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Posts Tagged ‘conference

… why do we not dominate at edtech conferences overseas?

This was one of the questions I asked myself after the seemingly endless ad-tweets for ICTLT.

ICTLT is a locally run and controlled edtech conference that happens every two years. You might say that it is by Singaporeans for Singaporeans to show off Singaporean efforts.

There are invited speakers from elsewhere, of course. No conference worth its salt would ignore the pull of A-list or even minor academic celebrities.

Events like ICTLT are meant to disseminate, inspire, and propagate. There is current or new information to share, people to energise, and propaganda to spread. There is also the overall Singapore brand to sell.

But I return to my original question: If we are that good, why do we not dominate at edtech conferences overseas?

I am not saying that our natively born or locally nurtured professors and experts do not present at all. I am wondering why our reputation does not seem to be matched by our reach.

There are a few usual suspects — you can count them on one hand — who are invited to do keynotes or seminars internationally. But we are not known for our prolific sharing.
 

 
Might we be better at quietly implementing and not pronouncing these efforts on the highest stages? Why operate along this false dichotomy when we need to be doing both? After all, if we are rich with information and experience, we should be sharing more openly and frequently instead of keeping this to ourselves.

Are we going to keep hiding behind the excuse that our schools collectively hosts lots of visitors from lands near and far? Visitors from those very same countries do their share of hosting and they dominate the conference floors and stages.

So I still wonder: If we are that good, why do we not dominate at edtech conferences overseas?

When I am first approached by organisers of speaking events like conferences, seminars, or symposia, the question they want answers to is: What can you contribute to the conference or event?

That is a logical question given that the organisers are looking for a good fit and bang for their buck.

I had a Skype chat yesterday with one organiser who asked me something I have not been asked in almost six years: What would you like to get out of speaking at this conference?

The last time I was asked that was when curators of TEDxSingapore asked me to speak at an event targetting youth.

As an occasional speaker, I am more used to helping out than helping myself. The educator in me is about giving rather than getting. So the question almost stumped me.

Almost. I answered that question over two fronts. I wished to see the impact of what I said immediately and over a logical delay.

I gauge immediate impact not just by how the audience is responding in person. I also monitor my backchannel, respond to questions and comments there, and make social media connections.

After that moment of inspiration, I look for efforts of perspiration. It is easy to be inspired after an event; it is much harder to put ideas into play. I look forward to following up with my new contacts, e.g., visiting sites to observe plans in action, reviewing documents for policy changes, being invited to speak or conduct workshops, etc.

I also look for opportunities for personal and intellectual growth. I do not expect everyone to agree with what I say. Just as I hope audience members gain a new perspective, I wish to learn from disagreement or to dig into a nugget I have not uncovered before.

As a maker of good trouble, I want to know if I have created enough dissonance to spur people into action in terms of how they teach and facilitate.

Don’t trouble Trouble till Trouble troubles you.

The adage is don’t trouble Trouble till Trouble troubles you. I role-play Trouble while most people and organisations are Inertia personified. I want to know if I have moved people enough to do something meaningful.

 
It has been a hot month of April in more ways than one. 

I rarely rely on air-conditioning, but I have had to use it several times this month to get a decent night’s sleep. 

I have also enjoyed the most varied work ever since striking out on my own as an education consultant since August 2014. 

In early April, I evaluated the ability of future faculty to facilitate modern learning. Last week I sat with colleagues in what might be called a Board of Examiners meeting. We were bored of examining because the series of learning experiences is unlike anything I have ever been involved in. 

In the middle of April, I delivered a keynote and participated in a panel for the Social Services Institute, the professional development arm of the National Council of Social Services, Singapore. It was wonderful to see a major player wanting to shrug off the shackles of traditional education. 

Not long after that I flew to a conference overseas to facilitate conversations on the flipped classroom vs flipped learning. The strange thing is connecting with Singaporeans there that I could more easily meet at home. 

After returning from my trip, I met with a passionate edu-preneur and professor after we connected via my blog.

Another connection was a result of my keynote. It will take place via one of two Google Hangouts that will bring April to a close. I hope that it will bring more opportunities in the months to come.  

The other Hangout is a result of my flipped learning talk last January at Bett 2015. I am tempted to call it remote mentoring and hope to repeat a strategy I tried at the more recent conference. 

The exceptionally warm weather here is not the norm at this time of year. The variety of work I have had is not the norm either. While I hope the muggy days and nights go away, I do what I can to keep the sizzling work in play.

This is my presentation today at Educon Asia’s Higher Education Conference. The URL will be active and the presentation freely available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License later today.

I titled the presentation Flipped Classroom No Enough in part to pay tribute to Jack Neo’s Money No Enough movies. I mean to say that it is not enough to merely flip classrooms. It is more important to flip learning.

Flipped Classroom No Enough can also be read as “Flipped classrooms. No, enough!”. Experienced practitioners and thought leaders have had enough of hearing flipped classrooms being sold without reflective thought, rigorous research, or critical practice. We are long overdue a look at flipped classrooms through a critical lens.

