Wednesday, October 15, 2008

handheld 2008 day 2 morning sessions

Day 2 of handheld learning 2008 starts off cool & cloudy. Last night, I attended the Handheld 2008 innovations award. A very interesting evening as it was great to see so many enthusiastic people working on bettering learning for their students. Many of the practitioner awards for primary & secondary schools went to ‘small’ schools which signals to me that the use of game consoles, pdas & mobile phones still attracts novelty value & is being used mainly by early adopters.

The days starts with short presentations from the various sponsors and then continued with Graham Brown Martin (conference chair) providing a short overview of how Handheld learning has developed including continuing the tradition of showing how ‘handheld learning girl’, Andrew’s 3 year old daughter is interacting with technology (a Nintendo DS). He also provided statistics from the BBC to encourage the concept of learning through play, 99% & 97% of girls between 9 to 16 play video games. Handheld 2009 to be held in London at the beginning of October.

Opening address from Andrew Pinder, the chair of Becta firstly covers the objectives of Becta. One major focus is to encourage the effective use of technology, in the hands of good teachers to improve learning outcomes for all learners. Various government policies to assist access to both hardware & connectivity for the most deprived learners was presented with a call to all suppliers, providers & educationalist to assist the initiative.

This was followed by a presentation from Steven Berlin Johnson. Steven covers some of the concepts presented in his book ‘Everything bad is good for you’ along with an update of what has happened since the book was published & the reactions that this book has brought up. Steven provided a great story about how the book came about (through his interactions with his nephews when they started to play Sim City together). He provided an engaging (mainly aural) presentation on the ‘sleeper curve’ which is how popular culture in the form of handheld games(Civilisation, Zelda), TV shows (Lost as compared to Gilligan’s Island) interactive web (what fans have build up around Buffy the Vampire Slayer including organising f2f meetups for fans), complex information (world of warcraft screen, Spore), social networks (blogs, wikis etc.) leads to cognitive learning that is actually difficult to actually teach (& often never assessed!).

After morning tea, dana boyd took the stage. She began her presentation about the role of educators in helping young people learn how to think. Introduction of technology does not equate to learning. Therefore educators need to understand what technology is currently available, what it is, how to best make use of it etc. She continues with an analysis of social networking sites, how they are constructed, how young people use them, what young people do on them, the customs inherent in posting, inviting friends, how some practices evolved etc. Four properties that young people bring to social networking included persistence, replicability, scalability & searchability. The dynamics in working with social networking sites include the need to deal with an invisible audience, a collapsed context (ie not distinguished by time, space, social mores), a convergence between public & private. Mobile technology brings with it the concepts of de-locability, knowledge dispersal (ability to read and add to various perceptions of ‘facts’), learning skills via learning the technology & ease of access to information. A thought provoking presentation which confirmed some of my thoughts about social networking & informed me more about how & why young people make use of technology.

Laurie O’Donnell, director of learning & technology for learning & teaching in Scotland ended the morning’s session with a presentation on ‘putting philosophy into practice.’ Compared 2 philosophies on teaching & learning with philosophy A as being the present situation whereby education can be fixed, technology drives change, teachers can be fixed, learners are the future workforce, innovation is good, success should be measured & the curriculum is not consultative. Philosophy B posits that education is a long term investment in the future, technology enables, supports & accelerates change, teachers are supported professionals, students are more than just the future workforce, curriculum is developed with guidance & support from teachers, innovation must also be scalable & sustainable & success is measured via wider term benefits.

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