Tag Archives: Toorak College

How do you react? Active Destructive, or Active Constructive?

Yesterday, Maria Roberto visited Toorak College to lead a day long session about Wellbeing and Positive Psychology. It was a great day – we were all immersed in the vast repertoire of knowledge Maria imparted, and from the feedback I was hearing, the majority of the staff who participated thought that it was time well spent. Spending a whole day focused on your Wellbeing seemed a bit of a luxury, but it was evident too that our Wellbeing as teachers reflects heavily on our ability to teach well. If you’re not in a good state, how can your teaching be at its prime?

There were many takeaways, but one segment of the day that really resounded with me was the discussion surrounding how we react to others. We participated in a role play and had to respond with either ‘active destructive’ or ‘active constructive’ statements to our partner who was effusively describing something that had inspired them from the day. When taking on the ‘active destructive’ role, your statements began with ‘yes, but…’ and when taking on the ‘active constructive’ role, your statements began with ‘yes, and…’.

active constructive responding   Google SearchSource: http://www.gostrengths.com/what-is-active-and-constructive-responding/

This exercise really got me thinking. Working in the area of Educational Technology, I’ve found myself in many discussions where the ‘yeah buts…’ dominate. When people are confronted with change, it’s sometimes easy to nullify the new idea with a series of ‘yeah buts…’ that reinforce the status quo. As many of you would know, it’s quite deflating when you’ve discovered something that you think has the potential to invigorate curriculum or change our workflows and all you meet is resistance. I’ve had to retreat at times and build my strength again in order to keep ploughing on at what I know can make a difference for the learning environments of the students we teach. It’s really helped that this year I’m now working as Director of ICT and eLearning at my school. I’ve been given ‘wings’, so to speak, and it makes an enormous difference to be able to present ideas that can gain some traction because you have some degree of positional power.

Over the last few years I’ve realised that I counter the ‘yeah buts…’ by immersing myself in teacher networks. When the doubters have been in the majority, it’s been to the networks where I have retreated to find the ideas and energy to continue. I’ve read numerous books that have helped me to retain a positive mindset, and one that had a lasting effect was Brene Brown’s ‘Daring Greatly’. Her Leadership Manifesto is pinned on my wall at work, and I read it when I feel the need to gain strength to continue.

DaringGreatly LeadershipManifesto 8x10

 

You can download this from Brene’s website. Click here for the direct link, but do read Brene’s work and watch her TED talk for further inspiration.

Here’s another picture that hangs on my wall at work, a quote from David Jakes, turned into a pretty effective picture by my good friend Bill Ferriter. It rings true with the ‘active destructive’ and ‘active constructive’ discussions we had yesterday.

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 11.51.39 PM

 

Being conscious of our reactions matters, in all facets of our lives. Thinking positively, using optimistic language, smiling the Duchenne smile and using humour are all important if we are to remain healthy in both our working and home environments. My task – employ these daily. Maybe you should too.

 

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School’s out Friday

OK, there are so many levels I like this video on. First up, it’s an incredible effort by the staff of Penketh High School to recreate as close as possible Psy’s original Gangnam Style video. Secondly, I tip my hat to you, Head Teacher Mr. Jeff Hughes, for staying true to your word and following through with a promise. Thirdly, this is a brilliant way to form and unite community, especially when up to 50 of the staff dedicated four weeks after school hours to get this video created. Furthermore, this is a brilliant piece of marketing for a school that specialises in media and visual arts.

Schools often shy away from use of social media, but Penketh’s efforts here have been viewed close to 290,000 times on YouTube and the video has received media coverage in Liverpool newspapers and even the Huffington Post. They toned down some of the video segments to make it more family friendly and wisely so. Head Teacher Jeff Hughes doesn’t come across as creepy, he comes across as someone getting into the spirit of  things. The decision to add the prefacing comments explaining what motivated the creation of the video was, once again, a stroke of marketing brilliance and will no doubt attract prospective students to a school that embraces a sense of fun amongst their staff and students. Looking at the range of comments on YouTube (which are no doubt being carefully monitored) it has been well received. Take a look at this sample.

