The big T word (technology), evokes many different thoughts, responses, concerns, contextually relevant challenges, and emotions from teachers all around the world. This is especially true at home here in South Africa where we face access (in all kinds of forms) as a major challenge. What is not new about this conversation is that we seem to get stuck in the high level discussion. This high level focus can be seen at conferences that are actually designed to meet the practical needs of educators in the classroom.
This week the TTA attended the Eduweek conference held in Cape Town. The conference hosted many of the top technology contributors in the current market for education. The three streams of the conference focused on Leadership and Management; Teacher Training, and Digital Disruption, of which I spent most of my time attending the latter two. The need for conversations around systemic considerations were addressed in depth and very well in the official opening by MEC Debbie Schafer; Siyavula CEO, Mark Horner; and Assoc Prof Dick Ng'ambi, Stream head: Educational Technology Programmes, UCT.
As an attendee, while the wow factor of many of the latest technologies captured my attention, I found myself in a sea of overwhelmingly exciting new tech but felt ill equipped to make practical decisions. I noticed that, not all, but many people attending Eduweek were teachers and I considered how they must have felt. This conference had the opportunity not just to provide interactive moments between attendee and product but to engage the attendees and equip them with lesson plans and practical workshops that provide teachers with actual applications for the products in their classrooms. What I mean by this was I was able to play with products (interactivity) but no one provided me with support on developing a lesson (engagement), or actually gave me a practical lesson plan to walk away with.
There were some exceptions to the rule that I found really eye opening and provided teacher focused support such as the likes of Leigh Morris. Morris took the audience through a brief outline of STEAM and showed how to engage learners in a practical way using the free Cospaces VR (Virtual Reality) program to create things in the classroom. I would love to see more of this kind of engagement next year at Eduweek.
Three questions that I still have for some of the companies featured at Eduweek are:
#1 There are many interactive technologies out there, but how do I (in a very practical way) sift through all that's available to find the technology that supports learning in my classroom?
#2 How do all these technologies support pedagogical goals and relate to curriculum in our teachers classrooms?
#3 How can we engage teachers in the same way they engage learners so as to provide them with more skills along side our products rather than just the tech?
What are your thoughts and experiences of Eduweek? As a teacher did you feel equipped to go back to your school and inform them of how to go about choosing an interactive white board or other technologies that peaked your interest? Give us your opinion below.