Just returned from two days at the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) annual conference where ICE was celebrating 25 years as an organization. The ICE conference is always an outstanding way to see what’s happening in classrooms with technology, paw the latest hardware in the vendor area, reconnect with the professional contacts, and add new colleagues to the professional network.
I attended several presentations to learn about perspectives and applications. I attempt to view many of the ideas as a beginner and then drill into the topics in a scholarly fashion. Eventually, I look at the ideas from a research base as well as practical implementations in schools. What is the foundation of the ideas in technology education research as well as how can the ideas be scaled into other classrooms? I found some disconnects from practicality and any research base.
The power of web 2.0 software is important for individual teachers. As students age into schooling, how do they keep track of all their teachers’ web 2.0 initiatives? Without an overarching system, to connect all the desparate web 2.0 sites, it’s too confusing for students. While one vendor demonstrated a learning management system that aggregates all this for students, the price is steep at $10 per student. Certainly, there’s a developer out there who could write an “app” that could aggregate all the web 2.0 sites for students. The same vendor calls his product “blended learning,” although it does not qualify as such. It’s more like a “web-facilitated classroom,” a traditional classroom with electronic connections for students to use away from school. Blended learning is when a student spends some time away from the traditional classroom in an electronic classroom, such as 2 days a week in a traditional class and 3 days a week learning online.
Further I see all this occurring in “classrooms.” Clayton Christensen calls putting computers and technology into classrooms “cramming.” We are trying to make technology work within our existing classrooms and as such we erase the capabilities of the technology purchases. The conference boasted an online strand, but it was hardly online programs in the way that would be presented at a Virtual Schools Symposium. The online thread in this conference was mainly about “online tools.”
On Wednesday, I participated in a panel discussion about collaboration with other Illinois leadership groups, including techgeeks, LUDA technology directors, ICN, ICE, IL CTO, and IllniCloud. While all the groups have different focal points, all have a stake in success in school technology. The organizations have clear intersection points, such as IL CTO and LUDA sharing professional development. There appeared to be interest in developing shared position papers about school technology topics, when possible and appropriate.
On Thursday, David Pogue, New York Times columnist, provided the morning keynote. The important points that I am processing are the megatrends he identified:
- The “App Phone” is a new class of device. It’s not a standard cell phone and it’s not a computer. It will have major impact in technology use.
- “Augmented Reality” is on the rise. This is where other data appears on maps and virtual presentations, such as a Google street view map that displays everybody in the area who is tweeting.
- “Web 2.0” is the “audience as creators.” Most of us know it as blogs and wikis; recently it is Twitter and others.
- Privacy is being redefined.
Pogue says that in the past five years, “things have changed.” Now it is real time (text not email), multitasking, content on-demand, redefing privacy, and consumers as reviewers. Interesting with the multitasking note is that in our online classes, about half of our students report that they do not multitask when they work in their online courses; they seek quiet places to study.
Reconnecting with the professional network is always rewarding. I enjoyed hearing about their current thinking in their sessions and in private conversations about their projects. I found new contacts who are interested in online learning, as it is emerging across the country.
I left the conference with a mixed analysis. In the future, I am hoping for more grounded presentations where presenters can provide data about their projects and understand the larger trends in their specialized areas. Further I am looking forward to see what my professional network will be experimenting with before I see them again at a future conference. Overall ICE 2011 was valuable to reconnect, recharge, and ramp up.