"The current education system is like batter hen farming. We're too focused on the output."
- Peter Ellis
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
I entered the auditorium within which the Future Leaders stream was taking place to hear about the last five to ten minutes of Shane Spence's talk about video self-modelling. It sounded very intriguing. From the small snippet that I heard, the use of recorded videos modelling behaviour expectations for things like packing up, putting something away was having a significant amount of success in reducing negative behaviour and lost learning time, particularly for students who are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The key point for me in the small segment that I heard was that showing a two minute video six times to a student struggling with some sort of behaviour yielded a far greater return than twelve minutes of any regular intervention.
It was also useful in those schools that had adopted the Positive Behaviour for Learning program as rather than simply showing or reading students a statement about what is expected, they can be shown a video, which can be much more explicit as students can see exactly what is expected in the particular scenario. A specific example he gave was a student struggling to put his tote tray away. The student was shown a video modelling how the tote tray should be put away and after watching it a several times, the student was able to put it away without any issues. I wish that I had caught all of Shane's presentation.
Peter was announced as the final speaker for the afternoon, which indicated that the final speaker per the agenda was not presenting for an unknown reason. Peter was speaking about disrupting the model of education by moving beyond student voice towards student empowerment and he began by telling the audience that "we are one of the most innovative schools in the world...self-labelled of course." Peter indicated that there is always a case for change but that engaging the community in the change process is critical. The current model of school has worked well for the last one hundred years because the career model over the last one hundred years needed the model. However, the career model for students no longer matches the school model which has created the current dissonance between school and careers that our students and industries are currently experiencing.
Peter told the audience that due to declining enrolment numbers and a poor reputation in the local community that his school had been to close. Twice. A new Principal and a new team (Peter did not actually specify which part of the staff he meant by this, but I imagine a combination of formal and informal leadership staff) created a new opportunity for change. Now, an unspecified period of time later, the school has restored its reputation, is growing with a current population of just over 1100 students and is maintaining good results in the Victorian Certificate of Excellence (VCE - the final set of exams in the Victorian K-12 education system). Additionally, there are now students running businesses alongside their studies, and doing well in both.
One of the key changes in the school that has lead to the turn around has been the desire to make school relevant again. This is one of the reasons for the change in decision making processes within the school. Now, the default setting for requests is yes. Unless there is a significant time, monetary cost or potential for a negative impact on others, the answer to requests is, and should be, yes. This is something that I find rather challenging to contemplate. My experience with schools' decision making is heavily typified with bureaucracy; the need for hoops to be jumped through, certain forms filled out in certain ways with particular types of additional information supplied. I can on the one hand see why this needs to be done, in an age where you need to cover your backside from a legal standpoint, however, how many great ideas never even see the light of day because whomever has had the idea knows that the hoop-jumping required to see the idea to fruition is too hard and to confusing to deal with?
The above tweet captured some of the beliefs about educations that Peter not only views as outdated, but that he questions as to why they are still considered normal in any way. The first dot point I can agree with. Teaching is about relationships and I have never understood why not smiling until some arbitrary point in the school year is remotely helpful to your practice. Personally, I do not have a poker face. I was that kid who would smile at inappropriate times out of nervousness, even when being told off for doing something wrong, and would therefore end up in more trouble because I apparently thought it was funny. Actually, I am still that kid, even as an adult. As an early career teacher, I have been given that piece of advice on numerous occasions. I cannot do it, it is not my personality to not smile.
I have to confess to not quite understanding the issue with the fifth dot point. I do not see that comment as an ownership statement, but as a relational statement. In 2016, I was offered a twelve-month contract to teach a Year Five and Six class for three days per week job-share arrangement. In term four, that became full-time as my job-share partner went on maternity leave. I already had a strong relationship with my class but that switch to full-time developed it further. It was the first class that I had taught for a full year, having been employed casually, or in an RFF / non-contact arrangement previously. At the end of the year we had a reflection conversation as a cohort, all of us, myself included, sitting in a circle on the floor.
I told them then that they would always be my students. Not because I owned them, but because they were the first class I had taught for a whole year, that we had developed a relationship with each other. I believe it was mutual, when I gathered them together (the now Year Six students anyway) and told them that I would be finishing up at the school that week they were gutted and there were tears. On my final day at school they all came to my room as soon as the bell went and wanted to say good bye, give me one last high five, a card they had made and some of them wanted hugs. Those were my students. Not because I own them, but because we have a relationship built on mutual trust and respect.
I disagree somewhat with some of the other dot points, however, that is the one I passionately disagreed with. Peter posted a list of current rules at his school; the student is in control, yes is the default, a strengths rather than deficit model, a one person policy (respect, first names, access to areas and facilities). Many of these I found myself nodding to, in particular the first name policy. I still do not quite understand why it is seen as respectful for the students to have to refer to Mr Teacher or Mrs Teacher, when we can refer to them Jane and John and I have written about this in the past.
Additionally, all students have access to to a kitchen. What message does it give, began Peter, when you have to wait until Year Twelve to be treated like a human? I do not have a problem with this. I remember wanting to take leftover dinner for lunch the next day at school but was unable to do so as there was nowhere to heat it up. Actually, even in Year Twelve I did not have access to a microwave or hot water. I do know schools who have a Year Twelve room with kitchen facilities, but my alma mater did not.
We were shown some more rules at the school:
Peter pointed out that students will keep learning past their schooling and we as teachers are just a small part of their education. The school therefore has students manage their own individual learning plans. Peter did not go into it, however, I hope that there is some education provided to students around how to develop and manage a learning plan on an ongoing basis. As a further extension to this, they have removed year levels which means that no-one necessarily knows what year another student is in, resulting in there being no stigma over needing or taking longer than the normal six years to complete your secondary education.
He then spoke about something that I am not familiar with, that they used a vertical system to eradicate bullying. I am not familiar with the vertical system and have not been able to find anything on Google, so if anyone could shed light on that, I would appreciate hearing from you.
The above is quite a drastic change for most teachers. One person responded to the photo by saying that if they turned up to an interview and there was a student on the panel that they would turn around and leave as they did not see what a student could have to offer or contribute to the panel and therefore having them there would be tokenistic. I can certainly understand that point of view, however, personally, I am not sure how I feel about it. It does make sense that students have an input into staffing in the school as the students are the ones who deal with the staff on a day to day basis, however, do they have to undergo the same training that staff and community members do in order to be on staff selection panels? Peter did not elucidate on that or in what capacity students are asked to be on the panels, how they choose which staff, or what role they are expected to play.
Peter began to wind down his presentation by talking about the businesses that students are running alongside their studies. He showed a list of some of the businesses they have seen come and go, but I did not manage to get a photo of it. Many of them seemed fairly straightforward, newspapers, journals, radio, coffee stands, however, they did have a snake breeding business in operation at one point, which was apparently quite profitable. Peter also said that where possible, they employ students into various roles such as Grounds keepers, administration, cleaners because they would rather employ a student internally than someone they do not know. He did add that they are demanding as employers and that they have fired students.
I can see the logic in this, giving students real-world experience, however, I cannot wrap my head around how it would work. Is there not a conflict of interest in being paid to do work in a school where you are currently enrolled and being taught? Or is that just my own imagination? I wonder what processes they would have had to go through to gain approval from the Victorian Department of Education for those arrangements.
Peter closed with two points. Firstly, that although they believe the education model is broken, it is not just them doing things similarly to this, there are other schools in the area doing things with their own students and with refugee students that are providing them with not just an education but an indication of what adult life is like. He also commented that we need to get out of students' way and remove barriers to learning, to "...stop saying "you have to do x before you can do y" in order to develop."
His presentation was a fantastically engaging and challenging way to finish FutureSchools 2017 and I am glad that I did come to the session. Jenny Luca, the chairperson for the Future Leaders stream closed the conference by thanking the speakers for their ideas, the delegates for sticking around for the final session and by confirming that FutureSchools will be in Melbourne again in 2018.
Thank you for reading, and if you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
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.
"My team and I are currently planning for ten years in the future."
-Mary Louise Ryan
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
After Deborah Nicholson was finished speaking in the Special Needs and Inclusion stream, I moved across to the ClassTech conference stream, ostensibly to hear Linda Ray speak about digital dementia and neuro-leadership. However, it was instead Mary Louise O'Brien speaking under the title of The Matrix is here. Mary was disarming from the start, admitting that despite having a fear of heights she would rather be skydiving than standing in front of a large group of people presenting. She was expecting that the content focus of her presentation would have her in more of an IT Leadership group rather than classroom teachers, however, she pushed on. Mary is from Melbourne Girls Grammar (@MGGS_SouthYarra), the site of the first 1:1 device program in Australia and that when she joined the school, about ten years ago, despite a ten year history of 1:1 in the school, the pedagogical practices had not changed. This is disturbing and demonstrates a lack of awareness by the leadership team of what was happening in their classrooms. Changing the tool does not change the pedagogy. Once again, professional development is required to facilitate teachers ability to adapt to new learning tools
Mary said that top-down leadership is critical for long term planning as they are the ones concerned with the future-thinking and macro-level decisions. Her team are planning at the moment, for ten years ahead to ensure that when the school reaches that point in time, that they are equipped appropriately. Given that we do not know what sort of technology will exist then (who would have imagined the pervasive nature of smartphones and social media ten years ago?) I can only assume that they are looking at demographic data and research for the area as well as looking at growth rates for things like bandwidth and perhaps items from The Horizon Report.
