NZLA 39th National Conference Report
On behalf of the organising committee of the NZLA 39th National Conference, it gives me great delight to write this final report on behalf of a special team of volunteers that worked for more than 2 and a half years to put together “Navigating Literaseas.”
When the Tai Tokerau Literacy Association took its turn to host a national conference, we were fortunate enough to have two members of our committee who were part of a team ten years ago that hosted this event. The challenge, motivation and desire to put on something very special showed itself as we prepared for this conference.
Between the 25th – 28th September 350 delegates, keynote speakers, workshop presenters and traders joined us at Waitangi. We had two goals that stayed with us throughout;
1. A desire to explore and present that Literacy is so much more than the traditional version of oral, reading, and writing forms. By the end of the four days the delegates were exposed to an incredible picture of where Literacy is heading.
2. To highlight literacy through the creative use of so many different venues. A trip to Waitangi, the foundational home of NZ, rich with cultural literacy. A trip to the Russell where we booked every restaurant we could find to allow authors to share their words of passion, craft and reflection on the gift of author-ship.
When you organise any major event, you look to build a “strong batting line up of stars” that will bring a crowd. We believed we had our line up very well balanced. Our key-notes covered our themes exceptionally well. Brian Falkner spoke about his passion as an author and how to engage children to become authors. Bill Teale spoke on behalf of the International Literacy Association about what is happening internationally. Karen Melhuish Spencer dove us into where digital literacy, trends and issues and the importance of the educator in innovative learning environments. Alison Davis presented research findings on aspects of literacy learning. Nigel Latta wove humour and fact together as he looked at the evolution of Literacy. Nathan Mikaere-Wallis took us into how our brains work and process information on the many different levels that we work. Finally Marcus Akuhata-Brown pulled the heart strings as he spoke of the importance of recognising and opening the doors for all learners, appreciating the role of culture and having positive role models. Whether by planning or chance each speaker complimented the direction of our conference.
The venue spoke for itself, Waitangi is the cultural heart of our nation, and a beautiful taonga (treasure) of Tai Tokerau, the northern region of New Zealand. We formed a partnership early on with the Treaty Grounds to allow our delegates to open the conference through a powhiri at the Te Tii Waitangi Marae. The Waitangi Copthorne was an ideal base for accommodation and a venue to run a conference of this size, we also needed help from Paihia Primary School, Yacht Club, Bowls Club and the Treaty Grounds, as you can imagine that is a lot of venues to move people around to. One of our social highlights was sending everyone off on a cruise through the beautiful Bay of Islands. A trip well enjoyed by everyone.
On one evening we took our conference delegates over to Russell for an evening. The focus of this night was to be entertained, absorbed and motivated by the wealth of experience of the authors we had. Fifi Colston, Jennifer Beck, Paula Green, Norm Heke, Julie Noanoa, Kyle Mewburn and Des Hunt spoiled our delegates with rich stories, insights and humour as we ate in every restaurant and building that we could book for this event.
A key turning point for us that gave us a real sense of direction was when we developed four themes for the 60 workshops that were run over the 4 days. Acknowledging again our desire for workshops that saw literacy in a wider context we came up with;
• Future Focused Education – Looking to the future to prepare our learners for what lies ahead.
– Innovative learning environments, personalised learning, digital, critical and multi literacies.
• Catering for Diversity – Giving all individuals equal opportunities to learn making connections and creating unique pathways for all our learner’s literacy needs. – – Inclusive Education, Literacy challenges, culture, ELLs, Reading Recovery
• Love of Literature – inspiring our students with a love of literacy and learning… Library, Engagement, Authors, Creativity, Rich Literature, Poetry
• Foundations for Learning – Exploring the literacy skills and processes that underpin literacy learning…Spelling, Oral Literacies, The Brain, Assessment, Phonological Awareness.
We were exceptionally pleased with the wide variety of workshop presenters who were involved from research to hands on work; we had an incredibly good coverage of the four themes. As a committee we were incredibly thankful for the teachers, university staff, educationalists and resource providers who provided a real depth to the conference. Literacy very much took on a 3D view when you realised the depth of what was on offer.
The NZLA 39th National Conference from the feedback gained has been seen as a successful conference from our delegates. It upheld the values, heritage and standards of the 38 previous conferences. For the core team that spent 2 and ½ years building to this moment, there was a sense of relief and triumph that a fantastic group of volunteers could organise something of this size.