5 Tips for Live Sketchnoting

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(This post originally appeared on DitchThatTextbook.com)

Live sketchnoting (doodling while someone is talking) is the most challenging form of sketchnoting. It is stressful at first, but it gets easier over time with practice. Here are some tips for live sketchnoting:

  1. Before you begin, draw a banner, maybe a portrait of the speaker/teacher, the date and place. This will settle you down and get the creative juices flowing for sketchnoting.
  2. You don’t have to write down everything, just capture the parts that stick out for you. Capturing ten to twenty points of the talk/lesson is fine.
  3. You can add more doodles and embellishments later such as icons, containers and frames, banners, arrows, dividers and fancy fonts.
  4. Don’t stress! Sketchnoting is supposed to be fun! Don’t worry about quality of your sketchnote, just get the key points down and enjoy the learning process. Over time with practice, you will find live sketchnoting easier and easier.
  5. SHARE your sketchnotes! I enjoy live sketchnoting during keynote addresses in conferences. When I’m finished, I share my sketchnote as a gift with the speaker who is always delighted to receive it. With the Procreate app that I draw with on my iPad, I can export the sketchnote as a video from the beginning to the end of my drawing. In iMovie, I can then add music then upload to YouTube. To see a YouTube playlist of my live sketchnotes, visit bit.ly/SylLiveSketchnotes.

If you (and your students) want to get started sketchnoting right away please visit sylviaduckworth.com/sketchnotefever for 21 free sketchnoting lessons. Please share your sketchnotes on social media with the hashtag #sketchnotefever!

For more tips and tricks for getting started with sketchnoting in the classroom, please check out my new book,  “How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students, available on Amazon. The book includes access to an online database of sketchnoting icons and many scaffolded activities to introduce sketchnoting to your students.

Available now!

Happy sketchnoting!

XXOO

Sylvia

Sketchnoting World Tour 2019

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Dear sketchnoting friends,

After a successful 6-city 2018 Cross-Canada Tour, I am beside myself with excitement to announce my Sketchnoting World Tour 2019!

Here are the stops so far (more dates to come):

1. Wednesday, April 10, Auckland, NZ,  Orewa College. (Click here for flier)

2. Saturday, May 4, Aurora, OR,  North Marion Intermediate School.(Click here for flier)

3. June 4, Fayetteville, NC, Cumberland County Schools Educational Resource Center. (Click here for flier).

4. Saturday, Nov. 2, Hà Nội, Vietnam, Concordia International School. Click here for flier.

5. Saturday, Nov. 9, Singapore, Singapore American School. (Click here for flier)

Please click here to read more about the workshops.

Please click here to register for a workshop.

Please click here if you are interested in hosting a full-day sketchnoting workshop at no cost to your school.

Please click here if you would like to invite me to conduct a sketchnoting workshop in your community.

Please click here to be notified if a sketchnoting workshop comes to your area.

I sure hope to meet you in 2019!

XXOO

Sylvia

 

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ShadowDraw App

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mine

A few months ago I saw the coolest thing on social media: an app that teaches the user how to draw simple drawings by tracing the lines drawn by an artist.

The app is called “ShadowDraw – Learn How to Draw, a free app with in-app purchases. I was mesmerized.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I received an email from Marty McDonough, the creator of the app,  asking if I would like to be a featured artist. I was super excited to contribute to this unique teaching resource so I submitted some Winter Holiday sketchnoting icons. Well, today my first drawing bundle is ready to purchase!

Instructions:

  1. In the iTunes store, download the ShadowDraw app (for iPads only).
  2. Do the opening tutorial.
  3. Tap Menu
  4. Browse tutorials
  5. Tap on “Sketchnoting for the Holidays/ Sylvia Duckworth”
  6. “Get book for $1.99USD/$2.79CAD” to learn how to draw 25 different holiday icons.
  7. On the right, tap on the icon you want to learn how to draw > Start drawing!

If you like my lessons, check out the other lessons by featured artists including Graham Shaw (yes, THAT Graham Shaw from the popular YouTube video with 23 million views)! You can read about the other artists here who have all contributed to this wonderful app with Holiday-themed drawings and more.

Have fun learning how to draw with the ShadowDraw app!

