I also came away from this conference with a deep gratitude for the awesome digital team that I have at Aorere College. Many of my conference colleagues are lone wolves in their various academic institutions, howling loudly but in many cases rarely being heard in term of modern and connected learning. In other cases, whereas across my digital advisory, we have curriculum, pedagogy, strategic and technical individuals, in many schools all of these roles are held by just one individual, thus meaning that many learning opportunities have to be highly prioritised, often delayed or not considered at all. The other benefit that I became aware of was just how hard it was for many of these individuals to develop regular and sustainable learning partnerships with other like-minded educators particularly in face-to-face contexts.
The venue for this year’s EduTECHAU was the massive Brisbane Convention and Events Centre, an entity the size of which I had never seen before. Part of the event was EduTECHAU expo where a multitude of companies extolled the benefits of their devices or modern learning offerings. In reality, I would have spent maybe 30 minutes over the two days of the conference looking deeply at any of the company wares on show. Why? Because if I really wanted to learn about one of these offerings online would be my first context where I could take my time, seek information and undertakings from a variety of sources and obtain in many cases, very frank assessments of the said products’ validity in an educational learning space. The two things I spent a massive amount of time on was 1) visiting the school students in the Makerspace area and 2) engaging in deep pedagogical discussions with many colleagues I had previously only interacted with on twitter. In prioritising my time to give and take from educators who lived and breathed similar tech successes and failures, we all became stronger and more educated about the road and journey moving forward. Many teachers impressed me with their resourcefulness and their ability to make sure that every resource was squeezed to the hilt so that their students didn’t have to worry about the fear of missing out.
The conference also brought home to me just how great the need is that we continually check the validity of our edtech offerings in our various learning spaces with those who matter most in these contexts- our students. Over the two days of the conference, I found myself time and time again returning to the Makerspace area to check on the progress of the four schools competing in a Dragons Den Project-Based-Learning competition. I was consistently impressed not only with their honesty in terms of what they thought about the learning-in-play they were exposed to in their schools but also at times, their chilling and depressing critiques of limited student voice and agency and just as significant, the limited opportunities for genuine collaboration in their schooling. I was genuinely surprised when one young lady on my departure thanked me for 1)asking about their learning perceptions and 2)for actually really listening and while not necessarily agreeing with all their sentiments, at the very least being prepared to take their opinions on board. A number of the Makerspace students were surprised but delighted when they learnt that I was presenting to teachers on enabling student voice.
In ending this reflection, the conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn from and be motivated by truly brave and committed educators whose legacy will be greater student learning, achievement and ultimately student and communal futures. For these reasons and more, the various face-to-face interactions and highly valuable professional gleanings will not benefit not only this writer but more importantly the students and citizens of the Aorere College community now and beyond.