CCAEducause 2011 – The Game has Changed

I returned last week from the CCAEducause conference and have been collecting my thoughts. The conference by line was, ‘The Game has Changed’. It has, but I’m not entirely sure both secondary education and higher education have quite understood just how much has changed. This conference was aimed at higher education, and I went along because I wanted to see what higher education was talking about in relation to technology and its role in the eyes of those running and working in universities in Australia. My idea was that I would be able to assess what we needed to do in Secondary education to prepare our students for the kind of tertiary experience they were heading for.

To say my eyes have been opened is an understatement. I’ve come away from this conference thinking that the situation might need to be reversed. Maybe it should be personnel from universities visiting some secondary education institutions and looking at what is happening there, so that they can prepare themselves for the students heading their way. Note I said ‘some’ secondary institutions. There is no doubt there is huge disparity in the take up of new technologies within our sector.

I suspect the final keynote speaker, Richard Katz, might even describe me as some sort of edupunk, because I write in a public space using web 2.0 technology and influence others with ideas. Heck, I’m not a ‘published’ author, and I have an audience. I’d prefer to think of myself as a public intellectual, as I’ve heard bloggers described by John Seely Brown. I refer to the ‘edupunk’ tag, because Richard described Jenny, the very savvy 27 Yr old creator of ‘60 second recap‘ as an edupunk and one of the perceived threats higher education faces. Jenny offers an informal learning experience. Anyone can tap into her site and watch her creations, as she dissects the plots, characters and themes of classic fiction and plays. I don’t view someone like Jenny as a threat. In fact, our Yr Nine students were watching Jenny’s creations last year as they explored the themes surrounding Romeo and Juliet. In my eyes, Jenny helps augment our curriculum, she’s part of my teaching arsenal and I’ll employ her to assist my students with their understanding. I’ll go one step further even and encourage them to replicate what she does and submit it to her site, so that they can become the creators influencing and helping to lead others to understanding.

Here are other perceived threats. The Khan Academy, iTunesU, MIT Opencourseware, P2PU, any of the burgeoning sites where a student can self direct their own learning. My gut is telling me that none of these things are threats if universities rise to the challenge and embrace new ways of doing things. Shirley Alexander, from University of Technology Sydney, spoke of the need to do things differently, to deliver instruction via a podcast if it could be done that way, so that face to face time could be spent with students dissecting ideas with lecturers. I was under the impression that this was happening already, and I suspect it is in some institutions. Please, fill me in if it is the case. She spoke also of the 20% drop out rate in first year, and the need to address this appropriately, and determine what is causing this.

I suspect a lot of the speakers were directing their thinking to those who are already trying to make a difference. There were many IT support personnel and Librarians present, many of whom who are doing the groundwork in their institutions to bring them up to speed. It seems the people missing from a conference like this, and those who most need to be there, are the lecturers themselves, the people delivering the content. Most of these people are obviously highly accomplished in their fields, but might be lacking the teaching skills that might help them to visualize alternate ways of delivering content.

There were some excellent keynotes. Bryan Alexander was so interesting that I had to stop sending out tweets so that I could concentrate on his fast paced delivery of possible scenarios for higher education in 2016. This was brilliantly mind mapped on Prezi, and I was so captivated I can forgive him for the seasick motion of the zoom that Prezi is noted for. If I could find the presentation on Prezi, I’d embed it here. It is visionary. I have found Bryan’s Slideshare presentation that made up the first part of his talk, and you can get a feel for the way he thinks.

Mal Booth, Librarian from UTS (University of Technology Sydney) gave an inspiring presentation about how their library is responding to change. Mal has shared his presentation and notes on Slideshare, so I can embed it here and you can benefit from his wisdom.

UTS staff delivered another presentation about mobile support for staff and students at their library. Sophie Macdonald, a Librarian, presented with Rajan Davio, the IT Manager who works in the UTS library. It was an excellent example of how librarians and IT staff can work together to find solutions for access to library resources. As we move towards mainstream usage of app driven mobile devices, it is even more apparent that close working relationships are necessary between Library and IT staff. I’m very pleased that our IT staff have moved into the new library building my school has just completed; we recognize the need to work together to ensure as seamless a delivery of services as we can manage.

