I have written many articles over the last few years about conferences; reviewing sessions and presenters, and lamenting missing sessions. Early this year I was chatting with Mrs C21 about this years conferences and which ones I would or would not attend decided that I would make a change.
My current role with ClickView has me travelling quite regularly, being away from my family for a week at a time, three times a term (this year, anyway). That is part of the job and we knew that would be a factor when I took the job. However, we are also playing that incredibly difficult game called save a deposit for a house.
Given those two factors, I have made the decision that I will not be attending any conferences this year other than those that I attend as part of my role with ClickView. This will save me being away even more, save us a significant amount of money - conferences are not cheap but then you have to factor in flights, accommodation, and food - and also it reduces the amount of annual leave I have to take. A two day conference would require me to take two or three days of annual leave depending on where it is, maybe even four days. With ClickView having a Christmas shutdown period, I need to ensure that I have sufficient leave to take over the summer without getting caught short.
There were a number of conferences that I was looking at this year. The On Butterfly Wings group is planning a conference in Sydney which looks to be excellent and will be focusing on mindfulness for teachers (register here), and I was very much looking forward to the new format for FlipConAus, which is being held in Melbourne this year at Monash University (info and register here).
Ultimately though, I have to make the best decision for my family and Ms One is so much fun right to be with right now (other than teething). I do not want to look back in years to come and decide that I regret taking time to go to conferences but ultimately missed out on time with my family. For this year at least, I will only be attending conferences that are part of my role with ClickView and not attending any others.
"We believe that the industrial age model of purely passive learning is a disservice to students, the profession, and the community"
- Flipped Learning Global Manifesto. Retrieved from http://flglobal.org/the-manifesto/ on 3 October 2017
Anyone who has spoken to me about education in the last few years has likely heard me mention flipped learning. It has become an entrenched part of my pedagogical belief and also my education philosophy. I have written about flipped learning at length, presented at whole-staff and inter-school professional development sessions, presented at EduTech, and late last term I ran the first of (hopefully) many flipped learning boot camps.
On Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October I will be joining thirty-four of my flipped learning colleagues in presenting at FlipConAus 2017, sharing my knowledge, experience, and mistakes with those wanting to learn more.
I will be presenting four sessions; A starting point for flipped learning, Flip the lesson, Flip the unit, and Flipped resources made simply as well as joining Jon Bergmann and Matt Burns on the Primary Discussion Panel (see full FlipConAus program here).
There are some amazing educators who have put their hands up to share their time, knowledge, and experience with delegates, and I still find that I learn something every time I attend FlipCon. If you have any interest in flipped learning, even if you're just curious, register here and join myself and thirty-four other (far more brilliant) educators as we share our knowlegde, experience and passion.
I hope to see you at FlipConAus, hosted by the amazing educators at Inaburra School, Sydney, in a few weeks time.
"What is the most valuable use of your face-to-face time with your students?"
- Jon Bergmann
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the organisers.
In 2014 whilst on my final professional experience placement as part of my initial teacher education, my supervising teacher was exploring flipped learning. We had a chat about his understanding of what it was, how it worked, and how he was modifying things to suit his class. That particular class was a combined Year Five and Six class and he was using what I now know is in-flipping. The experience was enough to whet my appetite and so when I saw that Jon Bergmann was running a masterclass on flipped learning as part of the FutureSchools conference the following year (read my review of that masterclass here), I registered and began my journey down the flipped learning rabbit hole.
As my regular readers would be aware, I am now employed with ClickView, whose core business plays neatly into flipped learning. As part of their sponsorship package woth EduTECH this year, they were able to run three thirty-minute breakout sessions, and asked me to run them on flipped learning. It would have been very easy to talk for thirty minutes about flipped learning from a ClickView perspective, however, as a teacher I know how annoyed I have been to have been given a sales pitch in the breakout session. It would also have been incredibly simple to spend the thirty minutes explaining what flipped learning is and why it is so useful as a paradigm for education. Again, as a teacher I would have been annoyed to have been given a presentation in a breakout session which had nothing I could take away and put into practice and so I decided to flip the breakout session, recording the below pre-learning video.
The above video is a very brief introduction to the why and what of flipped learning, however, there is enough in there to give anyone watching it a basic understanding. This meant that in the breakout session, Josh Aghion and I could spend the entirety of the session focused on the how of flipped learning. The reason I wanted to do that is that I wanted the audience to have an understanding that flipped learning can be easy, can be cheap to implement both financially and in regards to time, and that there are plenty of resources to support their learning as they develop their flipped classroom skills.
During each of the breakout sessions, I spoke about the general workflow of flipping your classroom. As part of this component, Josh actually provided two live demonstrations of creating flipped content. One was done using some screencapture software called Camtasia (my preferred tool) and we spoke about Screencastomatic as a free alternative. Josh recorded a short demonstration clip (less than two minutes long) from a slide deck we had prepared on adding with decimals which would then be able to be used immediately in class. The other live demonstration that we did was recording something using a smartphone or tablet whilst writing on a whiteboard or similar. Again, this video was less than two minutes long, but still got the key learning objective across and was very easy to do. We also showed some prerecorded videos showing other options for developing flipped learning video content; a video by Matt Burns using a document camera, a video using a forwardboard by Heather Davis, and a video recording of physical action by InnovativeTraining4All that I have actually used the last two years to teach students how to play (modified) Tic Tac Toe.
I was incredibly nervous leading up to the first breakout session as I knew that it was scheduled to be a packed house and it was an unfamiliar environment to present in. There was also the (self) added pressure of there being people in the room that I knew. That said, I feel like each of the sessions went well. The live demonstrations went off without a hitch, I did not get too caught up and stumble over my words, the slide deck was all in the correct order, and we finished the presentation with about approximately ten minutes to spare. There were a few questions proffered by audeince members in each session, however, people were able to leave with about five minutes to go before the scheduled end of the session which I think was a nice change from many sessions where you are busy checking your watching and internally wishing the presenter would hurry up. A number of people came up to myself or Josh after each session to ask specific questions and as we had finished early we were able to spend the time with them answering those questions.
I realised when I returned to my hotel room that night that I had forgotten to talk about one important potential use for flipped learning and that is for our own professional development. I made a short comment about it over Periscope that night. I also realised, after I was asked about flipping in infants classes on Twitter that afternoon that I had completely forgotten to speak about in flip vs out flip and so made a slightly longer comment over Periscope on the weekend about flipping in an infants class.
I was chuffed to hear that after each breakout session there was a mini influx to the ClickVIew stand of people wanting to know more about the Forwardboard. The plans for my forwardboard, the one on the ClickVIew stand, are freely available here and includes a list of materials and costings, a time lapse video of the construction process, and step by step instructions. As I mentioned in the sessions, mine cost me $315 in materials and about three hours of labour to make. A second set of hands is helpful or needed at a few points, but it is a fairly easy process and would potentially make a good project for a senior TAS class. You can see an example here of what a video looks like as raw footage and as finalised footage here.
It was also exciting to see and hear the impact of the presentation. James Gray tweeted that he had gone home and made his first flipped video and another came to ask me some questions and had her daughter (currently in Year Six) who wanted to know how she could convince her teacher to use flipped learning. We are in the process of organising an interview as I want to hear more from mother and child about their perspectives on flipped learning.
I personally feel like the breakout sessions were a success. The feedback has been largely positive (though if you do have constructive feedback, please let me know), and the conversations on Twitter that I have had as a result have also been positive with people wanting to know more.
If you do want to learn more abuot flipped learning, I have restructured my Starting with Fipped Learning page to be more user-friendly with distinct sections. It has a range of other resources that you will find useful, including review articles from FlipCon 2016 and 2015. I am also in the process of planning more videos on the how side of flipped learning. Additionally, if you have not done so I highly encourage you to undertake the Flipped Learning Certification as it is a very comprehensive prorgam that covers all areas of flipped learning.
Josh and myself are planning to run a day during the holidays for teachers to book a half-hour timeslot to visit the ClickView office and record some content using the forward board. THe date we have set aside is Thursday 13 July and will initially be offered to those who registered for the breakout sessions and they will be contacted once we have details finalised; though it will of course be first in best dressed.
If you are not from Sydney and therefore unable to make it for that day, we are looking at doing something similar in Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as developing some Flipped Learning Masterclass sessions that we can offer. Stay tuned as we will let you know through various channels when those details are finalised.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any of the articles in this EduTECH 2017 series, you can find the complete list here.
"Why have a computer lab? You wouldn't put the pencils and paper in their own room."
- A teaching colleague
Greg Whitby was next on my dance card, speaking about schooling in a 1:1 world in what promised to be an interesting presentation. As someone who follows Greg on Twitter and has interacted with him on occasion, I have found him to be honest and forthright vis-a-vis his opinions. Never in my experience to the point of being rude or disrespectful, but you know exactly where he stands. 1:1 as an approach to education is a topic of much interest and in which many schools have invested significant financial resources into rolling out, however, sometimes forgetting to put appropriate investment into infrastructure, teacher professional development, or into the students around ensuring they understand how to get the most out of the technology.
1:1 schooling is still a contentious issue as was seen in March 2016 when then Headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, Dr. John Vallance, was quoted in this article that technology in the classroom is nothing but a distraction. Whilst I disagree with that sentiment, I completely agree with him that I personally would invest in staff before technology, however, I believe that to discount technology as a legitimate pedagogical tool en masse is a mistake. What I can agree with is that it can be a distraction and a money pit; if the appropriate investments in staff pedagogy are not made. However, I digress.
Greg began by reminding us that the pace of change in technology is so rapid that as a society we cannot possibly keep up with everything, especially when we take into account that there are self-learning algorithms in play and that Microsoft recently shut down Tay, its AI driven supercomputer. Referring to the current trend of getting coding into as many schools as possible, Greg asked why we need our students to learn to code when the algorithm can do its own coding. There are a lot of obvious responses to the literal question, however, I suspect that Greg was driving at something deeper, questioning the wide-sweeping move towards embedding coding into the curriculum, however authentically that is or is not being done. It is a critique I can understand and share, I am not sold on the need for coding to be embedded into the curriculum. What is being taught that cannot be taught in a different way that does not result in more being added to the workload of teachers?
