Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) in June is through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Times listed in this article are correct at the time of publishing, but are subject to change.
It is interesting timing, sitting here composing this article, with Education Nation only a week away, considering that the topic for #satchatoz this past weekend was how [do] conferences help us grow professionally. I have been amazed at the response to both my interview with Professor Geoff Masters and the interview with Dr. David Zyngier. I am excited to announce that I have just received the interview with Dr. Kevin Donnelly, who is arguing the side of private education in The Great Debate against Dr. Zyngier. You can get involved with The Great Debate by submitting a question for the moderated questions from the floor component of the Debate by clicking here.
Today, however, I want to have a look at the programs for the various conference streams. There is a lot to be excited about on the program for Education Nation, making it difficult to choose a particular stream to be involved in. Of course, each stream has a particular focus and which you will choose will vary according to your context and your needs. I am in the position of being able to move between the event streams thanks to the media pass, and it made for some very difficult choices, as I wanted to engage with at least one session in each stream across the two days.
I have included a copy of the EduNationAu Timetable, which I have put together from the separate programs on the Education Nation website to allow for seeing what was happening at any time and it showed that the events do not necessarily line up in regards to timings for each session. I have chosen the sessions I will be attending according to a few criteria:
The first session I plan to attend is in the Rethinking Reform stream, and will be my first opportunity to hear Brett Salakas (@Mrsalakas) speak. He will be exploring the subject of PISA and the growing fascination with the results and our place in relation to the other OECD member nations. It promises to provide an open and frank exploration of our current relationship with PISA pipe dreams and the cultural contexts involved. Following Brett’s session was my first dilemma.
Do I stay and listen to Professor Geoff Masters (@GMastersACER) identify and discuss the five most important challenges facing schools, or alternatively, head across to the Digital Dimensions stream to hear Simon McKenzie (@connectedtchr) identify if we have just made everything worse with the rollout of technology in schools, from both positive and negative perspectives. Simon’s session promises to be very intriguing and potentially controversial given the explosion of one-to-one and BYOD programs in recent years.
Both options are incredibly appealing, however, in the end, I decided to remain in my seat for Professor Masters’ session. Primarily due to time; both sessions are scheduled to commence at 0940, and though there is typically some fluidity in the actual timings at conferences, I wanted to avoid being that person who enters a room late and then proceeds to become the show as they attempt to find a seat, get there and then set up for the session. I look forward to reading the tweets stemming from Simon’s session, and please, if you write a blog article from that session (or any other), send me the link so that we can re-share it with the wider Education Nation PLN.
After the morning break, I plan to spend the entire second session engaging with one of the deep-dive workshops, The Leader. Specifically, I will be attending the session which examines strategies for bridging the gap when policy and practice diverge, presented by Peter Mader (@Mader_Peter). It is an interesting area to explore, and also a common problem. Educational policy is typically slow to respond to new information and requirements, particularly when it is required to run the gamut of a bureaucracy.
Michael’s session finished and provides me with a ten-minute window to move across to my next session, hearing from Ed Cutherbertson and Prue Gill (@Ed_Cuthbertson and @Prue_G) of Lanyon High School share strategies that teachers are able to utilise in their classroom to provide their students with voice and agency, allowing them to feel valued, and encouraging students to become active participants in their own learning. This session is a lengthy one, which gives me that it will provide a wide range of strategies to assist teachers in building those relationships, in providing the voice and agency to their students. Student voice and agency has been a topic of discussion more and more on social media and there is a body of research building around this issue.
Following the afternoon break, my first choice, actually, it was the first thing I marked down as wanting to attend, is The Great Debate between Dr. David Zyngier (@DZyngier) and Dr. Kevin Donnelly (@ESIAustralia). The debate surrounding public versus private education is a hot one, and both sides have some excellent arguments. I have not heard the two sides facing off in a debate before, and this is sure to be interesting and fiery. I have already published my interview with Dr. Zyngier and tomorrow I aim to publish the interview with Dr. Donnelly. Dr. Donnelly is well known in the media for his provocative statements, and I look forward to engaging with his responses, and to hearing the feedback on the article.
