I was so excited about #EduCampWelly that I did not sleep much last night. I was up until 3:30 am! Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE EDCAMP and all other PD like DEN (Discovery Educators Network) events!! When I found out about #EduCampWelly on twitter, I could not contain my excitement!
I was set to meet Nessa, my Fulbrighter friend and sister in all things silly at a nearby bus stop at 8am but I got there are 7:50!! The air was breezy and a little cool, but not too cold. I felt alive and refreshed even with very little sleep. I was running on adrenaline with the anticipation of meeting and connecting with other forward thinking likeminded educators---
Below is a picture of me "killing time" with selfies. Behind me is Unity Books an independent book store, and TANK, a good place to get high quality smoothies. And as an aside, Wellington has a lot of independent bookstores) which is very nice to see!
Nessa arrived at 8:00 am and we got on the #3 Bus near New World grocery store on Willis Street and we only had to wait a few minutes for our Snapper Chariot to arrive.
It took us right to the doorstop of our destination, the Karori Normal School in under twenty minutes. You might be chuckling thinking what does the word “Normal” mean? Great question! I will explain that another day!
At the school, each classroom is an individual building, unlike many schools in the US where all rooms are often in one building, especially at the primary school level (with the exception of overcrowded buildings and the use of portable classrooms aka trailers).
The first place we started in was the registration area which featured the “pimp your name badge activity!
I have never seen such a huge name badge decorating spread! There were glue guns plugged in, stickers, and many other materials to personalize the name badges!
There was even a young lady instructing us on how to use some of the materials. Because I have the attention of a fruit fly when I see so many new and shiny things, I asked her to please make me something for my badge--
She made me this butterfly for the back of my badge :) Thank you, Elizabeth I will always treasure this because you made it for specially for me. I love all of the effort you put into my butterfly and you used pretty colors!
When we moved to a meeting space, we were greeted by a very friendly, outgoing, hospitable school principal, Conrad Kelly. He “spoke our language” and hit all the high notes on the importance of educators empowering themselves to take charge of their professional development. Despite his many years in education, he was full of ideas and vitality. I immediately felt energized and knew the day was going to be great given its strong start!
Here is a little background about the first general session—The organizers sent out a google slide “Smackdown” presentation template so that anyone could add a resource to the preso.— Each person who chose to contribute had about one minute to show and explain their website/app/resource during the Smackdown and discuss its utility.
In general terms, for those not familiar with a Smackdown as the term relates to edu conferences--someone gets up and has to talk pretty fast and persuasively about the resource they are presenting in a limited amount of time. If they run over, the buzzer goes off. At the end, in some cases, people vote on what the best presentation was (usually based on how much they like the resource but sometimes based on the actual performance of the presenter). There are many slight variations but it always involves the presentation of resources and usually by different people. I chose to share information on two of my favorite tools, Smore online flyers and the Green Screen app by Doink.
While in the US we typically do the “Smackdown" as a “closing session” at an edcamp or conference, I saw the benefit of doing it early on. By showcasing ideas and resources at the start, people had the opportunity to catch up with one another, to make inquires, or to discuss the area of interest further. This is very logical since 100+ great minds are in one place and available to share what they know in real time throughout the day!
Next, we wrote down topics of interest on sticky notes, which were later sorted by a group of educators by topic strand—Then, teachers volunteered to facilitate those topics—Each session was very well attended and in all cases that I was a part of, each facilitator empowered the group by seeking input and interactivity in their session (versus strict Sit and Get) format that can be typical in a “more traditional” PD setting in a US school. Everyone was involved and everyone’s voice was heard. Here is how the board looked when the topic strands were selected:
The first session I attended was a “Socratic Smackdown”-My understanding of what I saw: In this session, brave volunteers modeled what a student debate would like look using a socratic method of discussion. There are scorers that keep track of the various communication and social skills that are used by the students. They are encouraged to locate and cite evidence for their positions which is standard that we have been focusing on in my state over the past few year in my state (GA). Students also learn to engage in typical discussion patterns such as turn taking as we do as adults- raising hands is not what we do in “real life”—I agree that we need to prepare our students for the world they actually live in and I thoroughly enjoyed this demonstration.
