Monday, September 28, 2009

National ICT Conference

September 24, 25 and 26 encompassed the time I presented at the National ICT Conference in Durban, South Africa. All of the International presenters stayed at a lovely quest house where each morning we were served a cooked breakfast. From our balcony view we could see the city of Durban and the oceanfront. We also had an opportunity to be welcomed each day from the guesthouse surrounding treetops with monkeys. It was a quite a site to see as they swung from branch to branch and eventually landed on top of the guest house roof.

The conference was a joyous event to attend and present at. This countries culture was truly represented throughout, but especially the opening day and closing day ceremonies with a childrens choir singing the native songs and greeting all attendees, and closing of the attendees singing in true celebration of thankfulness. Bruce Dixon, was the opening keynote presenter, delivering a powerful message addressing reform initiatives that significantly improve the opportunities for learning through the use of technology. His keynote focus set the stage for many meaningful technology integration connections and extended collaborative opportunities throughout the next two days of workshop sessions for all.

The evening events included dining opportunities to experience the African cuisine which included kingclip, mussels, Kudu (antelope), oscterage, and crockidile. Many chocolate and cream decadent desserts were also served to complete the dinner courses. We also attended a dinner conference event where all attendees were invited and we experienced many global and Africa finger foods. To enhance the evenings dinner event we had African dancers that preformed us, and we too with the native clothing for the night, and danced as a large group with everyone to their cultural and ritual dance beat- it was marvelous. Music is the the universal language we can all understand and come together to celebrate as a nation.

I tried my best during my leadership sessions to video stream my presentations, and run a back channel chat back to the states but….. as you can imagine- the limited bandwidth and restrictive Internet access throughout Africa and conference arena were too limited to successfully stream the sessions. But on a positive note… the back channel chat worked very successfully, and immediately pulled in all conference attendees into a live online portal to instantly communicate and collaborate as a community. I used the tool Todays Meet tool, which the archived session can be found at

The workshop conversations and in-depth discussions with my attendees opened up my eyes to an all-new technology world. Did you know Africa was the last continent to gain access to television? This took place in 1974- wow this blew me away. Most of the school attendees that attended my workshop have one computer classrooms or a small lab environment, with extremely limited bandwidth- think of it as a computer lab where you recently trained in and each computer had to “dial up” to gain the connection. There were some exceptions though- some schools that attended now have 3G networks- equivalent to cell phones and multiple labs for technology integration to support their whiteboard initiatives.(The picture posted in the lab where I presented in- Not A Typical Lab though- this was computer lab was brought in by the Mustek Technology vendor to assist me for presentation purposes).

I also found it very- very interesting where most of the children in South Africa that attend a public school have cell phones. Cell phone plans in South Africa are relatively inexpensive- $70 Ran = $10 a month. And when you sign up for a cell phone plan the cell phones are free. Many teachers in this area are using the cell phone technology to their advantage and allowing them into the classroom as a teaching tool to enhance the teaching and learning environment. (Isn’t this a novel idea America educators and administrators!) Also, the teachers are listening to the student’s needs and innovative ideas of cell phone and developing projects and specific lessons with these tools. This is truly amazing! (Gerald Roos is noted in the photo, this was Gerald's profile view throughout the conference. He made sure everything was running smoothly and the cell phone technology was the quickest communication tool to find the right people to do the job).

I must say, I was truly blessed to have an opportunity to present in South Africa with the other international presenters and to meet the many unique and dynamic educators and administrators! The network opportunities were limitless and I learned so much from all of my attendees- especially to be more skilled with the native language, the history and culture of the country, and a new educational perspective of ICT literacy in South Africa.

I also want to thank at this time my gracious host, Gerald Roos, (see picture above) who also was the coordinator of the National ICT Conference. His extensive background technology knowledge, conference planning skills and organization contributed greatly to the conference’s overall success.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

South Africa Day #2

Today we ventured to the town of Hermanus in South Africa to go watch whales. It is their mating season right now and the whales are more incline to come into the shallow and coastal waters for breeding purposes. We had an opportunity to view the whales as they would breech- lunge up out of water and come crashing down. We also saw a few tail fins and their large mammoth heads and parts of their bodies covered in barnacles. The best part was hearing them reach the surface through their blowhole spurt out a spray of water before submerging back into the ocean again- it was truly breathtaking.