Maxine Brodie, from Macquarie University, spoke of the new Macquarie Library, a very impressive building with 80% of its collection stored underground, and robotic book retrieval operating for on demand access to resources. Why have they done this? Because acres of shelving prevents patrons from accessing space, and space is what libraries as collaborative learning places and places for quieter reflection need. I’d like to know what they are doing to change up their service model in terms of support for students now that they have a space that can cater for more of the university population.

Mckenzie Wark was fascinating. He’s an Australian working in New York, and some of the work he is doing with a graphic novel looks like it will be very useful as a text explaining different political systems when it is eventually published. He has written a book called ‘Gamer’s Theory’ and used the plugin commentpress in WordPress to encourage co-contribution to the text’s development from gamers and other informed and interested members of the public. What he has done represents new models for authors to consider as they create informative texts.

I tweeted long and often, (well as long as 140 characters each tweet!) and battled with the demons of autocorrect on my iPad. My iPad came into its own. I used it to tweet, search and check the emails streaming in from school. It was great for that. In fact, when I got home my right forearm was aching from holding the iPad all day. Can you claim Workers Comp for an iPad RSI conference injury? ; )

My tweets were my means of notetaking. I’ve done this at the last two conferences I’ve attended, and I can see myself getting better at it. My tweets become a combination of what speakers are saying and my own reflection on their words. If I add my input, I try and separate my thinking from the speakers by adding a ‘J’ at the end of my contribution. It works for me, anyway! I’ve collated my tweets in Storify, and they give a reasonably good run down of my conference experience. If you go and take a look, remember to start from the bottom and scroll up to follow the conference from beginning to end.

The conference has strengthened my belief that in Secondary Schools, we need to be preparing our students to be effective digital citizens. They need to understand how to use new technologies safely and ethically, and they need to know how to manage their digital footprint. I heard no mention of this kind of talk at this conference. If our students don’t understand the importance of managing their digital lives by the end of secondary school, then they seem likely to be entering Universities and their working lives under-prepared.

CCAEducause 2011 has left me thinking. To the best of my knowledge, I was the only representative from the Secondary education field. There is a need for the different streams of education within our country to talk more openly with one another. We need to prepare our students adequately for a system that requires them to take control of their learning, and universities need to be ready for students who are used to employing mobile and social technologies as their means of communication. Some of our secondary schools are going to be sending along students who are well versed with new technologies as a means of communication and creative output. A delegate presenting spoke of the “ever lengthening tale of non engagement” that keeps getting told within his institution, as people refuse to budge from tired methods of instruction. Universities today can ill afford to tell this story. Our next generation is ready for the new edition.

John Seely Brown – educator as orchestrator

Today I had the opportunity to listen to John Seely Brown discuss his thoughts on the future of education. This was all thanks to the great work being done by Steve Hardagon. Steve runs Classroom 2.0, The Future of Education and He organises prominant thinkers to share their ideas in Elluminate sessions that run on a regular basis. I find it difficult to get to the sessions because most of them occur in our school day and I’m often way too busy to tune in. Today, being school holidays, the opportunity presented itself.

JSB talked about the changing role of the educator. He referred to the role as being that of orchestrator or Reference Librarian. Teachers having an understanding of networked learning and being able to transfer this understanding in project based learning opportunities to the students we teach. One of the messages he imparted was ‘Teach less – learn more’. According to John, right now we have a perfect storm of opportunity to make change. He said that if we taking new approaches to learning we should continue to do this on the edge and get the core to take notice. The students will make sure they do. For some of the core, they are going to have to unlearn in order to learn. JSB said that tunnel vision prevents many teachers from seeing what is happening that can have an impact on student learning.

Why he feels this way is because he has seen what social media has been able to do; he discussed how he has seen serious change occur from the actions of very small groups of people. This is why he finds it interesting and why he feels it is important to impart knowledge of how to leverage learning opportunities like this. JSB referred to the first wave of disruption; how innovation is changing the way we do things. He made reference to how start up businesses are making use of the cloud to get going. They don’t have to own the infrastructure; it exists in the cloud and if they have something good the potential is there for something to go viral.

Probably one of the most interesting things he said was at the very end of the interview. Steve asked him how did he see schools operating in 20 years from now. JSB said he didn’t see schools as being the dominant form of learning 20 years from now. He followed this up saying that he doesn’t see schools as the dominant form of learning now.    

I hope I’ve reported JSB’s message correctly. You can make your own mind up by visiting The Future of Education or where all of the elluminate sessions Steve records are archived.

Thanks Steve for providing free professional development for the global teaching community.