C-TEC conference focuses on technology/education

CAY HILL–Hillside Christian Schools Asha Stevens Campus and National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) were the scene of a dazzling array of lectures and workshops on applying 21st century technology in education, constituting the second annual C-TEC conference which was held October 23-25.

Driven by the motto “Connecting Caribbean Classrooms and Communities,” Foresee Foundation organised its second annual conference with an audience including each and every educator.

At the closing of the conference on Tuesday afternoon, the total number of participants stood at 1,004. More than 400 attended the Monday programme to which secondary school educators were invited and more than 650 the Tuesday programme geared towards primary school teachers. Significantly, some 40 Anguillan teachers and other professionals found their way to the conference, as well as 25 from the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles.

The turnout to this second C-TEC conference was more than 10 per cent higher than last year’s edition, with 95 per cent completing the on-line pre-registration. Both numbers are sound indicators of educators’ enthusiasm for this event. Each of the 30 workshops on Monday and the 42 on Tuesday was very well attended and the first impressions of the evaluations conducted in each session are resoundingly positive.

Workshop topics on both days ranged from practical demonstrations of technical tools to use in the classroom or in homework assignments to entirely new ways of transferring information to pupils/students using social media and, more important, offering the young generation ways to explore knowledge by themselves.

Concepts ranged from the modern yet well-known like how to use an interactive whiteboard using different software tools, to outright revolutionary like integrating gaming into the didactical approach or learning by way of a Makers Lab where experiments have taken the place of traditional frontal teaching.

The conference also offered a range of topics on how educators can communicate with students and their parents using social media, tools to record grades and assignments and track the students’ progress, helpful technology for classroom management and school management systems.

The first conference day kicked off with a keynote address by Cheryl Peltier-Davis, a well-known Trinidad and Tobago-based “Web 2.0” expert. She is one of the leading Caribbean experts in the field of interactive web-based tools and the recent author of two seminal books on the subject.

She took her audience on a journey through the five main trends that characterise the Internet nowadays and gave a futuristic view of what the Internet and the world of communication may look like in 2020. Examples of this are wearable technology, which we already know in the form of smart bands, and the “Internet of things” with a refrigerator that warns you – via your smartphone, of course – when you are out of milk.

The second day was introduced by Steve Dembo, a USA-based specialist in the cutting edge of social media and education. With an engaging approach, Steve Dembo walked the crowd through a simple modern mechanism of visual communication, the power of memes.

The crowd laughed at how a simple picture and text could make minds read a frame in surprisingly different ways. This, he pointed out, has expanded the many ways we communicate in the 21st century. Dembo encouraged the 600 educators in attendance to log visual reminders of each day or step in the learning process and refer to that picture or video with the students, as each student can communicate an entirely different memory from the same picture.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a meme may be worth 1,000,000. According to Dembo, “You invent the future in your classroom by listening to the stories of your students. Digital media offer you the opportunities to personalise education, allowing each child to express and develop in his or her own way.”

In addition to the keynote speeches and regular workshops, dedicated spaces were reserved for a “Makers Lab” and a Game Corner. In the past, computer games were strictly separated from education, even regarded with some reservation by the teaching community. However, “Gamification” has now become a buzzword in schools, signifying the acceptance and full integration of game-based technologies into the learning process.

C-TEC showcased Kreston Shirley, a prominent activist in the area where Gaming meets Education, as a featured speaker and an almost permanent guest in the Game Corner that was run by “For the Win Gaming,” the latest branch on Foresee Foundation’s organizational tree.

The Makers Lab showcased a new wave in education, where students work hands-on with technology to familiarise and learn in an experimental setting. The Makers Lab was running full-time during the entire conference with contributions of the Philipsburg Jubilee Library staff, among others. Feedback from participating teachers clearly indicates great interest in the Makers Lab as well as the Game Room as integral parts of the conference.

The modern premises of Hillside Christian Schools Asha Stevens Campus together with the brand-new National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) building were appreciated as a perfect venue for the conference.

Both schools are fully equipped with “Smartboards” in every classroom, which were fully and expertly used by the presenters. This gave most of the teaching community, some of whom were as yet unfamiliar with the full extent of this equipment’s possibilities, a first-hand impression.

Overall, hands-on sessions were clearly appreciated the most, in particular those by Gail Lovely, an educational technology expert who represented Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishers. Among the policy-oriented workshops, those of Hodder Education’s Katie Mackenzie met with high acclaim.

An entire floor of the Hillside school was reserved for a full-fledged Business Exhibition, showcasing major local and international suppliers of technology and learning materials. All the top local technology and educational materials providers were present to ply their trade, from Boolchand’s and Klass electronics to Caribwork, Van Dorp, Keijzer and Antek. Among the international businesses, Oxford University Press, Houghton Mifflin Hartcourt and Hodder Education deserve mentioning, being major educational publishers for the Caribbean schools.

TelEm through its 100Mb Internet service together with UTS provided the conference with the required Internet bandwidth, crucial for the success of a technology event of this scale.

The second edition of the C-TEC conference was again made possible by the tireless efforts and tenacity of countless volunteers. However, it also had the backing and forceful cooperation of key institutions like the Ministry of Education, Culture Youth and Sports and the national commission for UNESCO, with further key contributions from Windsong International Foundation and many local and international sponsors.

Foresee Foundation is very grateful for all the positive feedback and thanked all participants, sponsors, presenters and, last but not least, the more than 100 volunteers for their efforts and commitment. The Foundation is looking forward with confidence to more exciting future projects in the local and regional community.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/61225-c-tec-conference-focuses-on-technology-education