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. 🙂

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.