EduTECH 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Edublog Awards 2010 – my nominations

Nominations for the Edublog awards close tomorrow, so I thought I better get my act into gear and nominate some of the wonderful people out there who make learning happen for me. Not only for me, but  for countless others out there who find that the best professional development they receive these days comes from the people who are willing to be transparent about their thinking, and willing to share the resources they find that make them better at what they do.

It’s not easy. There are far too many great blogs, tweeters, and resource sharing sites out there, but I’ll give it a go. There are a ton more that deserve mentioning- wish I had the time to name them all.

Best individual blogJohn Connell: The Blog. ¬† John always make me think. Especially when he’s fired up about something. I’ve been reading John for as long as I’ve been involved in the edublogosphere, and his quality posts that appear on a consistent basis, are one of my always go to places on the web.
Best individual tweeterAlec Couras.   Whenever I see a tweet from Alec appear in my Twitter stream, I take pause to read it. Alec shares some wonderful links, as well as giving us insight into the way he goes about his work, and how he lives his life.
Best new blogLiv to Dance. OK. I teach Liv, so I’ll be up front and admit bias. But I love Liv’s enthusiasm and how she’s working at building audience as she writes about dancing, her passion.

Best student blogStyle Rookie I don’t know if this qualifies as a student blog, but I’m guessing it does. Tavi is still at school, is blogging about what she loves, and making a reasonable dent in the universe while doing it. She impresses me, and she impresses my students also.
Best resource sharing blogPhil Bradley’s weblog. Phil finds the new stuff that’s out there and lets us all know if it’s worth looking at. If Phil thinks it’s good, then I’m sure to be checking it out.

Best teacher blogBrave New World.¬† Tania Sheko’s blog is well worth reading. Sometimes resource sharing, sometimes reflections on the need for change in education, and always how she is trying to make this happen. Quality writing too.
Best librarian / library blogBright Ideas I just love what SLAV and Judith Way are doing for Australian Teacher-Librarians, and Librarians the world over. Bright ideas is a place where Teacher Librarians can post what they’re doing in their own schools. It a vehicle for many who don’t have a web presence to get their great work out there for all to see and learn from.¬† It’s also a great resource sharing blog.
Best school administrator blogDarcy Moore’s Blog. Darcy is a Deputy Principal in New South Wales, and he pushes my thinking. I love that a Deputy Principal sees the value in blogging and wants to be part of the change process. Darcy is one of our great role models who the NSW Department of Education better hang onto!
Best educational podcastEd Tech Crew. Tony and Darrell do a great job of interviewing people who are exploring new ways of doing things. They share some great resources along the way too.

Best educational use of a social network –¬† Instructional Rounds – Best Teacher practice – The E5 Model PLN.¬† Nina Davis and Jenni Byass have set this up to support their teacher professional leave project, but along the way they’ve managed to attract school administrators and teachers from many parts of the world. Updated regularly and a supportive environment.
Lifetime achievementBill Ferriter. I’ve been to the United States twice this year and unfortunately did not get to meet Bill. His blog ‘The Tempered Radical’, is that really nice blend of a teacher modeling really good classroom practice, ideas for using new technologies for meaningful learning, and gutsy posts that get to the heart of current issues facing educators the world over. Bill is @plugusin on Twitter, and to me, he’s a real human being, sharing what matters. I don’t know how long Bill’s been at it, but he gets my vote anyway.

Voting ends Tuesday 14th of December.

Special things happening….

A little while ago I was encouraging educators to join us on Working together 2 make a difference and support the bushfire relief effort. I am so pleased to let you know that some very special things are happening on that site. Our membership has grown and we have seen the service learning efforts of educators and students from many different parts of the world.

I just had to highlight a couple¬†of special moments from the last couple of days. Bill Ferriter from North Carolina (I hope I’m right there Bill!) has quietly been working away with his grade six students and posted this;

One of the things that I’m proud of is that my sixth grade students are really aware of the world around them. With the help of my buddy, Mike Hutchinson, I’ve developed a daily current event lesson that ties together our social studies and language arts curriculum nicely.

Better yet, it’s a lesson that my kids embrace completely because they love knowing more about the world around them. Every year when I survey my students, current events is what they like the best about my class because it makes them feel important and knowledgeable when they’re sitting at the kitchen table with their parents.

So when the Austrailian brush fires started, my students were consumed by the news. Watching video of fire streaming through neighborhoods and destroying cars was heartbreaking for them. We talked about how similar the devastation was to the scenes after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans—and we talked about how we might be able to help from a thousand miles away.

Our solution was simple: We decided to try to earn $5.00 a piece to donate to the Red Cross disaster relief fund. We picked $5.00 because it represented one good paperback book—-something that we value greatly. The thought that we might be able to help replace destroyed classroom libraries was really quite cool to our kids.

Over the course of two weeks, we ended up raising $245—-$110 of which came from an impromptu rose sale on Valentines Day that started when one of our students showed up with 150 roses to sell.

But more importantly, we ended up feeling good because we knew that we’d helped out!

Now, on to our next project—Do Something Funny for Money Day:

http://snipurl.com/funny4money     

My reply was this;

Bill, please convey to your students how touched we are by their generosity. It warms my heart and I’m sure the hearts of others to know that students from so far away can sympathise and relate to a tragedy many miles from them. Today was our National Day of Mourning for what has come to be known as Black Saturday here in Australia. Healing has begun, but we are still a long way from recovery. Knowing Grade 6 students from the United States have reached out to us is one of the steps to aid in the healing process.

Then tonight when I visited I discovered a new member, Carolyn Wojtera  (from Virginia) and a photostory her Grade 1 students had made in response to the crisis;

I feel so good about Working together 2 make a difference and I know Angela and Laura do too. Our community is definitely forming  Рwe would love to see you there too.

School’s out Friday

This is ‘Facebook Song’¬† by Rhett and Link. Our school psychologist had me help her download it from Youtube this week for use with a Yr 11 class. (We used kickyoutube – it continues to impress everyone) They were looking at the idea of personal empires for their Art class. ¬†As well as being pretty amusing it’s quite good for developing class discussion about identity and behaviour online.

A cooler weekend here in Australia. Very welcome after last weekend and its devastating consequences. Hope yours is a good one.

*Just got this message on Twitter from Bill Ferriter.

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Such kindness being expressed for our country from the international community of educators is overwhelming. Jen Wagner has let me know that donations are coming in for the bushfire appeal we are running through Working together 2 make a difference. Thank you all.