Monday, November 18, 2013

EdTechTeacher iPad Summit 2013 Redux

This year's EdTechTeacher iPad Summit has now come and gone, and like last year, it was a great mix of high-level discussion on the role of technology in education, and hands-on workshops involving a wide range of iOS apps for an even larger range of purposes. 

For anyone unfamiliar with the organization, EdTechTeacher grew out of a small summer workshop series about ten years ago, that centered on using internet technologies to teach History. The workshop series continued to grow, incorporating a wider swath of subject areas and teaching tools, and expanding to become a full-time venture. The group now works closely with a number of schools across the country on the development of sustainable technology integration strategies, which include a mix of face-to-face training sessions, and "blended" format professional development that span the course of the school year. In addition to serving essentially as a educational technology consultant group, EdTechTeacher have continued to organize workshops and conferences, most recently with a heavy focus on the iPad. The iPad Summit series began last year, and received so much acclaim, that the conference now pulls over a thousand attendees from a number of countries, and comprises three days of workshops and presentations geared towards everyone from district administrators to technology integration specialists to teachers, pre-K through higher education. That's a huge mix, especially as we in education tend to focus with laser-like precision on our own content areas and age groups.

Such high accolades, along with the exponential rise in the number of schools going one-to-one with iPads in over the past couple of years, bodes for a heavily corporate, technology-hyping, constant-sales-pitch of a conference, yet the event is somehow wonderfully little of those. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of this conference is the lack of any of such "corporatism" (despite the huge number of vendors and sponsor advertisements lining the meeting halls at the Hynes Convention Center). EdTechTeacher seems to do a great job of recruiting well-known, heavy-thinking skeptics to deliver each morning's keynote address, who just as often dispel the myths of "technology determinism" as they do laud the importance of technology in connecting students with meaningful curricula . This year's keynote presenters were David Weinberger of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, and Ruben Puentadura, board member of the New Media Consortium (best known for their annual "Horizon Report", which forecasts new technologies and their potential influence on education and learning) and father of the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) model of instructional technology integration. 

Both keynote presentations drove home the notion that, while iPads and the Internet have the potential to expanding learning opportunities into areas unforeseen even just a few years ago, that potential will not be realized unless teaching practices, and indeed in many cases, systems of education do not change to allow for more flexible, autonomous, student-centered learning to take place. Dr. Weinberger, for instance, spoke of the importance of "networking" resources - connecting students to collaborative communities that function to generate new knowledge on topics ranging from computer science (e.g., StackOverflow and GitHub) to social science (Wikipedia) to science and mathematics ( His point centered on the idea that the internet has created new media for constructing knowledge, which is no longer confined to the canons of academia, such as print-based text (papers and books), or esoteric, exclusionary communities (peer-reviewed journals). While these new media simultaneous create opportunities for "messy" knowledge, they arguably democratize how knowledge is constructed, shared, and accessed. Dr. Puentadura's presentation the following morning expanded upon this idea, offering a number of examples of the affordances of technology to extend students' action possibilities into new areas of production, assessment, and expression.

Throughout the conference, attendees tweeted, blogged, shared notes and ideas, and even asked follow-up questions to each other and presenters, creating a rich back channel of communication and collaboration. For a great synopsis of the Keynote addresses (as well as several of the concurrent sessions), check out Jen Carey's blog

Nicholas Wilson
Academic Technology and Digital Media Specialist (Upper School)
Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
80 Gerry's Landing Road
Cambridge, MA 02138

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