XXOO Sylvia

5 Ways to Create a Doodling Culture in your Classroom

(This is a cross post from a guest blogpost for Alice Keeler.)

5 Ways to create a doodling culture

Sketchnoting, or visual note-taking, has so many benefits for students. Many studies have proven that images are considerably more effective than words when it comes to memory retention, comprehension and motivation. There are psychological benefits as well, because sketchnoting has a calming effect similar to meditation and listening to soothing music. Sketchnoting also allows students to see the bigger picture in the concepts they are studying, to make connections in their learning, and to display their learning process.

Before you begin sketchnoting in class, however, it is extremely important that you set up a doodling culture so that your students understand that IT’S OKAY TO DOODLE!

This is very counterintuitive for most teachers who feel that in order for the student to truly absorb the material being taught, they have to be looking at the teacher. This is a mindset that is very difficult to get over for teachers and for students, but with consistent reminders that it’s okay, sketchnoting will soon become a natural and normal part of your daily class routine.

Here are 5 good tips to create a sketchnoting or doodling culture in your classroom:

  1. Remind your students over and over again that it’s okay to sketchnote in class as a form of note-taking, planning, processing information, and keeping engaged in class.
  2. Provide paper/pen/pencils/notebooks/digital devices for sketchnoting.
  3. Model sketchnoting yourself by doodling with the students and displaying your sketchnotes.
  4. Spend 5 minutes a day with your students to focus on building their visual vocabulary. Visit the #SKETCHNOTEFEVER resource page for 21 free video lessons.
  5. Encourage your students to share their sketchnotes. Create a space in your classroom/class website to allow students to do this. Celebrate their amazing progress as the school year goes on!

For more tips and tricks for getting started with sketchnoting in the classroom, check out my new book, “How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students”.Available now!Happy sketchnoting!

XXOO Sylvia

 

All 21 #SKETCHNOTEFEVER lessons!

LAST DRAW

At the beginning of the week when the #SKETCHNOTEFEVER lessons were coming to an end, I challenged participants to create video montages of all 21 lessons that they completed. I loved the variety of mediums they used. Check it out!

1. Jennifer Leban (@mrsleban)

Twitter video

2. Alexis Snider (alexissnider15)

Adobe Spark Video

3. Anette LeFave (@mrslefave)

Smilebox video

4. Sarah Fromhold (@sew1080)

YouTube

5. Tiffany Eliot (@kindertechtiff)

Instagram video

6. Amber Grohs (@amber_grohs)

Twitter video

7. Merri Lea De Witt (@dewit_teachn)

Book Creator

8. Mandi Tolen (@mandiTolenEDU)

Twitter video

9. Kimberley Kidd (@MrsKKidd)

Twitter video (Part 1)

Twitter video (Part 2)

10. Kimberly Cantrell (@mskcantrell96)

Twitter video

11. Katie Cahill (@kcahill79)

Twitter video

12. Margaret Sisler (@techymargaret)

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(All 21 lessons on one image, made with a yoga laptop/tablet,  windows 10 and

13. Traci Stubenrauch (@tpstube)

YouTube video

14. Courtney Adams (@cadamslpms)

Apple Clips

15. James Allen (@TLJamesA)

Twitter video

16. Kristi Daws (@kristi_daws)

Twitter video

17. Abbey Thomas (@mrstechpig)

Twitter video

18. Juli Chang (@juli_sassy2ndgr)

Apple Clips

19. Monica Roveri (@monica_roveri)

Twitter video

All participants received a certificate of achievement for completing all 21 lessons:

certificate

Thank you to everyone who participated in this challenge. If I didn’t see your entry, or forgot to include it above, please DM me on Twitter (or email me) and I will add yours right away! Also please contact me if you completed all 21 lessons so that I can send you a certificate.

And the winner of the draw to win a copy of “How to Sketchnote” is….

A very special shout out to Lisa Stevens, from the U.K., who wrote a blogpost  and was a very enthusiastic #SKETCHNOTEFEVER participant, having completed all 21 lessons as well!

A reminder to all readers that even though the #SKETCHNOTEFEVER campaign is officially over, I do hope that everyone will continue to post their sketchnotes using the hashtag so that we can celebrate everyone’s creations.

