Tag Archives: Will Richardson

TEDxMelbourne: Education Leadership

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of TED talks. I often find myself watching them in the middle of the night, when my cats have woken me up by banging wooden venetians and I’m left bemoaning the fact that I’m wide awake, but really need the stolen sleep. A good TED talk will ward off the troubled thinking that can inhabit the dark wee hours and make me feel that I’m making effective use of my time.

I’ve long admired those who are able to hold an audience for 18 minutes with their story, and have often wondered if I was capable of doing the same. Well, I’m soon to find out if that indeed is possible. I’ve been asked to present at TEDxMelbourne: Education Leadership, an independently organised TED event being held at the State Library of Victoria on July 19th. I’m one of three speakers, the other two being Will Richardson, author and blogger extraordinaire and co-founder of PLP,  and Professor Stephen Dinham OAM, Chair of Teacher Education and Director of Learning and Teaching in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne. Illustrious company indeed, especially for a practitioner like me, who tries to make a dent in the universe by sharing her thinking via online spaces and a presentation here and there. But you know something, I’m up for it. I’m proud to be representing my profession and I’m pretty sure I’ve got something worth listening to.

My Year 10 students think I do anyway. They cheered when I told them the news. I’ve been subjecting them to a TED talk or two (maybe even three or four!) this year, and they reckon I should go on the circuit and be a motivational speaker!! I don’t know about that, but I am encouraged that the kids I teach are behind me all the way. Some of them even wanted to know how they could get tickets to come.

Right now, my head is swimming with ideas. As is usual for me, my best thinking is while I’m showering and getting ready for work in the morning, and in some of those wee small hours when those damn cats are rousing me from sleep! I’ve got my iPad and iPhone near me at all times so I can capture any ideas that strike me and type them into Evernote. It’s looking patchy right now, but threads are starting to emerge. What’s probably going to be most difficult is figuring out how I contain it to a measured message within the time limit – I always find myself racing at the end of presentations when I have 20 slides left and less than five minutes on the clock.

It’s a great challenge. I’m excited and anxious at the same time. Registrations opened today, so if you think you might like to be there, you can get tickets now (they’re free). Heck, even if I bomb, I’m pretty sure Will and Stephen will make it worth your while. :)

*Thanks Hamish Curry, for asking me to present. Humbling indeed.

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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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Network Literacy – the next big thing

I said I’d get back here to reflect on my presentation at the Perspectives on Learning V.2 SLAV conference and our PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) face to face meeting at Toorak College on Tuesday. The week’s been a long one and the exhaustion factor has been high. Hence my slow return!

First up, I’m pretty sure my presentation went well. I received positive feedback and that’s the best you can hope to achieve really! I was really pleased with the slides and as is usual for me, once I start I find it hard to stop. I need to work out how to deliver a presentation in 50 mins rather than an hour so I can field questions at the end. I embedded the presentation here last Monday so  track back to then and you’ll find it if you want to see it.

Our PLP meeting was a wonderful opportunity to share our thinking, projects and ideas for how we continue to change practice in our schools. When you’re hosting the event it’s hard to get perspective on how it’s all going, but my feeling was that it was a positive day that had benefit for those attending. Will Richardson had timely advice for us all and it was a fantastic opportunity to gain from his experience.      

On the Monday night before the meeting we went out to dinner with some of the PLP teams. On arrival, one of the team members said to me something that went like this;

“So, Jenny, what’s the next big thing? It seems like we’ve been talking about these things for the last six months, what’s the next new thing coming along?”

My answer went something like this;

“I don’t think there is any ‘next big thing’. I think the next big thing is how we use these tools to get our students connected. It’s how we get them to start making the connections with others out there.”

What I’ve realised is what I’m talking about is what Will Richardson calls ‘Network Literacy’. This to me represents the biggest shift our schools need to take if we are going to make inroads for the students we teach. Will’s presentation on Monday struck many chords for me and reshaped my thinking about the next steps I need to take in my school.

Will defines Network Literacy as;

The ability to create, grow and navigate personal learning networks in safe, ethical and effective ways.”

He says we need to help students identify their passions and then immerse them in ‘passion based’ learning environments where they can then pursue their interests in Personal Learning Networks.  He references the work of John Seeley Brown when he discusses this.  