  • TheJackofrost 4 weeks ago

    That’s how a principal should work. Not because he did a stupid thing like this, but because he tried to make his student better at every cost. Respect.

     Mitsuki 

  • Mitsuki4 weeks ago

    Fantastic! I would like to have a principal like you!

    mixer19492 weeks ago

    Huge congratulations to everybody at Penketh – to the staff for having the guts to make the video and particularly to the students for their improved studies. I’m just thinking back to my secondary school days and our 1960′s staff. They still wore black gowns! What I would have given to be educated in today’s schools. We didn’t have slates to write on but it feels like it when I see this! Very well done. Sudents – make the most of these opportunities. You are lucky. How did you keep the secret?

The school enlisted the help of the local community to assist with the production. Here’s a portion of the Liverpool Echo’s article explaining how things were done.

The filming was done before and after school and to ensure the budget was practically zero kind-hearted businesses and community figures did their bit to help when it came to providing props and locations for shooting.

This included the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Warrington putting the school in touch with a customer who loaned the use of her red SLK class car.

The garage even supplied personalised Penketh High School number plates.

It is the same model of car which features in  Psy’s original offering which, in December last year, became the first video to clock up more than one billion views on YouTube and has a Guinness World record for the most ‘liked’ song ever .

The clip reminds me of the excellent effort from Yr 12 students at my school in 2009 that they left as their parting gift on their last day. While not an exact recreation of The Black-Eyed Peas, ‘I Gotta Feeling’, it showcased nearly every student from that year level and utilised much of the school grounds.

And if you haven’t seen Psy’s original Gangnam Style video, here it is so can compare it with Penketh’s effort.

Have a great weekend everyone. If you work in a school, think about what you could be doing to engender community utilising the tools of social media. My mind is racing… :)

 

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School’s out Friday

A Life Well Lived | Jim Whittaker & 50 Years of Everest from eric becker on Vimeo.

This is worth watching, and not just for the stunning visuals, but for the truly important message shared by Jim Whittaker. While I’ve never scaled Everest, there are many moments over the last seven years that have made me feel like I am conquering something bigger than myself, taking risks and learning how to appreciate what the world has to offer.

I’m forever grateful that I found myself in a school that has allowed me to see more of the world than I had ever imagined possible for myself. Those of you who have read this blog faithfully will have experienced my travels in China, Italy, Laos and the United States. Each experience has provided growth opportunities, and none moreso than my time in Laos last year when I travelled with a group of girls to spend time in a village working on a community project with Antipodeans. To live amongst village people who value community and are happy with what we Westerners would consider a meagre existence, was a truly humbling experience. I came back with a deeper appreciation of family, friends and the almost obscene luxury of living in a modern society with clean water, plumbing and food aplenty.

This time next week, I will be in another village working on a community project with students from my school. This time we will be in a remote community in Borneo. I know it will be another life changing experience for myself, and most importantly, for the students who are taking part in this journey. Jim says in the video above that nature is the best teacher in the world and that risk is an important part of a person’s development. Going on service learning trips like this are prime examples of exactly this for the students we teach, and for me too.

So, I’m off to learn by doing! When possible, I’ll try and post about my experiences here. We’re visiting the Semengoh Orangutang Sanctuary twice, on our way to the village and on our way back. Hopefully I’ll be able to share a few pics with you along the way.

Have a great weekend. I’ll be busy getting organised for our departure on Sunday night. :)

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How an internal Teachmeet can help forge a professional learning community

One of the things I set out to do when I took on the role of Director of ICT and eLearning at my school, was to find ways for our staff to share what’s happening in their classrooms. Despite the fact that we often are working in environments with large numbers of staff working within very close proximity of one another, teaching can be an isolated and sometimes lonely profession. Very often, we’re unaware of what is happening in peoples’ classrooms and it’s difficult to find moments where we can get together en masse to share.

