JESS Digital Innovation Summit 2017January 14, 2018, 4:45 pm GMT
The JESS Digital Innovation Summit, which took place for the second consecutive year in October 2017, attracted educators and innovators from across the region and beyond. The event has developed a strong reputation amongst the educational community in the Middle East due to the high profile speakers (last year the keynote presenters included Mark Anderson, Bashaer Kilani and Ian Yorston) and the wide range of presentations from experts, senior leaders and classroom teachers.
The event is focused on digital innovation in education but it was clearly stated by Luke Rees at the beginning of the event in his opening address that "this isn't a tech conference it's all about teaching and learning". This message was echoed and repeated throughout the two day event, with day two focusing on leadership linked to digital innovation.
The opening keynote was delivered by British Apple Distinguished Educator, worldwide education consultant and music technology specialist Joe Moretti, who shared and promoted a range of his favourite apps from Explain Everything to Book Creator. His session was not centred on specific apps for teaching and learning, but instead he encouraged teachers to develop the right mindset for change when using technology in the classroom. Moretti discussed CPD for teachers and suggested strategies for teachers to take control of their own learning and professional development. On day two Moretti also delivered the opening keynote about mindsets with technology but with a different focus directed at senior leaders supporting their staff and teams with technology again emphasising the importance of a positive mindset.
The day one strands included iPad Ed, Microsoft Edu, Future Schools, Computing, Digital Innovation, and an Arabic language option. This event was not centred on one specific brand, product or device, once again emphasising the importance of teaching and learning, and not the technology itself. There was a great choice on offer for all attendees on the day and the variety catered for all different abilities and preferred options in regards to brands and devices.
My personal highlights included the presentation sharing how primary teachers Ciaran Kelly and Noel Tuohy use Apple classroom with their pupils. This was explained very clearly with lots of practical examples for teachers to trial and implement in their classrooms. Apps demonstrated in their presentation included Ditty, Pages and more. Ciaran Kelly and Noel Tuohy are both primary school teachers at JESS and are known for sharing their expertise with Apple technologies to transform learning as well as their very funny and entertaining style of presentation.
Another very useful session I attended focused on e-safety, specifically within the UAE and the importance of different UAE cyber laws. This session was delivered by a senior leader at Latifa School for Girls in Dubai, Rachael Edgar. This session focused on e-safety in regards to our pupils, how we can support parents and carers and Rachael shared information that all teachers need to be aware of and understand.
The closing keynote on day one came from Abdul Chohan co-founder of The Olive Tree Free School in Salford, Manchester in the UK. He has a vast amount of experience working with, leading, and supporting schools. Abdul shared the story and background of The Olive Tree Free School and how he has supported teachers develop their confidence and skills using technology to enhance learning and support teaching planning and workload. The Olive Tree Free School has clearly experienced its own unique journey as a start-up school, which is relevant as many schools continually open across the Middle East. Chohan also shared his leadership experiences, stories and strategies on day two of the event.
Day two of the Digital Innovation Summit focused on leadership, attracting headteachers, senior leaders, ed-tech companies and other industry experts.
On both days Steve Bambury, organiser and head of digital innovation at JESS, presented his very convincing and enthusiastic arguments for using virtual reality in the classroom.
Bambury openly admits that VR has become his passion and area of interest. Through his research, work with pupils and teachers as well as creating his own website virtualiteach.com he has now become the leading VR educational expert in the world. His presentations shared examples of how VR has been used across the JESS schools from Year 6 in their History lessons studying the Blitz to Year 13 IB pupils with their Art projects. Steve shared a range of useful apps for teachers and leaders to take away but the main message of his presentation focused on how VR can be used within education to improve concentration, behaviour, engagement and even help pupils develop empathy and understanding.
Other presentations on day two included a very interesting and insightful session led by assistant headteacher Jennie Burke and data coordinator Nelly Gamil. Their session focused on how staff across JESS use Microsoft SharePoint to collate resources as well data tracking and monitoring. The JESS Summit saw the return of two very popular and accomplished presenters from the UK Simon Noakes and Ian Yorston.
Ian Yorston, director of digital strategy at Radley College in the UK, presented to leaders on day two to once again provide food for thought, posing challenging questions for his audience to consider as well as exploring the different possibilities and potential for AI within education and beyond.
Simon Noakes once again offered his advice and expertise in regards to the future of school marketing, which is obviously very important and relevant within the independent sector, emphasising the need to focus on experience not technology.
Overall, the JESS Digital Innovation Summit was a great success. Over the two days there were some slight technical glitches but that is an accurate reflection of real life where inside or outside of the classroom, technology can at times be unreliable but teachers can adapt because we are not dependent on the technology.
Jumeirah English Speaking School is well known for leading the way in regards to digital innovation in Dubai and they certainly showcased this throughout the event. Many staff members presented, sharing their excellent practice and strategies that they are trying and developing with their pupils.
The event was also trending on Twitter locally throughout the two days and was followed by educators in different areas of the world, shining a spotlight on innovation in Dubai. If you are on Twitter you can search the hashtag #JESSSummit to read the tweets, feedback, photos of presentations and more. Attendees now eagerly await the JESS Digital Innovation Summit in 2018.
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