Doubling Down on Innovation: The 2nd International Conference on Education and 3rd iPad and Ed Tech Summit
More than 1300 delegates from around the world gathered in Montreal on April 30th and May 1st 2015 to share their inspiring stories of educational innovation and to discuss the status of the teaching profession.
3rd iPad & Educational Technology Summit (April 30 and May 1 2015)
2nd International Education Conference (April 30 and May 1 2015)
Two Events in One: The Conference and the Summit
The 2nd International Education Conference and the 3rd iPad Summit were jointly organized by the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (CRIFPE), an interuniversity research centre that regroups the Université du Québec network, the Université de Laval, the Université de Montréal, the Université de Sherbrooke and other affiliate institutions.
The focus of the International Education Conference was to shed light on scientific and professional questions across a variety of disciplines and to create new links by gathering educational researchers and practitioners with a variety of interests.
For its part, the 3rd iPad and Educational Technology Summit was an opportunity for speakers and participants to exchange on the use of the iPad and other educational technologies, providing an update on the status of their adoption around the world.
CRIFPE hoped that the simultaneous nature of the two events would allow to create new links between educational actors and university researchers or to consolidate existing ones.
The Calm Before the Storm of Activity
Once I had checked in for the conference and sat down to leaf through my delegate package, I was soon joined by Jacky, a Teacher and education technology enthusiast from the Gatineau area. He, like me, was floored by the number of presentation options for the 2-day double event. When I explained to him that I would have to write up a summary of the two days for Profweb, we both agreed that it was an impossible task to distill the event into 1600 words or less.
The sheer magnitude of what happened at the Sheraton Centre is mind-blowing. There were approximately 206 presentation blocks spread over 12 time slots for the two days of the gathering. Many of the presentation blocks had between 2 and 5 discrete micro-presentations led by multiple facilitators. The presentations were grouped into 18 thematic symposia (i.e. Adult Education, Professional Integration, and Debate on the Evolution of the Teaching Profession). The sessions and keynotes were led by presenters from 35 different countries, who primarily presented in French, with a few guests from the United States and Ontario presenting in English.
Day 1 – We Have Liftoff
The conference began with an uplifting opening address by a trio of dynamic promoters of technology in education - Thierry Karsenti (CRIFPE), Ron Canuel (ACE-CEA) and Nancy Brosseau (FEEP). Karsenti is a prodigious author and researcher who made headlines for a study he co-authored and published last year on the use of iPads in education. He officially welcomed delegates to the conference and summit.
Ron Canuel, President of the Canadian Association of Education and former Director General of the Eastern Townships School Board of Quebec took the podium and spoke about overcoming obstacles to change in education. He reminded the attendees that the current primary and secondary school system were conceived in the 1800s to respond to the needs of the industrial age. Early adopters have difficulty convincing others to change, overcoming rules and sometimes dogmatic insistence on maintaining the status quo. He also mentioned that a situation of systemic anxiety for educational pioneers exists when innovation outpaces the change in legislation and reglementation. Mr. Canuel also mused that a model for 21st century education exists. It is called kindergarten. I believe he was alluding to the multidisciplinary and creative nature of kindergarten, and maybe this was a nod to some observations from Sir Ken Robinson.
Rounding out the opening plenary was a thought-provoking presentation from Nancy Brosseau of the Fédération des établissements d'enseignement privés. Her presentation, entitled iControl to Major Tom, was a riff on a video posted by Chris Hatfield. She asked a few hard questions, including are we as educators ready to cede part of our control over the classroom to our students, empowering them to take a more active role in learning?
A Whole Bunch of Stimulating Presentations
Presenting a report on a double-event of this scale requires making some stylistic sacrifices. For ‘brevity’ I decided to present the session summaries in the form of journal entries with what I consider to be the key messages from each.
Thursday, April 30th - 10:35 a.m. – Creating Digital Books
Four brief presentations on different aspects of creating multimedia enhanced textbooks and publications, from the perspective of teachers, with one company representative from a publisher, who showed how her digital works can be integrated with interactive white boards.
