About 15 or so staff attended a very exciting talk where Mark introduced us to a model which focus on the why and the who before looking at the how and the what. This put water on the fire burning out there in the staff who have been asking for more certainty around what tools to promote. To take some of the key points from this inspiring chat, here were some of the tweets:





Some really incredible thoughts here and presented so well by a educator I have endless respect for. His blog is consistently enlightening.


Mark Osborne finished with a Keynote. He talked about the shift from Education 1.0 to 2.0 and today s negotiation of 3.0. While he did discard characteristics of 2.0 being bad – they weren’t, it was just a  different time – his presentation was provocative and inspiring. Simply outstanding.

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