handheld learning conference – barbican 5-7 oct 09
So, I’m back after two and a bit days at the ol’ handheld thing and have had some time to try to make sense of so much – in so little time. This’ll be a tad jumbled and ramblin’ I guess so.. cover me, I’m going in..
The original plan – arrive Mon evening around 6, find somewhere to eat then brace self/girder loins for two days of mind changing stuff..
Change of plan – rewind back to July – or even pre June. My day job (and their views aren’t represented here) is e learning monkey for Northern Grid where I work in schools, LAs, across the region and nationally speaking and (notionally) leading on tech and learning, learning platform stuff and e safety/security.
Our conference was in June and one of my roles was to coordinate the student keynote .. enter Normanby Primary School in Redcar and Cleveland LA. A school, put simply, facing many challenges and led by Carl Faulkner and a team of fantastic teachers. They’ve been persisting with handheld devices for over a year, despite technical issues and made amazing progress (with tireless help and enthusiasm from Andrew Stogdale, of the LA) – teachers, children and parents all working more effectively and in partnership to help learners achieve their potential.
So, the upshot of all that was Normanby was awarded the prestigious Northern Grid award Overall Excellence in ICT. When I was made aware of the Handheld Learning Awards it seemed the right thing to do to nominate the school for their work with handhelds and Carl as Practitioner of the Year.
Interestingly the online form required school website details from all nominations – Normanby doesn’t have a website. They use their learning platform to communicate and share with their learning community so there followed a rapid piece of work by Northern Grid to create the web pages needed for the nomination process – a great example of how Northern Grid, the RBC, works in partnership and supports its schools and local authorities..
Carls’ tireless efforts to gain recognition for his learners then results in arranging for the children to enter the Y Factor competition (‘an opportunity to showcase the innovation and ingenuity being demonstrated amongst young learners using mobile, gaming, social media or other popular technologies in their learning’) on the Monday afternoon – and they won!
So, with Carl and the school finalists for the two awards and one in the bag – my plans changed and I needed to rush over for the awards and represent Northern Grid and support in any way I could..
Let’s get the moan out the way first.. charged £200 for a table – only to hear that half the tables hadn’t been bought so the rest of the delegates could sit for free! It also turns out that in the excitement Carl and the LA colleagues had not eaten so it was only fitting that muggins forks out for snacks that I was assured would feed 10 people.. Enter stage right, little waitress lady with a bowl of olives, some crisps and 6 goats cheeses the size of polos. It would be an understatement to say I was a tiny bit miffed to have been charged 47 squid for the equivalent of one bun and a sardine in the miracle stakes..
So, Carl won Best Practitioner, and Normanby won the Innovation award.. words won’t describe the sense of pride all of us felt (let’s not worry how you solve the challenge of getting the kids back again for the Wednesday pm session where they were required to perform again for delegates)
500 wds later I am now turning my attention to the conference..
- I enjoyed it
- Fantastic positive atmosphere
- Real pleasure to meet people who I’ve only known as avatars, 140 characters and a few shortened urls
- Some really engaging speakers
- Massively enjoyed Malcolm McLaren, Ollie Bray..
I wrote about The McLaren on @timbuckteeth’s blog
‘There were, what seemed to me, many who felt this was not an appropriate platform for his at times rambling and self indulgent monologue – but not me. McLaren’s session was engaging, stimulating and, perhaps it’s my age (‘I was a punk before you were a punk’), I felt I was in the presence of greatness.
There was a recurring theme among several speakers of ‘I got nothin’ from my education and I turned out alright’ yet McLaren’s message was I think, heartfelt and passionate. We must question and challenge authority and nurture creativity – if technology can assist this – then use it with anger. Cue the song ‘I was an edupunk..’
Oh, and how cool is the Twitter Back Channel? Listening to speakers and reading tweets is like having an informed pal nudging you and saying ‘that’s an important/interesting point, I’ve made a note of it for you)
So what about the rest?
Well here’s the thing – I’m by no means an international guru – but I do know some stuff.. I know mobile tech is here, I know it will get smaller, more powerful and cheaper. I know that we need to rethink teaching and learning models and environments (I know BSF is, in places – missing this opportunity and it’s no accident that it’s been referred to as ‘Painting Schools for the Future’ or even ‘Closing Schools for the Future’).
I also know things were different when we were at school (first computer I used was in its own room and we had to punch thousands of cards to feed into it) – I also know all that Prensky stuff and the Douglas Adams stuff too..so, really people.. I didn’t need to spend two days listening to speakers telling me about all this again and I rather suspect that many delegates were at the same awareness level as me.
So it was all rather nice – it was safe, and it served as a useful tool to help me reflect on where I am, where we are, and where we need to be heading..
What would I change? Where was the discussion? The interaction? I spoke a little in the workshops but mostly it was a case of time management, get the speaker finished on time, allow 2 questions, get the next one on.. again and again.
I wanted to ask Ollie how we can prepare teachers for the ridicule of eternity when a child uploads an unfortunate video of them? Please don’t tell me if you have respect/control then this will never happen. Bad things happen, in the best of learning environments and if you’ve never been happy slapped then you have been lucky.. it’s only luck that you aren’t up there in cyberspace, humiliated and defenseless.
So what would I change?
I’d have found Steve Wheeler and Terry Freedman and followed them around like an eejit for 2 days. This way I’d have met even more interesting people, had more useful conversations, made more contacts, enriched my PLN and learnt so much more about the stuff I don’t know I don’t know.
17 Oct 09 a slightly more formal/objective/tame report by me can be found on the northern grid website