Greg moved on remark that he would be happy with glacial movement in the design and development of curriculum in NSW. This would mean there is at least some movement as opposed to no movement. I found this interesting. I have no experience with the process of writing a curriculum document, either now or at any point in the past, however, from what I have gleaned from staffroom stories across different schools is that the process is the same but the focus in the new curriculum is simply a little bit different according to the flavour of the decade.
This frustration seems to come back to the supposedly new skills often referred to as twenty-firsty century skills, in particular, (critical) thinking. SInce when, Greg argued, has thinking been a soft skill? I have written about the oddity of twenty-first century skills. With regards to thinking skills, the argument was made across social media that many students (and adults, for that matter) detest actually needing to think for themselves, at least if you ask teachers; whilst they are also used to the game of school wherein they are often drip-fed the information and answers they need to pass the test or exam at the end of the unit.
Greg's fire and passion for the topic was coming through loud and clear as he exhorted the audience to let go and be learners ourselves. Part of this continual learning is about being flexible to each day as we school pedagogical and timetabling structures change to meet the needs of society. There are now many teachers who do not know what their timetable looks like each day until they arrive as it is dependent uopn what their students want or need to learn. THis was exemplified in a video of Rusty from High Tech High. Rusty said that his focus is on asking students what they need to learn in order to achieve the big objective and to act as their guide and mentor as much as their teacher.
Good learning, Greg continued, has always involved STEM subjects integrated together. STEM is another area that I find puzzling. I do not deny that STEM, as individual subject areas are important, by howver, I do question why those subject areas? Why not The Arts, oratory/rhetoric, or philosophy? One of the lessons of my own education that stands out to me was from Year Six with Mr Hawkins (long since retired I suspect). We read The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch by Ronda Armitage and one of the tasks that we needed to complete was to devise a way to get the Lighthouse Keeper's lunch to him without the seagulls getting into it.
This would be considered a STEM project, however, it was just a way of combining a range of subject areas into one unit for effective teaching. We learned about angles, the hypotenuse, design principles, how to use hot glue guns and balsa wood, addition and subtraction with decimals, some basics of thermodynamics (what if it was a hot lunch and what about his coffee?), some introductory physics relating to gravity, mass, and momentum and that is simply off the top of my head (I think there was also some sort of creative writing task as well, however, cannot recall details about that part). That single unit stands out in my memory as fun, challenging, rewarding, and a highly effective use of teaching time from a single stimulus. It highlights Greg's point that an experiential learning framework can be part of the larger picture, especially when driven by an inquiry cycle.
Greg changed tack now, remarking that he no longer talks about improving schools. That conversation has been going on for over a hundred years and arguably has made no impact; they look the same, the pedagogy is often the same, much of the content is the same. The issue around schools is not that we need to improve them but that we need to transform them; and to this end STEM is merely a lens to look through, not the sole thing that we should be doing as STEM is driven by the business model, they are skills that business need. However, the business-driven model has not worked thus far for education and I trust that we all know the saying relating insanity and repetition.
There is no silver bullet or panacea in education as it is far to complex and varied and so we need, as teachers, to be able to adapt to what the demand is. There is change happening in many schools, however, as Lisa Rodgers remarked at FutureSchools this year there are pockets of excellence but the distribution is uneven.
This need to grow and adapt should be driven by the lead learner, which I saw from another congress should always be the Principal. As part of their leadership they should be modelling what Greg refers to as the three Rs, however, rather than reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, it should be radical, relentless, and resilient. This should be Principals empowering teachers to truly transform their classrooms. Simply putting new technology into old classrooms merely results in old classes with expensive technology and no transformation unless there has been pedagogicla development. This need for transformation is the radial urgency of the now according to Greg.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any articles in my EduTECH 2017 series, you can find them all on this page.
"I'm yet to have a student tell me they can't use technology in class because they haven't had professional development on it."
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the organisers.
I was particularly looking forward to this presentation from Kim Maksimovic (@Kmakly). The discussion of I'm not good at tech is one that I hear from both teachers and from students. This issue of self-efficacy around the use of technology is a significant one for both students and teachers given the dependence in so many areasfor technology in our school and general society. The term digital native is one that comes up a lot and it has entered common parlance in society, yet there are a lot of issues with the binary interpretation of digital nativness (such as here and here).
Kim began by outlining the historical context of Pymble Ladies College (PLC) and that the school began their Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) around twenty years ago. PLC has a long history of having an IT Integrator role on staff, whose purpose is to keep up to tdate with new technology and an understand of its use in pedagogical practice. This then allows them to be able to work with teachers, helping them understand how they can achieve their goals in flass through appropraite and authentic use of technology. It is a critical role and one that I am seeing more and more of across the state.
Kim next introduced us to Annie, a Year Twelve student who identified as having low self-efficacy with technology yet identified a need and founded the school's Entrepreneur society to promote links between current and former students along with Alumni. This is an incredibly powerful connection yet one that I really one see occurring in private schools. I would love to hear from anyone who has some thoughts on why that is. Is there some sort of cultural difference that creates the environment in which old boys / old girls networks are formed and maintained in private school schools but not state schools? Is it financial? Is it purely tradition? I would be very interested in people's thoughts on this area. But I am getting off point.
Students are often consumers of digital media and we need to encourage them to refocus their use of technology to productive learning and creation of content. On the back of this, Kim posed a question to the audience; what does it mean to be good at technology? This is an interesting question and I wonder how different our responses to that question would be. The question is complicated by a range of actors identified by Chris Sacco in this tweet. To that end, I have set up an open Google Form asking that question and have included it below.
As part of the Entreprenuer Society, a group of students attended the Amazon Web Summit and one stuent was quoted as saying that "...as someone who had little interest in the tech industry, I found it absolutely amazing to be able to participate in this experience. For another student it highlighted the stark gender inequality in the tech industry and that they "...feel empowered to explore [technology and its endless potentials] in order to create a movement of advancement for the future" (quotes here).
These comments highlight that just because our students now have been born in a time where technology use is ubiquitous and embedded in many ways into the fabric of our society, this does not mean that they are digital natives. While they absolutely are if we are referring to the time in which they are born, this is rarely the context in which the term is used. Having smart phone in your hand regularly from an early age is not indiative of being able to utilise that device (or other digital technology) either effectively or appropiately. I also feel it is worth noting that not being a supposed digital native is also not indicative of a lack of self-efficacy with technology. Many teachers using technology brilliantly and trying new things are from Generation X and many teachers who are not comfortable with tehnology are from Generation Y.
One strategy to support those who self-identify as having low self-efficacy with technology is to leverage the help of those who profess to high self-efficacy; a structure of students as experts. I have seen structures in schools wherein the technical support is provided by a student body, tech ninjas, and their services are bookable. There are lots of ways of managing this kind of structure depending on the school context.
Part of being a teacher, Kim commented, is about being a learner first. We need to acknowledge what we know, however, we also need to acknowledge what we do not know and seek assistance in filling those gaps, including technologically. I'm not good at IT is, in my opinion, a cop out excuse these days. When there are so many tutorial videos freely available on so many aspects of using technology I cannot see a valid excuse for not engaging (except perhaps for retiring in the next twelve months). Kim then quoted Michael Fullan who remarked that pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator. For me, this means selecting technology based upon what we need or want to achieve pedagogically rather than choosing the lesson based on the shiny new tool, as Paul Hamilton shared form his experiences here.
Another strategy for helping students to utilise technology effectively and appropraitely is to work with them to explore, build and maintain their own networks. One way that we can help our students with this is to build up inter-school networks and events such makerfaires, coding clubs, or any number of other similar groups.
Kim's presentation was interesting. I enjoyed hearing from someone who had some suggestions for working with students who self-identify as having low self-efficacy with technology and had some strategies to support those students. If you work in an IT Integrator/eLearning role and can add to this conversation, feel free to add your suggestions in the comments or let me know over Twitter.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any of the articles in the EduTECH 2017 series, you can find them here.
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was due to a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
The morning tea break followed the plenary session and then it was off to the Higher Ed Leaders conference to hear Jack Hylands talking about preparing students for the economies of the future. It was a small group in this congress, however, Jack began by giving the small group the good news about statistics on the Australian Higher Education sector.
I find these stats rather interesting as they are in contrast to the often negative message we receive about Australian education in the media as a whole. Jack continued on by telling us that there is so much focus on the payment side of higher education that it distracts from other areas and that the deregulation of universities has resulted in increasing enrolment numbers year on year across a significant number of degree courses. This may sound like it is a good thing, however, the result of ongoing enrolment increases has been a lack of focus on the need to continue innovating and developing the courses and the devlivery of courses.
This is an interesting point. I have written before about my own initial teacher education and much of it (and I suspect the vast majority of degrees in most universities around the country) are delivered through a combination of lectures and workshops, with the workshops being a mixture of lecture-drive theory and actual hands-on workshop (the ration depending on the actual course/topic/tutor). There are so many degrees that do not need a lecture, wherein the main concept that needs to be learned in that lecture can be distilled into a few sentences without all of the fluff that is added in to fill out the hour long timeslot. This lack of focus on continuously innovating and improving courses needs to change.
Jack then commented that graduate unemployment is at its highest preak since the recession in the early 1990s. I personally believe this is a major problem and is the result of the removal of placement caps within university courses. As long as Commonwealth funding continues to come through for each student who enrols, then why would there be a need to cap place numbers in courses? This focus on money has resulted in a glut of teachers (except within particular subject areas and in particular geographical locations), pharmacists (my wife's professional background and in a similar situation as teaching with regard to the number of underemployed and unemployed professionals), and lawyers to name just a few. Universities continue to produce high numbers of graduates in industries and professions whom they will struggle to find full-time work.
