'Bring IT, Together' Conference Debrief - Part 1

As a new blogger this is my first attempt to summarize a conference experience in writing. I don't want to assume that all readers have been to a conference before, so I'll attempt to describe the overall experience before sharing the good bits.

Picture a place where hundreds (sometimes thousands) of like-minded people converge in a single location to share their passion. There are conferences for dentists, weavers, physicists, philosophers - if you can think it up, it probably exists. Last week I spent three days in Niagara Falls at 'Bring IT, Together 2014,' a conference hosted by ECOO (the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) and OASBO-ICT (Ontario Association of School Business Officials - Information and Communication Technology). This conference is for people interested in the use of digital tools to transform education and there were over 1500 attendees. Over three days I attended three keynote speeches, four in-depth hands-on technology sessions, and 12 talks given by educators (or organizations that partner with educators). My brain is full to the brim and I have a happy afterglow that is not unlike a post-Thanksgiving-dinner glow; maybe too much of a good thing, but totally worth it.

I wanted to summarize my learning and share some links to resources. The first bit is covered in this post; more coming soon!

Keynote Speeches

Wednesday: Technology and the Art of Learning (Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman)
My take-home: Kids learn best when working on projects that are personally meaningful to them. Technology can't be the teacher; good teachers must understand their students. Programming is a new medium for learning and creating. Great demo of TurtleArt. (remember programming in LOGO in the 80's? I do.)

Thursday: The Power of Technology to Prepare Students for the Future (Richard Byrne)
My take-home: The 'thinking economy' is universal; jobs will come and go but thinking skills remain important. Instead of 'today we will learn about,' try 'today we will explore.'

Friday: Impressive, but not Convincing (Ron Canuel)
My take-home: Use technology in moderation and use it for things that are transformational. Relationships are key; students remember who we are, not what we say. We need courage to change. Early technology adopters don't make the difference; 'mid-adopters' do.

Wednesday: Minds on Media Hands-on Sessions

Makey Makey
I've been waiting to get my hands on one of these for a while. If you don't know what it is, check it out: Makey Makey on YouTube. I played 'One Button Bob' with a button I drew with a pencil, played a keyboard drawn on a piece of paper, and played Tetris with Play-Doh. Serious fun.

3-D Printing
Excellent demonstration and explanations by grade 7 and 8 teachers. If you're interested in 3-D printing something you create yourself, you can use a 3-D drawing program like Google SketchUp. A simpler alternative is Tinkercad; it even allows direct upload to manufacturers who can print your designs if you don't have your own 3-D printer. Golden statue of your family mascot, anyone?

Coding for Kids
I tried out some Scratch and some Tynker. I have a way to go here; it took me a while to figure out how to activate the laws of physics in Tynker. (Things were more interesting when Physics was on.) An interesting side note is that I got to watch a Sphero (app-controlled robot ball) in action.

I mentioned this above; it was demonstrated in the first keynote session. It was fun to get a chance to play with the program and talk to Artemis Papert. I've had lots of fun playing with this since and would love to use it as a way to teach coding; I like that it's a one-trick pony; why not start with art? I made this image this afternoon and it's just one of many created by me and my daughters.

To be continued...Thursday and Friday conference sessions covered in next post.


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