The buzzing sound of enthusiastic chatter, the wafting smell of a gourmet breakfast, and some friendly faces greeted our KNAER team as we ascended the escalator at 89 Chestnut Street to join this year’s 2016 diTHINK conference.

Our team was on a mission. Drawing on Peter Levesque’s strategy of honing in on a few ideas, people and actions to follow up with post-conference, our team was on the look out for ideas, people, or actions that could further inspire us in our quest to mobilize knowledge in the Ontario education system. Here is what stood out for us…

dThink sketch note 1.1
(SketchNotes by Shasta Carr-Harris)

The panel discussion with Mark Daley, Compute Ontario Board Chair, Diane Findlay, from Compass for Success, Dan Mathieson, Mayor of Stratford, Jutta Treviranus, Director, Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCADU and moderator Richard Garner, VP of Media and Communications for The Stronach Group, raised a number of issues that are critical to KNAER’s work. Panelists discussed the importance of diversity and using technology to link diverse communities and stakeholders to exchange ideas and resources. Jutta Treviranus raised the negative impact of disparity and the double-edged sword technology can play in either reinforcing or disrupting systemic disparity: it all depends on how we use it. If modern technology is made accessible to only a privileged few, it has the potential to entrench present-day hierarchies. If it is accessible to all, it has the potential to counter disparity by linking marginal and mainstream groups and ensuring a diversity of perspectives, ideas, knowledge and skills are shared and reach the public domain.

In breakout sessions, engaging conversations ensued around the role of technology for collaboration, as a tool for data processing, and in supporting transparency in public and private sectors. For example, the open data movement has placed emphasis on data sharing among groups, as well as the analysis of publicly available large data sets for the public good. Data processing and analysis techniques (including algorithms for processing large amounts of data) were discussed, as was the critical role that technology plays in turning information and raw data into concrete knowledge, which can be used to support improved practice and policy making.

diThink panel 1.1

In the diLEARN breakout session, important points were raised by the panel about technology and education. We were particularly interested in the connections Rhonda McEwan made about how technology can be used to support student learning. Rhonda felt that while many people assume that technology is primarily a teaching tool for students, her research shows that students tend to use devices to practice what they have previously been taught. This distinction gave us something to think about!

Earlier in the day, a video presentation on the use of MineCraft in education, reminded us of the importance of making learning (and training) fun and the role that games can play – low and high tech games – in turning learning from a chore into an enjoyable experience. Connected to this, is the valuable role that instant feedback (often provided in tech games) can play in supporting rapid learning and skill development.

On the lookout for leaders in education who use technology for knowledge mobilization in education, our team identified @dianefindlayas someone we would like to connect with. Diane Findlay has helped Compass for Success (a not-for-profit organization that focuses on the use of data by educators to improve student outcomes) support over 40 school boards and First Nation education organizations across the province of Ontario. We hope to learn more about Diane’s work and the specific technology she has used to mobilize knowledge to and among diverse stakeholders in Ontario education.

All in all, a memorable day with many takeaways for the KNAER team. Thanks diTHINK 2016!