Sunday, October 14, 2007

K-12 Open Minds Conference- what an enlightening experience!

October 9th-11th I had the opportunity to attend the K-12 Open Minds Conference, a conference that brings together teachers, technicians and educational leaders to share and explore the use of open source in K-12 teaching.

It's very apparent that the technology available today has changed the way students learn. It's something that I myself have experienced to some degress, but it's still an eye opener to take a step back and really reflect on all that has changed and what will be changing! The connectivity that exists opens up so many avenues for the exposure of information and collaboration - but how do we harness that so that it's meaningful?

One thing that struck me about this conference was the fact that the majority of the people that
attended were teachers. I learned a lot from these folks about what it is they currently do with technology and what it is they'd like to do. It make me realize that I haven't interacted with a lot faculty at the Sakai conferences. These interactions are critical in developing a system and the Sakai community should strive to make bring in more of this perspective.

The use of technology varied greatly. Some were new to open source and looking for solutions to replace proprietary software with heavy licensing fees while many were looking to explore the sharing of best practices. One session highlighted over 30 different open source or free resources and more were shared by the participants. There were a variety of resources used in the classroom that I hadn't ever heard of such as Google LitTrips and Celestia and it was really neat to learn about them . . . as someone that loves reading, I'm definitely going to be checking out the Google LitTrips further. My take away - keeping tabs on what's going on in primary and secondary education is very important as the students of tomorrow will have their expectations shaped by the experiences they have there.

Another aspect I found interesting is that teachers are not only using technology for the use of teaching pupils, but also to share lessons plans with resources like Teacher Tube. The professional development of teachers a very important aspect of the evolution of tech in learning. It's much easier for younger generations to pick up new technology given how ingrained it's become in society. In higher education hearing about an instructional technologist being among the staff is pretty common - in primary and secondary education these types of positions are less common and those that do exist are supporting entire schools or districts.

Not unexpected was widespread use of Moodle. In my conversations, many did not even know what Sakai was. I did spend some time talking to Lic. Douglas Galindo of the Universidad of Dr. Jose Matias Delgado in El Salvador. While this university is using Moodle, they've been following the progress of Sakai as an indicator of the health of open and community source software and are very encouraged by the progress Sakai has made. We had an interesting conversation about the challenges of making a smooth transition for learners as they progressed through their learning careers as well as supporting the teaching activities/workflows in different ways. This conversation (and many others) made me realize how much we have tool silos that force users into actions that probably aren't very natural.

Quick summary of what I took away from the conference -
1) Support the integration of resources. There is so much out there and there will be more and more as time progresses!
2) How can we change Sakai to break down these tool silo's and facilitate a meaningful flow of activities?
3) The need to not only support the teacher <> pupil education process but provide professional development avenues for instructors
4) Keeping tabs on what's going on in primary and secondary education is very important as the students of tomorrow will have their expectations shaped by the experiences they have there.
5) Work with well known standards so the data that is accumulated can traverse the learning landscape with learners.