Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
After attending the Education Nation conference in 2016 I wrote an article titled The Playground which is one of my most widely read articles. In it I challenged education vendors to re-think the way they engage with teachers, to ask questions and find out what teachers are trying to achieve instead of selling to them. I also challenged teachers to re-think how they engage with vendors, to challenge them with what they are trying to achieve rather than simply ask what the product can do.
As part of my role with ClickView I am in a lot of meetings with various stakeholders. I typically prefer to take my notes using a pen and a notebook, however, in the meetings I have been in thus far, which have typically been led by a colleague as part of my training and induction process, I have found that the process of handwriting notes during the meeting and then transferring them to the typed notes for future reference is rather cumbersome and adds an extra piece of equipment. I have been aware of OneNote's ability to write notes directly in and wanted to explore this further, taking advantage of the fact that Microsoft had a stand at FutureSchools.
I do not know whether Belinda, whom I spoke with on the Microsoft stand, read that article or not, but she dealt with me the way I wish more vendors would deal with educators. The opening was standard, but when I said I was looking for a better way of note taking and had heard that OneNote had a writing function, she did not launch into a sales pitch. She asked questions about the contexts I would be taking notes and how I wanted to use them later. She asked about my familiarity with aspects of Office365 that are inter-operable with OneNote such as Outlook and Word Online. Talking about Outlook brought up calendars and I asked if OneNote could make tentative calendar entries (it cannot), but that then led us on a merry search for an add-on that Belinda remembered coming across as a recipient some time ago, which we eventually found. It was a very helpful conversation as I learned more about OneNote that I can apply to my note taking and work, and found a new add on that may help solve a vexatious issue.
I did have a similar experience with Joe on the STM Bags stand. He asked questions about what I wanted in a bag, what I needed to be able to carry around, what was frustrating me about my current bag. I did end up buying a bag from him, taking advantage of the FutureSchools expo offer they had running, but it was great to have an experience with vendors who tried to find out what I was trying to achieve rather than simply rattling off some specifications and hoping I would buy.
Credit where credit is due.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I explore what a ClassNote book looks like within Office365.
For the full list of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning videos click here.
"We are constantly taking to each other about our students and moderating our grades because we plan together."
-Sally Wood and Simone Segat
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
After attending Melinda Cashen's presentation in the FutureLeaders stream, my original plan was to move to the ClassTech conference stream to hear Peter Tompkins speak about leveraging technology in mathematics and then the duo of Sally Wood and Simone Segat speak about team teaching and using ICT to enhance student learning. That was the plan, at any rate. Unfortunately, the timing on the day of talks between the FutureLeaders and ClassTech streams did not line up and I ended up missing all bar about five minutes of Peter Tompkins presentation. The little snippet that I did see, however, looked very interesting.
Sally and Simone began by talking about their close professional relationship and that although they do operate in a team-teaching context, they do still do a reasonable amount of teaching separately. I found this rather interesting as in my own team-teaching context, the only times we taught separately were when they were timetabled to be separate; firstly for their library session and secondly for the Relief from Face to Face (RFF, though I have heard it referred to as non-contact time in other states). Everything else we did essentially, as a single class group, which in our context with Stage One (Year One and Year Two combined) worked fantastically.
Sally and Simone began by speaking about growing up using Microsoft Word and Excel (I think that was actually anyone born prior to 2000?) and that the shift to cloud based systems, for them Google Suite, was a breath of fresh air because they no longer had to worry about picking up the correct USB, or wondering which version of a needed document they were about to open. I wholeheartedly agree. It was pointed out that there are other online platforms available, such as Office365 and OpenOffice, however, they have chosen to use GSuite.
We next heard about the benefits of a cloud system for the students in terms of the ability for collaboration. There are, again, other platforms that allow this, but I do like the simplicity and ease of use of GDocs. There are a range of other benefits to a cloud-based system such as GSuite; autosave, retention of previous versions in the event of major issues, the ability to add multiple collaborators to a single doc and the fact that a document is always accessible. Sally and Simone said always accessible as long as you have internet access, however, you can access documents offline if you have set the document to be available offline in the settings. If you have never seen what a GDoc looks like when there are multiple people editing at the same time, watch the video below.
The audience were shown some videos that Sally and Simone had prepared demonstrating various aspects of GSuite that they utilise with their students, particularly around GClass. There are a number of ways to utilise GClass and we were told that they use it as a tool for disseminating learning content and tasks, an exit ticket system, and for setting reminders for students. There are so many other ways of using not only GClass but the rest of GSuite that they did not have time to go into. If you have not had much experience with GSuite I would recommend looking through the GSuite series on my FTPL Videos page.
Thank you for reading. If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find the other articles here.
"It's not actually about the technology"
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
My original plan for the opening session of day two at FutureSchools was to attend presentations by Leanne Edwards - Steve Allen - Melinda Cashen - Peter Tompkins - Sally Wood and Simone Segat. However, staying to listen to Sarah Asome's excellent presentation meant that I had missed around half of Steve Allen's time slot. I made the decision that rather than entering with less than half of his presentation to go, and then moving again to a different conference stream straight after, that I would be better served by going straight to the FutureLeaders conference stream so that I would be ready for Melinda Cashen's presentation.
I entered the Future Leaders stream from the rear doors and found a seat in time to hear Chris McNamara talking about how students shape their day through managing their calendar. It turns out that Chris is Deputy Principal of Learning and Development at Melbourne Girls Grammar School (MGGS), so there was a certain amount of crossover and expansion of some of Mary Louise O'Briens presentation. This seems like such an obvious thing to do, to use a calendar to manage your time and commitments, yet it is something that is not only not taught explicitly in schools but is a significantly useful skills in everyday life, as a student and as a working adult. It allows for accountability to others and to yourself for time-based goals like assignments (whether school or work), for appointments, birthdays and other events.
It also plays a role in the structure of student-life at MGGS, where mastery learning and trust are key to the school. Mary commented in her session that students are only timetabled to classes for 70% of their time at school and that it is up to them to self-manage and regulate the use of their time for learning. As part of this, students are empowered to move the due dates of assignments around to suit their mastery; they can bring a date forward if they feel they are going to be ready early and accordingly push another one back that they need more time for. I can see that this system has the potential to be heavily abused, and I would like to hear more about how they rolled out this structure and how they provided learning opportunities to students (and staff) about how to manage their time and track their assignments and other responsibilities.
Things are not completely out of the hands of students as staff do have visibility of where students are up to in their coursework through a mastery report which students are required to complete on their end. This allows teachers to keep an eye on how students are tracking and to address any potential issues that appear such as a lack of progress before it becomes a significant issue.
To track the well-being, MGGS utilise a program called VisualCoaching Pro to track and monitor student well-being, however, an intrinsic part of it is that students have access to their own data and are expected to self-monitor as well. I am intrigued as to how strong the uptake with this program was in the early days, as well as how honest students were then and are now. Are students taught what to look for in regards to red flags or triggers that indicate to them that something is amiss? I am also very curious as to the impact that it has had since its introduction on student wellbeing; has it generated a general trend upwards towards improved student wellbeing or has there been no significant macro-level change? I wonder if MGGS has considered introducing the wellbeing platform for their staff to allow them to self-monitor their own wellbeign and what ramifications such a move would have on stress, workload, wellbeing, and productiveness.
Changing topic, Chris spoke about the analytics behind the school's learning management system (LMS), which allowed staff to identify not only the level of mastery that students were currently at, but also how students were engaging with the learning content that had been provided, often a reasonable indicator of the academic success in a topic.
As you would expect when a school is planning on significant change, the parents were nervous. Fortunately, the school’s relationship with the community was such that the parents by and large trusted the school to do what was right by their children. This attitude may be an unusual one for many teachers who are used to parents complaining quite vociferously about anything and everything, without ever coming to the teacher in the first instance or the school in general in the second instance.
The culture of the school is vastly different to any in my personal experience, and I cannot fathom what working or learning in that sort of environment must be like. If you are a current or former student (or teacher) and happen to (rather randomly) be reading this, I would love for you to comment and share your thoughts on what it was like from your perspective.
Following Chris was Melinda Cashen whose abstract indicated she would be talking about cultural thinking required to embrace ICT across the curriculum. Melinda opened by remarking that the Digital Technologies curriculum is more than just coding. It is a breath of fresh air to hear someone say that in public, as the default setting for many schools when they say they are going to engage more with the digital technologies curriculum is either coding or robotics. This focus on coding seems to create a panic and a stress among a great many teachers who feel woefully ill-equipped to teach in these areas which has resulted in private enterprise filling the void. There are, however, many resources available out there for teachers to upskill themselves in this area, as demonstrated in the below tweet.
This session reminds me of one of the pitfalls of Storify, that it does not necessarily capture all of the tweets under a hashtag. I know that I tweeted more than what I have captured in the Storify from this session, but they did not get picked up for some reason. I may need to look at going back to handwriting my notes, whether by hand or using my wacom tablet and OneNote (more on that in a later article), I do not know.
If you missed any articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them all here.
"We don't send readers home in kindergarten....until [the student] demonstrates a good phonemic awareness"
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
Sarah then spoke about red flags for dyslexia by speaking about phonemic awareness. Research indicates that phonemic awareness is foundational to reading and writing and is one of the most important indicators for a student being learning to read and write, however, as many as 20% of readers may be struggling due to dyslexia.
Sarah then spoke about an aspect of her schools reading program that would do cause cries of disbelief in many schools; they do not send readers home with kindergarten students in Year One until they demonstrate a good phonemic awareness of the forty-six phonemes in the English language. This is in stark contrast to common practice where there is a new book every night sent home.
There has been an uproar in education and the media recently over the proposal to introduce phonics screening in Australia, however, Sarah spoke about some of the easy and quick to use options for screening that currently exist and are very useful as a diagnostic tool to allow early intervention for those that need it. SEAPART is a phonological awareness screening tool used for pre-school children, and which was written by the same authors as the SPATR. Additionally, there is the CTOPP, the Rosner Test (which is free), and PALS.
It struck me, as I listened to Sarah speak, that it seemed that a lot of what Sarah was espousing was aligned with the THRASS system of teaching spelling. Unfortunately I did not get an opportunity to chat with her and get her views on THRASS.