Highlight: Thierry Chabot, presented his school’s use of MadMagz magazine platform to publish a school newsletter in a small Franco-Ontarian school. Using Google Docs to build content, then publishing with the MadMagz platform reduced the lead time required to publish and allowed students to work collaboratively on documents.
13:15 – Integrating Technology in Education
Two presentations on how to get started with increased use of technology in the classroom.
Highlights: Alexandra Bernier from the College St-Jean-Vianney provided three essential ingredients for a successful technology integration recipe. Don’t scrap everything in your teaching practice (work incrementally), ensure that the process is enjoyable, and only integrate technologies that you feel will benefit the learner.
Joanne Tremblay from Société GRICs provided a tour of the Carrefour Éducation web site. Check out the Other Suggestions section of the site which contains links to a variety of on-line multimedia resources that are free for use by educators.
13:55 – Involving and Motivating Students
Highlight: Education Advisor Corinne Gilbert and a group of students from the College St-Jean-Vianney presented the Dé-CLIC squad, a volunteer group of techno-savvy iPad specialists. These specialists help both students and staff to learn about the use of iPad and specialized applications and are a troubleshooting squad within the classroom. They get involved when teachers experience technical difficulties. The squad participates in professional development activities designed for teachers who, as a result, want to learn more about technology. Interestingly, the students have two formal evaluation periods each year where they can attempt to upgrade to a new coloured bracelet that signifies an increased level of ICT expertise, much like the belt system in karate. Perhaps there is a link to be made between the College ICT profile for students and Dé-CLIC squad’s certification process! This was my favourite presentation of the Summit.
15:25 – ICTs and Practices
Highlight: The opportunity to see Alexandre Enkerli from La Vitrine Technologie-Éducation present in the ballroom at the Sheraton. Alex presented an interesting talk on digital badges which are a way of recognizing the completion of a certain task or achievement of a competency on the web. Alex reminded the attendees that in their simplest expression, digital badges are merely images on the web, and that their utility is linked to the importance that we bestow upon them. He also discussed the widely-held, but still hotly-debated sentiment that badges are meant to replace something else. Should badges replace stickers, course marks, or even diplomas? The jury is still out on this issue.
Alexandre Enkerli addresses delegates with his presentation on digital badging
16:10 – International Students
For my last session of the day, I and a handful of colleagues crammed (literally) into the Dickens meeting room to learn more about two research projects involving international students.
Highlight: A discussion of the cultural perspectives associated with a cohort of distance ed students dispersed across multiple countries with varying value systems and time zones. Food for thought: Some participants may feel free to engage with the Teacher and learning material, while others treat the Teacher with reverence and would never think of questioning the training.
Day 2: Sampling From A Smorgasbord of Symposia and the iPad Summit
Friday May 1st - 9:00 a.m. – Publishing Know-How: An Essential Element for Doing Things Differently in Schools
Highlight: Jacques Cool from New Brunswick’s Ministry of Education and Early Childhood Development is a well-respected forward thinker on the Canadian Ed Tech scene. His discussion focused on the increasing importance of storytelling and its positive stimulation of the brain of the learner, bolstering Ron Canuel’s statement from the opening plenary on Day 1 that learning is emotional. Mr. Cool spoke of the need to develop a new meta-competency, namely publishing know-how (savoir-publier). Some of the elements of this competency? Exploration, collaboration, creation, discernment, debate and interaction. Check out his presentation here.
9:40 – Symposium #9 – Adult Education and Issues Related to its Teaching
At this point on Friday morning, I shifted gears and attended the opening presentation of a symposium track on Adult Education, which is within the realm of my current professional interests.
