ELH Reflections

Going to a technology conference in Lorne  (ELH  -Expanding Learning Horizons) is always a nice experience, even if the weather isn’t being as kind as it could be. Lorne is restful, a beautiful seaside town that harks back to another era in some ways. The last time I was there was two years ago, and my experience then was transformative. I went to a five hour session with a guy called Will Richardson who I’d never heard of. He was explaining Web 2.0 tools and I figured I needed to know about them a little more. I’d been doing some work with them, but the penny hadn’t dropped. Five hours with Will changed everything.

That session opened my eyes to possibilities. Within a few months the possibilities had become reality and I started writing this blog. Yesterday, I was a presenter at the conference where I’d been the newcomer to technology only two years before. Remarkable really. In the last year I’ve worked with Will Richardson in our PLP cohort and he’s sat in my kitchen drinking coffee. Even more remarkable!!

Four other teachers and our Network Administrator attended also. All four teachers came out of the conference feeling empowered to use new ideas from the sessions they attended. One of them was putting her new found knowledge into practice yesterday and was teaching others things she had learned. It was wonderful to see her enthusiastically embrace Wordle and Animoto and find ways to make them meaningful for the curriculum.

For me the conference was different this time. I didn’t attend what they call Discovery sessions, I opted instead for the Critical Conversation sessions, opportunities to discuss issues surrounding technology and its impact on learning in our schools today. These sessions extended my thinking; they were artfully managed by Bruce Dixon and he managed to draw out from participants discussion to get us all thinking. Karen Li, Global Education Program Manager from Intel, was interested in finding out what we as educators needed to move us forward. Professional Development for teachers to facilitate meaningful use of technology to support curriculum was a common theme in this discussion. I was taken by an idea Bruce raised; bringing together teachers who are exemplifying good practice and getting them to record three minute videos outlining their experiences. An educational TED conference idea. The videos could be uploaded to a dedicated site (perhaps its own YouTube channel) and could be a Professioanl Development tool for teachers. It’s an idea with merit.

Andrew Douch delivered an excellent opening keynote and extended the conversation in a session exploring appropriate social boundaries. Andrew engages with his students using a variety of means including MSN. He keeps a log of these conversations; a smart idea. His parent body are comfortable with Andrew’s use of this medium and it probably helps that he has established a high profile as an educator exploring social media as a learning tool.  

What struck me at this conference was how few participants were using social media for their own professional development and for student learning. An oversight was not having enough sessions exploring how  you go about doing this. I honestly think there is merit in holding sessions exploring how something like Twitter can be used for professional learning. I offered to run an unconference type session, but I only had two takers. I really don’t think people understood what these kind of sessions were about.

A Ning had been set up to support the conference but got very little use. Why? Because the program had been printed out and provided to conference participants.  There are a number of lessons conference organisers need to learn about running a paperless conference. We all had laptops and free wireless. There really was no reason why the Ning couldn’t have been set up weeks in advance and presenters could have been adding content from an early stage. It would have been a great learning experience for attendees; they would have been forced to use social media if they wanted to find their way to sessions and a community for participants could have been created. It worked that way at Learning 2.008 in Shanghai last year. There were times when bandwith made access a little difficult, but it certainly was used. That Ning is an excellent repository of information about sessions that took place in Shanghai and can still be accessed today. Note to conference organisers; check it out and do it that way in 2010.      

I posted my session’s slides yesterday. You can find them here and on my wiki. Steve Collis recorded the session on Ustream so you can watch it if you like. I’ve yet to see it all the way through. I must try and find the time! Funny how you get back to the reality of school and everything seems to swamp you. When I resurface I’ll get to it. I really did enjoy my time at ELH. I got to meet members of my PLN including Adrian Bruce, Julie Squires, Andrew Jeppeson, Steve Collis, Warrick Wynne and Mark Liddell. My thinking was challenged and I was able to convey my thoughts about learning communities and the merit of participatory learning.

Loved it.    

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Literacy for our age.

