Are We Nearly There Yet…
With only a few days to go until the biggest Scottish Education Festival, there are many things to look forward to… But how can you get the best out of your time there? If you read on, I’ll try to give you some tips that I’ve picked up over the years.
Like many of us, I’ve got my tickets and am really looking forward to the two days of the Scottish Learning Festival (SLF). I can still remember my first visit to the SECC, back in the olden days when it was still called SETT – and I never did find out what that stood for! I didn’t know anyone, I had no idea what to expect, and I had no conception of just how tiring the whole experience can be… I also made a number of decisions about which sessions to attend that meant I didn’t really get the most out of my time… Fast forward to today, and I’ve got the following tips for you. Feel free to add your own if you’ve been before, or feel frre to ask questions if this will be your first visit!
1 – Arrive early! This sounds really obvious, but you need to register that you are in attendance (think ‘Register Teacher’ but without the football/hockey/debating results). While this is usually a quick and painless process, you’d be surprised just how many people leave it until two minutes before their first session… there will be queues, things will take longer than you think, and the best bet is to be there earlier than you think… If nothing else, you can make friends in the queues, or go grab a quick coffee (but see below!)
2 – Use the map! You will be given a map of the layout… actually, you’ll end up with several over the course of the SLF… and they don’t get any easier to follow! You will soon find out just how much of a rabbit warren the SECC can be if you’ve only been there for concerts before. If time allows, it’s worth walking to the various venues in advance (another good reason for arriving early), and this is especially true if you need to get to the Armadillo. If you’re going over to Channel 4’s ‘In The Wild’ on Wednesday at the Glasgow Science Centre, you’ll also have to factor in the walk over the river…
3 – Move out of your comfort zone! It’s really easy to go to the SLF and only take in sessions that will help to confirm your existing views of your own interests/sector. While this is very useful, the real strength of SLF is that it gives you the opportunity to hear from experts in other fields and/or sectors who have something relevant to say to you. In the past, most of my real learning has come from attending seminars on topics about which I had only the sketchiest of knowledge of… especially the Primary sector. As a Secondary teacher, I often forget the vast skill-set that my Primary colleagues possess. SLF gives me the opportunity to hear what is happening in the Primary sector, and I’ve always taken away something I can apply to my own practice.
4 – Talk to people! This sounds obvious, but you will soon see other delegates who are standing on their own and who only appear to be there to collect as many freebies as possible (ie: other people there for the first time!). While it is tempting to try and gather enough free pens to keep a Standard Grade class writing for a year, you will be missing out on making contacts that you can look forward to renewing at next year’s conference. Talking is a great way to vicariously attend the sessions you couldn’t get tickets for (though don’t forget this site!)… and who knows, you’ll soon be telling others about the sessions you’ve attended and before you know it, you’ll be an old-hand as well!
5 – Take plenty of money! There’s a Cafe Nero… they don’t take prisoners… and they do like creating queues! (See no 1 above) Incidentally, use your map to find the other places you can buy food and drink, and remember, if you’re standing there wondering if you’ve got time to join the queue for a coffee before your next seminar, then you definitely don’t! (Experience talking here!)
6 – Get Connected, Get Involved! You can visit SLF and take lots away, but most of the rest of us would like to know what you think. You’ll find lots of reports from a variety of Scottish edubloggers at the LTS Connected site and the whole thing comes to life if you can add your own comments to the reports filed there. Even better, why not start your own blog about the conference… (and then keep it going to tell us about your teaching!)
7 – Chill! Now I know I sound like your mother, but it’s true… you do not have time to see everything, do everything, speak to everyone… so don’t fret it! See/do/speak as much as you can, but take a few minutes every now and again to sit and think and recharge your batteries. Your feet will thank you for it.
8 – Take time to visit the exhibitors! This is partly good advice and partly good manners. You will get the chance to see lots of new books and software and also get the chance to try them out. You can also try out some really good new hardware and depending on your role, you might even get some extra ‘conference discount’ if you’re buying… but be careful! The first time I went to SETT I ended up walking away with a £1500 programme ‘on approval’ which I had to return the next day… There are some exceptionally good salesmen and women at the show.
The good manners comes from the simple fact that, without the exhibitors, there would be no conference! They are there to be spoken to, and they are very knowledgeable about what their products can and can’t do… You are not going to find as many resources in such a small space anywhere else in Scotland… make the most of it!
9 – Visit the extras! I really do think that if you go to SLF and don’t make time to visit the Scottish Education Village, you’ve kind of missed the point. This is where you get to see what others are doing in education, and this is where you get to see some of the best work being showcased by the people that created it in the first place, the pupils. You owe it to yourself to spend some time being wowed, and the Scottish Education Village is the place to do so.
10 – Start planning for next year! No, I mean it… you will come away from the Scottish Learning Festival full of enthusiasm and ready to bore your colleagues with all the really cool things you’ve seen and learned… next year, bring them with you…
So that’s it. My top 10 tips for SLF… feel free to use the comments to ask questions or add your own as necessary, and I look forward to speaking to some of you in Glasgow!
Cross posted at Connected Live