This time last week I was sitting in a hotel getting ready for Sunday lunch after a few days away and the Northern Grid Conference. It was a truly fantastically organised event: Simon Finch and his team had pulled together a group of people who all had great ideas and were truly inspirational. The fact that they considered me one of them and invited me to present a workshop was a real honour and I owe them a great deal of thanks for that. Although the day went past in in a blur of meeting people (both old friends and new) and listening to inspirational speakers, there was much to take away. Here are my lasting thoughts and the things I most remember.
- I arrived a little late (although I did set out at 3,30am…blame the plane). No one was in sight. Rather than wander around aimlessly I decided to tweet that I had arrived and ask where everyone was. I had quite a few replies, all of them leading me to the room where Russell Prue was kicking the day off. I’m so glad I managed to get there in time to listen to him. He managed to be inspirational AND put everyone in a good mood, setting us all up nicely for the day ahead. No mean feat!
- I wasn’t sure what to see before I set up for the morning workshop. Imagine my relief when I saw a few familiar faces: Jan Webb and Ian Addison. I decided to sit in on their workshop and catch up with a few other friends at the same time: Bill Lord (who was presenting a workshop at the same time as me later on) and Dughall McCormick (he appears to be the happiest bloke on the planet whenever I see him – that can’t be bad). Ian’s presentation (15 ideas in 15 minutes) was full of great ideas, some of which I’ve mentioned on the blog and others which are worth checking out for yourself. Jan Webb talked about collaboration and showcased some great ideas and tools, some of which come from the Partners in Learning network (including SongSmith which I mentioned on here only a short while ago). Jan finished her presentation with the statement ‘it ain’t what you do - it’s the way that you do it’ and then, to underline the point played a snippet this 80s classic. Being of a certain age, I enjoyed this as Bananrama were quite significant style icons during my teenage years. I was fairly shocked, however, when I realised I had turned up in a rather ‘Bananaramesque’ outfit myself – at least my hair wasn’t back-combed :)
- I was presenting in the same room as Jan and Ian a little while after they’d finished. I was pretty nervous at this time (possibly a little bit hyper too – I had been drinking a fair amount of coffee) as I’d only been through the presentation a couple of times since extending it in length (oh, how I missed Mary Farmer!). I felt an instant sense of relief when two people I had never met before but know quite well ‘vitually’ turned up to wish me well and watch the presentation. Martin and Rachel, you can not imagine how pleased I was to see your friendly, supportive faces. After more coffee and a storming introduction from Simon I was out of the starting blocks and everything to be over very quickly. I hope it all went okay – it was very difficult to tell from where I was standing. I was relieved to have finished… and then it hit me that I’d have to do it all again later on…
- I thought it was great to see so many exhibitors were laid back and not at all pushy – quite different to some places I’ve been where everyone has a patter or a pitch and is ready to sell, sell, sell!! Equally nice to catch up with some some of the exhibitors I already knew, especially Alan from 2Simple and Karen from Rising Stars – you are fabulous.
- Didn’t see any workshops in the afternoon: mine was repeated after lunch (which was scrummy, even thought there was a distinct lack of pie) and again it was soothing to see someone I knew sitting in front of me. After that (and a little chance to chat to more friends) I hit a brick wall (it had been a long day) and needed more coffee. This meant I missed the last round of workshops before heading off to the main room for the big finish…
- …which was Steve Wheeler. I don’t think anyone could have done a better job really. Relevant, humorous and thought provoking in equal measures, he had some great things to say and put a different slant on many things that are at the forefront of the technology in education ‘debate’. I felt like I was mentioning significant points from the presentation via Twitter every few minutes – there was so much worth repeating and sharing. And The Lord’s Prayer was fabulous!
- Dughall did not win the raffle. Not even a pen.
- After a bit of a rest in my hotel it was out on the town with a group of great people from Northern Grid, plus a few others who had been speaking at or attending the conference, for a few drinks and a bit of tapas. A lovely time was had by all and we whiled away the evening discussing Children’s TV of our youth and rock bands we had seen live (along with other pointless, yet enjoyable, conversations). At one point we were playing ‘guess the TV theme tune’ and discussing The Flashing Blade and its awful dubbing – surely life doesn’t get much better than that.