Highlight: The second presentation in this block led by Brigitte Voyer touched on her research into the development of professional competencies for teaching adult education. Ms Voyer revealed certain troubling findings about the working conditions for these Teachers and their perception of the profession. Many of these teachers are not tenured and follow a non-linear path for many years of their respective careers. I marvelled at Ms. Voyer’s ability to distill the career paths of two teachers she had studied in her research into a visual representation.
Brigitte Voyer provides a visual representation of the career and professional development path of an adult education Teacher
10:55 – Symposium #11 – Applied Teacher Training – A Comparative View of Africa, the Americas and Europe
After a long break designed to permit more exchanges and networking (which I used to visit the exhibitor tables), I attended a session with a truly international flavour. I redubbed this presentation Around the Teaching World in 60 Minutes. Representatives from Benin, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, France, Greece, Mexico and Spain each presented an overview of Teacher education in their respective countries.
Highlight: Seeing the similarities and differences of how Teachers are initiated into the profession around the world. While all the countries have some form of gradually increasing complexity and autonomy in their co-operative placements over time, Belgium requires Teachers to gain a broad range of experience which includes teaching in the traditional youth sector, but also in vocational and technical training settings. This can help Teachers to decide which clientele they wish to work with once they are ready to enter the workforce.
The Home Stretch: Distance Education
13:00, 13:50 and 15:10 – A wide variety of Distance Education perspectives… International portraits, research, and multiple modes of delivery
For the rest of Day 2, I navigated in more familiar waters – those of distance education in its many different forms.
First, I learned about a blended learning implementation project involving Criminology Teachers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An ambitious project to move to this form of delivery has been marked by many improvements to technological infrastructure, and the various obstacles that have been overcome. Many of the Teachers who participated in the project were exposed to Learning Management Systems for the first time, and while there was some resistance, the training has increased the technological competency of the teachers. Despite the fact that fiber optic networking has been deployed, access to Internet services remains particularly expensive, and power brownouts are all too common. The blended learning implementation project is on target for deployment to learners in 2017.
In the next conference block, I attended a presentation by Thomas Ryan from Nipissing University (Ontario), who presented some information about his research with regards to supporting learners on-line. He has also edited and published a book with reflections from several distance educators entitled Teaching On-line: Stories from Within. In his talk, I had to stifle a laugh when, Mr. Ryan divided distance learners into two camps – those who should be distance learners and those that shouldn’t.
Next up was an insightful presentation from Stephanie Facchin of Cégep à distance, who presented some preliminary research results about the quality of feedback from distance tutors and its impact on student perseverance. You may recall that Cégep à distance provides its distance education courses asynchronously (learners complete work at their own pace). At this point, there is some qualitative evidence to show that thoughtful feedback has an impact on student motivation and perseverance in this relationship where there is little real-time interaction between the tutor and the student.
Ms. Facchin’s presentation was bookended by a complimentary study presented by Caroline Fatoux. The purpose of her research is to look into the motivation of distance learners to seek assistance during the course of their studies. She noted that in some countries and cultures, there is a stigma attached to asking for help too soon or too often, but this is gradually changing for the better.
In the final conference block, a team from France (L’Université Pierre et Marie Curie - Sorbonne) described the rationale behind their choice to develop SPOCs (Small Private On-line Courses), thereby bucking the trend we see towards more and more educational establishments offering Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs). Next, the production team for the SPOC presented the process that was used to plan, design, develop and deliver the course.
A certificate of participation was sent to attendees after the iPad Summit
This is the Way the Conference/Summit Ends… Not with a Bang…
After a blistering onslaught of learning about innovative teaching practices and possibilities, the conference and summit ended rather abruptly. I loitered around the Sheraton lobby for a few minutes, trying desperately to prolong the experience. My head is still reeling from this double event, but it left me hungry for even more.
Fortunately for the college network, with the success of the Conference/Summit, CRIFPE was not shy to begin its promotion of next year’s 3rd edition of the International Education Symposium and the 4th edition of the iPad Summit. Mark your calendars for May 5th and 6th, 2016 in Montreal.
C’est un rendez-vous!