John Connell has written an excellent post, Literacy, Postliteracy, Modes of Expression….and a real Guitar Hero! that you really should read. In it, he muses over the notion of literacy and how it can be defined in our changing landscape. His post struck a chord with me; literacy, and our definition of it, was a frequent topic of discussion at Learning 2.008.

John writes so well it is daunting to even think of leaving a comment! But leave one I did, and here is my 2 cents worth;

This was a topic under frequent discussion at Learning 2.008 John. Doug Johnson calls it postliteracy, others call it digital literacy or 21st Century literacy. Clarence Fisher and others were asking the question, is it not just literacy? Sure, it’s different from our print based focus of the past, but it’s where we are today. I’m a Teacher-Librarian and I recognise that my students respond to visual media today far more than they do print based and I am trying to find ways to integrate the visual medium into my library space. I find myself charged by the visual medium and avail myself of stimuli off YouTube to spark my students’ interest in curriculum offerings. I have been moved by their digital creations that express meaning so eloquently without words, but through pictures that create a metaphor. It seems to me that as we deal with a highly visual world we will find our definition of literacy changing. When it becomes normative practice in our understanding of how we function we will become accepting that this is the literacy of our age.

I encourage you to visit John’s blog and read his post. While there, do yourself a favour and take a stroll through some of his other entries. I guarantee you’ll come away enriched by the experience.

Learning 2.008- pics!

Thought you might like to see some pics from my time at Learning 2.008. Anyone who knows me well knows my history with cameras is not a good one. Last year on a trip to China I lost two! My own and the camera of the teacher I went with. Expensive exercise that one.  This time I didn’t lose the camera, but I did forget to take it with me while I was out on the Bund at night. Missed those brilliant photo opportunities showcasing Shanghai when it looks at its best – at night when the lights are stunning and pollution pales. Quite a few of these pics are ones taking by others at the conference and posted on Flickr with the tag learn2cn.  That’s the beauty of Flickr – if you miss something you can bet someone else hasn’t. 

This is me talking about my experiences at Edubloggercon. Adrian Bruce was watching on ustream and said I had a ‘boy look’. This was because I had no luggage and no access to the hair straightener!!

Edublogger table table viewed from on high.

 Jeff Utecht explaining Twitter at the opening of the Conference.

The Conference Courtyard – Macs all round. My pc looked pretty lame.

 Clarence Fisher and a slide with a quote from one of his students. So true.

The tent that was used for breakfast, lunch and opening night dinner. Note the astroturf playing field it is situated on. 

SCIS -Shanghai Community International School (I think I’ve got that right) They hosted the Conference. Great facilities.

View of Shanghai from the JinMao Tower. This was at 11.00am. Gives you some idea of the issues they have with pollution. It was hard to determine if it was fog and pollution or just pollution. 

The family from my school who met up with me in Shanghai. Thanks Paul, Lucia, Christina and Michael for a great day.

I’m still trying to get my thoughts together about the Conference. Already I’m talking with a teacher in Singapore about some collaborative project work. That’s the beauty of making face to face connection – the collaborative opportunities present themselves more naturally when you can get a sense of the person you will be working with. Hope the pics give you a sense of what things were like in Shanghai.

Learning 2.008 – my take

 

Well. The conference is over. Time to reflect.

 

Sorry I didn’t post over the last two days. It’s like Chris Betcher said in a post recently, you have to participate in life. If I’d worried about writing posts to update everyone back home I’d never have been able to fully participate and take from the conference what I needed.

 

What am I taking away?

 

I went out to dinner with Brian Lockwood and Jabiz Raisdana last night. First up, how great to be able to meet these two and spend some time over dinner having a spirited discussion about our conference experiences. I think we were all surprised at what we didn’t learn. We all felt that we knew quite a lot and that the discussions the conference generated were representative of what we have been immersed in in our personal learning networks. The consensus was that we were able to add to the discussions in a meaningful way but we weren’t necessarily learning anything that wasn’t already on our radar. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not a criticism, it’s actually confirming for us that we are benefiting so much from the time we spend interacting with others and sharing our thoughts and opinions online.  