Returning to the phonics screening check that has been discussed in Australia, Sarah spoke about the UK's approach. The education department there mandated a synthetic phonics check nationally to ensure that all schools were teaching a structured synthetic phonics program. Only after that had been in place for a period of time was a phonics screening check mandated. In Australia, we seem, Sarah remarked, to be going about it backwards, mandating a national phonics screening check without having ensured that there is a structured synthetic phonics program in place. Do not mistake me to be saying that our schools are not teaching phonics, I have never been in an infants classroom that does not do explicit phonics teaching, however, the methods and programs used to do are widely varied and often include linguistically incorrect terminology and rules such as silent letters, bossy e, and the classic i before e except after c.
Sarah's talk was very interesting and I would have liked to have been able to hear her speak in more depth, however the time was up and I needed to shift to the next session.As an aside, Dyslexie font is a fantastic resource if you have a child struggling with dyslexia (or even if they are not). It was designed by a graphic artist who does have dyslexia and wanted to make it easier to read. I would definitely recommend looking at it.
If you have missed any of the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series you can find them here.
"The future is here. It's just unevenly distributed."
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools was under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
The session between the lunch and afternoon tea breaks was designated for the roundtable and breakout sessions which I have been critical of in the past vis-a-vis their structure. I was curious as to what impact the new venue would have on the way that they were structured and whether they were better organised. They unfortunately were not. The issues with the reverberant nature of the previous venue was gone this year as there were carpet tiles down on the floor, however, the issue of the roundtables being vastly over subscribed was still present. Chatting with one delegate, they were on the opposite side of the table to the presenter and struggled to hear them. In the second session, they had to stand due to the number of people present, and were actually butting up against someone sitting at a different roundtable. Once again, many people gave up after the first or second round table session and headed to the expo floor.
This is a real shame as the roundtable sessions have the potential to generate some real peer to peer engagement around a common interest or theme which can foster practical ideas for application in the classroom. it is also odd, because the space being used was the Classtech conference area and there was easily space to spread the tables out far more to reduce the crowding. The people I was chatting with during the afternoon break indicated they would be giving some very honest feedback if there was a feedback form or email offered that would enable them to do so.
I unfortunately missed the start of the final session. I had in my head that Marita Cheng started at 5pm, unfortunately I was wrong and by the time I got my seat in the plenary session, Lisa Rodgers was on stage and telling the audience that when she went to print the Australian Curriculum, she made a very important discovery which she was glad she found before she clicked on print. It is, all told, over 2500 pages long.
Teaching as a profession is a mess, Lisa continued. Why can a teacher who registers in NSW not move to any other state in Australia and immediately begin teaching? Why are our qualifications not more easily transferable across state borders? Damien Taylor asked on Twitter if a genuine national registration could be drive by teachers rather than politics. A friend of mine completed her initial teacher education in Queensland and had to complete a horrendous amount of paperwork to be allowed to teach when she moved to NSW; the paperwork and registration process taking about three months, during which she was unable to teach and therefore earn a living.
Linda extolled the belief that a new curriculum is not needed. That more support for teachers to enable them to better implement it is what is required. She did not specify what the support would look like, however, at the very least, more professional development seems to be a safe assumption. We have more students than ever before entering tertiary education, yet Lisa commented that there is a significant lack of diversification in the courses they are entering. The question was then asked if there should be a national curriculum and if so then what should the measuring stick be of what should be included and how it should be measured.
Lisa observed that we allow students to opt out of subjects that only a few decades ago were mandatory (maths, science) and that the lack of confidence which is often a driver for these choices infiltrates teachers. She commented that, particularly in secondary education, that many maths teachers often shy away from topics they are not confident with and give them only cursory attention in their teaching. I do not know how widespread this is, or on what data that comment was made as we were given no indication.
Linda quickly shifted gears, and began talking about the way in which Maori students represented a small percentage of graduating students for a long time, but that when the Maori culture began to be embedded and valued in education that there was an immediate impact on Maori learning and thus the graduation rates. In contrast to that, Aboriginal culture is often taught as history, or not taught at all. The recent TeachMeet Central Coast event was focused on Aboriginality in education and we were fortunate enough to have a local Elder speak (the recording of the video will be uploaded into the TMCoast archives shortly. I learned more about Aboriginal culture, religion and beliefs in that session than I think I learned in my own schooling.
Maori students felt connected to their first nation according to Lisa, can we say the same of Aboriginal students? I suspect that for some, we possibly could. Like so many areas of education, there are pockets of excellence around the country, the excellence is unevenly distributed.
There was some excellent back and forth of ideas on Twitter during Lisa's presentation, with some counter-ideas and positions taken up which made for great reading and which I believe challenged people to listen critically to what was being said.
I enjoyed Lisa's presentation, it was engaging, interesting and had some interesting insights, however, as with some presentations over the course of FutureSchools, there was no practical takeaway that could be applied or possible solutions, merely a, as Damien Taylor put it, a creative reiteration of the problem. I enjoy a good engaging talk, however, I would like to see more presentations that have a practical takeaway for the audience.
"Why do the media report the decline in our ranking rather than the decline in our results?"
- Dr. Rachel Wilson.
Assessment is a topic that is critically important, hot, and over done. Yet there was an attitude that came through from the abstract for Rachel's presentation that sounded positive and excited about assessment which is not an attitude that I have come across before.
Rachel made some cold points to start with. We have, she began, an assessment system which is essentially external to the classroom and which created a situation where her own daughters, currently in fourth grade, have already sat more exams than Rachel did during her entire schooling and which has created a competitive streak in them she had not expected. She made the point that research demonstrates that emotions and feelings are at the heart of learning and therefore that these things should be at the heart of our education system which is certainly not the case when the perception of school is that it prepares you for an exam which serves only one purpose; to determine what university and courses you are eligible for.
The media reported, quite vociferously, the recent release of the latest PISA results (for example here, here, here and here). The issue is that the stance taken is one of bemoaning our drop in ranking relative to other countries. Rachel questioned this attitude; "why does it matter if we are ranked below Kazakhstan in PISA?" Rachel continued by acknowledging that our testing results across reading, writing, mathematics and scientific literacy are certainly declining, despite the near zealous focus on standardised national testing
We were asked to consider how often a student has been unable to answer a question or complete a task in a test situation that they have demonstrated the ability to do ordinarily. It is quite often, and the rhetoric around oh, I'm not a test person is demonstrative of the fact that we are aware of the impact that testing can have on our emotions and feelings. Rachel invoked Hattie's research and exhorted us to know our impact and to consider the impact that our choices have on our students.
Assessment should, we were told, engage students. It should be something that they want to complete. Consider how eager the majority of students are to learn and to engage with learning tasks in their early years of schooling. What happens that we then see the fourth grade slump and students disengaging with learning? Assessment should engage students and allow for professional judgement. This is not, as far as I can see, reconcilable with the current system of mandatory reporting each semester in an A-E fashion how a student is going relative to their peers across a range of subject areas and the pressures put upon teachers and students to ensure growth, but that perhaps says more about the focus of our education and schooling systems.
Rachel then took the audience on a whirlwind history tour of assessment in Australia. We have traditionally utilised three main forms of assessment. Norm referenced demonstrated where students sat on a bell curve. Criterion referenced assessments were designed to measure student achievement against a clear set of criteria or learning standards that indicated what students should know and/or be able to demonstrate. Standards references assessment was designed to be a process of collecting and interpreting information about students learning and allows for teacher professional judgement. Much assessment that goes on at the moment is a hybrid of all three models, however, there is another option. Ipsative assessment.
Ipsative assessment was not a term that I had heard of previously, however, a read of the brief overview provided onscreen (captured in the above tweet) indicated that this is probably being used on a regular basis in many classrooms, though perhaps not in the structured and formal way that Rachel was indicating. She went on to talk about an online system that is used in New Zealand that allows teachers to log on and see data across a range of curriculum areas and quickly identify gaps in learning which can be used for planning purposes. It also allows assessment tasks to be completed on an as needed and appropriate basis rather than the current model here in Australia of a big day or week of assessment testing each year. Being able to input student results, have them mapped to curriculum areas and use that data for planning in a timely manner would be useful, especially given that the purpose of assessment of learning should be to inform the next steps in that area. It highlights the fact that the delay in results after NAPLAN testing makes the tests themselves completely redundant as a pedagogical tool, especially considering that neither the student or teacher is given access to their test paper to talk about what they have done and use it as a feedback tool.
Rachel's talk was very intriguing and seemed to be well received by the audience. I heard a few people sitting around me comment that they wanted to research ipsative assessment more and look at how they could adapt their current assessment processes to suit and the buzz as we moved out to lunch demonstrated that she had given many people food for thought.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series or Storifies of the Tweets from FutureSchools, you can find them here.
"My team and I are currently planning for ten years in the future."
-Mary Louise Ryan
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
After Deborah Nicholson was finished speaking in the Special Needs and Inclusion stream, I moved across to the ClassTech conference stream, ostensibly to hear Linda Ray speak about digital dementia and neuro-leadership. However, it was instead Mary Louise O'Brien speaking under the title of The Matrix is here. Mary was disarming from the start, admitting that despite having a fear of heights she would rather be skydiving than standing in front of a large group of people presenting. She was expecting that the content focus of her presentation would have her in more of an IT Leadership group rather than classroom teachers, however, she pushed on. Mary is from Melbourne Girls Grammar (@MGGS_SouthYarra), the site of the first 1:1 device program in Australia and that when she joined the school, about ten years ago, despite a ten year history of 1:1 in the school, the pedagogical practices had not changed. This is disturbing and demonstrates a lack of awareness by the leadership team of what was happening in their classrooms. Changing the tool does not change the pedagogy. Once again, professional development is required to facilitate teachers ability to adapt to new learning tools
Mary said that top-down leadership is critical for long term planning as they are the ones concerned with the future-thinking and macro-level decisions. Her team are planning at the moment, for ten years ahead to ensure that when the school reaches that point in time, that they are equipped appropriately. Given that we do not know what sort of technology will exist then (who would have imagined the pervasive nature of smartphones and social media ten years ago?) I can only assume that they are looking at demographic data and research for the area as well as looking at growth rates for things like bandwidth and perhaps items from The Horizon Report.
The move to BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) has thrown up its own challenges but that it is allowing students to use the device of their own choice for learning. Part of the change to BYOT has been around student well-being and students now, as an accepted norm, log into their student portal and log details about things like sleep, nutrition, physical activity, relationships and students are encouraged to monitor their own well-being by looking at the data for patterns. I observed via Twitter at the time that that must take a significant allocation of resources to enable that program, however, as I learned in a later session, it is largely in the hands of the students.
