This week I am attending the annual conference of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (#acelconf15). It is my first back at the conference since 2012 so I thought I would reflect on my experiences across the days.
As is always the case at ACEL conferences, day one started with exceptional performances by outstanding students. While the nation is often captivated by The Voice, X Factor and the like, these high schools students have incredible talent and it is always nice to have a conference essentially focused on school leadership begin with students.
After the formalities, Mark Donaldson (Victoria Cross for Australia recipient) was the first keynote. His tale of courage and commitment in battle was on theme, and a very engaging address. There is an interesting discomfort for some around an address at an educational conference coming from someone who as discussing killing people (although Mark did well to use alternate language – I thinking my favourite was ‘removing’).
The second keynote of the day (and there were four) was from Robert Marzano. I need to declare that I am somewhat old-school and do not find a skype keynote very engaging. But I understand this is the way the world is going. Marzano did a nice job of presenting his work on ‘high reliability schools’ and he truly believes in what he is doing.
Alma Harris was next up and provided the human side of giving a keynote. She was engaging, very personable and brought energy back to the room. Her message regarding the importance of context was received – and somewhat contrary to the universalism of high reliability schooling of the previous.
Breakout sessions were next. I was lucky to have a rather full room (thanks for those who attended). My comment regarding the breakouts is that it might have been useful to have shorter breaks (and shorter sessions – 45mins instead of an hour) to allow for less sessions in competition. There are only five (by two) breakout sessions across the entire conference and each one has 10-12 parallel. It would be nice to get to see more sessions.
Bruce Robinson (the president’s pick) was the final keynote of the day and his work on the fathers project was well received. A cocktail event concluded day one and hopefully there will not be too many sore heads at we embark on day two.