In this picture, Rachel Bolstad (white polka dots) from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research is talking about game based learning. The fellow next to her is the developer of gamefroot.com
In the third session, I learned about the ways educators are using SeeSaw to communicate with families and share student work. I know many people that use this program but I have never actually logged into an account and taken a look at it. We had a great walkthrough of all of the functionality today! I appreciated this very much since most people in the room were already familiar with the application. I left understanding the ins and outs of the program and will definitely put it to use when the opportunity arises. Being a Teacher-Librarian, it seems a bit daunting to try and communicate with 450 families but perhaps I can use it with the families of students in school clubs I sponsor.
During the fourth session, I went over the makerspace room and thoroughly enjoyed myself as I watched Rachel demonstrate the game “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes!” Even though this is not “an educational game” I could see instantly that students could learn a lot from it. Try it for yourself but it is a multiplayer game—your friends have to read you instructions so go grab a friend or two and head over to this site http://www.keeptalkinggame.com/
The beautiful and stimulating day wrapped up with complimentary pizza provided by one of the lovely sponsors and some final networking opportunities. This event went off without a hitch! Thank you #EduCampWelly @Welly_ed and all sponsors including the Karori Normal School.
I am sorry I left out names and twitter handles. There was a lot of new info for me to process and I am trying to complete this post in a reasonable amount of time. Please feel free to flick me a message if you are featured in this post and I will add your name/handle! Thank you to everyone for giving Nessa and Me a big Kiwi Welcome today at #EduCampWelly- We are very grateful to you!
Ka kite anō (see you again) @staffdevjnkie
Some snaps from today-Everyone is so awesome!!!!
Thus far, I am pretty much organized in the day to day life of living in a new city--Living in Wellington is not much different than living in any pedestrian city only it's a lot nicer (just kidding but maybe not). I live in a location that is just couple of minutes from a library, grocery store, waterfront, restaurants, banks etc so these aspects of life are pretty simple.
But... I am not here to merely go shopping, sit by the harbor, or top up my Snapper bus card. I am part of a group of 8 grantees from the USA that have identified inquiry projects we want to conduct in this country. This means we have an area of interest in education that we want to find out more about. We are looking for similarities, differences, new ideas and familiar ideas that we can share along the way. We are self directed in our work, but have the guidance and assistance of our Victoria University advisors and anyone that we are introduced to or people that are already in our PLN.
To that end, tactical serendipity, a term coined by the change-maker @AngelaMaiers can be traced back to my two meetings with NZ library maven Paula Eskett - @librarypaula. Paula was in the role of amazing school librarian when CORE Education scooped her up to do a myriad of awesome things that allow her to spread her awesomeness across this great country in support of schools and library programs. Paula has intimate knowledge of the many wonderful things happening in school and community libraries across the country; she is offering her insights to me in the form of recommendations on potential contacts so that I can quickly identify the programs that match my project goals! I cannot believe I am lucky enough to have Paula share her brain with me!!!
Today I would like you learn a little more about Paula-she has outstanding ideas and works to make real change for people and communities! This is @librarypaula talking about reimagining the library space in schools. In a future post, I will be highlighting how Gemma Stewart @gemstew83 helps effect positive social change by raising awareness about the Māori language and culture.
Today someone suggested I go see Diamond Bay while I am in Christchurch so I walked to the bus station to catch the correct bus to get me to the ferry. I have been on a few buses since arriving and should have gotten a Metro Card because it provides you with discounted fares. The trouble is, it takes a wee bit of investigation to figure out how to buy a Metro Card. Therefore, I have been paying full price for the bus but it still cheaper than the huge amounts the taxis charge here. About the bus discount cards, we use "Snapper" cards in Wellington and those are available in many retail outlets so it's easy to start saving money on buses in Wellington! I can see now that I could have actually gotten a metro card yesterday while visiting the information desk at the bus station, or on my arrival from the airport into this bus station but I never got one and now it is a bit too late since I am leaving soon!
