ULearn14 Keynotes’ challenges


The ULearn14 conference has ended for another year, with around 2000 people gathered at the Rotorua Events centre for four days (incuding pre-conference workshops) of professional stimulation, challenge and connecting. The #Ulearn14 Twitter stream was trending high through the conference and provides a great insight into the multi-faceted event. Many teachers have been active since the conference, providing their personal reflections on the conference, such as this blog from AnneMarie Hyde, or this storify from Vanessa Cancon.

For a  number of years at this conference I have heard comments to the effect that "it's all about the pedagogy, not the technology" as people pass through that point in their own awareness and understanding – moving beyond simply focusing on the tools, and instead thinking about the way in which these can be used to support, enable and inspire deep learning. This year I felt, for the first time, that this level of awareness and understanding is a part of the system thinking, rather than simply the experience of indviduals. The level of engagement in pedagogical discourse was raised to a new level in the workshops, the reseach strand and the keynotes – exciting stuff!

From day one the keynote speakers certainly inspired us to think this way. Their presentations created a level of cognitive dissonnance that forced us to wrestle with the ideas presented, challenging our assumptions and 'comfort' with existing practice – and while the response to these messages was rather polarised (as Steve Mouldey reflects), the overall impact was to add a depth and dimension to the conference that we haven't seen before. 

Here's my summary of the keynote messages..


Yoram Harpaz – described three ideologies that underpin the work of educators and define what happens in a school or school system – then created a cognitive dissonance in challenging us to make the tragic choice! Whether we found ourselves agreeing or disagreeing with having to make such a choice, no-one could escape the challenge he created in confronting how these ideologies shape our personal and collective view of teaching and learning. 

See the collaborative document of notes from his presentation. 


Adam Lefstein – challenged us to think more critically about the professional conversations we have, and understand how this discourse shapes what we see happening in our classrooms and the lives of our learners. We learned from him that professional discourse is not a bragging race on your students or colleagues – it’s about getting better from learning!

See the collaborative document and a Storify collection of notes from Adam's presentation.


Katie Novak – introduced us to the fascinating world of Universal Design for Learning, equipping us with a systematic way of ensuring that the needs of every learning is planned for before the lesson. She capably demonstrated how this worked both what she shared and how she shared it. 

See the collaborative document of notes from Katie's presentation.


Quinn Norton – tantalized us by the description of her studies of emergent feral network collectives. She challenged many of our pre-dispositions about the internet and those who use it, about hackers and hacker spaces, and about how we accommodate and engage the learners in our classrooms who are likely to be a part of these communities. 

See the collaborative document of notes from Quinn's presentation.

I'll be interested to read the reflections of other teachers who attended – if you have written any up please add them as a comment below 😉

With this event now behind us, it's time to consider how to continue the professional learning that has inspired us. There are plenty of opportunties still taking place in the Connected Educator Month activity until the end of October – and then there's ULearn15 to look forward to, with planning for that event already well under way!



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