This past weekend I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to attend the World Congress of Modern Languages: Collaborating across Languages and Borders Conference that was put on in joint effort by the Ontario Modern Language Teacher’s Association (OMLTA) and the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT).
This was the first time that I attended this conference, but as a Core French teacher, the thing I appreciated most was being able to connect with so many others who teach the same subject (often in isolation at their own schools). There were many fabulous sessions being held at the same time, and it was often hard to choose which one to attend!
As per usual, my ‘hamster wheel’ of a mind got spinning and I couldn’t shut it off! I always hear talk about how people need to share during and after attending these types of events. I wanted to explore this idea, despite my discomfort; so Friday morning when I arrived in Niagara Falls at the conference, I made a conscious decision that I was going to share the things I was learning via Twitter (and that I would blog about it as well after). I don’t think I quite understood the impact of sharing until after this weekend.
I consider myself ‘new-ish’ to Twitter. One could say I was ‘bullied’ by a friend into it for professional learning opportunities. I was resistant at first because I didn’t fully comprehend the benefits and I didn’t think I really needed ANOTHER form of social media to follow. After some more prodding, I finally buckled and joined. The first night, I had to put my phone away because I had a headache from trying to keep up. When I finally figured out how it worked, and how to channel the information I was looking for, I started gaining confidence to explore further. And here I am today, blogging (again which took some prodding at first :-). Sorry, I digress.
Back to my original point. Twitter is a great way to share the things we learn with other colleagues and with how expensive it can be to attend such events, it is amazing the way that people who are not even in attendance, can continue to follow along and learn. Teachers are following because they want to know more, they are people who consider themselves ‘lifelong learners’. They want to be a part of the conversations, even if they can’t be there.
Others will argue that being on your phone during someone’s presentation is rude, but if you are sharing the things you are learning from them, shouldn’t this be considered a form of flattery? That what that person has to say has value and should be shared with the world to know so others can learn along too?
Here are 4 valuable lessons in sharing that I learned in looking back.
1. Attending conferences like this is often very expensive. Not all school boards can afford to send a group of teachers, and most teachers can’t afford to send themselves. But many people want to go and learn. This was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for. Those that don’t have the luxury of attending the workshops and conferences can still learn alongside if those who do attend share as they go (i.e. via Twitter) or after (i.e. via a blog, links to slides, email, hosting a sharing session back at school, etc). Our French Consultant (@lkdsbfsl) is hosting an after-school sharing session for the other teachers in our board who were not able to attend. The ones who did attend will briefly share some beneficial take-aways.
2. When you are able to attend such events, there are often several sessions that run concurrently. This weekend, I would be excited to attend one workshop and to be learning, all the while my mind would start wondering what I missed from the others that I couldn’t attend. I was able to go back to the conference hashtag (#WCML2015) in order to follow what others’ were sharing about the sessions they attended. Tweeps were quoting speakers key ideas, sharing links to their valuable resources, and ‘hashtag-ing’ their own boards (i.e. #lkdsbfsl) and other chats (i.e. #fslchat #onted) along the way.
3. Sharing different links and ideas is also a great way to curate the information that you have gained. No one ever has time to look at it all in the moment, and often we forget about it when we get back to our normal lives. After sharing via Twitter, I can look back on my feed and find the links and information that was most valuable.
4. Sharing online through #WCML2015 helped me grow my professional learning network. Had I (and others) sat quietly in the back of the room and not sent anything out, my online PLN would have likely stayed the same. After tweeting out different ideas and links, others who were following the same hashtag started ‘favouriting’ and ‘retweeting’ the things that had been shared. I found there were French (and language) teachers coming out of the weeds. Ones that I had never crossed paths with before. This expanded the people that I am now able to connect with online in the future.
This weekend was awesome! I was able to meet and have some great discussions with Tweeps such as @sylviaduckworth @mmeshipton @etienne2 @nash_wendy @mmebrais @mmedan6 and @mmejmyers
I tweeted out to @jen_aston and @dawntelfer via #fslchat . The chat (which happens Sunday nights at 9 pm eastern time) had to of doubled in traffic this week. I could barely keep up with all of the new ‘faces’ that joined us! It was awesome to see and again a testament to a growing the PLN.
Here is a GREAT resource created by Sylvia Duckworth called “Dear Foreign Language Teacher: If you were on twitter…” that complies resources that were shared and found via Twitter and shows why it is such a valuable tool for professional development. There are also some people that you should follow at the beginning that helped in making the presentation.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the post that summarizes some of my take-aways from this weekend. Remember, people want to learn from and alongside you! Share the great things you’re doing and learning about!