Oct 27, 2011

Technology Conferences for Teachers – Is It Time We Stopped?

Having attended ECOO last week, I often heard about the need to change the model for this technology conference.

There seemed to be a desire from attendees to do two things:

  1. Differentiate between the beginners in the ed-tech sphere and the veterans.
  2. Stop talking/presenting about the how we use technology and start talking more about the why we should use it.

Dan Ballantyne (@ballantynedj) and I, while driving home, decided to take on the debate of number two. Dan took the side that specific technology conferences are still important to facilitate a larger percentage of teachers to connect via social media and other technologies, where I took the side that we need to focus on the why of pedagogy and that the tools are just support, therefore shouldn’t warrant their own conference.

We recorded our debate to use as a podcast.  Enjoy listening.

Comments or debate is always welcome.

This podcast has been cross-posted on Dan’s blog Avoiding Cookie Cutter Syndrome.

Although, we ran out of steam, I believe the debate is far from over. I have been contemplating the implication of the debate over the last few days and I’ve witnessed and heard various colleagues’ frustration and interaction with technology.  I understand that my comfort with technology has allowed me to push the pedagogical ideas, where someone who is leery of social media’s influence is not able to get there, yet.

My thoughts have also been largely influenced over the last few days by the various conversations around BYOD. It is easy to look at the pedagogy that utilizes technology when that is your norm.  I certainly appreciated the Teach Paperless blog, Bring Your Own Contexts.


  • I still think we need tech conferences to introduce and acclimatize teachers to the tech tools. “Beginner badges” for workshops would be great alongside more panel discussions that tackle the “why use tech” question.

    Bottom line is that we need both. It is a chicken or egg argument.

    • It feels to me that so much time is spent learning the tools when they change. Meanwhile, the pedagogical shift we need is not in a constant state of flux, though I’m not saying it won’t change. My problem is when we take old ideas, bad pedagogy, throw it online and call it “21st century”. That’s where much of my thinking comes from.
      I think a large part of the tech tools comfort is that we need to create an ethic for teachers to be willing to make mistakes with the tools. That is always the best tech learning. There are still far too many who want to know step by step instructions. Should we give that in a conference setting?
      I think there is far too little time where the teaching profession enables teachers from different contexts to come together and engage in meaningful discussion. I quiver at the thought that that time is spent telling each other to click on File, then New, etc.
      Definitely still thinking about it…Chicken?Egg?

  • Hey Scott and Dan,
    I hear what you are saying – for sure.
    Here is the fascinating part from an historical – dare I say ‘hysterical’ – perspective?
    My colleagues and I had these same discussions in the mid-eighties. (Now don’t tell @brendasherry that I am saying this! Otherwise, she’ll pull out the hat she got for me ‘Back in the day’ LOL)
    When we created the Computers in Education Centres in our school districts, the plan was for them to disappear after a few years – say 3-5 years. We thought that the ‘subject’ departments would be educated by then and would carry the torch.
    It is certainly better now, but, alas, here we are.
    The same with conferences.
    And here we are.

    We need it all. Diversity of voice. Diversity of expertise and opinion.

    One thing though…I cannot believe the energy of this year’s conference. A collective energy.

    • Thanks so much for the comment Peter. I appreciate the perspective, for sure.
      I think as the tools are continually evolving, we are asking more and more of teachers to stay “up to date”, but I don’t think that is unrealistic. I think we’ve got to move the needle from teachers needing “training” in the tools to something more akin to teachers “thinking” about the tools.
      I agree completely about the energy and ultimately, the most valuable time at ECOO was the chance to sit down and “get into it” with teachers from other contexts and to listen and be challenged by others. We don’t make enough time for that.
      Thanks again!

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