We continued onward with our journey back towards Capetown area and had a wonderful lunch at the Bodega Vineyard. The setting of this winery and restaurant was nestled backed within a lush floral valley and cascading mountainside- it was just breath taking and so relaxing. The Spanish decor of wrought iron accents, Tuscany rich rust and peach colors- accompanied with the cultural Spanish music took us back in time and almost to another place. Simply lovely. For lunch I tried something new- a seafood entree of a Kingclip- a white fish- complimented with a side and garnish of asparagus and sun dried tomatoes. The rich flavor and zesty seasonings of the food melted in my mouth. It was so simply wonderful!

After lunch we ventured on to two other winery's where we enjoyed wine and chocolate tasting- now I was surely in heaven. One of the winery's was owned by Ernie Elle's, famous PGA golf pro. This winery estate welcomed us with a hand laid bricked driveway and manicured lawn and landscapes. It was set back also into the rolling hillside- almost as if it was meant to be hidden from passerby's. Inside the winery the decor reflected the golf pro's many accomplishments with shiny large trophies, professional photos, and world champion golf scenes. My husband truly enjoyed this visit and was in his element.

We ended our lovely day with a home cooked curry mincemeat meal with Gerald, Elaine and Elaine's mother. This was a dish neither I nor my husband have had before. To compliment our main meal we had a side dish of rice, fresh green
peppers/tomatoes, and sliced ripe bananas. We also added a tablespoon of chutney to the curry mince meat as a condiment- it truly enhanced the overall experience of the homemade entree- which was just marvelous. My husband and I feel so welcome in their home and they have accommodated so graciously- we are so very thankful to have this new family as part of our lives this week and year's to come.

Tomorrow we are going to have a quiet morning and perhaps venture out in the early afternoon to the botanical gardens, before we need to catch our evening flight to Durban to prepare for the conference.

Monday, September 21, 2009

South Africa Day #1

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to share with all of you Day 1 of our adventures in South Africa. Gerald Roos so kindly guided our adventures to the southern points of interest in South Africa where we had the opportunity to experience the most beautiful views and scenery in the world. Our day long vehicle and cable car journey took us down the coastline to view both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, penguins, a few whales, seals, baboons and beautiful plants and flowers. Oh yes, and by the way, we had lovely midpoint stops for tea and decadent desserts- as a must! The slideshow below tells our story more than my words can say ~ enjoy.

Tomorrow we are off to go on a whale watching excursion :-) So tune in for more stories photos to showcase our adventures in South Africa!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Preparing for the Journey to Africa

I am excited to share with you that in exactly one week that I will be traveling to South Africa to present at the National ICT Classroom Conference. I am thrilled and honored to be one of six International speakers and workshop leaders at this conference. I would like to personal thank Gerald Roos for inviting me to this conference and for providing me the opportunity to share my technology integration expertise, and my passion for facilitating and supporting 21st century teaching and learning environments. Gerald has also done a fabulous job organizing this technology conference with his fellow ICT team members and the Durban Girls College facility and hosting representatives.

21st Century ICT literacy topics I will be presenting on include the following:
  1. Web 2.0 Literacy Tools to Transform Teaching and Learning
  2. Be Seen ~ Be Heard: Educational Podcasting for the School Environment
  3. Transforming Teaching and Learning with Interactive Whiteboards
  4. Starting the Conversation: Social Networking to Enhance Communication
  5. Global Collaboration Projects: Open the Door to New Friends from Faraway Places
Each sectional presentation will be video streamed, embedded with a live back channel chat for immediate global reflection and guest interaction, and archived for future retrieval of content information. I will also be posting my electronic handouts through my Box.Net shared widget on my blog, so please feel to download the content I am presenting to share with your district or university staff members.

I will try my best to blog daily about the events, presentations and sights and scenes I will come in contact with to share with all of you as well. So check back often- as there will be many updates in the next two weeks.

Naomi Harm