"Important achievements require a clear focus, all-out effort, and a bottomless trunk full of strategies. Plus allies in learning."
- Attributed to Carol Dweck
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 is under a media pass provided by the event organisers.
The process of selecting sessions to attend once again resulted in a spreadsheet of each stream with session details, much frustration as I realised that two sessions I wanted to attend were on at the same time, and balancing the challenge of getting to as many sessions as possible with my own mental health. I am quite happy with my selection and am looking forward to the first day of EduTECH.
It will begin early, as I am co-hosting a webinar with Ryan Gill focusing on Cultures of Thinking from the ClickView office in Pyrmont, just a short stroll away from the ICC (click here for more details and to register), and it will end, quite possible, rather late, as I am attending the EduTECH Gala Dinner (I am particularly looking forward to hearing Sam Kekovich as, like many, my knowledge of him is from the Australia Day lamb advertisements).
The opening plenary sessions look rather interesting, with Professor Carol Dweck delivering the opening keynote. I am passingly familiar with her work, but have never had the opportunity to hear her speak on it before and am looking forward to hearing about her theories on Growth Mindset than what I have had the opportunity (or time) to do so in the past. I have heard some educators comment that they believe growth mindset is an overdone theory, but I certainly have not heard enough about it to comment either way. I will of course be live-tweeting and will hopefully be able to expand my understanding of growth mindset.
Following Carol Dweck is an interesting panel session titled A Global Context for Education in meeting the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This seems an interesting topic to have in a plenary session, and the personnel involved are a broad mix of education and corporate/charity. I have to profess a complete ignorance of the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development goals as a concept, though a quick look at the list indicates that achieving all of the goals would be tantamount to a miracle. With the background of the individuals involved in the panel, I look forward to hearing their take on this broad list of goals and how we can contribute to them as educators.
The final session in the plenary session is being delivered by Bradley Loiselle and will be addressing the changing needs of education in emerging countries such as India. Specifically, the abstract for this presentation indicates that technology will be the equaliser, giving the impression that this talk will focus on how to put the technology in the hands of educators and students in those emerging countries in, presumably, an appropriate and sustainable way.
Following the plenary sessions is where my juggling act begins. I need to get to each stream at least once, allow myself time to eat (at least) lunch, give myself time to decompress and mitigate conference-itis, as well as get some writing done and catch up with colleagues and members of my online professional learning network.
I plan to start in the Higher Education stream, with Jack Hylands' presentation on Preparing Students for the economies of the future as the start facts presented by Jan Owen at FutureSchools earlier this year highlight this as being an interesting insight into how the higher education sector is adjusting to the demands placed on them by our changing society and work forces. I will be staying on theme, though shifting across to the Tertiary Education IT Leaders conference, to hear Professor Louise Stoll speak about professional learning communities and why building those networks and relationships is important.
Following Professor Stoll's presentation, I am looking forward to Kim Maksimovic speak in the K-12 Ed Leaders stream on the topic of engaging students who lack self-efficacy with technology. This whole topic is an interesting one as it really destroys the notion of digital native vs digital immigrant (which I have written about briefly before, see here). I have seen a fantastic re-imagining of the gap between those who are au fait with technology and those who are not, however, I can find no trace of it in my previous writings. It was a video shown at a conference, and it was a brilliant discussion of the difference and why digital native/immigrant was not an appropriate way of conceptualising the gap.
The next session, presented by Greg Whitby, is of particular interest to me both with my teacher hat on and my ClickView hat. Schooling in a one-to-one world is billed to be an analysis and exploration of the frameworks within which one-to-one schooling operates and how these shape pedagogy. One-to-one is not quite at the level that I would call pervasive, however, the terminology is now widely known and the vast majority of schools that I have visited this year have either moved or are in the process of moving to this scenario. The one school that I have visited who have indicated that there are no plans to roll out one-to-one have done so because of the extreme low socio-economic status of the area and the school )I did not enquire into their RAM funding as that would clearly not have been appropriate).
