Tag Archives: Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Planes, Trains and Conferences – Part 1: ISTE 2012

(Sorry, late getting to some reflective posts about recent conferences. I’m holidaying with the family, and have decided that they deserve more of my focus than this space. A good call, in my opinion!)

Planes:  Did you know it’s illegal for groups of 3 or more to congregate in the aisles of planes flying over American air space? I didn’t, but was enlightened when this was announced on my flight to Los Angeles en route to the ISTE 2012 conference. I have to admit to entertaining the idea of amassing a crowd just to see what would happen. Would some air space tracking system notify authorities? Would an air marshall make him or herself known and disperse the offending party? Sensibly, I pushed the radical thought to the back recesses of my mind and settled down to view a film called 50/50. I was a sobbing wreck by the end of that one, and drew enough attention to myself that way, nullifying any need to create a scene by congregating with others in the aisles!

Trains: Well, it sounded like a good title for a post, but a trolley car in San Diego doesn’t quite qualify for a train. I caught one of those with Ashleigh, a teacher from Sydney who accompanied me to the mecca that is Seaworld. See my previous post for a review of that experience.

Conferences: Aahhh. The true intention of this post. ISTE 2012. My first ISTE Conference was Denver, 2010, so I had an idea of what to expect. A massive convention centre with thousands of educators congregating and an almost indecipherable conference program to make sense of. After re-reading my 2010 ISTE reflection, I note that I’d identified the need to scrutinise the conference program carefully and select sessions early. #FAIL on my behalf. Once again, I was rushed off my feet getting my ISTE conference presentation prepared as well as correction and end of term report writing before boarding the plane. But, I did make a better go of getting to more sessions this time around. Last time, I found myself locked out of sessions I’d wanted to attend. This time, I got to sessions earlier and had booked some when registering for the conference. That doesn’t always mean you’ve made the right selection though. It’s kind of frustrating watching the twitter stream and being envious of the folks who are tweeting from a session you didn’t even know was on offer. I suppose that’s the issue with a conference of these dimensions. There are often 30 or so sessions running concurrently, and you can’t be in more than one place at a time!

Why I was there

Well, my real purpose for attending was to present about the work we have been doing at Toorak College to scale change beyond the classrooms of the few to the classrooms of many, and hence ensure all of our students are exposed to a skill set that prepares them for life in a knowledge economy. Here’s the premise I was working toward:

At Toorak College (Victoria, Australia) our Library Media Specialists have introduced an Information Fluency initiative to help both our teaching staff and students garner skills in keeping with the digital age we live in. We have introduced the TPACK model and the SAMR model to our teaching staff, and are working on re-envisioning curriculum with these models in mind. We have used the ISTE Students NETS curriculum planning tool to help us create Information Fluency Certificates at Yrs 7, 8 and 9 that embody a skill set we desire our students to acquire. Our Library Media specialists are working in a co-teaching capacity in classrooms to assist our teachers to help our students acquire these skills. We have introduced an edublogs platform and every student from Yrs 7 -10 has a blog they are using as their ePortfolio. It is our aim to have our students demonstrate their acquisition of skills, develop their own digital literacy understandings through use of a public web platform, and develop a positive digital footprint for themselves that they can share with their families, potential employers and University admissions officers. We are looking for whole school systemic adoption of a much needed skill set for the world our students are living in and the world they will find themselves working in.

You can find the presentation on my wikispaces site. (Once again, I’m frustrated that my Sliderocket presentation won’t embed here). My Principal, Mrs. Helen Carmody, agreed that, as educators, in the spirit of sharing, we should publish the Information Fluency Scope and Sequence document under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike  license. We’re not suggesting it’s perfect, but it may help other educators get a start on scaling change beyond teachers’ individual classrooms. It’s also embedded on the wikispaces page. I encourage you to visit and take a look. It would be great to get some feedback on it too. Leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

Some highlights

Yong Zhao’s keynote was fantastic. The guy just makes sense. Don’t take my word for it. Watch it yourself.

The keynote on the final day was also worth attending. So many attendees leave the conference early, and it’s a shame they missed this. Dr. Willie Smits discussed the collaborative work being done with educators to combat the decimation of the rainforest in Borneo and the resultant threats to the Orangutan population. Brisbane teacher Christopher Gauthier joined him later in the presentation to explain how his students had become ‘Earthwatchers‘ as part of the DeforestAction campaign. His passion for his work was palpable; this was exactly the kind of keynote that should have opened the conference, when attendance was at a premium. Take a look, it’s worth it – you’ll have to fast forward to get to the start of Willie Smits’ presentation so let things load and fast track through.