Do not forget to submit your questions about public education versus private education. There is still time!
Though my choices for the final session of day one of Education Nation were guided by The Great Debate, I am genuinely interested in hearing what Teresa Deshon has to say about the role of the pastoral curriculum in her case study; People of Character – Your Best Self. The academic curriculum takes the majority of our teaching time and Teresa’s question, “…[b]ut what of the pastoral curriculum?” is an excellent one. I am looking forward to hearing the strategies that Teresa and her colleagues have employed to change the focus to the pastoral curriculum, and still maintained the academic curriculum learning outcomes for their students.
At the end of day one of Education Nation, I will be attending the live #AussieEd event at Kirribilli Club (view map), tickets to which are still available. It will be my first AussieEd event, and am looking forward to it.
Day two begins bright and early, and pending Ministerial commitments, will begin for those in the Rethinking Reform forum, with an Address and Question and Answer session with the incumbent Federal Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham (@birmo). I requested a pre-Education Nation interview with Minister Birmingham, which was accepted, however, with the announcement of the impending Federal election made shortly thereafter, I daresay I ended up down the priority list as neither myself nor my speaker liaison heard back regarding the interview. I am very curious to hear about his views on the future of education in Australia, as well as what questions from the floor will be accepted and how they will be answered.
The timing of Minister Birmingham’s address meant that I am unable to attend any other event streams in the morning session as I would be arriving midway through, which is never pleasant. That said, Lila Mularczyk’s (@LilaMularczyk) subsequent presentation examining trends in education policy and the translation to the Australian context will be very interesting. I feel that this session will follow on nicely from Brett Salakas’ day one keynote address. Both keynotes will be examining the Australian relationship with global educational systems, from slightly different perspectives. I look forward to seeing what crossover conclusions the two share.
I will be spending a significant portion of day two in the Rethinking Reform session, as returning from the morning will see me settling in for two sessions which I suspect will provide a lot of food for thought. Murat Dizdar will commence the session with an examination of how some schools in the NSW public education system are adopting the national education reform platform a discussion of the operational lessons that can be taken from those schools.
Following on from Murat, is Dr. Kenneth Wiltshire, presenting an exploration of the future of curriculum in Australia. Dr. Wiltshire is not likely to hold back, having been openly critical of the national curriculum and the process through which it has been developed. Dr. Wiltshire lays blame on the doorstep of ACARA itself, specifically the structure and functioning, labelling it a largely discredited body within education circles. I am very much looking forward to hearing him speak. As an early career teacher, the future of the curriculum is a rather important topic for me and my students, both now and in the future.
After Dr. Wiltshire’s presentation, I plan to take some time out. His speech will finish at roughly the same time as the concurrent sessions from The Leader, The Learner, and The Educator, and with all due respect to Phillip Cooke (@sailpip), who is presenting immediately after Dr. Wiltshire; a discussion of the HSC and how it prepares students for life after school is not in my area of interest at the moment. I believe that I would gain more benefit from taking some time to refresh my brain, to re-engage with my notes, get some writing done, explore The Playground and network and meet up with some educators that I have chatted with on Twitter in the past.
Following the lunch break, I will have the opportunity to hear Olivia O’Neil speak in the Digital Dimensions forum about redeveloping a school by engaging the emerging Gen Y teachers. I am looking forward to hearing Olivia speak, as I know a lot of what has been occurring at the school she is Principal of, Brighton Secondary College from conversations with Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu), whom I heard speak originally at FlipConAus last year. I am looking forward to hearing about a journey of which I already know a little bit from the perspective of the Principal, and the challenges that were faced from that vantage point and how they were dealt with.
I plan to remain in the Digital Dimensions forum to hear Leanne Steed and Elizabeth Amvrazis as they examine the purpose of education through a lens of technology-laden classrooms and the way in which technology can empower our students.
I will then be moving back to the Rethinking Reform forum to hear someone whom I admire greatly, Corinne Campbell (@Corisel) as she speaks about the relationship between the focus on using evidence-based pedagogies and the feeling of empowerment or disempowerment by teachers. Evidence-based pedagogies are another hot topic (I quite enjoy reading Greg Ashman’s (@greg_ashman) articles in this area). If the discussions about performance-based pay for teachers come to fruition, it will be an issue of even greater importance, and make the difference, perhaps, between teachers keeping and losing their positions.
