Category Archives: EdTechConf

What a conference!

The build-up was tremendous, the hours of preparation numerous and the feelings of expectation and anticipation were huge. Could we pull it off, the six of us that make up the Elkanah IT Department? We were confident that we could and, oh boy, we DID!! I am so proud to be part of such an awesome team.

The EdTechConf eXtended event at Elkanah has come and gone but I don’t have that feeling of deflation and emptiness one often experiences after a particularly exciting event. To the contrary, I feel elated, not only because we did a great job, but because we were able to excite and inspire a group of teachers, give them ideas and possibly some tools for including the use of technology in their classrooms, making it an add-in, not an add-on! That’s what this event was all about and even if each teacher took away only one idea to make a start, take that first step, then we were 100% successful in our mission!

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!

We had a variety of wonderful presenters who provided much inspiration and to them we are very grateful for their input an willingness to share their experiences and projects. All their bios and presentations are available here: http://elkedtechconf.blogspot.com.

The EdTechConf team consisting of Tim Keller, Arthur Preston, Rick Greener and Helen Temple have started an amazing initiative which is gaining momentum beyond their wildest imagination, with a number of future eXtended events planned already. The first one will take place at Cornwall Hill College in Gauteng in October. See www.edtechconf.co.za .

Elkanah will continue to be closely involved with EdTechConf, especially since Arthur Preston has recently been appointed as the new head of our Senior Primary, where I am based!

Advertisements

EdTechConf eXtended @ Elkanah!

The day has arrived!  We are happy to announce that our school will be hosting the very first EdTechConf eXtended event at the end of September!

All the details are below – simply click on the picture to register. We hope to see many new faces at our conference!

[PLEASE NOTE: If you attended the inaugural EdTechConf in May this year, we kindly suggest that you pass this invitation on to your colleagues. This will aid the EdTechConf team in their efforts to reach out to as many teachers and administrators as possible, and avoid disappointment due to possible content overlap. Thank you!]

Projects, iPads, Presentations and possibly Prezi…

So I’m up to my ears in projects at the moment – three to be exact!

Firstly, small but still a project, I have managed to get our campus onto Twitter!  I am hoping that by using social media as a communication tool, we will enhance our current methods of parent communication so that they become even more effective than they are at present.  We go live on Thursday!

Secondly, we are well into putting together the first ever EdTechConf eXtended @ Elkanah conference. We are coming along nicely and registration will open shortly.  I will post more details about that closer to the time. However, conference planning and co-ordinating is time consuming and since we want to make it a conference to remember, we’re putting quite a bit of energy into it!  I’m loving it and so enjoying working with @artpreston and @timkeller.  These guys have a winning recipe that I believe is going to grow into something they didn’t, in their wildest dreams, imagine they could ever create. And the fact that we are working with them to grow this dream is amazing, to say the least!

Lastly, our iPad project is going full steam ahead, and it is this project that is keeping me the busiest – in fact it consumes my life at present – not that I am complaining!  The more I work with this wonderful device, the more convinced I become that this is a powerful tool for education and that it can change the way teaching and learning takes place.  Yes, there are many little obstacles, but those are mostly in our minds.  We have to change our way of thinking, shift our viewpoints and enable the children to take more responsibility for their learning.  At the SchoolNet ICT in the Classroom conference that I attended recently, I heard the speaker, John Davitt, refer to “struggleware”, in terms of giving children difficult tasks or projects to do and telling them to get on with it.  A little struggling never did anyone any harm and it encourages out-of-the-box thinking and innovation.  Well, I think of the iPads as “struggleware” for teachers!  These devices are pushing our boundaries and encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones, and I believe this is a good thing.  However, having said this, I don’t think the iPad is a difficult device to use and will by no means be “struggleware” for the children. It is an intuitive device and simple to use but since we (at our school) work in an exclusively Windows environment, there are a few issues we need to get our heads around – and getting the teachers to grips with the idea of cloud computing… well, that’s a different story altogether!  My challenge is to get the curriculum mapping underway and we have our first workshop with the Grade 6 teachers on Friday. I look forward to that.

In the lab all is well. Coincidentally all three grades are busy with Natural Science presentations using PowerPoint.  The Grade 4s are looking at different forms of Energy, the Grade 5s are preparing oral presentations on Useful Plants and the Grade 6s are showing their understanding of the workings of the Digestive System – three similar, yet very different tasks with different expectations and outcomes.   Think I should give Prezi a try with the Grade 6s next time… PowerPoint seems so “old fashioned”.  Mmm… food for thought!

#schoolnetsa11

The title of this post refers to the Twitter hashtag for the Intel ICT In the Classroom Conference I recently attended in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was a whirlwind three days filled with excellent keynote presentations by international speakers, Naomi Harm (@nharm), John Davitt (@johndavitt) and Jane Hart (@c4lpt).

