I won’t lie. I was skeptical that the ADE conference was sure to be more of an Apple marketing conference than a educational transformation conference. I mean, could one of the larget corporate giants, and most recognizeable brands pull off a conference that wasn’t a sell-a-thon for their products? These were questions preimminent on my mind entering the first conferenc session on the first night of the conference. I was happy to say as the next 5 days unfolded, this skepticism never had a chance.
I am just back from the 2011 Class of the Apple Distinguished Educator Conference and I thought I would post some reflections about the experience before it becomes a distant memory. What startedFirst, let me start by saying this is the first tech conference that I have attended in along time that I did not walk away from feeling like it sucked. Much of the time as a tech facilitator, I go to tech conferences and leave very uninspired by what I see and hear in conference sessions. It is much of the same old stuff-how to blog, make a webpage, wikis-Did you know you can have multiple editors on one site, learn how to turn on a computer, email-the greatest thing ever, and so on. This was simply not the case at the ADE 2011 Conference. With the collection of some of the very finest educators in Asia all coming together to share ideas and collaborate on best uses of technology practice in education, the “same-old, same-old” just never seemed like a possibility. At one point it reminded me of a day of kitesurfing with friends where you push each other to go bigger and higher and try new tricks. The whole time hooting and hollering (and there was a lot of both) at each others successes and wipe-outs.
There were several standout moments to the ADE conference that really transformed the whole experience for me. The keynotes, ranging in topics, from presentation skills, to improv and acting, to branding an image for yourself, to photography and film making were all excellently done. Each of the presenters were great story tellers and it is another testament to the power of narrative that they we able to be so impactful. During the conference there were two group projects that we participated in and that led to the production of a learning artifact. The first, a light hearted tromp around greater Saigon, was a scavenger hunt of sorts. All the groups needed to find as many of the 50 items that were on a list that the ADE Advisory Board had preselected. We were given an iPod touch in which to document our progress and which to make an iMovie on the iPod touch. Editing in iMovie on a mobile device was new for most of us and did present its callenges as a collaborative editing tool. But, the point of the exercise-to get out and see some of Saigon that we might not be able to otherwise and to bond with someother ADE’s from other parts of Asia was a success. My group had a blast doing this and we produced a very nice film of our day that went on to take the 2nd place award.
The second project was the Saigon 360 project. In this one, we were free to pick whichever group we wanted and we were to select a topic that was relevant to something happening in Saigon that we could take back to our schools either as a unit idea or a possible spring board for other units or lessons. I had the pleasure of working with fellow collegue Patrick McMahon and Colin Gallagher (Colin has written a great post about our project HERE). What started out for my group as a redux of the Vietnam War classic, Apocalypse Now, ended out being more of a trip into The Heart of Darkness. Our team got sidetracked and had to regroup our efforts. If problem based learning was the objective, we emmerssed ourselves in it, no wait, we wallowed in it. For more than an hour we reshuffled everything, we questioned everything, and we redid…EVERYTHING. In the end, we produced a much more thought provoking short film about the films influence (Vietnam War movies to be more exact) on the perceptions of Vietnam. We interviewed people at the War Remnants Museum and then taking clips and stills from various Vietnam war movies were able to piece together a movie that did this topic justice. In the end, I think we were all grateful that we abandonedour original idea for something a littl emore meaty and meaningful. Thanks again, Jane Ross! The greatest reward was the conversation our piece generated afterwards. Needless to say, I think we kindo of surpised ourselves with what we had produced.
In the end, what stood out most about this “technology conference” was how much the technology got out of the way. It was the personal connections, and the networking among people I didn’t know a week ago, but now consider peers. It was about pushing my comfort zone, going beyond it, and ultimately coming out a better educator for it. It was exploring new ideas and and hearing what other educators are doing in their schools. It is 3 days after the conferenc eended and I am still following the ADE Twitter Tag #ADE. One person tweeted the “what if we started a school with the 60 ADE educators that were at the conference…” Now this, this is an idea worth following.