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:
- 1978-1984 Computer
- 2003 Music iTune and podcasts
- 2008 - iPhone and Ipod touch
2. Learning from the Wise
- Tom Kelley and his book 'The Ten Faces of Innovation' talking about inspiring creativity
- Stephen Heppell and his work in designing schools and promoting innovation in education
- Vivian Stewart and the Asia Society and the links being made between the USA and Asia
- Marco Torres and the use of multimedia (film, video, audio, music) and the workshop notes that will be posted on his website soon
- Teachers from Shanghai talking about the Shanghai Film Festival
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.
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
- For further exploration and reading I have bookmarked resources on my Delicious account tagged hksummit
- An online slideshow of all of my flickr images
- The power of Twitter as a communication tool during this event - all hksummit tweets