My Impressions from the 2008 ECOO Conference

Posted: November 20, 2008 in barriers, ECOO, edushifts, rant, reflections, tools
Tags: , , ,

It has been one week since the ECOO 2008 conference and I have had some time to reflect upon my learning.  I’ve used some of this time to consider how effective I thought the conference was and the effectiveness of my presentation on mobile learning.  Here are 5 conclusions I have made:

no-technology

  1. In the teaching profession, we still have a long way to go with regards to technology adoption.  This ECOO conference was in its 29th year and still I met many who were extreme novices when it came to technology use in their teaching.  After 29 years, the majority of the conference delegates were likely not teachers when ECOO began it’s mission to be a voice for technology integration in education.  These teachers would have heard the message of the importance of using technology over the years but still many are not.  It also says a lot about the general state of technology integration when many at a technology conference are not regular users of technology in their own daily lives beyond using a cell phone to make voice calls.
  2. Interesting messages are being passed on by those who are using technology with their students. I will not mention the names of presenters or presentations but I will mention that there were a couple of breakout sessions that I attended that left me puzzled.  In one session, one of the conference presenters kept saying that they were “low tech” and “preferred traditional teaching models” but was only using technology because “the students like it”.  In another presentation, by a university professor, the PowerPoint slide show being used had so much tiny text that it was impossible to read while at the same time the presenter stated that PowerPoint “needs to be used judiciously if it is to be used effectively”.
  3. It’s unclear what teachers are really looking for with technology. In my presentation, I had a number of audience members who were giving me mixed messages.  On the one hand, it appeared that the audience was looking for practical examples of using mobile technology in classrooms but on the other hand, they seemed very dismissive of the examples that I was giving as impractical despite the fact that they were examples from real classrooms with real teachers and real students.  You can take a look a my examples by looking at my presentation slide show.
  4. I’m not sure that I got a sense of what they next steps are. It’s great to have a conference that talks about possibilities and celebrates successes but I’m not sure I the delegates know what their next steps are.  What will they do to take their learning back to their classroom?  Perhaps I’m a bit guilty of this as well as my presentation focused more on possibilities and was skimpy on the discussion of next steps but in all fairness, my presentation topic is so highly controversial in today’s K-12 school environment that I think I need to convince people first of the viability of using mobile devices to help students learn.  What can we do to provide teachers with next steps to help them use technology with their students?
  5. We are resource rich but weak in skillfully finding and utilizing these digital resources. Today’s reality sort of takes the traditional view of the scarcity of resources and turns it on it’s head.  With the wide variety of multimedia resources and creation tools available on the Internet, the wide variety of hardware that is available in our schools (both school property and property brought to school by the students themselves) and many of these resources available to teachers and students for free, the argument that we need more resources is a weak one in my mind.  However, what I notice is that, generally speaking, teachers don’t know that these resources exist and don’t know how to access them.  One piece of evidence for this is statements that I heard such as “I didn’t know that existed” or “I wish someone would have told me about that site”.  Another piece of evidence is the fact that the session presented by a representative from CBC archives who essentially provided only a demo of the site was better subscribed than other presentations that were more about using technology in pedagogically appropriate ways.

Please do not interpret my conclusions as a critique of the ECOO conference itself because I find this conference a very useful vehicle in providing a voice for technology integration in today’s K-12 classroom.  In addition, please do not interpret my conclusions as a critique of all teachers because I know that there are many teachers who are doing innovating things with the technology tools that they have available.  My conclusions are more an observation of the general willingness and attitudes of K-12 teachers in Ontario in integrating technology in their classrooms based on my experience of this sampling of teachers that attended this particular conference.  Let this be a wake-up call to everyone – technology can really help to differentiate instruction and the students in front of us have embraced it but it appears that many of the teachers that are in charge of the learning of these students have not embraced the use of technology on a wide scale.

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Comments
  1. dougpete says:

    Interesting observations, Rob, and thanks for sharing them. I’m old enough to remember some of the first sessions and getting lost in the OISE building. I agree wholeheartedly with your number 3 and can offer the answer “everything”. But it has to be seamless and just work the moment that you need it without fiddling. Also, a slow and easy learning curve with a nice entry point would be nice to have too.

    Such is the promise of technology and so many of these technologies have dropped the ball on the ease part.

    It was sad to see the drop in attendance when compared to the glory years of the conference. Should we interpret this as a lack of interest, lack of funding, report card season, a sense that “I’ve done computers; now I’m on to something else” or …

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