After Greg's session, I have about twenty minutes for a mental break. I will most likely spend it reviewing the breakout session that I will be presenting, yet will ensure that I take some time to stop and breath. The lunch break will be shortened so that I can ensure things are ready to start on time as immediately afterwards I will be presenting three x thirty minute breakout sessions. I rang the contact person to chat abut what I wanted to achieve and discovered that, where I would have been excited to have thirty people in each session, that over one hundred had chosen to attend my breakout session on flipped learning. There may have been some stunned silence on my end of the phone. I have had to tweak how I wanted to run the session due to the numbers, however, I have still been able to flip the session (pre-learning video below) to ensure that the session is as useful as possible to attendees. I have also had a few people in my twitter network indicate that they are attending which increases the (self-imposed) pressure.
After the breakout sessions is the afternoon tea break, which I will undoubtedly spend coming down from the adrenaline and nerves; and hopefully engaging in some follow up discussions with various attendees from the session, before heading into the final plenary sessions for two very interesting talks.
Abdul Chohan will be presenting on utilising classroom technologies to lead effective pedagogical change. The pedagogy should absolutely lead the choice in technology rather than the other way around, and it is a difficult balance to find. Schools that I have visited who have succesfully implemented various changes including one-to-one, makerspace, project based learning, flipped learning, have done so by beginning the change by asking what the desired impact on pedagogy and learning is. The conversations that I have had with Ryan Gill around Cultures of Thinking and the courses that he runs at Masada College; and the work they do with other schools in that area, all stem from asking what is the desired outcome, what is the pedagogical need or question driving the choice to engage with cultures of thinking. The dog/pedagogy should wag the tail/technology, not the other way around.
Finishing the day, before the networking drinks and gala dinner, is Peter Adams who will be addressing PISA, the myths and the facts around the data that emanate from PISA and what we can learn from the success of others. I have heard talks on PISA in the past (this presentation by Brett Salakas for example) and the arguments for an against PISA are plentiful. I look forward to hearing Peter expand on the facts of what PISA tells us and what, if anything, we can learn from other countries and their own PISA results.
Thank you for reading through this article. If you are heading to EduTech, let me know via Twitter as it would be great to catch up with some of my PLN, especially over dinner and a few drinks if you are attending the Gala Dinner.
For all articles in this series on EduTECH 2017, please click here.
“What works in Singapore, works because we are Singaporean.”
– Brett quoting a Singaporean Principal he worked under
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
As you read this, I would like you to consider what you believe the purpose and goal of the education system should be. I will openly admit that I am a conference junky. I have written previously about my love of conferences and being in the same room as those on the same page as yourself, however, I had forgotten how tiring, both mentally and physically, they are. I am sitting in my hotel room using my phone to hotspot so I can write this, with Pink Floyd playing, still buzzing from conversations I have had, connections I have made and people from my online professional learning network (PLN) that I have known for some time, but never met in person.
I am going to structure my Education Nation series of review articles slightly differently to review articles from previous conferences. Ordinarily, I would write the review of each session, weaving general feedback on the conference event as a whole throughout, as it fit the session. For this set of articles, I want to focus on the speaker and their message; and instead, will keep those overview reflections to a specific article, which will be the final article in the series, to act as a conclusion piece. If you have managed to miss the pre-Education Nation articles that I wrote, you can find those in a consolidated list of the articles for this event by clicking here.
As I wrote in a previous article, I had the opportunity, unlike most attendees, to move between the conference streams. My first session was a part of the Rethinking Reform stream and was Brett Salakas (@Mrsalakas) speaking under the title PISA Pipe Dreams. Brett opened by asking people to share what they were learning, questions, critiques and ideas via Twitter using the conference hashtag, #EduNationAu, which many people did. Brett then continued by telling us what he was not.