In our meeting schedule, we scheduled a Teachmeet as our last staff meeting for the term. I love the idea of Teachmeets, but I’ve yet to attend one. They are informal gatherings of teachers where strategies, new approaches etc are shared and most of them take place on weekends in locations close to the city. I find it really difficult to get to them given the demands of family life and the sheer fact that I’m pretty tired from the working week and need the weekend to recuperate (and do the washing, vacuum the floors etc etc). Last year, when I attended ISTE in San Diego, one of my Australian friends shared how they have Teachmeets with their staff so I thought this would be something we could replicate to bring people together and help to build our professional learning community.

I’ve been very fortunate to have fifteen teachers from across the school volunteer (with a bit of coaxing!) to be eLearning coaches, and seven of them, along with myself, agreed to run a 7 minute information sharing session about something they’re doing. We ended up with a line up that included the following:

Infographics and how to use and create them

iPad/iPhone apps and their use in a Maths classroom

Using Edmodo as a virtual learning platform for your class

Backing up data – what are the options

Flipping your classroom and using a blog to share information (two teachers demonstrated what they’re doing using these methods)

Using Skype to connect with other classrooms and Ning as a platform for teacher resource sharing

Scootle and how to use it to support Australian Curriculum implementation

In my email to staff about the event, I said the following:

There’s a requirement that this will be a fun event, so bring along your good humour, great catching skills and supportive smiles as your peers share their practice with you.

The great catching skills were needed for the lolly throws that took place between presentations, and the supportive smiles were absolutely necessary to help staff present in front of their peers. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather address an audience of 200 strangers than I would the people I work with on a daily basis. I think we were all feeling a degree of stress about the afternoon, but it was unfounded. Our peers were very supportive and got into the spirit of the afternoon. Lollies were caught, laughter was shared, music was played in between presentations and sessions provoked discourse between participants.

The feedback from the Teachmeet has been fabulous. In the hours after I received emails from staff saying how much they’d enjoyed the meeting and that it was fun and engaging. This continued throughout the week when people approached me saying how much they’d taken from it and how the format was perfect for a positive end of term meeting celebrating what’s happening in the school. Our eLeaning coaches who presented have been approached by staff who want to know more about what they’re doing and want opportunities to learn from them.

Sometimes we neglect to explore the expertise that exists within our own staff. We send people out to expensive external professional development where they hear from others when it’s quite possible similar expertise is being played out in classrooms next door to them. Becoming a professional learning community within the walls of your school means finding opportunities like internal Teachmeets where people can discover the experts among them, and build the rapport and professional dialogue with peers that can become a model for others to follow.

Schedule an internal Teachmeet with your staff next term – I don’t think you’ll regret it.  They’re becoming a permanent fixture in our school calendar!

 

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The little things…

Neglected.

I believe that’s the word you’d use to describe this blog of late. Aside from the regular School’s out Friday posts (my saving grace, really), it’s been a barren wasteland for the last month or so. I shouldn’t beat myself up, because starting in a new position, even when it’s at the school you’ve taught at for years, is fraught with finding your feet and trying to establish credibility for yourself amongst your peers.

Me, I’m my own greatest critic. If I’m not moving mountains then I think I’m falling short. I’d love to say I’ve single handedly transformed peoples’ approaches to using technology in their classrooms within weeks, but you’d know I was lying. I’m trying hard not to beat myself up or place undue pressure on myself, but it’s proving difficult. What I have to do is tackle things in a systemised way, make some things a priority, and take heart from the fact that I’m doing what I can with the hours there are in a day.

A little thing I’ve done that I think might be a good start to building a learning community is to create a hashtag for our school and start curating Tweets in a Paper.li (it’s like a online newspaper). The hashtag is #tcplc (Toorak College Professional Learning Community) and the Paper.li created I send out in an email daily to staff. To help them determine if there’s anything there of import, I provide a brief summary of some of the posts/articles that have been curated. I’m very lucky to have a couple of other teachers at my school who are Twitter users, and they are helping with the curation. Hopefully we’ll start to see more teachers become aware of the wonderful professional learning opportunities available from the Twitter community and maybe, just maybe, some will sign up and become part of the curation process to benefit all of us.

