Tuesday, April 8, 2014

CELI14: Connecting Educators on Long Island Through the Power of Twitter and Face-To-Face Conversations

Collaborative conversations energize learning lives and connect colleagues!

What can be better than meeting your virtual Twitter friends in a face-to-face environment to enjoy a day of learning? On Saturday, April 5, 2014, the learning spaces of Farmingdale Middle School were filled with a spirit of connectivity that brought Twitter friendships to life. Passionate educators, parents, and board members from New York and New Jersey met for the first Connected Educators of Long Island Meet-Up (#celi14) to engage in powerful talks linking educator to educator. With the backdrop of a springtime day, the heaviness of the long winter months lifted, and vitality to build relationships and forge friendships, a group of approximately 150+ gathered together to learn and laugh under the leadership of Dr. Bill Brennan. From the first moment of the day to the last good-by, energy and learning filled the hallways.

Launch of the NYEDCHAT/SATCHAT Live Conversation
As with most educational conferences, the list of ah hah moments mount throughout the day. The first one began during the early morning hours with the launch of a combination #nyedchat and #satchat that spanned 3148 comments from 528 people. My fellow #nyedchat moderators, Bill Brennan, Vicki Day, Blanca Duarte, Starr Sackstein, Tony Sinanis met with #satchat moderator, Bill Krakower, to discuss an engaging topic, Humor in Education. What started with a small live audience at 7:30 am grew exponentially, creating a steady buzz in the room filled with registrants greeting each other. Backchannel moderator talk and laughter were mixed with Qs, As, and comments, building momentum for a burst of ideas flying by in quick flashes on the Twitter feed. Educator-to-educator connections were made, ah hahs exchanged, and interviews with Bill Brennan, Don Gately, and Tom Whitby were mixed into the chat format. 

There were many high points of this momentous ed chat, among which was the coining of a new term, "ussies," for the collective selfie. Tying into the theme of humor in education, the moderators, Vicki Day, Banca Duarte, Billy Krakower, Starr Sackstein, Tony Sinanis, and Carol Varsalona, enjoyed a chuckle or two as they gathered for the debut of their "ussie" that was meant to equal the popularity of Ellen DeGeneres' selfie at the Oscars. Following this, Jerry Blumengarten was a featured, albeit a "virtual" guest in another version of the ussie. Needless to say, great fun was had by these connected educators.

After the live combo educational chat aired, educators moved to the auditorium to be roused by a passionate keynote from Dr. Bill Brennan who then called together an esteemed panel to enlighten us further. Tweets were flying and photos snapped during the discussion, Journey of a Connected Educator: Turning Collaboration into Action.

 Memorable Tweets from
Important to inject some play and humor in classroom/schools. A smile can also go a long way in making someone's day. -Jerry Blumengarten

There are no experts. We are all learners. Educators need to live and breath learning lives. Teacher as chief learner. #Donspiration -JoEllen McCarthy

Remember...the holy grail is not the tech, but the people! Always look for ways to unleash them. -Dr. Bill Brennan

On Twitter, your title is stripped away. You are accepted for your idea, not who you are. -Tom Whitby

Internet has become the content expert. How do you access knowledge effectively, and critically is what we need to teach. -Ryan Scala

What followed throughout the day were a variety of breakout sessions that sparked the collective consciousness to act on educational issues important to them. In the session Blanca Duarte and I led, Preparing for Next Generation Learning, a group of ardent educators were given the task to create commitment statements for the days to come. With a culture of trust and collaboration established, well-crafted thoughts were designed and showcased. My own commitment to the group was a simple mix of words and images: to continue publicizing the power of Twitter ed chats, namely #nyedchat, on a national front to highlight it as the Voice of NYS Educators.

The afternoon sessions were spontaneously generated by various learners who were interested in either extending conversations from the morning sessions or branching out into new areas to explore. 

The day ended with a round-up of eduwins and the desire for more meet-ups to continue the friendships created and further the talk that linked us together. The enthusiasm in the room was infectious and spilled over into the Twittersphere. Syliva Lima, edufriend from the suburbs of Chicago tweeted out, "Standing in my laundry room mesmerized by #celi14." Angelo Truglio shared his feelings of being included in one word: "Re-energized." 

Feeling energized by the day's conversations, educators left feeling a sense of exuberance and a desire to bring back the messages of positivity and connectedness to their colleagues. 

With more endeavors like the CELI 14 Meet-up and regional collegial circles, together we can strengthen our reach to become a growing community of connected practitioners. 

In closing,  I dedicate this "found" poem that I created from the thoughts conveyed in the sessions that Blanca Duarte and I presented. It is a tribute to those passionate edulearners
 (as Angelo Truglio called all the CELI 14 attendees).

Continue to learn, connect, act, share for as Debbie Olsen said in her new blog, "Together we are better and connected we are empowered." 

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