Around 150 educators gathered at the newly opened Rototuna Junior High School in Hamilton on Friday and Saturday last week for the 2016 #edchatnz conference.
The conference grew from the Twitter forum #edchatnz, a source of inspiration and support for Kiwi teachers. It is the second of its kind, the first meeting taking place at the new Hobsonville Point Secondary School in 2014.
Conference organizer and founder of the #edchatnz forum Danielle Myburgh said it was hard to come by quality and cost-effective professional development for teachers and this was seen as a solution.
“Getting good PD is hard, due to the realities of budgets and bureaucracies,” said Myburgh. The cost for delegates was purposefully kept low at $30. It was run within a school so that participants could see “innovation in action”.
The theme of the conference was ‘possibilities’, based on a paper on the future of education by futurist Keri Facer. Facer’s article discusses “the reframing of democratic education as a politics of disclosing and holding open new possibilities for all future generations rather than realising the pre-defined dreams of today’s generation of adults”.
Inspired by this notion, participants were divided into ‘tribes’, with each tribe allocated a leader and each leader a Core Education mentor. The tribes worked on various projects throughout the conference while attending sessions on topics ranging from innovative learning environments, to digital technologies, to pedagogy to education systems. The tribes pitched their ideas at the end of the meeting.
Myburgh said the unique thing about a conference emerging from a twitter forum is that relationships were already well-established and delegates hit the ground running with their discussions.
“Some people have asked why we didn’t use the hashtag #edchatnz16 for this conference, but we see it not so much as an event, but more of an ongoing conversation.”