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 10.20.55 PM

It’s a little thing, but it does take time and effort to curate those links. I’m an avid Twitter user (all my best learning happens or begins from there)  so it’s a great way to make that learning transfer to others who aren’t Twitter users.

Little things go on to become big things. I’ll try and keep this Chinese proverb in mind as the year unfolds,

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”

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Natalie’s nook – what every school library needs!

Natalie's nook

Don’t you just love it!

We do :)

Natalie Elliott is our very creative Library Technician who loves finding ways to make our Library spaces more interesting and inviting for our students. We recently purchased this chair thinking that it matched our colour scheme. It sat around for  awhile looking lovely, whilst unbeknownst to us, Natalie was brewing grand plans for it that had been seeded from her love of all things Pinterest. Her forays into that web of fascinating ideas shared by many, led to the idea for the clever shelving and the inviting lampshade that helps to make this space so cosy.

We are very lucky to have such dedicated staff like Natalie who spend time outside of working hours thinking of ideas for our library space. Natalie is currently studying at Charles Sturt University to obtain her Librarian qualifications.  I know that we endorse her skill set – let’s hope that any assignment about library design allows her to share this post as a reference!

Here’s another view from a different angle.

Natalie's nook 2

Thanks Natalie – we love it!

 

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School’s out Friday

Don’t you wish you received parking tickets like these? I love the change in demeanor once these unsuspecting car owners realise what the contents of their ticket holds. Amazing really, how human beings can shift from anger to delight in the blink of an eye.  We are fickle beings indeed!

Over the last two days I’ve been so touched by the kind words that have come my way with the news that I will be Director of ICT and eLearning at Toorak College next year. I wondered if Teacher-Librarians out there would see this as a sign of abandonment, but I have received nothing but support from many in my network. Thank you to you all. It’s been wonderful receiving such positive encouragement. :)

My next two weeks are going to be interesting. I’ll be off the grid for some of the time as I travel through Thailand and  Laos with students from my school on our Beyond Boundaries trip. Part of our journey will be in a village in Laos where we will be working on a community project helping to lay the foundations of a kindergarten. I will definitely be off the grid for that part of the trip, but I may be able to post in the early and latter stages of the trip. Forgive me if this space turns into a travel blog for part of the near future, but I do like to share what I’m up to and it’s great to have a record of this that I can look back on. I’ll be writing a separate blog for our school families too. I’ve done this for past trips in Italy and China and the parents and friends have really appreciated being able to see what their children are doing in far flung parts of the world. These blogs have provided reassurance and a means of communication as they leave comments and our students respond.

Laos

Laos (Photo credit: YoTuT)

So, the weekend ahead will be busy as I organise things at home for while I’m away and pack my bag. There will be little rest until the overnight flight to Bangkok! I hope your weekend is a little more restful than mine. :)

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Something old, something new…

There are changes happening in my life. For those of you who jump to conclusions, yes, I do suspect that I’m approaching the dawn of menopause, but that’s not the change I’m talking about here.

The something old is that I’m not changing schools – I’m still going to be at Toorak College.

The something new is that I am changing jobs at Toorak College in 2013. Starting next school year, I’ll be taking on the position of Director of ICT and eLearning. This is a new position at our school, one that will embrace and help to realise our school vision and mission statements.

Vision

Achieving excellence, inspiring future lives.

Mission

We lead excellence in education and provide innovative learning opportunities for individuals, to strive to achieve their ambitions in a connected, welcoming environment.

While I am genuinely sad to be leaving my position as Head of Information Services, nothing will change the fact that I am, and always will be, a Teacher-Librarian. I will be taking all of my skills as an information professional to this new position, and the Library at Toorak College will continue to be a driving force implementing change and the integration of new ways of utilising the Web as a powerful tool for connection and learning purposes.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead change in what is an Executive level position at my school. Not only that, I am very proud of all that I have done as a self directed learner to have the skill set to take this position on. The following tweet that found its way into my Twitter stream today embodies my story, and what I hope I will be able to do for the staff at my school.

