The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Bravery’ and what better way to demonstrate bravery than to hear the words Ziauddin Yousafzai – the father of Malala. Introducing him, Anthony Salcito played a clip of Malala addressing delegates after receiving the Noble Prize. This certainly had the desired effect of making each of realise the important part we play in children’s lives and, sometimes, how much we take our education and the education of our children for granted.
Indeed, a number of years ago during a ‘Snow Day’ for the children I engaged a number of them in online classes to show that there was no excuse for missing out on some level of education if technology made interaction possible. We used the Collaborate Classroom software to deliver a number of lessons. I used the story of Malala’s shooting as an inspiration for a comprehension piece as well as an online discussion regarding the importance of education and what lengths some children go to to experience schooling. It may have taken a little shine off their snow day – but hey…
As a Fellow at E2, I have had a number of different roles to play that were slightly different from the normal educators’ track. This was part of the breakout when I was involved in a Minecraft in the Classroom discussion panel. It was very interesting to sit on the panel as I was there as an educator with no experience of Minecraft compared to the other panellists. Noelene Callaghan, Matt Harris and Francisco Tupy were the experts as was Sean Dikkers, our chair, and it was amazing to listen to them address the anxieties that some of the delegates had regarding the use of Minecraft. Indeed – how Noelene went on to use it as the foundation for Computer Science was excellent. Francisco’s work with challenging children through using Minecraft was another excellent example of the power of Game Based and Project Based Learning. Time and again, I found myself wondering how on earth I had managed to be in these people’s company being regarded as an equal.
As Fellows, we had our own TeachMeet between ourselves and I had limited opportunities to hear about some of the work going on in the schools by the other Fellows (Minecraft panel duties). However, What I did hear was outstanding – including Denmark’s Pernille Reenberg showing us how she has set up her own Educator Challenge Style group between schools in Denmark – modelled on the Microsoft Global Conference. Some of the children’s work was incredible. I did get the chance to show my ‘Guerrilla Poetry’ work, but when compared to some of what has been going on in schools, it felt quite tame. However, I think the passion that I showed for the work and the undeniable pride that I have in my children in school managed to come across as many of the Fellows mentioned it in passing. Not least, Kelli Etheridge, who is determined to follow up the work as we link classrooms in the new school year.
Our representative teachers continued to work hard on their Educator Challenge projects with their different teams. This idea of collaboration has many positives and really puts people outside of their comfort zone. I know that there are difficulties in the challenge (having done it last year) not least cultural expectations, though I feel that the positives outweigh this. Being challenged in this way is a unique and fulfilling experience that is more beneficial in retrospect as opposed to reflecting on the benefits in the middle of the pressure of the contest.
Finally, we rounded off the day by visiting the Kent Tech Expo – where dozens of schools from the Kent Education District exhibited their work in a large arena (something like the Odyssey Arena). It was amazing to see how the children of all ages exhibited their work and my heart was melted by two small children (aged 6/7) who wanted to tell me about their interactive book. There were projects of all types but the one thing that struck me was the confidence with which each of the children I spoke to addressed me and other adults in explaining their work. These are the children that our own classes will be competing with as adults in the workplace and was a clear demonstration of the skills that our children will continue to need.
Again, another day to remember…