EduTECH 2014

Well, this was my first visit to sunny (and very warm for this time of year!) Brisbane for the EduTECH National Congress. Who wouldn’t be excited to have been asked to present when you’re sharing the space with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Conrad Wolfram and Sugata Mitra?

I was excited, but I have to say nervous too, especially when I discovered after registering on the afternoon before the event that I was presenting in the Great Hall. Honestly, I hadn’t looked at the program all that closely other than to know the time I was presenting, so it was rather daunting to discover that my session was in a venue larger than any stage I’d presented on in the past.

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My Keynote was “Digital Literacy: guiding students (and teachers) to develop their 21st century skills.” I tried very hard to take much of my own experience and apply it to this presentation. For years I was focused on my own classroom and as Head of Library, at the knowledge base of the classrooms I was able to influence. In my position now as Director of ICT and eLearning, it’s my job to make possible large scale change across the school campus.

It’s a different proposition, because in a position like this you make decisions about the operation of the school network and the platforms that are used. I do a lot of reading to support my understanding of change and what is needed to make meaningful impact, and Michael Fullan’s Stratopshere had a passage that had staying power for me.

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Over the last 18 months, I’ve had this at the forefront of my thinking. It’s relatively easy to get the early adopters accepting new platforms and running with them, but a much harder proposition to get the late majority and laggards coming with you. You need to try to fulfill Michael’s criteria and think hard about what you need to do to make technology available so that it sits in the background making things possible, but not being a learning outcome in itself. As I said in the presentation, technology should not be an event in the classroom, it should act as a facilitator for effective learning outcomes.

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*Thanks Bill Ferriter for your wonderful CC slides – used a few in this presentation! Mentioned you too. :)

My presentation is available to view in my wiki, you just need to sign in with an email to gain access. I’ll let you take a look and make your own judgement about it’s effectiveness. I was overwhelmed from the response it got on Twitter – I couldn’t keep up with the stream in the 30- 45 minutes after I left the stage. To be honest, it was validating. So much of the time I’ve voluntarily invested in networks was represented in that presentation. It felt like a hell of a lot of thinking and hard work had paid off.

Having the opportunity to see Sir Ken Robinson speak in person was without doubt a highlight for everyone who attended. He presents with such finesse, integrating important messages about the state of education in a world where testing regimes seem to dominate education systems worldwide, with carefully placed humorous interludes that win the audience over with their natural charm. He is the kind of speaker you could listen to all day. Ahh, to perfect that technique… And take a look at this video he showed of the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra as an example of creativity in circumstances where you might think it wouldn’t flourish. I dare you not to tear up…

I attended the conference dinner where we were once again entertained and enlightened by Sir Ken. And yes, I behaved like an edu-groupie and managed to get a photo taken with him. No longer a lame claim to fame!

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I was very impressed with Conrad Wolfram speaking about the need to transform Maths education and acknowledge the relevance of Computational Mathematics in schools today. Here are some of my tweets from the session:

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If you’ve never visited the Wolfram Alpha site, you must take a visit. Then take a look at Conrad’s site where he makes the case for change to the way we teach Maths today (see video below – appears on this site). I’m not a Maths teacher, but I have a son finding it very difficult to access the Math curriculum as it stands now. Conrad’s ideas sound like Project Based Learning (PBL) for Maths, and it makes sense to me.

I thought Greg Whitby had some practical and important things to say about making change happen as did Matt Richards who didn’t hold back when presenting to IT Managers about moving your school into the cloud computing space. Judy O’Connell has a wealth of knowledge and did a great job informing the audience about what is necessary to prepare for the impact of Web 3.0. Visit Judy’s blog where her presentation is embedded for viewing.

What is always a highlight for a conference of this size is the opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones (who are most often people you’ve met on Twitter but need a conference like this for a face to face meeting.) I loved seeing Sue Waters, Annabel Astbury, Helen Bremer, Joyce Valenza, Judy O’Connell, Judith Way, Graham Wegner, Matt Richards, Meredith Ebbs  and Matt Esterman again, and was thrilled to get the opportunity to meet Paul Luke, Leigh Murphy and Corinne Campbell for the first time. Leigh Murphy interviewed me after my session for the Scootle Community and you can see it below. (my interview is towards the end)

Special mention needs to go to Matt Esterman who got the ball rolling for Teachmeet presentations that happened at four different times in the main Trade Hall where an area had been set aside for them. It was wonderful to see classroom practitioners sharing their practice with conference participants and opening their eyes to the vibrant education community being forged in informal networks throughout Australia today.

Thank you to the organisers of the event for bringing together such an interesting array of speakers and for managing to draw such large numbers to an event about educational technology. Thanks also for giving me an opportunity to air my thinking. Like I said, a validating experience.

 

 

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School’s out Friday

It’s been a HUGE week for me, but not nearly as huge as the week that John Green has had with the release today of ‘The Fault in our Stars‘ worldwide.

I find John absolutely fascinating. He’s not only fascinating, he’s entirely relevant to the subject I teach, ‘Language of our Times’. This Year 9 elective is designed to help students understand the nature of communication in today’s world. My students are currently completing a task that required them to work collaboratively to research John’s use of social media channels to grow his audience. The second part of the task then required them to individually produce a feature article about John’s methods that could appear in a digital newspaper. They need to think about the headline, lead and the structure of the paragraphs to follow. As they write, they needed to hyperlink to relevant content and find suitable pictures and YouTube videos that would complement the written text.

