Behind the Wave: The Digital Education Show 2015

07 Oct

IMG_20151006_091801I am attending the Digital Education Show in Sandton, Johannesburg. In many ways it provides a snap-shot of where we are in terms of ICT integration in South Africa. I have to say that I am somewhat bewildered, and not at all sure what to make of it all. There is much that is inspirational. Tim Rylands, in the opening address, took us through a roller-coaster ride of apps and software tools, all free, that can enhance work in the classroom. Great fun, but it smacks of the fact that even in 2015, we are still at the stage of championing the need for ICT integration.

Both in presentations, and in conversations in the hall, it is clear that in most of the country we are a million miles from meaningful adoption. Smart boards installed without training, laptops and tablets gathering dust in storerooms was a common theme. Clearly we are behind the wave! The government did not come up with a coherent plan, and where they did implement strategies it was deeply flawed. A clearly identified reason was the dumping of technology in schools without heed to its pedagogical impact. What was good to see at this conference was the clear recognition of this. Clearly we have started to move on from being wowed by the cool tools, towards an emphasis on how to use them meaningfully in the classroom.

The ever inspiring Maggie Verster led a round table discussion on the work of ICT4RED in working with teachers to explore the integration of tablets into their pedagogical practice. Maggie’s insistence on uses which do not need the Internet, so unreliable in our schools, is instructive. Many presentations were similarly forward-looking. Professor Adam Gazzaley gave a presentation on how games are  being developed to target weaknesses in the brain to lead to improvements. Measuring impact, and using predictive algorithms offers truly Science Fiction prospects for personalizing education. DR Ethan Danahy gave us a talk on the use of robotics, and a glimpse of what lies ahead of the wave as we move from fixed computers, through mobile devices to an environment in which digital making is deployed to teach at all levels of the school. It’s a future which has not quite arrived, and as with the use of gaming and using neuroscience, it promises tantalising fruits of what might be. Steve Vosloo’s talk on mobiles and storytelling was truly interesting. How do educational developers listen to users?

Lora Foot’s talk on how the Flipped Classroom was introduced at Kingsmead, and how to manage fear of change, and Arnold Lamont’s talk on digital assessment both engaged with the very real challenges involved in change, and how much of it is about mind-set.

I am looking forward to an afternoon of gamification, social media and apps! But I have to say that although this conference clearly maps a wave of change, and there is much to feel optimistic about, I get a sense that we are still behind the wave, and struggling to keep up. Until teachers have been adequately trained to use the technology, and sufficient infrastructure is in place to support technology use in schools we are looking at an overwhelmingly dim picture! We need to be putting money into training rather than devices, and then handing over to teachers to explore how they go about using it in the classroom. And yet I still see an overwhelming emphasis on the device rather than the know-how!

I would have been much happier if the conference had focused on sharing best practice, indeed sharing best practice when you have nothing! So far very little has been said about pedagogy! And right now I reckon pedagogy is sitting on the crest of the wave.

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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in Conferences


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