Student Voices at #ICTEdu

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#ICTEdu Youth Media Team with mentors

Something special happened in County Tipperary last Saturday. At the ICT in Education Conference at LIT Thurles, Pamela O’Brien and the conference organisers stretched the boundaries of the usual conference format. The conference theme of “Student Voices” was embraced, with young voices to the fore. As described by Pam Moran in her conference reflection: at #ICTEdu “adults didn’t talk about children in their absence, but rather listened to children in their presence.” The result was powerful learning, a new appreciation for what’s possible, and big plans (already) for embracing this model even further.

In my previous post I described some of the unique aspects of the #ICTEdu conference. The conference attracts educators from across all education sectors, from within Ireland and beyond. Educators meet to discuss, to share resources, and to share ideas about learning and teaching. As has been the case in recent years, an excellent programme of workshops and keynotes was organised. The heart of the conference, however, was the group of young people who participated in the conference as the Youth Media Team: speaking, interviewing, photographing, tweeting and blogging. The Youth Media Team (easily spotted in their red shirts) was mentored by another great team: Bernie Goldbach, Conor Galvin and Joe Dale. The mentors listened, answered questions and advised, but mostly encouraged each member of the Youth Media Team to engage with people at the conference, and beyond, and to create their own media and narrative of the day. The young people did just that; engaging with and interviewing conference participants — including Junior Minister for Education and Skills Ciaran Cannon — recording their observations and reflections, and speaking about their experiences at the end of the conference.

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Two members of Youth Media Team interviewing Minister Ciaran Cannon

Last year’s keynote speakers, Ira Socol and Pam Moran, joined us via Skype before the conference wrapped up, reflecting on the power of young people as learners. In her reflection, Pam highlighted some of the key questions of the day:

“It struck me that we’ve always had two curricula — that of the adults who want to make sure children learn what they need to survive as adults and that of children who are curious and interested in learning about and how to do things not on the adults’ lists. How do we begin to engage in an interface of those two curricula. How do we know what children want to learn if we don’t ask and then listen? How do we provide opportunities for social discourse across generations?”

The #ICTEdu conference model is a great start.

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Two members of Youth Media Team interviewing Dr. Maria Hinfelaar, LIT President

It must be acknowledged that student voices were present at the #ICTEdu conference in many other ways as well. The educators presenting and sharing their work at #ICTEdu — and at the lively #CESImeet the previous evening — are doing some of the most innovative and exciting work I know of: creating learning spaces for young people to connect, code and create in classrooms and community settings, as well as online. It would be impossible to summarise all of the workshops, but the following is a taster. Please visit the conference blog and audio interviews recorded by the Youth Media Team for ideas shared by other educators at the conference.

  • Mary Jo Bell, a Senior Infants teacher in Dublin, has been using Twitter with her class @MrsBellsClass for over two years. She also uses Animoto, Voki, eportfolios, Skype and Google+. Mary Jo’s Slideshare Technology in the Infant Classroom, well worth sharing, describes how her school’s youngest students are leading the way.
  • Maire O’Keeffe, a 5th class teacher in Kinvara, began using digital and social media with her students at the start of this school year. Since September, students have written hundreds of posts on Ms. O’Keeffe’s class blog and had over 138,000 views. Through their blog, class Twitter account (@msokeeffesclass) and Skype, the children connect with other students and teachers around the world.  Maire spoke about the power of the 100 Word Challenge in kickstarting her students’ blogging; she encourages more schools to try it.
  • Joe Dale, education and technology consultant in the UK, contributed to the conference in multiple ways. As well as mentoring the Youth Media Team along with Bernie and Conor, Joe shared classroom management apps and a terrific range of audio tools for education at both the #CESImeet and the conference. Grainne Conole, a keynote speaker at the conference, tried out Audioboo after Joe’s workshop and recorded this short interview with Joe, in which he describes some great audio apps for educators (see also joedale.typepad.com).
  • Bernie Goldbach, innovative Multimedia lecturer at LIT Thurles, facilitated a workshop also focusing on audio in which he used Audioboo within a live Google+ hangout — a wonderful demonstration of live, global collaboration and learning.
  • Each of the three keynote speakers, Grainne Conole, Martha Rotter and myself, explored student voices in the context of learning. I will summarise these in my next blog post.
  • And don’t miss the conference doodles by Rachael Cooke, a recent Creative Multimedia graduate from LIT — she added a whole new dimension to the conference with her creative artwork!

