SEEing the SEE Summits from both sides of the world
By Mike McGowan
One nice perk of being named the 2012 US SMART Exemplary Educator (SEE) of the Year is having the honor of attending this year’s annual SEE Summit at the SMART headquarters in Calgary Canada, along with the very first EMEA SEE Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Both Summits were great and were both a really good learning experience. Also both caused me a few days of catch up and getting my schedule back on track. Who knew traveling like that would take so much out of you when you return home. But, I gathered so much information from SMART and from my fellow SEEs from around the world that these are experiences I will never forget. Having the opportunity to experience both Summits, many people have asked: “What was the difference between both summits? Which summit was better?” …and more questions along those lines. The fact is they were different in their own right and at times hard to compare.
At both Summits we learned some of the same things. Tobias Windbrake, SMART’s Manager of Ecosystems and Alliances Development in EMEA, joined us at both Summits to talk about the SMART Ecosystem Network and the growing number of widgets available in SMART Notebook 11 collaborative learning software. At each Summit he presented the material in different ways to fit the different audiences. At the EMEA summit we had 31 SEEs in attendance and the North American Summit had 51. So, how you approach a topic is going to be different.
In Hamburg we had a daily SEE and Share where fellow SEEs showed what they do in the classroom with their SMART Board interactive whiteboard, but in Calgary we did not. With 31 SEEs that took an hour and a half each day. With 51 who knows how long that would take. We did have the opportunity to share during lunch, but it was not required. So we had a similar opportunity, but with time constraints, things like this happen. Another big difference was how polished the Summits were. The EMEA summit is brand new so this was its first year. You are going to have those “newborn” problems. Not that there were any major issues but the first of anything is going to have things to iron out along the way, whereas the North American summit has been rolling for a few years now and has worked out several of those first year bugs.
Could I say one was better than the other? No. Each had its moments. I learned the most about cultural differences in schools while at the EMEA summit, and at the North American summit, I learned that most schools in North America face the same issues no matter where you are.
I learned you can overcome language barriers when you put people from so many different countries in one room in Hamburg. And I also learned what happens when you put a SEE from South Africa in a Wal-Mart for the first time while in Calgary (you can learn more about that here).
But the biggest thing I gained from both conferences is the friendships and the connections made with other SEEs from around the world. My network of contacts has grown considerably. The obvious difference here is that a lot of the connections made at the EMEA summit will be distance connections where we will mainly communicate through things like Facebook, Twitter, and hopefully a few Skype connections between classrooms in the future. But with the connections at the NA summit I feel that outside of the previously mentioned avenues, we will see each other again at conferences, when we invite each other to present at our SMART workshops and more.
So you can see from this long answer there were differences between the two summits this year. But were they significant? In some ways, no and in others, yes. Different experiences for different lands. But the one thing that did stay consistent was the hard work of the people from SMART to put on these events – especially Deena Zenyk, SMART’s program manager in North America and Emma Rowlands in EMEA – they did a great job! And the connections we all made and the passion that all 82 of us Summiteers have for the SMART brand.
Read my other post from the EMEA SEE Summit
Making lasting connections at the EMEA SEE Summit
About the author
Mike McGowan has been the Supervisor of Technology at Lincoln Elementary School Dist 156 in Calumet City, IL for the past four years. He also teaches Educational Technology classes at the University of St. Francis. Prior to McGowan’s current position, he was a classroom teacher for five years teaching Computers and Business to students in Pre-K through high school.
McGowan is the 2012 SMART Exemplary Educator of the year for the U.S. and he’s a SMART Certified Trainer on SMART Notebook 11 collaborative learning software, SMART Response interactive response system, SMART Notebook math tools software, SMART Sync classroom management software, the SMART Table interactive learning center, SMART Ideas concept mapping software, and SMART Classroom Suite interactive learning software. He’s also a SMART Certified Lesson Developer, SMART Certified Interactive Teacher, and SMART Certified Education Administrator.
McGowan has presented all over the state of Illinois on variety of topics including the full gambit of SMART products and Web 2.0 tools. He has recently started a few websites including MikesTechnologyCloset.com to help teachers across the globe find resources and help on a variety of tools to use in their classrooms. Mike’s next goal in education is to write a book on effective uses of technology in the classroom