Fix education now please!

I have a feeling that people have been trying to ‘fix’ education, one way or another for a long time, and perhaps that desire to ‘fix’ has become  even more urgent with the digital technology revolution. Whatever your take on the changes that need to happen, it is always a good thing to see organisations such as schools, education departments, and governments take that challenge seriously (rather than as yet another opportunity for political mileage).

I’m no politician that’s for sure – not at school, not anywhere. I tend to say what I think which can get me into trouble at times. The problem is, when passion drives your concerns, it means that it is not always possible to wait and wait and wait….

ICT in Learning Symposium

So I must say, I was delighted to take part in some small way in the activities of the Strategic ICT Advisory Service activites of Education AU.

The primary purpose of SICTAS is to undertake a series of studies in a broad range of areas to investigate the current and future impacts of emerging technologies and to provide strategic advice to assist policy makers to address the implications of implementation of new technologies in education and training. The target audience for this research will be senior policy advisors in the Australian Government as well as State and Territory government departments. The schools sector, vocational education and training and higher education sectors will benefit from the advice provided.

The key investigations are:

While I had to turn down my invitiation to take part in the  Think Tank activities last year, I was there in Sydney for the National ICT Symposium. The opportunity to workshop intensively with leading educators and administrators from around Australia was an outstanding way to start of Term 2. This sort of conversation is rare in my daily work and reminds me of the vital need we have to create a culture of conversation at the school level to help focus our ICT developments in order to empower 21st century learning.

Dean & Al

The discussions were intense, and challenging. The key summary points can be found at ICT Symposium wiki. While the key points are captured, the real telling of the story can be found in the pictures of the day and the new connections/alliances formed to further our common goals.  I met up with my favourite two men – Al Upton (primary teacher  from SA, and virtual worlds designer)  and Dean Groom (all round smart guy, co-conspirator in our upcoming publications and Head of Learning Design at Maquarie Uni) . Jo Kay (Jokaydia owner and design consultant) and Bronwyn Stuckey (Quest Atlantis) completed the Jokaydian “get real” team!

I also loved the chance to talk with Moodleman (aka Julian Ridden IT Knowledge Services Manager at Riverview College).  Just imagine if Moodleman and I worked in the same school??  The world would maybe change :-) I was also delighted to meet up with Tomas Lasic, the other Moodle and e-learning guru who hales from WA. Wow Tomas, you are tall in real like as well as online!

Raju Varanasi

Many participants came to Sydney from around the country. A small group of us had some really interesting professional conversations with Raju Varanasi, General Manager, Centre for Learning Innovation within the NSW Department of Education and Training. Raju has the opportunity to provide seriously important opportuities for learning initiatives in our State, and as such he is pretty much abreast of what is possible, what the challenges are, and what processes we should adopt to facilitate innovation and change. It was delightful to work with him – and he came up smiling even after the Jokaydians threw every possible challenge at him to consider.  Raju returned for another dose of  discussion with the most exitable group of all (you are always excited when you are full of ideas and challenges!) and as a result Raju has invited us to spend time with his team to provide input into his planning programs. Cool!  The power of networking and the opportunity for conversation and robust discussion at such events is critical and so very helpful for moving things along.

Gary Putland

The work of EducationAU in this field is always vital in Australia. For me it was again a good chance to catch up with Gary Putland (General Manager, and the gentleman who HAS to fix his newbie icon in Twitter!)  and Kerry Johnson (fellow Jokaydian). These people and all the Edna Team – some more of whom I was able to meet – play a vital role on our behalf!  Though many teachers don’t realise it, we are lucky that they are passionate about the future of ICT in education on our behalf.

My summary?  It’s a long way before these  conversations happening ‘at the top’ reach the leaders in our schools, our middle managmenet, and our classrooms. But to be realistic, things have progressed since 2006 when I started in this whole Web 2.0 thing. Now we are having national conversations that understand that the digital agenda is not only about hardware and infrastructure, it is also about the digital connectedness of students and teachers. How we move forward will depend on how we connect through our social media, as connectedness (more and more) becomes our curriculum and our professional learning construct.

