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School Net ICT South Africa Conference Reflections

Life has been quite crazy for me over the last three weeks delivering  21st Century Skills Institute in northern WI, to attending and presenting at ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia, and this past week presenting a keynote and five hands-on technology workshops at the School Net South Africa ICT Conference.  So here is a recap of the exciting events over the past three weeks........

21st Century Skills Institute in northern Wisconsin for administrators and K-12 educators.
What a fun packed week focusing on integrating 21st century skills, web 2.0 literacy tools and resources into teacher created digital projects.  It was great to see how this week inspired educators to take risks, improve their technology literacy skills, and transform their instructional delivery with the integration of technology infused lesson.  I at times had more fun than the participants I believe watching and listening to the energy in the room and through their product presentations.
The last week of June brought me to the national conference of ISTE in Philadelphia, PA. As I landed and headed towards my hotel, I could smell the cheese sizzling in the distance from a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. This was on my to-do list as a must for this week and I captured a few pictures of my “walk-about” to the local Reading Terminal Market where I purchased my sandwich from a local dinner, purchased homemade chocolate from the candy counter and scoured over the fresh fish market all with  this market terminal- it was amazing!

ISTE was a huge success for professional development opportunities and networking for many, where others were overwhelmed by the amount of session opportunities that were made available to them. One must come with a dedicated game plan when attending ISTE to maximize the learning potential at this huge venue.  Due to I interviewed many educators in the Intel Education booth during the conference, I had little chance to attend sessions this time, but made sure to tap into the “twitter noise” of the #ISTE2011 twitter back channel to stay abreast of the virtual shares. I did get to run into some great teacher friends of Scott Floyd from Texas, David Jakes, Scott Meech, Dan Merryman and  Steve Dembo from Illinois in passing, Chad Lehman from Wisconsin in passing, Annette Smith, Kathy and Steve Sanders, and Sandra Heiden from WI volunteering at the ISTE event and countless others.  It is always great to see such friendly faces and especially at these events to share new learning adventures.

On to week three of nonstop travel and training takes me back to South Africa and the city of Johannesburg.  I had the opportunity to be the keynote presenter and present five hands-on workshop sessions at the School Net ICT conference. We also had the great opportunity to go on a safari at the beginning of our stay, and many adventures to follow. 

Day 1- Arrival to Johannesberg, South Africa after a 21 hour flight with a few connections.  Ok enough said- this wears anyone out with being on a plane for this long, and with a seven hour time change I and my husband were now lacking sleep and needed to acclimate to the time zone difference. We arrived in the evening to Johannesburg by 5PM, which was 10AM central time in Minnesota and greeted by Omashina, School Net representative who picked us up at the airport to take us to the Sunnyside Park Hotel.  The historic hotel was absolutely beautiful and very stately.
We had a few minutes to freshen up and met up with the School Net conference committee by 6:30PM for a meet and greet at dinner, and had the wonderful opportunity to meet “finally” Jane Hart in person.  Jane Hart Twitter: @clpt has been my social media networking mentor for over five years, even though she did not realize what an impression she has made upon me. She is just as kind and genuine in person as she is online. It was also great having face-to-face conversations with the rest of the School Net representatives and especially with Gerald and Janet who put the technology conference together, the Microsoft Innovative Teacher award recipients.  

As we journeyed on to Day 2- my husband and I ventured out for an African safari by 7:30AM to get a head start on our day.  We were fortunate to have a private driver for the day to take us on this adventure.  We arrive two and half hours later to the game park where we began our journey.  We were so hoping to see the big 5, but we did not-  but were still pleased with our results of seeing giraffes, zebras, wilderbeast, crocodiles, kudu, warthogs( Pumba), impalas, jackos, and a variety of beautiful birds. 

Midway through our African journey we stopped at for lunch, an African safari lodge where you can stay amongst the wildlife in a luxury tent and view continuous wildlife throughout your stay.  This lodge was absolutely beautiful with such authentic and contemporary dĂ©cor. The patio setting provided an outdoor area for dining and an exquisite view to look out onto the natural terrain landscape.

To add this great day of travel and sight seeing, we met up with Gerald, Janet, Jane Hart, and John Davitt for dinner at Moais a traditional South African restaurant.  Jane, John and myself each provided the daily keynotes for the three day conference and several breakout sessions. This was my first time I have met John Davitt as well face to face, boy with this face-to-face encounter a learning adventure all in itself. John is a character with lots of energy, great conversation, a well-traveled individual with substantial geography sense, and a standup comedian by trade I would say.  He kept all of us laughing with his quick witted off the cuff jokes and comments. He reminds me so much of my middle son with his sense of humor and quick wittedness.
Day 3- The conference begins and is hosted at the beautiful St. John's College - what a stunning and stately college with breathtaking architecture to add to the visual ascetics of the conference venue.  Jane hart started off the conference with a wonderful keynote of the importance of social media and how we learn differently within this new digital teaching and learning landscape. Jane engaged us through many interactive videos of the Social Media Revolution,  a Minnesota Twitter study of social media, a UK virtual web cam of baby pigs being born, and several other clips to keep us actively involved while channeling our thoughts through the twitter backchannel chat hashtag of #schoolnetsa11.  Her presentation was brilliant and set the positive conference tone for the next three days.

