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ULearn conference worth millions to Christchurch

Media Release: 29 August

ULearn conference worth millions to Christchurch

Around $2.5 million will be poured into the Christchurch economy from this year’s annual conference for educators, ULearn08.

The conference being held at the Christchurch Town Hall and Convention Centre from October 8 - 10 focuses on integrating new technologies to empower learning and transform leadership. More than 1500 delegates from around New Zealand, plus 200 from Canterbury and a smattering of international delegates have registered.

Conference manager Gwenny Davis says ULearn08 and its associated pre-conference workshops make up four days of back-to-back inspiration, education, ideas, strategies and fun, equipping New Zealand educators with all they need to transform their teaching, learning, school or early childhood community.

“We already have nearly 1700 delegates from all over New Zealand, some from Australia and the CORE Education UK team in Christchurch coming to ULearn08. At times we have nearly 50 sessions going at one time in different meeting spaces around central Christchurch. That’s a massive undertaking!” she says.

ULearn has been going since 2005, held in alternate years in Christchurch and Auckland. The conference is run by Christchurch not-for-profit educational research and development organisation CORE Education to provide professional development, networking, gauge trends, provide information and celebrate best practice in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) education.

Keynote speakers Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, both from the United States, are recognised world leaders in the use of new technologies in the classroom. One of the conference’s underlying themes is building bridges between education and enterprise and at the end of the first keynote, Macpac founder Bruce McIntyre will give a business response to the session.

New Zealand author and businessman Steven Carden will talk about collaboration between business and education. And George Lucas Foundation Global Six 2008 awardee Derek Wenmoth, CORE Education’s eLearning Director, will lead a collaborative presentation on putting theory into practice in schools and early childhood centres.

CORE Education’s Director, Development and conference coordinator, Nick Billowes, points to the strong link in the conference programme between the Ministry of Education’s recently released NZ Curriculum document and its Måori medium counterpart, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, as the main contexts around which ULearn08’s programme is built.

“ICT provides a range of methodologies to address the emerging teaching methods that these curricula allow.

“The great thing about both the NZC and the MoA is that they advocate developing curriculum within schools that meet community and individual needs as determined within the school’s own community. The impact of this for students should be wide-ranging and individualised programmes of learning, taught in ways that meet the learning needs of 21st Century learners,” Nick says.

It is in this atmoshpere that “educators, at all levels, come to ULearn to work together to share these new skills and competencies.”

With the strong surge in early childhood educator attendance (almost 200 participants from around NZ), Billowes says, “the use of digital cameras, computers, the Internet, weblogs (blogs) and many other ICT activities within early childhood centres is soaring rapidly. Linked to appropriate activity and framed in the context of the early childhood curriculum Te Whaariki, this means that kids are knocking on primary classroom doors with both the skills and expectations that there will be more of the same.”

In the lead-up to the conference, Derek Wenmoth has been working with Christchurch City Networks Ltd to ensure the city can deliver capability for an extra 1700 people online at once.

“The volume of data being accessed and generated by this number of people in a single venue provides a significant challenge for CCNL and associated service providers and is a unique opportunity to test and showcase the capability of the fibre-based high speed network currently being deployed within Christchurch,” Derek says.

Key sponsors who are helping to make the conference happen include Renaissance Education Division, HP New Zealand, and Scholastic New Zealand. Other supporters include Microsoft, Toshiba, and Telecom.

A large trade display in the Christchurch Convention Centre will be open to delegates and a Christchurch City Networks Limited display open to the public in the Christchurch Town Hall foyer.

ULearn08 will be preceded by workshops on Tuesday, October 7. For more information on the conference, visit www.ulearn.org.nz.

ENDS


Story angles

• First high speed network of its size ever in New Zealand – using Advanced and KAREN to ensure services are available at every venue of the conference. Sponsors include CCNL (Matt Watkins), Allied Telesis, Connector Systems and SNAP. CCNL will be showing off the capability of high-speed advanced technology.

• Christ’s College and Cobham Intermediate provide student engagement – premises, students, teachers, media studies etc.

• Conference includes “Unconference” sessions, informal gatherings where the content of the sessions is created and managed by the participants during the course of the event. It is a BYO session in which delegates can introduce a topic, discuss an opinion, or share a viewpoint about a subject.

• The NZ Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (Maori Medium Curriculum) provide a new focus for individualised (differentiated) learning for students.

• Minister of Education Chris Carter will attend.

• Conference dinner being held at Westpac Arena – the only place in Christchurch where up to 2000 delegates can be seated.

• Lincoln High School student Michael Griffin (13) presenting two sessions:
- One Digital Native demonstrates creative collaboration with technology
- Blue screening on Umajin Creative and ideas for using it
with help from 13-year-old Liam Merton of Tauranga


More information on keynotes:

Will Richardson (USA) - known internationally for his work with educators and students to understand and implement instructional technologies. A former public school educator for 22 years, Will’s own blog is a leading resource for the creation and implementation of Web 2.0 technologies at the K-12 level, and his is a leading voice for school reform in the context of the fundamental changes these new technologies are bringing to all aspects of life.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (USA) - a 17-year educator, has been a classroom teacher, charter school principal, district administrator, and digital learning consultant. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching graduate and undergraduate pre-service teachers at The College of William and Mary (Virginia, USA), where she is also completing her doctorate in educational planning, policy and leadership.

Steven Carden (NZ) - A marriage of necessity - business and education partnerships for the 21st century world: Steven’s keynote address will explore how the changing nature of business in a rapidly globalising world will impact New Zealand’s future workforce. In light of these changes, Steven will discuss how the education and business sectors can collaborate more effectively to ensure New Zealand’s organisations are getting the most benefit possible from the talent making it way through the education system.

Derek Wenmoth (NZ) - Ensuring our students are learning in the midst of all the excitement! Our third keynote is a collaborative presentation in which a group of leading educators share their experiences in “making this happen” in their schools and centres. The panel will provide examples of how they and their staff have translated theory and good ideas into practice that is sustainable and where the impact on learning can be assessed.

The panel:

Derek Wenmoth (chair)
Tania Coutts (Manaia Kindergarten)
Beverly Kaye (Manaia Kindergarten)
Carolyn Stuart (Tawa Intermediate)

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