(That’s something I really like doing; I hate keynoters who parachute in to talk, then vanish. A key part of my speaking work is spending as much time interacting with people as possible. That benefits both myself and the client and the community involved, I think.)
I’d like to write some reflections here for two reasons. First, INTED was easily the most transnational conference for education that I’ve ever attended. Participants were from Europe, of course, but also Africa (north and subsaharan), Asia (central, east), the Americas (north, central, southern), and the Middle East (including Arab nations, Israel, and Iran). As one Twitter observer noted about a session I co-paneled:
This is way beyond any event I’ve seen in the US, and more representative than anything I’ve experienced in Europe. And this globalism is essential for any consideration of the future of education, as I’ve been saying for years.
Second, it was fascinating to see the variety of projects and ideas in play. So many trends. I’ll pull out some here.
Gaming: many examples of people using games for learning, or gamification for public good (public health, for one). One researcher is exploring games as content for fine arts classes and research. There was a hands-on game-making session I’m sorry I missed.
Social media: various projects making use of it, including having students write to Twitter in a new language, or inviting Chinese students in another country to use WeChat to improve their morale.
MOOCs: simply present in the ed tech space, without the hype crash America experienced. Interesting studies and projects, from using MOOCs on mobile devices to former colonies accessing courses created by their prior colonizers.
Mobile: as usual, pretty much every country is in advance of what American education is doing. Some similar problems, though, with different levels of mobile access (network and device).
Speaking of mobile, I met the delightful Gunnar Stefansson, who was showing his Education in a Suitcase project. This basically builds out a computer classroom on the fly, for people lacking both internet access and devices. The center is a small hard drive, crammed with math content and a Wikipedia download, plus a WiFi dongle. Gunnar hauls around 20 or so low-cost (i.e., Android) tablets, and has successfully used this in various remote locations in Kenya. Bravo!
Digital storytelling: not as much as in the US, possibly because American education tends to be more constructivist. But there was a good class from Jakarta State University, and a cool Israeli project having students make stories with Plotagon – interestingly, they needed no IT support to do so. Plotagon is easy, and the students used their smartphones.
Demographics: there was a multi-nation two-hour sequence on teaching technology to seniors. As I’ve been saying.
Outside of the conference, I was struck by a powerful instance of analog teaching technology. It was in front of the Valencia Cathedral, and seemed to be a scale model of that edifice:
Looking closer, I saw the model was made of metal – copper? – and wasn’t protected from weather or tourists. I could touch it.
Next to that model, I found another metal object covered in text – in braille.
I can’t read braille, and can’t tell who built it or when, but I inferred that this was an exhibit designed to explain the cathedral to people with visual impairments. Excellent.
Back to the conference: there was also a great deal of anxiety about the United States under trump.