Finally, my thanks again to the students: the nine members of  the Youth Media Team and the many, many students who voices and ideas were shared by their teachers during the workshops and presentations. The message from students was loud and clear: more freedom, more choice, more fun, more practical work, more opportunities for connecting and interacting. The message from educators at #ICTEdu was also clear: we are listening. We must move forward together.

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#ICTEdu Youth Media Team with conference organiser Pamela O’Brien

Photos by ictedulit All Rights Reserved, used here with permission.

Follow-up post: Making Spaces for Student Voices

Volvo Ocean Race, NUI Galway and online learning

The Volvo Ocean Race is in town! As I write this, the boats are due into Galway (the finishing point of the race) after midnight tonight. The last time “the Volvo” was in Galway in 2009, an estimated 10,000 people crowded into Galway city to greet the boats arriving — at 3:00 in the morning — and enjoyed sunshine and a festival atmosphere for the next 10 days. Such is the spirit of Galway. [03/07/12 Update: huge crowds attended the race finish in Galway in the early hours of this morning.]

The event is about much more than the race. For the 2012 Volvo Ocean Race event, Galway has been transformed. We have a Race Village and a Global Village where you can find food stalls, musical entertainment, comedy, sports and adventure activities, crafts and fashion, as well as science, technology and education events. There is a great programme of events scheduled at the NUI Galway pavilion where I’ll be speaking in the Ideas Lab on Tuesday and Wednesday (July 3rd and 4th) at 2pm.

I’ve been asked to speak about “Online Learning for the Future” and I look forward to meeting people and engaging in discussion about social media in education, open learning, online and blended learning, and the range of opportunities for studying at NUI Galway. I’ve prepared the following short presentation as taster, but I hope that this will lead to conversations, both in person and online.

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I didn’t want this presentation to be only about higher education and NUI Galway — online learning happens everywhere, formally as well as informally, and at all levels of education. So a few weeks ago I asked teachers involved in #edchatIE in Ireland if anyone would be willing to contribute a short video to show how they and their students are using technology. The results, from 10 different classrooms across Ireland, were amazing — see for yourself!

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From my vantage point in higher education, these are our future students, as well as our future citizens. We need to be sure that we are doing our best to welcome, engage with and challenge these students as they enter post-secondary education. That’s a big challenge for us. May the conversation continue…

Image: PAUL TODD at www.volvooceanracegalway.ie

Expanding learning space and time at #ICTEdu

At the ICT in Education Conference last Saturday, educators in Ireland and beyond joined together — in person in Thurles and virtually across the globe — to focus on learners, learning spaces and the future of education. The urgency of these issues cannot be understated. At #ICTEdu, we accepted the challenges we face, but focussed instead on what we can do. We were inspired by keynote speakers/sharers Ira Socol (@irasocol) and Pam Moran (@pammoran). Pam and Ira created whole-hearted, human-centred learning spaces with us (yes, it’s possible even in a fixed-seat, windowless lecture hall!) both modelling what is possible and inspiring us to do the same — beginning today.

I’ll write my overall reflections on the conference in a subsequent blog post, but the full tweetstream of the conference is available now. In addition, a special #edchatie Twitter chat focused on the conference theme of “Learning Spaces” takes place Monday, May 21st at 8:30 pm GMT. [Transcript of the chat - added 22nd May]

My session at the conference, “Social Media, Learning, Space and Time”, explored how social media helps us to break down the walls of the classroom. Connection and learning can extend beyond class time, beyond term time, and beyond the bounds of our classrooms and lecture halls. Students and educators communicating and sharing work using social media move beyond the artificial boundaries of formal and informal learning, and the rigid roles of “teacher” and “student”. I shared three examples of social media being used in these ways: my own experience using Twitter with students in higher education; the 100 Word Challenge, a creative writing blogging project for primary and secondary students, presented via video by Julia Skinner (@TheHeadsOffice); and the Madhouse of Ideas project, presented via video by Linda Castañeda (@lindacq, @MadhouseofIdeas). Both videos are included in the presentation above.

The social media activity at the conference certainly demonstrated this theme. Bernie Goldbach (@topgold) noted that although the activity at the conference was intense, “twice as many people were following the day’s events at a distance, using Twitter, YouTube, SlideShare, and the live video stream”.  This was true in my own session. My sincere thanks to all participants who shared their thoughts and reflections in our room (where we created our own personalised, chaotic learning environment by moving tables and chairs!) and who amplified the session on Twitter so that others could participate. These tweets provide a vivid picture of our workshop — thank you all!

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