Wednesday, 9 March 2016

"Our Digital Strategy - making IT matter" at #cesicon 2016

I have attended the annual CESI conference for the past five years and it's now become an integral part of my personal CPD. As someone that spent ten years teaching at second level, the event helped me to build my personal learning network (PLN) at a level only matched by participating in CESI's #edchatie Twitter chat session on Monday evenings. Having moved on to NUI Galway, I did ponder how the event I had grown so accustomed to might feel different for me this year.  As more of an observer than a participant, I further shook things up by submitting a presentation.

The conference theme was rooted upon the new "Digital Strategy for Schools 2015 - 2020" document released by the Department of Education.  The document aims to "embed ICT more deeply across the system to enhance the overall quality of Irish education".  This is essentially the same ethos that fuels CESI. Though I've only skimmed the document at this stage, but I can see parallels between it and the National Forum's "Teaching and Learning in Irish Higher Education: A Roadmap for Enhancement in a Digital World 2015-2017".

Professor Mark Brown kick started the morning at DCU with a keynote insisting that we continue to make change and expressing exasperation at the stunted progress on technological innovation in education.  One can only hope the new strategy will address these issues.  He also received resounding applause when he called for coding to become a Leaving Certificate subject.

Professor Mark Brown's Keynote Address

Professor Mark Brown's Keynote Address
Next up was a presentation by Colman Noctor  entitled "Why do we share what we share?" that focused on the purpose of disclosure on social networking sites.  Colman's talk provided food for thought in terms of how young people are affected by the digital world they live in and the expectations of living up to our ideal (online) selves. 

Colman Noctor made us reflect on our online identities

After addressing some technical issues I was having, it was on to Leigh Graves Wolf's  spotlight session on Design Thinking.  Some might know Leigh from her participation in #edchatie and annual GREAT conference at NUI Galway with the Masters in Educational Technology (MAET) at Michigan State University.  Leigh has recently moved into the role of Assistant Director of the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology. Leigh's workshop aligned Our Digital Strategy to Design Thinking and had participants brainstorm and tweet/share their thoughts on questions that followed the first two steps of Design Thinking - empathize and define.  If one of the theory's aims is to "make the invisible, visible", then there is no better place to trial it than in front of large group of engaged educators eager to ensure the success of a new Digital Strategy. If we are to ensure the success of such a strategy, we must carefully implement it from the theoretical stages to the beta stages through to the finalized product. In a whirlwind session, Leigh was able to pique participant interest in Design Thinking as well as facilitate a vibrant discussion on the new Digital Strategy.

Leigh Graves Wolf discusses the TPACK model
After lunch it was my turn to present on "Bridging the Gap - Preparing Students for the Expectations of Higher Education".  Like Leigh, I was focusing on current strategies and policies in second level and third level education and aligning the technologies available (and popular) in both sectors that could facilitate an easier transition between the sectors.  In hindsight, it might have been too large a topic for the twenty five minute session, but it certainly helped me to reflect more carefully on an area that I have a vested interest in.

After presenting, I took the time to reconnect with CESI friends from over the years and didn't attend anything else until the National Executive meeting. The most refreshing aspect of CESIcon is the camaraderie and collaboration between the sectors.  It proves that new innovations are adaptable in any educational setting if you maintain an open mind.  If you are interested at all in CESI, I would strongly advise following the #edchatie hashtag on Twitter. Over time, it's easy to build up a strong personal learning network, and you might even be enticed to meet them in person at next year's CESIcon.

You can read about our experience at CESIcon last year on the blog as well.

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