ICT in the Classroom Conference – three days of learning, networking and sharing

Submitted by Megan Rademeyer

Over 400 delegates attended the SchoolNet SA ICT in the Classroom conference held at Brescia House School in Brynaston, Gauteng between 5 – 7 October 2017. The conference was opened by Deputy Minister of Basic Education Enver Surty who also sat down with SchoolNet’s executive director, Janet Thomson, to define the national Department of Basic Education’s plans for digital learning. (See here for more on this interview – http://bit.ly/2gUwRcb)


The opening keynote speaker was Stephen Reid from Immersive Minds, based in Scotland. In his keynote, Stephen explored a variety of emerging technologies and discussed how they can be merged to create blended learning and cross-curricular experiences for students. Across the three days of the conference, Stephen presented various hands-on workshops which gave delegates practical experiences of using Minecraft, 360 Cameras, and virtual reality headsets to provide opportunities for their learners to make, create, visit and explore.

Ollie Bray, another Scot, rounded off the conference with his keynote address entitled “The New Learning Landscape”. This session was thought-provoking and made delegates realise that Scotland and South Africa share many similarities in terms of embracing digital learning. In addition to his keynote session, Ollie shared his experiences of being a teacher and school leader in a range of sessions on social media, transforming learning in a 1:1 environment, and a highly enjoyable geo-cashing activity.

Ollie Bray is second from the left

The third international presenter was Peter Rafferty – an Intel visionary and teacher from Liverpool. Peter shared his experiences of creating a class blog, and encouraged delegates to get involved in a collaborative writing project by producing “Sparkly Letters”.

Peter Raffetry is on the left

Sarietjie Musgrave, a longstanding friend of SchoolNet SA, provided the keynote presentation on the Friday. In her address, entitled “Anywhere, Anytime Learning”, Sarietjie drew on her experiences of being a school teacher, a university lecturer and a student to encourage delegates to think of the possibilities that technology provides for learning in a range of different ways.

Sarietjie Musgrave

In addition to these featured speakers, we were grateful to the
35 other speakers – who presented one or more workshops or presentations. Many
of these sessions involved practical, hands-on opportunities to try out a range
of tools to help build the skills and confidence of delegates to try out new
technologies when they return to school. Practical sessions included
opportunities to learn the basics of coding, Minecraft and OneNote. A number of
sessions also showcased teachers’ actual classroom projects, or their own
success stories with digital learning – these included highlighting some
projects SchoolNet has been involved in such as Change Leadership in the
Eastern Cape, the Telkom Connected Schools project, and various teacher’s
experiences with “going paperless” . Many of these stories were inspirational,
and we are sure that a number of delegates may go on to try similar projects at
their own schools. Some of the most popular sessions proved to be the ones
where delegates got to be “learners” as they went on digital scavenger hunts, solved
puzzles in a BreakOut EDU session, or looked for geocache treasures. The
Department of Basic Education presented a number of sessions on using SA-SAMs
 effectively as well as sessions to launch the DBE Professional
Development Framework for Digital Learning. Many of the conference presenters
have indicated a willingness to share their session resources with us. These are still being received and can be
accessed here: 
http://bit.ly/2gTCpUl

During tea times and breaks, delegates enjoyed visiting the more than 20 exhibition stands to see a range of classroom technologies on offer and to try out some new tools. A number of exhibitors ran competitons at their stands, and some lucky delegates received prizes at the closing ceremony from exhibitors, including Vastratech who presented a Kapp 84” board and Computers4Kids who awarded two Acer Cloudbooks. Some exhibitors also took the opportunity to present their solutions to delegates as part of the demo track. A number of these sessions proved to be very popular, with delegates enjoying hearing first-hand how tools can be used in the classroom to enhance digital learning or to build online communities.


Although SchoolNet SA has been holding an ICT in the Classroom
conference bi-annually for over 15 years, the 2017 conference was particularly
special because it gave us an opportunity to celebrate our 20th Birthday
at a cocktail celebration sponsored by the Telkom Foundation. A great evening
of networking and reminiscing was shared by conference delegates and other
special friends of SchoolNet who joined us for the birthday celebrations. Read
more about SchoolNet’s 20th birthday celebrations here: http://bit.ly/2gTO7OO 

The full opening plenary address by the Deputy Minster can be
viewed here:  https://www.facebook.com/maggieverster/videos/10155929274194994/  It
was live-streamed via Facebook by Maggie Verster, the popular Maths Education
and social media guru.   A comprehensive album of conference photos
is available from this link https://photos.app.goo.gl/k0ggFcOdEEmSpvoF2

The link to the Storify collection of tweets can be accessed at:
https://storify.com/JanetThomson/schoolnet-conference-2017#publicize

If you attended the SchoolNet ICT in the Classroom Conference and you haven’t yet completed the evaluation form, please could you still fill it in – http://tinyurl.com/SNSA-conference. This will help us plan our next conference effectively.

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