The move to BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) has thrown up its own challenges but that it is allowing students to use the device of their own choice for learning. Part of the change to BYOT has been around student well-being and students now, as an accepted norm, log into their student portal and log details about things like sleep, nutrition, physical activity, relationships and students are encouraged to monitor their own well-being by looking at the data for patterns. I observed via Twitter at the time that that must take a significant allocation of resources to enable that program, however, as I learned in a later session, it is largely in the hands of the students.
The next two points that Mary made are both significant. Firstly, she pointed out that change management needs to include the parents as well as students and staff. We often hear about people buying in (or not, as the case may be) to change. We want to know why something is happening, what is the reason behind a decision to make a change, and investing the time into going through this with parents, students and staff can be a significant asset in obtaining buy in for change and make change management easier from that perspective.
The next point that was made is one that I believe is slowly trickling through schools, and that is ensuring that all professional development requests from staff align in some way to the schools strategic direction plan. No longer are staff allowed to go attend random professional development courses or conferences out of pure interest. They must be able to demonstrate how the course or conference and the learning that will come from attendance is aligned to one or more aspects of the schools strategic direction plan. It was not mentioned, but I would hope that staff are also expected to share their learning in some way. It amazes me how often I hear that someone is not expected to share their learning to colleagues upon returning to school.
Part of the shift to BYOT at MGGS has been timetabling students into classes for no more than seventy percent of school time and that the bulk of the curriculum is pushed out to students via the school's learning management system (LMS). This is an interesting move, however, it is consistent I believe with the rhetoric we hear about student choice and students owning their learning. This puts the onus of responsibility onto the student to manage their time and be responsible for the tasks they are required to complete, a very real and genuine situation for them to be in given how they will be expected to operate as part of the workforce. It is up to students to monitor their learning and complete tasks at a pace that suits them. I do have to question how well this approach would work within contexts where students have disengaged from school and if it would result in them seeing it as a vote of trust and respect, or as an excuse to check out.
Returning to the student well-being component for a moment, Mary spoke about it being a preventative program and that there were triggers set in place to catch issues before they arose. She then spoke about the BYOT and technology needs of the school needing a significant investment in staff to facilitate with a five-person IT team in addition to an e-learning team to drive professional development.
Mary closed at this point and while Gavin Hays prepared himself, I shifted to the FutureLeaders stream to hear Dr. Rachel Wilson speak about assessment.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series, you can view them here.
"We need to ensure that students see their ideas as valid so that they connect with school."
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
The buzz amongst delegates at the conclusion of the opening plenary session was palpable. The buzz on Twitter was observable with a large number of tweets commenting about how much they enjoyed the presentations from Milton Chen, Jan Owen, and Prakash Nair, with tidbits of quotes, ideas, realisation and musings filtering through the twittersphere during the morning tea break. One of the first things I noticed during the morning tea break was that to access the tea and coffee and the morning tea, you had to be a delegate or a speaker.
The gentleman manning the access to the morning tea catering area indicated that his instructions were only those people were to be allowed through. I find this rather surprising, that exhibitors, who spend a considerable amount of money to be there, are not allowed food, nor media. Given that extortionate prices of the food vendors on the expo floor (lunch later in the day of a basic wrap (ham, cheese, tomato) and a 600ml bottle of soft drink cost me $13.50!) one has to question whether a percentage of the profits go back to the organisers. What was particularly annoying was that the only bathroom in the expo hall was accessed through the catering area, so one had to leave the expo area for those needs. Poor planning.
The other thing that I observed was that there did not appear to be anywhere near as many people on the expo floor as in previous years, both in terms of exhibitor numbers and delegates. That said, the space was a lot more contained insofar as it didn't have to be spread out across a cavernous concrete floor with steel beams and fenced off areas in the way as was the case at Australian Technology Park, the venue of the previous few years. Perhaps I am wrong, but given that three of the conferences were in small sectioned off areas of the Expo hall, that the catering area was significantly larger in floor space than previous years and also in the same area, and that at no point did I feel that I needed to squeeze through people talking in groups, I do not think I am.
After the morning tea break, I headed to the Special Needs and Inclusion Conference to heard Deborah Nicholson speak about the impact of arts and music programs on the equity gap. It was a very small group, perhaps fifty delegates in the space, however, it was an interesting presentation. The create and performing arts are something of a passion of mine, writing my Honours Thesis on the topic of Teachers' Self-Efficacy in Teaching the Arts, and I do believe that arts, as a key learning areas just like mathematics, English, and Science, gets comparatively shafted. Not true in all cases, I know, but by and large, I think that I would be fairly accurate with that assessment.
Deborah spoke about the impact of the arts on Indigenous education. She noted that the positive experience of creating and performing helps students to feel more connected and confident. This flows on to positively impact on their academic results at school. Deborah pointed delegates to the Arts:Live website, a free resource that contains an array of professional learning and teaching resources specifically dedicated to the arts and their impact in schools.
As I was listening to Deborah present, I found myself continually distracted by the hubbub on the expo floor and the faint sounds of speakers from the other two conference streams that were being hosted in the expo hall (ClassTech and Young Learners). It was not enough to drown out Deborah, as the conference stream did have its own microphone and PA system, however, it was distracting nonetheless.
"We spent $10bn on [physical] school improvements yet no measures of educational outcomes improved."
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
If you have missed the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can view them here.
I do not intend to write a hugely detailed review of Prakash's keynote as there was significant overlap between this presentation and the masterclass, which I have already reviewed here. There were, however, some differences. One of the differences was the inclusion of his statement which I have included at the top of this article. It was part of his opening phase, giving some of his own background, including his early career where he felt that he was doing some great work with the company he was employed with and the realisation that there had been no measurable improvement in learning outcomes for students as a result of the work done by his company.
It was, for him, a watershed moment and he took the bold step of starting his own company on the back of that realisation in order to be able to work to positively impact student's learning outcomes. It was asked by one audience member, Martin Levins, that perhaps the reason no improvement in student learning was observed was that the wrong things were being measured. This does go back to the general theme that had come through from Milton Chen's keynote and Jan Owen's keynote, that education needs to change the focus from high-stakes testing.
Prakash commented that there are two trillion dollars worth of obsolete school buildings in the United States, if one goes with the definition of obsolete as those which are based on cells and bells. There are two categories of people in society who are typically given no choice in their movement; students and prisoners. He continued this theme by stating that there is less square feet of space given to students than to prisoners in current school building designs, with around thirty percent of space in schools lost to useless corridors. It does not take much work to change that, however, nor an overly large investment in money to do so.
Prakash exhorted us to stop assuming that students need to be taught in order to learn and to go forth bravely and be the change we want to be in our schools. I am going to hold the article there as I do not feel I can write much more that I have not already said in my review of Prakash' masterclass. That said, feel free to read through the Storify of the Plenary session to get an insight into the general flavour of what was being said.
"We need to question the question what do you want to be when you grow up and instead ask ourselves if it is the right question."
-Jan Owen AM. FutureSchools 2017
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
I was intrigued by Jan Owen's abstract. In my experience as a primary school teacher thus far, entrepreneurship is not a common topic of discussion and so I was curious as to what I would hear that could be applied and considered through a primary education lens. Right away, Jan challenged commonly accepted norms by positing that we are asking the wrong question when we ask students what they want to be when they grow up as statistics and research demonstrate that no longer is it true that you leave school, enter a profession and then retire from that profession at the age of sixty-five.
Jan asked the audience to put their hand up if they are doing, now, the job they wanted to do when they were a child and there were only a few hands up in the audience (FYI, I wanted to be a truck driver). Today's youth will have, on average, seventeen different careers across five different industries across their working life, but that it will take them an average of four to five years to find full time work. Personally, at the age of thirty-three I have had eight careers across hospitality, industrial electrical, retail, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), and finally, education. So asking our students and our children what they want to be when they grow up is no longer an appropriate question.
The statistics in the above image are genuinely frightening. As a society, we build up university as the pinnacle of education, the point of getting good grades throughout school. Yet I have it said regularly that a Masters degree is the new Bachelors. The pushing of more and more students to university actually results in the devaluing of a Bachelor degree, meaning that to stand out academically, a Masters degree is becoming the new requirement, with the ripple effect that student debt for graduates is starting at around about AUD$25 000. On top of that, we are staying at home longer because it takes so much longer to buy a house partially because of the increased relative price of housing, but partially because around thirty percent of people are un- or under-employed.
This can be seen in the increasing casualisation of the workforce and the use of short-term contracts. I am sure we are all familiar with the huge number of teachers employed only on a casual or temporary contract basis and the challenge that they face to gain permanent employment. I myself faced that which was partially why I have left the classroom. "Ask a law student who has graduated in the last four years, Jan continued, "if they have had a job and the majority of them will say not in law."
We need to stop asking our children what they want to be when they grow up and ask them what problems they want to solve because this then changes the discussion and changes the focus of their education from getting into a particular job but of solving problems, of learning to be agile learners and thinkers and it also takes the focus from the individual to the community and I am sure we have all heard an elder in our life bemoan the youth of today at some point. This change in focus will also help to disrupt the tertiary sector where sixty percent of students are studying for industries that will see themselves disrupted significantly by automation or movement of jobs to cheaper off-shore markets. Jan spoke of the research that the Foundation for Young Australians (@fya_org) has done which shows that one in three Australians are already in flexible employment arrangements and that one in ten jobs are done remotely.