Happy sketchnoting!

Sylvia

 

End of week 3 #SKETCHNOTEFEVER

As the 3 week launch campaign of “How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students” draws to a close, I am still incredulous at the level of participation of teachers, students, and families from all around the world!

People were tweeting and posting on Instagram and Facebook every day. Here are just a few examples:

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Congratulations to three #SKETCHNOTEFEVER participants who won a copy of my book after a random draw:

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Week 1: Ashley Sonkin

Week 2: Merri Lea DeWit

Week 3: Manuel Herrera

We have ONE MORE DRAW: Create a video or montage of ALL 21 #SKETCHNOTEFEVER lessons that you completed for another chance to win a copy of my book! The winner of this bonus draw will be picked on Friday, Nov. 16, so make sure to submit your videos/montages before then on social media with the hashtag #SKETCHNOTEFEVER!

LAST DRAW

After what seems like an excruciatingly long wait,  my book will finally be released tomorrow (Nov. 13) and it is my sincerest hope that the #SKETCHNOTEFEVER community will continue to post their #sketchnoting journey, with or without the  #SKETCHNOTEFEVER lessons! To continue the learning, please consider purchasing my book which has tons of lesson ideas and scaffolded activities to introduce sketchnoting, as well as access to a members-only databank of close to 300 sketchnoting icons.

If you haven’t ordered the book yet, it’s not too late to take advantage of the early order bonuses which will still be available until Nov. 20:

PURCHASE BONUS OPTIONS 

  1. Order the book before or on November 13 and you will receive 3 bonus posters plus a special VIP invitation to a live 1 hour webinar with me.
  2. Buy the book November 13 – 20 and you will receive the 3 bonus posters.
  3. Buy 20 or more copies and you will receive the three bonus posters above, PLUS a private 30 minute webinar with me.

Once you have purchased the book, please email me at sduckworth100@gmail.com to provide your proof of purchase and to receive the bonus features.

Happy sketchnoting!

#SKETCHNOTEFEVER

Oh my, what a week it has been!

On October 23 the book campaign for “How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students” (release date Nov. 13, 2018) was officially launched.

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After consulting with EdTechTeam Press author and lead editor Holly Clark and author and marketing guru Trevor Mackenzie, we brainstormed on a 3 week campaign to get people excited about sketchnoting and #SKETCHNOTEFEVER was born!  (To the uninitiated,  sketchnoting, or visual note-taking, is an effective and fun way to take notes using doodles and text.)

Every day for the past week I have been posting quick 3 minute lessons on my website and asking participants to post their drawings on social media using the hashtag #SKETCHNOTEFEVER. The response has been phenomenal with more than 2000 tweets and many more on Instagram and Facebook. Teachers told me that #SKETCHNOTEFEVER hit hard in their classrooms and even at home with their own children!

Photo courtesy @itsmrsking

@caroreinck

Photo courtesy @caroreinck from Singapore

Photo courtesy @wheeler_laura

Photo courtesy @mrsstack205

Photo courtesy @virtualgiff

This week I also threw a “Book Reveal” party for some of my Toronto area teacher friends where we opened the first box of my new book. It was the first time any of us (including me) had seen the book and we were all thrilled to see the final product!  Thank you so much to friends Jason Trinh, Larissa Aradj, Kim Pollishuke, Jen Giffen, Laura Collins, Diana Mancuso, Shaki Ravindran, Julie Millan, Stephanie Signer and James Trood (not pictured) for coming to my place to celebrate this moment and for documenting the event with photos, videos and social media posts.

Photo courtesy Larissa Aradj

To celebrate the end of the first week of #SKETCHNOTEFEVER I drew a name from a list of more than 200 people who contributed photos of their drawings and Ashley Sonkin from Texas was the lucky winner to receive a copy of my book. Congratulations, Ashley!

I can’t wait to see what the next week will bring. If you haven’t done so already, please join in the fun by adding your name to the mailing list to receive the daily sketchnote lessons in your email box. To get caught up with all of the lessons, please visit bit.ly/sketchnotefever. It’s never too late to join!

XXOO

Sylvia

PS. To pre- order “How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students, please click here. Special purchase bonuses are available until Nov. 13. Please visit bit.ly/SylBook2 for more info.

