Monday, 9 March 2015

Learning at #cesicon 2015

I wasn't sure which identity to bring with me to #cesicon, the annual conference of CESI (Computers in Education Society of Ireland). Billed as an event for those who are interested in integrating technology into their teaching and learning, it seems aimed mostly at first and second level education. Since my professional experience is embedded firmly in higher education, I wasn't sure what benefit the event would be for me.

The free stickers went down well
In my new found interest in all things Wikimedia, however, I wanted to support the Wikimedia Community Ireland group who were presenting in a session called Wikipedia for Education. And so, I signed up as part of An Lucht Vicí. With my new (purple) avatar on twitter, I can no longer hide easily at events, and so I brought along my "me" identity as well.

The one identity that I tried to leave behind was the parent of two children in secondary school. My experience is that parents and teachers don't mix, unless it's at highly structured parent-teacher meetings, organised by the school.

I had a great day, which was full of learning. I was very impressed by the crowds of professionals that attended, mostly primary and secondary teachers, giving up their Saturday to learn and share. I was very impressed by the young people from St Brendan's National School, who were there to sell copies of their newsletter, the Eyrecourt Examiner, and even offered subscriptions and advertising space. It was great to finally meet some twitter friends such as @donenda and @simonmlewis.

And I learned too - more than I expected. Gareth Callan (@gar_callan), from Coláiste Bhaile Chláir, gave a wonderful presentation about flipping the (second level) classroom. To be honest, I wasn't even sure that this was possible at second level in Ireland, but I'm convinced after Gar's talk. After a workshop with Mary Jo Bell (@7MJB) and Ciara Brennan (@PrimEdTeacher), I'm now creating and sharing videos with Vine, and made my first Animoto creation.

The Plenary Panel Discussion was excellent, particularly the young lady who spoke so eloquently about the disconnect between the technology she uses at home and the technology used at school. She asked a simple, but obvious, question: why don't teachers ask their students about what tech they use and might like to use as part of their learning?

By the end of the day, I was tired, but buzzing, especially after John Davitt's very entertaining keynote (talking sheep included). I had come to the realisation that we all have something to learn from each other and it might be no harm to step outside our boundaries occasionally.

But a week later, and as the parent in me reflected, I have a huge sense of regret about the event. My regret is about the teachers who were not there. It's almost 30 years since I did my Leaving Cert (yes, I am that old) and the learning experience of young people at secondary school has not changed significantly since then. I was particularly saddened by a statement over the weekend from one of the teachers' unions, that teachers NOT attend certain CPD opportunities.

Sometimes it's hard to balance multiple identities! Thanks to everyone at #cesicon for your enthusiasm and dedication.

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