On Monday and Tuesday, I attended my first education technology conference. ITEC lived up to my expectations of meeting up with so many people I've been following via Twitter. A fellow edu-blogger, Russ Goerend, and I made the trek together to Coralville, Iowa and within several hours had introduced ourselves to at least half a dozen tweeps. The sessions were not earth-shattering. Russ posted some thoughts on this aspect of the conference on his blog.
"Why is it so easy to skip the "cool tool" sessions? Because I've already heard about them through my PLN. As much of a buzzword as it is, having a strong PLN (online and off) is huge. I think it's once people have that PLN established that we can move past the "cool tools" phase and get some real work done."His tweet sums also it up nicely:There were a few sessions focused on "cool tools" such as Moodle, Animoto and iPod Touches. Did the participants come out of those sessions with some new technology knowledge? Probably. Will it change the way they teach and students learn? Probably not.
Evan Abbey commented on his blog about an ironic take away from this technology conference as tweeted by Seth Denney:An anecdote from the conference supporting this idea was a session led by a technology director discussing his district's implementation of Moodle as a learning management system. He talked about his successes, struggles and future aspirations for the first thirty minutes of the session and then began showing the audience some of the courses the staff has created thus far. He asked the audience to identify common themes as well as ways his staff could improve their courses (a welcomed opportunity for interaction in what is typically a passive opportunity to sit and listen). Some audience members noted the differences among courses. Some only had the syllabus posted while others had their entire course in digital format. Up until this point, seemingly every person in the room had been WOWed by this district's endeavor. I waited a bit and then raised my hand.
"The tool hasn't changed the way these educators teach. They've just transferred their worksheets to pdfs and made them available to download for students."The presenter acknowledged this observation and the entire tone of his session changed. He admitted his utter disappointment in the Moodle roll-out process. I had the chance to talk with him in the hallway after his session. He was at a loss because he was under the impression that a new tool had the power to change his staff's teaching practices. His sentiments parallel a recent tweet by Bill Ferriter:
"Technology is not automatically good pedagogy. Instead good pedagogy is just made easier by technology."Literacy, PLNs and good pedagogy all have something in common: a distinct "un-technology" emphasis. I've quoted Larry Cuban once before...
“It is not about technology; it is about learning” (2001, p. 184)....and I quoted him again in my own ITEC breakout session. I came away from this conference having gained more meaningful relationships with my tweeps, but also an even more cynical view towards "the solution to education's problems is more 21st century technology in the hands of our students and educators" movement. Wesley Fryer summed it up a few weeks ago on his blog,
"While it certainly is true 'kids are into technology' today, it is a fallacy that providing these technologies to teachers in the classroom will automatically result in better learning experiences for students."When will those in charge of our "technology" conferences get it, too?