Appliance RepairMan or Appliance Repair Team or Appliance Repair Guy or Service 4 Appliances or The A Team Appliance Repair or Gold Star Appliance Repair Scam: How to get your money back

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Dear Reader,

I sincerely hope that you’re not here because you have fallen victim to ApplianceRepairman.ca (or ApplianceRepairTeam.ca or Appliance Repair Guys),  The A Team Appliance Repair, or Gold Star Appliance Repair

But if you are, there is hope. I was able to get most of my money back within a week by following the steps as outlined below.

If you have not heard of this company before, let me fill you in. They operate in the GTA (Toronto), Hamilton, Barrie and Oshawa. They have many others websites as they change their name frequently. They operate in Guelph, Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge and maybe beyond. They are based in Concord, Ontario (89 Connie Crescent, L4K 1L3) and owned by Idan (Dan) Vidoser and operated by Chen Kochavi.

This is how they operate:

  1. They charge $80 to send a technician.
  2. The technician will look for a minute at your broken appliance and then state that in order for him to get a proper diagnosis of the problem, he will have to open up the machine and that this is considered labour so you will be charged extra for it.
  3. He will draw up a contract/waiver for you to sign outlining the “labour” charges and the cost for each. This is what mine was, for a broken washing machine:
  • Watering system: $112
  • Mainboard/Timer: $98
  • Safety system: $70
  • Total: $280 (Bizarrely, this is the total that is calculated with every complaint I have read about, no matter what the appliance)

4. He will tell you that he will deduct the $80 initial fee if you give him the go ahead to service the machine. You do the mental math and think “$280 – 80 = $200. Worth it to get my machine working again”. You sign the waiver.

5. He spends about 10 minutes doing something with the machine (Not sure what. Mental note: always watch what your repairman does) then comes out of the laundry room and states that you need to buy a replacement part at an exorbitant cost (ex. $408.88 for a latch and lock assembly which is $97.33 online). Oh, there will be labour fees on top of that.

6. When you balk, he claims that he warned you beforehand about additional costs and you shouldn’t have signed the waiver if you weren’t willing to spend more money to get it fixed. And that collections services will come after you if you don’t pay what you owe right now ($280).

7. At this point, you will pause and wonder “Is this guy a scammer? But he seems nice! Well, it’s a lot of money, but I guess this is how most companies operate (NOTE: It’s not). Plus, I did sign the waiver so I’ll do what decent people do and honour the contract”. You give him your credit card (P.S. big mistake) and he rings it through. If you’re really unlucky, he will have convinced you to order the “needed” part, too. (Thankfully, I didn’t, but retrospectively, I should have told him to take a hike and sent him away with no payment whatsoever.)

8. He leaves. You are $316.40 dollars poorer and your machine still doesn’t work. You go online and your stomach sinks when you start to read the abysmal reviews and articles written about this company:

As of today:

  1. Homestars: 552 negative reviews, .6/10 rating (that’s less than 1/10 btw)
  2. Better Business Bureau: “F” rating
  3. Ellen Roseman/Toronto Star article, 2014
  4. Ellen Roseman/Toronto Star article, 2019
  5. YorkRegion.com article, 2015
  6. HamiltonNews.com article, 2015
  7. TrustPilot reviews: 92 reviews, 100% bad
  8. ApplianceRepairGuys.org: 35 bad reviews (Same company, different name)
  9. SiteJabber: 28 reviews, all bad
  10. CBC News article
  11. Google reviews: 102 bad reviews (google “ApplianceRepairman.ca reviews”, scroll down to the right, click “View all Google Reviews” (Later note: It looks like the company has disabled Google reviews since they are no longer visible).

OMG, you think. I got hosed. Big time. How do I get my money back? You call your bank right away. They tell you there’s nothing they can do. You call the company and they tell you the technician honoured the contract you signed, so, sorry. They might offer you a $35 refund if you call more than once.

I decided to follow the advice found on ApplianceRepairGuys.org, a website set up by another victim of this company. He suggested filing a consumer complaint with Consumer Protection Ontario .  Wisely, the crooks at ApplianceRepairman.ca will respond once you set the ball in motion here because they do not want to be shut down.

