In an effort to follow our inquiry, this year we opted for a new conference model, one without a keynote, without a 'guru', without any 'sit and get' presentations. This year, there would be no chance that an external expert would come in and push his or her ideas on us without being aware of our context. Instead, we asked our colleagues to volunteer to facilitate conversations on topics they are passionate about. We knew we were taking a bit of a risk. What if our colleagues didn't volunteer to lead sessions? What if it turned out that we were less connected with each other because we weren't all sitting in the same room listening to the same presenter?
Well, taking the risk paid off! The theme of the conference could very well have been 'Leading Learning from Within'! We offered a total of nine sessions, with three sessions running concurrently at any one time. In fact, because almost 1/3 of our ADSA colleagues volunteered to lead conversations, we actually chose to host only the most popular sessions. Session topics included
Conversations were rich and engaging because they were led from within. Colleagues shared their experiences, knowledge, successes and failures. It was a great chance to ask questions, benefit from each others' learning and share strategies for overcoming challenges. As you can tell by the google docs from some of the sessions, colleagues were very much engaged in sharing and building a collection of ideas and resources. New connections were established and previous connections between colleagues were strengthened, largely because people had the opportunity to discuss topics they are interested in and passionate about. The tone to the conference was comfortable, friendly and supportive. People felt safe in putting their ideas, challenges and mistakes forward because they knew that others were there to help! View a short clip of conference reflections from colleagues.
Our experience is another encouraging step toward creating a collaborative culture amongst ourselves, where we go beyond sharing to truly collaborating on projects with each other. As excited as I am about the steps we took at the conference, I'm also enthused about Delta School Disrict's commitment to collaboration and learning through inquiry. With teacher collaboration time built into the schedules of many schools, Coordinators of Inquiry heading up teacher-directed inquiries and the sharing of stories and ideas taking place through the 180 Days of Learning Blog and the new Delta Learns Portal, I feel we are in an exciting time as we build a culture of collaboration throughout the district.