Yesterday I was in Crewe on my way down to my inlaws in Devon. I stopped off there to attend the NAACE Third Millennium Hothouse event at the invitation of Jan Webb (@janwebb21). It was an event focused on NAACE members (ICT teachers) and industry – and boy could you feel the influence of the latter.
Granted, I arrived late. Some might say I planned to arrive at lunchtime but (honest guv!) that wasn’t the case at all. I caught up with a few people I know (@largerama, @psbenson, @dughall, @digitalmaverick, and others), as well as some people I didn’t. There was definitely a positive vibe around the place which is always helped when the food is to a high standard. The coffee was decent too. Happy days.
The first afternoon session was advertised as a ‘Masterclass’ about mobile learning but was, in effect, an extended pitch by Lightspeed Europe. Their representative, Ernie, was ostensibly talking about mobile learning but I felt it was a bit of a smokescreen for advertising their offerings such as ‘My Big Campus’. It was the most techno-determinist and economics-driven session I think I’ve ever attended. And I’ve attended a few conference sessions in my time.
I’ll not labour the point, but he talked about there being no reason for educators to use any platform other than Apple’s. He said that Blackberry’s BBM is ‘unsafe’. He said that devices ‘needed to be’ locked down and implied that educators have a 24/7 duty of care. And he never once defined what he meant by ‘mobile learning’. What were presented as ‘trends’ were, in fact, merely the views of someone whose job it is to sell software to the education ‘market’.
As you’d expect, I was first up with my hand almost before he’d asked if there were any questions. I asked Ernie very simply what he meant by ‘Mobile Learning’ given that he hadn’t actually defined it in the preceding 40 minutes or so. As expected, he gave a device-centric definition. I challenged him about his numbers (where were they from?) and also about his recommendation that teachers should be adopting iPads (what about being device-agnostic? what about the web?) Hilariously he equated the web with Linux. The reason I care about this in this particular context is because the last thing we want is iPads to become the new Microsoft Office. Even PowerPoint was shiny in 1999.
I do come across as slightly aggressive when I’m passionate about a particular subject, and may have done so on this occasion. That’s why I continued the conversation with Ernie after the session in the presence of organiser Jan Webb. I accepted that he we’re coming at things from different perspectives and that one of the points of the ‘Hothouse’ event was to bring together such perspectives. However, I impressed upon him the need to both back up his figures and highlight the nuance between for example ‘we have found…’ and ‘this is the case…’. We parted on reasonable terms.
That conversation with Ernie and Jan meant I missed a session which meaning that there was only a short amount of time before the session I was helping run with Nick Jackson. I focused on Mozilla’s Webmaker tools – X-Ray Goggles, Thimble, and Popcorn. I also mentioned Open Badges in passing. Nick introduced RoboMind which is a downloadable piece of software that introduces young people to programming in a Logo-type environment.
In the break-out rooms after the initial introduction (“more hack, less yack!”) I showed various people the Mozilla Webmaker tools whilst a few were additionally intrigued by Open Badges. One of the massive advantages of using the web as a platform is that it’s largely device-agnostic and usually free. Certainly the Mozilla Webmaker tools are which meant everyone could get started right away with pretty much whatever they had in front of them.
Unfortunately, I had to rush off straight after my session to catch the train to Devon to meet up with the rest of my family. Still, I think I managed to ask enough difficult questions and pique enough interest to make up for my absence tomorrow! I’m all for the meeting of minds and for a dialogue between vendors and educators. It just felt at times, from my (admittedly brief and limited) time at this event, it was a bit too much of a one-way conversation.