The next two points that Mary made are both significant. Firstly, she pointed out that change management needs to include the parents as well as students and staff. We often hear about people buying in (or not, as the case may be) to change. We want to know why something is happening, what is the reason behind a decision to make a change, and investing the time into going through this with parents, students and staff can be a significant asset in obtaining buy in for change and make change management easier from that perspective.
The next point that was made is one that I believe is slowly trickling through schools, and that is ensuring that all professional development requests from staff align in some way to the schools strategic direction plan. No longer are staff allowed to go attend random professional development courses or conferences out of pure interest. They must be able to demonstrate how the course or conference and the learning that will come from attendance is aligned to one or more aspects of the schools strategic direction plan. It was not mentioned, but I would hope that staff are also expected to share their learning in some way. It amazes me how often I hear that someone is not expected to share their learning to colleagues upon returning to school.
Part of the shift to BYOT at MGGS has been timetabling students into classes for no more than seventy percent of school time and that the bulk of the curriculum is pushed out to students via the school's learning management system (LMS). This is an interesting move, however, it is consistent I believe with the rhetoric we hear about student choice and students owning their learning. This puts the onus of responsibility onto the student to manage their time and be responsible for the tasks they are required to complete, a very real and genuine situation for them to be in given how they will be expected to operate as part of the workforce. It is up to students to monitor their learning and complete tasks at a pace that suits them. I do have to question how well this approach would work within contexts where students have disengaged from school and if it would result in them seeing it as a vote of trust and respect, or as an excuse to check out.
Returning to the student well-being component for a moment, Mary spoke about it being a preventative program and that there were triggers set in place to catch issues before they arose. She then spoke about the BYOT and technology needs of the school needing a significant investment in staff to facilitate with a five-person IT team in addition to an e-learning team to drive professional development.
Mary closed at this point and while Gavin Hays prepared himself, I shifted to the FutureLeaders stream to hear Dr. Rachel Wilson speak about assessment.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series, you can view them here.
"We need to ensure that students see their ideas as valid so that they connect with school."
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
The buzz amongst delegates at the conclusion of the opening plenary session was palpable. The buzz on Twitter was observable with a large number of tweets commenting about how much they enjoyed the presentations from Milton Chen, Jan Owen, and Prakash Nair, with tidbits of quotes, ideas, realisation and musings filtering through the twittersphere during the morning tea break. One of the first things I noticed during the morning tea break was that to access the tea and coffee and the morning tea, you had to be a delegate or a speaker.
The gentleman manning the access to the morning tea catering area indicated that his instructions were only those people were to be allowed through. I find this rather surprising, that exhibitors, who spend a considerable amount of money to be there, are not allowed food, nor media. Given that extortionate prices of the food vendors on the expo floor (lunch later in the day of a basic wrap (ham, cheese, tomato) and a 600ml bottle of soft drink cost me $13.50!) one has to question whether a percentage of the profits go back to the organisers. What was particularly annoying was that the only bathroom in the expo hall was accessed through the catering area, so one had to leave the expo area for those needs. Poor planning.
The other thing that I observed was that there did not appear to be anywhere near as many people on the expo floor as in previous years, both in terms of exhibitor numbers and delegates. That said, the space was a lot more contained insofar as it didn't have to be spread out across a cavernous concrete floor with steel beams and fenced off areas in the way as was the case at Australian Technology Park, the venue of the previous few years. Perhaps I am wrong, but given that three of the conferences were in small sectioned off areas of the Expo hall, that the catering area was significantly larger in floor space than previous years and also in the same area, and that at no point did I feel that I needed to squeeze through people talking in groups, I do not think I am.
After the morning tea break, I headed to the Special Needs and Inclusion Conference to heard Deborah Nicholson speak about the impact of arts and music programs on the equity gap. It was a very small group, perhaps fifty delegates in the space, however, it was an interesting presentation. The create and performing arts are something of a passion of mine, writing my Honours Thesis on the topic of Teachers' Self-Efficacy in Teaching the Arts, and I do believe that arts, as a key learning areas just like mathematics, English, and Science, gets comparatively shafted. Not true in all cases, I know, but by and large, I think that I would be fairly accurate with that assessment.
Deborah spoke about the impact of the arts on Indigenous education. She noted that the positive experience of creating and performing helps students to feel more connected and confident. This flows on to positively impact on their academic results at school. Deborah pointed delegates to the Arts:Live website, a free resource that contains an array of professional learning and teaching resources specifically dedicated to the arts and their impact in schools.
As I was listening to Deborah present, I found myself continually distracted by the hubbub on the expo floor and the faint sounds of speakers from the other two conference streams that were being hosted in the expo hall (ClassTech and Young Learners). It was not enough to drown out Deborah, as the conference stream did have its own microphone and PA system, however, it was distracting nonetheless.
"We spent $10bn on [physical] school improvements yet no measures of educational outcomes improved."
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
If you have missed the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can view them here.
I do not intend to write a hugely detailed review of Prakash's keynote as there was significant overlap between this presentation and the masterclass, which I have already reviewed here. There were, however, some differences. One of the differences was the inclusion of his statement which I have included at the top of this article. It was part of his opening phase, giving some of his own background, including his early career where he felt that he was doing some great work with the company he was employed with and the realisation that there had been no measurable improvement in learning outcomes for students as a result of the work done by his company.
It was, for him, a watershed moment and he took the bold step of starting his own company on the back of that realisation in order to be able to work to positively impact student's learning outcomes. It was asked by one audience member, Martin Levins, that perhaps the reason no improvement in student learning was observed was that the wrong things were being measured. This does go back to the general theme that had come through from Milton Chen's keynote and Jan Owen's keynote, that education needs to change the focus from high-stakes testing.
Prakash commented that there are two trillion dollars worth of obsolete school buildings in the United States, if one goes with the definition of obsolete as those which are based on cells and bells. There are two categories of people in society who are typically given no choice in their movement; students and prisoners. He continued this theme by stating that there is less square feet of space given to students than to prisoners in current school building designs, with around thirty percent of space in schools lost to useless corridors. It does not take much work to change that, however, nor an overly large investment in money to do so.
Prakash exhorted us to stop assuming that students need to be taught in order to learn and to go forth bravely and be the change we want to be in our schools. I am going to hold the article there as I do not feel I can write much more that I have not already said in my review of Prakash' masterclass. That said, feel free to read through the Storify of the Plenary session to get an insight into the general flavour of what was being said.
"We need to question the question what do you want to be when you grow up and instead ask ourselves if it is the right question."
-Jan Owen AM. FutureSchools 2017
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
I was intrigued by Jan Owen's abstract. In my experience as a primary school teacher thus far, entrepreneurship is not a common topic of discussion and so I was curious as to what I would hear that could be applied and considered through a primary education lens. Right away, Jan challenged commonly accepted norms by positing that we are asking the wrong question when we ask students what they want to be when they grow up as statistics and research demonstrate that no longer is it true that you leave school, enter a profession and then retire from that profession at the age of sixty-five.
Jan asked the audience to put their hand up if they are doing, now, the job they wanted to do when they were a child and there were only a few hands up in the audience (FYI, I wanted to be a truck driver). Today's youth will have, on average, seventeen different careers across five different industries across their working life, but that it will take them an average of four to five years to find full time work. Personally, at the age of thirty-three I have had eight careers across hospitality, industrial electrical, retail, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), and finally, education. So asking our students and our children what they want to be when they grow up is no longer an appropriate question.
The statistics in the above image are genuinely frightening. As a society, we build up university as the pinnacle of education, the point of getting good grades throughout school. Yet I have it said regularly that a Masters degree is the new Bachelors. The pushing of more and more students to university actually results in the devaluing of a Bachelor degree, meaning that to stand out academically, a Masters degree is becoming the new requirement, with the ripple effect that student debt for graduates is starting at around about AUD$25 000. On top of that, we are staying at home longer because it takes so much longer to buy a house partially because of the increased relative price of housing, but partially because around thirty percent of people are un- or under-employed.
This can be seen in the increasing casualisation of the workforce and the use of short-term contracts. I am sure we are all familiar with the huge number of teachers employed only on a casual or temporary contract basis and the challenge that they face to gain permanent employment. I myself faced that which was partially why I have left the classroom. "Ask a law student who has graduated in the last four years, Jan continued, "if they have had a job and the majority of them will say not in law."
We need to stop asking our children what they want to be when they grow up and ask them what problems they want to solve because this then changes the discussion and changes the focus of their education from getting into a particular job but of solving problems, of learning to be agile learners and thinkers and it also takes the focus from the individual to the community and I am sure we have all heard an elder in our life bemoan the youth of today at some point. This change in focus will also help to disrupt the tertiary sector where sixty percent of students are studying for industries that will see themselves disrupted significantly by automation or movement of jobs to cheaper off-shore markets. Jan spoke of the research that the Foundation for Young Australians (@fya_org) has done which shows that one in three Australians are already in flexible employment arrangements and that one in ten jobs are done remotely.
Carl Scurr observed that the flexible economy is actually one of worry and insecurity rather than being the cool gig flexible work arrangements are often perceived as. Given that there are a significant number of jobs that are able to performed remotely thanks to the modern marvels of information communication and that there are 750 million twelve to twenty-six year old in the South East Asia region, many of which will perform the same job for a fraction of the wage, we need to be teaching our children how to create jobs and to manage their careers as much as how to read and write.
Jan spoke about there being seven clusters of jobs based around what they do for the community: generators, artisans, informers, carers, coordinators, technologists, and designers. The FYA report linked above indicates that careers that fall into the carer, informer and technologist brackets are in growth and will continue to be in growth.
We need to think about a life of learning rather than life-long learning, as that is what our children face and that rather than a piece of paper showing how well you answered a series of questions in a mandated national test, that a portfolio demonstrating what you are capable of and what you have learned is perhaps a better option. This concept received immediate virtual acclaim with a significant number of tweets encompassing this idea from Jan.
On the back of this, Jan put forward a concept which I think many of us were vaguely aware of from our own experience, but which I personally have not heard explicitly put forward, and that is the idea that our skills and knowledge are more transferable than we realise, with training for one job unlocking, on average, thirteen other jobs containing related skills (See Chapter One for a more detailed explanation, including a helpful visual graphic).
