Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I love Technology Conferences!

submitted by Fiona Beal
Recently we have had a virtual Global Education Conference taking place which was really great (http://globaleducation.ning.com/), but this led me to to think about other technology face-to-face conferences I have attended this year and how I have benefitted from them. To tell the truth I REALLY love face-to-face technology conferences. There is just nothing that compares with seeing friends and colleagues that you don’t normally get to see at these conferences, shaking their hands and catching up on life and technology matters. One can also ask a myriad of questions and find out so much when it is face-to-face.

There are two face-to-face technology conferences from this year that I haven’t written about yet, so I am going to write about those now. Both of them were held at schools. They used the excellent services of EdTechConf to help them plan their conferences.

Edtechconf Extended @ Elkanah 

The first conference was held at Elkanah House in Table View, Cape Town in October.  Honestly...what a school! They are leaders in technology integration, of that there is no doubt. That marvellous ICT Department of theirs, under the guidance of EdTechConf, produced a brilliant conference.  Their goal was to attract teachers in the classroom who are just starting the journey of integrating technology with the curriculum. They also made a point of using local Cape Town teachers to share what they are doing with technology integration.  Here is a photo of four of the six Elkanah House technology team members.

Maryne (left) Karen (third left) Juanita (2nd from right) Linda (3rd from right) 

Keynote speakers

Kobus van Wyk (http://www.e4africa.co.za/), of Khanya fame in the Western Cape, set the tone as the opening keynote speaker. He talked about ICT being an add-in and not an add-on. There were three other keynote speakers:
* Arthur Preston (
http://headthoughts.co.za/) who is a co-founder of EdTechConf and who has been appointed as the new Elkanah House principal in 2012, spoke on The Technophobe Family,
* Nicholas  Hall, a social media candidate attorney, spoke about copyright law etc for educationists
*Tim Keller (
http://timk.co.za/), a software developer of ‘Staffroom’ fame and a co-founder of EdTechConf spoke on 'The School of the Future' . All were outstanding presentations.

Tim Keller and Kobus van Wyk

Presentations and workshops

Maggie Verster, (http://maggiev.edublogs.org/) our own South African social networking expert, ran the Twitter backchannel. She used her bubbly enthusiasm to get as many of the delegates as possible using Twitter since Twitter is a really great educational resource tool. Maggie also created a Conference blog to upload some of the presentations http://elkedtechconf.blogspot.com/ and a Picasa site for all the photos http://bit.ly/sVXqjA . Here is Maggie’s presentation on Bookmarking using Diigo
What I really liked about the conference was the three teacher-panel sessions. These were local teachers who shared what they are doing in the classroom. Each panel had about 3 or 4 teachers and they spoke for about 15 minutes followed by a time of questions from the floor. The conference delegates loved these panels. One of the panels involved the Microsoft Innovative Teacher finalists and winners who happened to live in Cape Town, and wow! did they bring energy and enthusiasm with them.  You can just see what that competition does to teachers! (Read here.about the success of these Innovative teacher finalists when they represented South Africa in Jordan at the Partners in Learning Middle East and Africa Innovative Education Forum in Jordan in September). Here is a photo of Maggie with some of the Innovative Teacher finalists. 

Maggie (left) Lisa (2nd left) Kim and Louise
I must mention that a highlight of the teacher's panels for me (and others) was Nicole Masureik's presentation.  She spoke about her project with Grade 11s at Pinelands High School where she is conducting a cell phone trial with two Grade 11 classes - Maths and Life Sciences. This is an incredible project really worth following.


The workshop sessions, of which there were quite a choice, also gave teachers a chance to practise using different tools. I am going to add the presentations that have been made public in this space. 


Teachmeets introduced

Elkanah House also announced their intention to start Teachmeets for local teachers (http://teachmeet-southafrica.wikispaces.com)  by having a quick demonstration of a Teachmeet. Read about Teachmeets here.  In face they are having their second Teachmeet this coming Saturday 26th November. I'll be writing about their Teachmeets in another blogpost.

Conclusion

I think this conference generated a lot of energy and possibly larger numbers of teachers will attend future conferences when they hear about what they missed. But, as Karen Stadler, one of the ICT team at Elkanah House highlighted in her blogpost about the event:
"Key points that came out of this conference were:
* Buy-in from school management is vital (sadly very few principals attended our conference).
* Technology needs to be an integral part of teaching today as our students are born tech savvy (digital natives)
* It must be an add-in not an add-on
* Teachers should start small, choose one aspect/topic and use technology to enhance it
* Baby steps… Take that first step!"
http://karenstadler.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/what-a-conference/

Kim and Loise sharing about their winning project

Edtechconf Extended @ Cornwall Hill

This was the second technology conference I attended at a school in October. It was great! Once again it was wonderful to connect face-to-face with friends from around the country for a catch-up time.

Natalie (left) Linda (2nd left) Fiona (2nd right) and Debbie

The only problem is there is no record of it anywhere that I can find.  I think a Conference blog is such a good idea at a conference as the experience lives on through it.   The conference followed the same Edtechconf pattern as before. The three highlights for me were:
*a inspirational talk by Pepe Marais  http://sharpeningmypencil.tumblr.com/ founder of 'One School at a time')
*Dr Adele Botha on the use of cell phones at school
* The teacher panel sharing their projects.

Well, to close my post let me say - let’s face it – technology is here to stay! We need to embrace it in education. There is no other route.    

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