ULearn15 – collaborate, innovate, and educate!

Issue: Volume 94, Number 19

Posted: 27 October 2015
Reference #: 1H9cv1

ULearn15 took place at the SkyCity Convention Centre in October this year. Over 1,800 delegates, presenters and exhibitors spent four days re-imagining learners, learning, teaching practice, leaders and leadership, says Meredith Noonan of organisers CORE Education.

As this country’s biggest education conference, uLearn is a prime opportunity to congregate with like-minded educators. There is plenty of scope to network with others, listen to educational leaders, gain knowledge and strategies and participate in hands-on, practical workshops.

“This year we introduced some new trends and focuses,” says Nick Billowes, director of development at CORE Education. “Preparing our kids for the 21st century is about doing, not just talking. ULearn provides the opportunity for educators to listen and interact but also to ‘do and make’ through our preconference and maker space playground. At CORE we’re proud of our multicultural values, so we also wanted to include Māori medium and Pasifika strands, which allowed us to offer an even more diverse range of sessions for all.”

Encouraging creativity and problem solving is important in a child’s learning. The maker movement allows children to identify a problem and solve it by making something that fixes it. It doesn’t always have to involve technology so creating a ‘maker space’ playground to showcase the maker movement and allow teachers to get their hands dirty by creating and inventing was a welcome addition.

Lots of hands-on activities allowed conference attendees to create and invent. School kids were on hand to show the adults how to use things too, such as polymorph plastic that is continuously mouldable after being in hot water and hardens in cold water; making circuits with ‘littlebits’; and building mBots.

Making things doesn’t have to cost much either: Kimberley Baars of Taupaki School demonstrated her ‘makey makey’ circuit hooked up to a mat she’d made of old T-shirts that was connected to a laptop; she takes the class roll by the kids touching the mat when they arrive in the morning to complete the circuit.

Celebrating cultural diversity is clearly important in a ‘super-diverse’ country likes ours. Workshops and sessions delivered in te reo provided a solid platform to build on in this respect for 2016. A vibrant Pasifika performance and an opening pōwhiri on day one helped to get the conference off to a perfectly inclusive start, and all conference goers were blown away by these cultural expressions.

The conference proper is held over a jam-packed three days, with a one-day ‘preconference’ on the day before. Over 250 breakout sessions allow for a variety of topics. Three keynote speakers and 12 spotlight speakers provided high-quality insight during their presentations, using their decades of practical experience and knowledge to give the gathering a unique perspective.

“Leadership is important to success and, as New Zealand’s largest education conference, uLearn helps to share knowledge, encourages ideas and inspiration, and creates more leaders in education,” says Nick. “It encourages networking, collaboration and real-life knowledge to take back to the classroom to their learners.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Ann Lieberman presented to the gathering on ‘What do we know about teacher leadership, and what’s to gain?‘. In her presentation, Ann urged delegates to continue to value the importance of connecting as collegial communities and, in that context, to reflect on practice and make it visible for feedback.

Grant Lichtman presented on ‘Keys to successful school innovation in times of change’, and spoke about his goal “to see, learn, absorb and understand”. He advised the group to ask the “what if’s” and be unafraid to take risks, feel uncomfortable, and spread the “brushfire” of innovation and transformative learning for all.

New Zealander Pat Snedden inspired everybody on the final day, presenting on ‘The transformational journey to improve student achievement through good public partnerships’, relating the story of the Manaiakalani cluster. The 12-school cluster shares a vision that actively involves their young people and creates lifelong and literate learners who are confident and connected, ready for employment in tomorrow’s market, and contributing positively to their community.

Chances to unwind, socialise and mix with others were frequent. ULearn has scheduled social activities and encourages others to start their own. Pirates, mermaids and other sea creatures turned up in their hundreds for the Gala Dinner on the last night. Always a hit, the theme ‘On the high seas’ was a perfect fit for the City of Sails and a great way to end an inspiring week.

The Ministry at Ulearn

This year the Ministry of Education was again very pleased to be involved in the uLearn conference.

ULearn15 provided the Ministry with the valuable opportunity to connect with hundreds of educators in an informal environment. The Ministry’s uLearn exhibition stand focused on significant current initiatives, including

Representatives from the Ministry’s Curriculum, Teaching and Learning (CTL) team also held a breakout session on the redevelopment of Te Kete Ipurangi.(external link)

If you are interested in finding out more about any of these initiatives, please contact the Ministry’s Digital Era Learning, Teaching and Assessment (DELTA) team at: delta.info@education.govt.nz.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:17 am, 27 October 2015

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