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.

 

 

Leaning in

I listen to a radio program on the drive home from work some days where they have a segment called ‘Lame claim to fame’. I love it. People ring in with their tenuous links to celebrities and the like and claim their five minutes of fame in what is always a humorous, light hearted segment. It makes me laugh. In the car. By myself.

So the other day, when I saw that twelve pages separated me from the great Sir Ken Robinson in the EduTECH Official Showguide, I immediately thought, here’s my lame claim to fame. So I posted this on Twitter.

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When I re-read it later, it occurred to me that the EduTECH organisers and Australian Teacher Magazine may be thinking that I’m making light of my inclusion in the guide. It might appear (as can be wont to do when you’re communicating in 140 character bites) that I was being sarcastic when I said this was a career highlight.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me state quite clearly , this IS a career highlight for me.

I feel very honoured to be selected for inclusion in the guide, alongside other local speakers Dan Haesler, Anne Weaver, Peter Evans, Karin Gilbert and yes, the overseas presenter and highly esteemed Sir Ken Robinson, who resides 12 pages in front of my piece. I’m very grateful to the organisers who contacted me and asked if I could share my thinking and allow me the opportunity share my thoughts in a publication that will be seen by many.

Sheryl Sandberg wrote a book in recent times called ‘Lean in‘, where she posits that women need to take their place at the table like men do, and lean in and make their voice heard. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m not someone who holds back on their thinking. I think I represent women well by making my voice heard in networks that are often dominated by male voice and by being a Keynote speaker who can hold her own and inspire people to take the leap to make moves to change their thinking and practice.

However, I don’t think I ‘Lean in’ enough. I don’t often retweet kind things people say about my presentations. I thank people, and I sometimes favourite their comments, but I’m loathe to retweet. I think I’ve done it once or twice and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after the fact, like I’m showing off and parading myself around for everyone to see. I don’t have a page in this blog full of testimonials from conference participants. And yet, I see it happening all the time in the networks I inhabit, often by men who are occupying the scene and taking their place at many tables.

Maybe my tweet should have read:

Really pleased to be featured in the EduTECH Official Showguide (and only 12 pages away from the great @SirKenRobinson)

That would have been a leaning in moment.

Creating climates of possibility

This is Sir Ken Robinson’s latest TED talk. Ken’s ability to convey powerful ideas with smatterings of humour really does make him the consummate speaker. It’s worth investing 19 or so minutes listening to his message that is directed at the US system but has relevance to education professionals everywhere.

I couldn’t help but think as I watched that Ken might be impressed with Jeff Bliss, a student from Duncanville High School in Texas. Jeff’s classroom outburst was recorded (unbeknownst to Jeff) by another student on their phone and posted to YouTube, where it has gone viral with over 2.9 million views after just three days online. While I don’t subscribe to posting video without the consent of all parties, and I think the administration of Duncanville High School must be enacting some serious damage control and checking if they have a signed Responsible Use Policy to refer to, Jeff’s words spoke to my heart. See if they speak to your heart too.

Sir Ken concludes his talk by saying that we need to create climates of possibility in our schools. Both what and how we teach need to be the seeds that make possibility grow and flourish for our students. I don’t know if Jeff has ever seen a Ken Robinson talk, but his words make it clear that he subscribes to this thinking too. For once, I encourage you to read the comments on the YouTube video featuring Jeff. While you’ll encounter some trolling behaviour, much of what is said supports Jeff’s outburst and many comments seem to come from young people present in school systems today. It’s worth it to watch an interview conducted with Jeff after the video began spreading – he has an interesting perspective to share.

What this video certainly does teach us is that social media can have far reaching implications for teachers, especially if they are filmed unknowingly in their classrooms. The teacher in question has been publicly shamed here and apparently has been put on administrative leave. We haven’t had an opportunity to hear her perspective yet and we may never hear it. It goes without saying that we do need to have Responsible Use Policies within our schools that are read and hopefully respected by our student populations. It doesn’t mean they’ll be adhered to, but they do give us opportunities to discuss with our students the moral and ethical considerations they should bring to their use of devices with recording ability and social media.

School’s out Friday

I saw this a week ago, and have been meaning to post it ever since. Ken Robinson is a brilliant presenter. He doesn’t always use slides, it’s often just his spoken voice delivering a powerful message about the need to transform education . He does this well with his personable nature and a touch of humour along the way. RSA animate adapted this effort from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken. If I were a principal, I’d forget about talking and use this to begin my next staff meeting; more educators need to hear messages like this as part of their professional development. For those who struggle watching a person speak, this animation should hold their attention for the full 11 minutes!