Carl Scurr observed that the flexible economy is actually one of worry and insecurity rather than being the cool gig flexible work arrangements are often perceived as. Given that there are a significant number of jobs that are able to performed remotely thanks to the modern marvels of information communication and that there are 750 million twelve to twenty-six year old in the South East Asia region, many of which will perform the same job for a fraction of the wage, we need to be teaching our children how to create jobs and to manage their careers as much as how to read and write.
Jan spoke about there being seven clusters of jobs based around what they do for the community: generators, artisans, informers, carers, coordinators, technologists, and designers. The FYA report linked above indicates that careers that fall into the carer, informer and technologist brackets are in growth and will continue to be in growth.
We need to think about a life of learning rather than life-long learning, as that is what our children face and that rather than a piece of paper showing how well you answered a series of questions in a mandated national test, that a portfolio demonstrating what you are capable of and what you have learned is perhaps a better option. This concept received immediate virtual acclaim with a significant number of tweets encompassing this idea from Jan.
On the back of this, Jan put forward a concept which I think many of us were vaguely aware of from our own experience, but which I personally have not heard explicitly put forward, and that is the idea that our skills and knowledge are more transferable than we realise, with training for one job unlocking, on average, thirteen other jobs containing related skills (See Chapter One for a more detailed explanation, including a helpful visual graphic).
We were then given an indicator of the top skills that employers want, or rather the skills that employers want which have seen the most growth over the last three years. Digital Literacy, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the top skill, having grown in demand by 212% over three years. The next one was a surprise to me, but it does also make a lot of sense given our current population and our global region, but the demand for bilingualism has grown 181%. How many students do you know whom are studying a second language? My classroom was used for an after-school Mandarin language group one afternoon a week which consisted of five students. The third was critical thinking which has seen a 158% growth in demand and the final one was creativity which has seen a 65% increase.
Despite these four skill areas being those seeing the biggest growth in demand, the only one which really received any focus, from my perspective, is digital literacy. The foundation skills will never go away or stop being important; they are referred as foundation skills for a reason after all, yet we need to allow an opportunity for students to learn enterprise and career management skills in order for them to be properly prepared for their seventeen careers across five industries. There are particular skills embodied in career management which are needed to move across different careers and industries.
At this point Jan made an observation that I struggled to wrap my head around, which was that the FYA's research showed that if youth could demonstrate certain skills they (the employer) was willing to pay them more. Furthermore, a metric had been generated which attributed a dollar value of what this increase might look like.
The views of youth about higher education was the focus of the next phase of Jan's presentation and they were interesting. FYA research indicates that, and I hope I am remembering Jan's explanation here, 69% felt it was unaffordable, 60% wanted some sort of traineeship or apprenticeship but that it was unavailable for them. Jan commented that this figure is despite the fact that our trades are facing a startling shortage of entrants into them (I am not across this area so I would appreciate hearing from someone who is who might be able to comment on it. The only article I could find with a quick search was from 2013). Half of youth were uninspired by current jobs and 69% wanted to start their own business.
This figures present a challenge. I firmly believe that the common perception that a university degree is the natural progression from completing high school is invalid. Not only can you enter university as a mature-aged student as I did, but you can also enter any one of a vast array of other jobs both in trades (which are often more highly paid than some white-collar jobs) but a range of other areas. The ability of students in the senior years of high school to engage in a combination of academic studies through their school and a VET course through a local TAFE or other organisation is increasing and becoming more accepted.
The audience was asked how can we support and drive our students to want to succeed? Jan then mentioned High Tech High, where they have apparently removed all assessment yet their students are still performing as well as students from other high schools. I find this statement rather misleading. How do they know that their students are performing as well as those from schools around them if they are not assessing? They are clearly measuring something to make that judgement which means they have, in fact, not removed assessment at all and have merely changed the measure and not called it assessment.
The future of the career path is still uncertain in many respects. We know that we will have multiple careers, however, we do not know what they will look like. We know that many careers will be lost to automation, however, we can only guess at which ones. We suspect that by the time the youth of today are the age of their grandparents that life will be vastly different and there is unlikely to be a retirement pension, but we do not know for sure.
The future is not bleak, however. There is a world of opportunity available if you but have the tenacity to seek it out and the persistence and agility to adapt to the ever-changing vagaries of the job market your skill set is suited to. It was pointed out by @Edufolios that assessment allows us to know where the gaps are and where to grow, but that assessment does not have to continue to be the dirty word is currently seems to be, it does not have to be a mandated national test. We need a new mindset as we face a different future the audience was told, as that will allow us to transform our students with meaningful ways to learn and contribute to the future.
Jan's talk was interesting and energetic and she certainly had the crowd engaged. I think the FYA report is definitely something that I will find time to read in the coming days and she followed neatly on from Milton, albeit from a different perspective.
Thank you for reading and please leave your thoughts on Jan's presentation in the comments.
"Having a student-centered space is not the same as having student-centered learning, nor does it equal a change in pedagogy."
-Prakash Nair (paraphrased). 22 March 2017.
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools is under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
If you have missed any articles in this series, please click here to find the full list.
FutureSchools 2017 began, for me, with a nice walk in miserable weather from my hotel to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) for the Masterclass Day. I planned to sit in on Prakash Nair's masterclass examining "Practical Strategies to Maximize Teacher Effectiveness in New Student-Centered Learning Spaces" which, for me, was something of personal and professional interest when the arrangement for me to attend FutureSchools was initially made. As my regular readers would be aware, my school has been undergoing a capital building project, and I was intriguied as to what I would be able to take back to my school about using learning spaces and designing them for students benefit and to change pedagogical practices. However, as I sit here now, my context has changed significantly and school design is not on my radar personally or professionally. I therefore struggled, significantly, to engage with what Prakash was saying and asking us to do as I struggled to see where I could connect with it.
Prakash opened by commenting that in his experience, Australia is often one of the key innovators in learning spaces, which I found a genuine surprise. Moving forward, he indicated that his view is there are three types of learning (as seen in the above tweet) and that these take place in a range of contexts, at a variety of times and that they can occur side by side with each other in the same learning space. He then showed us some examples of what these look through a series of photographs of learning spaces around the world.
Changing tack, he then noted that they believe in sharing and that everything they do, they share, that they hold no intellectual capital. I find this an interesting stance to take from a corporation, however, some of his comments over the course of the morning indicated that the contextual approach to school planning that they take means that a design may be transferable in the physical sense to another location, but that they are highly personalised to suit each individual context and thus may not fit in the community they have been transferred to.
Prakash spoke to this for a lengthy period of time, showing some examples of school change they had worked on in poor areas of the world as well as in affluent areas. It came across quite clearly that he believes that change can occur anywhere and on any budget but the key is changing the learning space to suit what is needed pedagogically. He commented that buildings often negatively impact on what teachers want to achieve which is not how it should be, that they should facilitate the achievement of learning for students and that when a cohort of pre-service teachers were challenged to come up with what they would do if they had no resources whatsoever, they came up with a list of things that we often spruik; collaboration, creativity, critical thinking etc. When they had produced this list and went into a classroom and asked to list of what they could achieve now, he said the list actually shrunk.
The discussion then changed to talking about types of learning theory, based upon a free course that Harvard University run online (see tweet below for the link).
He posited that there are four main theories of learning that traverse a spectrum from students having no choice and teachers deciding what they will learn to completely student centered learning. He showed us a few videos from a free online course promoting an understanding of your own theories of learning that defined each of these and asked to talk in our table groups about how we felt about each type. Hierarchical Individual is effectively the completely teacher-driven model and is very common in schools in Australia now due to the pressures around NAPLAN and the final Year Twelve exams (HSC, VCE etc) that are what entry to university is based upon. IT was also noted in the discussions on my table that even when schools do move to open learning spaces, that teachers often put up their own walls, even if they are invisible ones to maintain the facade of their classroom and their students because that is what they know.
The second model that Prakash spoke about was the hierarchical collective, which someone on my observed seemed like a good compromise for schools wanting to be progressive whilst maintaining some traditional aspects. Schools using this model often have close connections with their community based upon the belief that education is not necessarily for yourself, but for the community as a whole. It is an interesting concept. It was noted that primary schools typically find this an easier model to use than secondary schools do, once again, noting the pressure around high stakes exams at the end of students' schooling.
"If a teacher teaches a lot that does not mean that students learn a lot"
The distributed individual theory of learning is underpinned by the belief that students are natural learners and want to learn with the ability to direct their learning to their interests. This can be seen in a lot of areas in students lives, but more commonly, their lives outside of school. The number of conversations I have had with students about something they went to YouTube to learn, or have seen students join a lunchtime club to learn and engage with something they are interested in is phenomenal. However, I cannot recall seeing this model in classrooms. This model, it seems, comes down to having the strong relationships with students and knowing their and understanding their interests and being able to meet them at that place with the learning task when it is appropriate to do so. However, once again, the elephant in the room called Mandated Testing raises its ugly head and trumpets loudly through parents, administrators and the media (among others) about the need to do better and improve our results because our ranking in PISA and TIMMS is declining; and other similar arguments.
The final theory of learning is identified as the distributed collective and is groups of learners coming together around a common interest with varying levels of expertise for varying lengths of time and in different self-organised contexts to learn from and guide each other. There are lots of examples of this in the lunchtime and after school programs, however, this is limited in the classroom and comes back to a question that I have seen popping up time and time again in various contexts over the last eighteen months; which is what is the purpose of schooling and education?
