Improving STEM Education and Skills Conference – Day one

Well, I earned my keep as a network node today. I attended the ‘Improving STEM Education and Skills Conference‘ in Melbourne and tweeted myself silly for near on 8 hours. Tweets become my form of note taking at most conferences I attend, and they serve the dual purpose of providing a virtual presence for those people in my network who can’t attend.

Screenshot 2015-02-11 22.21.40

(Thanks Stuart Palmer for this image)

Conference organisers these days must be pretty happy when someone who tweets for purposes like this appear in their crowd. Most conferences I attend advertise the hashtag being used (in this case, #stemeduau) and the amplification of the ideas being shared bode them well, especially if the conference is one that operates annually.

Our school is committed to improving the STEM skills of our students and a team of teachers are exploring ways of making this happen. If you’re interested in STEM education and what was shared at this conference today, then click on this link and you’ll arrive at my Storify of collected tweets from today’s proceedings. Day two of the conference is tomorrow, but I won’t be there. I’ll be following the hashtag though!

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School’s out Friday

Two things made me smile this week (in fact, there were more than two, but these two made me really smile.)

This made me smile tonight.

And earlier this week, this made me really smile.

Screenshot 2015-02-06 21.10.20

These are the moments that keep me in this game. I had another like this today, when a Mother of one of the students in my class came in to tell me how much her daughter was enjoying my class, and that whatever it was I was doing, it was working, because she was coming home talking about the class and the things we had explored.

It’s been a good week all round. I presented to staff earlier in the week and it was well received, and I feel like I’m making some inroads in terms of staff understanding the need to integrate technology into their classroom practice. Yep, good week all round.

The sun has made a welcome return to Melbourne. I’m going to make sure it’s a good weekend too. I hope it treats you well too. Enjoy :)

School’s out Friday

Our two school student leaders shared this video today in assembly. They asked the girls in the audience to think about how they were spending their life, and what they might do to make the most of the days they had this year. I think it made an impact on all of us sitting there watching it. Thinking about how much time you spend doing things that seem inconsequential when you look at life as a collection of jelly beans makes you take stock.

I’ll ponder than one. Have a good weekend. Make the most of those two days.

 

School’s out Friday

Even I am surprised by the sheer – dare I say it – stupidity, of the people interviewed in this clip posted by Jimmy Kimmel Live.

But wait for it, you need to see this list from Mashable of the 25 most common passwords, derived from 3 million passwords leaked online last year apparently.

1. 123456 (Unchanged from 2013)
2. password (Unchanged)
3. 12345 (Up 17)
4. 12345678 (Down 1)
5. qwerty (Down 1)
6. 234567890 (Unchanged)
7. 1234 (Up 9)
8. baseball (New)
9. dragon (New)
10. football (New)
11. 1234567 (Down 4)
12. monkey (Up 5)
13. letmein (Up 1)
14. abc123 (Down 9)
15. 111111 (Down 8)
16. mustang (New)
17. access (New)
18. shadow (Unchanged)
19. master (New)
20. michael (New)
21. superman (New)
22. 696969 (New)
23. 123123 (Down 12)
24. batman (New)
25. trustno1 (Down 1)

If you’re reading that list and identify a password you’re currently using, then trust me, you do need help. Watch the following from Mozilla  that I’ve used with Year 5 students who, in their youthful enthusiasm, think it’s a good idea to share their passwords with their friends.

Something to start the school year with!

Enjoy your weekend.  I’m planning on doing just that.  :)

School’s out Friday

I saw this shared on Twitter this morning from Guy Kawasaki. It’s an older video, but one of those timeless pieces that pulls at the heartstrings and gives you a bit of a laugh in the process.

What I can tell you is this – I did not receive a marriage proposal that looked anything like this. In fact, when I think back on it, I’m not sure it was a formal proposal at all, more like an understanding that we were going to stay together and get married. Maybe longevity in a marriage can’t be measured on the quality of the proposal, because an ordinary proposal has resulted in 27 years of marriage for my husband and I!

Speaking of longevity, this is the 300th School’s out Friday post on this blog. The first post appeared on January 25th, 2008. Here was what I said about ‘School’s out Friday’ and it’s purpose back then;

This brings me to today’s post. Here in Melbourne we have two radio presenters on Fox FM, Hamish and Andy. Their Friday afternoon broadcast is called ‘Pants off Friday’ because it is the end of the working week. I’ve decided that my Friday posts are going to be a bit of fun because it’s the end of the school week and I’m going to call them ‘School’s out Friday’.

