Saturday, August 26, 2006

EChO Conference Reflections

This morning I had the great pleasure of co-presenting "Interactive Whiteboards @ Lockleys North" with one of our school's innovative IWB junior primary users, Suzanne Dunn, at the Term Three EChO conference. The half-day conference's theme was on Science and Technology and so when Suzanne approached me about participating and spreading the word about options beyond SmartBoards, I agreed. However, I suggested that it needed to be a joint presentation to give it Junior Primary credibility. I'm totally sure that because of its early childhood focus, most of our attendees were looking forward to hearing from her classroom perspective in preference to the computer nerd guy.
Having to switch my mind set from the middle school teachers who were the focus of my last presentation to the demographic of JP and preschool educators wasn't too bad. I've been working with the 3 Reception classes this term in the computing room and they are the first batch to be all born in this century - the true Millennials or Generation Z. For example, in one of these classes, every student has a computer at home that is solely for the children of that household. Quite often, it's because Mum or Dad have upgraded to laptops or a newer PC and kept the old one for the kids (even it is still technology that is superior to what they access at school). Most have broadband even though most of our kids are not from affluent backgrounds. This new batch of kids have started school with a skill set and a familiarity with technology that hasn't been seen before, even if you classify most students in the primary school setting in the category of "digital natives". So Karl Fisch's latest gift to the online education community - a simple powerpoint with a powerful message, titled "Did You Know?" - was the perfect choice to set the scene and give our presentation the global "big picture".
The more I observe and listen to educators like Suzanne, the more I am convinced that the IWB is an amazing tool in servicing the needs of the younger student. It bridges the gap between concrete and abstract, it encourages collaboration and conversation and it can help establish formative skills. Now those are important things in any classroom but I can see them coming through very strongly in our junior primary classrooms. Suzanne showed the group excellent examples from her own classroom - how to use the ticker tape tool as part of visual literacy, how the use of CD-ROM educational games promoted discussion and teamwork and exploring a book like the Gruffalo could promote imagination and a shared understanding of a text.
There was a lot of nods and probing questions from the gathered educators, some getting their first look at an Interactive Whiteboard, others just interested to see what the fuss is about and I hope that our 60 minute sessions helped inform them not just about IWB's but about the need to get to grips with our exponential world and make the Shift Happen in our education system.

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