“We often use words like loyal, respectful, wise, steadfast etc. with our Grandparents, but not, it seems with today’s generation.”
– Teresa Deshon
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
The fourth and final session for day one of the Rethinking Reform stream at Education Nation was rather full, as it contained both the Rethinking Reform and the Digital Dimension streams. Teresa Deshon opened the session by speaking about People of Character – Your Best Self which was a focus on the pastoral curriculum that often appears to be ignored or subsumed by the focus on the academic curriculum and what that looks like at Kilvington Grammar. Teresa began with a series of back in my day… sayings and then related that it often appears as if the character traits and virtues which were taken for granted in generations gone by, resilience, steadfastness, loyalty, persistence etc. appear to be largely missing in the current school-bound generation. This, Teresa commented, was played out in (uncited) OECD data where Australia appears in the top third of many welfare concern issues tracked.
There are significant issues facing parents in the current age and it feels like, for many teachers, that more and more of what was traditionally the domain of the parent is becoming the domain of the teacher. This has led, Teresa contends, to an increase in the need for socio-emotional skills teaching at schools. Teresa related to the audience the RULER program from Yale University which is utilised in her own school as part of the wider Character Initiative which focuses on explicitly teaching character traits and socio-emotional skills.
Teresa spoke about how there are three climate types and that all three play a significant role at Kilvington grammar and that students are able to utilise to three climates to be their best self. Within the Character Initiative, the focus is on helping students from Kindergarten to Year Six set goals based upon the character trait being explicitly taught that term, whilst in Year Seven to Twelve students, they set the goals based on the character traits, complete quizzes to measure the engagement, understanding, and appreciation of the character traits whilst engaging in an analysis of the character trait as it is portrayed throughout various types of media including news, books, and movies.
Teresa also noted that in Years Nine and Ten, students had the choice of undertaking the ethical leadership elective subject which focuses on three areas:
It was here that Teresa made a brief reference to a flipped curriculum, and even showed a stock flipped class graphic, however, the terminology was being used in a context that was not flipped learning in the sense of flipped learning that I have written about at length in the past. Teresa was actually referring to the flip made from focusing on the academic curriculum to the pastoral curriculum as opposed to flipped learning of the type I have written about previously.
Teresa’s presentation timeslot was brief and it went by very fast. There was not, for me, any particular takeaways from the session. There were no tools or strategies talked about in depth that could be applied, but anecdotal discussion of how a program was working in a particular context. The move from focusing on the academics to the pastoral side of things intrigues me, especially when you consider that the academics do still need to be attended to, however, I do agree that the pastoral issues need to be addressed. Teresa’s opening point, about the shift of pastoral concerns being from a parental burden to a teacher burden, is an issue, and I think it goes back to the need to establish the purposes and goals of education, and whether it should include pastoral issues, or whether they need to be the domain of the parent (which is in itself another debate).
As always, thank you for reading, and I would appreciate any feedback you care to offer in the comments below or over on Twitter.
If you have missed any previous articles in this series, you can find them by clicking here.
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.
“Whomever sets up the blog, owns the blog.”
Sue Waters and Richard Byrne
As promised in the previous article, I will be covering three presentations in this review of session three from day one of the FutureSchools expo ClassTech conference stream. Initially, I will be reflecting on the ‘ask the expert’ mini-presentation that occurred during the lunch break, led by Sue Waters and Richard Byrne which was about blogging, after that, I will cover the two presentations that occurred session three proper, including 3D printing and the Connected Classroom.
At the end of session two, there was of course a bit of a mad rush out to the expo hall where lunch was being served, in order to get that, and then get to the ask the expert session with Sue and Richard. This was a topic I was keen to hear about, as I had started this blog with the aim of using it as a place of reflection on my teaching practice (which is yet to occurred), to share insights from my teaching practice (also yet to occur) and to reflect on events and professional development sessions, such as FutureSchools, which is, obviously, happening right now.
The discussion was targeted, primarily, at classroom and student blogs, but much of what they said also applies to personal or professional blogs, such as mine. Richard and Sue believe that as teachers, we don’t self-promote enough about our achievements. They pointed out that there is a different between self-aggrandisement and self-promotion, with one being excessive and over the top, and the other being celebrations about successes, acknowledgements of struggles and the little things that make us smile (my interpretation of their words).
There were some pitfalls around blogs that need to be avoided in order to have a successful blog. We need to be persistent with our writing. A lack of comments, shares, or likes, or views does not negate the value of the writing we are doing. Blogs need to have a clear purpose. For those using them as a learning tool in the classroom, blogs need to be fully integrated into the classroom infrastructure, rather than considered an add-on, and we need to provide our students with the tools to understand how and why to use it, and make it a tool that they will want to use.
Pitfalls facing classroom blogs in particular are the optional nature of blogging. If we are going to have our students blog, make it something for which they are held accountable, as much as you would any other piece of learning. The posting schedule needs to be consistent, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly should be negotiable, but it should be consistent so readers know when a new post will be up. The purpose of the blog should be clear, both to the students and to the audience. Sue indicated that classrooms in which blogs are used successfully have set routines and strategies that are used consistently around the blogging requirements, including some schools where the blog forms part of an e-portfolio which stays with the students as an artifact of their learning across their entire school career.
