On November 20th I attended the Digitally Confident Conference organised by my old colleagues at Northern Grid. Knowing how much time and effort goes it to organising these conferences, and knowing that the team are committed to making them as useful as possible, my expectations were high. I wasn’t disappointed.
The day started with a chance to look round the exhibition, which featured a wide range of commercial providers, along with bacon sandwiches and coffee. It was a chance to revisit products I already knew along with many new offerings.
The conference itself began with an introduction to all of the speakers, experts from around the country who all share a passion for technology and the most important thing, a knowledge of how it can be used in practice. Not all were practicing teachers, but all work with schools, teachers and children regularly and understand the challenges of using technology to make a difference to teaching and learning.
Tim Ryland’s (@TimRylands) keynote introduced the themes of the conference:
There were lots of useful observations about how technology can be used along with many suggested resources. It will take some time to go through them all but I know there will be lots that I will find useful in my work with teachers and pupils. Tim’s blog at http://www.timrylands.com is updated every day with a new suggestion so I’ve now subscribed for updates.
Sarah Neild (@sarahneild) worked alongside Tim and updated the blog with details of their sessions at the conference http://www.timrylands.com/2013/11/20/digitally-confident-conference-newcastle-upon-tyne/
There were lots of workshops to choose from, each one featuring two presenters with 15 minutes each, this format works well and ensures that presenters focus on the most useful aspects of their topic. All the sessions I attended were great and from what I heard from other delegates this was true of all the workshops, fortunately most of the speakers are on twitter or have blogs so hopefully I’ll be able to use these to find out about the sessions I couldn’t attend on the day.
I started with Mark Clarkson (@mwclarkson) and Chris Wilde (@chriswilde78) with their session on coding and computing. I’ve seen them both before and this session was just as informative, practical and engaging as I’ve come to expect from them. I especially enjoyed Chris’s overview of the work he’s doing in schools using electronics and robots.
He has a great Prezi online which shows lots of his work and shows how much fun computing can be.
Mark’s website with lots of useful ideas at http://mwclarkson.co.uk/
After coffee I went to see Dawn Hallybone (@dawnhallybone) and Julian S Wood (@ideas_factory) who shared ideas about collaboration and writing using online tools. Again I was busy making notes about resources I hadn’t come across before, and a few I’d forgotten about. Fortunately they shared links to their blogs and lists of resources at the end:
My final workshop of the day was with Carol Allen (@caroljallen) and Simon Ripley (@WoodlawnHead) their focus is on special needs but what they say is relevant to all teachers and all pupils. They reinforced the most important message of all: always start with the child then focus on communication and having fun. They gave lots of examples of how technology is being used to enhance the experiences of the children they work with. Again they suggested lots of useful resources, many of these can be found at https://www.facebook.com/InclusionforALL
The whole day was excellent, alongside the official sessions there were lots of opportunities to meet up with old friends and make some new ones. During the day the suggested resources came thick and fast and I now have a list of quality resources that will be invaluable when schools ask me for support.