2017 AIS ICT Leadership Conference

AIS Storify pic

Full disclosure first up. I’m on the organising committee for the AIS ICT Leadership Conference and have been for the last four years. I’m going to talk about this conference in glowing terms in the next few paragraphs, so you can decide to take my words on board or take them with a grain of salt. Your choice. 🙂

This a conference designed for IT Managers and their support staff to come together, share knowledge, and be inspired by carefully selected keynote speakers. Now, you might note that I’m not in the role of IT Manager any more in the school I teach at. I’m now occupying the eLearning space as Head of Digital Learning and Practice. But that’s what is truly great about this conference. It recognises the intersection between making the back end of IT at a school work seamlessly with the front end – how it impacts on the possibilities for teaching and learning within said schools.

And that’s a very important thing to note. If an IT team has lost sight of what their purpose is in an organisation like a school, then there’s the possibility that the direction an IT team takes may not be in tune with the primary purpose of a school – the education of young people. In today’s world, as it becomes increasingly important that our students gain digital literacy skills that will assist them to navigate a world dominated by technology, then having IT teams closely integrated and cognisant with the educational direction a school is taking is critical.

What was pretty clear last week was that there are plenty of IT Managers and staff working in IT Teams who are fully across what their purpose is in a school. You can see for yourself if you take a look at the Storify of tweets I compiled from the three days the conference ran last week.  Conference participants were lucky enough to listen to Dr. Jordan Nguyen talk about the work he is doing with assistive technologies that are changing the lives of people affected with severe disabilities. At 32, Jordan is one of those exceptionally impressive human beings who makes you feel like you’ve been frittering away your time. Take a look at this TEDx Sydney talk where Jordan discusses how technology is reinventing humanity.

They also got to hear from Michael Carr Gregg, an Australian psychologist who would be very well known to many of you reading this. Michael talked about student mental health and technology. What was refreshing about this talk was the fact that Michael wasn’t proposing that our young people ditch the technology they use  – he acknowledged it’s pervasive influence on their lives, but pointed out both the negative and positive influence it can have. Michael delivered a rapid fire presentation where he shared many website links and apps that young people with mental health issues can access to help them deal with anxiety and depression. I tweeted furiously during this session, trying to capture as much as I could. The Storify has collated my tweets and those of others who were also tweeting at lightning speed. I’d recommend you take a look. I really need to find time to look at websites like ‘The Brave Program’ and see what they are doing to support our young people and their parents.

The Brave Program

Students from Northern Beaches Christian School have been in attendance over the last couple of years filming sessions as the Conference Media Team. They are very ably led by Chris Woldhuis, Deputy Principal, 2016 NSW ICT Educator of the Year and all round very nice guy. It’s fantastic to see these students take the reins, do a magnificent job, and bring what is a very important student presence to the conference.

I’d encourage IT teams from across Australia, NZ and our counterparts in International schools in SE Asia to make their way to Canberra in 2018 for the next conference (dates still to be determined). It’s a community conference – social events are part of the costs and the all in nature of them foster collegiate networking opportunities for both conference participants and vendors. This year we all ventured to the National Portrait Gallery for drinks and substantial canapes, and the next evening the conference dinner was hosted in the Great Hall at Parliament House. John Clear, who works at the AIS, and Graeme Kachel, the conference chair, worked tirelessly to ensure everything ran smoothly and they deserve much credit for the success of the conference.

Most importantly, we took away a lot of learning that will help all of us do our work better in the schools we inhabit. And that’s a good thing. 🙂

Learning with the New South Welshmen (and women) at the AIS ICT Technology Integration Conference

My mind has been buzzing after attending the AIS Technology Integration Conference 2010 last week. The conference had around 200 participants; a really nice number. There are opportunities for discussions and connections to be made when you aren’t overwhelmed by huge numbers. Maybe it felt good to me because my Keynote was over early (great relief!) and was received well. If I’d tanked maybe I’d have been less positive!!