The first two theories of learning were based around the way the teacher teaches while the second two models are about how the student learns. There seems to be a common view, Prakash noted, that students are lazy. You only have to see a student devouring player guides for games, or manuals for a model, or coaching sessions for sport or musical instruments to know that students are not lazy when they can see that the hard work will lead them towards the thing they want to learn. Intrinsic motivation is key and we need to stop motivating students to do things they do not want to do. This raises further questions.
Prakash said that as someone who hires employees that he is more interested in what prospects can do than in what a piece of paper says and that he often finds that those without a formal architecture degree are better at designing than those who are formally qualified. The key to the distributed collective is that any one student can be simultaneously involved in multiple collectives, at different expertise levels for different lengths of time.
The above image from Prakash's slide deck shows the spectrum of learning opportunities and that the black vertical line shows the point where students are typically limited to due to the design of buildings and the educational paradigms used where the left hand side is completely isolated content and the right hand side is where students are learning things by doing those things that interest them. Prakash said that if you walk into a learning space and there are twenty-five students facing one teacher than the paradigm chosen is pretty clear. I am not entirely sure that I agree with this as there are going to be times when it is authentic and necessary to address everyone at once, however, I can see his point.
It was at this point that we were given a series of school buildings that Prakash's company had worked on and redesigned, and asked to select one and have our turn at redesigning it, keeping in mind everything that we had heard about thus far. I made the decision, that mentally I was struggling to engage and that in my new context this conversation was not one that was particularly relevant to me and so I made the decision to step out, which was effectively the end of my involvement in this masterclass. I did come back in for a short period after lunch to hear how people had gone about their design changes, and there were some interesting concepts, with some tables here in school groups and choosing to work with an existing school building. I have some photos below of those designs, and some of them were fairly close to what was actually achieved in reality.
I personally found Prakash to be an engaging speaker, and I apologised to him for popping in and out and then effectively leaving the session. I think that if I was still in my previous school that it would have been a session I would have engaged with wholeheartedly. As I am in that awkward phase of having just started a new role, I was mentally distracted and struggled to to focus and engage properly. If you were in the room, please comment and share your thoughts and reflections on the session. There were also other masterclasses running parallel to Prakash's, tweets from which can be seen in the Storify here (which I need to redo as it is missing a significant number of tweets).
As always, thank you for reading. I hope to get the first article from Day One of the FutureSchools later on today. Keep your eyes peeled for it.
Hello everybody, today was Masterclass day for FutureSchools 2017, and there looked to be a good turnout across the six Masterclasses. I will write more in depth about the Masterclass I attended later on this evening to publish tomorrow, however, here is the link to the Storify of the day to tide you over.
“Giving is the master key to success, in all applications of human life.”
- Attributed to Bryant McGill
One of the attractive components of the offer to work with ClickView was being able to facilitate professional learning in an area of pedagogical practice that I enjoy, am passionate about and that I think I am good at, using video content as an effective tool for learning. I have been involved thus far in two formal professional learning sessions and they have both been fantastic.
The first was an after school opt-in session, which meant that although there were only ten staff present, they were staff who wanted to engage with us and learn more. There were plenty of "ooooh, that is how you do that" moments, and the excitement in the air was palpable. That particular session was also a great session for me to view as it was facilitated by my direct manager who is proving to be a wealth of knowledge about the platform, processes and system underpinning ClickView, the clients, but also providing a steady influence in what has been a heady first week. His calm and deliberately paced way of speaking has proved to be a useful brake on my own first-week nerves and my desire to get on top of and understand everything yesterday.
It was also the first time that I had had the opportunity to see the teacher-side of ClickView which meant that for my own knowledge of the platform, it was an invaluable session. With my teacher hat on, I can definitely understand the attraction of the platform and why teachers want to use it.
The second session, which was today, was another opt-in session, but aimed at Primary Teachers. This session was organised and led by the Primary Team and was delivered in a rotating workshop format focusing on three areas: being able to search for and access content, being able to turn the content into interactive learning tools for students, and lastly, as an introduction to flipped learning. That was the aspect they asked me to come along and help out with, and it was a great learning curve. I really need to improve the succinctness and clarity of my this is what flipped learning is all about. Each of the three sessions heard a slightly different explanation and while none of them were wrong, I feel that I could have had a clearer delivery. This was somewhat frustrating for me as I have delivered the same presentation in seven minutes as part of a TeachMeet event.
That said, there were a total of, I think, twenty-three staff from the host school and a number of others in the area, all of whom engaged wholeheartedly with the sessions. Seeing the excitement in a student's eyes as they have a light bulb moment is still exciting, even if it is in a different context. Being able to help deliver professional learning to teachers who are engaged with and want to hear what you have to say is fantastic and exciting.
I fly out to Melbourne tomorrow to meet the Melbourne team and then for the remainder of the week, attend FutureSchools 2017, which I am excited for. I am hoping that Melbourne is a bit cooler and less humid as I am struggling with the oppressively humid conditions in Sydney at the moment.
I look forward to meeting up with some of my readers whilst in Melbourne, and if you are unable to attend, stay in touch using #FutureSchools on Twitter. If you have missed any articles in the FutureSchools series, you can find them here.
"Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students."
-Attributed to Solomon Ortiz
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
In this article I will preview the sessions on the timetable for day two of FutureSchools 2017 that I plan to attend. If you have missed the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, please click here to see the full list.
I plan to begin day two of FutureSchools in the Young Learners conference where Conference Chair Sara Asome will introduce the first speaker for the day, Leanne Edwards. Leanne is speaking under the title of Providing a flying start in life through student well-being and effective learning. The rhetoric from politicians around education seems to lay a lot of the problems with students from high socio-economic disadvantage at the feet of the parents as much as at the feet of the teachers and so it will be interesting to hear from someone about turning the tables on that socio-economic disadvantage, particularly given that one of the methods that will be spoken about is on leveraging data, which we seem to endlessly collect. Additionally, I am interested to hear about the impact that Leanne has found as a result of having a close knit community.
Following Leanne's session, I will be moving across to the Teaching Kids to Code conference to hear a session titled Design Thinking in a Primary School Makerspace presented by Steve Allen. I am, to be honest, still not sold on Makerspaces. I do not doubt that they can be a font of great learning, however, what gives way for them to occur? Are they genuine Makerspaces such as Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez talk about in their book, Invent to learn? Or are they a small group of students given some old computers and robotics parts and told to have fun? I have heard of some schools doing apparently great work (Summit Elementary and Shorecrest Preparatory for example) and I know some students who would really benefit from the type of practical hands on nature that a makerspace provides. I would also hope that it might improve the societal valuing of the trades, inspiring more people to go into those industries as there are not enough tradespeople in many areas.
I look forward to hearing Steve speak to his experience with Makerspaces and the impact that it has had on students learning in a Primary context, especially the transferability of the skills and process used to other key learning areas.
Mel Cashen will be speaking during the Future Leaders conference under the title of Cultural Change in Support of ICT and DigiTECH, which promises to be an interesting sessions. The new Digital Technologies syllabus has been rolled out as part of the National Curriculum and is now part of the curriculum. I wonder, however, how widely it has been adopted and absorbed into schools syllabus documents and teaching practices.
The agenda indicates that Mel will be speaking about the cultural thinking required to engage fully with the digital technologies syllabus and to embrace ICT across the syllabus. Additionally, Mel will be giving an understanding of Design and Systems thinking, which is not a phrase I am familiar with outside of computer software design and development and a movement that is being referred to as CS+X. I had to look up what CS+X was (it turns out that it is a cross between computer science and the humanities), however, it sounds like an interesting concept and I look forward to learning more about it.
The next session, presented by Peter Tompkins within the ClassTech conference, is one that I think will potentially be very interesting. The teaching of mathematics is a fascinating topic for a variety of reasons. One of which is that so many people, including some teachers make statements such as “Oh, I’m no good at maths,” or “maths is too hard for me, I don’t enjoy it.” These kinds of statements are not attitudes we would (should?) accept from our students, yet it is perfectly acceptable socially for us as adults to make them. Recently, a primary/elementary school teacher from the United States, Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher) posted a twitter thread and then a reflection article dealing with this very issue. It demonstrated something that I do not think we as teachers do enough of, which is admit when we need pedagogical help about something that everyone assumes you know about because you area teacher, and ask for help in a public forum.
Why do we publicly say that everything is fine when privately we are nervous or worried about teaching that maths lesson, or bringing in a maths concept into science or creative arts? Why is there not more of the open vulnerability and humility that Doug demonstrated? I am definitely guilty of confident outside/fumbling in the dark inside and so I am interested in Peter’s presentation because he indicates that the presentation will discuss the characteristics of teachers who are proficiently using technology in their classroom. Note that he specifies that it is about using technology proficiently, not prolifically, which I believe is an important distinction. This will be combined with an examination of the conditions required for deep learning of mathematics. I am particularly curious to hear where on the student-led learning—direct instruction continuum deep learning of mathematics falls as I suspect it will be somewhere in the middle.
I get to stay put after Peter’s presentation, as I will be remaining in the ClassTech conference to listen to the next address. Sally Wood and Simone Segat are presenting on a topic that, up until my recent change in career trajectory, was contextually interesting as it fitted with my teaching and learning context. Sally and Simone are speaking about the benefits of team teaching vis-à-vis student learning and professional learning through and in technology by examining their experiences and the pitfalls and benefits they have uncovered. I still plan to attend this presentation as I hope to be able to share my learning with my former colleagues as team teaching is a significant part of the new pedagogical landscape at my, now former, school. They are also coming from a primary perspective, which increases the relevancy to my previous colleagues. Sally and Simone have the unfortunate just-before-morning-tea time slot which means that by this stage, many people will be getting restless and ready to get up and move. I am hoping that the morning runs on time so that they do not have to cut their presentation short.