As an addendum to this post about the metro card, I did manage to purchase one on my way out of town in anticipation of my next visit. With this card, the bus fare from the airport into town will be $2.10 instead of $8.00 from the airport bus stop as one example of a good savings. I completed a brief application and they collected ID from me. It only took less than a minute, but for some reason, the person behind the information desk was afraid I might not have enough time to apply for the card with my bus five minutes away from arrival. The application simply asks for your name, address, and phone number along with an email address. It costs $5.00 for some sort of mini metro card but I was charged $10.00 for the larger metro card without being asked which one I would prefer. I just assumed I would be given the less expensive one since the information desk person knew I would be visiting infrequently so that transaction left me with a little bit of question mark in my head.
This station is very elaborately organized (says a person who has not been in a bus station in 30 years). It is set up by platform and door numbers. Once you know what platform you need to go to (A, B, C, or D) you just listen for your door number to be called as the bus pulls in. There is an electronic sign that indicates each route and its estimated time of arrival. The station is very attractive and modern the Route 28 but to Lyttelton is the bus to the ferry. It did a pull in and turnaround up the hill at the gondola but nobody got off so I am not sure what that's about but I guess that's how the route works.
This is the beautiful Diamond Harbour Ferry Boat. It runs on a pretty regular schedule because people use it to commute from Christchurch to Lyttelton (its destination). You can use a metro card (if you have one) for a discounted rate so it appears to be part of the public transport system here.
Once I got on the ferry, I savored the sun and warm breeze and stood outside while many sat down inside. I took a took a bunch of selfies while the boat was was moving steadily in the beautiful water!
My new friend Rachel who you will see later in this post took this picture of me. I was in a great mood because my day started out "not so great" and I really needed to turn it around and this ferry ride did the trick!
When I got off the boat there were some kids in the water and they tried to get their dog to join them. The poor little guy really tried hard but he was too scared.
This was the view of Christchurch as the ferry pulled away. I am not sure what those white tanks are use for though.
Here is the tranquil view of boats on the bay. "Boats on Bay" is one of my favorite scenes.
Here is another one of my favorite types of pictures "Peeking Through Trees"
After I walked up a whole bunch of steps, I cam upon ....
...this fascinating piece. I was so hot I could not think clearly but in hindsight, I should have turned out the panoramic feature so I could see the 360 in the photo. I think there is a child on the side but it's pretty unclear in the picture.
This is the other side. I took this picture fast on my way back to the ferry so it's not so good.
This post is getting a bit too long for me to manage so I will cut to the ending. On the ferry ride back to ChristChurch, my new friend Rachel and I continued to chat and at the end, she offered to drive me back to the Jail Accommodation , where I was staying.
I immediately jumped at the offer and as she bid farewell to a friend she was on an outing with, we proceeded to drive all around town and she brought me to more views and sights! She even brought me to her mother's house so I could use the facilities! While there, her mom recalled the events of the big earthquake and she showed me where she was standing, which is an easy to find place since there is gaping crack in the concrete in that very same spot! She had been standing right there--right where that crack was --before she fell down into bushes.
We went back out on the road after the pit stop at mom's and I saw some more interesting sites like the Sign of the Kiwi. Here is a link to some primary source photos on how this landmark was used in the past!
Next we saw this pop up party place in the spot of what I imagine used to be a structure. How nice that people repurpose the available space! I guess someone decided to bring the furniture for small gatherings?
And then there was the heartbreaking, gut wrenching Chair Memorial (shown below) from the big earthquake that took 185 lives. There is one chair for each person lost. The car carrier and high chair will move you to tears. It is uncertain if the chairs will remain indefinitely as another memorial is being constructed elsewhere.
The names of all those who were lost in the Feb 22, 2011 are posted on a board near the chair memorial. Today is the five year anniversary of the quake (I am editing on Feb 22nd)-Read about the memorial events other touching displays of affection on this five year anniversary date here.
Views from Above!
My feet have been taking me on some life changing learning adventures! I am grateful to those who have invited me into their lives here in this great country, even if but only for moment or an hour! Kia kaha Christchurch!
This morning I arrived at 9:00 at CORE Education in ChristChurch. I was so thrilled to visit this awesome bunch of people in this beautiful, modern building! Also though, I was equally excited to start my Te Reo Puāwai Māori course taught by the amazing facilitator Gemma Stewart!
