Who’d have thought that there would be a place for a teacher’s conference with iPads as the central theme? Well it isn’t the first trip down iPad lane for this teacher. It certainly won’t be the last!

Having participated in two conferences previously with ‘Slide2Learn’, I attended ‘ipadpaloozagc’ with high expectations. I had found those conferences to be highly rewarding experiences. This time, I had a little more riding on its success. I had brought with me 4 teaching colleagues- all keen to develop their technological skill base. I sucked in my breath and crossed my fingers. The outcome? Four teachers who thought that their two days were the most fun they have ever had at PD! They had heaps to talk about and the enthusiasm in their discussion was apparent.

If I could explain the reasons for the success of this conference, it would have to be ‘the vibe’ (ok, Sorry for the ‘Castle’ quote). But, yes the vibe was amazing! The organisers deliberately went for a casual feel, providing all delegates with Hawaiian shirts. But shirts by themselves wouldn’t create that vibe- it was the people. Not only were all the presenters professional, but friendly, warm, relaxed and casual. This approach was a great idea, considering that we were all attending during our school holiday break.

Although iPads and iOS were a feature common to presenters and delegates alike, it was not about the device. But rather, the learning. We were there to stretch ourselves as teachers, to keep pace with newer technologies like bots, coding, drones, new apps and 3D printing; or whatever took your fancy. The choices were rich! In fact deciding which workshops to choose from was the hardest part.

One of the highlights of the conference was an expose on three young people who are doing incredible things with tech. This included: Christopher Hills who has cerebral palsy and is doing amazing video editing with accessibility tools in iOS; Taj Pabari a high school student responsible for a business that involves students building their own tablets; and Bella Paton, a young lady who has been using technology to produce her own music and market it via social media.

Keynote speakers were highly entertaining, professional and thought provoking. Dr Michael Carr-Gregg introduced us to the concerning data surrounding teen depression and suicide. He followed this up with an introduction to a range of supportive organisations and apps that are being used to support these kids. Troy Hunt made us acutely aware of how vulnerable we are to cyber attacks and hacking and offered us some strategies for increasing our personal security. As accessibility was a theme of the conference, Craig Smith gave us the challenging task of taking a photo on our iPad using only voice control and a blank screen. Wow, that was an eye opener!

For many, another highlight was the tech playground. Delegates could play with Sphero, Parrot Drones and Dash to their heart’s content. Well, teachers are really just big kids anyway, right? Another really fun activity was the Appmazing Race. Teachers had to work in groups to use apps to fulfil a number of tasks. The final piece was a 2 minute movie that was shared as an entry. The winners won some cool prizes.

This conference could not have happened without the key contributions of the venue, St Hilda’s at Southport. Of course, equally critical were the sponsors who backed the event by their presence and financial support. Overall, an amazing experience and I can’t wait for the next one.
Attribution: images kindly shared by Rick Connors, event photographer.

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