Manager, IT & Media Services attended the International 1 to 1 Notebook Conference at the Westin Hotel in Sydney 31 May-1 June 2004. Looking for answers to mundane questions in relation to the use of portable computers at the University of Canberra, the conference was challenging and truly inspirational in expanding thinking about how computers could be used in teaching and learning.
The conference opened with a presentation from Seymour Pappert, cofounder of the Media Lab at MIT and some say the father of educational computing. He challenged the audience, of educators and administrators from all levels of education from throughout Australia and New Zealand, to look far enough ahead to see that technology will change education fundamentally, as it did with arithmetic when the Roman numerical system gave way to the Arabic. He asked his audience not to think about what to teach on Monday, but about where teaching is leading us.
Pappert believes that the debate about whether staff and students should use portable computers is a silly debate: in a few years everyone as prices drop and power increases will have access to powerful portable devices and this will change fundamentally the way students and staff interact. We need to get into the future now.
The second keynote was present by Angus King, former Governor of the State of Maine in the US. In 2002 during Governor King's term in office, he introduced the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (http://www.state.me.us/mlti/), a program of each year providing every seventh grade public school student in the state with a portable computer. The program, which he describes as an education program not a technology program, is now in its third year so all students in grades seven through nine throughout the state now have computers.
King is an excellent speaker with the politician's gift for the voice grab: one of my favourites was "You don't get ahead by keeping up". He also told a meaningful story about a Canadian ice hockey player, Wayne Ritski, who when asked how come he scored so many goals, he said "Because I go to where the puck is going to be, not where it is".
The third keynote, The Case for Computing, was presented by Gary Stager, Adjunct Professor of Eduction, Pepperdine University. Stager's presentation focused on the need to create a culture of technology throughout an institution, compelling staff and students to embrace it or be left out. He argued that professional development was not an answer, PD gave people solutions to problems they didn't know they had. What was more important was creating demand in a supportive and appropriately resourced environment: professional development happens in an environment that allows it to happen.
The final keynote was presented by Paul Papageorge, Senior Director, Education Marketing for Apple Computer. He explained how Apple partnered with the State of Maine to introduce the Notebook program there, covering not just technology but project management, consultation, support, installation and advice.
There were also six breakout slots over the two days of the Conference that covered Teaching and Learning, Leadership, Technical, and Hands-on streams. The technical streams covered case studies from schools and universities, security, wireless infrastructure, SOE (Standard Operating Environment) management, and Apple's IT infrastructure within the corporation itself.