As teachers, we should have a goal for the blog – whether it be a presentation of facts, a discussion starter, or a demonstration of has been learned or achieved. In achieving this, we should not constrain our students creativity by limiting them to literacy skills. They should have the opportunity to use other forms of expression, including vlogs, though there should of course be dialogue around when this appropriate in regards to the age of your students.
Statistically, it appears that for younger students, up to around years five to seven, that the majority of students will be on the one class blog, and that the older students are more likely to have individual blogs. That said, there is some intermingling or crossover of when this shift occurs and would depend on your specific context and your students and community.
Additionally, both Richard and Sue agreed that whomever sets up the blog, owns the blog, so in order to allow students ownership of the blog and the likely engagement that comes from that, it is important to allow students to change things such as the theme of the blog, allowing some appropriate non-school postings as both of these encourage not only ownership, but creativity.
The debate over the public vs private nature of student blogs continues on in various settings (including here, here, here and here) and that decision may be made by the school or education department as a matter of policy, or you may have some scope to make a professional judgement on a case by case basis. As with BYO programs though, opening up a dialogue with the parents and students, about the how and why of the blog, whether public or private, is important to its success and the engagement and discussion that it can foster in the school community. Additionally to this, it is vital to have the conversation about privacy and not identifying anyone personally by name or other descriptors that people are able to know exactly who is being talked about, and there are special considerations to take when uploading media such as images or videos such as not showing faces of minors.
To get the blog noticed within the public sphere, it is important to write, and to write often, but not too often. Richard Byrne is a successful blogger and posts up to four or five blog articles a day, however they are only a few hundred words longs. Alternatively, posting once or twice a week, with longer posts may be more effective for you – it is going to vary according to the individual context. If you are curious to see some examples of how classroom blogs have been sued successfully, Richard has provided a list of examples of blogs from the readers of his website.
In closing, Richard and Sue pointed out that YouTube is a form of blog, or rather a vlog, and that links or YouTube videos can often be embedded directly into a blog post.
Once the lunchtime break finished, it was time for session three. The first presentation in this session was titled 3D printing – start small, think tall and was delivered by Teresa Deshon, Deputy Principal and Kirsty Watts, Academic Dead of Technology and e-Learning, both from Kilvington Grammar School. I have to admit that this session didn’t engage me as much as those before had for the simple reason that I had had no exposure to 3D printing beyond what I had seen on the news.
I can see some applications for 3D printing, however it is not something that I can get excited about at this point. Teresa and Kirsty spoke about some of the challenges of working out how to use the 3D printing technology from storage, to the time frame required to print objects, the safety requirements, getting used to the CAD software and the need for calibration after moving the devices. They also spoke about their successes, which they said included increased engagement in learning by students, by staff interest in the technology once it had been applied to some school projects that were displayed around the school and the different thinking skills that were required, such as working out the best way to print objects that required physical support, such as printing cylinders vertically instead of horizontally to reduce the stress load on their frame during manufacture.
They felt that the 3D printers were being successfully and authentically used, and from the intial seven students they had utilising them, now have a dedicated room to store the printers and their products in, and have now purchased a total of six printers. They were able to implement the 3D printing in cross-curricular ways, and were investigating ways of further increasing their use, including investigating the use of the 3Doodler, a 3D pen.
The second presentation within session three was titled The Connected Classroom and was delivered by Anne Mirtschin. This topic interested me more, as I can see application for connecting with other classes, domestically and internationally for a wide range of learning opportunities in a variety of curricula areas. Anne started out by saying that a connected classroom is one that is not just connected internationally. A connected classroom is connected with its students, its teachers, its parents and its local community – that it is about relationships, a theme that has started to emerge from the conference thus far, with it featuring in Richard’s, Matt’s and Simon’s presentations. Anne also pointed out that teaching netiquette is very important to foster those relationships, especially when forming them with online communities.
Anne talked about tools that she has used, including Blackboard Collaborate, which allows for virtual classrooms, and the use of back channels to allow sub-discussions to go on at the same time, such as additional questions, or insights from students, and that videoconferencing encourages engagement by students when a back-channel is provided for students not engaged directly in the conversation to be engaged.
Anne pointed out the logical nature of using global days to connect with other schools, such as World Peace Day, World Wildlife Day, World Poetry Day etc (a list of World Days observed by the United Nations is available here). She also indicated that video conferencing needed to be regular and genuine, and that doing so would help break down the barriers of geography and language, as students would engage more with others when they were used to engaging with others through the medium of a webcam, and that it allowed students to ask questions of other peoples that would not ordinarily be able to ask.
Some tools that were mentioned as being useful by Anne included Skype, Flat Connections, Backchannel chat, Padlet, WeChat,WhatsApp, QQ International and Viber. This is another area of learning that I can see potential for, but at this point in my career, as a casual teacher, I don’t feel that I can implement in a genuine way. It is certainly something that I hope to be able to implement in the future, but as a casual teacher, I don’t see it being a viable tool.
The next post will be the final presentation from day one of the ClassTech conference stream at FutureSchools, and possibly a run down on the expo, and the networking drinks and then dinner.
As always, thank you for reading and leave a comment. I would especially like to hear from any educators who do use a blog in their classroom, and how you utilise it.
See here for the list of articles in this series.