The actual talk went for 55 minutes, was entitled ‘Changing Paradigms’, and can be viewed below.

I’ve had a flat chat week, and been sick to boot.  (can you think of any more idioms I could pack in there!) I think the busy nature of the last couple of weeks caught up with me, and my voice gave out. I’ve been talking in very husky tones for the last few days and am looking forward to a quiet weekend of recuperation. Hopefully, I’ll be sounding more like myself by Monday.

Have a great weekend. Make the most of whatever comes your way. : )

The quiet revolution

Here’s Sir Ken Robinson delivering the TED talk that occurred in February, but has just been released on the TED site. Please watch it, not just once, but two or three times, and internalise the message. Ken asks for a revolution in our schools. A revolution that allows our students to explore what they are passionate about. A revolution that will require a rethink of curriculum structures that bind us to an industrial model of teaching. A revolution that needs teachers who understand new technologies and how we can use these tools to assist our students in pursuing their passions. Sounds like the ethos underlying Students 2.0 really.

In my own workplace, I’m trying to do my bit to force the revolution. I feel like I’m making a dent in recent times. In the early days, I was evangelistic in my mission, and it didn’t do me any favours. Now, I’m quieter in my intent, and I’ve probably been assisted not so much by my own efforts, but more from the shift in society. The fact that people accept Twitter as an acceptable medium now, and more people are aware that options exist with online applications like Google Docs, makes it easier for me to be heard and sought out.

We are currently working on a thematic study of Romance and Relationships in our Year 9 study of English. Part of our assessment is a task requiring the students to use technology to put together a creative response. I’ve spent time in classes showing our students tools like PreziGlogster, Voicethread, Wikis, Blogs, podcast tools and a site called 60 Second Recap. We’ve tried to encourage our students to think about sharing their presentations with a wider audience than just their classroom, and have tried to make them realise that, in doing so, they can help to create a positive digital profile for themselves.

Today, was a good day. It was a good day because yesterday I spent time in classes outlining how these tools work, and this morning I walked into work and a student excitedly showed me what she had achieved with Prezi last night after getting inspired seeing what it was. This is a student who doesn’t get all that excited about English assignments. She told me she spent four hours working out how to use it and missed all of her TV programs! I tell you, I was smiling all day just thinking about the effect this had had on her. And she wasn’t the only one; another student had gone home and worked out how to use it and had already created a presentation for something she does out of school hours.

These experiences make me hopeful that we will see inroads made. Maybe it’s not the revolution that Sir Ken hopes for (and me too!), but a quiet transformation that just might help to make our students realise that they can direct their own learning, and make others realise that change is in the air.

TED 2010

TED 2010 (Technology, Entertainment, Design – ideas worth spreading) took place over the last four days in Long Beach and Palm Springs. Thanks to the magic of the Twitter hashtag #TED, I’ve been able to keep track of some of the talks that have sparked enthusiasm and discussion.

Jamie Oliver was the recipient of the TED prize. It’s awarded to an exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and ‘One Wish to Change the World’.  Jamie’s wish was this;

Jamie Oliver

“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”

He delivered a talk entitled, ‘Teach every child about food‘, and in true Jamie Oliver style, he delivers his message passionately.

The other TED talk that’s been released is Blaise Aguera y Arcas’ demo of augmented-reality maps, Microsoft’s development available through their Bing search engine. It’s very cool; definitely worth watching.

Sir Ken Robinson delivered a talk about education that received much praise in the Twitter stream. A quote from his talk came through from an attendee;

“Our education system is impoverishing our spirits as much as fast food is depleting our bodies.”

His talk not yet been released; one to watch out for on the site.

TED would be a wonderful experience, I’ve no doubt. It’s invite only with 1000 or so people attending. Talks are released on the site every week. Bookmark the page – it’s worth visiting for inspiring talks to show to the students you teach and the colleagues you work with.

A TEDX event is being organised for New York  (TEDxNYED) on March 6th. TEDX events are independently organised and Alex Ragone from Collegiate School is one of the organisers. The line up is brilliant and they will be streaming the event live. Worth staying up for I think. One for the calendar.