Evaluation of Learning Without Frontiers Pre-Conference

I was looking forward to hearing some great presentations and startling revelations at the Learning Without Frontiers Conference. But I spent almost my whole time there talking to people. The way I figure it, if something is really good I'll get to hear about it anyway, so given the choice between listening to a talk, and discussing –and-catching up-and-networking type of activity, I choose the latter. At least, I did yesterday.

So, how was it for me?

On the downside I have to say the two industry presentations I attended were a real let down. One started off quite well, but quickly degenerated into a prolonged advertisement. OK, nobody is truly independent; for example, when I am giving my presentation at BETT, I will be representing myself, and hoping that I will generate new readers and subscribers. We all know that. But I won't be spending half an hour telling the audience how wonderful I am!

The second presentation was even worse. Starting late, it didn't even pretend to be anything other than a commercial. Worse, it consisted of someone reading out his slides whilst standing with his hands in his pockets.

I wanted to go to the industry strand in order to find out what was new and exciting. Judging by these two, the answer to that is "nothing".

I think it is quite disrespectful to teachers, who spend their professional lives giving presentations, to apparently put no effort into it whatsoever. It does not have to be that way: many company representatives are engaging, are involved in the educational community, and actually seem interested in their (potential) clients.

Here’s a suggestion for Graham Brown-Martin, the power behind this exciting event: would it not be better to abolish the industry strand altogether? After all, they can always book exhibition space. A much better use of the room would be for poster sessions, in which teachers and others could have a stand for, say, a morning or an afternoon, at which details of their projects and work could be displayed, and information about them given by the people concerned? In other words, a kind of Teachmeet without the need to stand up and give presentations?

On that subject, the Teachmeet was great, although I was, unfortunately, unable to stay for all of it. Prior to that, we had a great Mirandamod discussion about whether schools and teachers are still relevant in the age of mobile devices and the internet. We were privileged to have Graham join us at the end and deliver a rant his views about these and other issues! According to Steve Beswick, Senior Director of Education for Microsoft UK,

Students nowadays embrace new technology and ways of communicating from a variety of guises, via social networking, smart phones and gaming consoles, and thus have become the most innovative digital natives of our generation. The skills and enthusiasm they have for technology should be encouraged and it is interesting that students feel they’re learning more in their own homes than within the classroom. We need to work closely with parents, schools and businesses to collaborate and encourage the integration of technology into every classroom and teaching resource.

The Microsoft Future Workforce research revealed that 56% of 16 to 18 year olds rate themselves 5 out of 5 in confidence in basic IT skills and 71% agree that they learn more of what they know about technology outside the classroom. The majority of students (85%) also believe that the internet outside of their school provides the most important source of information about technology. However, one thing that seemed to emerge from our discussion was that there is still a need to teach youngsters research skills and media literacy skills. What’s your take on all this? You can contribute to the Mindmap we’ve started if you would like to explore these ideas and add your two-penceworth, by clicking on the link just given.

Overall, the pre-conference was a great success, with a real buzz in the air, and it was a real joy seeing loads of children around the place. The prognosis for the conference proper is looking good.