Before filing a complaint you must write a letter to the company. Email the letter to info@appliancerepairman.ca and in the subject line write: Complaint about service done: CONSUMER PROTECTION ONTARIO (this will get their attention). Note that you don’t actually have to file a complaint just yet. Write the letter first and send it off, then wait to see if the company responds. 

In your letter to the company, make sure you describe your intention to file a complaint with Consumer Protection Ontario and outline how much money you want back from them. Also give them a time limit to respond (I gave them 48 hrs but they responded the next day). Click here to read my letter.

The company will state that you must sign a waiver to get your money back which is basically a gag order for legal proceedings (which I will completely ignore if ever asked to testify against them). You can try to insist that you won’t sign it until you get your money back but you won’t be successful. They will tell you that you will receive a cheque within 15 business days once the waiver is signed. I recommend that you insist that the money be put back on your credit card (not a cheque) instead and tell them they have 24 hrs to reimburse you or you will proceed with your Consumer Protection Ontario complaint. Here is where you need to take a huge leap of faith: You need to give them your credit card number again before they can process the refund. If you prefer, ask them for a mailed cheque, but you risk having to chase them down for it. I gave them my credit card number and received the refund immediately after sending them the signed waiver. I called my bank right away and made sure that the funds had indeed been credited back to my card. Phew, nightmare over.

So there it is. It was 5 days of pure hell, but a lesson well learned. Never again will I let a service person into my house until I do some research on them.

Here are some questions I have left to ponder:

  1. How do the employees at this moralless company sleep at night?
  2. Why does VISA allow this fraudulent company to have a merchant account?
  3. How has this company been allowed to operate for 5 years now?
  4. How many thousands of customers have they ripped off?
  5. Why are victims powerless to shut them down?
  6. Why isn’t Consumer Protection Ontario stepping in to protect Ontario consumers from this company, as they are mandated to do?

I welcome your comments below. Good luck with your efforts to get your money back if you are a victim. Please let me know how it turns out.

PS: I filed a complaint with Consumer Protection Ontario even though I got my money back and I encourage all victims to do the same. This way the government might finally pay attention to this scam. Here’s their number: 416-326-8800/1-800-889-9768.

I also filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau of Canada. This organization will not help you get your money back but they will help investigate fraudulent companies. Click here to file a complaint.

By the way, the week after I wrote this blogpost I hired an honest repairman, Yevhen Pankratenko, to fix my washer. He repaired it for $85 (including the cost of the visit), proving that the ARM “technician” was a complete scam artist.

Blogpost update, May 7, 2019: Please fill out this form to help us collect evidence against them. Please note that CRITICAL MASS is required to put them out of business, so we need your input!!!!

Blogpost update, Aug. 16, 2019: A group of us have sent a letter to CBC’s Marketplace, GoPublic CBC and W5 CTV for more media coverage. Please let me know if you want to be involved in this story by emailing me at sduckworth100@gmail.com.

Blogpost update, Oct. 30, 2019: A disgruntled customer contacted me and said that she had success getting her money back from her bank (TD) after filing a complaint with Consumer Canada

Update: Oct. 17, 2020

CBC Marketplace did a great exposé on the crooks which was aired last night. Watch here:

Update, Jan. 18th, 2020:

A lawyer who I had been in contact about this case just sent me this email, FYI:

“My analysis is that the defendant is a shell corporation and pursuing the shell corporation would result in a worthless judgment. The situation is quite frustrating. The principals of the corporation also did not own real estate in the greater Toronto area. We found on principal living in a rental unit on Bathurst street. 


There is no question that this corporation and its principals are unscrupulous and need to be stopped. We could try something under what used to be called the Business Practices Act. It would be a prosecution conducted by the Provincial government. 


Please note that I do not take class action law suits. 


Furthermore, I have concluded that it is not cost effective to take such a case on, even with multiple plaintiffs,  given that any judgment might be unenforceable.”

I am currently in discussions with him to see about pursuing them with the Business Practices Act. We still need everyone’s info including invoices. Thank you!

Sketchnoting Cross-Canada Tour

Dear readers,

If you know me, you know how passionate I am about sketchnoting, which is a way to take visual notes.