We have been learning the tools and have embedded some of them into practice, now we need to start assisting our students to reach out and create learning opportunities themselves. How they do is the tricky part for us as educators because we need to have a handle on it first if we are to guide them well.

Will asked educators to consider these questions in his presentation on Monday;

Am I “network literate”?

Am I “Googled well”?

Am I learning with others “out there”?

Am I a “mobile learner”?

Am I reading and writing differently?

Am I collaborating, co-constructing and collectively acting with others?

Am I a learner first, teacher second?

I can confidently answer ‘Yes’ to six of the seven questions. I’ve got to  master mobile technologies - this is an area I’m  not confident with yet.

The real question is ‘How many of our teachers can answer in the affirmative to the questions Will posed?’ And that is the dilemma facing our schools. How do we bring teachers with us and how do we do this on the scale that is necessary? I don’t know the answer to that question, I know that PLP goes someway towards it, but I do know that I have to start making inroads with the students I teach.

This means teaching them how to write in a hypertext environment. It means lobbying for an elective called Passion Based Learning where I help students understand how they can become self directed learners. It means working with my school and changing thinking about transparency for student writing and allowing our kids to connect with other teachers and learners outside the walls of our school.

It means lots of hard work and an understanding that change takes time. We can’t expect to see things happen overnight. Small steps are important ones and these may have to be the steps taken to have the shift take place.

Thanks Will for helping shape my thinking and helping me define the next steps.

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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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Sheryl’s visiting Australia (and Toorak College!)

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll have some inkling that I’ve been helping Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson set up an Australian arm of their Powerful Learning Practice initiative. This group is going to be global in scale including schools from the United States, New Zealand and Australia. I’ve been working at getting schools here in Australia to join this initiative and am pleased to report that we have schools from New South Wales and Victoria across all sectors; Independant, Catholic and Govt. Schools.

Some of the people leading these school teams include those writing blogs. Dean Groom, Judy O’Connell, Frances Manning, Rhonda Powling and Tania Sheko. Three of those names are Teacher-Librarians. Great to see them at the helm of change in their schools.  It’s going to be very exciting leading our schools through what we all hope is going to be something transformational for our colleagues who are taking the leap with us. I first started reading about Powerful Learning Practice in December of last year. I could see that it had the potential to shift my school and it’s teachers towards an understanding of the power of these technologies to reach out and make a difference to the learning environment for our students. We start the program on Sept. 8th. Our United States participants will be having a fact to face meeting at Freidricksburg Acadamy and we’ll be joining them via ustream. I’m excited to see that there are names I am already familiar with from our United States and New Zealand participants. Elizabeth Helfant, Alex Ragone, Lenva Shearing and  Jane Nicholls.

What is really exciting for me is that tomorrow I am finally getting the opportunity to meet Sheryl. She’s in Melbourne to keynote at the Expanding Learning Horizons conference being held in Lorne. She’s visiting my school tomorrow to present to the staff here about 21st Century learning and Learning communities.  I hope the people I work with realise the status Sheryl occupies in the Educational Technology sector and pay heed to the message she delivers. I’m sure her visit is going to make an impact; I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with Sheryl and get to know her during our Skype chats. It’s going to be wonderful meeting her face to face at last!

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Mary Manning- a beacon in the Teacher-Librarianship world

I’ve just returned from a dinner meeting of our local SLAV (School Library Association of Victoria) group. Mary Manning was our guest speaker. She was talking about library spaces and design and was making reference to Susan La Marca’s book ‘Rethink’. But she was doing so much more than just that and I don’t know if she knew it.

Mary is an engaging and ‘real’ person.  She’s the kind of person you feel comfortable around, and that’s a compliment. Mary speaks from the heart and makes you feel comfortable about the direction Teacher-Librarianship is headed in. At least, I felt comfortable about it, I can’t speak for all. She provides the wake up call we all need. The understanding that we have to be proactive and move with where education is heading and our libraries have to reflect this in all ways. Our spaces need to be comfortable and inviting; let’s face it, with so many online resources who needs to visit the library for research purposes? I love the Chip and Dan Heath term, ‘sticky’. We have to make our libraries sticky so that people want to be engaged with the learning we can help to provide. We are trying to do this with connective activities that make our kids feel positive about the library environment. Comfy couches, knitting, quizzes, Book Club. We’ve even got our interactive whiteboard hooked up to TV reception so that the Olympic games can be viewed by our students over the coming two weeks. I have a wonderful staff who work hard to enable so many of these activities to happen. (I even have a wonderful Mum, experienced knitter Barbara, who has been coming in over the last couple of weeks to help our girls learn the finer points about knitting!)  

