Each year the 2nd year cohort at the MAET Overseas program hosts an Educational Technology conference that they organize and pull off in 2 short weeks! This year it was called GREAT13 – Explore Technology: Set Sail toward New Horizons.
The conference opened with a guest lecture by Dr. Tony Hall, National University of Ireland, Galway, School of Education. His talk was about the power of narrative and storytelling, which I felt was very appropriate considering the importance of storytelling in Irish culture. Digital storytelling, is something that I have been interested in for a few years now, but I haven’t really explored it deeply in the classroom yet. Dr. Hall made some strong arguments based on the work of Jerome Bruner, for the importance of narrative in the context of education as stories have the power to unite groups of people across cultures, and storytelling is an aspect of every culture. I am interested in doing further research into how I can incorporate more storytelling into my classroom, and looking for legends and tales that would make interesting connections to the units of inquiry that we study.
The first session I attended was about the use of e-portfolios. E-portfolios are digital versions of the more traditional portfolio that is kept of student work. There are a variety of types of portfolios but in general they are used to document students work over time. The presenters made a comment about portfolios being a form of storytelling – and although it makes complete sense to me, it is something that I had never really considered. When I heard this comment, I think that because I had storytelling already on the brain from Dr. Hall’s talk, it was like a switch flipped in my brain in the way that I see portfolios as a story, instead of individual artifacts. The power of a portfolio is not in looking at one artifact or chapter, but at looking at the changes that occur as you go through the artifact or chapters. The presenters also highlighted the work of Dr. Helen Barrett, the electronic portfolio guru and her process for developing portfolios which I found very helpful. The process they outlined was 1. Selection 2. Collection 3. Reflection 4. Direction 5.Connection. For me, one of the things that I have struggle with is keeping up with portfolios – they are massive undertakings and I have yet to develop a system that is effective for me to use. As I look forward, I feel that using e-portfolios may make it easier to develop a process that is manageable for me, as the students may be able to do more of it independently through a blogging platform such as Kidblog.com.
The second session I attended was Presentations that WOW. The purpose of this session was to review effective presentations skills and examine how to build effective visual aids to support the teaching and learning process. The importance of keeping the visual presentation area uncluttered, visually minimalistic, and concept based was the focus. It is very easy using all of the presentation software that it is available to get carried away when making visual presentation aids, but it is important to remember to keep things sleek and simple so that the audience can focus on what you are saying as well. In this session we utilized Nearpod.com, which is an app for iPad that has many interesting features that I would like to examine further for assessment purposes- especially if I was to have 1-to-1 iPads.
During the break we gathered in the main foyer for a “Tech Tools Tour“. During the tour there were multiple stations where you could utilize a QR code to watch a YouTube clip on a specific tech tool. The YouTube tours are great and are worth watching but it was a little challenging to do it in the crowded environment of the foyer.
The third session I attended was Adobe Photoshop Basics. To be honest, I have always been intimidated by Photoshop as I have seen experts use it and it looks very confusing when you have never used it before. I went into the workshop as open-minded as possible and I was surprise and what I was able to accomplish in the short session. Like any tech tool, having an expert take the time to show you is so much easier than learning it yourself! I now feel like I am not as intimidated by it that I would be able to try something on my own without ruining the project! It is always good to be reminded of how challenging it is to learn something new, and remember what our students feel like in the classroom!
The final portion of the day was a guest lecture by Sharon Flynn, Assistant Director, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Her lecture focused on the growing power of video as a medium for communication; however, she did begin by reinforcing the importance of pedagogy before technology when using technology in teaching and learning. One point that she made was that many young people today use YouTube as their search engine of choice as they prefer to find videos to learn the content or answer the questions they are interested in. I had heard this concept before, but each time it seems to resonate with me a little more, as I watch the students in my class at indoor recess and the stuff they come across on YouTube amazes me. Then she moved into looking at FlipClassroom as well as video for documentation and reflection purposes. It is clear that there are many applicable uses of video in the classroom, and it is a technology that I feel we will see the increased use of as it has many positive qualities for educators.
There is always a certain energy to conferences – especially EdTech conferences where teachers are able to teach other teachers and share and build ideas together.