November Learning’s Building Learning Communities Conference was abuzz with education’s greatest challenge: the need to shift its course to meet the needs of an innovation driven society instead of the agrarian era on which the system was built. The focus of the conference was our collective goal of bringing educational practice forward, not on tools, technology or any particular pedagogical trend. Alan November is dedicated each year to gathering innovative thinkers who are dedicated in promoting positive educational environments and outcomes for students. The 2018 BLC Conference was no different. This four part blog post brings the themes of the conference together in an EPIC way. Engagement, Passion, Inquiry, and Connection encompassed those in attendance all week. Each OnCUE post will feature one of the four themes that tugged at our heart strings and our educator mindsets, and are themes that we are confident will be evident at the MassCue Annual Conference in October.
Connection by Rayna Freedman & Tracy Sockalosky
The BLC community was like a week long family reunion where educators from all over the world came together to learn and grow in a dynamic space. Upon checking in everyone received a name badge. Different from most conferences attended, the first name was written in large letters and no title was listed. Leaving the title out says we are all of equal value regardless of the roles we serve, setting the tone as it sent the message that our end goal was the students no matter what our role was in our organizations. This supports the community driven nature of the conference itself.
Events were planned throughout the week to build social connections that will last long after the conference. The November Learning team kicked off the event with an opening reception where participants came and reveled in the excitement for the week ahead. The energy in the room was contagious as new introductions were being made and old friends connected. Conversations over breakfast each morning provided the opportunity to begin each day with reflections or challenges to think about transforming learning. It was clear from even the opening events that the role of connection was powerful.
Another thing noticeably absent was a lunch break. Sessions ran continuously all day, giving learners the choice to gather when they wanted. The event was learner focused and offered choice in the schedule for people to make their own decisions. Attendees could find others who wanted to eat in Boston and have more communal conversations about positive learning experiences for students or they could bring a lunch and connect with other educators in longer workshops or lightning quick byte sessions. Evening events to bring the BLC community together were held at Fablevision, LearnLaunch, and the conference venue. Creativity and innovation were hot button topics at these events. This reminded everyone that learning should be fun!
The November Learning team welcomed everyone with open arms. Tapping into emotions and connecting others is at the heart of igniting a spark in students. Alan November and his team have created an event that does the same for stakeholders in education. We are looking forward to connecting with many BLC friends at the MassCue Conference in October, and to new connections we hope to make at BLC 2019.
Rayna Freedman is a fifth-grade teacher at the Jordan/Jackson Elementary School in Mansfield, Mass. She has taught grades 3-5 and is an ITS. She is president elect of MassCUE and has been presenting at annual conferences since 2010. She is a BrainPOP certified educator, Flipgrid Ambassador, Fablevision Ambassador, and advocate for teaching digital citizenship in the classroom. Rayna is a Level 2 Google Certified Educator. She serves on the Massachusetts DESE Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards Panel. She can be found on Twitter @rlfreedm.
Tracy Sockalosky is 7th Grade Social Teacher and Social Studies Curriculum Leader at Wilson Middle School in Natick, MA. She is a member of the MassCUE Board of Directors and has been presenting at the annual conference since 2012. In her 18th year in education, Tracy has served as a classroom teacher and as an instructional technology specialist. She is a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow and USC Shoah Foundation Teacher Innovator. She has been a member of the EdCamp Boston organizing team since 2011 and is a huge proponent of unconferences and social media as a means of professional development for teachers. She can be found on Twitter @tsocko.
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