Joining the Conversation at Iowa Reading Conference

Last week I attended the Iowa Reading Association’s annual conference. It had been several years since I was able to go, so I enjoyed every minute of it.

I was able to share the time and the drive with three fun teachers from a neighboring district.

The sessions I had looked forward to—Richard Peck, Newbery award winning children’s author; Dr. Jerry Johns, expert on reading assessment and strategies for effective learning; and Dr. Richard Allington, author of What Really Matters for Struggling Readers—exceeded my expectations. In addition, I attended five breakout sessions, bought several professional and many children’s literature books, and networked with many Iowa educators! It was a worthwhile conference and over the next weeks I will continue to reflect here on the learnings from the sessions I attended and on the professional books I’ve been reading this summer. However, the rest of this post is about the great experience I had presenting at the Iowa Reading Conference.

Before the conference, because it was related to my session, I suggested the planners advertise a hashtag for the conference, and they did. #IowaReads, which I liked. Here is the #IowaReads Archive for part of the conference.

The session I presented at the conference was called “Joining the Conversation.” This was a great time to connect with other educators who have joined the online conversation in education and to encourage a few others to begin the process of joining.

I am new to presenting, so I was blessed beyond measure to have so many from my PLN helping me before and during the presentation. Many of them wrote on this Linoit the benefits they have found in joining the conversation. I told them about the #IowaReads hashtag and a Today’s Meet I opened, so they could help me illustrate how the conversation worked. They did not disappoint! When I opened the Today’s Meet window to show the participants how to use it, Theresa (@tdallen5), from Illinois, and Sheri (@grammasheri), from Washington, had already commented on it!

Others commented on Today’s Meet or Twitter, too. Besides, Sheri and Theresa, thanks also to Shelly Carter (@CarterSh), Darin Johnston (@AnIowaTeacher), and Michelle TeGrootenhuis (@mrstg). Joy Kirr (@joykirr) even joined in late after her trip to downtown Chicago.

I was thankful for three reasons for my PLN’s participation.

  1. Their involvement so perfectly illustrated the online conversation teachers are involved in.
  2. They added more information to the session, making it better than I could on my own. Members of my PLN in other parts of the world were involved in conversation with some of the people who were present in the room. It was a great example of backchanneling, which I had never participated in as the presenter before. It was fun to read the comments and dialogue later.
  3. Finally, their presence there gave me great moral support and confidence!

Michelle, was amazing! She was there in person–before, during, and after–as well as one of my special PLN sisters. She has so many wonderful experiences joining the conversation. I was really happy she was there. She came early and helped me hang posters and set up, reminded me to breathe, was an excellent back channeler and active participant during the session, and even helped me clean up afterwards.

Another participant who offered encouragement was Judy Brunner (@judybrunner), a keynote speaker from Missouri State University, whom I was already following on Twitter.

Here are some new members of my PLN as a result of the reading conference: Ed Starkenburg, Nancy White and Cathy Stakey.

Some of the participants took a further step on their journey after attending this session. Some of them were still not ready to take the leap, but they explored possibilities with us.

I even met Shelley Krause, who tweeted about my session from New Jersey.

My first group presentation. They graciously posed for a photo!

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. The fact that I even had the confidence to sign up to lead this session is just another of the many benefits that I have received from joining the conversation. I have become a more engaged, more confident, and more passionate teacher! Who knows what’s coming next!

Thanks to Buena Vista University’s Faculty Development Committee for the Adjunct Faculty Grant I received to be able to attend the conference.

Thanks for Helping Me Get Ready

Dear PLN,

Last winter while dreaming of the summertime Iowa Reading Conference, I considered signing up to be a presenter for a breakout session on “Joining the Conversation.”

With my Flickr friends’ encouragement, I took the plunge. Here is the description for my session:

It wasn’t long ago when networking with colleagues was limited to our school districts, local councils, and, occasionally, state conferences. However, educators today develop global professional friendships, which lead to wonderful opportunities for our students. Explore how you can build your own PLN (Personal Learning Network) through Twitter, blogging, and Flickr. If you are considering joining the conversation, come and we’ll get started.

