On November 14, 2012, EDIT202 students were invited to the annual ATLE (Alberta Technology Leaders in Education) Convergence 2012 conference that took place at Edmonton’s Mayfair Inn. Upon accepting the invite, I have to admit I did not have a concrete idea as to what to anticipate. When considering their tagline “Supporting Education Through The Convergence Of Learning, Leadership and Technology”, I somewhat expected to be lectured on the manner in which technology can be utilized to compliment/supplement learning and leadership. To be completely honest, I anticipated the evening to be as dry as the wine that had been promised, but was instead pleasantly surprised when it ended up being quite the contrary.
Unexpected from the onset, though rather trivial, was the amount of prizes that were doled out at the ATLE conference. It was very evident that there had been some very diligent organizers rallying together to provide a fun and rewarding experience. While I wasn’t as lucky as to win the Apple Mini iPad or Playstation III, among other things, I’m sure those that did were very appreciative. Although the prelude of prizes, introductions, and acknowledgements was a little lengthy, it nonetheless remained a novel part of the evening.
As for the keynote speech, which followed the opening activities and announcements, it was surprisingly light-hearted and thought-provoking at the same time. While there were certain elements that were perhaps slightly too typically motivational for my taste, it was exceptionally delivered, entertainingly coherent and ultimately quite inspiring. The keynote speaker, Drew Dudely, opened his talk by asking all the people who viewed themselves as leaders to put up their hands. Despite being in a room largely filled with teachers, very few individuals identified themselves as leaders. Drew Dudely used this interesting observation to emphasize how society today tends to celebrate singular exceptional successes (e.g. gold medal in the Olympics), while exceptional “everyday” accomplishments are dismissed.
To illustrate this tendency, the speaker supported it with a story that involved a nervous young girl on her first day of university and a lollipop. To make a long story short (see video for the full narrative), Drew Dudely had been thanked by the girl in question, four years after he had had a brief interaction with the girl, her parents, and another male individual in the university registration line-up. Apparently it was in that seemingly trivial moment of contact that the girl changed her mind about dropping out of university, and instead ended up staying and ultimately marrying the other individual, who was indirectly introduced to her by a comedic exchange (initiated by Drew Dudely) revolving around a lollipop.
The reason this story was shared, was to basically illustrate how vital a simple and outwardly insignificant act can potentially be. Although there were various steps, tips and goals, as well as other stories that followed, I appreciated this one the most for its simplicity and its encouragement to be aware of the possible “lollipop moments” in everyday events, as well as be thankful for those from which one has benefited. I walked away, not necessarily having learnt something new, but rather encouraged to handout “lollipops” (perhaps both figuratively and literally :)), especially as a future educator.
Once the speech concluded, we were directed to the trade centre, where the ATLE website promised we would find “the largest education vendor exhibition hall ever seen in Alberta – nearly 100 vendors in more than 130 booths”. Upon walking in, I definitely was impressed at the expansiveness of the displays. Among two of the various vendors approached, were Canon and ImagineLEarning. I was naturally drawn to Canon, due to my love of photography and appreciation for Canon’s existence in my academic life. There, I talked to Matthew Thomson and Daniel Goulet, who while initially were rather distracted, as they appeared to be still in the midst of setting up, but were also quick to introduce me to the Canon Camera/Print kit for educators. This kit not only included six Power Shot A2200 camera and two Selphy CP800 photo printers, but also six SD cards, four ink/paper sets and one carrying case to conveniently house all the aforementioned items. From personal experience, I immediately recognized many different ways this kit could supplement classroom related activities. For example, it would be ideal to utilize at a historical site for a highschool geared scavenger hunt, encouraging students to capture significant landmarks etc.
At the trade centre, I also wanted to approach lesser-known vendors to learn about products with which I was less familiar. One such booth, manned by a Malcolm McCance, was that of ImagineLearning. ImagineLearning basically is a language and literacy software solution that offers a multitude of games, stories and activities to assist English learners and readers. While originally it appeared to be for elementary students, it was interesting to discover that it is actually also an ideal resource for ESL learners and students with disabilities. It was in that moment that I realized that despite my focus is on becoming a secondary school teacher, I have to be aware of software/products/services catering to earlier grade levels, as they might be helpful to certain learners, even in later stages of life. I, therefore, could imagine this software solution being offered even in high school, so that students could strengthen their literacy and English knowledge. While the somewhat juvenile interface does appeal more to a younger audience, I still could envision it possibly being utilized in an after/in-school high school ESL program. Overall, I think this vendor proved to be a good reminder not to immediately limit a resource at first glance.
I want to quickly mention one more vendor – Adobe Systems Canada Inc. I actually visited Adobe’s booth earlier in the day, when they were set up in University of Alberta’s North Education building. There, I had the chance to talk to a very passionate Janet Gregory, who introduced me to Adobe’s foundation – Youth Voices. Since I was already very familiar with Adobe’s software offerings, I was pleasantly surprised that Janet Gregory introduced me to something new and exciting, especially from an educators vantage point. Adobe Youth Voices essentially “aims to empower youth in underserved communities around the globe with real-world experiences and 21st century tools to communicate their ideas, exhibit their potential, and take action in their communities…. (Its) global network currently includes more than 750 sites and a large, expanding number of grantees and organizations in 50 countries. Since its inception, Adobe Youth Voices has engaged over 150,000 youth and 8,200 educators in schools and out-of-school programs.” Overall, for me personally, I have always had a great appreciation for Adobe software, and this foundation is simply the icing on the proverbial cake. Because it was such superb “icing”, however, I just had to share it…