Here are my “notes” and overall reflection about the ITEC 10 conference. You can also see my tweets from the day at twitter.com/dmourlam or see everyone’s tweets from the conference by searching for #itec10 in Twitter.
Overall, the conference was a great experience, even though I didn’t learn many new technologies. I tried to stay away from exhibitor presentations and only spent a short amount of time in the exhibitor hall. My big three things I wanted to accomplish during the conference were:
- Learn more about how Interactive White Boards (IWB) can change a teacher’s pedagogy
- Attend sessions that focus on educational change and how we can take all the ideas from this conference back to our schools and enact change
- Be active with the discussion taking place about effective teaching and how we can foster that type of environment in our schools
IWB were on my radar the entire time, but I never found an answer that satisfied my mission of how they effect pedagogy. I started with a session that shared a number of resources to use with an IWB. This session was great and had a number of sites that could lead to more interaction with students, but was very limited in discussion about how any of the lessons or activities were impacting learning other than it was making it more interactive. It was an average session and I came out with more resources.
Not seeing any other session that would likely benefit my quest, I entered the vendor hall and talked to nearly all the vendors that had an IWB, but overall this led to a feature talk, rather than an educational one. I did talk to one vendor from Tierney Brothers who is a professional development instructor for SMART. He did say that even though teaching the faculty how to use the features of IWB wasn’t what I wanted, it was necessary if we are going to have any impact on pedagogy. I agree with him to the extent that once the features are learned that we need to take it one step further and address with faculty how this will impact their practice. Without revealing too much about his training, he did say that it is important to personalize the instruction for the faculty so they can see how they can use IWB in the their courses. I agree in principal, but this still left me wanting to know more. Since then I have begun researching articles that address pedagogy and IWB. I will create a short literature review and commentary that addresses this issue, because it’s clear that educators at large do not know how this technology effects pedagogy. My initial impression is that IWB provide only a slight relative advantage over other alternatives and fail to provide a more student centered classroom.
My second mission was to attend sessions on educational change or sessions that can make change easier. These sessions varied from sessions that focus on 1:1 laptop projects in Iowa to sessions on specific applications to both keynotes (Vicki Davis and Doug Johnson). Vicki Davis really kicked off the conference with her keynote. She brought up some good points about how other people influence our actions and how this can make change more difficult if we are constantly surrounded by people that don’t want change to happen or are negative. I really liked how she stated that we can only change “me” no one else. We can’t force technology and change on other people, but we can change how we teach and the resources we use. No one is going to change our practice for us, we need to take control, because at the end of the day the only thing we can change is “me.”
I thought this was a great way to think about how we support teachers. Too often resources are wasted on the wrong teachers because they fail to incorporate them into their teaching. I made the suggestion on the back channel that we should take the technology from the teachers who aren’t using it and give it to the ones that want to use it to do great things. This created some conversation with some agreeing and some not so much. The main argument against was that we need to find the right way to properly motivate teachers to use technology because it shouldn’t be a choice any more. However, we also need to support the teachers that want to change, because their actions can create a community that promotes change, providing the laggards the opportunity to observe how things can be different. Forcing a less innovative teacher to do something they aren’t prepared for doesn’t make good change.
Another important statement I thought Vicki Davis made was that when we add something to our class, we need to remember to take something away. We can’t keep adding on to what we do with students without overloading and overwhelming both the students and ourselves. We also need to find the tools that will help us the most, not what work best for other people. Again, we can only focus on “me.”
My final big quest was to be active in the discussions that were taking place both in the sessions and in the back channel. This was a bit different for me than normal because I tend to be very shy around large groups unless I am the speaker. However, I put myself out there on Twitter and I think created some additional insight into what I thought education should look like. Something I will differently need to keep working on, but this was a great place to start because people at ITEC are very open to new ideas.
One of the big discussion topics was that filtering needs to be a curricular choice not an IT choice. I think we let IT departments have too much control in the educational practice of teachers. Not to generalize, but it appears that IT departments are too quick to dismiss something as not safe or of little value, when it isn’t their position to make that assumption. There needs to be limits, but that needs to be an administrative decision based on curricular need, not based on what’s best for the IT department. We see this happening at all levels and it is a problem that needs to change if we want to create better learning environments for students.
Another discussion I participated in was one with a presenter that joined from Sydney, Australia. This session provided a number of different resources that are available to make learning more enriching for students. What I thought made this session special was that he didn’t just talk about the technology, but also the classroom and teaching implications. I also learned of a new screen capture tool I would like to try out called: Screenflow. Very cool and would work great for creating instructional videos for any computer application.
For more detailed notes, please see twitter.com/dmourlam
Walking away from this conference one thing does seem very clear to me. 1:1 laptop initiatives are going to take place in Iowa, regardless if the schools are prepared for the giant leap they are taking. There were some very big proponents of 1:1 and I too think they can do great things. The only caveat is that they need to be implemented correctly with a focus on how we are going to change our teaching to take full advantage of the laptops. I don’t think schools are thinking about how learning is going to change as much as they are thinking about the process, the laptops, and getting people on board. Vicki Davis said that 2/3 of laptop programs are unsuccessful and I think that is spot on, because we aren’t looking at the pedagogical changes that are taking place.
This was a great ITEC conference once again. The only improvements would be to bring in more distant experts to present. I thought this brought in a great dynamic and an outside voice that helped keep Iowa in check with the rest of the world. I would also like to see ITEC be more than just a conference and keep the conversations going throughout the year. It would also be nice to have ITEC advocate for various policy initiatives at the state house and even advocate for technology coordinators statewide to help improve their positions to more than a technology janitor.