Reflections on the 2008 RCAC Symposium

Posted: December 11, 2008 in RCAC
Tags: , , ,

I was fortunate enough to attend another education technology conference in 2008 and this conference was the Western RCAC symposium held in London, Ontario on December 11th.  This is the third conference that I attended this year but the first where I was not presenting.  This afforded me the opportunity to focus on the messages provided by the presenters in why technology integration is crucial in today’s classroom.

Overall, I felt that the conference was a positive experience.  I know that I grumbled when I reflected on my experience at this year’s ECOO conference in an earlier post, but I can honestly say that I feel rejuvenated after hearing the speakers at RCAC.  The two keynotes of the day were David Warlick and Amber MacArthur.  Let me discuss each keynote speaker separately.

David Warlick

I was very impressed by the quality of David’s presentation and the quality of his delivery.  Here are some of the ideas David presented that resonated with me:

  • Teachers need to be master learners
  • Teachers need to focus on learners: teaching the learners they are and not the learners we want them to be
  • Just because using technology may not suit a teacher’s learning style, that shouldn’t automatically exclude students from using it as technology may suit a student’s learning style
  • When we buy a new TV, we are shopping for the creative experiences presented by visual artists – kids are doing the same thing when they are shopping for video games
  • In the past, information was a product to be bought and sold.  In the 21st century, information is a raw material to be exploited and used in the creative process.
  • Countries that we in North America may see as less developed as we are have better technology infrastructure than us – Mexico to bring broadband to every house by 2012, Macedonia is a completely wireless country, etc.
  • Video games are changing the nature of learning but this industry will also drive an increased need in story writers, artists, musicians, etc – we should not shortchange the arts in our funding and in our instructional focus
  • Considerations for Future Learning: (1) Networked Learners (2) New Information Landscape (3) Unpredictable Future
  • It’s not Lifelong Learning, It’s a Learning Lifestyle

Amber MacArthur

To be honest, I was a little disappointed with Amber’s keynote.  It’s not that the keynote itself wasn’t up to par.  In fact, it was a very informative presentation and well delivered.  I was disappointed mainly because she tailored her presentation for a crowd of educators.  I think that she would have done well to focus the presentation on where her forte lies – in presenting how technology is changing culture (outside of education) and how online culture is changing the world.  Educators really need to hear that message too because, ultimately, this is the world students live in and will live in.  I think that educators sometimes isolate themselves from the world and forget the relevancy that learning has for real life focusing too much on learning and disseminate information for it’s own sake.  That having been said, I really appreciated Amber’s statement that students learn using the 3 C’s – communication, collaboration, and community.

I do want to share two things that occurred during Amber’s keynote that highlight the power of online networks and both took place in Twitter.  Firstly, David Warlick was sharing in Twitter his frustration with an ATM and not being able to get money for a cab.  He joked in Twitter that he was going to have to panhandle for money to get back home.  When he was approached by a number of individuals in the audience offering to help, he stated how surprised he was that people in the audiences were actually following his tweets at that moment in Twitter.  The other occurrence took place when Amber was talking about Twitter.  Amber was discussing educators whom she found on the web who use Twitter as part of an online community and specifically mentioned @suewaters as an example.  I follow @suewaters so I decided to mention the reference to her in Twitter.  @suewaters, living in Australia (it was approximately 3 or 4 am there and around 2 pm in London, Ontario), got my tweet and was surprised at how quickly she was able to connect to the reference made to her Twitter account in such an indirect way. None of us three really know each other yet through Twitter, we able to connect to each other half way across the world instantaneously!  Two perfect examples of the power of online networks!

I also attended two breakout session that had teachers discussing what they were doing in their classrooms in integrating technology to help kids learn.  Overall, my attendance at the Western RCAC was a very worthwhile experience.

  1. […] to Rodd Lucier’s podcast interview with Amber and read his blog, and Rob De Lorenzo’s blog.  Presentations at this event are always difficult to gauge when you’re working the […]

  2. dougpete says:

    Just getting a first blush of things, Rob. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I need to get my head around my own reflections if I can at all remember things from yesterday.

