I attended the Welsh Government’s first National Learning Event and Awards on June 20th in Cardiff. The aim of the event was to raise the profile of digital learning in Wales and I think it’s fair to say that the event did just that. Janet Hayward, chair of the National Digital Learning Council who has been seconded from Cadoxton Primary School, got the ball rolling.
Janet set the scene for the day by reminding us of a few key points
Next up was Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Minister for Education and Skills, whose passion for the integration of technology in education was clear to see. He spoke about the very significant investment in the infrastructure to support digital learning in Wales. He highlighted the importance of a good broadband network for schools, something that is still very much an issue for many schools here in Ireland.
More importantly Leighton spoke about the need to open up social media in schools in order to harness the technology that students use in their everyday lives and also to educate them on their appropriate use.
Both speakers referred to Hwb, the Learning Platform, whose tagline is to Find, Make, Use, Share. The platform is in its early stages and it’ll be interesting to see it develop over the coming months and years.
Next up was the breakout sessions led by Ewan McIntosh, Steve Wheeler, Tim Rylands and Russell Prue. If I had one criticism of the day it’s that I really didn’t want to have to choose just one of these sessions! I had heard Ewan and Steve speak at previous conferences so I chose Tim and Russell as my preferences and was allocated to Russell’s session titled ‘Engaging Young people with Live Radio’. To be honest I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for but we arrived in the Leckwith suite to be told that we were preparing for a live radio programme transmission in less than an hour!! Russell spoke about the need to teach our students that there isn’t always an undo button – something we learned as we prepared for the different segments of our live transmission. We were split into five groups based on where we sat as we entered the room.
I ended up on the News team and we also had teams tasked with providing an introduction and wrap up, a sports segment, the weather and finally a team to report specifically on the conference. We had half an hour to prepare for our rehearsal and a further half an hour before the live transmission. Once the task was put out there we just got on with it in a way that surprised me. As a news team we decided on four topics – an international, national and local segment as well as a tie in to the conference.
Early on in the session Russell asked for a technician from each group so I volunteered for this as a way of avoiding having a speaking part!! The technicians job was to cue the intro and outtro music and to switch on and off the mics. I really enjoyed seeing this side of the process. Soon it was time for the rehearsal which was pretty good considering we’d had less than half an hour to prepare. After the rehearsal we had a quick chat on how we could tighten up on the overall segment by providing links within teams and across the different segments. It’s amazing how quickly you can add a bit of polish to something especially when you know the clock is ticking. Then it was time for the real deal for which we had a steady 21-22 listeners with interaction via text and tweet. You can listen back to the podcast and download Russell’s handouts here. I really enjoyed Russell’s workshop and judging by the tweets from other sessions they were equally as thought provoking.
Next up was a panel session with Ewan, Steve, Tim and Russell. During this session topics such as thinking toolboxes, digital inequality, experiential learning, BYOD, breaking down the barriers between tradional subjects and digital residents vs. visitors were all discussed. Two of the points discussed at the session really seemed to grab people’s attention
After lunch came the awards for best Digital Content aimed at ages 3-11, 11-16 and 16-19. There were 4 or 5 teachers shortlisted in each category with the awards going to
- Alison Howells and Gareth Dacey from Cwmclydach school in the 3-11 age group
- Duncan Wilson from Bro Gwaun in the 11-16 age group
- Dave Stacey from Olchfa in the 16-19 age group
The final session of the day was a breakout session. I attended the session led by Gareth Ritter and Sarah Williams titled ‘Emerging technologies for teaching and learning’. During the hands on workshop Gareth and Sarah shared their experiences of using apps such as NearPod, an app which allows teachers to control the content on their students apple devices and Aurasma, an augmented reality app. Both are definitely worth a look. Gareth also displayed his ‘Apple’ keyboard constructed from a Makey Makey kit.
It was a very thought provoking and enjoyable event. The Welsh Government have taken a very proactive and hands-on approach to Digital Learning so it will be interesting to see how this will develop over the coming years.
The archive of tweets from the event can be found here.