Adrian Hall, who, as a civil servant, brought the worlds of mobile ICT and computer gaming into the then staid corridors of the Department for Education and Skills, has left ICT distributor Steljes where he was a director since leaving the department two years ago.
Adrian's role had been to help Steljes develop a schools “market” for handheld computing and games. But despite some initial head way, including negotiating one of the UK's first fixed-price contracts for unlimited 3G data use for mobile phones (with Vodafone), Steljes pulled back from this area in the autumn. “While the recession and changes in the ways schools purchase ICT and services, are causing serious concerns for education companies, there is more demand than ever for innovation for teaching and learning,” says Adrian. “You only have to look at the successful classroom work in Scotland that is being inspired by Derek Robinson and the Consolarium to realise that learning is changing. But is it changing quickly enough?”
The gap between the rate of change in young people's experiences with ICT in their everyday lives and with ICT in their school lives was one of the key themes at The Digital Learning Conversation conference held recently in Hollywood, USA, where Adrian was a presenter.
Adrian demonstrated some creative and innovative new technologies developed in the UK, including:
Little Bridge, the English language teaching software from Manic Monkey: This product uses a 3D virtual world and engaging activities to help learners of English as an additional language. What the American audience really liked about this product, as well as the fun graphics and 3D virtual reality, was the storytelling approach that Manic Monkey has adopted in their development.
Edit TV, a patented video icon-tagging tool from Edit TV. This product still in development will enable users to be able to tag sections of video with a relevant pictorial icon then other users will be able to search for similar video clips using the icon as a way of navigating through masses of content. The educators in the audience clearly saw the benefits of this tool and in particular its use for recording and presenting good examples of teaching. This approach fits in with a pilot Edit are undertaking looking at the use of their tool in continuing professional development.
Moviestorm, a machinima tool from Shortfuze. This freely available movie making tool blends the worlds of games and film making enabling users to make amongst other things music videos and short films which render to a high quality end product. Just the ease of use and end result make this a really compelling product. The company are currently looking at how they work within the education field as this was not their original intended market. Well worth taking a look at some of the films users have produced.
Random Activity Generator (RAG) by John Davitt, a beta version of an iPhone/iPod application which, when you shake your iPhone, it randomly generates an activity (curriculum related) which determines what student/students need to demonstrate. For example, "Demonstrate why the dinosaurs died out - as an impressionistic painting". This is work in progress but the response from the American educators was very enthusiastic, many of them are currently thinking about starting projects with either the iPhone or the iPod Touch and are looking for interesting new and innovative content to utilise the full potential of the devices.
"One session also looked at a Bill of Rights for children and technology," said Adrian Hall."Converge/eRepublic’s vision is that they want to create this technology entitlement for children and this event kick started this process. So it was looking at what students should expect from their education and technology.
"The other presenter-led session at the event included:
- "Mark Siegel, who is responsible for the New Oregon Diploma and the Oregon Small School Initiaitve. Mark spoke about how many US states, school districts, and school boards are moving away from state standards and looking at proficiency-based education. Proficiency is the basis of the New Oregon Diploma. A very interesting and thought provoking presentation and discussion.
- "Matt Federhoff, Director of Technology at the Vail School District in Arizona who has been one of the driving forces behind the complete digitization of the school. The school hit the headlines for doing away with textbooks putting them online and giving all students their own laptop. Matt talked about the transition phase and where they are now. They have developed a wiki like approach building up a bank of online lesson plans and linked resources which teachers can use or add to to enable them to teach all the necessary elements of the state standards.
"Rowan Trollope, senior vice president, consumer products at Symantec, talked about how he got into working with what was then Norton Antivirus, how the world of security has changed from early viruses being mischievous, and to a situation where they are now developed by professional criminals for profit.
- "Ben Hope, CIO of the Fox Network Group, discussed how technology had transformed the work of the film, television and even the theme park business. Many parallels could be drawn with education and the potential of technology. Interestingly the underlining message was to use technology appropriately and where it makes a difference. He gave examples, such as how the film industry has changed the way it shoots different sections of film internationally, and then reviews and revises at base before ordering reshooots, to how theme parks are now using biometrics to prevent fraud."
The event overall was a great success, said Adrian, particularly because it was a conversation rather than a typical presentation-led conference. Once the speakers had started the conversation the audience members were free to ask questions, disagree or debate the issues raised. This meant that the nature of the presentations then took on a life of their own: "So in just over a day and half a lot of very interesting ground was covered, as well as a very healthy debate about some of the key issues facing education."
The Digital Learning Conversation conference