Our Symposium was amazing. For those who have read the blog posts about it, I (Clare) am sure you got the sense that it was very interesting and productive. One of the words I would use to describe it is dynamic. There was such enthusiasm to discuss and grapple with the issues that we moved so beyond where we started (how to integrate digital technology into teacher education). Given that most people did not know each other, came from different countries, and had different areas of specialization (digital technology, teacher educators, teachers, policy) these differences did not divide us but they somehow brought us together to form a community. Not wanting to sound sentimental or superficial, I feel that something “magical” happened at the Symposium. The barriers melted away instantly and learning happened. Jean Murray’s “speed dating” opening activity immediately got us talking to each other. The laughter as we discovered interesting facts each other (e.g., John was fired as a gravedigger) raised the noise level to a crescendo. From there the Symposium developed into a committed group of educators focused on learning.
The two-day event was not like anything I have never experienced in my life – there was no posturing, there was careful listening, comments were relevant, questions were thoughtfully phrased, and there was commitment to something larger than individual research agendas. The interactions were respectful and genuine. I had assumed we would learn much about each other’s research and national contexts, I did not think that we would become a little community of teacher educators looking at the larger questions of education within a changing world. The level of enthusiasm was still sky high at the end of two intense days. There was no rush to leave or end the discussion.
So often in academia, department meetings are monopolized by issues such as timetabling. Conferences presentations are often more monologues that discussion. We need time to talk about the issues. The structure of the Symposium worked well – mini presentations by each person and time for large and small group discussion. This Connection Grant was not extravagant – we did it on a shoe-string budget. A number of universities contributed small amounts and we stretched our dollars. Given the money spent on university and government-based initiatives there is money for these kinds of events. Governments and universities need to spend their money thoughtfully and carefully – I would say, let’s use our Symposium as a model of professional development for teacher educators and for policy development – bring the researchers together, devise a format for sharing and discussion, and let them proceed. I suspect the guidelines for education that they develop will be sensible and feasible.
Securing the grant and organizing the logistics were demanding. Our challenge now is to build on what we built and experienced. It is not just that I have much to learn from the amazing colleagues at the Symposium, but I also know that we are much stronger as a group. Teacher education is under siege. Individuals cannot resolve the challenges we face in teacher education but as a group perhaps we can do “something.” There has never been greater need to work together. I feel gratified — all of the work was so worth it. Thank you to the 16 participants who made this unique experience one I will never forget. I am eager to continue our collaborations. This website and blog will provide updates on our continued work together.