Naace Strategic Conference brings edtech to life

This year’s conference highlighted how schools are providing education fit for the 21st century

Naace, the community of educators, technologists and policy makers who share a vision for the role of technology in advancing education, once again held its hugely popular Strategic Conference at the East Midlands Conference Centre on 25 – 26 March 2015.

The conference showcased best practice examples from submissions made to the Naace 3rd Millennium Learning Award, which enables schools to demonstrate how they are providing education for all, fit for the 21st century. 

David Whyley, Naace board member and CEO at Whytek Consulting, says: “The experience for delegates was wide and far ranging: from keynotes presented by venture capitalists, to the latest thinking from the tech giants, to insightful break-out sessions from respected practitioners. The conference had it all – not to mention being able to meet up with key technology suppliers and developers, and to see their up–and-coming products face to face.”

The conference was very well attended and attracted a number of high profile educators and technologists who volunteered to speak at the event. Drew Buddie, chair at Naace and head of computing at The Royal Masonic School for Girls, says: “I sourced the majority of speakers through my Twitter connections, including student Mozart Dee whose family I have been following for around nine years now. We also had our first patron at the event, Eileen Burbidge who is also known as the “Queen of Silicon Roundabout”. Eileen opened the event and it was great to have her on board. We will be looking for more experts from various backgrounds to add to our list of patrons moving forwards.” 

The Q&A session hosted by Drew and 14 year-old student, Mozart Dee who was interviewed via Skype from the US, was one of the key highlights for many visitors. Mozart’s parents sold their family home when she was just five years old to travel the world and help her to gain life experience and learn from different cultures. At age 14, she has now lived in 120 countries and is also tri-lingual. Despite being “roam-educated” as Mozart calls it, relying on technology as one of the key means for educating herself, she has made many great achievements including recording a song which will be used in an upcoming Disney film.

One of the main highlights was Dan Sutch’s keynote speech from the Nominet Trust, who challenged the audience to link their work in technology with real life social issues. This was illustrated with some remarkable examples, ranging from 3D printing prosthetics in Syria, to designing a games-based app to support those who suffer from anxiety.

In addition, there were a number of innovative and inspiring breakout sessions; one in particular which was led by Tom Rees, headteacher from Simon De Senlis Primary, linked the latest research on collaborative learning and thinking by Michael Fullan with a whole school approach to integrating the use of technology to achieve whole school aims. This session demonstrated how a fully integrated approach (in this instance using Microsoft hardware and software) can deliver real impact.

Along with representatives from Technology Will Save Us, e-Cadets and E2BN, the conference was also attended by two Minecraft experts who talked about the benefits of Minecraft for children with SEN.

Not only did delegates leave the conference with new ideas and concepts to implement in the classroom, but they also gained a real insight into how education relates to real-world issues and how we can inspire learners to become fully engaged with 21st century technology.