We were then given an indicator of the top skills that employers want, or rather the skills that employers want which have seen the most growth over the last three years. Digital Literacy, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the top skill, having grown in demand by 212% over three years. The next one was a surprise to me, but it does also make a lot of sense given our current population and our global region, but the demand for bilingualism has grown 181%. How many students do you know whom are studying a second language? My classroom was used for an after-school Mandarin language group one afternoon a week which consisted of five students. The third was critical thinking which has seen a 158% growth in demand and the final one was creativity which has seen a 65% increase.
Despite these four skill areas being those seeing the biggest growth in demand, the only one which really received any focus, from my perspective, is digital literacy. The foundation skills will never go away or stop being important; they are referred as foundation skills for a reason after all, yet we need to allow an opportunity for students to learn enterprise and career management skills in order for them to be properly prepared for their seventeen careers across five industries. There are particular skills embodied in career management which are needed to move across different careers and industries.
At this point Jan made an observation that I struggled to wrap my head around, which was that the FYA's research showed that if youth could demonstrate certain skills they (the employer) was willing to pay them more. Furthermore, a metric had been generated which attributed a dollar value of what this increase might look like.
The views of youth about higher education was the focus of the next phase of Jan's presentation and they were interesting. FYA research indicates that, and I hope I am remembering Jan's explanation here, 69% felt it was unaffordable, 60% wanted some sort of traineeship or apprenticeship but that it was unavailable for them. Jan commented that this figure is despite the fact that our trades are facing a startling shortage of entrants into them (I am not across this area so I would appreciate hearing from someone who is who might be able to comment on it. The only article I could find with a quick search was from 2013). Half of youth were uninspired by current jobs and 69% wanted to start their own business.
This figures present a challenge. I firmly believe that the common perception that a university degree is the natural progression from completing high school is invalid. Not only can you enter university as a mature-aged student as I did, but you can also enter any one of a vast array of other jobs both in trades (which are often more highly paid than some white-collar jobs) but a range of other areas. The ability of students in the senior years of high school to engage in a combination of academic studies through their school and a VET course through a local TAFE or other organisation is increasing and becoming more accepted.
The audience was asked how can we support and drive our students to want to succeed? Jan then mentioned High Tech High, where they have apparently removed all assessment yet their students are still performing as well as students from other high schools. I find this statement rather misleading. How do they know that their students are performing as well as those from schools around them if they are not assessing? They are clearly measuring something to make that judgement which means they have, in fact, not removed assessment at all and have merely changed the measure and not called it assessment.
The future of the career path is still uncertain in many respects. We know that we will have multiple careers, however, we do not know what they will look like. We know that many careers will be lost to automation, however, we can only guess at which ones. We suspect that by the time the youth of today are the age of their grandparents that life will be vastly different and there is unlikely to be a retirement pension, but we do not know for sure.
The future is not bleak, however. There is a world of opportunity available if you but have the tenacity to seek it out and the persistence and agility to adapt to the ever-changing vagaries of the job market your skill set is suited to. It was pointed out by @Edufolios that assessment allows us to know where the gaps are and where to grow, but that assessment does not have to continue to be the dirty word is currently seems to be, it does not have to be a mandated national test. We need a new mindset as we face a different future the audience was told, as that will allow us to transform our students with meaningful ways to learn and contribute to the future.
Jan's talk was interesting and energetic and she certainly had the crowd engaged. I think the FYA report is definitely something that I will find time to read in the coming days and she followed neatly on from Milton, albeit from a different perspective.
Thank you for reading and please leave your thoughts on Jan's presentation in the comments.
"Twitter is my primary network for learning"
-Jenny Luca, Chair, FutureSchools Conference, 23 March 2017
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here. The excitement for FutureSchools fairly exuded from Twitter this morning as people began arriving with numerous photos popping up on Twitter.
I was very curious as to how the change in venue would change the vibe of the expo hall and the event in general. and the plenary was a nice change. It brought everyone together, and no doubt made filling time slots easier with less to worry about! There was also a definite TED Talk vibe going on with the stage setup
Jenny Luca, Chairperson for the FutureLeaders conference welcomed everyone and encouraged the delegates to think differently about education while we were there. She also commented that Twitter has been, for her, the greatest network for professional development. When I retweeted and asked who agreed with the comment, there were a great number of positive responses which was not at all surprising. I have had a few conversations recently with people who have dabbled with Twitter on and off, but a large number of people whom I have spoken with over the yesterday and today are active Twitter users, but I digress.
Milton Chen was the first keynote speaker and his topic was educating the whole child, with a focus on the arts, nature, and place-based learning in education. He began with a topical jab at Donald Trump ("Thank you, Australia, for letting me into your country), but then spoke about the accident of history that formed George Lucas' entry into the film making industry, that it was only a car accident that led him into film making. In Lucas' childhood, a teacher would not have been able to do too much to nurture and utilise a child's interest in film making to help their learning. Now, however, it is relatively easy to do and we need to personalise the learning to the interest of the learner.
I feel like this relates to the discussion in Prakash Nair's masterclass yesterday where he was talking about the concept of four theories of learning, specifically, the Distributed Collective theory wherein groups of learners converge around common interests with different levels of expertise, on an as needed basis and an individual will often be across multiple networks at the same time participating in different ways and levels across each of those groups. Milton's words here are perhaps not quite in the same vein, however, there are certainly shades of similarity.
At this point Milton brought up a topic that intuitively makes sense, yet, has much support in various teaching circles, yet which, as far as I am aware, does not have any empirical evidence supporting it. It intuitively makes sense and like many things which intuitively make sense, teachers run with it because much of teaching, if you ask in casual conversation, is based on gut feeling, on professional judgement honed over years of teaching and trying and failing in various contexts.
Science does not appear to support Multiple Intelligence as a theory of learning.
The concept of educating the whole child, of nurturing their social, emotional, academic, physical (fundamental movement skills, physical health etc), creativity vis-a-vis the arts is one I can agree with. What I do not agree with is modelling that based upon the notion that students have an identifiable preference which has a direct causal relation with their learning outcomes.
We heard, next, about research (un-cited) which shows that students who undertake a structured curriculum focused on social and emotional development see a statistically significant improvement in their overall testing results. I find it interesting that everything comes back to their impact on testing results, however, I feel that that is flogging the metaphorical dead horse.
Milton posits that students can learn more than we think they can. In what regard, and what the key is to unlocking this we were not really given an answer, however, it feels like pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are being extracted from various speakers at various conferences and that eventually, hopefully, maybe, we will get to a point where those who make the macro-level decisions about education will realise that the system needs to change.
It was next noted that the school year in the US is quite short comparative to Australia. As a result of this, there is a plethora of after school programs and clubs, not to mention the summer camps. This emphasises two things in my mind. First of all, the relationship between student's desire to work hard when they see the benefit which Prakash spoke about yesterday and secondly, the fact that this would appear to indicate that schools are not meeting the desires of students learning interests. It was also pointed by Martin Levins that we need to be careful not to over-curricularise students, I would add, especially in areas they do enjoy learning
We next heard about the six edges of innovation and the learning ecosystem, moving from here into place-based learning. Milton commented that in urban areas of US cities, students can easily graduate from secondary school without ever planting something. That in cities along the coast, students who live only an hour or two from the beach can graduate without ever seeing the ocean. The Edible Schoolyard project seeks to rectify that by creating programs where students not only are engaged in planting, growing and harvesting, but then in cooking the produce.
Makerspace came up as part of Milton's presentation, particularly the way that it addresses the need for practical skills, even in this age of automation and doom and gloom news about the prospects of blue-collar jobs in the future that is prevalent in the media. He commented that you would not have found any Makerspaces in schools five years ago, but that you would ave twenty years ago. I missed any discussion of the why behind this in a short conversation with the person sitting next to me, however, I would posit that the cotton wool movement might have something to do with it, though I could be wrong.
Milton showed us a video of a student who was heavily into makerspace, soldering circuits, 3D printing pieces and building using his hands as well as teaching peers how to solder because "once I teach them, they can teach some of their friends." I wonder how often a student has some sort of heavy interest in something that we as teachers either miss completely, do not understand, or are not able to facilitate learning through that interest, or are not able to due to administrative direction and the elephant in the room: mandated testing. The makerspace / STEAM / HacherSpace movements are, in my perhaps very wrong opinion, still constrained by perceived current purpose and focus of school, which to many stakeholders, including a reasonable proportion of student, is to get a good HSC result for uni.
It was observed by @MrsAngell that "[p]arents are our biggest barrier they say its great as extracurricular but...not for class the purpose of class is get my kid to uni." This led to the Bioblitz citizen-science movement, and its relationship to allowing students to experience their local environment in natural ways that are fun, contextual, exciting and scarily, not necessarily related to learning outcomes.
Milton closed by challenging us to define what makes a great school, in a short but measurable definition. Paul Houston's definition is apparently do the student run in at the same rate they run out. Are they eager to come to school, or are they hanging out out for the bell at the end of the day? It is an interesting question to ponder and twitter flooded with a variety of ideas. Feel free to share yours in the comments.
As always, thank you for reading. I hope to get some more articles out over the next few days while people are still following #FutureSchools on twitter.
"Having a student-centered space is not the same as having student-centered learning, nor does it equal a change in pedagogy."
-Prakash Nair (paraphrased). 22 March 2017.
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools is under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
If you have missed any articles in this series, please click here to find the full list.
FutureSchools 2017 began, for me, with a nice walk in miserable weather from my hotel to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) for the Masterclass Day. I planned to sit in on Prakash Nair's masterclass examining "Practical Strategies to Maximize Teacher Effectiveness in New Student-Centered Learning Spaces" which, for me, was something of personal and professional interest when the arrangement for me to attend FutureSchools was initially made. As my regular readers would be aware, my school has been undergoing a capital building project, and I was intriguied as to what I would be able to take back to my school about using learning spaces and designing them for students benefit and to change pedagogical practices. However, as I sit here now, my context has changed significantly and school design is not on my radar personally or professionally. I therefore struggled, significantly, to engage with what Prakash was saying and asking us to do as I struggled to see where I could connect with it.
Prakash opened by commenting that in his experience, Australia is often one of the key innovators in learning spaces, which I found a genuine surprise. Moving forward, he indicated that his view is there are three types of learning (as seen in the above tweet) and that these take place in a range of contexts, at a variety of times and that they can occur side by side with each other in the same learning space. He then showed us some examples of what these look through a series of photographs of learning spaces around the world.