After what I presume will be a productive morning tea break, I move back across to the Special Needs and Inclusion Conference to hear about a topic I have always found fascinating and that I do not believe we leverage well enough, at least here in Australia. Lisa Kingman will be speaking about the possibilities that arise from engaging older generations and their wisdom, skills and experience to inspire and motivate the next generation. The abstract indicates that this specifically refers to utilising volunteers to engage with at …risk young people overburdened by the school system.” The abstract refers to the benefits to the community and the young person’s literacy and numeracy skills as well as life skills.
As a child I spent a significant amount of time with maternal Grandparents (Gran and Pop), and my Great-Grandfather (Grandpa) and much of my personality is attributable to them as much as it is to my parents. Grandpa celebrated his 109th birthday in September last year, a monumental effort, and is currently the tenth oldest person in Australia (interestingly, the top nine are all women) and though the body is not in its prime any longer, his mind is still sharp, if a little slower to get going than it was ten years ago. I could wax lyrical for hours about Grandpa, be warned if you ever ask about him in person. Suffice to say that much of my attitude towards education, women, appropriate dress sense (for me at least), religion, punctuality, public behaviour and attitudes, work ethic, social justice, Australian political history, life during The Great Depression as well as each of the World Wars came from them and this in turn shaped much of my own personality and belief.
I do not feel that we value our forebears’ experiences enough. I look forward to hearing Lisa’s perspective on this topic and the difference it has made to those involved and the lessons that can be taken away and utilised. Perhaps this will provide a potential solution to the ageing population, by giving the older generations a sense of purpose after retirement?
I have not scheduled myself to attend any of the sessions in the next time slot as from past experience I will by this stage be suffering from conference-it is and will need a brain break to decompress and enable myself to stay focused for the remaining sessions.
The session following my brain break has me back in the Young Learners conference to hear Catherine Ford speak about the Power of Narratives and the use of iPads for cross-curricula learning through movie making. I opted to attend this one as the abstract gives me the impression that she is coming from an Infants perspective as opposed to a primary one and I am curious to hear how she has gone about employing movie making with that age group given that I was working in a Stage One context up until recently. I have utilised movie making with Stage Three in the past, where we created a re-cut version of a Spongebob Squarepants episode which was a great series of lessons. I have not, however, done movie making per se with infants (though I did do this with a Stage One class a few years ago as an end of term activity).
After the lunch break I re-join the ClassTech conference to hear a case study into a school-wide deployment of Chromebooks, presented by Blake Seufert. I have not had an opportunity to use a Chromebook in any meaningful context and am looking forward to hearing more about how a roll out of this scale went, particularly from a staff self-efficacy and wi-fi perspectives. The abstract indicates that there will be some practical takeaways as part of this session, helping delegates to use the lessons from this session practically.
Daren Mallet will be presenting the next session I hear, back in the Special Needs and Inclusion conference, presenting on strategies for providing gifted and talented students a voice through technologies that empower and enable them to be heard and understood. I have not had much exposure to working with genuine gifted and talented students as though my previous school ran an Opportunity Class for Stages Two and Three, it was not a Gifted and Talented Class per the NSW Department of Education’s definition thereof.
The final presentation for this session is in the Future Leaders conference and will be delivered by Dr. Janelle Wills on the importance of metacognition. I look forward to this as I feel that the more I learn about A Culture of Thinking the more it fits with any school genuinely wanting to have students be metacognitive. I have only had a limited exposure to the Culture of Thinking paradigm, mainly with thanks to Ryan Gill and the recent Project Zero Sydney conference, yet it intuitively fits and is all about encouraging genuine metacognition. I am aware that just because it intuitively fits does not mean that it actually fits, after all, as Greg Ashman points out (articles), Learning Styles intuitively fits education, yet the research debunks it. I am not familiar enough with the research behind A Culture of Thinking it, not having had time to dive too deeply, so at this point in time, I can only go by the gut.
That said, I look forward to hearing what Dr. Wills has to say about metacognition as the new Teachers Toolkit from Evidence for Learning (E4L) indicates that metacognition is a worthwhile practice, providing a good return on investment vis-à-vis the cost of implementing against the level of improvement in student learning outcomes.
The first presenter I will be hearing following afternoon tea is Narissa Leung who will be speaking to a topic that was relevant in my classroom teacher context and is still relevant in my new role as ClickView Advisor. The abstract for this session says
Beyond devices and curriculum, what are the essential ingredients for leading a classTECH cultural change in your school? How can school leaders inspire hesitant teachers to take on the ClassTECH, STEM and DigiTECH challenge? Explore important points of focus for a ClassTECH agenda and PL rollout.
Every school will have at least one teacher whom Jennie Magiera would refer to as a Heck Yeah! Person and at least one teacher whom she would refer to as a Heck no! person when it comes to utilising technology in the classroom. I look forward to hearing from a Principal the steps taken and the strategies used to win both those teachers (and everyone in between) over the common vision within the school for the authentic use of technology as a pedagogical tool.
The next presentation I will be seeing is actually double-timeslot. Sally Wood and Simone Segat will be speaking once again, this time within the Teaching Kids to Code conference about the ACER Video Game challenge. This session is a joy session, one that I am attending because I am personally interested rather than professionally interested. Sally and Simone will be presenting a case study about teaching Stage Three the internal operations of a computer, as well as the language of computers, binary; and about hardware, software, input and output devices. They will also be discussing a range of easy to implement, ready to go resources and activities, including a range of apps and websites to excite and engage students.
The final session for FutureSchools 217 will take place, for me, in the Future Leaders conference and is a presentation from Renee Coffey into research and findings from the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) Compendium into Indigenous education. This is an area in which we are still failing the bulk of students, with Year Twelve completion rates amongst Indigenous students sitting significantly lower than non-Indigenous persons according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures here. This will therefore be an interesting session to hear what is happening that the AIEF has a higher completion rate than the national average for Indigenous students and as a follow on, factors that are allowing for a successful transition from education to career for those students.
After this session, there will no doubt be a mad scramble out the door for the commute home for Melbournites, or to catch flights for those coming from interstate. I am staying in Melbourne that night, flying back on Saturday. I did not want to have to rush out of a session just to catch a flight and this also means that I can get in some writing that night and on Saturday before my flight.
I hope you have found this article helpful and I look forward to meeting some of my readers if you are going to be at FutureSchools. For the full list of articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, please click here.
As always, thank you for reading.
"There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning."
- Attributed to Jiddu Krishnamurti
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
The structure of FutureSchools 2017 is going to be rather different to my experience over the last two years. The Australian Technology Park venue in Sydney did not allow for plenary sessions and so it is not a big surprise to see that plenary sessions are on the agenda with the move to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. I have previously written previews of the five conference streams (read it here) and what they are themed around, as well as a Masterclass Preview article. In this session I am going to explore the agendas for day one of FutureSchools 2017, highlighting the sessions in particular that I will be visiting.
This year’s FutureSchools event will be opening with a plenary session featuring the three keynote speakers, presenting on very different topics. After the welcoming remarks by Jenny Luca of Wesley College Melbourne, delegates will be hearing from Dr. Milton Chen about the role of the Arts, Nature, and Place-Based Learning. The topic intrigues me. I strongly believe that we do not give enough love to the creative and performing arts. Whilst I absolutely agree that literacy and numeracy are important domains of learning, and have a significant impact on a successful life, I believe that the Arts play a significant role in our ability to be creative and empathetic.
The role of Nature and Place-Based Learning is one that intrigues me. I recall a talk at FutureSchools 2015 where a Primary School in Western Australia had created a nature-play space complete with climbing trees, dirt pits for playing in and other nature-based play spaces (though I cannot find the article in question or recall who it was). I am not sure if this is what Dr. Chen is referring to in his title, nor do I know what is meant by the phrase place-based learning, however, the Arts are something I value and I am intrigued as to his view of how they connect with the other two topics.
Following Dr. Chen is Jan Owen, AM Hon DLitt speaking about skills, particularly entrepreneurial skills, needed by today’s (and presumably tomorrow’s) youth. This is a topic that I am generally a little sceptical about. I recently wrote an article about the nature of twenty-first century skills and the fact that there is nothing twenty-first century about them, other than a temporal reference to when we are utilising these skills. The abstract for Jan’s presentation indicates that the session will help us to identify entrepreneurial skills needed by immersing us in leading research and insights into changing enterprise.
I would not personally consider myself an entrepreneur nor would I necessarily be able to list the particular skill set an entrepreneur would need, however, I would imagine that they would be similar to those that entrepreneurs needed in previous generations. Talk about studentpreneurs, teacherpreneurs, and edupreneurs is, from my perspective, concerning. Perhaps I am coming at this from the wrong angle, and I would encourage you to let me know in the comments if you think that is the case, however, entrepreneur has business and commercial connotations in my mind and implies a sense of going about something for commercial benefit or profit. This is not what education is or should be about (although I acknowledge that what education is and should be about is a particularly large and divisive topic in its own right). It implies a focus on teaching our students a set of skills that allow one to be successful, but in one particular area of society; business. The focus on money and keeping up with the Jones' is pervasive in society today and is in my view a sad indictment on our collective societal and cultural drive.
