Conference booth
I can hardly wait for your free lanyard.
My, how things have changed. I attended my first education conference in 2004 as a sales representative with a big publishing company. It was my job to cajole teachers to stop at our booth (or lure them in with a big bowl of chocolate bars), and give them a 5 minute elevator pitch on some groundbreaking yadayadayada, then invite them to enter a draw for which they’d only be selected winner if deemed influential enough.

These, my friends, were the days before random winner generators, online entries, and the power of quiet influencers with more followers than the Pied Piper using social tools to share their expertise. Biggest school in Ontario? Pssssssshhhhh. How about the elementary teacher from Armpit, SK, who has built a digital program for her students that gives them reach for their ideas that they’ll benefit from for years to come, and tweets her experience to 5000 like-minded followers? I’d rather learn about the platform that makes that notion of global collaboration possible for kids, as opposed to who’s bought (and wasted the most money on) the biggest gargantua of a conference booth (check out the eco footprint too, yo).

But at SXSWedu, there was no vendor showcase. Companies had to be sneaky and infuse their sessions with clever product pitches, sessionbomb by planting product-focused operatives during question time, or be not so sneaky and incur the deserved wrath (Hi, I’m a #conferencehashtag. People use me.) Teachers are getting much better about standing up to the disruption of their learning. They pay out of pocket to come to these things. It’s not cheap. Don’t invite them to a session about innovations in critical thinking applications and pitch your app.
Amway called. They want their strategy back. Ugh. (more…)

Photo courtesy of
Without further ado – a little of what we’d really like to see in schools for 2012. And kudos to the teachers who’ve experimented and grown in their savviness this year!

1. Getting connected – networked schools need wireless access so that teachers can effectively use the technologies available to them, engage in professional development “on the fly”, and access digital content beyond the confines of the library lab. Then they can test all the work-arounds that beat the firewalls still in place in many schools and use HDMI to share the world within the classroom environment.

2. Classroom management applications in a one to one environment. Several companies (SMART Sync, LanSchool) have launched products enabling a teacher to control student devices from an application, push content, and enable collaborative groups. They can block certain sites, and reduce distraction by steering students toward content and applications relevant to coursework and learning objectives.

3. Bring Your Own Device. Although concerns about equity and access persist, BYOD can allow teachers to work with the tools kids are already bringing to school. Typically seen in High Schools (who’ve realized that if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em), expect this trend to trickle down to the middle and intermediate level as cash-strapped schools and boards offset the cost of major hardware purchases to parents.

4. VoiceThread type collaborative applications that incorporate multimedia and encourage participation. Students can respond to any type of content, like a photo, a video, or a text using their mobile devices. Apps like this encourage critical thinking, sharing, and let kids practice using a number of formats to build their digital profiles.

5. Use of cameras on devices for capturing student work, thought processes etc, particularly as Full Day Kindergarten takes hold in provinces like Ontario. Teachers looking for enhanced assessment can video students in action as they engage in early learning activities, providing a visual running record of progress. (more…)

The full report is ready for download. So are other local government action resources.