When the 12th annual Information and Communication Technology in Education(ICTedu) Conference wraps up on Saturday, the 23rd of April 2016, teachers from across Ireland will remember it as the event where they learned from students who shared ways to create and collaborate. This year’s theme—“Students as Co-Creators”—puts students in the driving seat to run workshops for teachers.

The day-long series of talks and workshops happens on the LIT-Thurles campus. More than 100 teachers will join presentations, discussions and workshops. Although the event features teachers showcasing how they use technology in the classroom, no special skills with technology are required for any teacher to take part. “We make sure the conference gives teachers a comfortable place to meet other teachers, where they can share ideas about better teaching methods,” says Pamela O’Brien, conference organizer.

Earlier ICTedu conferences spotlighted clever technology. Now the conference has evolved to something even more special, with an emphasis on collaboration with students. The last few conferences have been a huge success with students getting involved, running with themes like “The Voice”, “The Walk” and “Make. Bake. Take.”

Teachers attending ICTEDU will quickly point out that every school’s technology footprint varies. Rural schools may not have a broadband connection. Inner city schools may not have enough computers to supply overcrowded classrooms. Dealing with these issues and getting every school up to the same level of technology should be a government priority. An equal priority is evaluating the best kind of teaching for 21st century students.

With new generations of students from the digital age populating classrooms across the country, it is important to re-evaluate how these students are being taught in the classroom. How effective are the sit and read or sit and listen methods of teaching in the digital age? Are students’ learning and growth limited to the books they must purchase at the start of each year? Statistics from Google show that the search engine processes over 3.5 Billion searches every day. With huge databases of knowledge stored in the cloud, students should be encouraged to look up from their books and to set their own learning paths by using the many tools available for learning online. Wouldn’t it be interesting for students to show their teachers how they research and find relevant information just by using their phones?

In nearly every secondary school, phones are shut down and kept in lockers all day. With a little planning, it should be possible to distribute class assignments and course notes via a cloud service such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Drive. Student work could be uploaded back to a virtual learning environment where some of the work would be assessed by artificial intelligence. Consider some of the time savings that would occur if students could simply upload homework through a web application, it might allow a teacher to spend less time correcting and grading and more time giving one to one feed back with students.

Communication is an important factor in how we work and learn. One of the big changes I found when entering Third Level education was the emphasis on collaboration, working and creating together while learning from each other. In secondary school and while doing the Leaving Certificate in particular, it felt like every man for himself! It should be possible for students to help each other to learn. By using an effective platform students could share notes, resources and catch up on anything that they have missed. Being able to co-create and collaborate in teams across a cloud-based platform would prove to be an essential skill for today’s Leaving Certificate students who wish to continue on to Third Level education.

When I was in school struggling with French I imagined how much easier it would have been if I had the Duolingo app beside me to correct my mistakes and encourage me to keep going. There are hundreds of other educational apps available for free. How many teachers know about the Socrative app that makes quizzes for students to revise for exams?

These are just some small examples of how technology could improve life in the classroom and make it more interactive. The dated method of teaching only out of a book is discouraging for students. Articulate students are given time during the ICTedu Conference to demonstrate how they learn with their own technology and how they hope their schools might investigate these pathways of learning.

What can the digital generation teach us? source - The Very Near Future
What can the digital generation teach us? source – The Very Near Future

If you have never used ICT in education then come along and see what you can learn! If you have an interesting idea worth sharing at April’s ICTedu conference, you should register your interest at http://bit.ly/icteducall and join other teachers with innovative approaches to teaching and learning.

Author – Sam Cockburn, a creative multimedia student in Limerick Institute of Technology and part of a team of students that includes Digital Animation students Alice Coleman and Jamie Kerr