Connect and inspire – oh yeah!

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to attend an ACEL conference held at the University of Wollongong (a hour and half drive from Sydney). This conference, around the theme of Tech-savvy Leadership and Learning, drew a good crowd. It was impressive to see a large number of attendees from the Department of Education Schools, who attended as part of an exercise in creating knowledge networks who could continue learning about innovation with ICT during the year.

The keynote speakers included key researchers from the University of Wollongong, who shared their work and their perspectives on learning in a digital age. I always appreciate hearing about research, as this adds significant value to our more anecdotal reflections on day-to-day classroom happenings. We test, experiment, play, get creative with pedagogy and researchers help us prove we are on the right track!

However, a number of us chatted between sessions, the more digitally savvy, social network connected attendees, and we were a little troubled by some statements made about social networking and digital learning. Some of the ‘push’ of the conference was ICT, PD, and the horrors of cyberbullying. For those coming new to new media, they needed to hear about the power of personal learning networks – but I’m afraid I might have been the only one to mention this.

One keynote speaker actually stated that ‘you can’t make friends via social networks like Facebook’. I shook my head, and wondered about all the wonderful professional contacts I have made via social networks – and the excitement in meeting them eventually F2F – building on professional respect, collaboration, sharing of resources and more.

This is not a new outcome at conferences – we are starting to see a digital divide emerging in that some people believe they can talk about and research digital learning environments and social networking without actually being active participants in that world!  I like to see keynote speakers who can share their online digital identities with us, and prove to me that they really do understand the architecture of participation that is learning in our new century.

Nevertheless, it was a fabulous day. The attendees were very enthusiastic as far as I could tell. Thank you to Julie Reynolds, Principal of Cedars Christian College, who invited me to present a session at this ACEL conference.  Julie’s enthusiasm, and that of her staff, was so wonderful. They are really working hard to make their school 21C friendly!

I guess what I tried to say in my presentation is to remind people that passion as to drive our connections – and that we cannot operate effectively in working with technology without social networking. I believe that PD is NOT the single answer – creating connections and promoting a shift in our mindsets is even more important. In fact, without flexibility, experimentation, collaboration, and innovation driven by our dialogue ‘with the crowd in the cloud’ it must might all be for nothing.

There is not much you can say in an hour – not really!  So it was very nice to have people take the time to come and chat afterwards and say that they felt inspired to try! That’s the key thing – try – and the rest will take care of its self.

Here are my slides!

For those who visited earlier, thanks to @slideshare for fixing the embed problem. Twitter teams are the frontline of service!

Going somewhere?

The twitterverse, nings, wikis, blogs, and more are full of great ideas being shared by teachers to promote ideas and innovation in learning and teaching. It’s great to see the information networking take place, and the discussions happening formally and informally, such as the Oz/NZ educators.

But I would like to urge teachers and teacher librarians to do more than join social networks, chat in flashmeetings, or blog their collaborative ventures.

Please consider contributing to your professional association in some way.  Join a committee, become an executive member – do something!  Our professional associations are the ones that lobby on behalf of our subjects and profession, respond to government papers and initiatives, profide first class professional learning opportunities –  in fact, do so many things that represent the best interests of teachers and students.

It is not enough to ‘get into’ social networking. It is more important to be a contributor via active professional bodies in your state or country. I have always helped if I can, locally, nationally and internationally via a number of associations. Last week, I added another small contribution to my weaponry (because that’s what it is – weapons to forge a better future) by volunteering to become an ISTE Docent. What a treat it is to be in charge of helping others at ISTE HQ, even if only for one short hour each week.

It constantly surprises me that people hesitate to take this step to volunteer with their preferred professional association. I hear all sorts of excuses. Yet the real gains we have made in education have often been driven by those who work tirelessly via their associations.

Next time you see nominations, or are asked to contribute in some way – please – give it a go. This is your chance to put other interests ahead of your own and make sure that we are ‘going somewhere’ in education.

Photo: A course for nowhere

Create + Learn + Broadcast = L3RN

A very impressive Web 2.0 presence from Seattle Public Schools who have clearly got a great lead on integration of social networking into their learning frameworks!

Know as L3RN – Learning equals creating, learning and broadcasting, A visit to their fantastic portal is a must. School libraries have their own area for News, tips, resources, and help from Seattle Schools’ libraries.

The portal has browse, video, audio, docs and channels in its suite. Fantastic.

Thanks to Awapuni for ‘links for you’ through Del.ici.ous!

