In a rare opportunity the great and good, both in the fields of computing and education, will descend on Fusion 2000 in Glasgow to offer their expertise on a global blueprint for the future Gillian Macdonald reports
If the Internet has proved anything, it is how small the world is and how easy it is to communicate with schools, universities and companies around the globe at the click of a mouse. Yet to meet world-famous figures and leaders of those organisations face to face, and be able to question them and compare experiences, is rare indeed. Fusion 2000 embraces the view of "global learning" by bringing together such figures in computing and education.
The man who invented LOGO, the computer language which enables small children to program mini-robots to move around the classroom, Seymour Papert will make a rare appearance in Scotland, coming all the way from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to discuss with Scottish teachers his vision of children's learning.
Joining him on the platform will be the person credited with inventing laptop computers and point-and-click software, Alan Kay, who is now working with Disney's research and creative development organisation in California on "the idea of teaching children deep mathematical and scientific thinking through constructive activities they think of as play" (see TESOnline page 30).
From the US, Australia, South Africa and Canada, key experts in educational computing for all ages will converge on Glasgow to contribute their experiences of lifelong learning including the minister for education in South Australia, Malcolm Buckby; the vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Natal in South Africa, Brenda Gourley; and the president of the Telelearning Network of Centres of Excellence in Canada, Linda Harasim, who is leading one of the first multimedia network systems customised for course delivery.
From the UK, RM's "chief product evangelist", Russell Prue, who has given presentations to the Queen and Government ministers, will demonstrate to a Scottish audience how teachers can exploit the latest technology - and some not yet on the market. And Stephen Heppell, head of the Ultralab technology research centre at Anglia Polytechnic University and a keen advocate of classrooms without walls, will talk about projects like Notschool.net, starting up this term in Essex and Glasgow, which enables children who are excluded from lessons for reasons of behaviour or health, to attend a virtual chool on the Net.
After listening to the debates and casting their votes, delegates will be able to attend a "World Cafe", a new concept in discussion forums developed by a Dane, Finn Voldtofte, and already adopted by a Danish bank and government ministers for strategy development. Conversations can be pursued with the experts round tables of five, in an intimate and creative candlelit atmosphere with classical music in the background.
Then it's out into the bright lights again and on to the ICT exhibition which accompanies the conference. Over 60 leading suppliers of educational computers, software and Internet connections will demonstrate their latest products and answer questions, among them the show's sponsors, Microsoft, Apple, RM, ICL, Viglen, ntl, Cisco Systems, Phoenix First and Education Rewards.
Free day for teachers
The Scottish Executive is funding a free National Grid for Learning Day on September 26, when any teachers and lecturers can visit the ICT exhibition, hear a number of key speakers from the conference, including Seymour Papert, Stephen Heppell and Russell Prue as well as watch presentations by schools and colleges on how they are "unlocking the grid".
Peter Peacock, the Scottish Education Minister with responsibility for ICT, will announce a number of new Government initiatives and Richard Pietrasik, executive director of Learning and Teaching Scotland will look at priorities for education within a digital Scotland. Teachers and children from around the country will give presentations on good practice in subjects across the curriculum.
Entrance to the exhibition is free from 9am to 6pm, and there is also free entry to the conference sessions which run from 9.30am to 3.30pm. Pre-booking is essential. To receive a full programme and booking form, telephone 0141 337 5046; or email: email@example.com.
Family learning show
From 3pm to 6pm on September 26, parents, children, grandparents - in fact anyone with an interest in educational computers and software - can drop in at the exhibition for advice as well as getting their hands on all the latest computers and software. Entry is free, and no pre-booking is required.
FUSION2000: The conference and exhibition runs from September 26 to 29 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, GlasgowFusion 2000 is organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland and Scottish Enterprise Glasgow in association with EMAP Education and TES Scotland.www.fusion-2000.com