I went looking for data to support the above and was unable to find anything (in a quick search) to support either my belief or Jack's statistics. What I did find was the Graduate Careers Australia GradStats report from December 2015 which remarked that "...figures do indicate that the longer-term prospects for those with higher education qualifications remain very positive" (p.5). This is in contrast to this article on the ABC News website which cited research by the National Institute of Labour Studies indicating that the proportion of new graduates in full time employment dropped from 56.4% to 41.7% between 2008 to 2014. Jack remarked that market-based mechanics has not worked for higher education and I would add to that that is has not worked for primary or secondary education either.
When the goal of so many stakeholders in society is go to uni and that is the measure of success, with so many employment positions requiring a degree (irrespective of the ability to actually do the job) there are two flow-on effects. Firstly, TAFE and the Trades are devalued, with massive funding cuts to TAFE over the last decade and falling numbers of trades and apprenticeships in the same time period, do not see an argument otherwise. Secondly, to stand out, you need to have a better degree. A Bachelor's degree used to indicate that you were a cut above, that you were driven, focused, able to articulate yourself well in both written and spoken forms. Now, it seems that everyone has a Bachelor degree and to stand out you need to have a Masters, if not a PhD.
The domesetic funding model that drives this increasing funding model is not sustainable over the long term in its current incarnation, yet the Australian government wants to continue telling our prospective international students that we have the best higher education system in the world. Jack indicated that this is compounded by the fact that there are a number of multi-nationals who have removed the need to hold a particular degree to attai entry-level employmentas the ability to demonstrate competency to do the core task is more important than waving a piece of paper around. I wrote somethign similar in one of my articles about my own initiall teacher education, that my results in the high school finishing exam were not indicative of the kind of tertiary student I would be just as my university results were not indicateive of the kind of teacher I would be. That said, there needs to be a balance.
The other challenge for higher education is that they are no longer necessarily the gatekeepers of knowledge, as has been their role in centuries past. With the proliferation of the inernet and knowledge being freely available as a result, the role of higher education as gatekeepers has passed. To highlight this point, Jack then quoted some statistics from The New Work Mindset published by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) around the changes in our working future.
Jack introduced us to Reggie, citing that Reggie had particular needs around the structure of his learning compared to a regular full-time student. The standardised course which applies to everybody is fine; as long as it can also be personalised on a needs basis to meet the needs of individuals. As an example of this, Jack mentioned the ME310 Design Innovation course at Stanford University.
"Students in ME310 take on real world design challenges brought forth by corporate partners. Unlike many other academic engineering projects, which require students to optimize one variable, students must design a complete system while being mindful of not only the primary function but also the usability, desirability, and societal implications. Throughout one academic year, student teams prototype and test many of their design concepts and in the end create a full proof-of-concept system that demonstrates their ideas. "
This changes the conceptualisation of a university when the focus of the university is not on the traditional lecture and tutorial model of delivery. To further highlight what can be one to reimagine that traditional model, Jack spoke next about MissionU. This university model promotes free tuition for the life of your studies, with 15% garnishing of your salary for a three year period once you are earning over fifty thousand dollars (read more here), which sounds rather similar to our funding model here in Australia. The degrees themselves are focused on high-growth industries and include industry partnerships to foster networking and, presumably, graduate employment.
There is a future, and a potentially bright future for higher education. The challenge is going to be evolving to suit the new needs of emerging skills, economies, and our societal needs.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any in this EduTECH2017 series, you can find the full list here.
"Learning and Wellbeing are inextricably linked."
- Anne Johnston
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Following Brad Loiselle's presentation in the plenary session was a panel discussion about the United Nation's and seventeen sustainable development goals. The panel consisted of Caroline McMillan (Vice-Chancellor, University of Newcastle), Pam Anders (Director of Public Engagement, Oxfam Australia), Dermot O'Gorman (CEO, WWF Australia), Anne Johnstone (Principal, Ravenswood School for Girls) and was chaired by Scott Davidson (Principal, Cabramatta Public School). It had been on the schedule in between Carol Dweck and Brad Loiselle, however, due to the atrocious weather, the flight of one of the panellists was delayed.
The panel was interesting. It very much came across as pre-scripted, however, there was some fire and passion amongst the panellists and some interesting responses. The first question was about the future for students and the discussion on that point appeared to centre around the global context, glocalisation; and the need for students to have dispositions towards continual learning and skills development as the market changes and different industries come and go and the skillsets required change over time. We are teaching students now who wll potentially see the change of the century.
The second question was how do we optimise quality education for all students. Given the context of the panel focus I took this to mean all students globally rather than just all students in Australia, and Anne Johnston's quote at the top of the article came in at this point. The task of optimising quality education for students from such disparate learning contexts as suburban Mumbai to rural China, the Pacific Islands, Europe, and of course Australia is an incredibly challenging one. We are unable to find consensus on what good education looks like and how it should be measured in Australia, I can only wonder at how that consensus would be achieved internationally.
It was noted that there are eight men in the world who own the equivalent wealth of fifty percent of the poorest of the global population, an astounding yet also unsurprising statistic. In Australia alone there is a gender-based wage gap of sixteen percent, exacerbated by the (uncited) fact that one percent of Australia's wealthiest own the wealth equivalent of seventy percent of our country's poorest.
I then heard a comment that I have not heard before, nothing about us without us. Apparently that is rather surprising. Once I Googled it to find out what it meant I realised that I had heard the sentiment before, just not expressed in that way. It was an interesting comment on the back of the Youth Brains Trust that Jane Burns spoke about in her masterclass the previous day; and one which makes a lot of sense. Pam pointed out that we need to try to avoid being the victims of change, that we need to embrace it early and in doing so guide the change positively.
The remark that talent is everywhere whilst opportunity is not struck me as interesting as that is almost the opposite of what we tell our students. There are plenty of opportunities out there, you just need to have the drive and work ethic to see them and take advantage of them is a message I have heard many times in many different parts of education. It seems an interesting juxtaposition that on one hand we try to encourage our students by telling them there are lots of opportunities and that hard work and effort are all that is needed whilst also saying that there is lots of talent but no opportunities. I suppose then it coems down to what is beign defined as an opportunity and an opportunity for what, exactly.
Sally-Ann Williams commented on twitter that Pathways programs are doing a lot of good in resolving the issue of there supposedly being a lack of opportunities. The follow up to the opportunity remark is that talent (and hard work!) should be overcome any background problems if there is equitable education access, which is, I think , the heart of the UN's goal for equitable access to a quality education for all students rrespective of their geographic or socio-economic location, which is a link back to Brad Loiselle's talk and overcoming a disadvantaged background.
This is, I believe where technology can play a role and where glocalisation can be a positive influence through the scalability of technological communication and the ability to influence change as has been seen through the development of the Earth Hour movement, the Arab Spring a few years ago and the I'll ride with you social help that came on the back of a Lindt Cafe terrorist attack to support Muslims afraid of the social backlash.
We as educators need to set our students up with the skills, knowledge and disposition to tackle social justice and inequality issues to change our world. As Kirschty Birt commented on Twitter, it is dfficult for one person to make a difference, but people connected by technology can change the world.
The panel session ended with a modified Trumpism; let's make the planet great again, and then it was time for the morning break. The panel session was interesting, but not an event that had a place in a keynote plenary, in my opinion. It would have been better suited to the individual sessions, where the audience could perhaps have been involved with some question and answer time, interrogation of responses and the research to back the statistics being mentioned.
Thank you for reading this. If you have missed any articles in the EduTECH 2017 series, you can find them here.
"My life is my message."
- Brad Loiselle
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was due to a media pass provided by the event organisers.
I had never heard of Brad Loiselle or BetterU before this presentation and the first impression was not a positive one for me. It started with something that was partially out of Brad's control; the volume on the introductory video was far too loud, almost painfully so. Brad had no control over that. What he did have control over, one would presume; given that he is the CEO and Co-Founder of the company, is whether or not to use the video in the first place. For me it was a poor choice and created a sense of distrust and cynicism immediately as it came across as unnecessarily self-aggrandizing. That the first comment Brad made was the video is not me, it is the PR amplified this.
For me it positioned him either as someone who had no control over his presentation content or as someone who is falsely self-deprecating. I realise this is rather a harsh stance to take so early in the presentation, however the introductory video and his opening sentences came across as highly discordant. I am certainly open to a dialogue with Brad if he happens to read this about the choice to use the video and the rock star-esque introduction and what he was trying to get across with that. The end result was that I switched off
Brad began by talking about his youth, growing up poor, failing at school, and leaving home at the age of sixteen is all part of his story. Over the years he came to realise that ambition and drive can get you anywhere in life, but that the quality of the stuff we build is not an indication of the kind of person we; it is the impact on other peoples lives that we are judged by. This sounds remarkably similar to a line uttered by the character Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where the author, J.K Rowling, writes If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. Quote Investigator found a number of historical citations for quotes of a similar nature, so the sentiment has long been around.
I was struggling to connect with Brad, purely due to the intro movie and the sense tht it created, for me, about him. His actual story, however, I found interesting. His life motto, my life is my message was taken onboard by a number of people on Twitter in different ways. Marco Cimino, for example, remarked here that that is an argument for a portfolio of learning rather than a series of final exams. Further to that, Brad was adamant that an idea can change the world and that education is central to that. There is no shortage of quotes and articles espousing this belief, that education is the key to getting ahead in life and I even believe it, but at the same time, does the type of education matter? I am not referring to old and tired public versus private school debate, but to the type of higher education you receive. Blue collarworkers are often earning far better money than white collar workers as shown in this news article. Jan Owen has commented in her presentation at FutureSchools this year that her local barista is fantastic, but hold two degrees and is completing a Masters at the moment. That is lots of debt to be making coffee.