What I was impressed with most of all was the energy that was palpable amongst the educators present. It felt quite similar at the Leading a Digital School Conference here in Melbourne recently. It just might be that there’s a growing acceptance that we really do need to accept that new technologies are becoming ingrained in the way we and our students lead our lives, and we need to respond by integrating new ideas into the way we teach.

Some useful takeaways. If you’re a music teacher, you must take a look at the work being done by Samuel Wright. He writes a blog called Wright-stuff music, and it’s a plethora of resources that any music teacher or student would find useful I’m figuring. I attended a session run by Samuel where he took us through some of the resources on his blog. I was so impressed by his passion for what he does; if a child of mine was in a class run by Samuel I’d be a very happy parent indeed. Do yourself a favour and visit to see what Samuel is up to.

Therese Kenny ran a really informative session about Overdrive, a download solution for Audiobook and ebook content that is used widely in public libraries. Loreto Normanhurst are the first Australian school to take it on board, and Therese and the team have done us all a favour by potentially ironing out some of the problems so that any of us who run school libraries might be able to embark on the journey with more confidence. Overdrive is something that I am seriously looking at for the 2011 school year. I don’t know if it’s the solution I think is possible, but right now it represents what is available. I think we need to explore it. I don’t want to embark on something that potentially might not be the way to go, but I do want to see how students will react to downloading files and using them on their own devices. I don’t think the solution to ebooks lies in purchasing multiple kindles or iPads for borrowing. It lies in being able to lend out encrypted files that will disappear off a device after a set borrowing period. Overdrive does this. Until we are able to download files as a matter of course from publishers, we are going to have to do it through hosted sites like Overdrive. Therese has very kindly allowed me to embed her slideshare presentation here. It’s very thorough; an enormous help to all Australian Teacher Librarians who are contemplating what to do. Thank you so much Therese and Loreto Normanhurst for your generosity in sharing with us all.

June Wall presented a session about embedding digital literacy in the curriculum. She outlined the process her team at St Ignatius Riverview has gone through to determine a model that they feel will enable them to make technology integration meaningful in their curriculum. It’s something my library staff and I are working through as well at the moment. I was interested in some ideas being shared by Martin Levins. Martin was discussing the SAMR model, the process of the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition method of evaulating learning experiences. A Google Doc was worked on in a Sandpit session on the Thursday. It’s worth looking at. It models how we can look at existing curriculum and reshape it to integrate technology, and make the learning more interesting and challenging for the students we teach. This is something we are going to be looking at for next year. This is challenging work for many of us, not necessarily because we don’t know how to do it, but because we need to move people along with us who may be uncomfortable with change. (Thanks Martin for sharing this work; I was running a Twitter session for teachers new to the idea of it and was unable to attend the session. I have found the Google Doc and your SAMR page on the wiki very helpful)

Jeff Utecht delivered an inspiring Keynote on the second day. Jeff moves around and his enthusiasm is infectious. He had us working on Google Docs, in a backchannel chat, sourcing pics from flickr and tweeting out through Twitter. He demonstrated how you can use these tools in your classroom to focus kids and ensure detailed archives of sessions are kept. Jeff also had us stopping at intervals for chat time, so that we could process some of the ideas being presented with the people around us. You can access the audio of his presentation from his page on the wiki. Do so. (I have to admit to getting a real kick to be able to be on the same bill as Jeff as a Keynoter. Jeff really inspired me in my early days of blogging when I would tune into SOS Podcast for inspiration.)

The Sandpit sessions on the second day meant that people could immerse themselves in something that interested them and get a handle on it in the hope that it will become something they could take back to their schools. Take a look at some of the pages created by participants. You can see the learning that was taking place. As I said earlier, I ran a session for some teachers who wanted to understand Twitter. I hope to see them become active contributors and participants in that vital network.

John Clear, Melanie Hughes, Pauline Lewis and members of the organising committee did a wonderful job of bringing this conference together and ensuring it ran smoothly. I so enjoyed getting to catch up with Chris Betcher and June Wall, and to finally meet Mira Danon-Baird,  Carmel Galvin, and Henrietta Miller. Thanks go to Colin who got me to the conference each morning!