Sunday, August 16, 2015

Observations of my first ICICTE conference

International Conference on Information Communication Technologies in Education (ICICTE) held in Kos, Greece, July 9-11, 2015

 (blog photos credit:  Marie Louise Kold, Conference Photographer and Artist)
I have had a copy of the ICICTE conference’s call for papers for many years on my pegboard at work.  However, I’ve been loving attending the Advanced Association of Computing in Education (AACE) conferences over the last six years, and while this year the AACE conference was in Montreal, PQ, I decided to give the AACE conference a miss and try a similar kind of conference in a country I am growing to love: Greece.

This year, because of its political bankruptcy situation, going to Greece was a bit of a concern for me.  News reports warned of travellers not being able to access cash from bank machines and were advised to carry cash.  I worried that tourists like me would be targeted and I would be susceptible to robbery.  I wondered what the mood of the locals would be like, but the beauty of the landscape, the language, the food, and the learning opportunities drew me like no other place draws me.  After weeks of planning a conference workshop with a colleague, no last minute plans were made to interrupt our voyage, and to Greece we went.

Our first stop was on a little island just a 20-minute ferry boat ride from the island of Kos.  The island, Kalymnos, where we spent four nights was a perfect location to acclimatize to the time change and the pace of life.  We practiced our workshop parts on the beach and in cafĂ©’s meeting other internationals and indulging on fine Greek cuisine. We explored the island one day learning of its many hidden caves perfect for climbers from around the world to visit and scuba divers like me to explore beneath the sea.

After our sojourn on this beautiful island and port city of Portia, we made our way back to Kos to join the conference delegates from major places like Greece, the UK, Australia, the US, and three others from BC.  The conference numbers are small (i.e. 75), but hearts are big.  The main organizers are like a family and many have been on the Steering Committee for over 15 years.  With such a small number of delegates many opportunities present themselves for rich conversations that deepen because of the frequency you see others who share the same passion as you in educational technologies.  I’ve never had such richness of conversations at any other conference.  Yes, the back chanelling like with any conference is done, but at ICICTE almost every other delegate is a presenter and meeting this kind of fellow presenter and researcher was just the icing on the cake.  At last year’s conference in Tempere, Finland, a similar phenomenon began because of my involvement in the presenting community, but this year there was something even more special which occurred. 

Luckily, my co-presenter, Lisa and I got to present on the first day.  I think I’m lucky because bringing all the energy and ideas into the first day helped me to relax on my topic and spend the next two days absorbing other topics around me.  Meeting at the social events focused on “shop talk” because we all knew we had the same experiences in common.  Ideas abounded as we chatted on topics we were passionate about.  In addition, we could take in the beauty of the resort and conference centre (Neptune) where ICICTE took place, and even the beach at Mastichari where the final dinner was held.  Such a fine location and food were a perfect spot for us to build knowledge.  The Conference Director, Nancy, used her special gifts to find this location, and will be doing the same for the next location for 2016.

Three key workshops I’m reviewing are on the following topics, problem solving, scaffolding, academic citations, and engagement in online support for face-to-face students.  Having connections with people who have done research on topics on which I am interested will help me to build a topic of investigation for the 2015-2016 school year.  With a focus on how to support learning in my classrooms, I will have more to contribute at the next ICICTE conference.

Some ideas I’m considering are how to help students make use of my office hours remotely as I have found that students that find time to get feedback understand the content better and more deeply.  Although our students at BCIT are time challenged (who isn’t), having access to an instructor remotely reduces travel time and they can “pop” into office hours through skype or facetime.  Having the opportunity to a conference event called "Philosopher's Cafe" really helped to solidify all of the ideas that were swirling around in my head after three days of sessions and conversations.

In our workshop Lisa and I and the attendees discussed issues of challenges and benefits of incorporating educational technologies into our classrooms and looked for similarities internationally in any classroom.  We found time was the major challenge for early adopters and getting buy in from students to try new ways to enhance learning.  We produced an asset and registered the document under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License and shared the results of our findings freely with the conference participants.

In all, the ICICTE 2015 conference was a worthwhile experience visually, academically, personally, and I look forward to making contributions to the ICICTE proceedings in the future.