Brad commented that online learning equalises education and that India has over one billion devices. The two carry as much causal correlation as the dvorce rate in Maine, USA, does with the per capita consumption of margarine (which is apparently r=0.992558). I would argue against the comment that online learning equalises education due to the lack of equity of access. Having a device does not mean that you have access to the internet necessarily. I have taught students who have a smartphone but it only has free text messages on it and they do not have any internet at home; the smartphone is a safety/communication tool between child and parent.
What we heard about next was some nice quotes and some marketing about what Brad's company, BetterU have done and are doing for education in India. I am not sure what has changed in the last eighteen months, however, I have noticed that I have become very cynical about marketing pieces at conferences and events. My experience with The Playground (the vendor) exhibition at Education Nation last year is the first instance that I can identify where I was genuinely angry at the blatant cold, hard sell, though my first experience with a breakout session at FutureSchools a few years ago also left me rather underwhelmed and frustrated.
I think that one of the aspects of this particular presentation which annoyed me so much is that this was supposed to be a keynote presentation. It was not. It was a marketing presentation which does not have a place in a keynote session. By all means, acknowledge the sponsors, as the Chair did, but do not give them a keynote slot. There were some presentations that were far better suited to the position of keynote. Abdul Chohan, Phillip Heath, and Lee Crockett would all have been fantastic keynote presentations.
Brad's story was interesting and his message, once you stripped out the marketing, that your life is your message is a good one. His story about overcoming a disadvantaged background is inspiring and I wonder how it would be received by students in senior high school who feel like they are destiend for dead end lives. The blatant and unapologetic marketing and self-aggrandisement was, for me, a massive turn off. If hey had given that talk at the Gala Dinner, without the promotional video at the start, that would have been fitting, given that BetterU sponsored the gala dinner and I would have perhaps been more open to what he was saying. It was a disappointing keynote and whilst I know that I am not th eonly one who feels that way, I acknowledge that there are those who found it very inspiring.
Thank you for reading if you stuck with it to the end. If you have missed any articles in this series for EduTECH 2017, you can find the other articles and the Storify's here.
"Mindsets are not all or nothing. They are not fixed, but they can be deveoped."
- Carol Dweck
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was due to a media pass provided by the event organisers
Day one of the EduTECH 2017 conference dawned grey and wet. It was not conducive to bouncing out of bed with vim and vigour. I had stayed in Sydney overnight and I headed off to ClickView HQ as I was scheduled to present a webinar with Ryan Gill about Cultures of Thinking. I have had the benefit of hearing Ryan present on Cultures of Thinking a few times now, and this webinar was just a taster of the overall concept of Cultures of Thinking, but the feedback that I have been receiving from those who watched it live and also the recording afterwards has been overwhelmingly positive. Ryan definitely excited people for the potential of cultures of thinking as a framework for encouraging thinking moves in our students. You can watch the session below.
I ended up being late to EduTECH as a result of the webinar and missed the first ten or so minutes of CarolDweck's talk. I have not heard her speak before and I have never invested the time to dive deep into the theory of growth mindset and I acknowledge that my understanding is fairly basic and superficial. Considering the topic, I would have expected a passionate talk, however, it came across to me as rather rote. Maybe it is because I have not presented anywhere near the number of times that Carol has, but I still get excited to share with people. While I was incredibly nervous leading up to the breakout sessions later in the afternoon, I was excited for them as well as it was a chance to share my little area of knowledge with people.
One of the questions that Carol asked early on in her presentation (I am only aware of this thanks to Twitter) was where did the joy of learning and tackling challenges go? I struggle with this; and perhaps it is because I do not fully comprehend the concept of growth mindset. We all, at times, get excited to be learning about something and to be challenged in an area of interest to us or in a completely new field of learning. At the same time, we all, at times, hate being challenged and having our understanding shown to be lacking; we just want to get on with whatever it is we are doing knowing that we know enough and have a solid enough understanding. I think the joy of learning and tackling challenges is still present, however, as witha great many things in life it is contextual.
Carol Dweck indicated that mindsets are dynamic, not fixed. From my limited understanding of Growth Mindset that is clearly an inherently fundamental concept that is implied in the very name and making this a statement of the obvious. Perhaps there was a method to it, however, as Carol also gave some background to growth mindset origins, speaking about the origins of the IQ test, originally developed by Alfred Binet (though modified andupdated many times since). I have admit that I missed the context here, but she remarked that Binet very much had a growth mindset and would be horrified at the way in which they were being used now. I am not sure about this; based upon a quick Google search (yes, I am well aware of the pitfalls of such a thing), it appears that the original purpose of the Binet-Simon IQ Test was to assist in identifying intellectually challenged children in France after mandatory education for children was made law in the late nineteenth century (per this article).
Carol moved on to emark that mindset is not just individual, that it can be cultural and organisational as well, affecting the trajectory of a country or company as much as it affects the life of an individual. Further to this, she remarked tht growth mindset is about empowerment and that from this, we take risks and enjoy learning. I can certainly understand and agree with the sentiment relating empowerment and a willingness to take risks. I am less comfortable, however, in recognising empoewrment as linking to an enjoyment of learning. Perhaps I am highlighting my own ignorance here and I have completely misunderstood growth mindset, as well as missing the first five to ten minutes of Carol's talk, however, I do not understand how on the one hand it can be said that the love of taking risks and enjoying challenges has disappeared, whilst linking empowerment and enjoyment of learning on the other. I just cannot understand the correlatory link.
The next phase of Carol's talk was interesting as it was about the brain activity related to different mindsets based upon work by Moser et al in 2011. What they found, or my understanding of what they found is that after connecting participants to an EEG machine to monitor brain activity and found that the mindset of participants, fixed or growth, was identifiable in brainwave activity as they completed the tasks, which Carol demonstrated using the below image.
Those with a fixed mindset apparently have less brain activity than those with growth mindset. I have to admit to not having read the Moser et al research and so I daresay that these questions are answered in the nethodology section of the paper, however, was the activity interest-neutral? What inherent biases were present in the activity? What was the size and makeup of the research population? What was the control? What statistical analysis processes were used and why those processes?
It was then remarked that there is a rise in the number of false- growth mindsets; that saying you are optimistic or perservering is not true growth mindset. This then led to an acknowledgement that we are all a mixture of fixed and growth midnsets, that mindset is fluid and dynamic not static. How does this relate to the nature of bottom-up and top-down thinking whick Jared Cooney Horvath (@JCHorvath) spoke about during his sesison later at EduTECH (and which I will review in a later article)? The impression that I have always had is that we shoud aim to be growth mindset all the time, however, Carol's comment that we are a dynamic mixture of fixed and growth mindset seems contradictory to that and, to be honest, leaves me rather confused about the whole concept.
The final aspect of growth mindset that was discussed was the issue of transfer; the notion tht teachers who have growth mindsets are not necessarily transferring this to students. Hang on, are children not some of the most inquisitive and open to learning people we know? The sponge-like, naturally inquisitive nature of children is well-known to anyone who has had a child; my nine-month old daughter is currently exploring the house, crawling from room to room, touching everything, looking in the mirror and trying to work out what that other baby is doing copying her, hitting the floor drain in the bathroom repeatedly to produce that delightful dull whump sound...and putting a great number of things in her mouth. My own experience thus far as a teacher had shown that even the most disinterested child will ask questions about something new or novel.
I wonder instead if it the nature of schooling that drills this inquisitiveness out of students, giving us students who often just want to know what the answer is or how to produce the essay correctly; they adapt to the game of school, showing a growth mindset in that adaptability, but then transition to fixed when they struggle to adapt to an unexpected change in pedagogy, such as the abolishment of grades or a move to flipped learning, or the introduction of project based learning. Or do I completely have the wrong end of the stick?
Another tenet of growth mindset is that we should not just be praising the effort or the result, but the process that leads to the result; identify their process and effective effort, not just praise effort for the sake of praising effort. This is a topic that Brian Host wrote about during the week with an article titled The Future of Education. This is a sound and beneficial pedagogical practice anyway, irrespective of growth midnset as a concept.
As part of this process, Carol recommended sharing the struggle together through opening our staff meetings with what we struggle with and normalising the struggles. I like and loathe this concept at the same time. Depending on the school culture, it could be an incredibly beneficial process, sharing struggles, strategies for addressing those struggles etc. This could turn into a professional learning process within the school, with staff banding together in common struggles of practice to benefit their own practice and the students in our classes. It could also create an incredibly tocix culture of complaint without direction or action to resolve.
The concept of not yet came up next, which is an interesting way of thinking about our students learning, conceptualising it more in line with competencies similarly to the way that VET courses are assessed. This is an interesting link to the comment that the way in which teachers and parents treat and talk about mistakes and failure plays a significant role in the way that students conceptualise and achieve a growth mindset.
The comment that stood out from this section of the talk was that you can wall with ice-cream or get back to work. This is an interesting remark in that it implies that you can't wallow with ice-cream and get on with work. I think the comment that a number of people on social media to that sounding analgous to the FAIL=First Attempt in Learning adage. I am aware that that saying is a little contrived, however, it does feed into growth mindset and is a good approach to teaching and learning.
That was the end of Carol's presentation and I have to admit to feeling underwhelmed. I have sat down for presentations before on topics tht I am not sold on the value of, and have been open to having my opinion changed. This was one of those topics, however, I did not on this occasion come away with my mind changed on the topic; I am still not sold on growth mindset. Carol's talk was interesting, however, there was nothing there for me that was an a-ha moment. I am certianly open to feedback on this topic as I was late to the presentation and my grasp is still not strong on the theory.
Thank you for reading this article in the EduTECH 2017 series. If you have missed any of the previous articles in the series, including the storify, you can find them here.
"Apps now let us manage mental health and the gives clinicians tools to help individuals"
- Jane Burns
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was througha media pass provided by the organisers.
