Reflections: LCEEQ Conference 2017 - When Diversity and Technology in the Classroom Converge
“This year’s conference theme was a continuation of the acknowledgement that issues of diversity and inequity in education require innovative and creative solutions to engage learners and foster student success. A common phrase in education these days is that while “pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator”. Used appropriately, technology can be one of the tools we use to level the playing field for students who struggle or who may be otherwise marginalized.” - Cindy Finn, LCEEQ Chair, expressed these sentiments in her welcome to the delegates.
Conference participants, more than seven hundred-fifty Quebec educators, explored innovative projects, and examined ever-changing developments in technology that can be applied in education. Our keynote speakers, Hall Davidson, Dean Shareski and Jared Covili are all educators who have pioneered ways to use technology as a tool to enhance learning in classrooms across North America. Closer to home, our featured speakers and presenters discussed ways in which virtual environments, digital resources, social media and other technological advances are being used in Quebec classrooms to help us reach not only students who may be disengaged or at- risk, but also how to better engage all learners.
Be sure to watch the two-minute video clip of the Conference which will give you a good indication of the intensity and spirit of the event.
The messages that Hall Davidson left us with were centred around the theme that technology not only makes education more exciting and engages our students to a greater degree, but also that this interactive forum levels the playing field for all learners and accommodates diverse learning styles. We learned the difference between augmented and virtual realities, both of which provide very interesting applications in the classroom.
The transition from more traditional teaching to classroom digital instruction does require that teachers invest in gaining digital knowledge and then reflect on how best to incorporate digital instruction into their practice with planned implementation. Hall Davidson advises that this transition takes two to three years but that the rewards of doing so can provide tremendous dividends that include differentiated opportunities for students to have texts read aloud in several different languages, that ESL parents can read instructional texts in their own language to facilitate helping with and overseeing homework assignments, that students can create diverse interactive classroom projects that include visual and sound elements, that the classroom can go on virtual interactive field trips around the world and that the list of instructional enhancement is virtually endless!
Below are some sites shared by Hall Davidson in his presentation to get you started or to add to your on-going collection.
- Google Earth
- http://virtual.itg.uiuc.edu/ (virtual microscope)
- https://www.magicleap.com/ (a really cool virtual experience)
Dean Shareski, author of Embracing a Culture of Joy, reminded us of the importance of having joy in our educational experiences. “The moment you bring an Internet connection into the classroom, you open up your students to a vast world of knowledge and possibilities. Many teachers are beginning to realize this but are struggling to make it a reality. Teachers can assist teachers with this instructional transformation. But he also cautions, “Whatever happened to joy? In a data driven, achievement focused system, does joy in learning matter anymore? Not that these are mutually exclusive but in our attempts to see results we often forget that joy should not be a means to an end but a worthy and important goal on its own.” In short, Shareski counselled us that we can have digitally advanced learning in our classrooms without sacrificing the joy of discovery and learning and of the importance of having both.
Our closing plenary speaker, Jared Covili, author of Classroom in the Cloud: Innovative Ideas for Higher Level Learning and Going Google: Powerful Tools for 21st Century Learning encouraged teachers to use technology in their classrooms and to build their comfort and expertise in both using and understanding how technology can and does enhance learning. There are so many possibilities out there that already exist for the taking and that the incorporation of technology in the classroom can be affordable.
The conference also featured many excellent presentations by Quebec educators. Each presentation provided handouts and excellent links for classroom instruction. For those of you who were unable to attend these presentations please check in with colleagues who attended and ask them to share the handouts and links with you. In the spirit of the conference, it is all about helping one another to professionally grow in our use of classroom technology so that we provide all learners with opportunities to find learning to be an exciting and joyful experience.