 

I got to meet some great people. It was terrific to be able to meet Julie Lindsay who I admire so much for all the work she has done with Vicki Davis and the Flat Classroom project. In my opinion, Julie should have been delivering a Ted like talk on the opening night of the conference. She has done amazing work and models her practice so well. Lack of female voice on that opening night was glaring to me. Sheryl Nussbaum Beach couldn’t attend due to illness so there was supposed to be representation, but why Julie wasn’t asked to step on up is a mystery to me. Sheryl did record her own Ted talk which appears on the ning site (and you should go there and watch it) but it wasn’t broadcast publicly at the conference. Note to conference organisers – address the balance.

 

Kim Cofino delivered a few sessions. I attended one about global collaborative projects and it was excellent. Kim had put a lot of effort into the presentation and used principles inspired by Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen to get the message across. And do that she did. I’m sure she would have uploaded the presentations to slideshare so you should go there to check them out. Do a search for Kim Cofino and see what turns up.

 

Clarence Fisher presented really well. He’s real; you get such a sense of the classroom teacher who is modelling and sharing. I thoroughly enjoyed any session I attended that he was involved with because I felt the genuine nature of Clarence shone through and this enabled a connection to be made. He discussed how using Web 2.0 tools had enabled his small community (less that 800 in his whole town) to reach out and level their playing fields. His students don’t feel isolated from the world. He also discussed how he teaches information literacy skills constantly as students engage with this medium. They need to behave ethically as digital citizens, they need to know how to filter the vast array of information available, they need to write. Literacy, and how this medium encourages it, was a point Clarence was making. There was discussion about whether or not it needed to be defined as digital literacy or just literacy. There’s no doubt students are honing digital skills, but do we need to classify it as digital literacy? As practice becomes normative with these tools this will just become literacy as we know it.

 

An unconference session occured with Teacher-Librarians. This was great. There were 17 in attendance and it gave us all a chance to discuss what we are doing with Web 2.0 in our schools and professional life. We established a space for ourselves on the ning and will hopefully stay in contact and find ways to work together.  

 

Just having an opportunity to meet some like minded interesting people was wonderful. People like Jeff Utecht, Simon May (both of whom did an amazing job getting the conference organised), Dave Navis, Brian Lockwood, Simon PowerNZ Chrissy, Tod Baker, Dennis Harter, Ann Krembs, Matt Greenway, Jabiz Raisdana, Mike Romard and our own wonderful Anne Mirschtin and Jess McCulloch. Some were from my Personal Learning Network and others weren’t.  The world of international schools and teaching was another eye opener. I had no idea there was such a huge community out there. The majority of the conference attendees were from international schools and some of the tales they told me about their lifestyles made me wonder why I’d never considered it before.

 

There’s no doubt that blogging has been my entrance point into this world; it has altered my perspective on teaching and shown me how we can do things differently for the students we teach. It has made my voice heard further than I ever thought possible. You probably don’t really need to attend a conference like this one if you are active and self direct your own learning through the very mediums we are trying to see accepted in our school communities. These mediums help us to stay abreast of current thinking. You do need to attend a conference like this if you are not immersed, but are interested and want to know more. If you know nothing, you absolutely should be attending a conference like this to open your mind to new thinking.

 

If you are immersed, you do need to attend a conference like this if you want to further the relationships you establish online. And that’s important. We are part of this human network and as such, face to face human connection matters.

 

Speaking of this, today represented an example of the connections we make with our students and parent community. Here I am in Shanghai receiving a phone call from the parents of a child in my class. They are also in Shanghai on a working holiday and wanted to know if I’d like to catch up with them. We spent time together viewing a very foggy/smoggy Shanghai from the Hyatt Observation deck and enjoyed lunch at the Bund, before heading off to haggle at the markets. Thanks Paul, Lucia, Christina and Michael. I really enjoyed the time spent with you.  

 

And thanks Shanghai Learning 2.008. In many ways a transformative time. 

Learning 2.008 Edubloggercon

I’m beginning to think I’m not destined to be at this
conference. Qantas lost my luggage so I’ve been over a day now without my
clothes and other essentials. Caught the courtesy bus back from the conference
and the bus driver took me on a round trip of Shanghai which led back to the bus depot and
not my hotel. He didn’t realise I was still on the bus. Consequently, what was
a round the block trip took an hour and ten minutes. Arrived back at hotel to
discover still no luggage. They say it is on the road right now heading my way
but I’m not convinced.