Hamish and Andy are still around and on the radio, but I’m not sure if ‘Pants off Friday’ still features. I have to say, ‘School’s out Friday’ posts are one of the reasons this blog has survived. The duty I’ve felt to post regularly (not always weekly!), and then the guilt I’ve experienced when I see a string of weeks where the only posts are ‘School’s out Friday’ has often prompted me to write when enthusiasm has waned. Best of all, I really like them. Humour is an important element of my classroom practice and my life out of the classroom. Laughing on a regular basis is good for the soul.

Rainy weekend here in Melbourne after a spell of hot weather. Not my fave conditions, but it’s the weekend, so let’s make the best of it, huh? I hope you have a great one. :)

School’s out Friday

Got a spare nine minutes on a hot summer’s night ? Granted, it might not be hot where you are, but it is hot here in Melbourne right now. The Ohio State Marching Band’s ‘It came from outer space’ is pretty impressive stuff and not a bad way to while away 9 minutes of your life.

Another scorcher coming to Melbourne tomorrow. May even venture into the pool. Now that would be an event! Enjoy the first weekend of 2015 – do something just for you.   :)

Looking back…

At the end of 2013, I read a post from Steve Brophy where he reflected on the year that was. Just the other day I read his 2014 reflection of the year that was. I’m thinking a reflection on the two years just gone is warranted seeing that I never got one posted last year!

In 2014, Steve took on a position similar to mine (Director of ICT and eLearning), and his summation of the experience echoes strongly how I felt in my first year. To go from being Head of Library and English teacher, to someone who has overarching responsibility for managing the school’s infrastructure and directions the school would be taking with platforms and devices, was a huge leap. Just getting my head around the language of the area I was now working in was challenging. Everything is an acronym, and you look pretty darn silly when you’re in meetings with vendors negotiating contracts if you don’t have a handle on an acronym. I’m not ashamed to admit there were occasions when I’d nod knowledgeably then retreat to my computer after a meeting to play catch-up with Google.

2013 saw the introduction of a new Learning Management System (Schoolbox) and 2014 saw the introduction of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard across our school. We also introduced Chromebooks and Nexus 7 devices in our Junior School as part of this move. These were huge undertakings requiring staff buy in for success. I’ve had to work out ways to communicate effectively to help staff understand systems and have tried very hard to offer professional development opportunities and well as support in online environments. I’ve found the following an effective way to explain new features quite effective when you’re starved of face to face contact with the whole staff cohort. Make a quick screencast using Screencast-o-matic, upload to Google Drive, embed in LMS and share via email.

I’ve continued to teach a class while taking on this role, and introduced a new elective called ‘Language of our Times’ focused on communication in today’s world. This meant creating new curriculum and shifting my pedagogy into methodology such as Project Based Learning – all in the midst of learning how to manage the network and introduce new systems! While it’s been challenging, it’s also been incredibly exciting. The students have loved the class and I’ve loved teaching them. True to form (for me, anyway) I’ve changed each unit from year to year, based on what the students need and responding to shifts on the Internet. Keeping a foot in the classroom keeps you grounded and enables you to model effective use of the systems you’ve introduced. Credibility with staff matters  – the old adage ‘Practice what you Preach’ really does hold weight.

Suffice to say, the last two years have seen me on an exponential learning curve, one that required a huge investment of time and took me away from blogging on a regular basis. It’s something I have mixed feelings about; there have been many times when I felt that I had something worthy of sharing, but the energy levels were low at the end of long days. I really do feel the need to reinvigorate this space – I’m hopeful that 2015 will see me post on a more regular basis.

What has really sustained my appetite for learning over the last two years has been the opportunities I’ve had to keynote at various conferences across the country. I derive energy from these experiences. Putting a keynote together sharpens my thinking and the interactions with conference participants really helps me remain committed to sharing what I know. What fascinates me right now is what the future holds and what this might require of us as educators. What are the learning environments we need to create to help our students navigate a very different world of work? What are the skills we need to teach effectively in new environments and what will school look like 15 years from now? My reading focuses on thinking around this  – I can be pretty interesting at conferences and pretty boring at dinner parties!

Looking forward…

What will 2015 bring? Consolidation at school level – no new platforms to introduce, but a focus on how to best use ICT to personalise learning experiences for students. In my view, we have the platforms we need – moving through the technology adoption cycle to appeal to the early and late majority is where the work lies.

I’ll continue reading and maintaining my Twitter presence – it’s by far the quickest way to share and the connections formed in that network are my go to place when I get discouraged at school level that change isn’t happening quickly enough. Communicating with like minds feeds my soul.

It’s my greatest hope that I will find time to invest in this space and share my thoughts and perhaps some insight into the work I’m doing at school level. Let’s see what happens when the pace increases – perhaps short bursts of content are what I need to aim for. Long reflective posts take time!