ITTE held its annual conference recently, and I bought a ticket and went along. As far as the ITTE conference is concerned, I was a newbie, and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I do recall dragging my carcass to the local station in sweltering heat, mumbling to myself something along the lines of “Please let the trains be cancelled; I’d rather be in the garden.” Well, that proved too much for Transport for London to arrange, and so I made it to the conference.
I’m pleased I did. The number of delegates was manageable, ie it was easy to talk to quite a few people, the content was good, the venue very nice and, most important of all (if evaluations on my own training days are anything to go by), the catering was excellent. And all that for just £20.
I liked several things about the conference:
First, almost all of the talks were grounded in research. I for one get fed up with people inventing some new approach (which often turns out to be an old approach anyway) and espousing its benefits with no apparent basis for doing so. Or rather, a flawed basis: if you promote an approach, piece of software, device or anything else with a huge amount of enthusiasm, you are likely to see the “experimenter effect” in action. (For an explanation, see Is Plagiarism Really a Problem? and Does ICT Improve Learning?). So it was very refreshing to hear of presenters’ research and to hear caveats like “Perhaps there was a Hawthorne Effect going on.” Being deeply cynical, I think that the Hawthorne Effect and the Experimenter Effect occur more often than people tend to acknowledge. See Rules of Engagement for example.
Second, I liked the opening keynote, in which Miles Berry drew (sometimes tenuous but always intriguing) links between computational thinking and the craft of teaching. Interestingly, in “The Craft of the Classroom”, which I first came across in 1975, Michael Marland sets out an approach to teaching in which by setting up routines (algorithms?) in your classroom, you can ensure that lessons go well and that you achieve your intended outcomes. As I said in Why Michael Marland is relevant for educational technology teaching:
… the advice is sound. It’s based on techniques, almost painting by numbers. If you follow the advice in the book, you stand a very good chance of being in charge in your classroom.”
Thirdly, I enjoyed meeting old and new friends.
Fourthly, although it's too early for me to say what I learnt during the day, because I like to mull it over and reflect, I can tell you that I made copious notes during the day, with notes to myself like "Look this up". So, in other words there was much food for thought. I like conferences where the aims of the speakers are to provide information and lead people to think, rather than self-aggrandisement.
Fifthly, I found the talk by John Nixon, HMI, about the forthcoming changes to the inspection process useful. Although I have glanced through the new documentation, it was good to have things clarified, and for the changes to be looked at from the perspective of the Computing Programme of Study.
I certainly intend to go again next year – and with any luck the weather will not be of the sunbathing kind!
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