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October 24, 2002 Technology educators converge at Concordia




by Melanie Takefman

Five out of six European delegates cancelled their participation in last week’s Association for Media and Technology in Education in Canada (AMTEC) conference because of SARS. These people understand the news, but do not understand geography, panelist Neil Anderson said in the opening address on media literacy.

Anderson, who represented the Association for Media Literacy, said that although he lives less than a kilometre away from one of Toronto’s infected hospitals, he attended. Similarly, the widespread fear surrounding the outbreak of the disease in Toronto and Asia is an example of media-fabricated hype and paranoia, a phenomenon that was discussed extensively during the session.

Despite fears of SARS, over 150 educators, media producers and members of the educational product industry attended AMTEC’s 30th annual conference, held at Concordia on May 25-28.
The theme was e-convergence, which, according to educational technology professor and conference co-organizer Dennis Dicks, refers to the breaking down of barriers between forms of communication. In the digital age, text, images and sound can easily be integrated into one presentation.

The bilingual conference offered simultaneous workshops, keynote addresses and poster sessions, which operated like information fairs. Several Concordia professors, students and alumni from the Department of Education presented their research.

In line with the theme, most sessions were neatly organized into PowerPoint, Internet and multimedia presentations. While they were visually appealing, many were loaded with jargon and were clearly aimed at the experts.

Dicks said that technology has infiltrated education at every level. “Part of the problem is choosing stuff that’s good and suited to student needs,” he said.

Because young people are often more technologically savvy than adults, educational technology is increasingly student-oriented. Though this has long been the tendency in North America, other countries, like Russia, are following suit. “You can put tools in students’ hands that they probably know how to use better than their professors,” he said.

Though educational technology in Quebec is generally consistent with North American trends, product developers and educators here face the challenge of creating French-language re-sources in an overwhelmingly English field.

The daytime sessions were complemented by a media festival on the night of May 26. Education technology graduate Tom Bolton and his team from Bombardier won a prize in the industrial category for a video on airplane maintenance. The following night, conference participants were bused to Sucrerie de la montagne in Rigaud for a night of dining and dancing.

Though Dicks said that he received positive feedback on the conference, he said that if he was doing it again, he would have made better use of technology to avoid rebuilding the event’s bureaucratic structures next year.