I presented a two hour "Building and Growing Your Professional Learning Network" session in the Jeffrey Auditorium in the afternoon, and Jane's keynote set the stage for a perfect segway for my presentation. We talked about the importance and differences of collaborative personal and professional learning networks, and how to get to started to grow your network. A variety of samples were shown and demonstrated to add meaningful connections for all educators to start small but make a positive and lasting impact. Here is the slide-share presentation of the PLN and the shared resources.
Day  3 Late Afternoon: John Davitt set the stage for learning in the afternoon focused on a keynote of "Learning in a World of Difference."  His quick witted sense of humor and visual media displays throughout his presentation had all of us laughing with delight. John also shared many media tools he has been developing with his company that truly focus on student differentiation, hands-on minds-on learning for students to think critically and solve problems, and variety of active learning strategies to engage all students through a multi-language tool called learning score.  This was simply brilliant as well and I found the tools of his "Learning Score" he shared so fascinating!

Our evening concluded with a many appetizers and great  South African wines and beers from the local area, and of course a live band providing wonderful music of jazz, African rhythm and vibes for all of us to enjoy and dance to.  The conversations with many conference attendees during this time was so interesting and to learn from others about their culture- this was priceless.
Day 4- I had the opportunity to present the morning keynote focused on 21st century skills and ICT literacy.  My key goal was to share with the audience members the importance of making an educational impact on student learning and starting with the end in mind when incorporating 21st century skills and ICT literacy in the classroom.  In order to gain results we need to focus on what we hope to have students achieve and by designing the lesson around essential questions, authentic assessment throughout the lesson, collaborative and communicative thought provoking and problem solving discussions. I too shared a variety of videos to engage my audience members but to also make the keynote personalized for every attendee.  Videos utilized at key moments included: I Gotta Share from TED, We Are The People, Where do Good Ideas Come From, 21st Century Learning Classroom, and When I Was Ten.  Please tap into the TodaysMeet backchannel chat, Slide-share here and once again the files.

The day continued on with myself and others presenting many hands-on workshops for the afternoon. The focus of my Web 2.0 literacy back to back two hour sessions really complimented and segwayed quite nicely once again from my morning keynote I delivered I must say. I demonstrated the importance of web 2.0 literacy of what it is and what it is not, and provided many examples once again to find the right tool to do the right job for students and teachers.  I also included and noted the Intel Elements new Collaboration in the Digital Classroom e-course and resources, while referencing their online collaboration tools list. Here is once again the Slideshare of my presentation, and shared files for you to access.

To conclude and celebrate our very active day, School Net and Intel Education sponsored a gala dinner. The evening dinner was a marvelous buffet of authentic and traditional African dishes and paired with South African blends of red and white wines- it was exquisite! Following our lovely dinner and throughout was a live band- this was an essential must to hear the many local vibes of music and the dance floor was quickly filled with dancing throughout the evening. A great time was had by all- and perhaps to good of time by others- as I too was a little tired the next morning- but it was good kind of tired.

Day 5- Was the last day of our conference with morning hands-on technology sessions. On this day I presented two back to back sessions on "Google My Way." Once again I provided many examples of how educators and administrators are utilizing Google Apps in the classroom as a productive online multimedia suite of resources. Attendees in these sessions were immersed in creating Google forms and surveys and maximizing the potential of Google docs, spreadsheets and presentations.  I shared with the attendees my training Google Site located here.  We could have spent 5 days on Google Tools but only had two hours dedicated for each session, so I strategized to find the best collaboration tools to promote communication and collaboration in the classroom.

This came to the conclusion of three day conference and the ending our South Africa visit.  We returned to the airport right after the closing presentations to the conference and headed back to America on an evening flight.  

South Africa Experience Closure

WOW is all I can say about the immediate and lasting impact this South Africa visit and conference has made upon me as an educator.  As I sit here now and write my concluding thoughts in my home in Brownsville, MN, I am overcome but such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and thankfulness of the positive learning experiences the South African people have shared with me.  The individual and group conversations meant so much to me, to learn from all of them about the many technology barriers and successes they face everyday, and many of them without complaining, but finding immediate solutions or  alternative solutions to impact student learning. The focus of learning is on the whole child, and to prepare their students to be well educated learners.  The educators are enriching the classroom environments with a variety of resources that are cultivated into their hands-on learning experiences for all students through global literacy, project based learning and many communicative and collaborative learning tools. Even though some educators may have very little resources, they focus on the whole child to mold a 21st century literate and productive learner to make positive change in their communities, their South Africa country and throughout the continent of Africa!


Jan Wee said…
Awesome... what an adventure! So very cool to see this.

Aahh, Naomi, as much as we left our mark on you, you certainly left your mark on us - once again! How lovely it was to meet you face-to-face, hear you speak and gain knowledge from you.
Thank you so much for your professionalism and sharing spirit.
Until next time...
Sandy Willmore said…
wow. I stumbled on this totally by accident. I'm an educator in a school district in Ohio. I'm trying to design a new field studies course for high schoolers emphasising technology and science. I want to re-invent education through this course. In the summer of 2012 we will travel to South Africa. If I get it approved, that is! Anyway, very cool to see this website. Going to share it with our tech folks. Thank you.
Robert Nguyen said…
Because of its awesome climate and characteristic magnificence South Africa has turned into a noteworthy worldwide capacity venue for corporate and exceptional occasions and additionally superstar weddings. The most understood capacity territories are arranged around the real metropolitan ranges of Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria as they not just give access through their reality class air terminals and harbors, yet can likewise give world class cordiality administrations, for example, cooking, nearby transport and occasions tents rental.
Fishing center said…
This is Great Post.I like it
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