The Book Fair is a huge place and packed with people. There are stacks of books everywhere and people all around trying to get to some speaker somewhere. Conversations flow and ideas are exchange at the speed of light.
Most of the talks I chose to go to were connected to digital learning environments. The first one was about reading e-books using ElibU, a Swedish service providing schools with a library of e-books. I enjoyed listening because I think it’s important that these services are improved and able to offer a wide range of literature. I want to be able to read a book like ”Of Mice and Men” by Steinbeck with my ninth graders and also have them choose among new releases. When I’ve considered e-books before I haven’t found the book that I wanted so I really hope that things are indeed changing.
The second talk connected to digital learning was a talk from TigerCreate, a Germany based company which offers a tool where you can create digital books with nice animation and interactive features. It seemed very nice, especially the animations, but more suited for elementary schools. I have not seen animations like theirs in any other book so I hope that it will inspire others to develop the digital book even further.
”Digital learning materials – what do they look like, who makes them and who wants them?” was a talk given by Gleerups and Studentlitteratur. The main focus was to give and idea about how the digital learning materials have changed over the past two years. The platforms created can now provide a completely different kind of interactivity, which would allow teachers to communicate better within the platform itself. The idea was presented that a lot of schools want to purchase a complete set of learning materials, one platform from which they can work with every subject, but I am of the opposite opinion and I feel I have a lot of colleagues behind me. I think that regardless of how wonderful a digital platform, a digital learning environment, is I don’t think it’s a good idea to limit yourself to just one thing. For me, the most exciting thing about this digital revolution is that it’s happening so fast and different players are pulling this revolution into different directions, that sticking to only one will automatically mean that you’re missing out on a lot exciting new things. Companies building these platforms should also remember that most teachers are very creative people who want to select, shape and create materials for their own classrooms based on both their own personal skill set and then of course the needs and wants of the particular class their teaching. Therefore, flexibility is to me absolutely necessary and something that still needs to be developed in many ways.
The last stop, Jan Hylén’s ”Future Learning Environments” started with games and the gamification of education. He mentioned games like Math Garden, Treasure Hunt, Sim City and Minecraft, saying that with many games you actually include several subjects. And after all, the skills that we want the students to develop can be found in different ways in all subjects so creating a space where it’s possible to develop those skills all at once makes perfect sense. Hylén also talked about giving the students real life problems to solve. The idea was that the students could work directly with companies or organizations who would give them an actual problem to solve; for instance an environmental issue locally that needs to be solved, or creating a web page that would attract young people and get them engaged in local politics. This was also linked to the idea (which I wrote about in my last post) of students becoming more like journalists reporting about different events or situations. Towards the end there was mor talk about the physical learning environment, showing pictures of wii and kinect technology and virtual learning spaces where the students have their own avatar. This future world still seems pretty far off, but who knows – we’ve come further than I could have imagined ten years ago so who know where we’ll be ten years from now?
I had a great time at the fair and I left feeling extremely inspired!