Changing tack, he then noted that they believe in sharing and that everything they do, they share, that they hold no intellectual capital. I find this an interesting stance to take from a corporation, however, some of his comments over the course of the morning indicated that the contextual approach to school planning that they take means that a design may be transferable in the physical sense to another location, but that they are highly personalised to suit each individual context and thus may not fit in the community they have been transferred to.
Prakash spoke to this for a lengthy period of time, showing some examples of school change they had worked on in poor areas of the world as well as in affluent areas. It came across quite clearly that he believes that change can occur anywhere and on any budget but the key is changing the learning space to suit what is needed pedagogically. He commented that buildings often negatively impact on what teachers want to achieve which is not how it should be, that they should facilitate the achievement of learning for students and that when a cohort of pre-service teachers were challenged to come up with what they would do if they had no resources whatsoever, they came up with a list of things that we often spruik; collaboration, creativity, critical thinking etc. When they had produced this list and went into a classroom and asked to list of what they could achieve now, he said the list actually shrunk.
The discussion then changed to talking about types of learning theory, based upon a free course that Harvard University run online (see tweet below for the link).
He posited that there are four main theories of learning that traverse a spectrum from students having no choice and teachers deciding what they will learn to completely student centered learning. He showed us a few videos from a free online course promoting an understanding of your own theories of learning that defined each of these and asked to talk in our table groups about how we felt about each type. Hierarchical Individual is effectively the completely teacher-driven model and is very common in schools in Australia now due to the pressures around NAPLAN and the final Year Twelve exams (HSC, VCE etc) that are what entry to university is based upon. IT was also noted in the discussions on my table that even when schools do move to open learning spaces, that teachers often put up their own walls, even if they are invisible ones to maintain the facade of their classroom and their students because that is what they know.
The second model that Prakash spoke about was the hierarchical collective, which someone on my observed seemed like a good compromise for schools wanting to be progressive whilst maintaining some traditional aspects. Schools using this model often have close connections with their community based upon the belief that education is not necessarily for yourself, but for the community as a whole. It is an interesting concept. It was noted that primary schools typically find this an easier model to use than secondary schools do, once again, noting the pressure around high stakes exams at the end of students' schooling.
"If a teacher teaches a lot that does not mean that students learn a lot"
The distributed individual theory of learning is underpinned by the belief that students are natural learners and want to learn with the ability to direct their learning to their interests. This can be seen in a lot of areas in students lives, but more commonly, their lives outside of school. The number of conversations I have had with students about something they went to YouTube to learn, or have seen students join a lunchtime club to learn and engage with something they are interested in is phenomenal. However, I cannot recall seeing this model in classrooms. This model, it seems, comes down to having the strong relationships with students and knowing their and understanding their interests and being able to meet them at that place with the learning task when it is appropriate to do so. However, once again, the elephant in the room called Mandated Testing raises its ugly head and trumpets loudly through parents, administrators and the media (among others) about the need to do better and improve our results because our ranking in PISA and TIMMS is declining; and other similar arguments.
The final theory of learning is identified as the distributed collective and is groups of learners coming together around a common interest with varying levels of expertise for varying lengths of time and in different self-organised contexts to learn from and guide each other. There are lots of examples of this in the lunchtime and after school programs, however, this is limited in the classroom and comes back to a question that I have seen popping up time and time again in various contexts over the last eighteen months; which is what is the purpose of schooling and education?
The first two theories of learning were based around the way the teacher teaches while the second two models are about how the student learns. There seems to be a common view, Prakash noted, that students are lazy. You only have to see a student devouring player guides for games, or manuals for a model, or coaching sessions for sport or musical instruments to know that students are not lazy when they can see that the hard work will lead them towards the thing they want to learn. Intrinsic motivation is key and we need to stop motivating students to do things they do not want to do. This raises further questions.
Prakash said that as someone who hires employees that he is more interested in what prospects can do than in what a piece of paper says and that he often finds that those without a formal architecture degree are better at designing than those who are formally qualified. The key to the distributed collective is that any one student can be simultaneously involved in multiple collectives, at different expertise levels for different lengths of time.
The above image from Prakash's slide deck shows the spectrum of learning opportunities and that the black vertical line shows the point where students are typically limited to due to the design of buildings and the educational paradigms used where the left hand side is completely isolated content and the right hand side is where students are learning things by doing those things that interest them. Prakash said that if you walk into a learning space and there are twenty-five students facing one teacher than the paradigm chosen is pretty clear. I am not entirely sure that I agree with this as there are going to be times when it is authentic and necessary to address everyone at once, however, I can see his point.
It was at this point that we were given a series of school buildings that Prakash's company had worked on and redesigned, and asked to select one and have our turn at redesigning it, keeping in mind everything that we had heard about thus far. I made the decision, that mentally I was struggling to engage and that in my new context this conversation was not one that was particularly relevant to me and so I made the decision to step out, which was effectively the end of my involvement in this masterclass. I did come back in for a short period after lunch to hear how people had gone about their design changes, and there were some interesting concepts, with some tables here in school groups and choosing to work with an existing school building. I have some photos below of those designs, and some of them were fairly close to what was actually achieved in reality.
I personally found Prakash to be an engaging speaker, and I apologised to him for popping in and out and then effectively leaving the session. I think that if I was still in my previous school that it would have been a session I would have engaged with wholeheartedly. As I am in that awkward phase of having just started a new role, I was mentally distracted and struggled to to focus and engage properly. If you were in the room, please comment and share your thoughts and reflections on the session. There were also other masterclasses running parallel to Prakash's, tweets from which can be seen in the Storify here (which I need to redo as it is missing a significant number of tweets).
As always, thank you for reading. I hope to get the first article from Day One of the FutureSchools later on today. Keep your eyes peeled for it.
Hello everybody, today was Masterclass day for FutureSchools 2017, and there looked to be a good turnout across the six Masterclasses. I will write more in depth about the Masterclass I attended later on this evening to publish tomorrow, however, here is the link to the Storify of the day to tide you over.
“Giving is the master key to success, in all applications of human life.”
- Attributed to Bryant McGill
One of the attractive components of the offer to work with ClickView was being able to facilitate professional learning in an area of pedagogical practice that I enjoy, am passionate about and that I think I am good at, using video content as an effective tool for learning. I have been involved thus far in two formal professional learning sessions and they have both been fantastic.
The first was an after school opt-in session, which meant that although there were only ten staff present, they were staff who wanted to engage with us and learn more. There were plenty of "ooooh, that is how you do that" moments, and the excitement in the air was palpable. That particular session was also a great session for me to view as it was facilitated by my direct manager who is proving to be a wealth of knowledge about the platform, processes and system underpinning ClickView, the clients, but also providing a steady influence in what has been a heady first week. His calm and deliberately paced way of speaking has proved to be a useful brake on my own first-week nerves and my desire to get on top of and understand everything yesterday.
It was also the first time that I had had the opportunity to see the teacher-side of ClickView which meant that for my own knowledge of the platform, it was an invaluable session. With my teacher hat on, I can definitely understand the attraction of the platform and why teachers want to use it.
The second session, which was today, was another opt-in session, but aimed at Primary Teachers. This session was organised and led by the Primary Team and was delivered in a rotating workshop format focusing on three areas: being able to search for and access content, being able to turn the content into interactive learning tools for students, and lastly, as an introduction to flipped learning. That was the aspect they asked me to come along and help out with, and it was a great learning curve. I really need to improve the succinctness and clarity of my this is what flipped learning is all about. Each of the three sessions heard a slightly different explanation and while none of them were wrong, I feel that I could have had a clearer delivery. This was somewhat frustrating for me as I have delivered the same presentation in seven minutes as part of a TeachMeet event.
That said, there were a total of, I think, twenty-three staff from the host school and a number of others in the area, all of whom engaged wholeheartedly with the sessions. Seeing the excitement in a student's eyes as they have a light bulb moment is still exciting, even if it is in a different context. Being able to help deliver professional learning to teachers who are engaged with and want to hear what you have to say is fantastic and exciting.
I fly out to Melbourne tomorrow to meet the Melbourne team and then for the remainder of the week, attend FutureSchools 2017, which I am excited for. I am hoping that Melbourne is a bit cooler and less humid as I am struggling with the oppressively humid conditions in Sydney at the moment.
I look forward to meeting up with some of my readers whilst in Melbourne, and if you are unable to attend, stay in touch using #FutureSchools on Twitter. If you have missed any articles in the FutureSchools series, you can find them here.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video I show you how to set up a new Class Notebook using Office365.
For the full list if FTPL videos, please click here.
In this week's Friday Freebie, I offer a Google Form that you can utilise to allow Parents to request a meeting with their child's teacher. The question asking for the child's class can be modified to input the actual class names or teachers. This can then be utilised to generate e-mails to those teacher's automatically, or to the administration staff to forward on to the relevant teacher/s.
If you are not familiar with using GForms, or setting up e-mail notifications, please check the FTPL playlist dedicated to Google Suite by clicking here. For the full list of Friday Freebies, please click here.
"If we are paying attention to our lives, we'll recognise those defining moments. The challenge for so many of us is that we are so deep into daily distractions and 'being busy, busy' that we miss out on those moments and opportunities that - if jumped on - would get our careers and personal lives to a whole new level of wow."
- Attributed to Robin S. Sharma
As you read this article, I will be drawing close to the end of day two with ClickView, however, as I write this, I am on the train on my way in for the start of day two. Yesterday was a huge day. It felt very bizarre to get up at my usual time, go through my usual morning routines, but then not go to school. It felt eerie to be sitting at a café in Pyrmont at 7:30 am working on the day’s article (read it here), rather than sitting in my classroom getting books and learning stations ready for the first session (literacy groups) of the day with my Stage One students.
That said, my first day with ClickView was incredible. Describing it as a whirlwind is, I think, an apt description. But it also is not a necessarily accurate description. I arrived in the office to a welcome pack with equipment (phone, laptop, business cards etc.) and resources (brochures, flyers, a t-shirt) and to “let’s get a coffee.” The plan for the day and overall for the week was laid out and then it was a series of quick introductions to as many people in the office who weren’t on the phone, or clearly focused on a particular task, which revealed that a significant number of people in the company had watched my Periscope last Wednesday and had read or seen my Twitter account or website. Rather humbling (and, if I am being honest, embarrassing), however, I believe that it will go a long way towards helping form the initial relationships, providing a starting point.
