The theme this year at the MassCue Conference was Global Connections & Digital Learning. As I am Irish but currently living in Boston, this theme resonated deeply with me. I believe that making connections with others, near and far, has become an essential part of making progress in the world of education. These connections are not just for teachers to make. We should involve students, principals, parents, superintendents, vendors, tech specialists, speakers and researchers in the process. For me, MassCue was a perfect example of how to connect everyone. People from all corners of education were in attendance and ready to connect and learn. I was very excited to take part both as a vendor with 30hands Learning and as a presenter talking about digital storytelling and Ancient History. And, as I have a background in High School teaching, I felt right at home with all of the like-minded educators and EdTech enthusiasts.
What a place!
The venue itself is a sight to behold. MassCue is held in the New England Patriot’s home the Gillette Stadium. Not that I’m a huge sports fan if I’m honest, but I could certainly appreciate what a spectacular place this was. This was the view I had for my 30hands Learning presentation on Engaging Students in Ancient History through Digital Storytelling! So the setting alone got people pumped for the 2 days of connecting and learning.
Who was there?
In attendance was a wide range of EdTechie types. From hundreds of vendors eager to share their unique creations with the world, to thousands of teachers enthusiastic to share experiences, learn from others and see what cool technology is out there. We even had a speech from a 10 year old student who, with a very sophisticated presentation style and whimsical sense of humor, was reaching out to teachers to bring more tech into their lessons. If that’s not going to resonate with educators, what will? It’s this sense of collaboration between students, teachers and vendors that I think needs to be nourished and cultivated. All voices must be heard if we are to take the education system to that new tech-alicious stratosphere so many crave.
Why we need to collaborate and connect
I believe that technology does have the power to bring us to a new era in education. However, it is not a simple matter of filling our classrooms with laptops and new techie tools et voilá, everything is better. At the end of the day, it’s still the pedagogy that matters. How we use the technology to better our student’s learning is a crucial factor that we must not overlook. So many teachers really want to find the right tools and work out what is the best way of doing things in the time they are given. Their issue is that they are overwhelmed as there is just so much out there. Which Learning Management System is the best? Does this tool integrate with Google Classroom? Is it user friendly? Will the students like the look and feel? What is the price? Why is this product better than the one I have already? And most importantly, does it actually support learning? It can be hard for a teacher to tell what tool is going to work well in their lessons without testing them in their own classrooms, a time consuming endeavor if you are going to do this with a wide range of new tools and applications. The next best option? Connecting with vendors and other teachers at conferences and other events.
Strolling around the exhibits, I could see how much work and creativity had gone into all of the various innovations at hand. An event like MassCue is a stellar opportunity for teachers to speak with vendors about their needs and also to learn exactly what is involved when incorporating their tools into lessons. A number of teachers approached me at the 30hands exhibit saying they had heard good things about our products and ideas from other teachers and wanted to come to find out more. Others lit up with excitement when I was telling them about our new web app, 30hands Storyteller Web. They could actually ask me the questions they wanted and we could clearly communicate about their needs. If they had a suggestion for our app that we hadn’t thought of, we would jot it down in our ‘to do’ list. So for the vendors, the conference gives them an opportunity to learn from teachers about how they might use their product. A win-win situation for all involved.
And finally there were the presentations. Yet another opportunity for the various attendees to share something new or innovative with each other. I could sense the enthusiasm from the teachers and attendees during my presentation and we all learned something from each other throughout the session.
Let’s take the next step to global connections
I believe connecting doesn’t have to stop in your local town or city. I am from Ireland and I have learned so much from spending time working in the EdTech sphere over here in Boston. I bet there are many other education enthusiasts who could learn so much from connecting with others across the globe. So my advice? Attend as many events as you can – near and far! If you go on vacation to another city or state, see what’s going on there. If you go abroad, look up what education events are held nearby. You’d be surprised to see how much is going on elsewhere too. And don’t forget to connect with others on Twitter and Facebook – this can be a great way to learn about new classroom techniques and cool tools from all over the globe. Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you!
We offer free 30-day trials and school level discounts for 30hands Storyteller Web. Try it out today at http://30handsWeb.com.
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