Monday, 18 July 2011

Reflections on the ICT in the Classroom Conference

Submitted by Deb Avery
Sitting in a conference in Botswana this week, I can’t help reflecting on the ICT in the Classroom Conference last week.
The conference I am at is packed with huge numbers of workshops, papers and colloquia. Two or three presentations take place one after the other in the same venues – ½ hour or an hour at a time. Nothing is running on time – so people walk in and out all the time. Many of the presentations are being read straight from Academic papers. There is 5 minutes for questioning at the end of each presentation – but no real interaction. And some of the topics are very academic.

I’ve met some great people – people who really know what they are talking about, people who have a great heart for reading, people who really want to make a difference to education in Africa.
But, like the Botswana landscape, this conference feels dry. I miss the Twitter backchannel – even the critical comments from some of the conference delegates. I miss the chance to really get my teeth into some new and different tools and methods. I miss the interactivity of most of the presentations – the chance to try and talk and wrestle and learn from colleagues.

I also miss the amazing networking – meeting people who I have only known on facebook or twitter, introducing people who have something to offer one another, just chatting and laughing and dancing – brainstorming new ideas, seeing new ways of doing old tasks, being offered new resources freely and sharing my own ideas even when they seem small and insignificant.

What significant things came out for me from the conference?
• The power of social networking in the hands of responsible people can be hugely beneficial – being a twitterer doesn’t mean you have to be a twit. Twitter is not just gossip or narcissistic self reflection – it’s a way to keep all your knowledge in one place and connected.
• There are a lot of new tools out there – tools that aren’t all about bells and whistles, but are there to make us more productive and give our learners a chance to think a bit more deeply. Some of them are about new ways of doing old things more effectively.
• Sharing is what it’s all about. The generosity of people at the conference – from the keynote presenters to the technicians in the labs - is what makes being a teacher so worthwhile. No one ever needs to struggle on alone, because there is always someone to share with, someone’s ideas to build on and someone’s help readily available.
• The “T” in ICT is really not “Technology” but “Thinking.” All the things I learnt were about building deeper thinking – for learners, but also for ourselves. Getting hung up on pedagogy and standards is less important than guiding our learners to be critical and creative thinkers and problem solvers. And there’s a lot that we as teachers can learn about thinking, too.
• Once every two years is not enough. We need to be engaging in “un-conferences” on a regular basis – discussing, meeting (on line or face to face), challenging, looking for new ways, thinking deeply, collaborating, sharing. And the joy of Web 2.0 tools is that we can do it for the cost of our bandwidth.
So let’s join up as Premium Members and reflect on what we learnt at the Conference – just add a comment to this post – and make sure we keep on developing.
This is not a dry or dusty academic place to be – it’s vibrant and growing. Let’s make it blossom.


  1. Hi Deb, I agree - it was a fantastic conference and the memories will linger on for a long time.

  2. HI Deb,

    Schoolnetsa11 was a hectic conference for me and I would have liked to have had more time to attend some of the other workshops. But like you I attended another conference last week and could not help noticing the disconnect contrast between the 2 conferences. I only realised then how important our virtual connections during and after the conference was and how great it was to turn virtual connections into face to face learning relationships. I am sure we will take these connections further and learn more from one another on an ongoing basis in a solid community of learning practice.

    Being at a conference that highlighted the challenges facing our education system especially in mathematics (1300 maths teachers at the AMESA conference) I was once again reminded what it means not to have computers, never mind connectivity and how important it is for us to explore mobile learning as a solution for educational ICT challenges. This made me think that our real challenge is lying not with the "converted" ICT champions that attended the SchoolnetSA11 conference, but with the notion of how we are going to engage and enthuse our school environments with what we have learned at the conference. Wow we have such a big job ahead of us.

    So for me- what am I going to do with what I learned at the conference?? Well, I have decided to make a list of all the tools that I have not used previously and see how I can use a tool at a time in an educationally sound way.......:-)

  3. Hi Debs & Maggie,
    It's great to hear both your refelections on attending other conferences so soon after schoolnetsa. (From hitech to low tech). As Maggie said to me a few years ago, spreading WEB2 and sharing is like planting seeds. I think this conference is a very fertile seed planting opportunity. It's now up to all of us to keep spreading the seeds to all our networks, both online and offline. On a personal level, my refelection is different as I attended the conference on Twitter from East London, EC. I only started on day two and was working at the same time. The content of the links and presentations on twitter, together with the the daily summaries is "like personal development gold". Spreading and sharing these daily "twitter summaries" is something I will work hard at spreading.
    Yes Yes Yes to many more smaller on going workshops, all over SA in each province. I would be very interested, especially in the Eastern Cape, to support these.

  4. Hi Deb

    My reflections on conference may be found here -

    Organisations such as SchoolNet and EdTechConf definitely have a role to play in equipping of teachers in the use of IT. Our work has only just begun...

  5. Charli Wiggill27 July 2011 at 09:22

    Wow, Deb(?) (Not sure if you wrote the report-back as I couldn't find a name). What a brilliant report - ideas just so succinct! Thanks for reminding me of the exceptional experience ICT in the Classroom Conference turned out to be; particularly as the onference didn't end at the end of the conference... yes, in the Web2.0 age the conference continues with the Diigo repository and Twitter feeds that blip and tweet through my Blackberry by the minute... from all corners of South Africa, the USA (mainly Wisconsin, but not exclusively so) and the UK - what a legacy this conference will leave, or continue to create!! Congratulations and huge thanks to Gerald and the whole organising team on a groundbreaking, inspirational experience!
    Best wishes
    Charli Wiggill
    Deputy Head: Eden College Durban