The afternoon session of a conference can often be a challenge, as the combinatin of lunch, sitting down, and a warm room can be quite soporific. I was ok with the first part of the session, as it was active and in our table groups, were workign on developing our toolbox of tools and strategies for helping students with mental health challenges. My table spent some time talking about the framework around which we were going to base the toolbox and decided upon the Flourish model used by Geelong Grammar School which is itself an adaptation of the PERMA model. We went through our notes from the day and added different tools into relevant sections of the framework that we had mapped out until we had a number of options within each component.
After this activity, the discussion moved to Participatory Design and the research that underpins it in the mental health space. Jane spoke about her work with Young and Well and spoke abuot the process they went through in setting up a Youth Brains Trust. Each year for five years they recruited five young people from a diverse background of gender, age, heritage, and other considerations; young people who would not ordinarily be considered bright and shiny students to contribute to discussions on mental health. As part of that process, the Youth Brains Trust identified and recommended that a separte First Nations Youth Council be set up to advise on the same from an Indigenous peoples perspective.
The participatory design process is long, however, is seems as if it would be a fantastic tool to gain consensus across multiple stakeholder groups and individuals through an iterative process of discussion, questioning and agreement over the goal and purpose before talking about the specific processes and strategies.
The conversation again turned to apps and we looked at the MARS App Rating Scale which was developed by the Queensland University of Technology in conjunction with Young and Well. It was an interesting process as we were asked to go through and rate an app using the MARS process. Many people simply went through and rated the Facebook app or YouTube and they scored highly throughout the various categories. I rated an app that I use everynight, called Sleep Cycle which analyses your sleep patterns based on either the accelerometer or the microhphone (depending which setting you choose) to recognise your sleep cycle. I have been using it for about four years now yet it did not rate highly. So there are some flaws it would appear. That process and discussion of the apps that different people rated and how they fared took us through tot he afternoon break.
The final session of the day was where I really started to struggle with focus. We were looking at Project Synergy and the discussion was around the impending explosion in the need for digital mental health solutions in an increasingly digital society. There are, as we discussed in the previous session, a range of digital solutions currently available that are valuable tools for clinicians to recommend to clients to assist in managing mental health concerns.
Jane then spoke about the Review of Mental Health Services report which was published in December 2014. Jane spoke about how that report helped drive community partnerships between service providers, local communities, Government bodies and medical practitioners.
The final component of the day was analysing a website from a user perspective to give feedback on what could be improved, what design elements might cause issues for different users (i.e. students, compared to teachers compared to different aged or cultural backgrounds) and how the site could be modified to personalise it. The conversation was around how personalised it could be without logging in and whether different groups would want to identify themselves and share their information by logging in. It is these sorts of services and online chat services that have changed the landscape of digital health and the conversation for the remainder of the session focused on that.
That was the end of the masterclass day. For me, Jane's masterclass was the most important masterclass on offer (though of course that is personal perspective) and it was a very interesting and also a useful and practical session. I now feel better equipped to suport students with mental health issues, I still do not feel properly equipped, just better equipped.
That is the end of the Masterclass day review series. I still have reviews for the conference itself to write and will continue to post those over the coming days. If you have missed any of the storify's or articles from this EduTECH 2017 series, you can find those here. Don't forget that if you or a loved on need support there are lots of options such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, Black Dog Institute, Mind Blank, and Headspace, among many others. This is an important conversation that we need to have as a society. Engage in the online conversation through twitter, Jane is @JaneBurns and there are a range of hashtags on Twitter such as #mentalhealth, #mentalhealthawareness and many others.
"Youth experimenting with new things as a behavioural pattern has not changed since the 1960s. What they are experimenting with is the thing that has changed."
- Jane Burns
My attendance at EduTECH 2017 is through a media pass provided by the organisers.
After the morning break, we resumed our conversation around mental health and wellbeing, chatting about the societal from non-technology driven to highly technology-driven, with lives now revolving around social calendars managed on FaceBook ro Google, and the need to respond to social media immediately, the keyboard warrior attitude, and the proliferation of misinformation and poor research by the ability to very simply share it. There is potential for incredible levels of support for those who need it but do not have easy access to it for one reason or another, however, there is also the potential for increased levels of bullying; because rather than simply ocurring in the playground or on the bus to and from school it can continue all day and through the night due to social media access.
That is not the only downside to the technology-driven society. Increased access to technology has resulted in poor sleep hygiene, with young people going to bed later, and sleeping poorly as a result of having their phone in their hand or under the pillow. It is setting up an addiction that is affecting our students and changing the way they get their dopamine highs. When stressed, rather than turning to alcohol, there are those who now turn to their phone and the internet.
The discussion turned to the classroom and the point was made that if a student has no formal diagnosis, then no additional fudning for support for that student is available. The process to get that diagnosis can be long and arduous for the family and the papework to then submit the details to get the support is also a long and frustrating process. Community links can help in this area. One person related about inviting a mental health support organisation, Headspace, into their school as students were not going out to the organisation. The have someone in the school on a regular basis and that person works with self-referred students and is able to make the link back to home where appropriate. It means that even if the parents are proving to be a roadblock and are taking te attitude that there isnothign wrong with their child, the child can self-refer and get the help they need.
The use of technology came up and the statistic is that 95% of Australian youth (16-24) are online everyday for two to four hours a day, and about twenty percent of those are online for five or more hours a day. It is not necessarily the amount of technology use, screentime if you will, that is an issue. The purpose of the screentime is a highly contextual issue.
Technology can provide hope to families struggling to deal with disability in the household. A student who cannot communicate verbally has the option of communicating through technology such as a tablet which they can type into and communicate with. It also allows families separated by distance to stay in touch. My wife and I regularly FaceTime my parents who live fours away so that they can see their granddaughter and she can hear their voices and see their faces. At nine months old, this means that when we do get to see them in person, they are not complete strangers. There is so many rich and meaningful uses of technology that the question of how much is too much is far deeper and more complex than simply the amount of time spent using technology.
One of the main challenges in schoolmental health is help seeking, and engagement with mental health and this is where the right care at the right time attitude to care comes in and then the challenge is the workforce. There are not enough people with expertise and training in dealing with mental health issues on schools.
It was at this point that we were all evacuated from the building. There was the automated announcement over the PA and we all casually filed outside, congregating about two or three meters outside the main door of the ground floow as it was raining. It is interesting that despite all being educators and having, naturally, been through many evacuation drills in at schools, there was absolutely no urgency or hurry at all. I saw many people casually picking up all of their belongings and slowly making their way out and down the escalators. The workers who were putting up signage of maps of the EduTECH conference and where different rooms were did not even go that far; they kept working. We were only outside for about ten minutes and then it was back in with no explanation of what had happened. An interesting interlude to the morning.
Jane drew upon a Malcom Turnbull quote from April 2016 (which I have not been able to find online) which was that the most important resource in Australia is not underground but inside the heads of our people. This is an interesting perspective given the attitude that we see in the media from our policiticans around mineral resources versus education and the legislation that is enacted.
The discussion turned to a more practical line of thought, and we were asked to brainstorm various tools and strategies that we already knew of to support mental health, which were then shared around the room. The VIA Character Strengths survey came up a few times. This is apparently a tool for self-assessment of character traits. There were a few people who indicated that their school runs a subject called health, which is separate from PDHPE, wherein students receive extra time for physical movement. This is important as there is a body of research that find a link between physical activity and mental health (such as here, here, and here). I also remember a TV ad from (I think) the early 1990s which had a tagline along the lines of kids who play sport do better in school and the clip was of a female gymnast running towards camera, jumping off a trampoline, doing a twist or something and then landing (now in her school uniform) in her chair in class with a huge smile on her face.
We then heard about a tool called High Res which is aimed at veterans, however, is based on cognitive behaviour therapy and so could be adaped for students' use.
The next resource we heard about was Secret Agent Society which is aimed at primary school students. It was originally developed to teach students with social and emotional difficulties how to recognise emotions in themselves and others, express their feelings in appropriate ways along with a range of other social skills. Next, we heard about Seven Habits of Mind and The Brave Program. The Brave program is not one that I had heard of before, however, it is an online tool that allows students to get support and some strategies for dealing with anxiety, based on cognitive behaviour therapy. ReachOut (@Reachout_Aus) is a highly useful website with a range of tools that can help students manage and understand mental health issues.
One strategy that was discussed to increase awareness and understanding of tools for managing mental health was to turn it into a design task. Ask students to analyse mental health websites and what works well, what does not work well on that website. It turns it into a design task, however, as part of that, they will take in content and tools that are listed as part of the analysis process.
Jane then quoted Jackie Crowe who said that the bar is set too low for what is acceptable. There is not an expectation of high quality care, despite the crying need for it.
This lack of available support has driven the development of apps that are available to help fill in the gap. The app scene was what we focused on next and the first app discussed was the Recharge Sleep app which offers a six week program to help bring your sleep hygiene back to healthy standards. ReachOut Breath App focuses on the physiological impacts of stress and offers simple practical exercises to manage those signs and bring them back to healthy levels and slowly bring your stress back to manegable levels. Music eScape is hunged on the fact that there is no stigma around music as therapy whatsoever. It creates a mood map of your music library based upon the beat cadence and will help you to change your mood through physiological and psychological responses to music. The Check In App by Beyond Blue was developed to help provide building blocks for how you can start a mental health conversation with a friend and it provides links to professional support.
Break Up Shake Up is an app designed to help young people move on after a relationship break up. As a teenager, a relationship ending is the end of the world. This helps by providing strategies to help let go and move on. ReachOut also offers The Toolbox; a site that helps you to determine your mental health goals and then suggests a range of apps for you to select from that are appropriate to achieving those goals.
The morning started our rather depressing, talking about the statistics around youth mental health, which are quite horrific, but this session I feel was quite positive and gave us some practical tools that we can use and suggest for students that we know are dealing with mental health issues in our own lives.
