Published: Wed 29 February 2012
education events ireland
Last Saturday I attended
a conference organised by the Computers in Education Society of Ireland.
It's a conference aimed at teachers and this was the first time I
attended. Even though as an IT professional I wasn't really the target
audience, I really enjoyed the talks and left the day with my head full
of ideas and really happy with the interesting conversations I had.
Random highlights and talk summaries from the day...
As part of the opening talks, Gerard McHugh told us that the lack of
engaging content explains failing western schools. Even though many
things in life have become more engaging over the decades, school
hasn't: we need it to be more interactive, more collaborative and
encourage participatory active learning.
For the keynote, Stephen Howell animately encouraged school teachers to
do the PR for third-level courses :-) and help students find that spark
to discover if they would enjoy a career in IT. The "3 Ds" should be
taught in school: Design, Develop and Debug -- not all of them require
computers or knowing how to code. Using software such as
Scratch, students can be moved to a
producer role as opposed to what they do with most wonderful modern
devices such as the iPad or xBox, that are slanted toward consuming
content. The goal is to get them to make their own games. The Scratch +
Kinect demo was quite impressive :)
A brief history of the near future
John Hefferman looked at what technologies are currently being created,
citing an interesting quote: "The future is already there, it's just not
evenly distributed." If we look at what R&D departments are working on
right now, there will be less of a surprise when it arrives into the
classroom in 10 or 20 years. "
Report" relates technological
innovations that are coming up. John ended the talk by telling us
examples of how all this will affect history teaching and the classroom
One of the questions was about how to bring some of the tools to the
classroom, when there are school and curriculum constraints. The answer
was that it's better to ask for forgiveness that permission, and start
under the radar initially.
Game-based learning in Irish education
Patrick Felicia is doing research on the impact of games in education.
His surveys indicate that most teachers agree games are a good learning
tool, that improves plenty of skills (with a bit of hesitation regarding
social skills, which is likely due to people having different types of
game in mind). However despite agreeing on the benefits, only a tiny
percentage have actually used any in their classroom. Most of the talk
took the form of a conversation with the audience, aiming to figure out
why this is and people's thoughts about it.
The main problems and constraints strongly relate to the curriculum and
time constraints. There is not a lot of content tailored for the Irish
market. Teachers suggested a portal of suitable games, and bringing
workshops on how to use them to the schools to make sure people attend
and learn about it.
Someone suggested, inspired by Stephen Howell's keynote, to have
children develop the content :-) This way they get to use their
creativity, meaningful content is created and they are taking
responsibility for it. Teach to create!
is an Irish conference on game-based learning.
The LiveScribe pen in action
Adrienne Webb explained to us what the
pen is, how it can be used and how she
uses it to provide additional resources to her students. The pen is a
very interesting piece of technology that records what you're writing
and your voice, which you can then upload or send as a video. There are
cool additional little features, such as clicking an element of the
video to listen to the playback of what was said when that particular
element was drawn.
She used it to provide sample exam answers, so the students can focus on
what they want and ask questions only on what they are having difficulty
with. This worked better and more efficiently that trying to cover every
question for everyone over 40 minutes. The students - in an exam year -
really took to it.
Social networking with our students
related her very interesting experience on using social media such as
Twitter and Google Plus to interact with students for a third-level
module, touching on themes such as digital identity, privacy and
Currently there is a tension between the current model of delivering
education, standardised, static and stale versus a student-centred
model. Meaningful learning occurs with knowledge construction, not
There are 5 stages to go through:
Awareness (of what is going on)
Commitment (which requires time and learning)
Access (to the appropriate technology)
Authority (to change things, which is easier at the 3rd level since
you can do what you want for the modules you teach)
This is about challenging students while still honouring who they are
and how they work.
The Google Plus experiment was leaky (in that G+ makes it easy to
re-share stuff that was submitted privately to a circle), though this
accidentally made the conversation more authentic by allowing the author
of a book they were studying, Jeff Jarvis, to join in.
There is of course a dilemma between being graded and having an
authentic discussion. From the student's point of view, there was a wide
spectrum of opinions with regard to the usefulness of social networks,
thoughts on privacy and comfort expressing opinions in public.
Student comments covered a wide range in terms of appreciation of the
experiment. The general opinion seems to be that it was useful, but/and
The talk Q&A reflected on the dangers of having students participate in
that kind of public discussions, at a stage where they're likely still
trying on different identities to find themselves. This is going to
happen anyway, so it might as well be within the context of a class with
someone to offer guidance.
Moodle in the classroom
Declan Donnelly gave a nice introduction to Moodle by explaining to us
how his primary school uses it -- all of which is also applicable to the
The presentation mainly focused on the possibilities offered by
interactive exercises, notably by linking with SCORM compatible software
like Hot Potatoes, which is better than the basic Moodle quizzes.
Thanks to Moodle it's easier to share resources and do grading and
assessment. It acts as a digital link between home and school, both to
do the work (including drafts) and show off accomplishments to the
This link also applies to staff, as the school they use Moodle to
publish policies and meeting notes, in a section only accessible by the
Enhanced Learning Futures
After a full day of listening to tremendously interesting talks coming
straight from the classroom trenches, I felt the "capstone address"
resonated a bit hollow -- it was an excellent presentation but it nearly
felt too polished!
Still Steve Wheeler brought up plenty of good ideas and food for
thought, regarding the direction society, technology and education are
going toward. Tools shape our behaviour, the more we use them.
Some examples of societal shifts: Amazon now sells more Kindle books
than paper books. 1.5 billion mobile phones have been sold. Girls are
catching up in terms of gaming trends. The gamification of learning can
lead to deeper learning because we want to repeat the experience.
Learners need to acquire "digital wisdom". Lovely new term: darwikinism!
The survival of the fittest content.
Looking forward to next year's event :-)