[Cross-posted from: iLibrarian because it is too important to only post in one place!]

Their space: Education for the Digital Generation

From Scotland via Derek Robertson at Hotmilkydrink:

On my way through to Edinburgh this morning I decided to listen to the latest edition of the BBC’s Digital Planet podcast. This is a really good show that never fails to throw up something of interest and relevance to me in my professional and personal dealing with technology.

The first article featured a new research paper from DEMOS called Their Space: Education for the Digital Generation. It proved to be quite an enlightening listen because they actually had a digital native on the programme! This 15 year old girl talked about how she and her friends used ICT in an invisible way in their lives. The only time it became overtly visible she claims was when teachers, (due to government regulations no doubt she mutters under her breath) told pupils that ‘this is a mouse’ or ‘save your file to the appropriate folder’!!! The contempt was tangible I tell you.

The DEMOS paper draws on qualitative research with children and polling of parents to counter the myths obscuring the true value of digital media. Some quotes from the Executive Summary of this 81 page document gives an indication of the content:

  1. In an economy driven by knowledge rather than manufacturing, employers are already valuing very different skills, such as creativity, communication, presentation skills and team-building.
  2. Schools are at the front line of this change and need to think about how they can prepare young people for the future workplace.
  3. Schools need to recognise the new digital divide – one of access to knowledge rather than hardware – and start to redress some of the existing imbalances.
  4. Students are changing the society they live in along the progressive lines that are built into the technology they use everyday – of networks,
    collaboration, co-production and participation. The change in
    behaviour has already happened.We have to get used to it, accept that the flow of knowledge moves both ways and do our best to make sure that no one is left behind.


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Apple Conference – Day 3

Actually I’m exhausted, though not much wiser for three days of conference-going. Day three had its moments – good ones actually. I’ll share some with you!

Great Leadership Workshop led by Westley Field from MLC, Sydney and Keith Anderson, PLC Perth. Thanks for keeping the focus on blended learning, not just e-learning and technology. Both schools have a strong strong link to deep thinking coupled with creativity.

Westley shared Frank Crowther’s ‘Strategic Foundations’ with us as an enabling mechanism for transformation. These are made up of:

School vision – clear, shared and meaningful
Distributed Leadership
Success – promoted
Step-by-step – taking people on the journey

We heard about the PLC approach to strong, blended differentiation.
We heard about an MLC approach to building communication and community. A step-by-step approach has allowed them to reach significant milestons ……and desired outcomes.

Martin Levins of The Armidale School followed with a strongly focussed session where the key message for me was “creativity is the next literacy” (echoing Marco’s message). (Martin has emailed me to let me know that this quote is derived from that insightful and humorous presentation of (Sir) Ken Robinson at the TED conference in Monterey, CA. I highly recommend catching up with the TED talks, if you haven’t checked them out previously.

As Martin says:

Learning is the focus, not ICT
Give laptops to all your teachers, and expect creative work in return from some
Be a progenitor of dialogue
Leaders need to champion good work
Employ good, people-oriented staff

Best response to the teacher who says “I don’t like change!” :

Well, if you don’t like change, you’ll like ‘irrelevant’ even less!

Bloggers can unite the world!

It’s possible that today, more than any day ever, has shown me the power of Web 2.0 to be the catalyst for change and motivation in education. The fact that blogging has lead to an opportunity for face-to-face dialogue with John Connell, Learning Futures Strategist from LT in Scotland is amazing! Thank you John for taking the time out in your short Aussie stay to chat with some of us downunder.

I sound like an excited teenager – and I guess in the world of blogging that is what I am :-) John Connell has been leading educators in Scotland for many years through his work with SSDN, and now in his new role, continues to explore the potential of school-based learning.

So the opportunity to listen to John as he shared stories and insights with a small (select) group of my colleagues in Catholic Education in Parramatta was exceptional – and I know that such opportunities to talk with people with vision and experience is greatly appreciated.

Bloggers of the world really were united – as Al Upton from Glenelg in South Australia joined us to listen to John – again, as a result of our blogging and communications that result from this!

The interesting thing was the ease with which two bloggers, from very different walks of life, could be so easily bound together by the common passion of delivering educational opportunities to students that harness the potential of technology in new ways, incorporating Web 2.0 as platform thinking.