I have only been at this game seriously for the last five years. But what a five years they’ve been. I’ve got a pretty steep learning curve ahead of me I know, but I feel well rehearsed in the learning stakes to take the challenge on.

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Planes, Trains and Conferences Part II – SLAQ 2012 and SLAV Global eLiteracy

Well, a plane did get me to sunny Cairns, and there was a conference there, but no sign of any trains! Like I said in my ISTE post, it sounded like a good name for a blog post!

If you’re going to present at a conference in Australia in July, there’s no nicer place than Cairns to do so. The weather is just wonderful there at this time of year. A stark contrast to the southern states. It wasn’t just the weather that made this conference such a wonderful experience; there were a wonderful group of women behind the scenes organising the SLAQ 2012 Biennial Conference who made me feel very welcome and really looked after me up there. I’d like to thank all of you for such care and consideration.

My presentation was well received and you can view it on the wikispace I maintain. Essentially, my message was that as Teacher-Librarians we need to recognise the opportunities that exist now to cement our positions in schools. We can do this well if we respond positively to change and skill ourselves to a level that will enable us to support the Australian Curriculum. I outlined the steps the library team have taken at Toorak College to try and ensure that our students will leave our school with a skill set that prepares them for the knowledge economy they are entering.

I shared the work our library staff have done on an Information Fluency Program to support the development of skills. We’re not suggesting this scope and sequence document is perfect, but we do think it provides a framework for moving closer to providing opportunities within curriculum to address the General Capabilities and give our students (and teachers) the chance to develop their skills. We consulted with our Principal, Mrs. Helen Carmody, who agreed to share this work under a Creative Commons attribution, share alike, non-commercial licence. This has been done in the spirit of sharing, acknowledging that our profession should be supportive of one another and embrace some of the ideals expressed in Australian Curriculum documentation. This program can be accessed by clicking here. Please be mindful of the terms of the licence should you choose to use it within your school setting.

Mandy Lupton, from Queensland University of Technology, presented a really interesting session about Inquiry Learning and the role of the Teacher-Librarian in helping to facilitate this in their schools. Mandy has just launched a blog called ‘Inquiry Learning and Information Literacy‘ to share her research and learning with others. I recommend you take a look and start to find ways you can apply this thinking to curriculum in your schools.

It was a great conference. I met many committed Teacher-Librarians open to ideas and I hope to forge many ongoing connections from this experience in Cairns.

My message was very similar at the School Library of Victoria Conference held at the MCG last Friday. (The presentation is embedded here.) Again, the audience was receptive, or seemed to be at least. You never really know when you’re presenting, unless people tell you otherwise. I can only base things on the feedback I received, and that was positive. The Bright Ideas Blog compiled a Storify of tweets from the day that includes many links to presentations and resources shared on the day. Judy O’Connell, from Charles Sturt University, keynoted the day with a presentation entitled ‘Leading the Learning Revolution‘ looking at what’s on the scene and what we need to be looking out for in the digital landscape. Judy also launched the Oztl.net site at the conference. The site has been established to provide tools, resources and connections for information professionals in Australian schools and beyond. One to keep your eye on.

There was a sharing session at the conference where people led participants to an understanding of tools they might not otherwise had a chance to experience. Although it was hectic, it was rewarding for participants. I led the groups interested in Storify, and others discussed wikis, twitter, screencasting, facebook, eBook authoring, and quite a few others. After lunch, John Pearce discussed iPad apps, Di Ruffles outlined Libguides, Cam Hocking talked about the value of Personal Learning Networks and David Feighan talked about strategies for placing your library in a positive position in your school. All great presentations that advanced the knowledge base of participants.

There’s no rest for the wicked. Later this week I’m off to Coffs Harbour to deliver a Keynote address at the Teacher Education Dialogue Conference being held at Southern Cross University.  A different kind of audience for me this time. Should be very interesting. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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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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