Much of Mary’s talk tonight was laced with the need to respond to technology and how it can help to transform learning. SLAV have been running the 23 things program with Library staff around Victoria and are going a long way towards helping make the shift happen in our schools.  I had an engaging conversation after the event with teachers about Powerful Learning Practice, the initiative developed by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson that I am helping with here in Australia. We are setting up a global cohort and Australian Schools will be involved. These teachers could understand the capacity building model this program offers. It’s like the extension of the 23 things program; it offers teachers the opportunity to become immersed into learning communities, enabling connections and transformative learning opportunities for students. They were excited by it and so am I. I feel a bit like an evangelist right now – I’m so excited by the possibilities and want everyone else to catch the fever! I realise it’s going to take time, but with people like Mary speaking to Teacher-Librarian groups in Victoria, we’re headed in the right direction.

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Dinner with John and Jan

I was really fortunate Tuesday night to catch up with John Connell and his lovely wife Jan who were visiting Australia with Cisco, the company John works for. His job is Education Business Development Manager for the Emerging Markets – covering South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia. John has been an encouraging mentor for me as I’ve traversed the edublogosphere. I first met John at the ASLA conference in Adelaide last year where I presented about Digital Storytelling. John was a keynote speaker along with Stephen Abrams. Both spoke about the need to transform education in response to our changing technological landscape and both mentioned that they wrote blogs. I spoke to John in the tea break and told him of my desire to get involved in the transformation and he told me that he could see that I would. An empowering statement from him that helped put the fire in my belly to get involved. I started reading his and Stephen’s blogs (along with Will Richardson’s) and started my exponential learning curve that has led to this blog and all that has come with it.

John has been a reader of my blog and has made the encouraging comment or two along the way. These have certainly inspired me as I hold him in high esteem. John’s blog is insightful and he ponders the difficult questions that arise as we all tread carefully through new territory. When he knew he was visiting Melbourne he emailed to ask if we could meet up. I was thrilled. Those of you who operate in this online world will know that it’s exciting to meet someone face to face who you know only through their words. As it turns out, I crashed a dinner that was already organised – John was obliging enough to ask if I could attend! 

I had a lovely time meeting John and Jan and am very pleased to report that we had a lot to talk about and not all of it was centred around blogging and education. It really is wonderful when you meet someone and you find that they are just like you sensed them to be from their online presence.

Thanks John and Jan. Hope to meet up with you again some day.

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NECC – it’s all about conversation (even at 1.00am!)

Last night I wasn’t going to tune in to the NECC buzz. I was tired and knew I was taking to my kids out in the morning to meet up with friends. But a tweet from Will Richardson alerted me to a ustream of Konrad Glogawski’s session about blogging communities and I couldn’t resist tuning in.

While it was exciting being able to see and hear Konrad’s presentation – I still marvel at just what is possible these days! – what was most exciting was the vigorous and thought provoking discussion in the ustream chat. Follow this link to check it out. It was wonderful being able to share ideas with educators from all over the globe. Teacherman 79 has written a post about the experience. Thanks very much Will for enabling this opportunity for those of us not in attendance.  

Interestingly enough, I’ve read a post by Chris Betcher (Betchaboy) tonight that has made me think – always a good thing! It’s called Going Live vs Doing Life and I find myself agreeing with Chris’ sentiments. The gist of what he is saying is that perhaps we need to be thinking about immersing ourselves and appreciating the real life experiences we are having rather than focusing on how we disseminate the experience to the world. Probably best to block quote from Chris’ post;

I could be completely wrong, and maybe some of the Twitterers will leave a comment about how they deal with the whole mobile tweeting thing, but I always find that in order to tweet about what I’m doing I have to mentally stop doing it. To me, it’s more than just multitasking, it’s about mental timeslicing and taking your attention off the here-and-now of what’s actually taking place around you in order to tell the Twitterverse about what’s going on around you. This is not meant to be a criticism, and I’m glad that people do it so that others who wish they were there can get an insight into what’s going on, but I hope that folks find the balancing point between actually living the event and spending all their energy helping the event “go live”.

