I SPENT MOST OF THE DAY in the hallway and in the workshops during the 2008 edition of the Internet Experience in Education Conference (IEEC). The event actually started in Dublin the day before, when Ewan McIntosh got us a free pass into the office of the Minister for Trade and Commerce to chat briefly about what Ireland might do to increase the percentage of third level graduates with higher competencies in mathematics and languages. Without achieving higher marks in those areas, Google and other knowledge-hungry companies will take their interests into another part of the world. Like several other educators attending the IEEC, I have opinions about what Ireland's education system can do to enhance the graduate skills in computing, maths, and creativity. Some of those opinions reverberated in the hallways of Tipperary Institute today. A few of the ideas might well become part of a Focus Group with a charter to pilot programmes at the first, second and third level of education in Ireland.
A few more thoughts unfold below, and in the caption for the photo above left.
Keynoters Who Open Doors. Ewan McIntosh is a well-respected keynote speaker and he delivered the goods in the IEEC 2008 event. With an impeccable set of credentials, he also opens doors in helpful places. It's probably not good form to discuss the details of working group conclusions at this point but if our short morning in Dublin plays out to its logical conclusion, both the Irish government and Google in Ireland will put their shoulders to several initiatives that I believe will spark off enthusiastic teachers who attended IEEC 08 in Thurles. I plan to update this blog post as events unfold.
Face-to-Face with Creative Multimedia. A handful of third level creative multimedia students met with Ewan for dinner in The Cellar Bar of The Bailey, a highly-recommended restaurant in Cashel. What takes me a year to accomplish over six courses, Ewan could sell within one course at dinner. I try to insist that "no job is for life" and that "you have to keep upskilling" but when a handsome Scottish guy gives away those nuggets, it's like the Sermon on the Mount. It's hard to qualify the effect of these kinds of extra-curricular contacts with eager students. I think table talk for students with people like Ewan gives an important endorsement to our third level programme.
Morning Coffee. Here's an idea for all conferences--have an informal breakfast meet-up that's actually penciled into the agenda. I drove Ewan from Cashel to Horse & Jockey where we enjoyed a five-way conversation with Dublin-based educators who started their conference with a full Irish breakfast and plenty of chatter about the day ahead and the adventures behind.
Hallways That Hold Conversations. I spent more time talking to small groups today than I did talking to workshops. I did not think I had any pulling power but that perception was challenged within the first hour as two people who followed our Jaiku cross-talk showed up on the day of the conference with no guarantee of getting a seat in workshops. All of the seats in the lab-based conference workshops were filled more than a week ago. We found "tech support" positions for the two latecomers and all was well. But the hallways--if the walls could hear, they would have a story to tell. On the heels of one of the stories, I remain committed to ensuring there's a story-telling stream in Podcamp Ireland. For it is the storytellers who give editors their greatest joy. And some of the stories that I heard today would make compelling episodes.
Off to Cork. We wrapped a long day with a fast dash to the Cork International Airport Hotel. The next time we do this kind of thing, I'm going to make more of an announcement of the travel plans because I believe there are people in Cork who would have enjoyed catching up with Ewan while he was in Ireland. Instead, it was a quiet evening, recharging batteries and enjoying an upgraded room in the Cork Airport Hotel. The hotel, its friendly staff, and generous portions get my vote as the venue of choice for the 2009 Irish Blog Awards.