Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference – Day 3 Summary

I am wondering where the time has gone. It only seems like a few short hours ago I was landing at Coolangatta Airport excited to be attending the conference. Now here I am back in New Zealand, no longer sleep deprived (I can SO understand why these things only happen every 2 years!!) and eagerly waiting for the 2014 conference. But first a recap of the last day…..

I chose to attend the keynote presentation from Joy Zabala – ‘Raising the Achievement Bar with Universal Design for Learning‘. Whilst it did have a specific focus on the education sector and the teachers in the room I got a lot out of it. After all we are all still learning and the skills are as applicable to a 5 year old as an 70 year old, an able-bodied person and someone with a disability.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a big topic and Joy did extremely well to distill it into a 90 minute slot. Basically UDL supports the design and implementation of a flexible, responsive curriculum that provides opportunities and reduces barriers in instruction. Its about providing appropriate accommodations, supports and challenges for individuals and important note here – appropriate is the key word. Joy gave the baby walking analogy to explain. When a baby is learning to walk we as parents hold both hands initially, then as confidence and skills develop we remove one hand then the other. Yes baby might fall over or stumble, but we don’t rush in and go back to step 1 right. We might hold one hand again for a short period then remove that support and before long baby is walking. UDL likes a graduated scaffolding approach to supports – only have the ones that are needed by the individual, not the ones we think they need.

There was some talk about the GPS approach to UDL. This is where we need to focus on the end destination and stop obsessing on how we get there. FANTASTIC! I think we all get locked into a certain way of doing things and whilst there may be a way that you want someone to achieve a goal, are different route that gets the same result is equally as valid and more importantly, person-centred. As an interesting aside, Steve Wozniack was in Auckland recently talking, and in a video clip of part of it he was saying a similar thing, its well worth watching (hopefully there are no geographic limitations on the clip). The place to go to find out more about UDL is their website – www.udlcenter.org

Quote of the session for me?

Nothing miraculous happens automatically when you put a child and a computer into the same room

The session I attended after morning tea was entitles ‘Helping Every Young Person to become Cybersmart and Cybersafe‘. It was run by  Greg Gebhart and focussed on what I would call the real basics and things I would assume most people would already know about – Cyber bullying, digital footprints, and excessive use. As it happens it was a flawed assumption. Most of the content is available from http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/ and there are some really good resources available on the site.

Outstanding session for me was the ePortfolios for Very High Needs Students run by the team from Kimi Ora school down in little old NaeNae (thats Wellington, capital of NZ for those of you overseas…). Now I may have a slight bias being a Kiwi and all, but the work these guys have done is amazing! Using Blogger they really have changed peoples lives in my opinion. They have established a tool that allows everyone that is important to an individual to be part of the conversation to assist and support them. And best of all to celebrate with them. Sitting in the back row it was really interesting to see peoples faces and listen to some of the side conversation going on – ‘Wow why didn’t we think of that’, ‘great idea we need to try it’ and so on and so on. Throwing Pinky bars and chocolate fish before lunch on the last day was a stroke of genius too!

The killer app?‘ was the final, formal session of the conference, led by Ian Bean from the UK. It was a humorous, reflective look back on some of the technologies that have been used, from the Apple II through to the modern iPad. Unfortunately Ian had to cut his session a little short, like more than a few of us he enjoyed the conference dinner and dancing a little too much and his voice was shot. He did manage to identify the killer app for us though, in great theatrical style that I think only he could achieve. The Killer App is YOU!

Thats right. There is no single piece of technology that will solve a problem. Its all in the people that use it, that support it and that make it happen. This has been one of the themes that has come out of the conference for me and I have had a number of conversations in breaks with people about the same thing. As Joy said in her session, handing a bit of tech to someone and then walking away won’t make it work or solve anything.

To all those involved and making the conference happen, the team at Spectronics, the sponsors, the speakers and most of all everyone that came together from across the world to make this conference as special and magical as it was I thank you. There are so many new friendships and connections made from the 3 days that I hope will be lasting and we can keep up the momentum of what has been an extraordinary few days (until ILT2014 anyway!!). It is not often you get to have so many people from different parts of the wider disability community together to share ideas and all with one goal – to make the lives of individuals better with a person-centred focus to the supports they need.

In Maori we have a saying that I think is a very fitting way to close off not only this blog post, but the conference as a whole

He aha te mea nui?

He tangata.

He tangata.

He tangata.

What is the most important thing?  It is people, it is people, it is people.

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