Doug Johnson, a Teacher-Librarian from Minnesota, never disappoints. He writes The Blue Skunk Blog, and he is an excellent presenter. He infuses humour and practical advice into his sessions. This session was about Bricks and mortar libraries, and what is necessary to ensure school libraries remain relevant in schools today. His wiki page supporting this session with links to posts he has written is accessible here. If you’re not already reading Doug’s blog, then you should be.

Ewan McIntosh delivered a presentation about Data Visualisation. This is a topic I’m very much interested in. I think teaching students how to work with data and present their findings in interesting, accessible ways is something we need to be exploring in schools today. Ewan introduced me to the work of David McCandless. I’ve since discovered the TED talk he delivered that encapsulates many of his visualisations and what they tell us. Again, best you take a look yourself.

The real highlight

Honestly, the real highlight of any conference like this is connecting with new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Getting to see Lisa Parisi and Diana Laufenberg again was just great. Lisa made a special effort to meet me in New York on a previous visit (Forever grateful for that Lisa) and I met Diana at Educon a couple of years ago. We’ve since met up in Melbourne and shared a night out together when she was presenting here. Seeing Sheryl Nussbaum Beach again was another highlight- a very good friend now thanks to our PLP time together. Getting to meet Ann Michaelson from Norway was fabulous- we both write for the PLP Voices blog and have now organised to connect our classrooms together in September. I was more than thrilled to get the opportunity to finally meet Carolyn Foote, a Teacher-Librarian from Texas. Carolyn and I have been twitter friends for a long time now, going back to 2008, so it was wonderful to finally meet face to face. There were many more catch ups with educators from all over, but I’d be writing for the next three hours if I tried to mention them all.

What was really wonderful about this conference, and what made it a special experience for me, was catching up with some Australian educators, and meeting some for the first time. Weird really, that you have to travel so far to meet people who live in the State next door (New South Welshman!). Cameron Paterson, Stacey Taylor, Maurice Cummins, Leanne Windsor, Tom Lee, Mike Wheadon, Angela Thomas – thanks for sharing some really fun times, and for being such a supportive Aussie contingent at my presentation. I hope we get to meet up together again sometime and share a meal together – you made my time in San Diego one full of friendship and laughter. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, but I found myself gravitating to Australians at both Denver and San Diego ISTE conferences. Maybe there’s comfort in sharing common ground, or maybe it’s just that the people I’ve hung out with are just great people. I’d like to think the latter. :)

Takeaway

It still perplexes me how much time is spent discussing hardware at conferences like this.  A number of sessions focused on the idea of Bring your own technology and iPad rollouts. To my way of thinking, the discussion needs to centre around why you’d want to roll out the hardware – what is it our kids need to be doing with it to make the learning better? The other thing that struck me was how the tools based sessions had educators spilling out the doors. It seems like we haven’t gotten past people needing to be taught how to use a tool. Hand holding still seems necessary rather than people taking it on board to self direct their own learning. Heads up people – YouTube is full of screencasts explaining pretty much most things these days – take a visit, you might like what you see.

Like last time, I’ve come away from ISTE feeling like Australia is in pretty good shape. Even Alan November was telling participants in his session that they’d be at an advantage if they were sitting next to an Australian. We might bemoan our systems at times, but at least we’ve seen our Government recognise the need to build capacity within our population to meet the needs of a global economy head on. Perhaps it is still our tyranny of distance that makes us look outwards and try to find ways to link ourselves to the rest of the world. Maybe ISTE should be looking to us for guidance? They are running a study tour visiting our shores later this year. It would be interesting to hear from participants on that to see their impressions of our education system here.

San Diego- thanks for putting on a great show. Those clear blue skies in the middle of a freezing cold Melbourne winter really helped quell the seasonal affective disorder!

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School’s out Friday

I haven’t written a post in a week. Did anyone notice?

It’s not that there haven’t been things to write about. I’ve been busy getting our PLP video organised and was hit with a head cold that didn’t stop me going to work, but it did slow me down once I’d got home in the evenings. Just did not have any extra energy to get to this blog.

