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Prague – conference day 2 June 26, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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Today was the day that we were to present our paper.  The first keynote presentation of the conference was given, it had been delayed 24 hours due to Easy Jet losing one of our speakers.  In fairness I think that the flight had been cancelled due to technical issues and so the speaker could not get to us yesterday.

The keynote meant that Helen and I finally we got to sit through a presentation that was not based around the interpretation of statistical analysis culled from some University funded research and got to listen to something that we could actually apply to our classes.  I will post about this later as it needs some research into websites and gps modules on PDAs but looks very exciting.

As the time drew nearer to our time slot, Helen grew progressively more anxious about the whole affair.  I was more sanguine although the butterflies were swarming somewhat by the time of the tea break.  We had one moment of stress when the flash video embedded into our second slide would not play.  Despite having triple checked everything before leaving New Zealand this one thing decided not to play ball today.  It was doubly difficult as I then had to try and troubleshoot the error using a computer that had been set up for Czech users and therefore all the menus were all in Czech.  Time ran out and we just had to run the slide without the animation, a shame really as it was a video made from Google Earth that flew from Woodford school to Meadowbank and back several times, visually illustrating the link and the distance over which our partnership has been created.

The presentation went really well and we infact ran out of time.  When it came to questions we were asked a lot of questions and the buzz in the room indicated that we had struck a chord with our audience, all the seats had been taken for our session and many were standing at the back too.  Not that we can claim the entire audience as there were two other presentations that followed us.  The questioning and congratulations continued as the other presenters set up for their session.  We felt very pleased at how the presentation had been received, the general buzz and the questioning.

At the end of the whole session we broke for lunch and were promptly joined by three others who wanted to continue discussing what we had presented, it was a very affirming moment.  At lunch we were questioned more closely about what we had done and how we had done it.  I also expanded on my ‘dial an expert’ initiative and they were interested in my links with Sandi in New York and remote music teaching.  We also discussed Second Life as a vehicle for learning, it was a really excellent lunch and passed far too quickly. As a result I have been asked to speak to a conference of Primary Head teachers in England later in the year.  At this stage it might be via a Skype connection or there was even talk of me being flown up to London to present next year.  This is all very affirming stuff and I have said yes to the offers too.

The rest of the day continued in a similar vein, the afternoon was dedicated to seeing how ICT has been implemented in schools from a Czech perspective, there were two particularly excellent presentations from students.  The first one was a whole bunch of interactive whiteboard activities that the sudents have created, they demonstrated the whole ‘interactive’ element of the whiteboards with them being the teachers and controlling the board.  There has been lots of disucssion over the last two days about effective whiteboard use and the concensus is that best practice comes when the teacher ceases to be the ‘controller of the board.’  There was an excellent presentation by a 19 year old student who designs and builds his own line following robots.  He has only been doing this for a year and already he has built a robot that fits inside a matchbox!

At the end of the day there is a always a reflection session.  Today Helen and I and our presentation was the focus of discussion for half of that entire block of time.  What we have done has made a significant section of the delegates sit up and think about the possibilities of an online collaborative learning environment to engage students in their learning.  We have certainly made the most audible buzz of the entire conference so far.

At one point one of the academics stated that  what we were doing and us in particular are not special,  there was an audible intake of breath from a lot of the other delegates, there was a feeling that this was a bit much!  But this particular person had earlier complimented us on what we had achieved and done.  It was a bit of a slap in the face at the time, but I do not think that is what she intended and on reflection I feel that what she was trying to say in a rather inelegant and clumsy way was this:  What Helen and I have achieved is the result of a mash up /a combination of readily available and  free technologies on the web.  We have subverted their use to our own ends and have put a lot of effort into getting our tohatoha community to work and it now has its own momentum.  

I still think, despite what she said, that this has taken vision on my behalf to marry up these technologies.  It has taken tremendous effort from both of us to sustain the community.  We will continue to explore new and varied ways to improve the methods of communication between students and between teachers and students.  

For me the bigger question and I think the implied criticism from this particular academic was; if these tools are so readily available, why are there not more of these communities doing exactly what we have created?  Discuss:



1. Marnie - June 26, 2008

Glad to hear it went well – well done you! In terms of the discussion I think the reason is – how would anyone have time to do a second job (which is basically what you have been doing when you work in the middle of the night teaching at Woodford and then turn up again at Meadowbank bleary eyed the next morning). How do we organise our world so this kind of collaboration is classed as a paid job, allowing someone to choose this kind of work rather than it being an extra they take on and fit into their life somehow? The technology is there to support it – it is changing the nature of the employment that has to happen next.
Enjoy the rest of your trip!!

2. David - June 26, 2008

Marnie that was the whole point of the question, we have proved that it works at the greatest distance possible on the planet. How much easier would it be to make links between schools in the same district, country, time zone? We could easily partner with schools in the South Island or in Australia or in the Islands or Japan and still do this kind of thing within a school day. The distance is not the issue here it is the willingness, the desire to look beyond the four walls of a classroom and broaden the expeirence potential for the student within it.

3. Albin Wallace - June 27, 2008

I enjoyed the lunch too, David and would’ve quite happily skipped the afternoon to spend the time with you and Helen talking about the marvellous things you do. Once I get stuff sorted back at work I will be in touch to see how we might hook you up with our heads of junior school conference later this year.

Best wishes and thanks again for such a stimulating presentation.


4. davidit - June 27, 2008

Albin, I am really glad that you got so much out of our presentation, there is so much more! Am looking forward to the potential of working with you in the near future, keep in touch and thanks for the feedback.

5. VITTA - Shift Happens Conference 2008 « Turning the Supertanker - November 18, 2008

[…] am looking forward to going, although like my Prague trip earlier this year, the schedule is full!  I will be leaving on the 7:30 flight on Monday and […]

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