A series of meetings and training sessions that provided me with a starting point to understand the various software I will be using followed, as well as an overview of where to find my various data points. I have to admit to getting a little excited when I saw the richness of the data and already have a few ways I want to manipulate it to show me patterns and trends. Mrs. C21 calls me a weirdo for enjoying data. I will wear that label happily.
Lunch with a number of new colleagues and key players whom I will need to have strong relationships with to be successful followed and that almost felt like another interview, yet the questions were more…intellectually probing and it felt nice to have discussions about pedagogy, emerging trends and potential future trends or directions for education and where flipped learning and video content fits into that. Professionally stimulating I feel is an accurate description.
The afternoon was spent learning more about the team of which I am a part, what the important pieces of data are that I need to focus on amidst the plethora that is available, the agenda for the next day (today as I write) vis-à-vis meetings and how they will flow as well as a general debrief from the day.
At each point, there was a genuine interest in making sure I was getting the information I needed without being overwhelmed, at ensuring that I had questions answered satisfactorily and that I knew what was going on in general. I was given a where we have come from and why session with the CEO going over the history of the company which, although it perhaps sounds mundane and rote, was actually quite interesting and did help to contextualise some of the terminology, technology and what I have gleaned of the current and future direction of the company.
While it was a long day (I did not arrive home until 8:30 pm) and I did not get to see my daughter at all, Mrs. C21 and I are both aware and understand that the first day is always going to be a bit different, a bit longer and that there will be days where I am home comparatively early. When I got home, however, I was home and was able to go to bed not worrying about lesson plans, marking, students, parent concerns about their child, or school politics, and that alone, and the already felt reduced stress levels has made the transition out of the classroom worthwhile.
As always, thank you for reading and I look forward to hopefully meeting some of you at FutureSchools 2017 which takes place in Melbourne next week. If you have missed any of the articles I have written for that thus far, please click here.List of Blog Series
"Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students."
-Attributed to Solomon Ortiz
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
In this article I will preview the sessions on the timetable for day two of FutureSchools 2017 that I plan to attend. If you have missed the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, please click here to see the full list.
I plan to begin day two of FutureSchools in the Young Learners conference where Conference Chair Sara Asome will introduce the first speaker for the day, Leanne Edwards. Leanne is speaking under the title of Providing a flying start in life through student well-being and effective learning. The rhetoric from politicians around education seems to lay a lot of the problems with students from high socio-economic disadvantage at the feet of the parents as much as at the feet of the teachers and so it will be interesting to hear from someone about turning the tables on that socio-economic disadvantage, particularly given that one of the methods that will be spoken about is on leveraging data, which we seem to endlessly collect. Additionally, I am interested to hear about the impact that Leanne has found as a result of having a close knit community.
Following Leanne's session, I will be moving across to the Teaching Kids to Code conference to hear a session titled Design Thinking in a Primary School Makerspace presented by Steve Allen. I am, to be honest, still not sold on Makerspaces. I do not doubt that they can be a font of great learning, however, what gives way for them to occur? Are they genuine Makerspaces such as Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez talk about in their book, Invent to learn? Or are they a small group of students given some old computers and robotics parts and told to have fun? I have heard of some schools doing apparently great work (Summit Elementary and Shorecrest Preparatory for example) and I know some students who would really benefit from the type of practical hands on nature that a makerspace provides. I would also hope that it might improve the societal valuing of the trades, inspiring more people to go into those industries as there are not enough tradespeople in many areas.
I look forward to hearing Steve speak to his experience with Makerspaces and the impact that it has had on students learning in a Primary context, especially the transferability of the skills and process used to other key learning areas.
Mel Cashen will be speaking during the Future Leaders conference under the title of Cultural Change in Support of ICT and DigiTECH, which promises to be an interesting sessions. The new Digital Technologies syllabus has been rolled out as part of the National Curriculum and is now part of the curriculum. I wonder, however, how widely it has been adopted and absorbed into schools syllabus documents and teaching practices.
The agenda indicates that Mel will be speaking about the cultural thinking required to engage fully with the digital technologies syllabus and to embrace ICT across the syllabus. Additionally, Mel will be giving an understanding of Design and Systems thinking, which is not a phrase I am familiar with outside of computer software design and development and a movement that is being referred to as CS+X. I had to look up what CS+X was (it turns out that it is a cross between computer science and the humanities), however, it sounds like an interesting concept and I look forward to learning more about it.
The next session, presented by Peter Tompkins within the ClassTech conference, is one that I think will potentially be very interesting. The teaching of mathematics is a fascinating topic for a variety of reasons. One of which is that so many people, including some teachers make statements such as “Oh, I’m no good at maths,” or “maths is too hard for me, I don’t enjoy it.” These kinds of statements are not attitudes we would (should?) accept from our students, yet it is perfectly acceptable socially for us as adults to make them. Recently, a primary/elementary school teacher from the United States, Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher) posted a twitter thread and then a reflection article dealing with this very issue. It demonstrated something that I do not think we as teachers do enough of, which is admit when we need pedagogical help about something that everyone assumes you know about because you area teacher, and ask for help in a public forum.
Why do we publicly say that everything is fine when privately we are nervous or worried about teaching that maths lesson, or bringing in a maths concept into science or creative arts? Why is there not more of the open vulnerability and humility that Doug demonstrated? I am definitely guilty of confident outside/fumbling in the dark inside and so I am interested in Peter’s presentation because he indicates that the presentation will discuss the characteristics of teachers who are proficiently using technology in their classroom. Note that he specifies that it is about using technology proficiently, not prolifically, which I believe is an important distinction. This will be combined with an examination of the conditions required for deep learning of mathematics. I am particularly curious to hear where on the student-led learning—direct instruction continuum deep learning of mathematics falls as I suspect it will be somewhere in the middle.
I get to stay put after Peter’s presentation, as I will be remaining in the ClassTech conference to listen to the next address. Sally Wood and Simone Segat are presenting on a topic that, up until my recent change in career trajectory, was contextually interesting as it fitted with my teaching and learning context. Sally and Simone are speaking about the benefits of team teaching vis-à-vis student learning and professional learning through and in technology by examining their experiences and the pitfalls and benefits they have uncovered. I still plan to attend this presentation as I hope to be able to share my learning with my former colleagues as team teaching is a significant part of the new pedagogical landscape at my, now former, school. They are also coming from a primary perspective, which increases the relevancy to my previous colleagues. Sally and Simone have the unfortunate just-before-morning-tea time slot which means that by this stage, many people will be getting restless and ready to get up and move. I am hoping that the morning runs on time so that they do not have to cut their presentation short.
After what I presume will be a productive morning tea break, I move back across to the Special Needs and Inclusion Conference to hear about a topic I have always found fascinating and that I do not believe we leverage well enough, at least here in Australia. Lisa Kingman will be speaking about the possibilities that arise from engaging older generations and their wisdom, skills and experience to inspire and motivate the next generation. The abstract indicates that this specifically refers to utilising volunteers to engage with at …risk young people overburdened by the school system.” The abstract refers to the benefits to the community and the young person’s literacy and numeracy skills as well as life skills.
As a child I spent a significant amount of time with maternal Grandparents (Gran and Pop), and my Great-Grandfather (Grandpa) and much of my personality is attributable to them as much as it is to my parents. Grandpa celebrated his 109th birthday in September last year, a monumental effort, and is currently the tenth oldest person in Australia (interestingly, the top nine are all women) and though the body is not in its prime any longer, his mind is still sharp, if a little slower to get going than it was ten years ago. I could wax lyrical for hours about Grandpa, be warned if you ever ask about him in person. Suffice to say that much of my attitude towards education, women, appropriate dress sense (for me at least), religion, punctuality, public behaviour and attitudes, work ethic, social justice, Australian political history, life during The Great Depression as well as each of the World Wars came from them and this in turn shaped much of my own personality and belief.
I do not feel that we value our forebears’ experiences enough. I look forward to hearing Lisa’s perspective on this topic and the difference it has made to those involved and the lessons that can be taken away and utilised. Perhaps this will provide a potential solution to the ageing population, by giving the older generations a sense of purpose after retirement?
I have not scheduled myself to attend any of the sessions in the next time slot as from past experience I will by this stage be suffering from conference-it is and will need a brain break to decompress and enable myself to stay focused for the remaining sessions.
The session following my brain break has me back in the Young Learners conference to hear Catherine Ford speak about the Power of Narratives and the use of iPads for cross-curricula learning through movie making. I opted to attend this one as the abstract gives me the impression that she is coming from an Infants perspective as opposed to a primary one and I am curious to hear how she has gone about employing movie making with that age group given that I was working in a Stage One context up until recently. I have utilised movie making with Stage Three in the past, where we created a re-cut version of a Spongebob Squarepants episode which was a great series of lessons. I have not, however, done movie making per se with infants (though I did do this with a Stage One class a few years ago as an end of term activity).
After the lunch break I re-join the ClassTech conference to hear a case study into a school-wide deployment of Chromebooks, presented by Blake Seufert. I have not had an opportunity to use a Chromebook in any meaningful context and am looking forward to hearing more about how a roll out of this scale went, particularly from a staff self-efficacy and wi-fi perspectives. The abstract indicates that there will be some practical takeaways as part of this session, helping delegates to use the lessons from this session practically.
Daren Mallet will be presenting the next session I hear, back in the Special Needs and Inclusion conference, presenting on strategies for providing gifted and talented students a voice through technologies that empower and enable them to be heard and understood. I have not had much exposure to working with genuine gifted and talented students as though my previous school ran an Opportunity Class for Stages Two and Three, it was not a Gifted and Talented Class per the NSW Department of Education’s definition thereof.
The final presentation for this session is in the Future Leaders conference and will be delivered by Dr. Janelle Wills on the importance of metacognition. I look forward to this as I feel that the more I learn about A Culture of Thinking the more it fits with any school genuinely wanting to have students be metacognitive. I have only had a limited exposure to the Culture of Thinking paradigm, mainly with thanks to Ryan Gill and the recent Project Zero Sydney conference, yet it intuitively fits and is all about encouraging genuine metacognition. I am aware that just because it intuitively fits does not mean that it actually fits, after all, as Greg Ashman points out (articles), Learning Styles intuitively fits education, yet the research debunks it. I am not familiar enough with the research behind A Culture of Thinking it, not having had time to dive too deeply, so at this point in time, I can only go by the gut.
