Sunday 15 December 2013

My reflections on Barcelona conference

On 2-4 December 2013 I attended the conference organized by British Council Spain Learning and Teaching English in the Digital Age.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to British Council Latvia, Sandra Prince in person, for making it possible for me to attend the conference.

Barcelona is a magnificent city. During the short hours that we could spend outside the conference premises, I managed to enjoy the fantastic weather and some of the most impressive sights of Barcelona, like the grand Royal Plaza.

While listening to the plenary talks and participating in group discussions, I made a lot of notes that in my opinion are relevant to the topic. Below are some of the thoughts pronounced at the conference that reflect the key issue of the present situation, i.e. we teachers need to adhere to the needs of the learners in a new way, and do it fast.

Martin Peacock, director of Global Product Development, British Council UK:
  • The future lies in tablets.
  • Mobile effect - teachers can pick and mix the content and present it visually.
  • Non-linear syllabi that complies with learners' needs.
  • Learning networks - groups of learners brought together via digital paths - are getting more and more popular.
  • Learning technologies allow learners to learn WHEN, WHAT, WHERE they want. Now they can also choose HOW and WHO WITH to study.

Stephen Heppell, professor, Chair of New Media Environments, Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, University of Bournemouth, UK:
  • Teach less so that students learn more.
  • Mixed ages learn well together.
  • Children can DO because of the teachers.
  • Schools should change the rules - Phones on your desk! Laptops open!
  • Organize a lesson for 90 students with 3 teachers, this opens up lots of new possibilities for instruction and collaboration.
  • Don't overuse overhead projectors at the lessons, the light level in the classroom in bad for eyes.
  • In some schools students are required to take their shoes off. Effect? It is hard to bully with your shoes off!
  • Bad school toilets have an immediate impact on learning!
  • The next ten years will be the most exciting in teaching history.

Kirsten Panton, Microsoft Partners in Learning:
  • The rise of new pedagogies.
  • ICT is integrated into all subjects, there is no separate computer lab.

Michael Carrier, director of Cambridge English Language Assessment:
  • Trends in education - tech supported learning, 1:1 learning, blended learning, flipped classrooms, learning management systems as learning hubs, on-demand content, cloud synchronisation.

Nicky Hockly, director of Pedagogy, The Consultants-E:
  • Students need to be taught digital literacies that include texting literacy, tagging literacy, gaming literacy.
  • Interactive whiteboards work only if used as a tool, not as a screen.
  • Tablets are now on the brink of being implemented in education.
  • Beware shiny gorgeous box syndrome! (Gadgets for the sake of gadgets)
  • Wikipedia is reliable!       

 Steven Higgins, professor, Durham University, UK:
  • Those are not the outward signs that make a difference. A new shiny piece of kit does not mean learning will be better.
  • Multitasking does not help learning.
  • What internet gives is not knowledge, it is information.
  • Motivation mistake - students are better motivated by technology but they don't learn better.
  • Tomorrow's learning - augmented reality, voice recognition, multi-touch classroom. 
  • Challenge has to be accepted if you set a difficult task to students. If they don't accept the challenge, there won't be any learning.
  • Pedagogy trumps technology.

Some feedback from group discussions where I was present.

  • We need revolution in the classroom.
  • Methodology should come before technology.
  • Strategy alone is not enough anymore, you need content, process, redesign teacher training, involve families.
  • Motivation to use IT does not mean motivation to learn.
  • Teacher engagement is higher when they see tangible benefits.  

Conference results and recommendations will be presented to the European Commission and published by the British Council.

My conclusions:
Barcelona conference confirmed that teaching and learning has entered a new stage where there is no way back, only forward. This change is marked by extensive use of technologies in all spheres of education. The new generation of students cannot be taught in the old ways and it sets an immensely important and difficult task to the teachers, and we have to accept the challenge.



Anonymous said...

Dear Baiba,

What a great summary of the conference - it gave us some things to think about, as we were not there. Lovely photos, too!

Baiba said...

Thank you, dear Vicky! I hope you loved some of the brilliant ideas expressed at the conference. Purposeful use of technology is what we all should strive for.

David said...

Hi Baiba

That's a nice summary, and each point could be a whole post in itself..

This grabbed me the most:

"Non-linear syllabi that complies with learners' needs"

That's one of the secret misgivings of coursebooks, that they're organised in a linear fashion, but that's not how people necessarily learn.

Did Martin say much in particular on this..?

Despite the ever increasing role of technology, I still think that personal contact is still more valuable in learning a language..

Baiba said...

Thanks, David. Regarding the point you mentioned, the idea is that teachers should have more freedom in deciding what and when to teach instead of being made hostages of rigid syllabi and inflexible programmes.

David said...

Yeah, I agree with that.

I actually like things like coursebooks BUT I also like having the freedom to do what I feel is best for students..

David said...

ps it's late and now I realise I used the word 'like' THREE times in a sentence ;) !

Baiba said...

It just emphasizes that you LIKE what you like! :)

David said...


Merry Christmas, Baiba, hope you have an enjoyable week..


Baiba said...

Wait David! I am writing something that involves you... :))