Live it up in beta through reflective practice – Reflections on EdTechSummitSA

I presented on ‘ePortfolios for educators’ at EdTech Summit South Africa 2014 in Cape Town on 11 August (you can also visit their blog herefollow them on twitter or search #edtechsummitSA). Below is a pic of eager attendees Nkuli and Nancy setting up pages as part of the ePortfolio workshop. Educators can appropriate various online platforms to create their ePortfolios, depending on the purpose, audience and message they intend. Many attendees found the notion of being a ‘reflective practitioner’ to be a foreign concept. Educators are so busy, holding the belief that there is no time for reflection. I hope this post provides some more clarity on what reflective practice involves as well as how and why we should make it part of our practice as educators.

edtechIt was great to be surrounded by passionate teachers who are keen to learn about educational technology. Arthur Preston delivered a great keynote which set the tone for the summit. Arthur is the principal of Elkanah House Senior Primary School in Sunningdale (Cape Town) and founder of #edchatsa.His message is relevant to educators across sectors – whether you are teaching at primary, high school or post school level.

In motivating for edtech use in schools, he urged educators to ‘engage’ (yes, like Star Trek). He acknowledged that many teachers feel like they are going into space, the unknown, and we need ‘to boldly go where no one has gone before’. He spoke about the models of schooling that are no longer suitable for learners’ needs in a post-information society. Yet ‘change’ is considered to be a swear word in many schools. He advised that we ‘let it go’ (drawing inspiration from the theme song of the movie Frozen) and consider whether we are teaching for assessment or meaning. He quoted Obama’s ‘we are the change that we seek’ and expressed that educators often feel ‘frozen’ because others are dictating the agenda and we need to stand up as professionals, preparing learners for their realities. He also emphasised the importance of taking creative risks and being open to learning from mistakes. He advised the need to move from a content to a skills curriculum and to teach to those skills. He urged educators to engage in a process of unlearning, relearning and doing.

Arthur’s keynote echoed the message of the 2013 Google in Education Summit SA by Molly Schroeder (video below) who stressed the importance of ‘living in beta’. As educators, we are operating in a changing world where unlearning and relearning is part of an iterative process. Being a reflective practitioner involves engaging in this dynamic and how it applies to us as educators working in the South African context. By doing this we see our teaching practice as iterative, ever changing in response to our contexts, new practices (whether it be a new technology, CAPS document or school policy) and learners.