Oops, I didn’t like MathsConf2014 that much.

OK I said it. No-one else is saying it, so maybe I’m the only one who thought it.

(I know that’s not true, I spoke to lots of people, although I think I was in the minority)

Before I get lynched, let me explain…

I really, really liked meeting the twitterati. Those who inspire me on a daily basis to do better at what I’m already pretty good at. Those who remind me that we all have so far to go, but we’re all going in that direction and we can get there so much quicker if we do it together. Those who … ah you get the point.

I also found the opening talk by Vanessa Pittard extremely useful. I have a much clearer picture in my head of what’s coming, why it’s coming and when to expect it. There were a lot of problems with the presentation, which I’m sure anyone there would already know. I could write a hundred pages on why Singapore (the ‘country’) is the worst thing we need to be thinking about, and why the hell no-one wants to focus on other high performers with more similar current structures and cultures, like Canada. Oh, and incidentally in Canada they speak English as their first language, so you aren’t going to miss all the cultural nuances and misinterpretations, and your hundreds of teachers will be able to have conversations about learning without interpreters. What’s happening there? It seems far more likely to be replicable here. It’s like trying to go from a ‘needs improvement’ school to ‘outstanding’ without even bothering to look at the middle bit (someone else gave me that nice little metaphor).

Sorry, I digress… you wanted to know why I didn’t like what you liked.

The ‘look at our great tech’ showcase felt quite lost. Some was maths, some wasn’t, some looked promising, most didn’t. Some was your typical “it’s amazing, it will only require ten months of staff training, followed by an additional forty minutes of planning a night to implement, all for only seventeen grand”. Sigh. When will you learn??

Oh, and no I don’t want any damn textbooks. They are the devil.

Now the workshops. I will tread carefullyish, as I saw a couple run by people I respect on twitter, so please don’t assume I’m generalizing ALL workshops here.

They were a mixed bag.

I’ve compared notes here too, as I didn’t see enough, and I KNOW some were awesome (first hand too). But some people (NO NOT ALL) turned up late to run workshops, stuttered through with no clear purpose, or showcased things that are by no means new… not even close. And why is it that every single education conference I go to, I get spoken to about how important it is to engage people, by someone standing in front of a white PowerPoint with black bullet points. Every time there’s someone doing that. Make a fucking effort! ENGAGE ME.

Again, not everyone. I saw some brilliant things.And some of the workshops I’ve heard about since sounded amazing. But bear with me.

There seemed to be too many workshops offering too varied, and contradictory foci. Why not strip it back a bit, do a bit of quality control and have an idea of what the purpose of the day was. What WAS the purpose of the day? Was it “all these people want to tell you something about themselves and their lessons”? If so, I guess it succeeded. But for me, with all these enormous changes going on around us, it felt a bit like a missed opportunity. Who’s doing what with regards to the new landscape, who’s doing what with regards to the new hubs?

The most powerful thing I picked up on from that day was strength in networks. But it also felt hard to approach some people, who had arrived en mass with their school (or network of schools), and went around like packs of dogs.

Couldn’t there have been a REAL speed dating activity, that took up a whole hour, tables and all, where we all just shared an idea, a thought, an email address.

I kind of feel like that alone would have been worth a 5-hour round trip.

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