Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Personal Teaching Revolution

Guest Blogger Liam Arbuckle
BIS 6th Grade Teacher

It's hard to admit to yourself when you feel like what you believe in is very far away from what you are actually doing. Now I know that I am just at the beginning of my teacher journey but one of the vital things I learned about in the amazing year that was my Bachelor of Education was to reflect on my own teaching. I had this feeling of frustration gnawing at me for quite awhile. I was really enjoying my first few years of teaching but I felt that it was so much about my own survival rather than the amazing ideas I wanted to try out during my Education program.

The fall rolled around and I found the most curious piece of paper in my staff mailbox. It said that I had been registered for a Google Apps For Education conference put on by the EdTechTeam and  hosted at an international school in the heart of Seoul. I live just outside of Seoul. Myself and a fellow teacher, Joe Hart, had been selected to attend this conference. We were very excited as we both try to utilize technology in our classroom. I have always loved technology but I had been struggling to use it in an effective way in my classroom. Being a self described "Mac guy" my reflexive response was skeptical but I was still very interested. I like billions of others rely heavily on Google search. Little did I realize that this was an invitation to a fantastic party that I was woefully unaware of.

Joe and I planned what sessions we wanted to attend and tried to cover as much as we possibly could. We decorated our name tags with many things (yes including glitter) and off to the keynote we went. We shuffled off to an amazing keynote presented by 
Jim Sill. It was a great mix of humour and inspiration. Jim showed us some of the potential for youtube in the classroom. The next session I attended was presented by Michael Wacker and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation which really showed off the power of collaboration. I then went to an informative session led by the very talented Holly Clark. It was a session on iPads in the elementary school classroom. Holly had this indescribable energy about her and you could tell how passionate she was about her teaching. I regularly send teachers to her website or twitter account.

I was meeting people at a dizzying rate. I thought I was using tech in my classroom but compared to many of these teachers I might as well have been using an abacus. We ended the first day with what they called an Eduslam. This was a presentation under 5 minutes of something cool the presenters were doing in their classrooms. Again I felt like a total novice. The thing is I had never connected to so many teachers before. Especially, so many that shared my love of technology and the recognition that it could revolutionize education. The EdTechTeam really impressed me that day and helped me begin my personal teaching revolution.

Our second day was kicked off by a rather interesting taxi driver that was loving the fact he could test out his English. Joe, myself and the cabbie shared such a great laugh and it was a fitting and wonderful way to have our second day of the conference start off. Laughing can erase the tiredness and my goodness it makes you feel lighter in your shoes. The conference began with an absolutely fantastic keynote by 
Jenny Magiera. I could have listened to her speak for hours. I definitely became a big fan and often reference her best practices. After that we went to a session led by Jay Atwood who to this day is one of my favorite Google guru's. Even though I felt in over my head talking about Google scripts it led me down the road to a better classroom. Jay made it seem so easy when in fact what he was doing was pretty darn impressive.

Then I had a lunch that I don't think I'll ever forget. I have had a Twitter account for a few years but really didn't see the benefit of it. I used it to follow some sports writers and reporters that I enjoyed. Including some that write about my beloved but constantly frustrating Toronto Maple Leafs. During lunch on the second day I had my mind blown. I was having lunch with teachers that were really into using twitter as a means of connecting with other teachers. This lunch may have been one of those monumental crossroads of my life. I was eating lasagna if you were wondering. I realized that for all my love of tech I had done nothing to really connect myself or my students to the outside world. In one short lunch and thanks to the lovely Sonya from New Zealand and the positive ray of sunshine Amalia from the USA I had kicked my classroom walls down. 

There was an audible and distinct thud. It felt like freedom. It felt like the sun on your face after a very dark night. 

I will forever be thankful to my principal Larry Simpson for choosing me to go to this conference and to the EdTechTeam that put on the GAFE summit. Everything changed for me over those two days. I am sure that even my friends are tired of hearing about these two eventful days. I had found that I could now better bridge the gap of how I was teaching to the way I wanted to be teaching. I still have a long way to go.  I had learned how to connect and from there my teaching life would never be the same. I came back to my school a new teacher. I then proceeded to preach to my fellow teachers the need to connect; the need to kick those four walls down; the need to be where our students already live. I now feel like I can actually see other teachers. I have decided I like this no walls thing. 

Come hang out with Liam and other awesome educators at the 2nd Annual South Korea Summit on Sep. 27th and 28th at Seoul Foreign School!


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