I’m just reflecting today on the TIES 2010 conference. One of the things I like to do at an event is get a sense of the “big picture.” What are the hot trends? What’s cooling down? With that in mind, and with full realization that this is merely one person’s observations, here we go…
iPods, iPads, and Mobile Devices, Oh My!
We’ve been talking about mobile devices and iPads in our district since the launch of the the iPad last spring, and our district is putting the finishing touches on the development of its first app. So the topic has been relatively popular among our staff and teachers. Even with that in mind, the tremendous amount of attention and interest focused on mobile devices at the TIES Conference caught me off guard. It’s clear this is the “next thing,” and now is the time to get involved.
It’s also clear that Apple’s approach to accounts on their mobile devices means that the most effective way to use their devices in schools is for each student to have his or her own device. The alternative—wiping and installing software for students—is cumbersome at best. This is unfortunate, because it makes an initial investment in Apple’s mobile devices in schools much higher than it would be if a set of iPods could be purchased for a particular classroom or teacher. Ideas get adopted faster when they are easier to try, and with the current set up it’s hard to test out Apple’s hardware without jumping in on a relatively large scale.
The Death of the Textbook
Going hand in hand with the rise of mobile devices is the death of the printed textbook, and ebooks and digital media was a surprisingly popular topic at TIES this year. Textbooks are expensive, static, and heavy. There are many cheaper, more flexible, and more dynamic ways to deliver content to students. As iPods and iPads and other mobile devices become more feasible as classroom tools, textbooks become more and more of a burden. It is roughly the same price to buy an iPod for each student and stock it with excellent resources for learning than it is to buy a set of expensive textbooks.
Time to Blend with Moodle!
Further accelerating the death of the textbook is the rise of blended learning, which combines online and traditional methods of instruction. Moving hand and hand with the interest in blended learning is interest in Moodle, an open source learning management system. Moodle allows teachers to deliver content, units, and entire courses to students via the computer. The amount of interest in Moodle at the conference was more than I expected, and pounds yet another nail in textbook’s coffin. With the ability to link to other websites and deliver dynamic learning content, the need for relying on textbooks sinks even lower.
What Happened to Podcasts?
If Moodle and mobile devices are on the rise, podcasts were all but a non-issue at TIES 2010. This probably ties in with the increased popularity of free video hosting sites like YouTube and screen-capture services like Jing and Screencast-O-Matic. Video has simply gotten easier to produce and deliver in the past three years, and that reduces the reliance on audio-centered content. While podcasts were all the rage a few years ago, I hardly heard them mentioned in this year’s conference.
The Rise of Technology
TIES 2010 seemed larger, more energetic, and more positive than years past. I realize it’s a small sample of some of the more technologically connected educators in Minnesota, but it was incredibly encouraging to attend an educational conference where sessions are spilling over to the open spaces. Education comes under assault for it’s labor intensive nature, and it’s relatively slow pace in adopting technology, but in many ways it felt like there is a rising tide of interest in all things technological. Maybe it was just me, but the vibe at this year’s conference was very upbeat, very positive, and downright excited about technology. Great to see, and thanks for a great conference!