OETC Conference Part 1

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Last week I attended the OETC Conference. There were two reasons for attending. The first was to present and the second was to listen to Yong Zhao at the Keynote on the Thursday. Due to still needing to attend to commitments regarding study I did not attend for the whole conference. I attended the pre-conference day on Tuesday to present a three hour workshop on Minecraft with Jeff Kuhn, where we addressed a packed room and had them dig in and play. We were fortunate to have Bella, who came along with her mum to the session, help us get the adults digging and crafting. Here is a copy of our workshop Prezi.

The second day I attended was on the Thursday, again to present. This time I presented with Dr Seann Dikkers, our presentation focussed on the flow of learning that innovative teachers undertake from hearing about an idea, concept or tool to actual implementation in the classroom. In this presentation we focussed on Minecraft which links in with the book Teachercraft that is about to be published, combined with previous research on teacher professional learning undertaken by highly effective teacher. I shared my journey as a teacher implementing Minecraft and also provided insights into other teacher’s approaches, who were participants in the research, to supplement the research focussed presentation.

Yong Zhao presenting at OECT Conference, Columbus Ohio.

Yong Zhao presenting at OECT Conference, Columbus Ohio.

As a result of being present on Thursday I was fortunate enough to listen to Yong Zhao’s keynote presentation. I have in the past read articles by him and listened to people discuss aspects of his work. I am currently reading his book Catching Up or Leading the Way, for a quick summary of the book you can watch this video, and look forward to reading the other books he has written. I mentioned on Facebook that I was at his keynote and it was interesting to get the comment from a friend that they attended a keynote he gave in Australia two years ago. They noted that he was witty and had contextualised his presentation to cater well for his audience. I too found his presentation at the conference to align with her comment. It was certainly a joy to listen to someone who presents with such knowledge, intellect and ability to connect with the audience.

Zhao started with the statement that “Nokia continued to be a dumb phone and added smart features”  which ultimately led to it losing market share and failing, so what can we learn from this? Certainly food for thought, companies that have had long running success are being challenged by the current evolving changes that are occurring with technology along with society expectations and needs. This then led to pondering the notion of what do we gain and lose through new technology, something that I have been thinking about as a result of the class I am auditing that looks at philosophy and technology. For example if we have driverless cars what do we gain and what do we lose – what impacts does this have for the broader society? What happens to the taxi driver? What does the law need to consider regarding this? What affordances does this provide our society?

Zhao then went on to link this notion into education by looking at miss education. Another thing I have been thinking about of late. Essentially miss education is about having large numbers of people who have been well educated, but their education is invalid for the society they are living within. Not having a car has highlighted this for me while living in Athens, Ohio. I regularly use the bus and the taxi services on offer here. Many of the drivers are well educated, they have degrees. Some people choose to work in this area as they enjoy it, others work in this area as they need a job, a job to enable existence. It is at this point that questions need to be asked around education and what it provides, a standardised sausage making (Zhao’s term) education system may not be keeping pace with our society and the jobs that are required due to where and how we spend our money – in an age of abundance we consume more psychological and spiritual goods, creativity is more highly valued (Zhao noted). With regard to this issue of miss education Zhao raised the following question, if everyone holds a college (university) degree does this solve unemployment? He strongly conveyed it just exacerbates the problem through people being underemployed. Added to this I find the underlying issue of cost of education and weighing this up with miss education and underemployment and interesting concept for consideration.

Will an education system that just makes ‘add ons’ end up being the Nokia of the education?


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