I enjoy reflecting on such conferences and seeing exactly how much there was in it for me and whether it was worthwhile. I can wholeheartedly say that it was definitely worthwhile, if only for the privilege of hearing such talented international speakers, but also for the honour of learning from some very talented South African educators. I came away a little overwhelmed (as usual – totally over-resourced J), but very satisfied that my time had not been wasted. I met interesting people, made new ICT network connections and enjoyed three days with three colleagues from my school. Here were some highlights for me:

· Naomi Harm (@nharm) is the most resourceful and professional person I have ever had the privilege of meeting. She has a wonderful sharing spirit and conducts her sessions in such a manner that everyone is engaged and feels part of the group. She is extremely knowledgeable in her field and her experience in working with teachers of all levels of ICT proficiency shines through. I attended two of her sessions: ‘Google My Way’ and ‘Transforming Your Classroom Practice with Web 2.0 Literacy’, and I left both sessions with a ton of resources. Naomi’s keynote speech on Day 2 of the conference was also extremely good, with many ideas and tips for teachers as well as interesting statistics and need to know facts for educators all around the world. Here is the link to her blog: http://blog.innovativeeducator.us/

· As with our local EdTechConf, the continuous Twitterfeed and back channel so ably managed by Maggie Verster (@maggiev), assisted by Arthur Preston (@artpreston) and others, was fantastic. A constant stream of shared resources, comments and quotes added to the value of the conference. And Maggie herself is an awesome asset to educators in South Africa – her knowledge of Twitter and other social media in the educational setting is immeasurable – be sure to follow her on Twitter!

· Local educator, Peter de Lisle from Hilton College in KwaZulu Natal is a very interesting person. His session on ‘Useful Tools for Innovation Across the Curriculum’ was amazing to say the least. Whilst some of the tools he demonstrated did not really apply to me as a Senior Primary educator, this did not detract from my enjoyment of his presentation. Google Earth and Maps have also taken on a new dimension for me – one I intend to investigate in more depth as a result of this presentation. Peter is obviously a higher-order thinking person and I cannot help but think how privileged his students are to have him as their teacher. Check out his workshop tools on his website: http://goo.gl/mI2Dq .

· A two-hour long five-way Skype session involving four American educators and Gerald Roos from SchoolNet was very valuable in that these teachers very kindly shared and showcased many of the projects they had done in their classrooms. Having recently Skyped with an American class with my Grade 6s, I was very interested in finding new ideas of how to uses this free tool effectively. I did ask the question whether the American educators thought that Skype would become a paid for service, as a result of its acquisition by Microsoft. All four unanimously agreed that this would not happen, especially not for Skype in Education. I truly hope this is the case. This session also highlighted for me the digital divide that exists amongst educators in our country – but that is content for a later blog post; a story for another day.

There were many more highlights and as I sift through my copious notes and read the back channels and Twitter feeds, I will come back and edit this post. As I said, there was a lot to take in and process. It is happening slowly, but surely.

Do I think this conference was better than out local EdTechConf held in Cape Town in May? No, I don’t, but that is because the EdTechConf is a completely different concept. It has its place and, at this stage, is on a smaller scale. The aim of the EdTechConf is to reach teachers at grassroots level and show them that technology is possible at all levels with minimal financial implications. It compliments bigger conferences such as the SchoolNet one and has its own niche market. Watch out for news of EdTechConf eXtended@Elkanah – coming soon!

Exciting times!

At the end of a school term when things are usually winding down and slowing up, I find myself busier than ever, in the throes of two wonderful projects!

Firstly – the awesome, amazing and all-consuming iPad! This week our Grade 6 teachers took delivery of their iPads and this marked the beginning of our official iPad Project.  We are now faced with the intricate and interesting task of mapping our curriculum to the amazing array of applications (apps) available from the Apple App Store.  We have a huge task ahead of us, but having already done a little of the leg work myself, I have found that it is fun and most definitely addictive!  Once you start, it’s very difficult to stop.  There is so much available, one could work on it for days on end.  However, since we are a team of 7 who will be working on this, each looking at a different learning area, it will be a lot easier and as the saying goes: “Many hands make light work!”  Our first planning session is scheduled for next week.

Secondly, after a great meeting with Arthur Preston (co-creator of the EdTechConf mentioned in an earlier post) yesterday afternoon, it can now be confirmed that our school will be hosting a conference of our own, under the EdTechConf umbrella!  We are so excited about this new partnership and the fact that we will be hosting our own conference.  We have bought totally into the grass-roots concept of the EdTechConf, conceived by Arthur Preston and Tim Keller, and hope to add our own unique spin.  The dates will be announced shortly, once a few minor matters are confirmed.

So, added to the fact that I will also be attending the ICT in the Classroom Conference in Johannesburg in the first week of the holidays, as well as an Apple workshop in the second week of the holidays, my plate is pretty full at the moment.   Am I complaining?  Not a chance!