On the 8th and 9th November CORE’s Early Years team hosted Whakarauikatia mai Aotearoa, the first online conference for early childhood teachers in New Zealand. Christchurch-based team member, Justine Mason reflected on the success of this conference, and what was on offer over the two days.
The inspirational idea for an online conference came from Tara Fagan as a way to celebrate and reward 1000 active members on ECE Online, an online platform developed by CORE Education as part of a Ministry of Education professional development contract. The site has been developed to support and contribute to professional learning for teachers involved in early childhood care and education. With the support of the entire early years team, Tara’s idea became a reality.
The title Whakarauikatia mai Aotearoa was gifted to us by our Maori team and means “to gather”. Ruta McKenzie opened the conference, and shared a Samoan proverb with us Tu’utu’u le upega I le loloto—cast the net to deeper waters. This proverb guided the two days, challenging us all to deepen our awareness and understandings of children’s lifelong journey.
Most professional learning in the early childhood sector is face-to-face. This online conference provided an opportunity for the sector to embrace new technologies as a tool to support professional learning. The conference was free to attend, and attracted over 120 registrations from across New Zealand (and even one from Australia).
Participants had an opportunity to attend 10 online workshops over the two days on a range of topics relevant to early childhood education. Topics included assessment for infants and toddlers, supporting children’s social competence, mathematics in early childhood, digital storytelling, boys in early childhood, perceptual motor activities that support learning foundations and the teachers’ role in supporting and understanding children’s working theories. Valuing language culture and identity is a crosscutting theme within the early years team’s work. We were privileged to hear Mandy Jackson and Ruta McKenzie share their knowledge and wisdom as they reflected on programmes they have been involved in within their communities to support and enhance children and whānau identity, language and culture. We also had a guest presenter (a previous CORE colleague Naketa Ikihele) who shared her early childhood setting’s outdoor education programme.
Some members of the early years team are experienced in facilitating online workshops. This conference also provided an opportunity for other members of the early years team to present online for the first time. The conference was hosted using Blackboard Collaborate, an online webinar platform. Within each of the interactive online workshops, participants had many opportunities to contribute their ideas and thinking either by video, using the microphone, the chat function or the whiteboard.
Throughout the two days participants were challenged, inspired and provoked to “cast their nets into deeper waters - Tu’utu’u le upega I le loloto”.
Participants have an opportunity to continue the conversations that were initiated during the conference within eceonline. Thanks to social media, the conference hash tag #ECEOnlineNZ trended on twitter reaching over 3500 twitter accounts.
The early years team are excited about the future opportunities and possibilities that the blend of online & face to face professional learning can offer to the early childhood community in Aotearoa.