Friday, May 01, 2009

Apple Education Leadership Summit - What Did I Learn?

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Canadian International School, Hong Kong, Summit venue

It was during the final session of Day 1 at the Apple Education Leadership Summit in Hong Kong last weekend that my 14-year old daughter back in Doha chatted with me through GChat, "What did you learn today Mum?" At this time I was in the middle of a session with John Couch, VP of Apple Education, and was madly adding content and thoughts to a backchannel set up by colleague David Beaty from the American International School Doha, in which were other colleagues participating virtually including Barbara Stefanics in Vienna and Nancy from Madrid.

So what had I learned? What did this particular gathering of educators and leaders have to offer me that I could take away and assimilate into my everyday practice? How did the organisation and opportunities of this event impact on me as an international education leader, and one who is about to move into the Asian region?
I need to preface this blog post also with thanks to BISS who supported my attendance at the summit, and also Apple Education for their sponsorship of the event. The dinner at the Four Seasons was magnificent as was the seamless organisation of each day. Thanks also to at the Canadian International School for an inspiring venue and hard work gone into hosting a large event.

1. Apple immersion, 'challenge-based learning' and 'digital learning environment'
I used to be an Apple educator....well 12 years ago but lets not dwell in the past. My new school next year, Beijing International School (BISS) are moving to a 1:1 Apple Mac learning environment and I am delighted to be part of this! Apple representatives at the summit spoke about 'challenge-based learning' and the need for real-world topics, authentic assessment and the use of multimedia to engage young learners. It is based on a multidisciplinary approach that leverages technology and is constructivist in approach. I like the term 'challenge-based' as it provides an updated drive and sense of immediacy for the needs of the 21st century, as opposed to what we normally to refer to, 'project-based' learning.
Couch talked about three disruptive transformations in technology:
  1. 1978-1984 Computer
  2. 2003 Music iTune and podcasts
  3. 2008 - iPhone and Ipod touch
He also talked about the need for vision to give uniqueness to strategic direction. I found the information from Apple sessions confirming and inspiring. I have been practicing and writing about the need for mobile computing, ubiquitous access to multimedia and providing tools for creativity and construction for many years. Apple's challenge-based learning model scaffolded by an excellent product range comes towards making this a reality in every school. The excuse of cost and inaccessibility no longer applies. Every school can embrace this vision and put it into practice.

2. Learning from the Wise
This summary video is inspiring as it encapsulates the feeling at the conference that through the sheer power of networking and innovation and creativity amazing things can and will happen in education, and the people at this event were the ones who would be leading the way.

Marco Torres
Marco Torres preparing for 'Lights, Camera, Learn' session

3. Conference format and 'challenge-less' learning
This is going to sound critical, but it is meant in a constructive way. With all of the talk about challenge-based learning I was surprised the conference format was so traditional and 'challenge-less'. In fact the first day I spent the entire day in the Auditorium listening and 'taking notes' (backchannel, Twitter). The 'workshop' session with Stephen Heppell in the afternoon was a chance to hear more from the UK education guru but opportunities for actual interaction were limited to a few questions from the audience. The day 2 sessions with Marco Torres (I went to 2 of these!) were 75 min. long, a length that Marco himself complained about as we had only just got started when we had to finish. The concept of a 'workshop' is that we actually work on something and learn by doing, however in the time-frame available it became a matter of Marco telling us and showing us as much as he could before having to finish. I am appreciative of the time I had with Marco however as it took me back over 10 years to when I was a music educator and on the cutting edge with sound and composition using technology....really want to get back to this in the near future.

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Panel session on Day 1: Stephen Heppell talking

4. More on Conference 2.0 styles
I read Kim Cofino's blog recently about 'Why Conference', where she states,
"I didn’t find myself in awe of any specific presentations or the information I learned from them, but I reveled in the power of my personal learning network to help me make connections, push my thinking, and expand my horizons."

Well, at this Apple event I was in awe of Stephen and Marco and others however the opportunity to really connect in a workshop environment was limited. I really think educators and education leaders at this style of event are past sitting in rooms listening to others tell them how it should be, how they need to become 21st century learners and teachers, how they need to embrace change etc. I think we are past long presentation-style talks with fancy catch-phrases such as 'cross-pollinator' and 'functionality in a learning environment'. What we need are conferences that provide opportunities for individual growth and immersion into a digital learning environment that emulates what learning as a professional educator and /or a 21st century classroom should look like.

Let's stop just talking about it, let's do it! Let's create this as a conference format. What if Apple took all of their philosophy (which btw is very similar to the IBO philosophy for learning and the whole-child approach) and created thematic 1-day and 2-day immersion workshops where participants came away with hands-on experience in using tools, developing curriculum and pedagogy based on essential research of what works, were all-encompassing, and supported what is needed to support 21st century skills and attitudes for digital learning. OK, maybe they do already?

The power of connecting with and extending my own personal learning network is priceless at this type of event. I was pleased to get to know more educators from Asia, many of whom I will be in more regular contact with next year. I also managed to fit in a tour of HKIS, courtesy of Justin Hardman, with conversations ensuing as to the possibility of a Flat Classroom Workshop during the 21C conference coming up in HK this September.

5. Further resources from the Summit
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4 comments:

Kent said...

Julie,

Thank you for your comprehensive post about the #hksummit.

I followed along from here in Canada mostly on twitter and a friend of mine was the music teacher whose students from the Canadian International school entertained at the 4 seasons.

I really appreciate your references in this post to Marco Torres. I get inspired by Marco every time I hear him speak and had the pleasure of attending a day long digital story session with him at NECC in San Diego in 2006.

I was hoping you would know if anyone had video of Marco's Sunday Keynote. If not, I'll await his materials post on his Flickschool site.

Thanks again,

Kent

Nancy said...

Hi Julie,
Thank you for sharing during the conference and now with this post. While following conf participant comments on Twitter and Chatzy, I was taking notes, opening links, searching for terms or references and logging all this on a GoogleDoc. That doc is now a mess and I plan on revisiting it this weekend to sort things out and reflect. I gained so much and raised so many new questions from hovering in the distance.

I agree that a conference can be more effective if it actually reflects what we are all talking about. I remember a M.Ed class with a less-than-stellar professor and I came away with a list of approaches and habits to avoid in my own classroom. The actual learner/participant experience is so powerful in forming our plans as teachers and facilitators.

elemenous said...

So elaborate on the following quote. What would such a workshop look like? I think it would be a fun project; get a group of people together to design a workshop that meets your criteria!

"Let's stop just talking about it, let's do it! Let's create this as a conference format. What if Apple took all of their philosophy (which btw is very similar to the IBO philosophy for learning and the whole-child approach) and created thematic 1-day and 2-day immersion workshops where participants came away with hands-on experience in using tools, developing curriculum and pedagogy based on essential research of what works, were all-encompassing, and supported what is needed to support 21st century skills and attitudes for digital learning. OK, maybe they do already?"

Julie Lindsay said...

Thanks Kent for keeping in touch via my blog. I am envious you spent a whole day with Marco! Not sure if anyone videoed his session.....

Nancy, you are amazing...but what a great opportunity to feed from the conference via the active participants. I think Twitter ruled for this one, however Chatzy was strong on the first day.

Lucy....ok, I will rise to the challenge and write a blog post about this in line with what I am writing as a proposal to run something similar in Hong Kong next September...which in itself is aligned with and similar to what Vicki and I and others did in Qatar for the Flat Classroom Conference.