Last week I had the privilege of attending the third iPad Summit hosted by EdTechTeacher in Boston, Massachusetts. This fall’s summit was the largest ever – a sold out crowd of 1,000 participants. I live-blogged the conference, so you can read about the individual sessions I attended, along with the keynotes, on my blog here. (You can find my two previous Summit reports here and here.)
While officially an “iPad conference,” the theme of the Summit was definitely innovation and connectivity in education, whatever the device. Keynote speakers David Weinberger, Ph.D. and Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. (the father of the SAMR model concept) highlighted key elements about 21st century learning: we must be connected online, we must re-envision education in the wake of new technology, and we should foster creativity and innovation not stymie it with restrictive practices and archaic security (or instructional) systems.
Connectedness is Key
Social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, blog services, and more) and their roll (or restriction) are frequently in the news. For example, the iPad debacle in Los Angeles USD revolved around students’ ability to access Facebook on district-issued iPads. Cyberbullying is a constant focus and concern of teen behavior online. However, there is a very positive side to communication and interaction online – collaboration and the promotion of group learning.
In his keynote discussion, David Weinberger, an expert on the Internet’s impact on culture and society, highlighted the fact that sites such as Wikipedia, Open Access, and ArXiv allow experts and lay people alike to collaborate and publish – building off of communal knowledge. Additionally, the very nature of the medium (the Web/Internet) means we are no longer hindered by space and format. We now have virtually limitless storage and publication space across a variety of media (text, hyperlinks, video, maps, etc).
In his keynote, Ruben Puentedura, founder of Hippasus and a board member of the New Media Consortium, spoke about the new participatory culture in which we live. Citing the paper by Jenkins, et. al. “Confronting the Challenges of the Participatory Culture,” he stated that about 1/3 of students are meaningfully contributing to the online community. However, that is a staggering 2/3 that are simply updating statuses and texting their friends. (See the interesting slides from his two presentations here – November 15.)
Both of these speakers highlighted that as educators and leaders, it is our obligation to direct students and young people in this new connected world. These powerful tools should not be navigated alone and without direction from a teacher, parent, or other leader. (Puentedura recalled Vygotsky’s observation that “…what a child can do with assistance today she will be able to do by herself tomorrow.”)
Re-envision Learning in the Wake of New Tools
Another key theme throughout the conference was that it is not enough to simply adapt tools as substitutes or supplements to our education (the lowest level on the SAMR model, I might add), but that we must re-envision our educational world in the wake of the revolutionary new tools we encounter regularly.
As EdTechTeacher director Thomas Daccord highlighted in his talk, “Challenge-Based, One-Screen, & T21: the ETT Approach to iPad PD,” it isn’t enough to simply put the iPad/laptop/chromebook, etc. on your classroom – it must be integrated into your classroom. We must first focus on the pedagogy and then gild the device’s benefits around it. The instructions processes direct the tech. Whatever tool you choose, this remains true and specific to the tool. For example, if you are using an iPad you must view it as a mobile learning and creative device (not a substitute for a laptop).
In “Redefining the Writing Process,” Beth Holland and Samantha Morrahighlighted a new world of writing that goes far beyond “keyboarding.” By using mobile devices, students can move about in a mobile world, they can use technology like “speak to text” to help explore the written word in a new way. Using tools like Penultimate allows students to capture the hand written word as well as the typed. Applications like Google Drive allow students to collaborate and review across distances with classmates and teachers.
Holland and Morra argued that we need to move beyond the 8.5 x 11 mindset and recognize that writing is more dynamic and innovative – yet just as powerful. As such, we also need to teach students about things like digital literacy and fair use.
They also highlighted that many of us recognize writing has become multimedia. For example, would you view this short video as poetry?
Foster Creativity & Innovation
If you would like to get a group of teachers in a room to cheer, then advocate the eradication of standardized testing and programs like the Common Core. The iPad Summit, like all innovative tech conferences, championed creativity and innovation over rote memorization, highly managed instruction and teaching to the test. Thomas Daccord advocates a challenge-based learning style – encourage students to figure things out, rely on peers, teach one another, and differentiate themselves by allowing individuals to move on to more complex tasks.
Ruben advocated the iPad and other mobile devices as “curiosity amplifiers,” a means to allow individuals to investigate their interests and expand on them, leading to a circular process of asking questions that produce more questions, ad infinitum. By harnessing the power of social learning and passion, students seek out others and accomplish more within a social context.
In “Hacking the Humanities,” Lawrence Reiff highlighted his classrooms in which he incorporates literature, music, and news stories from across cultures and generations – creating a broader understanding of the world around us across disciplines. Technology (not just iPads) plays a key role here as students explore images, sound files, collaborate on documents, and more.
As always, the iPad Summit was an invigorating experience where I not only learned new ideas and concepts, but was able to collaborate and connect to my peers around the world. I walked away with renewed enthusiasm about the future of education and the innovative role that technology will, nay must play in that future.
The next iPad Summit will be held in San Diego (Feb. 3-5, 2014)