*update  – it’s here. Finally can feel like me with my own stuff. 

Anyway, enough of the sad and sorrys. Today was a great day.
It began with Edubloggercon at Elements Fresh in Shanghai. A chance to meet some of the people
I read and learn from. I had to stop myself from doing the Oh My God routine as
I met people like Jeff Utecht , Clarence Fisher , David Warlick , David Jakes ,
Brian Crosby , Julie Lindsay , Kim Cofino and Alan Levine . Conversation was rich and flowed easily and I found I had something to
contribute. That’s been my biggest worry. Is my thinking where it should be? Can I contribute anything new? After today I think I can.

Why do I think that? Because today I realised that some of the biggest names in the blogosphere share my concerns about the difficulties that present themselves when we try to shift our schools. Why do I feel alright about where we are? Because we are at least being proactive and have ourselves involved in Powerful Learning Practice . We are going to be immersing our staff in a learning community, and community is going to be what drives change. It’s not a discussion about the latest Macbook Pro that is important. It is a discussion about the connective relationships our students can form and learn from that is going to be the tipping point for many of our schools. 

Today finished with invited presenters delivering 10 minute inspirational presentations a la TED talks. It was good. For someone who is already immersed it was confirming. For those in the audience who dance on the fringes, I hope it was powerful enough to move their practice forward, or at least to get them thinking. 

Looking forward to what tomorrow may bring. I’ll try and post to posterous throughout the day if everything goes well.

 

Learning 2.008 here I come!

I’m sitting at Melbourne Airport. It’s 6.15 in the morning and I’m waiting for a plane to Sydney which will connect me to my flight to Shanghai and Learning 2.008.

How do I feel?

Anxious.  Excited.  Nervous.  Elated.

It’s such a mixture of feelings. I never conceived at the start of the year that I’d be attending an international conference and have the opportunity to meet people who form part of my Personal Learning Network. It’s testament to the sharing capacity of this network that I’m going in large part. If not for the connections I’ve formed and the ability of those connections to make an impact on not only my teaching, but the mindset of admin at my school, I’d never be here. I’m very fortunate to work at a school that values the ideas that come with a learning 2.0 approach and who are willing to look at new ways to do things.

Nearly time to board. I’m hoping to share my learning with you through this blog. Hopefully posterous will work for me when I’m in Shanghai. If not, I’ll be revisiting the conference in posts when I return.

Better get moving- this flight might be my only chance to truly rest for the next 6 days!

Learning 2.008 – I’m so excited (to quote the Pointer Sisters!)

Wow.

 I. am. actually. going. to. this. conference.   

Can you even begin to imagine how excited I am about this? It is such a great opportunity to connect with people I have worked with and talked to in my online network of connected friends who teach me so much. It’s an opportunity to meet with many who I haven’t yet had opportunity to connect with. Just being at a conference with so many like minds is going to be so exciting and such a learning experience.

I can’t wait to hear the thoughts of people like David Warlick, David Jakes, Ewan McIntosh, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Marco Torres. People who will be presenting include Clay Burell, Kim Cofino  and Jeff Utecht – more minds I want to tap into!! I’m particularly looking forward to finally meeting Clay who has had such an impact on my life this year. I’m also looking forward to meeting Simon Power, an Australian teaching in Shanghai.

I’m actually catching up with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach in Melbourne next week. I’ve been working with Sheryl to get an Australian arm of the global cohort for Powerful Learning Practice formed. The cohort’s pretty much come together now. It’s really exciting and we should be kicking this off on September the 8th. I see this as a way to move my school forward. It’s been wonderful getting to know Sheryl online and I’m looking forward to our face to face meeting next week.   

Would I have thought this is where I’d be when I started blogging in January? No way. Just goes to show you what can be achieved with determination and persistance (and a very supportive school behind you who appreciate what you are doing – I am so very grateful). To retweet @thebuddha;

 All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.