The Reason I am Here... Ed Tech Summit SA

Today is the firs day of Ed Tech Summit Johannesburg and I feel badly that I haven't had a chance to reflect on the 3 day summit in Cape Town yet.  I continue to challenge myself to be an energizer bunny and not sit still for much more than a few hours an evening to sleep.  While this is good for sightseeing and getting to see as much of the Cape Town and Joburg areas as possible, it's not good for reflecting on the experience.  

So here goes...   

Having the opportunity to visit Leap Schools before the summit was important. It enabled us to ask questions of the students, Take in some of their experiences and ideas and begin to understand their needs.  Based on their lack of connectivity other than the computer labs, the physical campus-it's rooms and hallways, and the fact that the teachers don't have access to technology at all times of the day I find myself thinking about my first experience teaching, at the Storm King School in 1998-2000.  It's kind of wild how much this place reminds me of that experience.  I recall late nights in the science room, dialing up to internet in the hopes of scanning the web and/or more importantly sending an email to someone across the country.  Heading up to the computer lab during a prep period only to discover that every computer was used, frustrated I would retreat back to my open apartment where I could word process on my computer but where I did not have internet connection.  Lesson planning consisted of sifting through text book after text book in the math office, where their was no computer... which meant no web resources to help differentiate, teaching everything from scratch, and no professional learning network with people all over the world.  This is the world of Leap 1 and Leap 2, for most individuals.  

Some people would challenge that lack of connectivity can be a good thing.  And as I spend my days travelling around this gorgeous country I challenge myself to this idea, this concept.  No cell phone, I decided not to go international on my plan, no 3G, and a country that offers free wifi to the public in very few places, I generally am connected before I leave my lodge in the morning for an hour and when I return in the evening. While we have discovered that a lot of people do have smartphones (although I see a lot of nokia flips floating around) and data plans (they are expensive and not unlimited) I have grown to empathize with the lack of connectivity.  While yes, their is the "good" to less screen time.  I spent 2 hours on a city bus tour without once checking facebook, email, instagram or twitter.  I find myself less distracted while trying to appreciate my surroundings.  I was able to be on Safari and not worry about the world I left behind because I was completely "off the grid" for 36 hours.  But my empathy develops in those first few moments when I get connected, as I rush to see my list of emails and social media strands, texts and instant messages from loved ones far and near.  I empathize when after an hour of being online I realize I have done nothing to improve my practice or lesson plan, simply I have only gotten my own personal investigations accomplished and feel slightly  "caught up" with the world in which I have left behind.  I wonder, if this is the amount of time I had each day connected, online and/or with a computer, how much would I use technology either in my classroom or to improve my practice?  

With this realization I walked into the classroom in Leap last Thursday-Saturday to teach my sessions on Project Based Learning in the Math Class and Social Media for Your Classroom and/or Your Professional Learning Network.  I had to realize that these teachers sat in front of me in a similar fashion as I sat years ago.  Overwhelmed, frustrated, but hungry for knowledge.  Nervous and scared about what the admin would expect after a conference such as this.  Wondering how to find the time in an already busy day to transform practice.  Acknowledging the complexities of a school wide transformation, it's complexities, it's need for intentional development along side time to "dabble" in new things.  It was my job to get their palettes wet.  It was my job to get them asking how.  It was my job to get them excited so that these teachers would realize that moving forward means not only the administration would work on this initiative top down, but that the teachers would start to challenge bottom up.  I believe this is how true transformation occurs in regards to initiatives, the need to meet somewhere in the middle.   

Constantly considering topics such as management of devices (laptops and tablets), opportunity to for BYOD, potential cost of wifi, the need to get computers closer to the students and not locked in a building far away, security, the need for digital citizenship education has to be done.  These were not to be my concerns.  Always on my mind and feeling as I have worked in institutions that have grappled with the same issues.  I put these to the side knowing someone here in South Africa would have to work with the administration and teachers on this, likely K2.  And so I presented...



During my time in Cape Town I was able to do two presentations.  Both went well and in terms of information I plan to change very little.  I will have the opportunity to teach social media on Day 1 of Johannesburg, which I look forward to.  My hope is that they will have the opportunity to engage in it while attending the Summit.  All the teachers were enthusiastic, entertained, great students and fun to be around.   I look forward to continuing with the connections, and appropriately supporting teachers who want to move forward and learn alongside me.  Twitter anyone?  @gogogoggin


As John Gilmour, Head of Leap wrote:  

In Cape Town this weekend we have been fortunate enough to participate in the EdTech Summit which offered a range of technology-based learning experiences for all of us regardless of our computing experience or technology know-how.

Apart from being motivated to explore technology options more intentionally, at a practicaI level I learned so much about using tablets in the classroom, using liberating Google apps to make my life easier, and developing new approaches to doing presentations - not just using PowerPoint but also Prezi and Google presentation options. I am sorry that I could not get to some of the other workshops - all were practical and applied and the workshops planned to open the doors to technology possibilities previously unexplored by most of us.

And reported to Teach With Africa from a participant:  

Just thought to tell you that I have attended workshops on the 1st 2 days of the EdTech Summit -  and will be joining them again tomorrow.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and have learned such a lot – have felt a bit like a child: a tad anxious because of my ignorance but really excited to find out how things work.

Thanks for arranging for me to attend – it is invaluable and is changing how I view many things including the training workshop I am running next week, for my colleagues!

I plan to build in all sorts of on-line questionnaires etc to test “before and after” knowledge and to gather opinions.

It has given me amazing ideas for our Singita/ESA computer project; and it really has me thinking about my planned dissertation –  there is a wonderful base of knowledge that I can draw on in putting it together.

I have lots to learn but this has given me a glimpse into a world which is fast evolving and I have much catching up to do! 


Alongside presenting I was able to attend workhops on Adobe Photoshop and new, free, online tools for my classroom.  Loved learning more...CoLar Mix App for Augmented Reality and Google Draw.  It was fun!  All in all, I am learning a lot alongside my peers about education of course, but much, much more.  

Need a good laugh?