We moved out to lunch at this pont, so I will end this article here. Thank you for reading and if you have any of the storify's or articles from this EduTECH 2017 series, you can find those here. Don't forget that if you or a loved on need support there are lots of options such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, Black Dog Institute, Mind Blank, and Headspace, among many others. This is an important conversation that we need to have as a society. Engage in the online conversation through twitter, Jane is @JaneBurns and there are a range of hashtags on Twitter such as #mentalhealth, #mentalhealthawareness and many others.
"A theoretical model or framework, no matter how amazing, is usless unless you can put it into practice."
- Jane Burns
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the event organisers.
There were a number of masterclass to choose from (see my preview of Masterclass day here) and for me, Jane Burns' masterclass around digital wellbeing was the one that stood out as being genuinely important, not just for education, but socially as well. The day did not, however, start out particulalry pleasantly.
I did eventually make it to EduTECH and found that I was with around thirty or so other delegates to hear Jane speak about digital wellbeing. Overall, the day was very interesting. The statistics were largely depressing, however, not surprising; and we were provided with a range of options, tools and strategies for workign with students to deal with mental health and wellbeing through digital tools.
Jane was upfront in that she did not want to spend the whole day talking, and so after introducing the PERMA model to us, she asked us to brainstorm about words, ideas, emojis that come to mind for each of the keywords that make up PERMA.
This was a very interesting excercise and the ideas that the group I was with were quite varied.
The PERMA model, we were told, was developed by Martin Seligman (watch a TED Talk he delivered on the concept here) and provides a way of thinking about issues that arise. as we went around the room, sharing our ideas on each of the keywords in PERMA, an underlying theme emerged; generally, there seemed to be a theme that accountability, when coupled with appropriate support, created an environment where mental health was more achievable consistently. However, Jane pointed out that PERMA is a theoretical framework and that irrespective of how good/nice any theoretical framework is, unless it can be put into practice than it is useless.
Jane then moved onto Paula Robinsons's Mental Fitness framework, which was something that I had not heard before. Jane spoke about the language around mental health and that rather than mental illness we should talk about mental health as mental illness carries a rather negative connotation and also carriess with it some help-negation history as well, wherein the more that you need help, the less likely yo uare to seek help. The conversation then shifted to considering what has changed in society that has made suicide such a prevalent option. One of the statistics that was spoken about was that one in ten students ina Year Twelve class have attempted suicide. When I look back at my classes from the last couple of years and consider that statistically, if they were in Year Twelve now, that three of them would have attempted to take their own life, that is a rather horrifying thought. You can read some statistics about youth mental health on the Beyond Blue page here. The discussion that the group was having was all predicated on the stereotype of young white male, the statistics for at-risk groups such as the Indigenous, LGBTQ, rural/remote populations are even higher.
Jane commented that having mental health issues is still seen, by and large, as a weakness. THis is despite widespread acceptness of the validity of mental health issues. Jane was asked why this is and she replied that we do not know, there are so many factors, not least of which is the historical attitudes of buck up and men don't cry that completely decry mental health as being valid. The below video has done the rounds on social media recently and it applies the language that we use about mentla health to physical health. I challenge you to really watch and listen and consider the langauge that you use and how you conceptualisemental health issues. It is quite confronting. I actually scrolled past it about halfway through the video the first time I saw it (and it is not a long video) because it was uncomfortable to watch, highlighting the inadequacy of our attitude towards this significant problem.
One of the challenges aroud mental health that Jane spoke about is help-negation theory because there is a body of research that indicates early intervention and helps significantly increases the chances of recovery. You wouldn't delay the treatment of cancer by saying I can deal with this myself so why would you delay seeking help for something else that can severly cripple or even kill you? A stark thought, but true. The attitudes of society and individuals around mental health have changed, there is more acceptance of mental health as a valid concern, however, our actions around mental health have not necessarily changed; people still do not seek help often until very late and people still receive disparaging remarks if they open up about having mental helth issues.
Jane noted that we have reached a point of saturation around awareness. The statistics have changed as awareness has increased, hwever, therewe are now at a opint where we won't see a further change, a reduction in suicide numbers for example without a change in actions. It is our actions which now need to change. Research like the Growing Up Queer report highlight that there is still a sgnificant problem with discrimination and bullying around mentla health; our actions need to change.
In 2009 over nine thousand youths (16-24 years old) were admitted to hospital for injuries resulting in self-harm.Women are admitted at two and a half times the normal rate, and Indigenous youth at five times the normal rate. If these kinds of statistics were applied to motor vehicle deaths, there would be an outrage socially, politically, and across the media, however, mental health gets a modicum of media airtime.
The conversation changed to talking about sleep hygiene and the role that technology can play in supporting mental health needs at odd hours during the night, however, I will cover that in the next article.
Thank you for reading through this, and don't forget that if you or a loved on need support there are lots of options such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, Black Dog Institute, Mind Blank, and Headspace, among many others. This is an important conversation that we need to have as a society. Engage in the online conversation through twitter, Jane is @JaneBurns and there are a range of hashtags on Twitter such as #mentalhealth, #mentalhealthawareness and many others.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series on EduTECH 2017, you can find them here.
The storifys of the Masterclass day can be found below:
“The methods that will most effectively minimize the ability of intruders to compromise information security are comprehensive user training and education. Enacting policies and procedures simply won't suffice. Even with oversight the policies and procedures may not be effective: my access to Motorola, Nokia, ATT, Sun depended upon the willingness of people to bypass policies and procedures that were in place for years before I compromised them successfully”
- Attributed to Kevin Mitnick
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 is through a media pass provided by the event organisers.
Friday. A day of rejoicing for teachers, and a day where the attendance at the afternoon sessions of a conference dwindle as people rush to make their planes and trains home. A day where you are often able to have good quality conversations with speakers after their sessions as the crowd numbers in the afternoons are lower. Friday at EduTECH 2017 for me will begin in the School Business Management congress with a panel discussion on facility management and sustainable resourcing. This promises to be an interesting start to the morning given the vast number of capital building projects I have seen going on at a wide range of schools this year across all sectors.
Following this, I will be moving to the IT Directors and Managers congress where Professor Richard Buckland of the School of Computer Science and Engineering at UNSW will be presenting on cyber-security and the challenges that school IT Directors and Managers face. There are many challenges in this area, not least of which is students who like to challenge themselves and see if they can beat the school defenses. Beyond that, there have been a wave of high profile cyber terrorist attacks this year (such as the WannaCry attack on the British NHS system reported here) and there has long been discussion of concerns around privacy of student data and the implementation of NAPLAN online.
In a complete thematic shift, the Future Library congress to hear Chelsea Wright speak on VR, AR, and the future of libraries is next on my timetable. This is an area of professional interest both as a teacher and as someone working for ClickView. I have toyed with AR in the classroom using Aurasma, and have heard a range of talks on the topic before (this one, for example) and while I can see potential for it as a genuine pedagogical tool, VR/AR is just not quite there yet; either in the resource and content or in the equity of access.
A mental health / writing break follows Chelsea and then it is the mid-morning break for networking before heading off to the Tertiary IT Leaders congress to hear Robert Livingstone speak on the topic of protecting data from accidental data breaches and (deliberate) cyber crime. There will be, I suspect, some parallels between this session and the earlier session with Richard Buckland and it will be very interesting to hear what advise crosses over the congress-divide and is common to both.
The final session before the lunch break will be spent in the IT Directors and Managers congress with Michael O'Leary speaking on the current trends in eLearning. Given the nature of ClickView, this session is of professional interest; however, as a teacher who has experimented with a range of eLearning and LMS arrangements over my teaching career, it will be very interesting to find out what is currently being viewed as best practice in this space.
Jared Cooney Horvath will be speaking about neuroscience and specifically, about what lessons can be taken from neuroscience and applied to education within the VET/RTO Leaders congress. I am particularly interested in this session as there has been a lot of conversation on social media in the last six months around whether or not neuroscience that has been pulled across into education does actually have a place in education or whether the results in the laboratory belong there. Given the abstract talks about memory and learning processes, I am very curious to hear where cognitive learning theory comes into play and the relationship that Jared sees it having with education.
Well-being and stress is next on my timetable, with a session presented by Dr. Caroline West as part of the Workplace Learning congress. This is a phenomenally important issue in education with the annual Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey results released in February 2017 indicating that instances of sleeping problems, depression, burnout, and traumatic stress among the nearly two-thirds of all School Principals who responded, are all around double the incidence of the general population, with some research, noted in this document by the University of Western Australia, indicating that "[t]eachers report the highest level of occupational stress in Australia, the United Kingdom, and America." It is an area of great need and there is arguably an impact on student learning outcomes when they have highly stressed teachers. I very much look forward to hearing this presentation.
The final presentation before the closing plenary session will be in the K-12 Leaders congress with Professor Richard Telford speaking on about the cost to our children of the under-prioritisation of physical education. The abstract refers to randomised controlled trials, that holy grail of research methodology, and the evidence stemming from research of that nature. I do not think that there many teachers who would disagree that physical education receives less time than what it should, however, there are requirements to adhere to teaching times vis-a-vis how much time is dedicated to given subject areas (in NSW Government schools at least), and PE only receives two hours despite the purported health and academic benefits therein. This is another session that I am looking forward to as the growing issues around obesity are going to cause significant problems for our country's economy in the future unless we arrest the issue now.
The remaining sessions are back in the plenary setting with presentations from Philip Heath and Jan Owen AM. The title of Phillip's presentation, Darkingjung Barker: a lesson in closing the education gap, very much gives me the impression that there is a focus on Aboriginal education. I am intrigue to hear about this, particularly if there are meaningful strategies that can be taken away and applied in the classroom. I have attended a staff Professional Development workshop on Indigenous Craft and embedding Indigenous culture within the curriculum which was led by an Aboriginal woman and it was genuinely fantastic, one of the most engaging professional development sessions that I have attended. She made a comment which resonated with me that (paraprhasing) the feedback she hears is that many teachers do not engage with Aboriginal culture in the classroom because they are afraid; of getting their information wrong, of offending someone, of using the cultural knowledge inappropriately. This rings true for those with whom I have spoken to and, if I am being honest, my own feelings.
