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.

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