The final Education Nation session on my agenda is part of The Educator stream, and I have chosen it specifically as it is a presentation on a topic that I am not still somewhat skeptical about. The Hewes family will be closing out The Educator with a workshop giving deeper insight into Project Based Learning (PBL). The workshop is slated to allow participants to design a PBL project, ostensibly, I presume, to take back to our classroom and implement. I am not entirely sure why I am skeptical about PBL. I suspect that a lot of it is most likely misconceptions, and I have heard some local horror stories about PBL gone wrong. That said, I am looking forward to engaging with this workshop, and hopefully coming away with a new understanding and appreciation for PBL and its place in my pedagogical toolkit.
That, as I mentioned, is the final session for Education Nation 2016. I am very much looking forward to the two days and fully expect that I will need the ensuing few days to recover mentally. What are your expected highlights for the event? Let me know via Twitter using #EduNationAu which will be the main event hashtag.
As always, thank you for reading, and stay tuned tomorrow for the interview with Dr. Kevin Donnelly.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.
“I realized if you can change a classroom, you can change a community, and if you change enough communities you can change the world.”
– Attributed to Erin Gruwell
Thank you for following this series reviewing #TMSpaces back on the 15th of October. This will be the final part in the series, and will look at the presentations by Dan Bowen (@dan_bowen), Michelle Jensen (@bibliothecare3), Alan Allison (@adscall) and Monique Dalli (@1moniqued). I include here links to the #TMSpaces Storify put up by the event organiser, Phillip Cooke (@sailpip) as well as the links to the previous articles in the series
Dan, under the heading Spaces’ Secrets to Success, made the observation that Kindergarten learning spaces are, typically, fantastic with a variety of seating modes, regular activity rotations to afford students the opportunity to get up and move and refresh or reset mentally and that it gets progressively worse as students get older, prompting the exchange of observations on learning spaces seen below.
Dan explained that they have taken simple things like rooms names and changed them, with offices and meeting/conference rooms being named after various people or places. His view is that while they do utilise the open space principal, that it is important to provide places where privacy can be obtained as there are times in both the corporate world and in education where privacy is required for sensitive conversations, and that the busy staff room is often inappropriate for those phone calls. The privacy can be provided by furniture, not just by walls and he showed some examples of this type of furniture.
He also reminded us that the most important place in the room is wherever the power points are. You only need to visit an airport or a conference to see this in action. Returning from FlipConAus just recently, I had a wait of a few hours at Brisbane airport before my flight, and there were clusters of people huddled around the power points that were accessible by the public, with an array of phones and tablets plugged in to charge. Interestingly enough, he indicated that in conversations with students that visit, a regular occurrence he says, that when asked what the most frustrating part of the school is, that students invariably respond with it being the toilets. This is an area that staff rarely think about, with the exception perhaps, of kindergarten teachers. Dan concluded by showing a bit.ly to the School Edition of the Makerspace Playbook
Michelle Jensen spoke next, under the heading The twenty-first century library and began by saying that libraries are key. I expected to be hearing about the use of space within a library for learning, however this was not what Michelle spoke about. Or rather, it was, but a very different perspective was taken. Michelle spoke to the fact that learning should be any time, anywhere, and that maker spaces fell into this, as they are targeted to learning by doing. She reminded us that maker spaces can, and should be, a combination of both high and low-technology and that a library is often a great spot for them to occur in as there is generally someone present.
Michelle’s view is that maker space should be flexible and should evolve to suit the needs, desire and constraints within which they operate, which may mean running workshops at recess and/or lunchtime, for students and staff alike. I can see substantial benefits for those teachers whom are willing to get involved. The relationships that would form between students and teachers, as they co-learn the skills and techniques needed, as they collaboratively make, and the respect and understanding for each other through the process of learning together, and of the teacher being open to being taught by students more skilled in various facets of making, would reap significant boons in the classroom, as the intersection between content, curiosity and relationship would be easier to meet in the classroom.
