#iste2014 reflection number 2 #assistivetech

Over the last 48 hours I have been to Canada and back, with the purpose to re-enter the USA on a student VISA. That provides lots of time on a plane, so what better way to use that time than to put my thoughts together…

ISTE was a couple of weeks ago and I’m still thinking through some of the things that popped up over that conference. It was fascinating, to say the least, being at a conference with just over 16000 educators. And as you can imagine the sheer numbers presented challenges at times. The line up for Starbucks coffee was never ending and some sessions saw disappointed faces, as potential attendees were turned away due to their popularity not being foreseen. However, link ups to screens were quickly created to ensure that disappointment did not last too long. And with plenty of coffee and PLN to touch base with, meet for the first time and engage with connecting was just as purposeful as the sessions themselves.

There was one session that I encountered the huge line up and the momentary disappointment of being turned away, the first IGNITE session.

2014-06-28 14.14.44

The YouTube video will give you and idea of how the session runs.

I soon learnt the need to get super organised and get to things early. Luckily, I did this with regard to Gary Staggers session, getting seated half an hour early (and yes, just lucky at that, grabbing a seat in the back row). However, I’ll digress a little to the session where I learnt the need to be organised. As this one still stands out I’m my mind.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to teach a young man who was provided an iPad as a tool to assist him with regard to his disability. I think this young man taught me much more than I ever taught him. Much of what we did in the first year with the iPad was trial and error, he had to help me understand what his learning needs were and what apps worked and what didn’t. He stretched me as a person and as a teacher. This was my first encounter with an iPad and to be honest I only purchased mine so I could work out how we could incorporate/use/integrate his, making learning more accessible for him. Prior to that I saw them as an expensive tool that allowed access to a range of media, a portable entertainment system if you like. An expensive entertainment system from my perspective at the time.

It was due to this that I watched with interest when Matthew Newton spoke about Google Glass as assistive technology. Wow! And you know he’s right, the potential for Google Glass to provide greater access to communicating, interacting and being is spot on. Google Glass for the right person could change the way they participate in learning and life.

Interestingly enough, there were many conversations occurring around Google Glass at the conference. There were early adopters sporting them on their face and a range of people who had played with them. It was intriguing to listen to some of the conversations. Some felt that the market was not ready for them. Raising issues of privacy with regard to those wearing them, being able to video and take pictures without others knowledge and then posting immediately to places like Facebook, blogs, photo sites, twitter and the like. It was even sighted that some establishments were refusing patrons to wear them when on their premises. Hm…this raises an interesting question – can’t a smart phone be used in a surreptitious manner?

Others raised the issue of cost and how this was not conducive to school budgets. Questioning potential learning gains was avidly discussed and the reality at this stage that one could not justifying the cost outlay as a result. Admittedly this is a big issue for schools with regard to purchasing technology. Will the integration of it be of value? And do you jump in as an early adopter, or wait? Learning from the early adopter is of great benefit, after all they politely make some mistakes that you can avoid.  And as for costs, well they usually come down as the tech tool becomes more common place. So it makes sense to hold off – right???

But let’s get back to google glass as an assistive tool and the issues that were raised.  Firstly, why does it need to be common place in the classroom? Surely it can be used in a manner that is optimum and if it allows one child to learn more effectively and their learning and everyday life is empowered by it, then that is good. Secondly, it’s about being a respectful citizen both online and face to face. So the tool is not the issue. It is the user. If one child in your class is using Google Glass to enable a more equitable learning environment for them then the issue of privacy, as raised earlier, is null and void for surely learning about and demonstrating that they are a good citizen will be part of their overall learning. And finally, someone has to be brave and make that step if the tool appears to have real benefit. Should we be scared about being an early adopter if it empowers the learning journey of a child that might otherwise be hitting obstacles that can be removed by such a device?

Lets find that child that will benefit, lets find that educator that will dive in and play. Lets learn together.

For notes on the first IGNITE session visit https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bhBndxabKwV1ZZjlowtVysZSdF-Ed-qgzTuNwUV9luI/pub by @kevinhuitt

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