Friday, 16 March 2018

CESI Conference 2018 - Shaping Tomorrow Today

As I have for many years now, I attended the annual CESI conference and TeachMeet this past weekend. This year differed in that the conference was postponed by a week thanks to Storm Emma. Despite the setback, things ran like clockwork, mostly thanks to a lot of behind the scenes work. On that note, I should also point out that I am a member of the CESI National Executive and part of the conference organising committee. Hence, I was keenly aware of the behind the scenes work going on!

The now traditional TeachMeet went ahead on the Friday evening before the conference. I was presenting on our new Digital Champions Engagement Toolkit that was published the following week as part of the All Aboard! Project. Though the resource was written for higher education, there seemed to be a keen interest from attendees to adapt it to their own needs in their own sectors.

The TeachMeet runs at a rapid pace, so it's usually best to Tweet or take notes to follow up on later.  Presentations were ride ranging - from social justice, to computer science, and to slowing down. Follow the hashtag for more.

The conference theme was anchored heavily on the past and present, and CESI's role in shaping the use of technology in Irish education. The keynotes involved Richard Millwood as the leader of the CESI.CS Community of Practice, and Elizabeth Oldham as the CESI historian. The underlying debate came back to computers, in education or otherwise, being firmly about the people that use them.

 As things go with conference organising, I only really got to presentations that I chaired, which was useful as I'd chosen to chair them for a reason. Next up for me, was Bea de los Arcos talking about open textbooks.

Bea drew a crowd, and engaged the audience.  The debate around open textbooks seemed to centre around quality, and that assumption was quickly quashed as we looked at the success and quality of other OERs.

Joanna Norton looked at 21st century learning and some of the obstacles we face, like the exams system, privilege, and social justice.

Orna Farrell from DCU shared an OER that she created called The History Lab for her distance learning students, and also the wider education community.

From a higher education perspective, it was particularly interesting to see an open resource being showcased as a success, when so much of online learning in the sector takes place on pricey, private platforms. It seemed to be a nod back to Domain of One's Own, and as a bountiful resource, it should indeed be shared widely.

Stephen Howell finished the day with a capstone looking toward the future, and the human applications for the tools we're using.
As always, the CESI conference proved to be absolutely exhausting, and absolutely exhilarating.  The CESI community is strong, and with the advent of Leaving Certificate Computer Science this year, only gaining momentum. 

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