This was followed by a brief historical overview of PISA and its purpose, which he summarised as being a way of helping governments monitor education system achievements and the impacts of education. By giving all of the students, who are the same age, the same test, it sounds like it should be a good way of tracking trends and variances between countries. Yet, Brett says, it is actually that which makes it rather murky. Students sit a two-hour written test which covers scientific literacy, mathematics, reading and financial literacy.
What this means is that the state of our education system in comparison to other countries is based on a test which takes place once every three years, and allows students roughly thirty minutes for each of the four sections, which then packages the data up in neat statistical bundles which are then able to be misused and misrepresented in the media, creating a sense of fear and concern, and a backlash, against the state of the education system in Australia.
These headlines create this sense of worry about the state of our education system, the quality of our teachers and the worry about how we will remedy the situation. Often, it is easy to look to the leaders of the PISA results and ask the question “what are they doing? Let’s do that” and attempt to translate education policies and practices directly into the Australian context, without thinking through a range of issues that arise in doing so.
Brett then made the quote that I have included at the top of the article, which points out that we need to take into account the cultural context of what is happening and why it is working. Brett related that when he taught in Singapore the entire education system was streamed by ability groupings into the top, middle, and bottom third of academic results and students were taught and trained to perform to a high standard. Then he made a comment, told us about a standard practice which blew my mind and which would never happen here in Australia.
“My Year One ESL class in Singapore finished at nine pm on a Monday night.”
Stop and think about what that means for a moment.
Year One students, most of whom will be either six or seven years old, lining up waiting for their teacher to arrive, beginning class and then not finishing until a time when I would like to be in bed. Presumably, there is going to be a period of travel time before those children arrive at home, and then actually get to bed and then fall asleep. That practice would cause uproar and outrage if suggested here in Australia. We need to find a solution that works here, for us, in our context.
Brett continued by pointing out a few facts about PISA, which he made quite clear were all confirmable on the PISA website. He reminded us that this fear-mongering and panic is based upon, essentially, a thirty-minute test (for each subject area PISA concerns itself with) and that there are a number of factors in play that are not typically talked about. He spoke about research by Alma Harris (@AlmaHarris1) that indicated many Nordic countries exclude migrants and refugees from the PISA testing and that some research shows many Asian countries prepare their students for PISA in a period of time immediately beforehand, in an effort to boost their results.
An interesting point was then raised, which I ha not thought about, but which does make sense, which was that although the PISA tests are written in one language, they do need to be translated into a range of languages as required for each country. The very act of translating the questions can have an impact on the complexity of the question, from a cultural point of view, as well as an academic perspective.
The next issue is a phenomenon referred to as the Wild Geese of Korea, or, in Korean, Gireogi appa (literally ‘goose dad’), wherein Korean families are sending the mother and child to a Western country, to receive a Western education, perceived to be of a higher standard than a Korean education, whilst the father remains in Korea, in a small unit.The terminology applied within Korea regarding this is quite complex and structured. However, this phenomenon raises a very important question; what are the Koreans seeing about education in the Western countries, that we are not?
This segued into an amusing clip from the movie 300, the tale of King Leonidas of Spart and his eventual defeat during the Battle of Thermopylae. This clip, however, had the audio in French, with some clever subtitles. My thanks to Kelly Hollis for finding the original link
This clip was the entry point into a discussion about the attributes we actually would like to see developed in our students. Brett related an incident that occurred at his school during an athletics carnival; specifically, the Girls one hundred metre final, which would determine the age champion for that year. Brett spoke about two girls who, for their primary education, had ben the two standout athletes, sharing honours across athletics events each year, and that this would be the decider between them. It was a significant event, with lots of parents attending to watch, as happens at sports carnivals and both girls were taking it quite seriously, the eleven-year-old Olympics, as it were.