I know that I find it hard to do the mental timeslicing that Chris refers to. Even last night when I was participating in the discussion I had to focus on what I wanted to say and lost some of the thread of Konrad’s presentation and even the chat. I think John Medina talks about the difficulties of trying to multitask in his book Brain Rules. I have a copy of it but haven’t found the time to read it (surprise, surprise, seeing as I’ve been up till all hours of late!!) – I must make this a priority!

Regardless, I’m very thankful to everyone in Texas at the moment who are making genuine efforts to share knowledge through this community. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this is without doubt the best staffroom I’ve ever been a part of!    

 

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Laura Stockman – inspiring others across the waves.

Sunday morning I was grazing through my Google reader, kicking back and hoping I’d find something that would inspire me to write. I found something better than that, I found something that inspired me to act. 

I checked out Will Richardson’s latest post and discovered Laura Stockman, an 11yr old from New York who has been writing a blog called Twenty five days to make a difference.  Laura’s mother Angela was involved with Will and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s PLP cohort and Laura was inspired to write a blog as a result of this. Her blog was written in honour of her grandfather and Laura has set about performing good deeds with the resulting donations going toward charity.  Laura’s blog has moved beyond the initial 25 day target, largely because Laura has felt empowered by what this experience has meant for her.

Angela has written a very moving post about Laura’s presentation to the PLP cohort last week. Here’s what she said about her discussion with Laura when she decided to continue beyond 25 days;

You know, when Laura decided her blog was going to be more than a twenty five day experience, I questioned her decision.

“There are all sorts of things that we haven’t thought about. This is going to require a ton of effort on your part. It’s going to require a huge commitment,” I said. “It might not work.”

“Oh, it’ll work fine,” she told me. “It’ll work because I want it to work. “

Laura gets it. She already knows that it’s self motivation and belief that can drive you forward. Some of us don’t get this until we’ve had a fair bit of life experience, if we ever get it at all. Here’s an 11 yr old teaching us how to navigate life.

I went to Laura’s blog and read through quite a bit of it. I was so impressed by the essential good in what she was doing. She wasn’t raising millions, but she was performing simple, honest tasks that were contributing to the greater good. She’d recently Skyped into a classroom in Florida and was disappointed that the kids couldn’t see her as she didn’t have a webcam.  In a blog post that followed she recounted how Skype had sent her a webcam so that others would be able to see her when she made calls. She posed this question in her post;

Is anyone else out there interested in doing this? I really enjoy blogging and Skyping about blogging and ways that kids can make a difference. This is really cool. 

This was my answer;

Hi Laura,
The students at my school in Melbourne, Australia would love to have you Skype into our classroom. Time differences between our countries is a bit of a problem. It may well be you would have to Skype in in the evening. If you are interested you can email me at jenny.luca1@gmail.com. We raise money for local and international charities at the end of our school year and your story would be inspirational for them.

Laura replied with enthusism;

Hi Ms. Luca!

I would LOVE to do a skype chat with you! My dad and mom are really excited about this too! I’ve never met anyone from Australia before! I can definitely do this in the evening. Please just let me know what works for you and your class. Thank you so much for this invitation!!!!

My class is responding with just as much enthusiasm as Laura. They’re posting comments on her blog and already we’ve been discussing what we can do to help Laura and her charitable efforts. She is going to Skype into our classroom next Wednesday morning our time (evening her time) and my class can hardly wait. Already Laura ia extending her reach globally and her 25 days project looks set to ignite action all the way to Australia.

I’ve been in email contact with Angela and we both feel that this has potential to become a global project. Will’s post has drawn people to Laura’s blog, and other educators from differing countries are keen to learn from Laura. Maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to work together to make an impact for a global cause. What a potential learning experience for our students this could be. Angela’s words from her post are important here;

If I’ve learned nothing else this year, it’s been precisely that: when we are truly committed to making something happen, it happens. It doesn’t matter who or what might be standing in our way. If the goal means something to us in the end, we don’t let our fear or our lack of resources or the politics of a situation or our bruised egos stand in the way. We just make things work. Because it matters, this work that we do, and it’s bigger than the credit that anyone could receive or the mistakes that might be made along the way.

What an amazing affirmation for a young girl with a desire to make a difference in honour of her grandfather.   

Thanks Laura. You are an inspiration. 

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