That said, I look forward to hearing what Dr. Wills has to say about metacognition as the new Teachers Toolkit from Evidence for Learning (E4L) indicates that metacognition is a worthwhile practice, providing a good return on investment vis-à-vis the cost of implementing against the level of improvement in student learning outcomes.
The first presenter I will be hearing following afternoon tea is Narissa Leung who will be speaking to a topic that was relevant in my classroom teacher context and is still relevant in my new role as ClickView Advisor. The abstract for this session says
Beyond devices and curriculum, what are the essential ingredients for leading a classTECH cultural change in your school? How can school leaders inspire hesitant teachers to take on the ClassTECH, STEM and DigiTECH challenge? Explore important points of focus for a ClassTECH agenda and PL rollout.
Every school will have at least one teacher whom Jennie Magiera would refer to as a Heck Yeah! Person and at least one teacher whom she would refer to as a Heck no! person when it comes to utilising technology in the classroom. I look forward to hearing from a Principal the steps taken and the strategies used to win both those teachers (and everyone in between) over the common vision within the school for the authentic use of technology as a pedagogical tool.
The next presentation I will be seeing is actually double-timeslot. Sally Wood and Simone Segat will be speaking once again, this time within the Teaching Kids to Code conference about the ACER Video Game challenge. This session is a joy session, one that I am attending because I am personally interested rather than professionally interested. Sally and Simone will be presenting a case study about teaching Stage Three the internal operations of a computer, as well as the language of computers, binary; and about hardware, software, input and output devices. They will also be discussing a range of easy to implement, ready to go resources and activities, including a range of apps and websites to excite and engage students.
The final session for FutureSchools 217 will take place, for me, in the Future Leaders conference and is a presentation from Renee Coffey into research and findings from the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) Compendium into Indigenous education. This is an area in which we are still failing the bulk of students, with Year Twelve completion rates amongst Indigenous students sitting significantly lower than non-Indigenous persons according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures here. This will therefore be an interesting session to hear what is happening that the AIEF has a higher completion rate than the national average for Indigenous students and as a follow on, factors that are allowing for a successful transition from education to career for those students.
After this session, there will no doubt be a mad scramble out the door for the commute home for Melbournites, or to catch flights for those coming from interstate. I am staying in Melbourne that night, flying back on Saturday. I did not want to have to rush out of a session just to catch a flight and this also means that I can get in some writing that night and on Saturday before my flight.
I hope you have found this article helpful and I look forward to meeting some of my readers if you are going to be at FutureSchools. For the full list of articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, please click here.
As always, thank you for reading.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video I walk through the various features of OneNote for Office365.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
"There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them."
-Attributed to Denis Waitley
If you do not feel like reading a long-ish article, there is a tl;dr summary at the end.
In 2014 I completed my initial teaching education, having been awarded both Honours Class I and the Faculty Medal. I was then asked to write and deliver the Graduate Address at our graduation ceremony in July 2015.
I still feel about teaching the way that I did then. My Teaching Philosophy still accurately sums up why I believe in the public education system and why I want to teach. I still find great joy in seeing my students' faces light up when they get it after grappling with some new concept or skill. I thoroughly enjoyed working with my Stage Three students last year and enjoy that they still put their hands up for a high-five whenever I pass them in the corridor or the playground. This year, I am enjoying Stage One more than I thought that I would and am learning an incredible amount from my team-teaching colleague.
So why then, am I leaving classroom teaching?
I was aware, going into teaching, that it was not the nine-to-five profession that appears to be the belief in society; that there was paperwork, marking, planning, excursions, parent-teacher interviews and politics. What I did not realise, and what I do not think anybody is capable of realising until you are waist-deep in teaching is just how pervasive and all-consuming teaching is and can be. It is hard enough to feel the need to be in my room at six in the morning in order to get things set up for the day, to work out what writing groups my students need to be in today based on their writing from yesterday, to decide which students need to move up a reading level, what strategy am I going to use to engage a challenging student, and and at the end of Wednesday, to get the room tidied, the marking done and the notes up to date for my job-share partner to take over on Thursday.
To then be feeling guilty on the weekend for not getting the things I could be doing, or getting a head start on, when I should simply be enjoying time with my wife and daughter during these beautiful moments of infant joy (she is so close to crawling, and her belly laugh is the sound of pure joy) while they are there, is not how life should be lived.
In 2012 I completed my first professional experience placement. It was in a Year Six class and was actually at my current school. It was a steep learning curve, but for the first time in my adult life, I felt like I was in the right place professionally.
In 2015 and 2016, I was employed on a temporary basis, for four days a week as an RFF teacher in 2015 and three days a week in a job-share arrangement on Stage Three. We got by financially as Mrs. C21 was employed full-time. As my regular readers would be aware, however, our amazingly bright and bubbly baby girl was born in August last year, and thus we are now relying solely on my 0.6 FTE wage. It is not working.
The last few years have been challenging at my school as well. I was offered the temporary contract in 2015 as the Librarian was on long-term sick leave and ended up passing away during the Semester One holidays. I got to be that guy who took over her space and her role. No-one ever said, nor gave even a hint of negativity about me being in that role in the library. Everyone was welcoming and helpful. Despite that, I personally felt awkward and struggled with being in the Librarian's shadow and did not feel that I could really make the space my own, leaving everything up on the walls that was already there and not even going into the Librarian's office except to add library specific items to a pile.
I was offered another temporary contract for 2016, and though I was thankful to have a set class rather than be working in an RFF capacity, being employed for only three days a week was frustrating. It tightened up the options for casual work, and made it difficult to get really thoroughly and deeply stuck into anything. I did, however, learn a lot about my practice and formed some strong relationships with my students and I am proud of what I achieved last year with them, especially when I see the growth in the start of year vs end of year testing data
Additionally, the school has been undergoing a significant building project in order to remove the twelve demountable buildings and return the playground to the students to...you know, play on over the last two years. It has been a cause of significant stress, frustration, worry, and excitement across the staff. The building is now complete with only the final touches of the new playground spaces left. The teachers in those spaces are excited about the potential for what they can achieve and the new library has a new librarian who is doing an amazing job setting up after the school has been without an active library for a few years. Oh, we also had a new Principal start at the beginning of last year and multiple staff retirements which has generated a lot of change as well.
This year I was offered another three-days-per-week job-share arrangement, in a team -teaching context....in the old library. To be fair, it has been structurally changed insofar as the walls dividing the building into library/office/computer lab were removed, making it one big open space. I was apprehensive about being back in their again, however, I am confident, and have been told by some of the staff, that the previous Librarian would be proud as punch to see the space as it is now and to see the students busily working, learning and enjoying the space.
In addition to the work involved in teaching, there is also the time spent writing these articles, making the FTPL videos, and attending conferences to consider, which although separate to my teaching, I consider integral to my teaching persona. All of that wrapped up together is the context from which Mrs. C21 and I made the decision that it was time to leave classroom teaching.
A few weeks ago, I received a message from a HR Manager who said they wanted to chat to me about a position they were advertising and for which they felt I might be a good fit. It seemed to be completely out of the blue and gave enough information to have me curious and so we e-mailed back and forth over the weekend discussing some basic details of the company and the role. Things continued to move along and after some more phone-calls, Skype video-calls, a face-to-face meeting, and further e-mails and phone calls, I was formally offered a full-time, permanent position with the company.
Full time. Permanent.
Those words are like gold to a casual or temporary teacher. Mrs. C21 and I spent many hours during the whole process discussing the role, the potential, the status quo, the challenges that this role would present to me personally and us as a family and how to negotiate those challenges, and whether it was going to be good for us as a family and what the ramifications for me professionally might be. Ultimately, however, I accepted the offer to join ClickView as their NSW/ACT Education Account Advisor. In essence, I will be working with teachers to provide training, support and professional learning in schools using ClickView across NSW and the ACT.
I was asked if I would miss the classroom and I absolutely will. Over the course of the e-mails, phone and Skype calls, and face-to-face meetings, however, I gained the belief that from a certain point of view, I am not leaving the classroom per se. I may not be standing in front of a room of students, but I will still be present through the teachers with whom I work. One of my personal goals as a teacher is to be able to look back and know that I have had a positive impact on the lives of my students, to be remembered with the fondness that Ms. Flexer was remembered by her students. I can certainly achieve that in my current role in the classroom. This new role gives me scope to scale that impact, and though I may not have the connections with students that I currently do, I will be able to positively influence their lives through my work with teachers.
I also feel that over the last six to twelve months that I have been at a cross roads in my teaching career. I enjoy being in the class and working with my students. I have also found that I thoroughly enjoy being able to work with colleagues to deliver professional learning opportunities and I feel that I am more comfortable and confident in that scope. I also thoroughly enjoy engaging with research and data, and miss being absorbed in reading and writing. This role, along with giving me stability and security of employment, allows me to continue to engage with education in those same three areas, whilst being encouraged to grow and develop in particular areas that interest me professionally and with scope to be creative. I said during the face-to-face meeting, and I genuinely believe it, that although this role would see me leaving the classroom, I do not feel that I am leaving teaching. I am still working with students and teachers, it is just a different context.
I will be sad to leave my current school. I had my first professional experience there, my first excursion, my first class and I feel that I am leaving positively. I am grateful to the support and encouragement of my job-share partners of this year and last year, to my team-teacher who has been a fount of professional learning so far this term, to my mentor who allowed me to blather on about whatever it was that had me excited/frustrated/tired/annoyed/cynical/worried and offered her advice and guidance, humbly and patiently.
I am looking forward to not having the will I be offered another contract for next year stress, which normally begins to set in around the start of Term Three. I am relieved that we won't be continuing to go backwards financially and the incumbent stress of being in that position. I look forward to not feeling guilty for not working on the weekends or at night. I am excited for this new journey. But most importantly, I am excited that when I am home, that I will be able to be more present with my family, that I will not miss important milestones because I am too busy programming / planning / marking / writing reports / writing rubrics / spending money on resources for the science lesson. My wife is certainly incredibly happy about me being more present than I am at the moment.
Ultimately, I had to make a decision based on what was best for my family. It just so happens that it also provides an incredible opportunity professionally. My final day in my classroom will be tomorrow, Wednesday 8 March.
