A big THANK YOU to the crew from Albany Senior High School who organized the Emerging Leaders Symposium from April 28-29, 2011. It was a great (un-)conference that brought together up-and-coming educators from around the country to discuss leadership in schools and how (young) educators can be assisted to become leaders in their school communities.

Though I am not a teacher in a NZ school, I could still attend the symposium and am happy that I had the opportunity to do so because I learned a great deal, talked to teachers who do amazing things in their schools, and also got a glimpse of Albany Senior High, which is not your typical school. ASHS embraces openness in a number of ways: open education, open classrooms, open teaching, open source, open learning spaces. In an unconference session, Stonefields School, a primary school in Auckland, presented the thoughts behind their new building. It is great to see that some schools break away from the tradition model of organizing school and follow alternative roads.

Thursday, April 28, 2011, was the conference day with a keynote by Mark Osborne, followed by World Café where we discussed how leadership inspires, motivates and supports us, and how we can be more effective leaders ourselves. In the afternoon, 10 of us took the plunge to present in the pecha kucha style of presentations.

Coming up with 20 slides for 20 seconds each was a major challenge for me because I tend to have fewer slides in 400 seconds. It was great fun to lay out the presentation and think about the time restrictions as well as the photos and graphics that I wanted to use to represent what I was saying.

As I am bad at knowing when exactly 20 seconds are over, I added a small circle at the bottom of my slides to which I assigned an action so that it would run across my screen in exactly 20 seconds. Thus, I knew how much time I still had left and whether I needed to cut my sentence short or prolong a little bit (the ball can’t be seen in the recording as I stitched it together with the slides and the Flip’s audio). I got that idea from Ignite Wellington where a ball moves across the screen all the time indicating when a slide is going to be switched.

When setting up my presentation, I forgot to take into account that the transition added another second to my presentation. Thus, I went a bit over pecha kucha time. 🙁 For next time I also know that I need to test whether screen recording works with the projector. I had the most difficult time connecting and in the end had to turn of my screen recording software. Luckily, Mark recorded all sessions so that I could use the audio from his recording and add my slides to it. The slides can also be viewed on Slideshare.

The topics of the other presentations included for example what education can learn from cricket, lessons learned from travelling that are applicable in school, gamification of learning, game theory in education, social media for learning, minimally invasive education. After the pecha kucha session we did “speed dating” to talk to a number of people in a very short time reflecting on the presentations.

This first day was a high-powered day filled with many different impressions and activities (I shouldn’t forget the introductions: 3 words that I identify with and only then could you say your name) and still enough time in between to chat with attendees.

Friday morning was reserved for 9 unconference sessions around the topics that the symposium participants were interested in. This unconference also gave us an idea of what it feels like to teach / learn in a Learning Common at ASHS.

After the unconference we got together in focus groups to prepare short presentations and also questions that we wanted to pose to Secretary of Education, Karen Sewell, who joined the symposium in the afternoon. The focus groups were on M?ori achievement, collaboration, science, personalizing learning, and leadership.

ELS11 was a great conference with the right number of people in a fantastic location where innovation could be tasted. If I were to draw a conclusion, I would say that these two days were all about sharing, connecting, collaborating sincerely (the vision from my focus group) and building community not just within a school but across schools. Schools already have great emerging leaders in their midst. These need the encouragement, space to grow and possibilities to show what they can do.

In response to a number of questions, Karen Sewell asked: “What’s stopping you?” Apparently, nothing much because ELS11 was an initiative that was born out of the wish to connect with other people, the science focus group is going to organize an unconference for science teachers, and there will be an ELS12.

If you want to read another participant’s reflections and summary of ELS11, you can do so on Tara’s blog.

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