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Sunday, October 06, 2013

ESOL PD Conference

Over the past three days, I attended the first ESOL Professional Development Conference. ESOL, Educational Services Overseas Limited is a family of 8 schools throughout the Middle East located in the UAE, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Egypt. This conference brought together over 600 educators from our ESOL family into Dubai. The school at which I work was one of the two host schools for the conference this weekend.

I'll be completely honest: before this weekend, I wasn't overly excited about this conference. I received the initial information about the conference last May or June when I was still busy in Canada, and I was unable to successfully register. Once I arrived in Dubai, I realized that several of my colleagues had also been unsuccessful in their attempts to register for the conference. A seemingly endless supply of emails and technological issues followed suit, but eventually, we were all able to register for the conference. Several of the workshops were already full before we finally could register. I really love professional development, but I wasn't sure there was going to be anything super relevant to me as a brand-new music educator.

The first two days of the conference went fine. I attended all of the keynote speakers and sessions. I attended 4 helpful sessions throughout the conference:  one was on general teaching tips, the second was on embedding dance into the curriculum, the third was on creating podcasts on Garage Band, and the fourth was about the flipped classroom. I was actually really happy with all four of these sessions, and felt like I got at least one main idea out of each session.

The Twitter Aspect 

I have been very active on Twitter lately since I unlocked my personal account a few months ago. I'm following hundreds of educators, mainly based in the US and Canada. I'm reading, following, and commenting on several blogs. I like being connected. However, I haven't experienced anything with Twitter like I did at the ESOL PD conference!

During the very first session, we were passed a page that explained the basics of Twitter and which hashtags we would be using for the weekend. The main hashtag, #ESOLPDC, was projected onto a big screen at the front of the auditorium, and showed real-time tweets throughout the keynote addresses. I was one of the first to bravely send out a tweet! Imagine the feeling when you tweet something and 600 people immediately see it!

My first Tweet to the big screen!!!! "@ESOLschools hello from the UAS staff! #ESOLPDC" 

A better view of one of my tweets on the big screen. 

Several of my colleagues poked fun at me all weekend for tweeting, but I didn't mind. The guy who was in charge of the ESOL Twitter account (@ESOLSchools) was on fire all weekend, constantly retweeting and quoting tweets from ESOL educators in addition to quoting the keynote speakers. I'm extremely impressed that our hashtag did not receive any spam or any ridiculous tweets all weekend!

I only sent out one slightly controversial tweet:

One of our keynote speakers, Dr. Lisa Walsh, is a superintendent from Toronto, ON. She was speaking on engaging 21st century learners. I didn't mean for this tweet to sound accusatory, but I was honestly just curious if she would mention anything about the arts and their place in schools today while she was discussing the students of today. She didn't include the arts in her keynote, and I didn't have the chance to find her and talk to her. I don't know the most recent facts, but I was told that Toronto was cutting 100% of all its creative arts funding in schools - music, dance, drama, visual arts, etc. I did feel that this tweet was justified, although a lot of my colleagues questioned me about it!

The best part of the conference was a "job-alike" session today where all of teachers with alike jobs met up to just talk and hang out. We all wished this had happened earlier during the conference so we could have had more time to talk over the weekend. I met several other music educators from our sister school in Dubai, as well as educators from Abu Dhabi and Cairo. Everyone was extremely friendly and willing to help everyone out - I think we'll definitely stay in touch!

Overall, I enjoyed this conference more than I thought I would. I enjoyed the sessions I attended, our final keynote speaker was fantastic, I had fun tearing up the dance floor at dinner last night, I loved networking with the other music teachers, and I had fun using Twitter throughout the conference. I am now following several ESOL teachers, and several are following me! I am also super impressed with how well our sister school uses Twitter in their school, and I'm interested in starting a Twitter initiative at my school. More on that in a future post!

It was an incredibly exhausting weekend (no time to sleep in!) but definitely a worthwhile professional development conference.    

Last note: I saw camels on the road for the first time this weekend! We got up close and personal :)

Oh hey there! :)

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