What I’ve seen them produce so far has been fantastic. I’m pretty blown away by the skills some of them have to write with the kind of conversational tone that works well in a feature article where your subject matter is someone who uses the Internet to good effect like John Green does.

Why was my week huge? Well, I presented at EduTECH in Brisbane. I’ll write a post over the weekend that explores what happened there. I’ll leave you with this though.

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Yep, it was huge. Not sure I’ll ever see my name trending ahead of Tony Abbott again. ;)

Enjoy the weekend. I intend to. :)

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School’s out Friday

If you share a house with a dog and a cat, then I’m pretty sure you’re going to be able to relate to what’s going on here in this collection of clips.

Cats have a way of dominating their surrounds. As I type, one of our cats is banging on wooden blinds in an attempt to rouse me to tend to whatever need she currently has  – more than likely a trip to the food bowl for a refill. She wakes me pretty much every night using the same method. My husband and I don’t think we’ve have had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in our home over the last eighteen years. (when you take children into account too!)

I’m heading to Brisbane on Monday for the EduTECH Conference where I’ll presenting on Tuesday afternoon. Two nights of uninterrupted sleep – ahhhh, the sheer bliss of it all.

Enjoy the weekend ahead, Get some uninterrupted sleep if you’re lucky. :)

 

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Leaning in

I listen to a radio program on the drive home from work some days where they have a segment called ‘Lame claim to fame’. I love it. People ring in with their tenuous links to celebrities and the like and claim their five minutes of fame in what is always a humorous, light hearted segment. It makes me laugh. In the car. By myself.

So the other day, when I saw that twelve pages separated me from the great Sir Ken Robinson in the EduTECH Official Showguide, I immediately thought, here’s my lame claim to fame. So I posted this on Twitter.

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When I re-read it later, it occurred to me that the EduTECH organisers and Australian Teacher Magazine may be thinking that I’m making light of my inclusion in the guide. It might appear (as can be wont to do when you’re communicating in 140 character bites) that I was being sarcastic when I said this was a career highlight.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me state quite clearly , this IS a career highlight for me.

I feel very honoured to be selected for inclusion in the guide, alongside other local speakers Dan Haesler, Anne Weaver, Peter Evans, Karin Gilbert and yes, the overseas presenter and highly esteemed Sir Ken Robinson, who resides 12 pages in front of my piece. I’m very grateful to the organisers who contacted me and asked if I could share my thinking and allow me the opportunity share my thoughts in a publication that will be seen by many.

Sheryl Sandberg wrote a book in recent times called ‘Lean in‘, where she posits that women need to take their place at the table like men do, and lean in and make their voice heard. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m not someone who holds back on their thinking. I think I represent women well by making my voice heard in networks that are often dominated by male voice and by being a Keynote speaker who can hold her own and inspire people to take the leap to make moves to change their thinking and practice.

However, I don’t think I ‘Lean in’ enough. I don’t often retweet kind things people say about my presentations. I thank people, and I sometimes favourite their comments, but I’m loathe to retweet. I think I’ve done it once or twice and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after the fact, like I’m showing off and parading myself around for everyone to see. I don’t have a page in this blog full of testimonials from conference participants. And yet, I see it happening all the time in the networks I inhabit, often by men who are occupying the scene and taking their place at many tables.

Maybe my tweet should have read:

Really pleased to be featured in the EduTECH Official Showguide (and only 12 pages away from the great @SirKenRobinson)

That would have been a leaning in moment.

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Normalisation

I had one of those moments in my Language of our Times class today when you know technology has become normalised within your classroom.

Poet Alicia Sometimes was visiting, running a workshop to help my students gain insight into how to begin writing Spoken Word poetry. After watching a couple of examples from YouTube and discussing how they might get started, they launched into groups to begin the writing process.

What happened next?

Google Drives were opened, members of the class created a Doc and shared it with others in their group and the writing process began.

Just like that. No prompting. No suggestion that Google Docs would be a good way to collaborate. Nothing.

Normalisation of technology use.

Technology as facilitator for learning.

As it should be.

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School’s out Friday

I’m not a fan of mannequins at the best of times. For me, they belong in ‘uncanny valley‘ territory. Someone dressed as a mannequin standing next to a store mannequin – now there’s the next layer of creepy.

Improveverywhere’s mission had an unexpected outcome for some participants. Unexpected, but not entirely unsurprising in today’s security conscious age, and in the centre of New York no less!

Enjoy the weekend ahead. A reasonably quiet one for me is forecast, and that suits me just fine given the pace of the last few weeks. If I’m smart, I’ll get a head start on report writing.

Ahhh…the life a teacher. The fun never stops. :)

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Creating a Connected Organisation = Leadership required

Make sure you click through every one of Ayelet Baron’s slides about the need to create a connected organisation for the 21st Century. When you do, think about where you work and whether or not leadership in your organisation is living on the edges to provision change.

If you’ve seen me present anywhere recently, you will know that I am fascinated with what it is we need to be doing to prepare our students for future working environments very different from the ones many of us (teachers of a certain age…) walked into.

For that matter, I envisage the profession of teaching and our classrooms of the future will look very different too. There is no room for “that’s not how we roll here” thinking.

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(Slide 24, from Ayelet Baron)

 

I was reminded of this today when members of a school visited to see what it is we are doing with technology across our campus. At the end of our discussion one of the visitors said that he realised innovation was being stifled where they worked. They were worried about those resistant to change, rather than embracing change and working with resistant staff in the process.

It is challenging leading change. You’ve got to suck your breath in deep and and hold it. Every now and then you get to exhale and revel in both small and large victories. It’s not easy, but it is necessary, and worth it.

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