I will offer just three of many critiques.

I will also offer perspectives on why it is better to flip learning instead of merely flipping the classroom. In the process, I hope my audience gets a better idea of the differences between the two.

I will be participating in a higher education conference over the next two days.

I look forward to renewing ties with some people that I might only meet at such events. I also hope to make some meaningful impact in the area of flipped learning.

I will be part of a flipped classroom panel today and will offer a presentation on flipped learning tomorrow. It should be obvious that flipping has gained momentum to the extent that the conference organizers have dedicated an entire thread to flipping.

Unfortunately, they have called it a Flipped MOOC. It is not a MOOC and the event is certainly not flipped. Other than being a marketing hook, simply putting two buzzwords together does not make educational or pedagogical sense. At best it gets lots of people attending these sessions; at worst it reinforces buzzwords but does not change practice.
 

?Sometimes I think, other times I am.? by Lori Greig, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Lori Greig 

 
So I have given myself a role in addition to panelist and speaker. It is to be a watchdog. My agenda is to chase down and bite as many misconceptions as possible. I have already spotted “best practices” and “flipped classroom” as unquestioned phrases.

My fur is bristling…

Later today I share my thoughts on e-learning and m-learning at Educon Asia’s 6th Higher Education Summit. I will also be part of a panel on MOOCs.

I share my Google Slides openly here under CC licence.

As is my modus operandi, I will be using TodaysMeet as a backchannel. This time round, I use an updated version of TodaysMeet and look forward to the administrative login and moderation features.

I tackle the issues of so-called “best” practices, bad practices, designing for change, operating outside the course box, and promoting social m-learning. That is a lot of content and that is why my tongue-in-cheek title for my talk is my 2+3 cents worth on designing effective e and m-learning.

I may have to leave one or two illustrations out to keep to the 30 minutes allocated to me. I may need to leave out flipping learning and not just the classroom as an example of designing for change instead of designing for the status quo.

Earlier this week I was privileged to be invited to speak at CSC 2013 as a panel member and to present with my colleagues and staff our free CeL apps for mobile learning.

I think I was invited because I tweet and @Cambridge_CAS follows me. I wonder how many other speakers got invited this way.

This reminds me of Julian Stodd’s thoughts on how authority or reputation nowadays is based less on “positionality” or titles. I am getting used to invitations that start with how someone Googled a topic and found a digital artefact I shared, read this blog, or followed my tweets.

That said, I doubt the organizers would have invited someone who had a track record but did not have some sort of title. I guess they were entitled to be somewhat conservative in their first regional conference in Singapore.

And conservative they were. How do I know?

The things I heard and saw were about the same as at other education-oriented conferences. Things like technology is disruptive, we must change, technology can enhance learning, teachers are indispensable, etc. All good messages, reminders, or takeaways because not everyone is on the same page.

But if you look at the Twitter backchannel (#csconf2013), you might get the impression that little was happening. The quality of a modern conference is as much a function of how much the delegates participate in all channels of communication as how well it was organized, if not more so.

A discourse analyst might notice there were several official postings and other socially interactive ones. If you coded for the latter, you might wonder if actual conversations took place.

I use a backchannel as a barometer of change and change acceptance. I have been to events where the backchannel topic trends locally or internationally and it is difficult to keep track of what goes on. That tells me that participants have embraced a change mindset, are thinking actively, and wanting to share and act on what they know.

Photo courtesy of Eveleen Er (@EdTechLink)

Prior to my panel discussion, I asked the organizers if I could project resources on screen should the need arise. This was not driven by ego (I do not like the sage on stage mentality). This was driven by a basic teaching strategy (send the same message over different channels).

I had to go though three people to be told no. The corporate background had to be in place for the video recording and photo ops. I respect that. They are entitled to do that. But I wonder if they realize how that also speaks volumes about the prevailing mindset.

I had been asked to think of a main question and to provide evidence. Much of the evidence was visual. All of the resources could have been hyperlinked. People would not have to photograph slides. I would have liked to gently push the boundaries of presenting or discussing in an attempt to model change.

In all other panels I have been involved in, I have had to meet fellow panelists beforehand either in person or online. I have no problem with being spontaneous, but I also see the value in establishing expectations or agreeing to certain themes so that the audience gets the most out of the combined experience of the panel.

For another event earlier this month, a fellow panelist and I did a Google Hangout and prepared a Google Site which housed our Google Slides, a SoapBox backchannel, and links to resources. How much more do you think an audience appreciates such an effort?

That is not to say that I did not enjoy being a panelist at this conference. There was lively chat, challenging questions, and humorous moments.

Not many people know what happens in the background of something as seemingly straightforward as a panel discussion. For me, this was not just an opportunity to teach but to educate. To reach, to connect, to inspire action. I am not sure what impact I had.

I did get the usual post-talk phenomenon of audience members wanting to meet, exchange business cards, and have extended conversations. I also received appreciation and praise for my insights. But this was not an ego trip for me. Words are easy, actions less so.

In any case, that is three out of four talks down this month. I have one big one, a keynote, to go at the end of the month.


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