Tonight I’ve been out to dinner with Sheryl Nussbaum Beach  and her lovely daughter Grace, Will Richardson and a variety of other people including Tania Sheko, Mary Manning, Andrew Hiskins, Rhonda Powling, Marie Salinger and Leonie Dyason. It was a really nice evening where we were able to reflect on our PLP experiences and enjoy good conversation. Andrew Hiskins referred to the above Rowan Atkinson video during a discussion we were having about Libraries. I’d never seen it so I did enjoy a laugh when I got home.

I need to get back to posting and I will be uploading Toorak College’s PLP video over the weekend. For now, time for sleep!

Enjoy your weekend and whatever it brings.  

 

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Collective action help from our network

Our bushfire appeal on Working together 2 make a difference  has received some help from unexpected quarters. Clarence Fisher and Jen Wagner, who coordinated an online effort in response to the Californian bushfires, have provided some sound advice about how to go about coordinating such an effort. Thanks go to Sheryl Nussbaum- Beach for directing them to me.

In fact,  Jen has gone one step further.  She  has helped me set up a paypal button on the Working together 2 make a difference site and has offered to tally donations and keep track of contributors. Such generosity of spirit overwhelms me. It’s yet another example of the sharing nature of this network that makes it so special.

If  you are so inclined, visit the site and make a donation through the paypal account set up by Jen. The money you donate will be redirected to the Red Cross appeal to aid those affected by this disaster. ALL the money will go there, be sure of that.  

 

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Join us to work together 2 make a difference for fire ravaged Victoria.

A street...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Yesterday I posted about the natural disaster that has ravaged the Victorian countryside. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach read my post and offered to help in any way she could. My good friend Angela Stockman, who I collaborate with on Working together 2 make a difference,  also wanted to know what she could do to help. Here we have two Americans reaching out to assist those in a country very distant from their own. Why do they want to help? Firstly no doubt, because they are sensitive people with a desire to assist their fellow citizens of the world. Perhaps they are motivated also because they have formed connections through these networks we are working in and feel a link to a country far from their own.

Sheryl spoke with me tonight and has commited to help me, Angela and other educators who may wish to join us, to do whatever it is we can to raise funds to support those in need. The Red Cross has coordinated a fundraising effort here in Australia. What we are encouraging you to do is to join Working together 2 make a difference  and post your efforts there. We will set up a paypal account that will direct the monies you raise to the Red Cross appeal.  Here’s what I’ve posted on the Working together 2 make a difference site to enocurage participation;       

Victoria, the State I live in in Australia, has been hit by a tragic natural disaster that is affecting the lives of many of our country communities. On Saturday the 7th of Feb., bushfires, fanned by fierce northerly winds in 46 degree celcius temperatures, ravaged our countryside, leading to the deaths of 173 people. This figure is http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/02/10/2487517.htm?section=australia”>expected to rise to over 200 in the coming days as they gain access to affected areas and search homes. Native animals, livestock and family pets were other victims of this disaster.

So how can we all make a difference? We would love to see our education community from near and far band together to support the communities in need. What is needed is money to help schools rebuild, families rebuild their lost homes and for communities to build the infrastructure needed that has been lost in these fires.

What can you do?  Anything that will help your students to understand the need to help others when the situation is dire. Be it a sausage sizzle, free dress day, bake sale, whatever it takes to raise a few dollars that can be used to support others. In the next few days, with the help of Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and some wisdom fron Clarence Fisher, we’ll be setting up a paypal account to direct funds you raise to the Red Cross appeal that has been set up to support those affected. Create a page here and let us know your plans. We can support one another and link our schools to a common cause. Let’s show the world how the education community can use the tools at our disposal to connect and support one another for a common purpose.     

So, wherever you are in the world, think about helping out those in need here in Australia. And let’s see just how small our world really is when we connect using these tools for the common good.

 

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Learning, 21st Century style.

Drupal
Image via Wikipedia

Lately I’ve been trying to learn how to use Drupal. The motivation for this is my husband’s business that needs a web presence. I set something up in Google Sites but had a look at what some businesses had achieved with Drupal and thought that might be a better option. My problem was I have never used Drupal, knew nothing about it and needed to find out how to approach setting something up.

 

So what did I do? I went straight to twitter and asked people there to point me in the direction of tutorials that might help me.  Did I get help? Absolutely. Links were provided, twitter names were offered as go to people and I connected with some followers who I hadn’t  connected with before. So why am I telling you this?

