Earlier in the year I was invited by Helga Holtkamp the director of the European Educational Publishers Group (EEPG) to speak at their Better Tools, Better Learning II Conference in Riga, Latvia. It’s always a huge priviledge to share the work from my classroom at different educational events and it’s great to be able to share ways in which theories of new literacies, multiliteracies, creative learning and multimodality can be integrated into the fabric of the classroom.
The conference was held at the Goethe-Institut in Riga, the capital of Latvia and was hosted by Zvaigzne ABC Publishing House (who have an outstanding book shop). Sintija Buhanovska who is head of e-learning at Zvaigzne ABC did an outstanding job at organising the conference and making sure it ran so smoothly. It really was a fascinating conference and I enjoyed listening to Dr Ilva Skulte from Rigas Stradina University speaking about “Modality, imagination and creativity: principles of reading in the age of multimedia”. Especially as she brought theories of multimodality and new literacies into her discussion when talking about literacy practices of young children. Fellow Brit Caroline Moore shared some fascinating insights into English Language Teaching and the different trends in teaching languages through technologies across the globe. Dr Hedva Vital also shared different influences of design and content when creating digital learning spaces for children. The speaking line-up was very diverse and added an exciting element to the day.
My own keynote was focused on classroom application of different technologies to create a “connected classroom” which teaches traditional and new literacy skills. In particular I looked at:
- Safe use of Social Networks based on Using Twitter in the Primary Classroom (click to download research article).
- Habitual literacy practices and the need to teach children correct ‘habits’ of communicating in different domains of life.
- Embedding class blogs into the fabric of the classroom to promote new literacy skills.
- Embedding social technologies based on our Expedition Everest project (click to find out more).
You can view the presentation below:
I also took part in a round tabel panel discussion about the nature of digital technologies in education. The speakers were joined by Zane Matesoviča, Deputy Head at Ventspils City Education Board and Kristaps Skutelis, technology professional, writer and technology trainer. I really enjoyed taking part in the panel discussion and I was thankful to have an interpreter as sadly I am not fluent in Latvian.
The second day of the conference was dedicated to school visits in Ventspils. I visited a Kintergarten and Primary School which had outstanding provisions for their young people. We then visited the Ventspils Digital City HQ where we learned about the citywide Wifi provision they have – including Wifi at the beach! One single network where you can connect as a guest practically anywhere in the city – I was very impressed!
It was great to spend time with so many great people from across the globe and from all walks of life. I always enjoy events that have delegates from different spheres of education as there is so much to learn from them. I gained some fascinating insights into education from the different areas that people work in relation to education. We’re all focused on giving our young people the best education!
I also had some time to explore the beautiful cities of Riga and Ventspils (while sampling some amazing food). I was literally blown away from the charm of the city of Riga and the people there. It was such a wonderful place to visit and explore. Sintija did a wonderful job of organising a programme including a walking tour of the city and the amazing public library.
I also had the chance to try out the camera on my new iPhone 6 and took some photos of the beautiful city. I’ll eventually upload them to Flickr over half term. I felt that I had stepped into a fairytale whilst walking down the streets and the photographs really do not do the place justice.
It’s a wonderful place and a place which I intend to return to very soon. The picture at the top of the post was taken at Ventspils beach as I looked out towards the Baltic Sea. It’s a reminder of how beautiful our world is but also that in education horizons change and that we need to focus on what’s best for the education and future of our young people.
In the meantime I will leave you with a beautiful timelapse video of the wonderful city of Riga. If you can, then I really recommend that you visit – you will certainly be made to feel very welcome.