Now, here we are a couple days before the session, and I am really excited. I hope many people will consider it by attending my session. I know those of you who are reading this post recognize the benefits of joining in this conversation, which includes global friends and colleagues passionate about education. I want to share our enthusiasm with a growing group of educators.

About a month ago I asked for members of my PLN to add a note telling about the benefits of their PLN. So many of you responded here, graciously and with eloquence. Thank you for helping me get ready for my session!

Now, my handout is ready, and I am soon leaving to learn at an awesome reading conference, one I haven’t been to in six years because before this year it was always at a bad time in April. Now, it’s summertime!

But before I go, I would like to ask one more request of you, friends. If you are available, would you consider joining in the conversation on Wednesday, June 27, at 2:00 p.m. CST? We have a Twitter hashtag to follow: #IowaReads and a Today’s Meet session:

Thanks so much, in advance! I know I’ll “see” some of you there.

Your First Comment

This is a post for you to try your hand at commenting, inspired by my “Joining the Conversation” session at the Iowa Reading Conference and “Extend the Conversation

If you have not made a comment on another person’s blog — written out there for all the world to see — it can be scary. I remember the first few times I left comments. There were so many things I didn’t understand. Like why there were so many different platforms hosting the blogs. Did I have to get a log in for all of them? If I didn’t log in, sometimes my carefully crafted comment would be lost at the stroke of the submit button. Of course, I didn’t rewrite it. I just walked away dejectedly.

When I would make a grammatical or spelling mistake and push submit, I would cringe and take another two steps back. Sometimes I made a crazy comment because I hadn’t read the original post carefully enough. Maybe I can’t or shouldn’t do this after all! I’d think.

It took a couple months of commenting on blog posts I really loved to get encouragement enough to know I wanted to continue.

On my blog I’ve tried to eliminate some of the barriers to receiving comments. I think it’s pretty simple to leave a comment here. You don’t have to log in. You can be anonymous, if you wish. You don’t have to leave a URL or email address. I think you do have to write an “anti-spam” message though.

That’s why I thought you might like to try your first comment here in the safe zone! Another perk…if you make a mistake or don’t like what you’ve written, you can let me know and I can edit or delete it.

I hope after our session, you will choose to join the conversation! Start here with a triumph, a question, or a doubt you have about this conversation. You can also carry on a conversation with each other. That’s the beauty!

The Benefits of a PLN at a Glance

Thanks to those who took time to add to my Linoit about the benefits of your PLN. I love reading what people are saying! You can read and add to it here.

The Tagxedo word clouds below show at a glance what others are saying about the benefits of joining the conversation. I will be sharing the Linoit with a group of educators next month at the Iowa Reading Conference.

What benefits do you and your students get from being part of a PLN?

Again, I’d love for you to share your benefits here. Thanks again!




Students Benefit Too

A Request to My PLN

How have you benefited from joining the conversation?

Dear friends,

Will you please help me? I will be leading a session at the Iowa Reading Conference next month. It is called “Joining the Conversation.” It will be a session to challenge teachers who have not yet joined the conversation occurring daily online through blogging, Twitter, and/or Flicker.

I am curious about what you have found personally valuable about joining the online educational conversation. I’d love to share your stories with the people who come to my session. Here is my “handout,” a work in progress.

In the past year or so, my joining this conversation has brought me great joy as I have received progressive PD opportunities, amiable friendships, and a renewed sense of calling. (The conversation that I joined has also provided outstanding learning opportunities for my students. However, most of this workshop will focus on the teacher’s involvement in the conversation.)

What benefits have you received from joining the conversation?

I’ve made a Linoit to which you can add your experiences through sticky notes, images, files, or links to blog posts and videos.

I’ve placed a separate topic in each corner of the Linoit, so you can tell us how one or more of the following have helped you join the conversation: blogging, Twitter, or Flickr. There is also a corner about the benefits your students have received as a result of your connections.

Thank you so much! I hope you can help. Just click on the image below and add a bit of your story!


Denise Krebs

Click to add your thoughts.