I was in a PLP fellows meeting and we were discussing the successes and challenges we were having with teams in our cohorts. The discussion led by Sheryl and Will was centred around how we have to connect what we are trying to do to learning rather than focusing on teaching Web 2.0 tools acquisition.  The idea was that it isn’t the tool that should be the focus but rather how that tool can be the effective medium for the learning possibilities for our students. Now I totally agree with this, it’s the kind of thinking I believe and it’s what I try and focus on when I discuss adoption of new ideas in my school setting.  However, there is no avoiding the fact that at some point teaching the tools has to happen. Our teachers need to feel competent dealing with blogs, wikis, nings, voicethread, and any other web 2.0 app that has the ability to connect our kids with one another and the outside world. My feeling is if they don’t feel confident they will be less likely to adopt these ideas as permanent shifts in their classroom practice.

I was making the point that I could empathise with how some of our staff are feeling since I’ve started exploring drupal. I feel ‘dumb’ for want of a better word; I can’t figure out where best to start and it all seems a bit overwhelming. Similar to feelings I had just over a year or so ago when I started exploring new technologies.  Will countered me by suggesting that my learning is now different. He asked “Did I go and buy a manual or did I go to my network first”?  The point he was making was that I learn differently now and this is the kind of thing I need to impress upon the teachers and students I interact with. My community of learners has shaped my attitude and actions and this very powerful learning is something that our colleagues and students need to benefit from also.

There are many challenges ahead for us if we want  to see systemic change happen. I need to remember that small steps are OK   – they will muster support and allow us to start taking larger steps, maybe even leaps.   

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Powerful Learning Practice – our community forms

Today was the Australian face to face kick off at Toorak College for the International Powerful Learning Practice cohort. Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson flew into Australia yesterday to help us kick off what is going to be transformational for many involved. Helping to get this cohort together has occupied me for the last few months. There have been meetings and countless emails and skype calls and chats that have led to seven Australian schools participating. We join a New Zealand team from Core education and nine teams from the United States.

Yes, we were experiencing technical difficulties here. Can you tell??

It was inspiring to see the Australian arm of the cohort come together today. Sometimes it’s hard to visualise something that has been long in the planning. When it happens you are so busy trying to make sure things run smoothly that you miss part of the experience. It felt a little like that today. We had technical hitches that impeded the ustream going out and getting everyone connected was a bit of a chore. I was a little stressed I have to admit, but you know what, these hitches didn’t much matter. What mattered was the fact that we were all there as interested educators, working towards forging links that are going to drive our learning community forward.

The gathering gave me much hope. During our lunch in our school’s Dining Room I looked around and realised that all these people were here because they have a genuine desire to learn what they can do to implement change that will benefit the students they teach.  For some time I’ve been on a bit of a solo trip trying to move people with the thinking I have after a period of immersion. I realised early on that my solo wasn’t going to cut it to get serious change happening. A chorus was more in order. Today I saw a choir who may still be in rehearsal, but practice will make all the difference. Our practice will take place in our dedicated ning environment which is being supported by Sheryl, Will, 21st Century fellows and our community leader Darren Kuropatwa.  

Tania Sheko, who is part of our cohort, has summed up how I think many participants feel about the change we are facing and the learning ahead;

“…..when change freaks me out, I have to remind myself that I also like moving the furniture around. It gets boring sitting and looking at the same view. There are new configurations to be discovered.”

Time to move the furniture I think.

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What kind of world are we preparing our students for?

I’ve had a very busy couple of days. Actually, I’ve had a very busy last few months. I’m immersed in a new way of looking at education and it’s very hard to switch off. As much as I try and stay off the grid for periods of my day, I find myself thinking all the time. Any down time I have for housework, driving my kids to their next destinations, even having a shower and getting ready for work seems to be occupied with my head mulling over ideas about the future direction of education and how we respond to it.  (Just to clarify my interpretation of down time – none of that is really what I’d like to think of as down time, but it’s the only down time I have!!) 

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s visit to my school this week brought a lot of this into focus for me. Of late I’ve been reading Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind. He talks of society moving from an information age into a conceptual age, where we are going to need people who are creators with the ability to empathise with others using Right brain directed thinking. According to Dan, Left brain directed thinking is still important, but there needs to be a balance betwen the two. Hence the book’s title, ‘A Whole New Mind’.  Much of what Sheryl relayed coalesced with the thinking I have after my period of immersion.