I hope to have a podcast available of John’s presentation available, once I get back to work after attending the Global Summit where I have a feeling we will all be engaging in some very good professional conversations – and possibly knock the socks off the world with the resulting ideas that are generated!! If schooling is indeed struggling to find relevance in today’s world, then it is almost certain that solutions that emerge will do so due to as a result of the activism of bloggers and Web 2.0 aficiondos.

Now, about six degrees of seperation?

John talked about Whitby, the place from which Captain Cook sailed to reach Botany Bay. John travelled out to Australia to speak with us at Parramatta, where Greg Whitby is now our Executive Director. Greg dropped in for a short while to listen to John, and will attend the GENIE meeting with John on Tuesday. Al Upton comes from Glenelg, and I live in Glenelg place.

Bloggers of the world unite!

Cut and paste literacy

Reading through some of the Sites of Current Interest to Me from John Connell:the Blog led me to Rough Type and a comment about a paper published about My Space. The paper stands in contrast to the lack of dialogue about MySpace in educational circles. (Partly this is because some schools block access, so by blocking they think that usage goes away; partly it is because they have never heard of MySpace; partly this is because they see MySpace as being irrelevant)

Whether its plagiarism, or creativity, or school intranets, or learning spaces – looking at student behaviours in MySpace is essential if we are to work with the potential of technology and the potential of our kids to create a ‘new future’. Ogh…I know ‘new future’ sounds cliched…but whatever your term for future planning, MySpace and it’s ilk are here and ready to be our advisors and help shape our understandings.

The paper is an indepth analysis of elements of MySpace with important ideas for our understanding of literacy in this Web 2.0 space.

Is illiteracy the new literacy? Berkeley’s Dan Perkel writes, in a paper, Cut and Paste Literacy, on MySpace profiles: “A social perspective of literacy helps show that a part of [the] problem in this framing of copying and pasting as a literacy practice is that it does not neatly fit within common educational practices. From the perspective of the social niche of traditional schooling, to copy and paste is to plagiarize, unless there is careful attribution of sources …

Teacher as Learner in Web 2.0

Quarter of a year blogging! Hooray!!

OK, time for a personal whinge :-(

The last week has been a frustrating week in many ways, but the most frustrating of all has been the ‘negotiations’ I have had in discussion about my academic study program.

Supposedly in a Doctor of Science Education Program with a technology focus through Curtin University, I have come to the conclusion that unless I can find an academic environment that reflects the changing learning landscape of kids today I am totally wasting my time seeking to learn more about learning landscapes via an academic study program.

Really nice folks at the uni – don’t get me wrong – but just NOT giving me the learning extension that I need.

Here is an example – the reader for Learning Environements, which I must read (ok, I can do that) but which I also have to demonstrate that I understand (!) contains 16 papers, all from the 90s, and one only from 2001. Now you and I know that this represents Web 1.0 generation of thinkers. Even if they are ‘cool constructivist thinkers’, they are talking about a learning environment and learning landscape that is rapidly becoming irrelevant. While it is important to ground current research and learning in past knowledge and research – I do not have this option.

“You can add a bit on about Web 2.0 if you like, but do not make it the main thrust of your paper. You must demonstrate that you understand our philosophy”

Despite the fact that a previous module run by Peter Taylor extended my thinking on constructivism in marvelous ways, this time around I feel that being forced to operate in the constraints of the concepts presented in our Reader is really a great example of ‘enculturation’ and not at all about border crossing into Web 2.0 in theory and practice.

I suggest that practitioners in the field who are blogging and sharing their experiences through books, presentations, seminars, podcasts etc are teaching much more about what is possible than this academic approach to readers and stale research processes allows.

Practitioners such as Stephen Downes, Will Richardson, Doug Johnson, Stephen Abram, Michael Stephens, John Connell, Leigh Blackall, Ewen McIntosh, and Alan November are engaging with the learning needed in new environements, gathering me up in the learning as they go – something my current academic program does not do.

I suggest that attending events like The Global Summit will also help me along in my learning. I suggest that opportunities to interact with global colleagues like the event at TeachMeet06 will give me learning opportunities that no analysis of a “reader” would ever manage. How sad that I have to ‘regurgitate’ to prove that I understand.

What I have learned and continue to learn through social networking, Web 2.0 and peer to peer discussions is far superior to my current academic offerings.

My students and my schools are the priority. It is vital to innovate, have fun, and learn all at the same time… unless I can actively research SecondLife, or an aspect of Web 2.0 in 2007 …… that’s it to my current academic institution.

I want to thank all the wonderful people who have contributed to my professional learning – fantastic stuff for this teacher as learner.