"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.