I told you so….
Whenever we book ‘big name’ speakers at the centre we do with an understanding of what we are buying into. All our speakers are hand picked through our own team experience or by recommendations from people that we trust. We certainly don’t buy in people just because they happen to be very vocal on Twitter or because they speak at lots of other conferences. So when we invited Tim Rylands back to run a bespoke day of training and a tweaked repeat of his ICT to Inspire Day, we knew that we were getting two of the most fabulous days of INSET that were available anywhere in the world. In fact everyone that we spoke to about the upcoming day agreed with us, ‘he’s so inspiring’ and ‘you leave with so many great ideas’ and yet…. people didn’t book. In fact two weeks before the event we were looking for ways to get bums on seats. However, through the kind sponsorship of XMA, a lot of leg work and some fabulous local companies taking the opportunity to set up their wares in our cafe area (thank you eSchools, Castle Grange and SapphirePrint) we ended up with a decent crowd for both days of training. And what a couple of days we had!
I had asked Tim and Sarah to come up with something very much hands on and very much focussed on creativity for the first day. Aimed mainly at primary (although in hindsight I would be perfectly happy to have recommended the day to any secondary colleagues) we used a huge range of tools and devices to explore the strange world of the camelephantpelicanary…I think! Certainly the results of the work can be seen here along with a write up by Tim and Sarah here. One of the key aspects of the day that worked well was to invite 15 children from Normanby Primary Academy to come and work alongside each table of teachers. They were particularly selected because they have their own mini iPads and were well versed in using a wide range of apps to help them with their learning. We felt that this would be a real asset in a situation where teachers were also acting as the ‘students’ for the day. Feedback from this was very positive and it is something that I am looking to actively develop with other schools both for the benefit of effective courses and also the development of those children. What was striking was that the teachers began at 9am with Tim, they were already ‘in the zone,’ when the children came in at 9.30 and were asked to split up and individually go and join a group of adults that they had never met before. I know teachers who would find this a challenge….did it phase them? Not one bit, they simply introduced themselves and got stuck in. I would also like to point out that the children were not ‘specially selected because of ability’ they were a randomly picked group from Year 5 who were available on the day.
Day two didn’t involve the children but it did have a more diverse audience (though only one secondary school could attend!). Through a journey of Myst, web tools and the bits on Powerpoint you never look at, the feedback was immense. Which brings me back to my opening paragraph. Four schools who attended have asked me about costs to get Tim to come to their school; at the end of Day 2 I asked the room if they felt that we should rebook Time and Sarah for other colleagues to come and attend in the future….it was a resounding YES…. so why was it so hard to get the bums on seats in the first place? I will be bringing the pair of them back next year (if they can fit us in!) and will look to be doing it as a partnership with our schools who want to include a school based day too. By working across a handful of schools in this way and using the collaborative power of the centre, which all the local schools already pay for, we can make these events not only happen, but happen in a way that brings best practice from lots of schools together effectively….and that is no bad thing.