Innovative Technology Schools?

Martin Levins
24 August, 2008
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This year must go down for me as “Conference Year”. I’ve been doing some counting and I reckon that I’ve made at least six major conferences and workshops so far, and hey, it’s only August! There’s been the British Educational Technology and Trade show in London, Macworld Expo in San Francisco, NECC in San Antonio, the International Conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology in Singapore. the Cisco Directions in Enterprise Conference in Sydney and the The Association of Independent Schools IT Managers conference in Wollongong (can’t forget the ‘Gong).

I’ve been planning this for some years, combining some long service leave with school holidays, some time off for Professional Learning and several hours studying the rules of round the world airfares and the Australian Tax Office rulings!

I’ve reported on all of these via the education column in Australian Macworld or via this blog in some form or other, except the most recent: ICTLT in Singapore. This was really significant: a partnership between the Ministry of Education in Singapore and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), it was the first conference held by ISTE outside the continental US, really sharpening the focus on the “I” in ISTE.

The Ministry launched its third Strategic Plan for IT in Education at the conference to nearly three thousand teachers from all over our region, accompanied by the sounds of loud booming music and military-style flyovers (perhaps because the Minister for Education is also the second Minister for Defence).

What was interesting was the extent to which such a small country has committed to IT in its education system. If you haven’t looked recently, Singapore is small — around the size of Bruny Island off the east coast of Hobart, with a population just short of Sydney’s — yet it makes a real statement and makes it loudly.

After the bass drums and jets, we were treated to a 90 minute chat by Sir Ken Robinson (nearly every education meeting rolls out his TED speech) who prosecuted his favourite topic: how education squanders creativity and how its industrial roots make its current form unsuited to the current century.

Strangely, the following concurrent sessions largely featured one teacher pressing the mouse whilst another read from the next Powerpoint slide (sigh), although some were less mechanical, talking about freeing up kids’ ability to use Web 2.0 technologies to express themselves in a constructivist environment.
They’re not there yet though. I visited one particular primary school, to see laboratories with 30 wireless laptops running Windows chained to the desks. Hmm. The newtork setup meant that it took the kids 15 minutes to log on before they could do anything (and nearly as long to log off).

ITCLT is planned to be on again next year in November, so keep it in your sights. It’s a great opportunity to get a feel for what is happening internationally without spending too much money.

But, you know, despite the size and location of these well-known events, it’s what you get out of them that’s important. And, I have much pleasure in saying that there’s something coming up that you should put on your calendar.

About 18 years ago, Apple Australia set up an experimental set of workshops at the University of Wollongong (See? Told you we can’t forget the ‘Gong).

Called the Innovative Technology Schools Conference, it now resides at the University of Technology in Sydney and is a celebration of the depth of the Mac educational community. Over the years, many a teacher has left this event with their future teaching and learning experiences mapped out and this year will be no different.

Concentrating on the learning of students and teachers, you’ll be inspired, learn skills and techniques and build personal networks that you’ll really value. Soon to be announced formally by Apple Australia, I’m happy to be able to say that ITSC NSW is on from the 9th to 11th of December.

And there won’t be a Powerpoint in sight.

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