It is difficult to believe that just one year ago, we had what would become the last major face to face conference at NCTIES 20. It was a wonderful experience just like other NCTIES conferences. I remember that concern was growing with increasing spread of the Coronavirus and the first few cases in North Carolina were just being reported in North Carolina at NCTIES20. Little did we know that when we drove home that weekend from NCTIES 20, our world would change drastically in just a week. Governor Cooper closed schools to minimize the spread of Covid-19. As we neared the planning for NCTIES 21, the board of directors made the decision to host the conference virtually. While we would have preferred a face to face conference, we instantly set in place processes to create an online conference with very few models available.
But in the true essence of collaboration, the board of directors proved that we are “better together than when apart.” The collective wisdom of the group synergized to create plans and procedures that resulted in an amazing conference experience for all. A big appreciation to all on the all-volunteer board of directors and especially to Jeannie Timken, Meredith Bates, Andrew Smith, and Erin Wolfhope who all really went above and beyond to deliver a conference experience that was second to none.
For me, this conference showed the importance of how and why we must humanize our relationships with others. Below are some of my key takeaways from this year’s conference:
1). Educators are amazing! We had educators join us during their planning period for sessions. As is always the case, many educators are often immersed in multiple worlds ranging from teaching students in person and virtually as well as expanding their professional learning. My hat is off to those who joined in between classes and during their planning. You are amazing. I am glad that our virtual format will allow educators to view recorded sessions for the next few weeks at their leisure as well so they do not miss out on any sessions of interest.
2). Virtual conferences provide amazing resources. I saw our presenters give so freely and share their best practices. Many presenters remarked that they often worry that they may not live up to the “NCTIES” expectations as what they share may be stuff everyone already knows. There is no “NCTIES” expectation other than to share and learn. I reassured many presenters that what they know will be valuable to other educators. We can learn so much more together.
3). Given that we have been in some variation of remote / hybrid learning, I saw huge shifts in digital teaching and learning at this year’s conference. The necessity to deliver instruction digitally has been a worthy challenge for us in education. First, we still realize that the basis of digital instruction is a knowledgeable teacher designer who realizes technology is simply a tool to support learning. Technology should never be the star in the classroom; it should always be a supporting actor or actress. Second, many of our presenters shared tips rooted in sound pedagogy and instruction. This was the driving force for much of what was shared in the sessions I attended. References to research and best practices supporting instructional decisions made in the classroom served as a keystone for many presentations. Our presenters collectively engaged participants to share ideas and feedback creating a rich and engaging learning experience for all. Many attendees jumped into chat and shared supporting resources and ideas. Seeing this occur in the virtual conference was extraordinary and something that I have not have seen at such a high level in a face to face conference.
4). I also saw many amazing educators share their experience and craft to help others. This act of humanity confirmed what I realized during the conference and shared earlier - “We are better together.” Below are some attendees and presenters that I want to give a special shout out. I encourage you to connect with them as they have much to share to help us grow and become better and stronger for our students:
There are a number of other attendees that I would recommend that you follow as they had some incredible insights:
These are just a few of the amazing sessions and educators who attended NCTIES21. I encourage to follow the #ncties21 to continue connect and learn from many amazing educators.
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The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.