As always, thank you for reading.
The tl;dr version is that I was offered a permanent, full-time position with ClickView and it is in the best interests of my family and I to take it, so I have.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you how to access and start OneNote through your Office365 account.
For more helpful videos like this, please check the FTPL Videos page.
“Nothing is yours. It is to use. It is to share. If you will not share it, you cannot use it.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
This week's Friday Freebie is something that I am actually rather happy with. It is a program for Physical Education and Sport for a full semester. Note that it is an actual Physical Education program, not a let's go and play a game program. The structure of the program is based on my current context, Stage One, and is dealing with four sets of fundamental movement skills for a block of approximately four weeks each. I plan to complete the Semester Two version sometime during Term Two so that it is ready to go for Term Three.
Please feel free to share any feedback on the program, issues, questions, things that do not make sense or are overly convoluted.
"Debates focusing on the achievement gap, where in 2014 only 59% of Indigenous students complete Year 12 or equivalent compared with 85% of their non-Indigenous counterparts, tend to place an emphasis on contextual factors such as the role of poverty or socioeconomic status as an explanation of lower educational achievement.
In the wider public, this can spiral quickly into blaming students and families, or gives schools and teachers permission to find some comfort in the status quo.
Focusing on the opportunity to learn gap removes the emphasis from locating “the problem” in the person (or family or culture), and turns our attention to the accumulated differences in access to key educational resources."
- McKinley, E. (1994), The Conversation, "Stop focusing on 'the problem' in Indigenous education, and start looking at learning opportunities." Retrieved from tinyurl.com/jstlp9kp on 27 February 2017
TeachMeet events in Australia are popular, which a significant number occurring each term across the country. The Central Coast branch, TMCoast, organise two events each year, typically in Term One and Term Three. The next #TMCoast event is being held on Thursday, 16th March 2017 (Week Eight of Term One) in the Aboriginal Resource Room at Henry Kendall High School beginning at 5pm. A networking dinner (#TMEat) will be held afterwards, at Central Coast Leagues Club.
This event will be slightly different to a normal TeachMeet event. In respect to the local Aboriginal community and the Cooinda Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG), whose meeting place we are fortunate enough to be able to utilise for this event, we will be entering the room after being welcomed to the site by a member of the local Indigenous community through a smoking ceremony. The evening will then move to the Heritage Listed room, recognised as being of cultural significance by the NSW Department of Education and will include a Welcome to Country and a talk from a local Elder. As part of traditional cultural practices and protocols, rather than a series of short talks, we will be engaging in a yarn; sharing practices that celebrate and highlight Aboriginality in education, culture, that have provided benefit to the learning of Aboriginal students. We welcome anyone to attend who can share their own stories of or those who want to listen and learn and ask questions.
It is an event that I excited to be able to attend as it is an opportunity to engage more authentically with Indigenous culture. If you have ever been curious about Indigenous culture or about Aboriginality in education, then I would encourage you to come along. The image above is a link to the registration page. It is a free event, and will be followed by a meal at Central Coast Leagues Club for those interested.
"There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning."
- Attributed to Jiddu Krishnamurti
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
The structure of FutureSchools 2017 is going to be rather different to my experience over the last two years. The Australian Technology Park venue in Sydney did not allow for plenary sessions and so it is not a big surprise to see that plenary sessions are on the agenda with the move to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. I have previously written previews of the five conference streams (read it here) and what they are themed around, as well as a Masterclass Preview article. In this session I am going to explore the agendas for day one of FutureSchools 2017, highlighting the sessions in particular that I will be visiting.
This year’s FutureSchools event will be opening with a plenary session featuring the three keynote speakers, presenting on very different topics. After the welcoming remarks by Jenny Luca of Wesley College Melbourne, delegates will be hearing from Dr. Milton Chen about the role of the Arts, Nature, and Place-Based Learning. The topic intrigues me. I strongly believe that we do not give enough love to the creative and performing arts. Whilst I absolutely agree that literacy and numeracy are important domains of learning, and have a significant impact on a successful life, I believe that the Arts play a significant role in our ability to be creative and empathetic.
The role of Nature and Place-Based Learning is one that intrigues me. I recall a talk at FutureSchools 2015 where a Primary School in Western Australia had created a nature-play space complete with climbing trees, dirt pits for playing in and other nature-based play spaces (though I cannot find the article in question or recall who it was). I am not sure if this is what Dr. Chen is referring to in his title, nor do I know what is meant by the phrase place-based learning, however, the Arts are something I value and I am intrigued as to his view of how they connect with the other two topics.
Following Dr. Chen is Jan Owen, AM Hon DLitt speaking about skills, particularly entrepreneurial skills, needed by today’s (and presumably tomorrow’s) youth. This is a topic that I am generally a little sceptical about. I recently wrote an article about the nature of twenty-first century skills and the fact that there is nothing twenty-first century about them, other than a temporal reference to when we are utilising these skills. The abstract for Jan’s presentation indicates that the session will help us to identify entrepreneurial skills needed by immersing us in leading research and insights into changing enterprise.
I would not personally consider myself an entrepreneur nor would I necessarily be able to list the particular skill set an entrepreneur would need, however, I would imagine that they would be similar to those that entrepreneurs needed in previous generations. Talk about studentpreneurs, teacherpreneurs, and edupreneurs is, from my perspective, concerning. Perhaps I am coming at this from the wrong angle, and I would encourage you to let me know in the comments if you think that is the case, however, entrepreneur has business and commercial connotations in my mind and implies a sense of going about something for commercial benefit or profit. This is not what education is or should be about (although I acknowledge that what education is and should be about is a particularly large and divisive topic in its own right). It implies a focus on teaching our students a set of skills that allow one to be successful, but in one particular area of society; business. The focus on money and keeping up with the Jones' is pervasive in society today and is in my view a sad indictment on our collective societal and cultural drive.
All of that said, I am interested to hear what Jan has to say as I have not actually listened to a presentation on this topic in the past. I will also put my hand up and acknowledge that I could be coming at this topic from the wrong angle. It would not be the first time I have gone into a presentation on a particular topic with a viewpoint and walked out forced to rethink it, such as this PBL session with the Hewes' family).
The final keynote speaker is Prakash Nair under the title of Learning Environments: Optimising Places and Spaces for Learning. I am particularly interested in this talk as my current school has recently undergone a capital building project with the view to removing the twelve demountable buildings on site in order to reclaim play ground space. The demountables are gone, the new building is open, and it is the final preparation of the new playground space that is now underway. The new building looks amazing from the outside, it looks good from the inside, and I am hearing from the teachers in those spaces that they are largely enjoying the team-teaching aspect. I am not in the new building, however my current classroom used to contain three spaces separated by walls; namely the library, the librarian’s office and the computer lab. It has been renovated and turned into a single space for two classrooms, and I am enjoying working in a team-teaching context.
Following the plenary keynote session is the ever important morning tea break, a chance to recharge laptops, connect with old friends, meet other educators and stretch the legs and mind after an intense opening session. The second session is where delegates break into their respective conference streams and this is where the media pass under which I am attending FutureSchools this year kicks in. Part of the agreement is that I attend at least one session in each conference stream, a relatively easy request as each stream has sessions that I am interested in. I will be beginning with the Special Needs and Inclusion conference stream where I will be hearing Deborah Nicholson speak about Bridging the equity gap for vulnerable students through music and arts programs.
There is an equity gap in our schools, a fact that at the moment is inescapable and strategies put in place, such as Gonksi seem to be helping. I have seen students who are not academically inclined light up during music or PE or drama lessons as it is an area they are successful in. I have seen students from difficult backgrounds turn a corner when they are able to be provided additional support in class through a Learning Support Intervention funded by Gonski. The different it can make to the confidence and self-belief for a student who struggles with [insert numeracy or literacy struggle here].
Following Deborah’s presentation, I will be shuffling quickly across to the ClassTech conference stream to hear Linda Ray speak about the impact of technology in the classroom on digital dementia. The abstract contends that neuroleadership ensures that our focus remains on the real, not virtual tasks at hand. This promises to be an interesting session as the impact of technology on students’ ability to focus is still being assessed. There has been some research in this field, however, to the best of my knowledge, the debate is certainly not over. Understanding how to recognise, avoid and combat cognitive overload from educational technology is a skill which I feel will become more and more important as technology becomes more pervasive throughout our education systems.
The final session before lunch and a return to the plenary room is, for me, in the Future Leaders conference stream where Dr. Rachel Wilson will be speaking about …aspiration, trends, challenges and cautions in assessment. This topic is rather timely given the teeth gnashing that occurred when the latest PISA results were recently released, the current public debate about the HSC changes to English and Physics as well as the deplorable changes to being eligible to sit the Higher School Certificate which are being proposed. I will be interested to hear what role the Australian Curriculum has in the talk as well as what role having a national final exam may play, if any.
The current system of assessment is broken if you listen to the media but they do not seem to be able to offer any genuinely viable alternatives. There are certainly areas of opportunity for improving assessment, but the teachers at the coalface can only do so much.
After lunch is when the breakout sessions are scheduled. I have not been particularly impressed with the structure and organisation of this session at the previous iterations of FutureSchools I have attended; however, I acknowledge that the organisers were hamstrung with the spaces available to them at the Australian Technology Park. I am hopeful that this year, with a new venue, that greater consideration to the logistics and acoustics of the breakout sessions is given and that they are more beneficial to everyone who attends the, not just those who sit nearest the presenter.
The final session of the day will see delegates return to the plenary room for two final keynotes. The first, from Marita Cheng focuses on the impact that the Victorian Government’s TechSchools Initiative is having, particularly in the STEM area and the impact that early exposure to technology and engineering is having on students. Finishing the day off is Lisa Rodgers, the CEO of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) presenting under the title From Young Learners to Lifelong Learning. It should be an interesting session as the abstract promises to [b]uild insight to raise achievement and improve system effectiveness. Discover the levers that really lift educational attainment. Given that it is the final session of the day, it will either be very well or very poorly attended. I do not know what the wider educational community’s attitude towards AITSL is, however, I personally have heard a range of opinions.
Day one of FutureSchools 2017 will of course be concluding with the customary networking drinks event and I look forward to seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones. Let me know in the comments what you think will be the highlight from the FutureSchools timetable and what your thoughts are on the edupreneur conversations which seem to be taking place more frequently.