Kerry Johnson

As money pours into connection infrastructures, computers in schools, wireless networks, 3G device connectivity, the days for discussing the pros and cons of one-to-one computing are over.  Every school should have a myriad devices connected to the intrawebs – psp, itouch, netbook, laptop, whatever!  What is now needed is ubiquitous connectivity – not locked down access.  Through these myriad devices we can transform the frameworks for learning – catch up with the kids in their technology timeline, and at last deliver learning and teaching in ways that are relevant to their furture.

The issues and challenges in all this, and the debates that must be had to ‘win the day’, are the topics for another blogging day.

It was great to get a group of people together in one room, from around Australia, who actually understand the complexities and imperatives. Well done and thank you EdnaAU for the chance to participate in your day.

By the way – take note!  The words Web 2.0 were not mentioned all day!  Roll on the future.

What is powerful about teaching with technology?

Gary Putland, General Manager Education.au

Understaning the paradigm shifts: what is powerful about learning with technology?What are the challenges and opportunities? What tools can assist us and what are the characteristics of success.

Lawrence Lessig – Creative Commons – and a visit to the Ted Talk – helps us to focus on the significant paradigm shifts – and the spirit of mashup and the tools of creativity.

  1. Understanidng the paradigm shifts begins with a few key points that are challenging our daily practice:
  • Mobile, portable, connected
  • 24/7, access incresing
  • Transformative nature (e.g. banking, travel planning)
  • Social networking phenomena – connect, capture, store, share.

Students are producers and creators of knowledge – kids are information rich outside of school and knowledge poor in school. The locus of control is shifting to anywhere outside the formal education environment. Part of education is to ensure that we are information rich AND knowledge rich.

“Control” is moving out to the masses. Kids want access, and ed departments want control. Let’s work with this and create something positive from this healthy tension. Give students the opportunity to learn how to learn. Risk needs to be shared. Kids can bring a whole lot more to the learning process, and the options for personalization are becoming the priority focus. Rubrics for collaborative learning need to be developed and extended. Immediacy and currency are critical ways for students to keep up-to-date. The “C” in ICT is the vital component – its about connectedness and communication.

The Literacy continuum is so critical – their search, selection and synthesis skills need developing. [Its about knowledge and working with knowledge.] Multiple literacies are also critical and must encompass a range of media as well as promote new literacies for thinking and knowledge creation.

The Numeracy continuum is also critical. Are their things we should stop doing, and add new things to the learning process? Gary demonstrated “Gap Minder” which collects information and you can see the interactions between the data (trends analysis, forcasting). Other programs to use include Scratch (from MIT), Google Earth Community, Alice (3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video etc.

Just how do we help students to understand themselves? That’s what should be the driving force in developing digital pedagogies. Opportunities to explore also include ‘truth, trust and authority’. What is truth? becomes Who do you trust? We have a critical responsibility to help kids understand the implications of a ‘digital footprint’. Finally, we need to help students understand intellectual property in the era of Mashup and democratization of information. Creative Commons concepts need to be explored and extrapolated into the world of our students as produces and consumers of information.

Web 2.0 tools enable storing and sharing of content. Edna is going to launch Edna TV as an alternative collaboration and sharing space

Emerging technologies are important to follow and integrate into our thinking. The blend between blogger, researchers, IT industry players, education organisations and more are working to create new thinking. The critical thing is to connect with other experts.

Digital Education – Making Change HappenThe MCEETYA ICT in Schools Taskforce (ICTST) was responsible for providing strategic advice to all Australian Education Ministers on issues related to the use of technologies in schools, including innovation and emerging technologies.

Characteristics of succes? Leadership; An educational plan; Champions and Mentors; Teaching techniques and strategies; Good infrastructure; Recognition and reward