The 20th Annual iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) International Conference and 17th Youth Summit, organized by Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), successfully concluded on July 5 at Qatar National Convention Center with participants agreeing to increase relevant usage of technologies in education to reach out, learn and build a better world together.
Qatar became the first country in the Gulf to host this summit since the conference began in 1994. At this year’s annual iEARN International Conference, around 700 teachers, students and specialists in information technology came from more than 50 countries, to share and learn how technology is being used in the classrooms. The Supreme Education Council was the official ROTA partner of the iEARN conference, while RasGas was the Golden Sponsor and Qatar Vinyl Company, the Bronze sponsor. Over the course of five days, the delegates took part in various activity-packed program, interactive sessions, panel discussions and closing ceremony celebration.
“This year’s forum has proven that the iEARN agenda has never been more relevant. We are working together with all the educators to achieve progress and to realize our aspirations of a world where everyone is connected and where everyone can benefit from and participate in the digital world,” said ROTA Executive Director Mr. Essa Al Mannai.
Kicking off the final day of iEARN conference, delegates grabbed the opportunity to participate in one of the panel sessions that was dedicated to social media tools in education. This session was well-received by the youth as this is the new form of media that has been catching the imagination of today’s new generation. Panelists in this session discussed the innovative developments in communication and information technology of the social media revolution are connecting teachers and students in new ways that require a rethinking of traditional forms of teaching and learning. The panelists also dwelt on the pros and cons for different social media tools and discussed how to utilize them in a meaningful way in classes.
On day one of the conference, participants were introduced to a session on how to build an IEARN project for cell phones and tablets. The session demonstrated some successful iEARN projects using mobile technology and analyzed the basic pedagogical foundations of mobile learning related to iEARN projects.
Following this session, participants witnessed an inspiring web based project-‘MY HERO’ that offered an archive of thousands of stories of heroes from all walks of life. This session showcased documentary films about people who have impacted their community by saving lives, bringing positive changes or helping people become better.
The conference gained momentum on the second day with two world-renowned speakers, Dr Mohammed Ally and Dr. Essam Heggy addressing the participants. Dr Ally in his keynote talked about building bridges and solving educational divide, while Dr Heggy spoke on space science as a motor to build and inspire future generations. For the participants hearing these two eminent speakers was surely a defining moment for them.
Meanwhile, on day three participants relaxed from the hectic conference schedule as they indulged in some fun activity and were treated to Cultural tours to the Museum of Islamic Art, Safari at the Inland sea, and a visit to Souq Waqif.
On day four, delegates had the opportunity to participate in several workshops and seminars. The day began with Julie Lindsay, a Global Educator, Innovator, Teacherpreneur, leader delivering her keynote speech. Julie has led the way in global education and technology-infused connections and collaborations across six countries.
In her speech, Julie Lindsay narrated her experience in the use of educational technology in schools at Zambia, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Qatar, and China. As an IT Director in international schools, she has implemented 1:1 learning and worked with teachers from K-12 on pedagogical applications for mobile and ubiquitous computing. She also developed a unique approach to global collaboration using Web 2.0 tools and connected learning approaches.
Following this session, Claudia Batista, Cathy Healy, Salman Al Muhannadi, Justin Kramer and Ben Robinson were involved in a panel discussion that explored the role of films in education. The panelists highlighted the relevance of visual tool in making education more effective and simplified.
Finally, to conclude the penultimate day of the summit, students from participating countries had the chance to showcase their traditions and culture in what is called the cultural night. Over the course of four hours, talented students were able to run an amazing show that manifested the meaning of 'the global village' in a spontaneous yet spectacular celebration of the cultural diversity within the iEARN network.
It is worth mentioning that ROTA has provided scholarships for 30 teachers and students to help them travel to Qatar and attend the conference. On the other hand, thanks to the IT team at ROTA, all main activities of the conference were live streamed, and more than 2000 people watched the conference online.
"Incredible doesn't even scratch the surface when referring to my iEARN 2013 experience" said Matthew McGuire from Canada.
Terming the conference an overwhelming success, Essa Al Mannai said, “Indeed, throughout the five days we have enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere for facilitation and exchange and tremendous enthusiasm for building a multi-stakeholder vision of the iEARN agenda.”
“I would like thank the Supreme Education Council, the Ministry of Culture, RasGas, Qatar Vinyl Company, the media namely- Qatar TV, Qatar Radio, Qatar News Agency and the local print media, Al Raya, Al Watan, Al Sharq, Al Arab, the Peninsula, Qatar Tribune and the Gulf Times, as well as all the volunteers who have put such a tremendous effort into making this year’s forum a resounding success,” added Al Mannai.
“By hosting the 2013 iEARN Annual Conference, we have created thought-provoking and information-sharing occasions for all iEARNers as well as educators for a better quality of education” concluded Essa Al Mannai.