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.