As I sit in my hotel room, reflecting on my jam-packed full day, there is fireworks going off out over the Delaware river. It is reflective, ironically, of the way my brain kinda feels at the moment. Today is only day one of ISTE2015 here in Philly but I am so pumped to learn more about how they are doing things in education here with technology. Already I’ve had some great conversations and learned about areas of education that Australia could really benefit from adopting, and perhaps areas that America could learn from us about too.
My morning was spent learning about Hummingbird Robotics, and learning the fundamentals of robotics and how to program simple expressions and sequences of expressions. It was much easily to do than I originally thought and I loved the ideas many others came up with when making their own group project robots. There was all sorts of use of the light sensor to trigger flashing lights and movement of parts. The imagination of some of my colleagues in that workshop was great so I can only imagine what our students would do if let lose with the same equipment. We often forget as teachers, that students will learn these things faster than us, and that they still have an imagination that is not bogged down in administrative duties etc that we might get weighed under.
I am full of hope and excitement about taking what I have learned about robotics and applying it in a MakerSpace environment that I really want to get running at my current school. It is such a fantastic way of engaging the disengaged amongst our student population and I cannot wait to see untapped potential fulfilled more through new opportunities this might present to them.
After that workshop I went and experienced more of Philadelphia and went to The Franklin Institute to check out The Art of the Brick exhibition that was AMAZING, and made entirely of Lego. Artworks such as The Scream and the Mona Lisa were replicated, using only Lego pieces, and they were phenomenal! I love Lego and this exhibit was Lego at its best. The rest of the institute was great, and I can see it being the perfect excursion venue for schools to bring students too but the highlight for me was definitely the Lego.
Tonight’s keynote speaker at ISTE2015, highlighted for me, the importance of the teacher in recognising potential in students and in providing unique opportunities for all students to experience learning in multiple ways, not limiting them because of who they are seen to be or who they think they are. The short Ignite session brought to us prior to the keynote was so poignant in also highlighting the significance of diversity in education. We fail to cater for the diversity that does exist within our school systems so much. We try to cater well for those with diagnosed learning difficulties and physical disabilities, but what about those who are from a low socio-economic background; who do not have literate parents; who are isolated; who are without the basic necessities in life; who have had little exposure to other cultures or demographic groups; and, so many others types of diversities that exist? Do we bridge the gap, only to create a new one? I feel we do.
Soledad O’Brien was our keynote speaker tonight, and she was very inspirational. Her parents were married in the late 50s, at a time when it was illegal for a ‘white’ American to marry a ‘black’ American. They suffered prejudice and discrimination but did not let it sway them. She spoke about how technology can be leveraged to bridge the gaps of diversity, and how it can be leveraged to provide greater opportunities for students to reach their full career potential, even for careers not yet heard of by them. She shared a story about a group of American students who went to help a community of students in South Africa, even worse off than they were, and how the laptops that Dell provided them, gave them a voice in the projects they were working on in South Africa. The key here for me is, it gave them a voice! Do we allow our students to have a voice? Or do we place to many rules and restrictions around them that it neglects to leverage any benefits from technology whatsoever? I think this is a big point we need to consider in Australian education with technology.