MESH 2009 – Toronto’s answer to TED


On April 7th and 8th of next week I am really excited to be attending and speaking at Canada’s most innovative web conference. MESH.
This will be a great opportunity to listen, talk to and learn from some of Canada’s most forward thinking entrepreneurs, writers and web experts. More importantly I am keen to talk to people in all different fields of work about the skills and qualities that they are looking when they hire employees. This new E-conomy requires a new breed of team player/worker/learner and we as educators need to prepare our students for the world that awaits them.

Take a look as some of the great workshops and panels in store:

  • The Future of News
  • Using Social Media for Good
  • How the Web is Changing the Way We Learn
  • Managing Personas Online
  • Search Engine Optimization 101
  • Managing Community Online

See the full schedule here

I have been invited to sit on a panel for the session entitled “How the Web is Changing the Way We Learn” moderated by Sacha Chua. Sacha holds a strangely similar position to mine as a Enterprise 2.0 consultant at IBM. She states:

I help companies and people learn how to use Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking in order to be more productive and to collaborate more effectively.

Sitting next to me on the panel will be John Philip Green of and Clare Brett (Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum Teaching and Learning at OISE/UT). All of us are involved in various aspects of education will be speaking about the deep impact that the web is having on the way we learn, the way we teach and education in general.

In preparation for the panel I have been asked to reflect and share my perspective on the following questions. While I am sure we will go deeper I just wanted to sketch my initial thinking here.

What is the biggest technology-related challenge facing teachers and students today?

This new generation of students feels just as comfortable around a computer as their parents do around a radio. They continue to wow us with their ability to digest and adapt to new and evolving technologies while at the same time testing our comfort zones when it comes to issues concerning their safety and privacy. The challenge facing students today is that they have only ever known a networked world but lack the wisdom to manage and leverage it effectively, safely and ethically. The constant pace at which technology changes makes it difficult for schools, teachers and curriculum to keep up. The question that is often asked by parents is “Where and when will my student learn and develop this new literacy?” The answer is being formed in schools everywhere but is still in its infancy. In my mind teacher training and professional development is the key to this process.

What do you see is the biggest factor that will change in the next three years?

With respect to the web it will be a further shift to online applications . As connection speeds continue to increase more and more software companies will move their products online which offer collaborative opportunities which were once not possible. Google Apps will continue to infiltrate team and group projects and classrooms will continue to connect with eachother around the world. Toronto will see the birth of eLearning Consortium . Thirteen CIS Independent Schools have collaborated to create online course opportunities for students within in a not-for-profit eLearning Consortium. This will be the first time high school students within the independent school system will be able to attain credits online.

What is your ideal vision for the Web and education in the next three years?

Traditional education is slow to change. K-12 schools are by definition “walled gardens” of learning. All the content, curriculum and student work is housed inside where it is safe and collaboration between schools is rare. The ethos of the new web has yet to penetrate our schools fully. Today it has never been easier to share ideas, broadcast learning, communicate, collaborate and enable positive change. Opportunities to give our students authentic audiences for their work, solicit feedback and tap into outside expertise has never been greater. I would like to see more K-12 classes sharing and broadcasting their learning “out” as well as inside schools and continue to reinforce that the web is such a powerful tool in “making a difference.”

What are the key gaps that need to be filled?

The evolution of the web and sites like wikipedia are also forcing teachers and schools to rethink the ways they teach “research” and information literacy. The fact that anyone can produce and publish content challenges our ideas about truth, authority and trust. It has never been more important to prepare students for this new information landcape. We role that the “library” plays in school is now more important that ever but the scope of what it does has profoundly changed.

What is one concrete next action people in the audience can take to make things better?

If you are a parent or teacher: Play games, sign up for social networking sites and get literate.

If you are a student: Think before you post!