All of that said, I am interested to hear what Jan has to say as I have not actually listened to a presentation on this topic in the past. I will also put my hand up and acknowledge that I could be coming at this topic from the wrong angle. It would not be the first time I have gone into a presentation on a particular topic with a viewpoint and walked out forced to rethink it, such as this PBL session with the Hewes' family).
The final keynote speaker is Prakash Nair under the title of Learning Environments: Optimising Places and Spaces for Learning. I am particularly interested in this talk as my current school has recently undergone a capital building project with the view to removing the twelve demountable buildings on site in order to reclaim play ground space. The demountables are gone, the new building is open, and it is the final preparation of the new playground space that is now underway. The new building looks amazing from the outside, it looks good from the inside, and I am hearing from the teachers in those spaces that they are largely enjoying the team-teaching aspect. I am not in the new building, however my current classroom used to contain three spaces separated by walls; namely the library, the librarian’s office and the computer lab. It has been renovated and turned into a single space for two classrooms, and I am enjoying working in a team-teaching context.
Following the plenary keynote session is the ever important morning tea break, a chance to recharge laptops, connect with old friends, meet other educators and stretch the legs and mind after an intense opening session. The second session is where delegates break into their respective conference streams and this is where the media pass under which I am attending FutureSchools this year kicks in. Part of the agreement is that I attend at least one session in each conference stream, a relatively easy request as each stream has sessions that I am interested in. I will be beginning with the Special Needs and Inclusion conference stream where I will be hearing Deborah Nicholson speak about Bridging the equity gap for vulnerable students through music and arts programs.
There is an equity gap in our schools, a fact that at the moment is inescapable and strategies put in place, such as Gonksi seem to be helping. I have seen students who are not academically inclined light up during music or PE or drama lessons as it is an area they are successful in. I have seen students from difficult backgrounds turn a corner when they are able to be provided additional support in class through a Learning Support Intervention funded by Gonski. The different it can make to the confidence and self-belief for a student who struggles with [insert numeracy or literacy struggle here].
Following Deborah’s presentation, I will be shuffling quickly across to the ClassTech conference stream to hear Linda Ray speak about the impact of technology in the classroom on digital dementia. The abstract contends that neuroleadership ensures that our focus remains on the real, not virtual tasks at hand. This promises to be an interesting session as the impact of technology on students’ ability to focus is still being assessed. There has been some research in this field, however, to the best of my knowledge, the debate is certainly not over. Understanding how to recognise, avoid and combat cognitive overload from educational technology is a skill which I feel will become more and more important as technology becomes more pervasive throughout our education systems.
The final session before lunch and a return to the plenary room is, for me, in the Future Leaders conference stream where Dr. Rachel Wilson will be speaking about …aspiration, trends, challenges and cautions in assessment. This topic is rather timely given the teeth gnashing that occurred when the latest PISA results were recently released, the current public debate about the HSC changes to English and Physics as well as the deplorable changes to being eligible to sit the Higher School Certificate which are being proposed. I will be interested to hear what role the Australian Curriculum has in the talk as well as what role having a national final exam may play, if any.
The current system of assessment is broken if you listen to the media but they do not seem to be able to offer any genuinely viable alternatives. There are certainly areas of opportunity for improving assessment, but the teachers at the coalface can only do so much.
After lunch is when the breakout sessions are scheduled. I have not been particularly impressed with the structure and organisation of this session at the previous iterations of FutureSchools I have attended; however, I acknowledge that the organisers were hamstrung with the spaces available to them at the Australian Technology Park. I am hopeful that this year, with a new venue, that greater consideration to the logistics and acoustics of the breakout sessions is given and that they are more beneficial to everyone who attends the, not just those who sit nearest the presenter.
The final session of the day will see delegates return to the plenary room for two final keynotes. The first, from Marita Cheng focuses on the impact that the Victorian Government’s TechSchools Initiative is having, particularly in the STEM area and the impact that early exposure to technology and engineering is having on students. Finishing the day off is Lisa Rodgers, the CEO of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) presenting under the title From Young Learners to Lifelong Learning. It should be an interesting session as the abstract promises to [b]uild insight to raise achievement and improve system effectiveness. Discover the levers that really lift educational attainment. Given that it is the final session of the day, it will either be very well or very poorly attended. I do not know what the wider educational community’s attitude towards AITSL is, however, I personally have heard a range of opinions.
Day one of FutureSchools 2017 will of course be concluding with the customary networking drinks event and I look forward to seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones. Let me know in the comments what you think will be the highlight from the FutureSchools timetable and what your thoughts are on the edupreneur conversations which seem to be taking place more frequently.
"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."
- Attributed to Pele
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is through a media pass provided by the organisers.
In the previous article in this series, I provided a preview of the various conference streams as well as the central focus of each stream and who would benefit from them. In this article, I will be providing an overview of each of the six Masterclasses and why you should consider them.
Masterclass A is one I am interested in as it addresses Learning Spaces and will provide strategies for educators to take back to their teaching and learning context and implement that will maximise the effectiveness of student-centred learning spaces. With Prakash Nair, as one of the two main speakers, it is sure to be an interesting day of learning. This masterclass contends that the vast majority of classrooms are organised on the basis that most of a student's school day will be spent in the classroom surrounded by same-age peers, whether in small groups of larger whole class contexts and that curriculum areas are being addressed in discrete silos, typically through explicit instruction and without much collaboration.
Prakash Nair and Annalise Gehling are setting out to show you practical strategies that you can use to turn "...classroom-based schools into learning, community-based schools."
Masterclass B is all about BYOD and together, Matthew Robinson, Cameron Nicholls and Blake Seufert are going to work with you to provide the knowledge and strategies to ensure that the move to BYOD is worthwhile for your students' learning, for your parents' peace of mind and for your teachers' pedagogical practice. They will explore various implementation strategies and policy trends that schools need to be aware, examine the technical infrastructure that is required to have reliable wi-fi connections across the school, even during peak-load times without compromising internet speed. Strategies for managing ICT teams; and guiding staff and students through the transition as well as managing parent expectations. If your school is in a BYOD context but you feel it could be implemented more effectively, or you are considering implementing BYOD, than this is the masterclass for you.
Masterclass C is being presented by Kellie Britnell from the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner and will be focused on e-safety and cyber security. The masterclass will focus on providing delegates with an increased awareness of and strategies for dealing with new and emerging trends affecting school communities vis-a-vis e-safety and cyber security. Resources and strategies for designing school policies and processes relating to e-safety and cyber security will be discussed as part of this masterclass.
This masterclass is focusing on an area that I believe all educators should be conversant in as there is an ongoing need for knowledge and awareness of the issue. It is not acceptable, in my opinion, for teachers to say something along the lines of "I don't need to worry about that, I don't don't use social media." Believe it or not, I have heard that from a teacher. Whether we like it or not, social media and internet connectivity is now pervading the lives of our children of all ages. I know students in primary school who are active on social media yet who do not have the skills, knowledge or maturity to deal with some of the banter they come across. I would encourage anyone with even a passing interest in how to keep their child or students safe online to register for this masterclass.
Masterclass D is focused on a topic that has increasingly come to the fore in education as an apparently urgent issue for the future success of our children. Teaching Kids to Code, led by Beck Spink and Will Egan is focused on examining the new Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies curriculum in depth while showcasing how Victorian schools are successfully implementing this curriculum by exploring the school culture, vision and philosophy that has fostered the successful implementation of this curriculum, including industry partnerships, real world opportunities, a staged approach that takes in physical computing as well as information systems and computational thinking.
Delegates will engage in a discussion of some pedagogical strategies that have worked for primary and middle school teachers in successfully teaching students to code, but also to help spark creativity in thinking by having students write for design, showcase and end-user requirements as part of the design life cycle. This will be a hands on workshop that will allow delegates to develop confidence, knowledge, strategies, resources and pedagogical practices for implementing the digital technologies syllabus.
Masterclass E is one that intrigues me a great deal. Linda Ray will be facilitating this masterclass, entitled Mindfulness, Neuroscience and Wellbeing. The current world is full of distractions and ways of immediate gratification such as games, shopping advertisements etc and this provides an ongoing mental battle between distraction and attention, which Linda has indicated in the abstract for the masterclass leads to increasing levels of cognitive loads results in increased stress and fatigue. Cognitive load is a highly significant factor in our ability to solve problems, make decisions, to be creative and many other facets. If this is stressed, then the learning potential for our students is impaired as they are not able to focus adequately. This masterclass would, I believe, pair nicely with Masterclass C.
Masterclass F is titled Computational Thinking and Coding with Swift Playgrounds and will be facilitated by Daniel Budd. It will be focusing on the cross-curricular approaches that are successfully being used to implement the new Digital Technologies curriculum. Daniel will provide a hands-on workshop where delegates will explore the curriculum and hear case studies demonstrating successful integration of computational thinking that falls within mathematics and Digital Technologies curriculum areas.
These masterclasses, along with the various conference streams (read my preview of those here) provides some excellent reasons to attend FutureSchools. I would encourage you to register soon to secure your place at what is sure to be an excellent event.
To read all articles in this series, please click here.
"I like to approach every day like it's the only day I will ever have."
- Attributed to Gene Simmons
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
FutureSchools is shifting to a new home for the 2017 iteration. The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) will be hosting educators from across Australia in a setting vastly different to that of Australian Technology Park where previous FutureSchools events have been held. I am looking forward to attending, not least because I genuinely enjoy being in Melbourne, but it will be a chance to see FutureSchools from another perspective.