There are so many benefits to sketchnoting as a creativity tool and as a way to document your learning and observations. Teachers who have started sketchnoting with students report that the practice has transformed their classrooms, as students become more engaged in the process of note-taking, gathering and processing information

I am super excited for the opportunity to share my passion with people across Canada, starting this Monday in Magog, Quebec (just outside of Montreal). I hope that you can join me on one of the stops! Please click here to learn more and to register.

XXOO

Sylvia

 

From Moscow With Love

 

My eyes fill up with tears as I say goodbye to Anna who is also crying. We clasp hands and promise to stay in touch: she, inviting me to her family home by the Black Sea: me, inviting her to Toronto for a Canadian experience. We hug and reluctantly let each other go. As I walk through the doors I turn around and we give each other a final wave, smiling and blowing kisses.

me and anna

(My beautiful and gracious guide, Anna Komarovaaa)

Five days ago we met for the first time when I landed at the Moscow airport. She was assigned to be my “guide” to help me navigate Moscow and to be my translator for the duration of my stay. I was invited to the Moscow Global Forum to present a session on Sketchnoting, along with 47 other international speakers.

It was the trip of the lifetime. I fell in love with Moscow; its culture and its people, and I made many new international connections and friends. As I sit at the Moscow airport ready to board my flight home, I reflect on how magical this Russian experience was.

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(Photo credit Vladimir Fofanov)

  1. The city

Moscow is, beyond a doubt, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. There is breathtaking architecture, huge boulevards, many statues and parks, the Moskva River which winds its way through the city, the magnificent Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, and many charming pedestrian-only cobblestones streets like the famous Arbat Street.

Calle-Old-Arbat-en-Moscu

(Image source)

I was astonished with the vastness of the streets, buildings and monuments. The Russians clearly like to do things in a big way!

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(Statue of Vladimir the Great)

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(Russian State Library)

I was also struck with the cleanliness of the city. Early in the morning an army of cleaners descend on the streets, picking up garbage and sweeping by hand every piece of garbage in sight.

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(Street cleaners arriving in the early morning)

The morning after I arrived, I went for a long walk along the Moskva River all the way to the famous Gorky Park.

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The city is great for walking, with many underground tunnels that go under the wide boulevards which allows for the traffic to flow more freely throughout the city. Even so, the traffic jams in Moscow are epic and I was surprised to see so few cyclists. I saw a beautiful bicycle path along the river, but in general there seems to be a shortage of bicycle paths in the city. However, the subway system is one of the best in the world, with 200 stations bringing millions of Muscovites in and out of the city every day.

subway2. The food

Russian food includes much smoked fish and meat, fresh vegetables and fruit, hearty bread and delicious cheeses. I particularly like the traditional dishes like borscht, dumplings, and caviar with pancakes and sour cream. The Russians serve many courses in a formal meal and we had to learn to pace ourselves so as to leave room for all of the courses. Our hosts told us that in Russia, it is considered polite to leave food on your plate because it indicates to your host that they served a sufficient amount of food. This was certainly not a problem for us as every meal we were served was humongous! (Click here to learn more about food etiquette in Russia.)

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3. The conference

The inaugural Moscow Global Forum was one of the best organized conferences I have ever attended, with 20,000 delegates. The highlight of for me was participating in a Question and Answer session where we were able to share our areas of expertise with the audience in  mini-sessions of 10 minutes. The moderator had prepared many excellent questions to keep the discussion moving at a fast pace. These sessions gave us a chance to get to know the other presenters and to ask them questions about their outstanding work. Another highlight for me was getting to meet Luis Von Ahn (creator of Recaptcha and Duolingo) after his keynote. Read more here about his brilliant idea to help digitize books through crowd-sourcing the word recognition feature in Recaptcha.

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4. The excursions

Our hosts treated us like royalty as soon as we arrived in Moscow, greeting us at the airport and organizing and accompanying us on many excursions during our stay. We were each assigned a personal guide to facilitate our trip and to make us feel welcome in Moscow. These guides were delightful young students or recent graduates who were hired for the conference.

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My first excursion was to School No. 627. I had missed seeing the full school day in action but was able to visit the after school program: small classes engaged in various after school activities. It was a happy, welcoming atmosphere and the students were excited to try out their English on me.

