After the UNIS Unconference in January, I received a comment from Ivan Beeckmans, the Technology Integration Specialist at NIST in Bangkok. He told me about the weekend PD workshops he was organizing for the teachers there and we discussed how the unconference format could be incorporated as a way to empower teachers to be learners and leaders.
One thing led to another and Ivan invited me to join the NIST staff at NISTech 2011 last weekend. Considering the similarities between NIST and UNIS – Tablet PC program, SharePoint portal, IBO World School to name a few – and the proximity – Hanoi is closer to Bangkok than it is to Ho Chi Minh City – I jumped at the chance!
The weekend was full of great conversations by a group of teachers committed to learning. Julian Edwards, the secondary school principal, made the important distinction between dialogue and discussion at the beginning of the weekend. We weren’t here to prove that we were right or to win any debates; our main purpose was to talk with each other and explore ideas.
It was interesting to be the only non-NIST teacher at the event. It gave me a different perspective on things, even with all of the commonalities. It was great to see and hear how students and teachers are using similar tools to achieve similar objectives in different ways. It was also reassuring to hear the same concerns surrounding effectiveness, time management and student learning that our teachers at UNIS voice.
I managed to get in and facilitate a few sessions on blogging with WordPress, OneNote and Creative Commons. I even managed to geek out a little with Jay Priebe, the Tech Director at NIST, over SharePoint and Veracross.
I’m hoping that NIST and UNIS can continue to build a strong cooperative partnership between our two schools. At the very least I’m hoping to be able to reciprocate the hospitality that was extended to me by Ivan, Jay, Julian and rest of the great staff at New International School of Thailand.