Time is running out to register your place in one of the six masterclasses or the five conference streams. If you are not sure which conference stream is right for you, then keep reading. if you have not yet booked your place, include a Gala Dinner ticket in your registration and use code BTS150 by 11:59pm on Friday 10th February to receive $150 off which effectively makes the Gala Dinner ticket is free.
The Future Leaders conference is focused on looking at the future of teaching and learning through examination of current global trends and developments in school education, including changes to the: schooling system; society; behaviour; pedagogy; curriculum; technology; professional learning; and learning spaces. This conference will include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair as well as case-studies and presentations from current education leaders and teachers. To read more about the Future Leaders conference, click here. I am hoping to hear Michael Ha's session which will focus on taking the professional and student learning opportunities that arise from technology.
The Teaching Kids to Code conference is focused on teaching students to code through professional development for teachers around the Australian Digital Technologies curriculum. This conference stream will explore the challenges of teaching students to code and why we should be teaching students to code as well as provide a forum for collaboration in driving STEM, computational thinking and coding beyond the classroom. This conference will include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair as well as case-studies and presentations from educators currently utilising coding as part of their pedagogical practice. To read more about the Teaching Kids to Code stream, please click here. I would particularly like to hear the panel session focusing on the national digital technologies rollout and the opportunities and trouble areas that have arisen thus far for integrating the curriculum.
My usual FutureSchools home, the ClassTech conference has a broad agenda which focuses on how to use various technologies and technology-based pedagogical practices in the classroom. I've written extensively over the last two years from the ClassTech conference stream and this year looks to be as good as ever. This conference will include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair as well as case-studies and presentations from educators currently utilising coding as part of their pedagogical practice. As I am currently working in a team-teaching context, I a particularly looking forward to hearing Sally Wood and Simone Segat speak about how team teaching can enhance digital technology learning. I have heard Joel Speranza speak about using videographic feedback previously and can also recommend his session with cnofidence. To read more about the ClassTech conference, please click here.
The Special Needs and Inclusion Conference (SNIC) is aimed at presenting practices that are working for educators around the country when it comes to integrating and support students with difficult backgrounds or who have learning disorders and disabilities such as auditory processing, Autism Spectrum Disorders, behavioural issues, dyslexia, as well as those students whom are identified as being gifted or talented. The focus is to provide innovative, proven and practical ideas that can be implemented in your classroom within existing frameworks and taking advantage of special needs technologies. Delegates will also hear the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair. I am particularly looking forward to hearing Karina Barley speak about creating a space in which an autistic student can feel secure and engage with their learning.
I am actually looking forward to a number of the sessions on the Young Learners agenda this year. I have to admit that in previous years I have not looked at the agenda as I have been teaching upper primary, however, this year I have shifted to Stage One and so it has become rather relevant. This conference stream is focused on examining how Early Years through to Stage One teachers can tap into digital technologies to provide new and enhanced learning opportunities, with practical sessions allowing delegates to get hands on and confident with various tools. This session does include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair. As a new parent, I am particularly interested in hearing from Dr Kristy Goodwin who will be addressing the impact of digital immersion on a child's physical development, health and well-being, and learning and how this can redefine not just the role of educators, but the approach.
There are also six Masterclasses to choose form, however, I will publish a separate overview of those early next week. I look forward to meeting some of my readers at FutureSchools 2017 and remember to register before 11:59pm Friday 9 February to take advantage of the BTS150 giving $150 off the registration price when a Gala Dinner ticket is included.
Welcome back for this, the final article in my review of FutureSchools 2016. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. I had looked at the agenda for the afternoon session and was not particularly excited by what I saw and did consider leaving early, but made the decision to stay and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the final session and how engaging both Marissa Peters and Jim Sill were.
Marissa Peters is an ICT Specialist from St John’s Primary School in East Frankston, Victoria. Marissa’s presentation title of The Dreams You Dream! The Use of Virtual Reality in the Classroom did not grab my interest as virtual reality (VR) is not something that is on my radar for use in the classroom. Marissa opened by commenting that the world of reality is limited, whereas our imaginations are boundless and that VR takes our five senses and extends them further.
Marissa spoke about Google Cardboard, which I had previously heard of, but never actually known what it was or how it worked. It seems like it has some potential for use in the classroom, but requires smartphones, which, when schools are pushing towards tables, is mildly annoying. That said, I am not sure that it would be comfortably usable with a tablet.
Marissa also spoke about how they let the students play in order to become comfortable with the concept of VR, with titles including Minecraft, Titans of Space, Photosphere, Alice and Google Expeditions. Marissa identified that as part of their entry into the VR space, her and her students became consumers rather than creators, which is difficult to change at this point in time. There are some tools out there to allow students to become creators of content, such as Unity 3D.
It was acknowledged that VR takes significant time to embed in place, and to train students and staff in obtaining the most benefit from the experiences, rather than it simply being an interesting gimmick. I can certainly see a place for Google Expeditions in the classroom, however, once again, when we are asking our students to bring tablets into class, it is difficult to turn around and ask that they also bring phones in, particularly in a primary school context.
Marissa closed with a quote attributed to Thomas Edison and posited that as Educators, it should be a motto for us to guide as and remind us to push through failures.
Jim Sill (@MisterSill), Director of Global Development with EdTech Team and his title of The Wild and Reckless World of Creativity was rather ambiguous, and he opened by showing us a clip from Madonna’s 1984 music video for her single Material Girl, telling us that we now all lived in a Twitter world, with the Twitter culture permeating most facets and most societies in the world.Personally, I am a fan of Twitter as a professional development tool and as a tool for learning, and Jim described getting the best use from Twitter as taking a cup, dipping it in a river and having a drink from the cup. “You don’t try and capture the whole river” Jim reminded us, and the admonishment to not worry about keeping up with all of Twitter, which some try to do, or feel that they should be doing, is a useful one, particularly for those new to Twitter.
Jim continued by talking about selfies, selcas (the Korean term for selfie), the toilet selfie (“It does not matter how well dressed you are, you are still taking a photo in the room where you poop!”) and categorised these as a form of self-branding and self-identification which form part of the user’s online footprint. As a side note, I have recently heard digital footprints being referred to instead as digital tattoos, which I think is an interesting and important distinction. The below video by Juan Enriquez speaks to this concept and is well worth watching.
Jim spoke about how YouTube is essentially a hook farm full of ways for teachers to capture students’ interest in a topic, how Instagram has changed our relationships with food, with tourism and with each other and how GoPro makes everything look awesome. Jim commented that many teachers do not try new ideas, new technologies, new pedagogies due to a fear of failure, whether as a result of having been figuratively burnt in the past, or a lack of support from colleagues, they are paralysed by fear, and that fear is the big killer of new ideas and products.
Jim asked us to consider what kind of world we live in and the types of tools that we use to activate and access our students, reminding us that our world, outside the bubble of education and the classroom, does not have a safety net. He invoked Prensky’s notion of the digital native and digital immigrant, not the first time Prensky had been referenced during the conference, and how it is an old concept (the paper linked above was published in 2001) yet it is still used today. Jim told us how because of when he was born, he was a bicycle native. He was born in a time when bicycles were commonplace and everyone had one, yet, they were once considered to be “…diabolical devices of the demon of darkness…full of guile and deceit.”
Jim reminded us that we all started with training wheels on our bicycles, and that the move towards two-wheeled freedom was a gradual one, guided by our elders. In the same way, we should be training our children and our students in how to truly use technology. Jim quoted Mike Welsch as having said that incoming students in his college courses were showing only a superficial familiarity with digital tools. The term digital native should not be used in anything but the general time-frame sense, but that the term digital naives is an accurate descriptor for many students in their ability to meaningfully use digital tools.
We were shown a portion of a 360 video that Jim had taken while travelling by rickshaw in Mumbai, and he spoke about how the use of videos such as this provided options for viewer choice narratives as the viewer chose what to watch, and while this could be a powerful tool, we need to keep asking the question is this relevant or useful to our teaching and learning?
Jim echoed the point that had been made a number of times earlier int he conference that all teachers need to start somewhere on the SAMR model, and that the innovators and early adopters can create a bridge from substitution and augmentation across to modification and redefinition to assist those teachers who are slower to take up technology and assist the way they integrate technology in their teaching.
“Your first few ideas usually suck” we were told, and that the zoom-in metacognitive strategy can help us move beyond the first ideas. Jim said that we should launch early and iterate regularly, with an interesting quote attributed to Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn:
I look back at the very first flipped learning videos I created and I cringe. They are horrible. Dry, slow, stilted, and most definitely uninteresting. Yet they were a starting point, and they have helped me to create better videos. Teachers need to maintain the beginner’s mindset, Jim continued, and that for some reason, education is always expected to be polished, which is unrealistic as it is not. As teachers, we regularly make mistakes, get our words mixed up, do not quite finish our explanations, forget to hand out enough materials for science and any number of other commonplace errors that are easy to make when you are managing a room of thirty very different students. He encouraged us to embrace our mistakes, which is advice that Joel Speranza gave us in relation to flipped learning video creation and, quoting Goethe, that doubt grows with knowledge.
Jim closed with a few thoughts. As teachers, we live in a world of creative minds and we need to be careful with those minds, lest we stamp out the creativity, whilst encouraging our students to remain young and not become a statistic that we hear about in the news. Embrace creativity and put a saddle on it and have a go; be open with stories of success and of failure to guide our students so they can learn from our mistakes and our good choices and that providing opportunities for our students to share their ideas globally can create powerful connections and turn students into teachers.