    I’ll take any blame about the concerns of Amber’s focus. We did want to focus on education instead of her usual business focus. I know that our group of principals were furiously writing during her presentation. It’s a difficult line for a presenter with this type of audience.

    I really loved the video clip that she had of Peter Mansbridge. It was priceless and worthy of hunting down on YouTube for archival.

    As for David’s lack of money, I cleaned out my wallet to him and I hope that what I had in Canadian dollars got him to the shuttle!

    It was only as I pulled into the London Airport last night that I realized I was now penniless and had just committed to a payment to get my car out of the carpark! Thankfully, there was an ATM in the terminal and I did end up paying the extra fee as it wasn’t a Scotiabank terminal. At that point, I was too tired to care.

    It was great to chat albeit shortly with you and Quentin. I hope that you and your team can draw some inspiration from yesterday.

  3. Sue Waters says:

    Thanks for tweeting about Amber mentioning my twitter account. As I said this morning it was a shock to see that tweet come in not longer after I had turned on my computer.

    But better still what I like more was the fact it provided an opportunity for us to interact more and I really appreciated you joining us in the PD session. Let me know if you end up forming an online community that meets weekly — would love to know about it.

    PS thinking about the screenshot she used of my twitter account always a concern as to what I might have been talking about at that time and place (since you never truly know what I might say on twitter 🙂 )

  4. No need to worry Sue, only appropriate tweets were shown. I’ve been talking to my colleagues all day about the power of a network to connect 3 individuals who don’t know each other and who live half a world apart.

    I wish I could have stayed longer in the PD session but will make a point of coming back.


  5. […] his presentation.  Gulp!  What to do?  Fortunately, I knew that TheCleversheep, Rob DeLorenzo, Quentin D’Souza, and Michael Redfearn would be in the audience.  I snagged a quick […]

  6. Ryan says:

    Hello Rob and Sue,

    While I am composing this response…my four year old daughter is watching Sid the Science Guy on youtube which is being played to her on the new Ipod touch that I won at the RCAC Conference last Thursday. That in itself speaks volumes about the success and excitement the conference generated from my point of view.

    I have had a few days to reflect on the RCAC conference as well. I completely agree with your observations. I would have liked to learned more about Amber Mac and some of the details about the lifestyle and career she is forging from Technology and Web 2.0 interaction. I also agree the most of the audience at the conference would have had some exposure to the examples and details she was bringing to our attention and there I am not sure how much excitement I could feel in the room in comparison to when David Warlick was speaking. The image of David’s avitar is still fresh in my mind. I think it is cool that he has created an avitar that is actually much older then he is in real life, there creating an interesting concept for his Second Life applications.

    In my reflections, I was trying to decide if American Presenters are formed and bread in a different tradition then our Canadian counter parts. There seems to be much more drama, much more humour, and much more real life injected into his motivational presentation. Maybe it was me, the aftermath of the great meal that most teachers do not have time to eat during a regular work week.

    Connections: So this first thing I did was google the conference details. Your response was the first to come up. I need to know two things…and of course I found the answers in your reflections, so thank you.

    I now have joined “twitter” and added David Warlick and Sue Waters, found Amber Mac pod cast on youtube and as a bonus added your site to my bookmarks,

    Cheers to keeping the conference a live,
    Congrats on finishing PQP part 1


  7. Sue Waters says:

    Glad to hear only appropriate tweets as we all know what type of twittering I can do 🙂 No problem about the PD session – it was really great to have you present and brought lots of extra ideas/thoughts.

    Being a keynoter is a tough gig (I know from experience) and would considerably harder if you’ve had limited interaction with your intended audience. But I’ve also found different presenters connect with different people so its great to have the variety. As a presenter what I hope is that my actions result in some of the participants effecting change in their life and working practice. If this is achieved then it is a good outcome.