Closing out proceedings is Jan Owen AM on Embracing the New Work Order. Given that the title is the same as the presentation she delivered at FutureSchools earlier this year, I suspect it will be the same content. I have reviewed that presentation here, however, I will stay for the talk to ascertain if it is different.
After that, a train trip back to Gosford to see my wife and daughter and a weekend to recover from the tiring nature of EduTECH. I look forward to meeting up with you if you are going to be there (let me know on Twitter), and watch for the live-Tweeting from each session; it will, as always, fly thick and fast. I will endeavour to storify each block of sessions, as much for my own sanity as anything else, and I hope to get my articles written and published quickly while people are still talking about EduTECH.
If you have missed any of the articles in the EduTECH 2017 series, you can find the full list here.
"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.
"Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important."
- Attributed to Bill Gates
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTech 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
EduTech 2017 is nearly upon us! I am feeling rather unprepared and am only just looking at the timetables and agendas to work out my movements now (with a sleeping nine month old daughter on my chest). I am very much looking forward to EduTech, however, as I have not attended in the past due to it being held in Brisbane. I have of course heard that it is a huge event, with a large number of vendors (I encourage vendors to read this as they prepare for EduTech), educators from all sectors and many big names on and off stage. This article will examine the nine Masterclass timetable as I work out which of those I will attend. Days one and two of the EduTech agenda will be looked at in the next two articles.
Masterclass A: Teaching Kids to Code
This masterclass is being facilitated by Bruce Fuda, Nicky Ringland, and Associate Professor James Curran, all of whom are from the Australian Computing Academy at the University of Sydney. This masterclass appears to be focused on coding within the context of the new Digital Technologies syllabus. The agenda indicates that delegates will walk away with knowledge of resources, tools, pedagogical practices and ideas enabling them to implement the syllabus in their classroom when they return to school.
It feels like the Digital Technologies syllabus is about ten years too late in arriving, that we needed it to be in place before the explosion of coding, STE(A)M, robotics, makerspace etc. to give them a solid grounding in curriculum. Additionally, I feel that there has been a dearth in pedagogical development opportunities for teachers to allow them to grapple with this fast-changing area. The EduTech website indicates that this particular masterclass is nearly sold out, so if you are planning on attending, I suggest you register quickly.
Masterclass B: Setting Up A Maker Space
This particular masterclass has been sold out already, and I have spoken to a number of educators in the last few weeks who have indicated they are attending this particular masterclass. Amber Chase and Lisa O'Callaghan are both from Calrossy Anglican School in Tamworth, NSW. I was there recently (though did not get the chance to meet either of them) and chatting with teachers during a workshop I was running, there are some exciting things happening.
This masterclass is aimed at providing delegates with some practical ideas to set up a makerspace in their school including low-tech and high-tech, relating it back to the curriculum and a chance to plan the implementation of a makerspace. IF you've not registered for this masterclass already, then you are too late and will need to watch the #EduTechAU back channel and storifies which will pop up.
Masterclass C: Student Acquisition - where does your market reside?
Facilitated by Roger La Salle of La Salle Matrix Thinking, this masterclass is focused on understanding the market that your institution is targeted towards and how to maximise your marketing return. This sounds rather cold, however, reading through the agenda for the masterclass, however, there seems to be a real focus on understanding your institutions why. Why should families engage with you and developing strategies to really get a handle on that.
Masterclass D: Digitally Young and Well
Professor Jane Burns of the University of Sydney is facilitating this masterclass with a focus on youth health and well-being, including mental health. This masterclass will provide an update on the current status quo and a range of resources and strategies for promoting better health and well-being across all sectors of education, including how to develop a person-centred approach to creting, designing and developing support in online and offline contexts.
Masterclass E: Cyber Security / Information Security
Dr. Elena Sitnikova and Cecil Goldstein, both of the Australian Centre for Cyber Security. The core aim for this particular masterclass is to provide delegates with an awareness of the vulnerabilities and threats that face K-12 institutions and strategies for mitigating the impacts thereof, walking away from the masterclass with guidelines for formulating a strategic plan within their specific context.
Masterclass F: Mind Mapping in the Classroom
Bill Jarrard of Mindwerx International is facilitating this masterclass which aims to provide delegates with an understanding of Tony Buzan's Mind Mapping and its application in the classroom. I have not heard of Mind Mapping as a formalised process in this context, so I am curious to hear from those who attend this masterclass as to their thoughts.
Masterclass G - BYOD
Martin Levins, President of the Australian Council for Computers in Education is facilitating this masterclass providing delegates with an analysis of network and device management based on the latest research. Best practice across all relevant areas will be discussed and delegates will leave with an action plan to identify considerations for their specific contexts, building a road map with broad milestones for a successful BYOD implementation.
Masterclass H - Managing School / Campus WiFi
Mark Morgan of SpectroTech will be running this masterclass, focusing on all areas of planning for, setting up, maintaining and securing a WiFi network. Delegates will gain a thorough understanding of WiFi technology, guidance in planning the setup of a network, wireless LAN security intrusion techniques and how to mitigate those strategies and industry best practice.
Masterclass I - Create with Makeblock
Abdul Chohan is running this practical masterclass that provides delegates with an opportunity to get hands on with Makeblock. This is one of the many ways to get involved with coding in school and Abdul will be be helping delegates wrap their heads around how to use them as well as how to leverage them as a genuine part of their pedagogy, linked to the curriculum.
Where will I be?
Each of the sessions is intriguing for various reasons, however, I feel that the youth well-being masterclass with Professor Burns (Masterclass D - Digitally Young and Well) is of particular importance given some of the disturbing statistics that have been coming out in recent years, with these statistics seemingly getting worse. I will be live-tweeting that masterclass and will provide a storify of the event as well. This is an area which, as a teacher, I feel woefully ill-equipped to deal with and make a meaningful difference to students suffering from mental health problems.
Discoslure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
My original plan for the final session of FutureSchools 2017 had been to see three speakers. Immediately after the break, Narissa Leung in the ClassTech conference speaking about being the change for technology in the classroom, Sally Wood and SImone Segat in the Teaching Kids to Code stream speaking about being inspired by curiosity and passion to integrate the Digital Technologies curriculum, and then finishing out with Renee Coffee speaking about Indigenous Education. That was before heading out for dinner with Michael Ha and some of his professional learning network, striking up friendships with a number of them. Chatting to Melissa Bray from Adelaide during FutureSchools, she was wanting some way to watch her own presentation after the fact to see how she went and what she could do to improve her presentation, so I offered to Periscope it for her straight after the final break.
I have to confess that I did not expect to gain anything from Melissa's presentation on a professional level. Melissa works in an Early Years Learning context, whilst I am Primary trained, but now working in a vastly different context, dealing mainly with secondary schools, with some K-12 schools thrown in to keep me on my toes.
I could not have been more wrong.
What Melissa and her colleagues are accomplishing with their students was inspirational and incredibly challenging. What they are achieving with their students means that those teaching at the Infants/Primary/Secondary level in their school really need to step up their game as when these students come through they will not accept just doing some coding or some movie-=making as they are used to much more. It goes to show that what many people have said, that students are capable of much more is very much the case, if we only get out of their way, to a degree.
The conversations that Melissa was relating to us that the students were engaging with, of their own accord, around gender, intelligence, the way that the computer and the Nao robot talked to each other, were incredible and as the father of a seven-month-old, terrifying. I will need to step up my game to have Youngling ready to deal with concepts like those Melissa's students were addressing. I definitely recommend watching Her presentation, irrespective of what age group you currently teach.
After Melissa's presentation, I was intending on heading to the Teaching Kids to code stream to see Sally and Simone present, however, when I arrived discovered that the final session in the agenda for that conference had already begun. I am not sure what happened there, so instead, I made the decision to head to the FutureLeaders stream and stay there for the remaining sessions, which I will address in the next article.
If you have missed any of the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
FutureSchools Review: Darren Mallett on Differentiation for Gifted Students and Dr. Janelle Wilson on Metacognition
"We have an overly crowded curriculum."
- Darren Mallett
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools was under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Following Blake Seufert's presentation, I switched across to the Special Needs and Inclusion conference stream to hear Darren Mallett speak under the title inclusion strategies for highly gifted students. Darren began by commenting that the current national testing regime and the associated pressures and demands for continuously improving results dictates that we teach somewhat to the test. This does not work for highly gifted students, Darren continued, as they become bored much quicker, retain information for longer and are often able to solve problems quicker. Highly (academically) gifted are often not sport-inclined and are regularly, according to Darren, the last students to be chosen in sporting teams.
Darren's research has been around the adapted mastery model and through that research he has found that for all the pre-assessment teachers conduct, ostensibly to determine students' current understanding prior to a topic, it is typically not acted upon, with no changes being made to pedagogy, content, or teaching focus.
Darren spoke about the need to engage with cross-curricula learning, as it is the only way to 'cover' content but that far too often, especially in secondary, the various key learning areas are taught in highly discrete ways, separate from other areas. The testing that is typically utilised in schools, whether it be end of unit, or more formal testing such as NAPLAN and HSC, often results in students freezing, especially when they a question worth big marks. They can, in an ordinary classroom context, answer the question very well demonstrating a solid conceptual understanding, however, the testing context does not work for these students.
That is all the tweets that have been captured by Storify yet I feel that there was more said by Darren. I would have liked to have heard more practical suggestions for strategies around including these students from Darren, or more information about the adapted mastery model and what it looks like when it is implemented well.
Following Darren's presentation, I moved back to the FutureLeaders stream to hear Dr. Janelle Wills, Director of The Marzano Institute speak about metacognition for leading and learning. She began with a story about her Aunty and how when she was growing up, all the gifts that her Aunty gave her were for her glory box. At the time, Janelle spoke about how said thank you for the gifts, but that she did not know or have a genuine understanding of the purpose and context; she was unable to consider the underlying purpose of the gift as the concept of a glory box either had not been explained to her or at the age she was when it was explained, it was too abstract.
