A few weeks ago I tweeted saying that every teacher should attend Plymouth University Elearning conference at least once – which was perhaps a bit foolhardy as I’m also tweeting that if they only attend one CPD event this year it should be Northern Grid’s Conference in June.
I’ve always liked to listen to BBC Radio 4 when I’m pottering around the house or working. I feel it’s like eavesdropping on (usually) intelligent and sometimes challenging conversation and ideas. It’s not that I have some kind of driven need to to learn new things, I just find it kind of comforting that someone is doing the Big Thinking and they’re sharing it with me.
Pelc11 is a little similar. I attended some workshops and keynotes where my thinking was challenged and there were times, I confess, where I didn’t quite follow what was being said. That, is where Twitter comes in. A constant stream of 140 character summaries of key points and messages augmented the keynote and presenter’s delivery, helping me to take ownership of the sometimes big and complex ideas.
There will be others who will blog about the content of the keynotes. Here , I’d like to simply say what a delight it was to watch and listen to the magnificent deliveries and resources of Stephen Hepple, John Davitt, Andy Black and Shell Terrell (who I watched online – no one does tech support and delivery like Pelc!). I feel spiritually refreshed, inspired and, yes, reassured, that my half formed and sometimes jumbled thinking is at least in the right ball park.
Where Pelc differs from other conferences is in the behavior conventions of the audience. There are, at most conferences, unwritten rules (though sometimes spoken; ‘Turn your phones to silent’) that discourage movement of any kind. Many conferences feel more like auction rooms with each delegate scared to move a hand, reach inside their bag or even shuffle in their seat to ease a creeping cramp. At Pelc I constantly took pictures with my Android and then my camera, and then tapping and reading tweets, sat on the floor and uploaded images to Flickr via my laptop, stood on the stairways and left and entered sessions at will. This freedom to take ownership of my learning is a rare experience for me and one that has ensured that I have taken far more away from this conference than any other more ‘analogue’ conferences.
Yes, Pelc is, what I will describe as an intellectual or cerebral event. It’s more about the big picture than the minutia of specifics and perhaps the teacher who attends expecting handouts may be disappointed – in other years, but not this time. Wednesday was Schools Day at the conference and there were children there. Yes! children, pupils, students, learners. What a radical idea. Imagine allowing children to be in the same building as a teaching and learning conference. The audacity! The evening found Pelc hosting a teachmeet and it was here that teachers exhibited that boundless and unstoppable enthusiasm for teaching. Lots of ideas, lots of sharing and lots of mutual support and appreciation.
And finally, I had such a great time with my friends. Friends? Yes amazing, kind, generous, funny, supportive individuals who I met, via Twitter, on The Internet. Y’know, that thing we forbid our children to do – meet strangers who we’d met online. And here’s the thing. This is all the proof that I could ask for. That those people who interact with me online, who we mutually groom with praise and gratitude, actually turn out to be fantastic individuals when we meet face to face.
And finally, finally I delivered my quirky sessions and received affirmation that the materials and ideas I develop, often at odds with mainstream thinking are welcomed and valued by people who know what they’re talking about. I leave Pelc stronger, happier and energized to continue to strive to be the agent of change I aspired to be all those years ago.
Thankyou Plymouth University. Thankyou Prof. Steve Wheeler and thankyou to all the delegates and new friends who restored my faith in what we’re trying to build here.
Pelecon 12 is here http://pelecon.net/