"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.