Sheryl was speaking of the need for education to address the changing society we live in. Her focus was on the Human Network we habitate, and how we can use technology to foster relationships with people not just in our immediate locale, but worldwide and the importance of these digital literacy skills for the students we teach. Tania Sheko, who is from one of the school’s joining our cohort, was in attendance and she has written a  very good post about Sheryl’s visit. Here’s some of what she had to say ;

Firstly, she emphasised that 21st century learning, although based on technologies, was primarily a human network. These technologies enable global connections and wisdom of the crowd. Sheryl gave the example of Twitter as a means of finding the best information about buying a new car. I suppose it’s an extension of the network of friends and colleagues people turn to when looking for a good car, or finding a good plumber, only the global aspect facilitates expert knowledge more effectively. In a fast-changing world, where the information today will be outdated tomorrow, rather than teach memorisation of content from a single text, we need to teach students how to work collaboratively. As Sheryl said, ‘don’t think computers, think innovation’. Our students need to be able to be productive, self-directed and effective communicators, understanding digital communications, and not be overwhelmed by the fast pace of change in their lives. It’s not about the tools, the technology, but about learning. 

A very good summary Tania. Read her post  - she has much more there and it does encapsulate the thinking of Sheryl.

 

My time spent with Sheryl lived up to expectations. She loved Toorak College and felt like she’d been visiting Hogwarts. We do have the most beautiful school setting; a wonderful original building and stunning gardens. Sheryl was impressed with the examples of self directed learning taking place. A Yr 8 inquiry week and students from Yr 7 filming in groups for a Connections class. She’s a frenetically busy lady; when you listen to her describe her schedule you swear you are never going to complain again about how busy you are. When she presented to the staff at my school I’m sure none of them would have been able to ascertain that she had come off a long haul flight with no sleep. By the time I left her Thursday night she’d been awake for 33 hours and she was still sounding very lucid. We’ve chatted many a time through Skype, but this was our first meeting. I have to admit to being a little apprehensive – what if she didn’t like me or vice versa? Happy to report we got on really well. She’s passionate about what she does and so am I. That ‘s what’s important in being able to relay this message and have it heard; you have to believe it.

This brings me to Friday.  As with any staff, there are going to be people open to new ideas and people who take time to move along with change. A discussion ensued with a member of staff about the relevance of Sheryl’s message in the light of the stringent exam structure that exists in our senior years of high school. The argument that was presented suggested that our parent community wanted high enter scores. Our job at those year levels was to get our students through the curriculum and prepare them for 700 word essays, and it wasn’t helping them to have them learn how to collaborate with students from around the world. The other argument was that they couldn’t see how computers could be used for exams and didn’t see how it would be likely in their lifetime.  

My answer to these statements went something like this. What is our responsibility as teachers? Is it to prepare them for an exam, or is it to prepare them for life and the type of world they are going to be entering where these type of collaboration and digital literacy skills are going to be valuable? Will there come a time when we are going to see students use technology in exam situations? I think so. When, I don’t know, but with the rate of change and adoption in our society it could be within the next 10 years. I’ve been mulling this over the last 24 hrs and have been wondering if the English course will adapt and have students complete tasks that assess their digital literacy skills. At the moment we assess their ability to analyse persuasive language. I could see this evolving to include  assessing their ability to locate persuasive arguments from Web based sources; it seems to me that in the future, and now for that matter, it’s becoming more important to know how to find the best and most authoritive source of information in tandem with how to analyse the language and persuasive techniques (including visual stimuli) being used. Digital literacy , knowing how to find what you need, for the purpose you need it for, is going to be the vital 21st Century skill in my belief. We will all be in command of hand held devices, our phones, that are going to be able to perform so many tasks for us. We need to know how to use these to best effect and how to source the best of what is out there.

The week finished with a dinner in the city with Sheryl and local Melbourne based bloggers. Sue Tapp, Jo McLeay, John Pearce, Lauren O’Grady, Pam Arvanitakis and Darren Murphy (soon to relocate to London).  A fun evening where I got to chat with new found friends and share some ideas.

My hope is that Powerful Learning Practice is going to be the launching pad for further uptake of this kind of thinking in the school I work at. After meeting Sheryl, I know she has the passion and commitment to help us traverse this new approach to learning and hopefully give us the capacity to build this with our staff who are yet to be convinced of the need to move forward. What we’re facing is the change cycle that comes from moving from the knowledge age to the conceptual age. We are all going to have to adopt a whole new mind in order to cope with this change.

It’s the field of dreams adage, ‘If you build it,  they will come’. Hope so.

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