On January 30th I attended the 21st Century Learning Symposium in the tiny hamlet of Bluffton Alberta. I had never been there before and was impressed by how such a small community was able to put on a technology conference. I think it was the district PD event for Wolf creek School division and it looked like there were more people at the school for the day than live there.
George Couros (@gcouros) was the keynote speaker. I have been a fan of his for while, and enjoy his insights about the role of technology in education, but I had never see him present in person. His keynote address, Learning in a Digital World, was interesting, engaging and touchingly personal; he talked frequently about his parents and how the world has changed since they immigrated to Canada from Greece. I was fascinated by the fact that he was able to Tweet as he presented, since he didn’t seem to be multi-tasking. I found out later he was using a program called Screenr.com which you can program to send out Tweets when you reach certain slides.
His big ideas included the following: Technology is not technology if it existed when you were born; Technology is not “just a tool”;he asked us to consider: “are our students twitterate?, and does it matter if they are”; and he gave some examples of why audience matters, so for students blogging can be more powerful than journal entries.
He asked: “Can you’ve a good teacher without technology? Yes. Are you doing your job? No”. He reminded us that it should always be about learning, not the technology. He finished by entreating us to not wait until teacher new year in September, but to try something new now.
After the keynote, I attended a session about portfolios by @gcouros. He gave me some great ideas about how to use portfolios both professionally myself, and as a teaching tool in my classroom. He also convinced me that WordPress was a better location for my blogs than Edublogs, which is why this post is at WordPress and not my old Edublogs address. It didn’t actually take that much convincing, the fact that even the free accounts here have no ads was enough. The notes from George’s presentation can be found here.
After a great lunch a went to a session about using web 2.0 tools to teach digital photography. It was co-presented by a teacher and his grade 9 student, which was wonderful to see. They had planned to talk exclusively about Picnik, but since it has been bought out by Google and the site will be shut down in the middle of April they broadened the scope to include other tools as well. I was disappointed that there were connection issues that prevented me from checking out the tools at the session, in fact I was unable to get on-line all afternoon, but the session ended early and I was able to go for a quick walk.
The final session I attended was about iPad and iPhone apps by Sean Lougheed. I was impressed by the way he integrates his own iPhone and student owned technology into his physics classes. It sounds like he uses lots of different apps to help his stedents understand physics concepts and how they apply to the real world. He introduced us to apps useful for different ages of students. Some of the apps I was already familiar with, but it was good to learn about new ones. The ones I have used frequently since his presentation are Apps Gone Free and App Shopper. I now have many new apps to check out, perhaps too many?
Note: I can’t seem to include links in this post, perhaps because I am using my iPod? Once I am home and can access my laptop I will add the links.