Only a short distance into the race, one of the two girls hurt herself, pulling a hamstring. Her rival had the advantage from the start and had pulled ahead and so was not aware of what had happened, however, the other girls all stopped to check and see if she was ok. Eventually, the leading girl realised something was not right and turned around to look. Upon seeing that her rival had stopped, injured, she made a choice. Instead of continuing to take the win and the title of age champion, she went back to her rival, her friend, and did what she could to help and show concern. Brett then made a poignant statement; “every parent there at that moment knew exactly, from what had happened, why they sent their daughter to this school. That choice, that act made it clear.”
The education system in Singapore and the other high-performing countries on PISA tests work in their context as there are specific attributes which are being looked for. We need to decide what attributes we want to see in our children. Conveniently, Brett had an Answergarden for us to indicate the attributes that we feel are important.
We need to stop cherry picking aspects of education systems from countries which obtain high results on PISA testing and have a real conversation about what we, as a nation, want for our students from out education system. The countries which perform, and have performed, highly on those international standardised testing have historically put educational policies in place many years before they have had their purple patch which has focused on enabling their goal for education to be achieved. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe that there has ever been a national conversation in Australia about the purpose and goals of education and how we go about achieving those goals*. Many key attributes that show up on the word cloud above, resilience, collaboration, confidence, are, Brett says, nationally imbued and are seen as typical Aussie characteristics; mateship, innovation, a fair go etc.
“Don’t curse the darkness, be the light”
-Attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt
This quote was Brett’s final message. We need to act as beacons of light and positivity in education to stave off the darkness and the negativity, and connecting with other educators, those who are working to shine the light, is a fantastic way of helping to do that. Brett shared ten (it was actually twelve) educators who he sees as great educators to follow.
My key takeaway from Brett’s session was that we need to have the why and what conversation about education, and work to gain some sort of consensus about education’s goal in order to stop the cycle of ideological-based policies and provide some consistency of expectation and purpose. The over-reliance on PISA as a measure needs to be re-evaluated as well, as this feeds into the media fear-mongering about education and influences, negatively, the education conversation and perception.
What was your key takeaway from Brett’s keynote? What do you believe the purpose and goal of education should be in Australia? Let me know, either by commenting on this article or by tweeting me.
The next article in this Education Nation series will look at the presentation by Professor Geoff Masters (@GMastersACER).
As always, thank you for reading. IF you have missed any articles in this series, please click here.
*In the time since I published this article, I have been reminded of the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, which I had forgotten about. Whilst it does provide a potential launchpad for a national conversation about the purposes and goals of education, it was not, in itself, a national conversation, given that it came out of a meeting of politicians.
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) in June is through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Times listed in this article are correct at the time of publishing, but are subject to change.
It is interesting timing, sitting here composing this article, with Education Nation only a week away, considering that the topic for #satchatoz this past weekend was how [do] conferences help us grow professionally. I have been amazed at the response to both my interview with Professor Geoff Masters and the interview with Dr. David Zyngier. I am excited to announce that I have just received the interview with Dr. Kevin Donnelly, who is arguing the side of private education in The Great Debate against Dr. Zyngier. You can get involved with The Great Debate by submitting a question for the moderated questions from the floor component of the Debate by clicking here.
Today, however, I want to have a look at the programs for the various conference streams. There is a lot to be excited about on the program for Education Nation, making it difficult to choose a particular stream to be involved in. Of course, each stream has a particular focus and which you will choose will vary according to your context and your needs. I am in the position of being able to move between the event streams thanks to the media pass, and it made for some very difficult choices, as I wanted to engage with at least one session in each stream across the two days.
I have included a copy of the EduNationAu Timetable, which I have put together from the separate programs on the Education Nation website to allow for seeing what was happening at any time and it showed that the events do not necessarily line up in regards to timings for each session. I have chosen the sessions I will be attending according to a few criteria:
The first session I plan to attend is in the Rethinking Reform stream, and will be my first opportunity to hear Brett Salakas (@Mrsalakas) speak. He will be exploring the subject of PISA and the growing fascination with the results and our place in relation to the other OECD member nations. It promises to provide an open and frank exploration of our current relationship with PISA pipe dreams and the cultural contexts involved. Following Brett’s session was my first dilemma.