Metacognition is the gift that keeps on giving, once we explicitly teach and model it. Janelle made this a very clear and important point in her presentation that was seeded throughout. It is also something that Janelle believes suffers from definitional issues and that carries a range of preconceptions for different people in different contexts. It is also suffers from not being contextualised for students, whom are often told it is thinking about thinking without going deeper into what that may look in various contexts and how it may be used beyond simply thinking about thinking.
Janelle defined metacognition as being about the self; a system of inter-related beliefs and judgements which influence our motivations and therefore our actions. Humans, according to Janelle, are driven by goals and a purpose, with metacognition being no different. Expanding on this point, we were reminded that there are many schools which mandate an explicit learning goal for each lesson. This is a seemingly strong position to take, rather intuitive, however, a learning intention needs to be linked to a purpose, to a why. Further to that, an individual needs to be aware of their own place in relation to the learning goal and to have strategies in place or available to them to assist them in reaching or achieving the learning.
This seems to be the heart, in my understanding, of what metacognition is really about. An awareness of self, of a goal and purpose for the goal, and awareness of available strategies to achieve the goal. This applies not only to explicit learning tasks such as learning a new skill or piece of knowledge, but also, I believe, to reflection on completed tasks and reflection on the self. Without an understood purpose, what is the purpose in the task?
Janelle related that our notion of 'self' is typically based upon three things; our hopes, our fears and our fantasies and that the relationship between how we embody and realise these three characteristics of self can point towards why things like makerfaire appeal to some people but chess, knitting, sport, or yoga appeal to others.
The challenge in life is in managing the difference between the tension and anxiety that can stem from the variation between the actual self and the desired self and this is where providing explicit teaching around how to engage with and use metacognition can help as it facilitate an awareness of the variation between real self and the desired self as well as potentially identifying strategies to bridge the gap. This flows onto engaging with appropriate learning tasks (or professional development opportunities for teachers) to bridge the gap between the desired self and the real self, increasing self-efficacy as success and growth is observed. This is important as Marzano identified an effect size of 0.82 relative to student performance (uncited).
Janelle spoke next about inspiration and that it is important yet often undervalued facet of education. Great teachers can inspire students and colleagues through their ability and willingness to look outside their own context and see what is possible. This includes within change management contexts, and she quoted Dr Jane Kise by saying that "there are no resistant teachers, just teachers whose needs in the change process have not been met." This sounds, on the surface, like something of a throwaway line, however, when considering it more carefully and various changes that have taken place in schools I have taught in thus far, I can see how the resistance, sometimes quite vocal and sometimes more passive, has been a case of the concerns and needs of those teachers not having been addressed to a degree that has alleviated their concerns and met their needs to understand how the change will impact them.
Janelle closed her session out by challenging the audience to consider their legacy. Who are we inspiring by our practice? What messages are we sending to our students and colleagues? I was very glad that I made it to Janelle's session. It was mentally stimulating and challenging with some very good points raised and judging by the buzz in the room and the activity on Twitter (it was one of the busier sessions in regards to the back channel) I was not the only one who thought so.
If you have missed any articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
After the lunch break, it was into the ClassTech conference stream to hear Blake Seuferten.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Education_Revolution talk about managing a large network and rolling out a school-wide Chromebook program. The number of schools that have implemented various laptop or tablet programs in a school-supplied, BYOD or BYOT context has increased significantly over the last decade as it has become more fashionable to do so, pushed in part by the drive for laptops through the Digital Education Revolution program.
Blake spoke about his school's context, with a current enrollment of around 2100 students and 185 staff. Four years ago things at the school were going well with good NAPLAN and HSC results and so the decision was made that while things were great (echoes of Prakash's message) the next big change would be embarked upon, a school-wide roll-out Chromebooks,
Underpinning educational change management, from a teaching and learning perspective, should be pedagogy and the impact on students of the change. The schools had been using a particular model of laptop and had faced numerous reliability issues which resulted in significant downtime, negatively impacting students and after consideration of various options, Chromebooks were the option that was taken up and rolled out.
One of the considerations for the school was the ability for students to collaborate when using the laptop. For Blake, he clarified what he meant by saying "when I say collaborative I mean web ready because that's where most collaboration happens now."
Teacher self-efficacy is critical when it comes to gaining buy in for new learning tools or resources, especially when they are mandated from the school leadership. You can see from the above tweet that self-efficacy is fed in large part by the provision of professional development opportunities which need to include not only how to use the teaching and learning tool, but how to implement it pedagogically as they are two very different skills.
Blake spoke next about investing in something that will have an impact. For them, at that point, investing in the internet infrastructure in their school was, according to Blake, an easy decision to make as it would have a positive impact on the whole school. I have heard a number of schools indicate that part of the process of implementing any sort of school-wide laptop or device program has been investing in their internet infrastructure. It is important when looking at this to understand that coverage and density are two vastly different concepts. You can have fantastic coverage across a school network at any location with a device That is WiFi coverage. WiFi density, however, is the capability for a WiFi network to cope with a large number of users drawing upon its resources without a significant drop in performance. An example of this is the difference in the demands on the network before and after school when there are only staff onsite in comparison to during class time when you will have staff members as well as a large number of students drawing upon the network at the same time.
The Chromebooks are a prescribed item for students along with regular items like the school uniform. This keeps things consistent and reduces the pressures on the staff for managing devices and maintenance. it also reduces the pressure on staff who are still adapting to technology in their pedagogy. The device management license they have also allows them to hold operating system updates from pushing out to the fleet until the subsequent patch comes through that addresses any resultant instabilities or issues that may occur.
Prior to the decision being made to implement a Chromebook roll out, staff were surveyed about the types of teaching and learning activities that were being undertaken in classes. Blake said that when they looked at the data they could see that 99% of the tasks being completed in class either was already being achieved online, or could easily be achieved online. He did not give an indication as to what types of activities fell into the 1%, although I would not be surprised if practical tasks such as those found in PE, Science, TAS subjects, made up the bulk of that 1%.
Another benefit in the school's view was that the Chromebooks were easily used offline. Any documents or emails sent while offline sync or send when the connection is re-established. It is worth nothing that you can change the settings within GDrive to make files available offline. This allows you to edit those files, which then re-sync when you are next connected
Blake brought up the topic of professional development again, speaking about the process they went through to ensure that teachers had the necessary skills to leverage the functionality of the Chromebooks in class. Part of that process entailed developing a list of basic skills that were seen as essential to using the laptops. Training resources were made available to staff and it was incumbent upon staff to access the learning that they needed to ensure they could do those tasks. Once they returned the document, signed off for each skill, the expectation was that they would then be able to complete those tasks and so I don't know how to do that was removed as an acceptable response when being asked to complete tasks.
To change the focus of the PD, the training resources spoke about the why of the skill, why you would need to be able to use it pedagogically, as much as the how of the skill. I believe this is an important issue and we should talk about the why more often when it comes to PD; not just the superficial why of accreditation or it's good for the students' learning, but the why of this is why you would want to use it in class as that in itself can create engagement with the learning task.
Blake's session was interesting and I particularly liked the focus on staff self-efficacy and providing professional development opportunities to improve that self-efficacy. For those who are interested, Blake has kindly made available the slide deck that he used for this presentation, which you can access here.
As always, thank you for reading. If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them all here.
My conversation with Belinda at the Microsoft stand, took far longer than I had anticipated and so I missed all of Lisa Kingman's presentation about utilising the experience and wisdom of older generations to inspire the next generation and so I went straight to the Young Learners conference to hear Catherine Ford speak about using iPads for cross-curricula learning learning. When I arrived, I caught the tail end of Jason Meijboom's presentation, talking about the relationship between ACARA and digital technology; and the use of technology in the classroom with some examples of chromakey (greenscreen) work he is doing. One of they key messages I took away from his talk was this:
It does appear that some schools rush out to buy whatever is the latest and greatest piece of technology without necessarily planning for their use and understanding the pedagogical changes required to use them as effective learning tools, or considering the professional development needs of teachers to be able to use them as effective tools for teaching and learning.
After Jason finished, Catherine Ford spoke and there was a particular focus on the use of iPads to recreate narratives within cross-curricula learning. She spoke about the initial inspiration for a movie making unit that was aimed at recreating the children's book The Little Red Hen. As part of the process, the students were required to have a thorough understanding of the story, but that it also created a great connection with the local community as students went to various locations in the area to film different components of it. She very much enjoyed the process, however, it was not sustainable over the long term on a regularly repeated basis, the issue of time being a major contributing factor.
Catherine spoke about the move making process being a valuable learning experience for the students as it required them to use a lot of the skills dubbed twenty-first century skills, such as problem solving and critical thinking to come up with the most appropriate way to achieve the desired outcome.
There are a number of other ways to engage students with iPads for cross-curricula learning. One of the most straightforward is to use the Book Creator app with students. This could be used to create narratives, to act as a reflection journal, or in a range of other contexts such as the below idea Catherine shared.
I was doing something similar this year with my Stage One class, sending a mascot home and having students complete a writing task in the class mascot diary, however, I can see how the use of an iPad would change the dynamic, allowing for photos and videos to be more easily captured and included as part of the mascot diary. One of the issues that Catherine discussed was the need that teachers often feel to know everything about what they are using. She said this is not necessary as the students only need to know enough about how to use the technology to complete the task. Catherine also spoke about her preference to only use creation apps rather than consumption apps.
Catherin finished with a nod to Paul Hamilton:
I like the sentiment and it needs to be considered, how is this learning tool going to be used to impact student learning. Irrespective of whether it is a piece of technology, or as Prakash Nair spoke about in his keynote, the physical structures, we should be considering the impact of the use of something as a tool for teaching and learning.
I will close this particular article with a tweet from Cameron Ross who was in a different conference stream:
If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
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.
"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.