Last week I headed off to the East Riding ICT Conference. Started at 9am, ran on through to half 4. Digital learning was the theme. Morning was due to be all about the Learning Platform and the afternoon was all about e-safety.
It started okay, with a good coffee and a look round the people shilling their collective wares. Educational software everywhere I look. And we're not buying.
It started to go downhill once the presentations from invited speakers started. If you were a primary school headteacher giving a keynote speech to delegates at the conference you would have prepared something wouldn't you? I know I would. But not this headteacher. She seemed to think it would be enough to just stand in front of the room, flap vaguely in the direction of the screen, forget how her own Learning Platform is organised and generally bore the arse off everyone in the crowd. Second speaker wasn't much better really, although by this stage I'd become far more interested in the contents of the carrier bags we were given as we had wandered around the exhibitor stands.
Thankfully, the presentations after break were a damn sight better. This was the first time anyone had managed to simply and effectively explain what a LP is, what work is involved and an approximate timescale for the work (a lot of work and 2-3 years respectively).
In fact, the entire day could easily have been 2 hours long. The presentation by a couple of secondary schools and a primary from Driffield. Then lunch. Then we could have all gone home.
Lunch was okay, but nothing like I'd been led to believe we'd get from this venue. Just sandwiches and salad and pork pies. (Teachers always remember the quality of the free lunch far more than the actual day).
In fact we ended up wandering down the corridor with our plates and saw another set of food by the second exhibitor's room. This was a lot better with cous cous, breadsticks, dips, wedges and much more. So I tucked in. Luckily I was out of there before the other conference taking place in the hotel came out for their lunch, because that's what I was eating. Ooops. Very nice though. They even had fruit cake for dessert later. I sneaked round and had some of that when it was quiet as well.
Afternoon. Not as good as the morning session. Although it did have a great presentation of Web 2.0 by one of the East Riding's tech people. He actually had a sense of how to present to an audience and was witty, fast and informative. Of course, what he was saying was a little basic. In fact at one point as he was desperately trying to get over to the audience of education folks about new media and web 2.0, I was twittering to the blog and thought the irony was quite nice.
Which leads to the problem with teachers and educators. As a group we're (they're) meant to be educating the next generation of young people and connecting with them. Yet when asked for a show of hands, about 10% had visited social networking sites and less than 2% actually had a profile on one of them.
Teachers are still coming to terms with computers as objects on a par with electronic typewriters. A Smartboard is a piece of incredibly difficult tech. Unless you're under 16 in which case the only problem can sometimes be being tall enough to reach the top). A lot of teachers still relate to the Internet as nothing more than a big book and they're just about getting to grips with e-mail.
Unfortunately for them, the pace of change is just too much for them to come to grips with. Their main problem is that we live in a technological age where innovation is continuous, and new is happening far quicker than it used to. Unfortunately for them, the one section of society that can cope with all this all-pervading newness, who laugh in the face of innovation is children. And we happen to have a great many of those in schools.
This is why the children accept new innovations in mobile technology, treat video uploading and instant messaging and countless other means of communicating with each other and the wider world.
I could go in on Monday and deliver a great lesson on Web 2.0 to Year 3. They'd get it straight away. But there are teachers who I could show this to and they'd be terrified. You could show them this and they'd probably run.