The point was also made that a maker space can be virtual through the use of software such as Minecraft, JoyKadia, Sim-on-a-stick. Furthermore, these virtual maker spaces can be managed by students and for students in order to give ownership of the maker space to the students that will be using the space. I have written previously about maker spaces and I can see the benefits to them. I am still working out how to embed them authentically in my classroom, and to do so without a budget. Additionally, I agree that there are significant benefits to using Minecraft in the classroom, if it is implemented authentically, as I wrote about here, however at this point in time, I am not sure that I would be able to embed it authentically in my students learning; and I would rather wait until I have built up a better range of teaching strategies to support the use of Minecraft, something seen as a game with no educational value by many teachers.
Michelle also spoke about her utilisation of the NSW State Library as a resource bank as well as the Information Skills Process, a Web 2.0 tool summarised in the below graphic put together by NSW Department of Education and Training:
Michelle closed by mentioning the FAIR Campaign, an initiative by the Australian Library and Information Association “…campaigning for a fair, open, democratic society where information can be accessed by everyone.” I would encourage you to visit their site to learn more about their specific campaigns, including “…copyright law reform, cybersafety and the problems with internet filtering, digitising our nation’s history, encouraging children to read, evidence-based decisions in law, health and business, evidence-based policy making, learning at any age,qualified library staff in schools, supporting Australia’s book industry and well funded public libraries.”
The penultimate speaker was Alan Allison of Granville College, speaking under the title Eclectic Tech for Years Eleven and Twelve. Alan spoke very quickly, as we were running well behind schedule due to some speakers speaking over time, and his focus was on emphasising a high-quality on-line learning space and the various tools that he uses to achieve this.Alan indicated that, primarily, he utilised Moodles to record work and Wikispaces to for content delivery. Within WIkispaces, Alan explained that using the Projects function as spaces for providing feedback to students, as well as a place for students to store their notes on-line in a secure location.
This seems to my thinking to be a version of a flipped classroom with a mix of in-flip and out-flip, though Alan made no mention of flipped learning in any explicit way. In addition to Moodle and Wikispaces, Alan mentioned Quizlet, Alan was also adamant that A3 whiteboards were a better option for classrooms than A3 due to the larger amount of usable space, and the fact that when students utilised them for note taking, or brainstorming ideas, that they provided for better photos as students naturally wrote larger on the larger space. Alan indicated that his students take and then upload photos of their notes to their Wikispace. I really like this idea of conserving the students’ learning, as it is a resource they have created and could utilise again in the future.
The final speaker was Monique Dalli (@1moniqued), who also spoke very quickly for the same reasons as Alan. Monique had some thought-provoking things to say, reminding us that we are the converts in our schools for alternative learning spaces and that the biggest challenge is moving what we currently have to what we want, both in our own learning spaces and in the mindset of our colleagues. She exhorted us to question who the converts are not and what can be done to interest them in alternative learning spaces and in changed pedagogy. Monique challenged us to remember that if we are going to change the learning space, then we must also change the pedagogy, otherwise we have changed for change’s sake.
The typical classroom has not changed a great deal in the last few decades, other than perhaps the movement away from the rigid requirement for all desks to be in rows, and was developed during the industrial revolution. Research into how students learn conducted over the last thirty years has lead to changes, as has the rise to prominence of the individual.
As part of the change, it is important to take small steps, a point echoed made many times throughout the night. Monique indicated that as much as change can create anxiety amongst teachers, “…change can fear out the students as well.” The baby-steps approach affords students, as well as teachers, the opportunity to adjust to changes and evaluate the effectiveness of the change before making another change. Monique finished by commenting that Ebay is a valid source of furniture, and that much can be acquired, for decent prices, via Ebay.
It was a long night, but worthwhile attending. Given the impending move to open learning spaces at my school, and my desire to begin flipping, thinking about the classroom ecology is something that I need to begin doing. There were some great ideas presented during the evening, and I am glad that I went. My thanks to Phillip Cooke for organising the night and to Bradfield SC for hosting the event.