    @Ryan That is exciting about winning the ipod touch. They are sooo cool. I believe that I’ve added you to my twitter account however I’m getting about 20-30 new followers a day so becoming hard to know.

  8. Ryan says:

    Hello Sue,
    One might ask how you keep up all with all of your conversation and sound bites around the world. It is exciting when you see your name in the textual responses.
    In hindsight regarding the effectiveness of keynote speakers, I am sure that presenting to a large group of teachers, administrators and techheads is a great challenge. I have presented to medium sized (100 to 300) groups of teachers, administrators and parents, however, at this point in my career I have not had the pleasure of being a keynote speaker. As a teacher with a Music Performance background I have also had a lot of experience trying to entertain large crowds as a performer and a conductor. I think it is one thing to be an actor/musician that work in some form of studio or cinema on a closed set in comparison to the pressures of performing before a live audience no matter how big or small. Knowing your audience is key but also reading the crowd’s reaction is also paramount in putting together an unforgettable key note. In my experience audiences genuinely appreciate a presenter’s attempts to draw on their backgrounds, local heritage, and the cultural literacy of their working environment. Maybe that is what I found missing in the second keynote address by Amber Mac. I am fan of her tech podcasts and I impressed by things she has accomplished that is why I wanted to hear more about it I guess.

  9. Sue Waters says:

    @Ryan Well according to some people I never sleep although some also think I’m several people 🙂 . The answer is I just have to be very efficient. With twitter I use a range of tools that makes it easier and blog comments I use comment tracking services — that way I keep up with the conversations. Can you remind me of your twitter name again? So I can listen out for you?

  10. Ryan says:

    Hello Sue,

    Time management is entirely different issue isn’t it?

    My twitter name is ryanewaskiw. I have been checking things and trying to post a few times a day. We have had changes to our cell phone packages in Canada that have changed how we can send and receive twitter comments. I am in the classroom half time and on the road between schools half time, full time husband and father of two.

    Tweet yah later!


  11. Sue Waters says:

    Thanks Ryan. Definitely time management is hard. I now know to watch out for you. Any questions any time just remember to use @suewaters as that helps me notice them.

    I have a iPhone and use Twinkle when I’m mobile. SMS doesn’t work for Twitter here.

  12. This is a response to Ryan’s comments about U.S. keynoters:

    In my reflections, I was trying to decide if American Presenters are formed and bread in a different tradition then our Canadian counter parts. There seems to be much more drama, much more humour, and much more real life injected into his motivational presentation. Maybe it was me, the aftermath of the great meal that most teachers do not have time to eat during a regular work week.

    I’ve wondered the same thing, though there are certainly exceptions. There are U.S. presenters/keynoters who present in a more academic style. At the same time, there are some keynoters from outside the U.S. who are great performers, perhaps Ian Jukes being the most obvious. I didn’t know Ian in his early years as a conference celebrity, and had not seen him until only a few years ago in Michigan — and it is possible to consider him a U.S.-bread presenter, as he spent much of his time here, before his recent health issues.

    That said, I’m willing to admit that when I present in front of large audiences, it is a performance. It’s the way that I plan my talks. It’s probably more accurate to say that I script them. I want to hear laughter. I want to hear, even if silent, a gasp of surprise. It means that I am connecting, not just delivering.

    It’s the way that I taught history 20 years ago. It was a performance, a telling of stories that were scripted to evoke laughter and shock — to make the class and the audience not just know, but to care about it.

    I envy Stephen Heppell’s style of very even delivery. Yet even he performs, if with nothing more than a wink, an after-mumble, or a chuckle.

    I have only recently started presenting in Canada. But I use to worry, when I presented in the U.K., that I should stay behind the podium, that I should tone down the humor and shock, and just deliver. I worried that the audience might not respect a presenter who pokes fun at himself. But each time, I got up there and fell into my comfort zone, and the response has always been favorable.

    So, I think that it is an interesting question — and also worth noting that some of our (U.S.) great performers are Canadians. 😉

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