Below is the introductory slide from our course- "Te Reo Māori" means the Māori lanuage. Puāwai means to blossom or flourish. I think the title might mean something like "Let's flourish learning the Māori language". This course will teach us about this indigenous language and also encourage us to practice good teaching methods so that we can teach the reo (the language) to tamariki (children).
Below, Gemma Stewart is teaching us a Waiata. This one in a non denominational blessing and has a couple of hard words for me but I will be practicing it over the next several weeks! I think a Waiata is a song that has been written by someone from the Māori culture to share an experience or purpose. The practice of singing or chanting a Waiata helps to pass on important and meaningful Māori knowledge and traditions.
We practiced simple conversations in Te Reo Māori (the Māori language). I struggled quite a bit. I know the vowel sounds and some other sounds and when we practiced as a group I thought I was fine. When I was asked to speak I suddenly froze up and could not think. I also had trouble keeping up wit the Waiata
My classmates are all very sweet and patient. They work in a variety of school settings and positions and all of them are working towards more inclusive school practices. A number of the students have been exposed to some reo (language) but a couple of the students were also struggling like me so while I hate to see the struggle, it was nice to not feel alone. I love my classmates and we will continue this course in a synchronous online setting with a final hui (meeting) on April 22nd to celebrate what we have learned!
After class, I was lucky enough to steal some time from the very busy Paula Eskett @librarypaula. Paula is a rock star librarian who now works with CORE Education, supporting schools. She has generously agreed to assist me in identifying contacts for my Fulbright Inquiry project. Paula has already been a tremendous help; I love the way librarians are always willing to share what they know! I know I am going on and on about it but meeting up with Paula today will be a big boost for my project. She understands what I am trying to accomplish and has intimate knowledge of the people, networks, and schools that can provide information, support, and guidance on my journey!
I got very comfortable at CORE and did not really want to leave when it was time to go home because I felt like I was already home. I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!!!!
Now that I have great internet in my office at Victoria University of Wellington, I am going to try and catch up on my blog posts. I am sitting in my chair with my feet up on the wide windowsill with a view of the Parliament building aka the "Beehive."
Earlier today, I have had a great orientation to "health and safety" --That's the orientation one is given when they arrive in a new building for the first time. A review of earthquake procedures and other emergency information such as how to call our "911" --here it is "111" but from inside my office I will need to dial 1 first so it will be "1111.' People are encouraged to call 111 during an incident, even if they believe someone else has called. I am told that there is a log kept of the number of callers from each incident and that it is a good thing to have more people call it in. To call it in, one just needs to dial the number 111 and hang up, or at least this is my understanding of it.
The Fulbright program is sponsored by the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) (http://eca.state.gov/fulbright/fulbright-programs) to promote mutual understanding between countries. In my opinion, a Fulbrighter serves as "an ambassador" from their respective country. When people from different nations form friendships and working relationships, it helps break down barriers such as generalizations and stereotypes and forms bridges to peace and cooperation for future endeavors. Here is the quote from the mission statement of the ECA: "The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries to promote friendly and peaceful relations. We accomplish this mission through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges that engage youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders in the United States and more than 160 countries"- See more at: http://eca.state.gov/
I was ECSTATIC to receive my office space along with my name on the door today! I got a key to 'my office' which is located in the School of Information Management at Victoria University of Wellington. FINALLY I will have good internet and maybe, just maybe, I can put together the blog! As you can see, I brought my coveted Leslie Fisher @lesliefisher lanyard to NZ and it holds my school ID card! Sometimes when you read posts, you do not know if they are 'real.' Let me tell you this, Wellington in the summer is amazing weather wise, landscpae wise, and culturally. It is spectacular!! So whoever said I am "living the dream" is correct. I have to pinch myself and cannot believe I am being afforded this amazing opportunity to collaborate with Kiwi educators. My ride has barely begun but I think soon it will feel like a runaway train so I need to brace myself for the connections and adventure. Right now the motor is just starting to rev up! Oh and more great news, I found an edcamp coming up soon in Wellington!!!!
Sue is a teacher and school librarian living in Atlanta, GA, USA. She was in NZ as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher from Feb-June 2016.