Do I stay and listen to Professor Geoff Masters (@GMastersACER) identify and discuss the five most important challenges facing schools, or alternatively, head across to the Digital Dimensions stream to hear Simon McKenzie (@connectedtchr) identify if we have just made everything worse with the rollout of technology in schools, from both positive and negative perspectives. Simon’s session promises to be very intriguing and potentially controversial given the explosion of one-to-one and BYOD programs in recent years.
Both options are incredibly appealing, however, in the end, I decided to remain in my seat for Professor Masters’ session. Primarily due to time; both sessions are scheduled to commence at 0940, and though there is typically some fluidity in the actual timings at conferences, I wanted to avoid being that person who enters a room late and then proceeds to become the show as they attempt to find a seat, get there and then set up for the session. I look forward to reading the tweets stemming from Simon’s session, and please, if you write a blog article from that session (or any other), send me the link so that we can re-share it with the wider Education Nation PLN.
After the morning break, I plan to spend the entire second session engaging with one of the deep-dive workshops, The Leader. Specifically, I will be attending the session which examines strategies for bridging the gap when policy and practice diverge, presented by Peter Mader (@Mader_Peter). It is an interesting area to explore, and also a common problem. Educational policy is typically slow to respond to new information and requirements, particularly when it is required to run the gamut of a bureaucracy.
Michael’s session finished and provides me with a ten-minute window to move across to my next session, hearing from Ed Cutherbertson and Prue Gill (@Ed_Cuthbertson and @Prue_G) of Lanyon High School share strategies that teachers are able to utilise in their classroom to provide their students with voice and agency, allowing them to feel valued, and encouraging students to become active participants in their own learning. This session is a lengthy one, which gives me that it will provide a wide range of strategies to assist teachers in building those relationships, in providing the voice and agency to their students. Student voice and agency has been a topic of discussion more and more on social media and there is a body of research building around this issue.
Following the afternoon break, my first choice, actually, it was the first thing I marked down as wanting to attend, is The Great Debate between Dr. David Zyngier (@DZyngier) and Dr. Kevin Donnelly (@ESIAustralia). The debate surrounding public versus private education is a hot one, and both sides have some excellent arguments. I have not heard the two sides facing off in a debate before, and this is sure to be interesting and fiery. I have already published my interview with Dr. Zyngier and tomorrow I aim to publish the interview with Dr. Donnelly. Dr. Donnelly is well known in the media for his provocative statements, and I look forward to engaging with his responses, and to hearing the feedback on the article.
Do not forget to submit your questions about public education versus private education. There is still time!
Though my choices for the final session of day one of Education Nation were guided by The Great Debate, I am genuinely interested in hearing what Teresa Deshon has to say about the role of the pastoral curriculum in her case study; People of Character – Your Best Self. The academic curriculum takes the majority of our teaching time and Teresa’s question, “…[b]ut what of the pastoral curriculum?” is an excellent one. I am looking forward to hearing the strategies that Teresa and her colleagues have employed to change the focus to the pastoral curriculum, and still maintained the academic curriculum learning outcomes for their students.
At the end of day one of Education Nation, I will be attending the live #AussieEd event at Kirribilli Club (view map), tickets to which are still available. It will be my first AussieEd event, and am looking forward to it.
Day two begins bright and early, and pending Ministerial commitments, will begin for those in the Rethinking Reform forum, with an Address and Question and Answer session with the incumbent Federal Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham (@birmo). I requested a pre-Education Nation interview with Minister Birmingham, which was accepted, however, with the announcement of the impending Federal election made shortly thereafter, I daresay I ended up down the priority list as neither myself nor my speaker liaison heard back regarding the interview. I am very curious to hear about his views on the future of education in Australia, as well as what questions from the floor will be accepted and how they will be answered.