 

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Over the next two days our group had two walking tours: one of central Moscow and the other one of The Kremlin. It was obvious that our guides had tremendous pride in their city and they were extremely knowledgeable about the history of Moscow, spanning 870 years. The information was a little overwhelming, but I was glad to learn about the many wars, fires, and religious and political transformations the city has been through.

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The Moscow Fire of 1812 (Image source)

There is a vast number of museums in Moscow. We visited the Tretyakov Gallery to see an astonishing collection of Russian masterpieces spanning several centuries. I was particularly taken by the story behind “The Unequal Marriage” by Vasili Pukirev. Click here to read more.

unequal marriage

One of my favourite excursions was the glamorous dinner cruise on the Moscva River. The food was exquisite and seemed to never end (I counted 9 courses!) accompanied by a live band that played traditional Russian music.

night boat cruise

(Image source)

Our final dinner was at the Carlson Restaurant, one of Moscow’s finest eating establishments. We were treated to another multi-course feast of mouth-watering food, wine, and Russian vodka. We rolled out of there, busting out of our seams and marvelling at the vast quantity of food served at every meal.

5. Moscow’s birthday celebration

Our visit to Moscow coincided with a celebration its 870th birthday. On the weekend there were many live performances on huge stages set up around the city.

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(Image source)

The police, security guards and army presence was significant and buses were set up at the ends of busy streets to prevent terrorist attacks. All citizens had to go through security screens before entering the city centre. 

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The security forces were very thorough and it was obvious that they took their jobs very seriously as they rarely cracked a smile. The civilians seemed to take this all in stride, but even our guides said that they had never seen this level of security for an event in Moscow before.

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I was impressed with the level of organization and coordination required set up all the checkpoints which reinforced my sense that Russians have a highly developed command system and infra-structure to pull off security in this grand scale.

Moscow has a population of 12 million and it seemed to me like most were in the city Saturday night. By the time we got back to our hotel (the Ritz-Carlton), we were a little frazzled so a night-cap on the roof-top terrace seemed in order.  Sipping on Moscow Mules while watching a magnificent display of fireworks was just what we needed to end the night in a magical way.

6. The people

I love connecting with other educators on social media, but there’s nothing like face-to-face interactions during conferences to have those deeper levels conversations about important issues in our profession and to get to know each other on a personal level. The international presenters were a diverse community, representing 20 different countries, cutting across many different types of educational institutions. It was fascinating to compare notes about the similarities and differences between our school cultures and to exchange ideas. I was in awe of the passion that each educator displayed towards their students’ well-being and their commitment to creating inclusive school communities. Throughout the afore-mentioned boat cruise, many toasts were made by the presenters and hosts and the overriding theme was the importance of communication, collaboration and idea-sharing. But above all, there was a unified call for world peace.

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7. The hosts

It’s hard to accurately describe the extent of the hospitality that our hosts extended towards us. When Anna first greeted me at the airport and ushered me into a private car, I knew that that this was going to be a special experience. Throughout the 5 days I was there, Anna barely left my side. She was like a mother hen, always making sure that I knew where to go and that I was in time for my next appointment. All of the other presenters I talked to said that their guides were equally lovely and conscientious.

On our last day in Moscow after the Kremlin tour some presenters and I decided to go for a walk around the city. To our immense surprise and delight, our hosts asked to join us, even off-duty! Later in the day we had a delicious dinner at the famous Ukrainian restaurant, Tarus Bulba, (across from the magnificent Russian State Library) and were again regaled with live music.

Over dinner that night, our hosts explained to us the strong sense of hospitality that Russians have. They described how even families who do not have many luxuries will forego feeding themselves so that their guests can have the very best of what they can offer. Our hosts embodied this sensibility along with a fierce sense of pride of their history, culture and country. Their warmth, sense of humour, compassion and generosity reached into our hearts and took hold. We will never forget our new friends and we will be forever grateful to them for making us feel so special.

(A huge спасибо to the organizers of the International Presenters program: Diana Obukhova and Nastya Ivanova. This event could not have happened without their tireless efforts!)

(Click here to learn some basic Russian words.)