Jim’s presentation was energetic and engaging, an excellent speaker to close out the conference with on a Friday afternoon and I am glad that I stayed for both his and Marissa’s sessions. The conference overall was definitely worthwhile attending in my opinion. I had some valuable conversations with a number of people, was able to finally meet some educators that I had been interacting with via Twitter for a while and strengthen connections with others. I am unsure whether I will attend FutureSchools next year, purely from the perspective of it moving to Melbourne and EduTech moving to Sydney.
I hope that you have found some benefit from reading through these review articles, I know that writing them has been a useful process for consolidating my own learnings. As always, thank you for reading.
If you have missed any articles in this review series, please click here to see the full list.
Welcome back for this penultimate article in my FutureSchools 2016 series. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. When I looked at the program for the day, I must admit a certain amount of disinterest in this session, covering as it was, 3D Printing and Robotics and their application and integration within the curriculum. I do believe that both areas hold some application and as teaching tools, however, at this point in time, they are not on my radar. We do have some small groups dabbling with some older Lego-based robotics, but that is the extent of it.
Shireen Winrow (@Shireenwin), the E-Learning facilitator at Redlands School, opened the session speaking under the title Integrating 3D design and printing into the curriculum. Shireen spoke about the continuum of growth when implementing 3D printing from beginning through to integrating and then transforming learning. She spoke about her entry point with students being the designing and printing of small stars.
They utilised an app to design a tree, and then hand-drew a leaf, and used the app to clone, flip and rotate them in order to position them upon the tree, which generated a discussion about spatial awareness and associated mathematical skills, on top of creative arts to actually draw the leaf. Shireen did make one comment at this point which made myself and a number of those around me laugh when talking about the actual printing of the final product; which was that the 3D printer failed and so they had to just switch to using the laser cutter to cut some templates. The financial investment to own either of those tools is not something that is achievable for many schools.
Shireen spoke about including thinking skills in the teaching of 3D design and made the comment that “….you can’t think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.” My understanding of what Shireen was meaning here was that to effectively teach thinking skills, that you need to have students thinking about their thinking, whilst thinking about something, it is something that needs to be done in-situ, whilst completing another activity in order to have some context within which to think about your thinking.
The Year Two unit based on types of Transport required students to select a mode of transport and identify the various shapes that would be required to create that in a 3D model, such as needing a cylinder for the handle of a broom. A Year Five unit required students to design a character, including what they look like, clothing and come up with a written justification for how they look, in the form of a story about that character. Using a program called Thingmaker, students were then required to print them using the 3D printer.
Year Six took this a step further, being required to select a character from a book, and go through the same process, with the justification required to contain textual evidence for choices made about the appearance, and the resultant 3D printed characters were displayed in the school library.
Shireen spoke about some tools that they had utilised, including Thingiverse, BuildWithChrome, Adobe Photoshop, Morphi, Thingmaker, 3D Creationist and Makers Empire. She also commented that when starting out with 3D Printing, that you need to experiment, and take calculated risks.
Following Shireen was John Burfoot (@johnburfoot), the Lead Robotics Facilitator at Mac ICT (@MacICT). John said that robotics in schools is more prevalent now than ever before and that robotics can inform students of various vocational opportunities in addition to helping them learn how to solve problems, persevere, work collaboratively and think logically.
Robotics utilise an inquiry-based learning strategy and is an interactive teaching and learning resource. Technology offers a tool to allow students to explore, learn, create and play at the same time. John mentioned that research published in 2010 found that there were typically three different approaches to planning and implementing inquiry-based learning with a robotics focus. The first was theme-based, where the initial learning stimulus and subsequent learning was focused on something, a zoo, transport, space etc. The second was Project or Problem Based Learning such as the need to feed the pet cat while the family was away on holidays and how that can be achieved; while the third was goal oriented such as RoboCup, Robo Soccer, or the UAV Challenge.
John spoke about the use of themes, STEAM, storytelling and exhibitions as some varied options for integrating robotics within the curriculum, and that new options are emerging on a regular basis, including, just recently the Lego WeDo, Bee-Bots and the Sphero. John closed out by reminding us that Lego Engineering is a great first port of call for robotics but that there are plenty of other easy to learn options available, and that the Parrot drone, which can be programmed through the Tickle App is a great starting point for drones.
As always, thank you for reading, and keep an eye out tomorrow for the final articles in this years FutureSchools review.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.
Welcome back for part two of the view of session two of the FutureSchools conference. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. Following Peggy Sheehy, was Glenn Carmichael, who described the school in which he teaches as “…a smallish high school…” called St Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart, speaking under the title STEM Projects with real world applications.
Michael spoke about how he heard the question “…when will we use this?” on a regular basis from his students, and that it seemed as thought mathematics was the subject in which this question was asked more in than any other, which I think is true. From my own schooling, I would not have even considered asking that question in English, science or creative arts, yet in mathematics, it seems like it is asked on a regular basis (read this interesting and thought-provoking article on the topic).
Glenn discussed how the school wanted to embed STEM in the school in a manner that it had intrinsic value to students and spoke about two projects that were utilised to put that in place. The first project required students to develop an iPhone app that had meaning and practical use for them. From a programming perspective, xcode was utilised as it is free and is a real coding language, not a kiddy language with excellent tools for student planning including a storyboarding facility and the ability to simulate the app in its current state to debug and test various iterations. The students, after much discussion, concluded that they would develop an app for use at school to fill in a lot of the gaps in information that students required for getting around.
Glenn related how student timetables were not particularly informative, with a time, room code and a teacher code being the sum total, and that the teacher code did not necessarily mean that you knew who it was before your first class when you first arrived. I remember my first timetable in year seven, and it had a timeslot, room identification and the teachers name (Mrs Smith etc). This particular teacher coding, from what I recall of what Glenn said was a series of letter from their name. Students decided they wanted an app that provided a mapping function so that you could work out where rooms were, and the easiest route from where you were to where you needed to go, teacher’s names and their photo, a to do list, and useful links.
The project had inherent usefulness and significance to the students involved in the project and as such, the natural engagement in the project was high. The decision was made that simply embedding Google Maps would not be sufficient, as it would not provide the specific room locations, or the ability to allow for second level rooms, that a custom map would, which meant that students had to create their own maps with all of the mathematical skills and concepts that go along with that.
The students were also required to create and present a sales pitch to gain experience in considering factors such as cost/profit margins, clients wishes against what the developer wanted (colour schemes to fit with corporate designs etc.), modification of prototype to meet client demands, determining cost of production and then what a fair retail price would be.
Glenn did indicate that the learning curve on xcode was incredibly steep and that the success and failure rates of students in completing particular tasks needed to be balanced. As a result of the challenges from learning xcode, xcode Edu was created, a more manageable version for use with students.
The second project was a 3D Printing project where students utilised Google Sketchup with two add-ons; one called Solid Inspector and the other being Sketchup STL. Once again, students were required to treat the project as a business project and determine the real cost of the final product, including time, plastics, general wear and tear on the 3D printer itself, electricity (which introduced unit conversion), packaging and handling.
Glenn spoke very well and was apologetic at having to rush through his presentation, openly admitting that he had a number of short videos that he could not show due to time constraints at having to start late.
After Glenn’s brief talk, it was the morning break which was followed by the roundtable sessions. Last year, I was not very impressed with how the roundtable sessions had been organised from the perspective of the physical set up. None of the issues have been addressed or remedied in preparation for this year, and if anything, they were worse. My first roundtable was with Glenn and I was excited to be able to hear him speak further and hopefully glean some of what he had been forced to omit in his conference presentation. It was not to be.
Once again, the round tables were tucked at one end of the expo hall, where the concrete floor combined with the cavernous size of the overall space to create an annoyingly loud echo chamber with multiple conversations overlapping creating a cacophony of noise. I was again standing at the back, approximately three metres away from Glenn and could not hear him. At one point, there was someone at the other end of the table speaking, and I could not hear them, and when the person in front of me, who was sitting down, asked a question, I could not hear them very clearly. My total notes from the session consisted of the FutureLearn online professional development side could be useful for coding and STEM-based learning as an educator, and a something which I did manage to hear, as it was very early in the roundtable, when he said “this is bigger than I thought; it was meant to be a small group.”
I gave up after about ten minutes, as I was gaining nothing other than a headache, and spent the remainder of the session speaking with Brian Host, Paul Hamilton and Alfina Jackson, who introduced me to Meredith Ebbs, which from my perspective, was quite productive. I did not attend the second roundtable I had nominated as I strongly suspected it would be the same, and the conversation with Brian and Paul was, for me, valuable. I received a few pieces of advice, including the use of Blendspace as a host for flipped videos as a work around the NSW Department of Education block on YouTube, TeacherTube and Vimeo, and also a contact name regarding the inability of Android devices to connect to the DoE wi-fi.
I can only hope that with FutureSchools moving to Melbourne for 2017, that the issues with the roundtable sessions are properly addressed and those sessions are more beneficial for attendees. When you pay a significant sum for a conference (and I was not the only person that I am aware of who was there having self-funded their attendance) you expect all the sessions to be well managed. At this point, with the advice that FutureSchools is moving to Melbourne, and EduTech is moving to Sydney, I do not know which event I will attend as I have not been to EduTech previously. A decision for next year.
I hope you have gained some benefit from this article, and as always, thank you for reading. The next article will cover the penultimate session, with presentations from Shireen Winrow and John Burfoot.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.