The timing of Minister Birmingham’s address meant that I am unable to attend any other event streams in the morning session as I would be arriving midway through, which is never pleasant. That said, Lila Mularczyk’s (@LilaMularczyk) subsequent presentation examining trends in education policy and the translation to the Australian context will be very interesting. I feel that this session will follow on nicely from Brett Salakas’ day one keynote address. Both keynotes will be examining the Australian relationship with global educational systems, from slightly different perspectives. I look forward to seeing what crossover conclusions the two share.
I will be spending a significant portion of day two in the Rethinking Reform session, as returning from the morning will see me settling in for two sessions which I suspect will provide a lot of food for thought. Murat Dizdar will commence the session with an examination of how some schools in the NSW public education system are adopting the national education reform platform a discussion of the operational lessons that can be taken from those schools.
Following on from Murat, is Dr. Kenneth Wiltshire, presenting an exploration of the future of curriculum in Australia. Dr. Wiltshire is not likely to hold back, having been openly critical of the national curriculum and the process through which it has been developed. Dr. Wiltshire lays blame on the doorstep of ACARA itself, specifically the structure and functioning, labelling it a largely discredited body within education circles. I am very much looking forward to hearing him speak. As an early career teacher, the future of the curriculum is a rather important topic for me and my students, both now and in the future.
After Dr. Wiltshire’s presentation, I plan to take some time out. His speech will finish at roughly the same time as the concurrent sessions from The Leader, The Learner, and The Educator, and with all due respect to Phillip Cooke (@sailpip), who is presenting immediately after Dr. Wiltshire; a discussion of the HSC and how it prepares students for life after school is not in my area of interest at the moment. I believe that I would gain more benefit from taking some time to refresh my brain, to re-engage with my notes, get some writing done, explore The Playground and network and meet up with some educators that I have chatted with on Twitter in the past.
Following the lunch break, I will have the opportunity to hear Olivia O’Neil speak in the Digital Dimensions forum about redeveloping a school by engaging the emerging Gen Y teachers. I am looking forward to hearing Olivia speak, as I know a lot of what has been occurring at the school she is Principal of, Brighton Secondary College from conversations with Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu), whom I heard speak originally at FlipConAus last year. I am looking forward to hearing about a journey of which I already know a little bit from the perspective of the Principal, and the challenges that were faced from that vantage point and how they were dealt with.
I plan to remain in the Digital Dimensions forum to hear Leanne Steed and Elizabeth Amvrazis as they examine the purpose of education through a lens of technology-laden classrooms and the way in which technology can empower our students.
I will then be moving back to the Rethinking Reform forum to hear someone whom I admire greatly, Corinne Campbell (@Corisel) as she speaks about the relationship between the focus on using evidence-based pedagogies and the feeling of empowerment or disempowerment by teachers. Evidence-based pedagogies are another hot topic (I quite enjoy reading Greg Ashman’s (@greg_ashman) articles in this area). If the discussions about performance-based pay for teachers come to fruition, it will be an issue of even greater importance, and make the difference, perhaps, between teachers keeping and losing their positions.
The final Education Nation session on my agenda is part of The Educator stream, and I have chosen it specifically as it is a presentation on a topic that I am not still somewhat skeptical about. The Hewes family will be closing out The Educator with a workshop giving deeper insight into Project Based Learning (PBL). The workshop is slated to allow participants to design a PBL project, ostensibly, I presume, to take back to our classroom and implement. I am not entirely sure why I am skeptical about PBL. I suspect that a lot of it is most likely misconceptions, and I have heard some local horror stories about PBL gone wrong. That said, I am looking forward to engaging with this workshop, and hopefully coming away with a new understanding and appreciation for PBL and its place in my pedagogical toolkit.
That, as I mentioned, is the final session for Education Nation 2016. I am very much looking forward to the two days and fully expect that I will need the ensuing few days to recover mentally. What are your expected highlights for the event? Let me know via Twitter using #EduNationAu which will be the main event hashtag.
As always, thank you for reading, and stay tuned tomorrow for the interview with Dr. Kevin Donnelly.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.