The Australian Computers in Education Conference 2008 (ACEC'08) is on at the National Convention Centre in Canberra until 2 October 2008. As well as the formal Conference Program, there is an excellent trade exhibition. If you are in Canberra and interested in education and technology, from early childhood all the way to higher education, then the conference is worth a visit. I wasn't actually attending the conference, but was just there to support Mark Winter's "Developing a Green IT strategy" talk, as I helped develop some of the power saving measures for computers in schools.
Education Network Australia
As well as vendors of education hardware and software, the ACEC08 trade exhibition has education organisations such as Education Network Australia (edna), a federal and state funded non-profit group helping educate teachers on high technology teaching methods. Because most of their work is done via the Internet, it is hard to realise that there are people at eDna and it was good to meet them on the stand at the conference. Drop in and say hello, if you attend.
Trudy Turnbull was on the ICDL Australia stand. The the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) started in Europe (where it was known as ECDL). This is an edcuation program on how to use computer technology for schools, companies and the vocational sector. ICDL was set up in Australia by the Australian Computer Scoiety, in 1999. But in 2008 the ACS decided it should concentrate on educating ICT professionals and leave more general computer education to others, so the company EXIN South Pacific took over the ICDL Australia license.
While much of the public discussion of the digital education revolution has been about computers for students, the teachers say (and I agree) that interactive whiteboards are more cost effective and should be the priority. These project a computer screen onto a sensitive surface which can then be operated by a finger or pointer. They allow for a more natural teaching style and group interaction than using a mouse at a lectern. Also while an interactive whiteboard is not cheap, it is a lot less than buying a computer for every student and encourages discussion.
Of the many interactive whiteboards on display, the 2 Touch, looked of interest as it uses two optical sensors to detect a finger on an ordinary whiteboard surface.
Electroboard had a more traditional (if that is the right word) "SMART Board" touch sensitive interactive whiteboard, with the option of the use of pens and an eraser for writing on the surface virtually (the board detects the pen and a drawing program puts digital ink on the screen).
Martin Hale was on the Charles Sturt Unviersity stand helping promote their teacher training, but he also mentioned they have advanced courses for ICT people, such as a Master of Business Administration (Computing), including IT Governance. CSU also host the ICT Governance Forum.
Thin Client Computers for Schools
John Robinson from nComputing was showing a thin client computer for schools. These are pocket size desktop computers with just enough memory and processing power to drive the screen and keyboard, with the actual application running in a remote server. Thin clients can save money, energy and maintenance effort, but require the school to carefully plan its computer system. The thin clients will not work if the server is not properly set up.