The #DLTV2014 Conference

It is hard to believe it is only a bit over a week since the first Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria Annual Conference.  It was a two day conference focussing on using digital tools for teaching and learning and innovation in our classrooms, which is the core focus of DLTV, the newly formed subject association.  DLTV works to ensure  “every learner is enabled, inspired and empowered to participate, contribute and shape their world through digital technology”.  It replaces what were two established subject associations in Victoria, VITTA and ICTEV.  As the two associations merged in January, forming DLTV, this was technically a first conference, although we were very lucky to bring our experiences from both organisations.

I was fortunate enough to be the chair for the conference meaning I was part of the planning from day one, which consisted of thinking of a theme. The theme, creating new connections, came very quickly to us and it made a lot of sense from our first meeting.  As educators we are always making connections, and so are our students as they learn. As two former subject associations we were making new connections in coming together. And the icing on the cake was that all of us on the conference committee know how important it is for educators to be connected in contemporary learning.

Once we had our theme in place we met to discuss what we wanted to achieve from the conference. For some time now I have been a big believer that professional learning is changing and there is no better team to be making that change than DLTV. Co- committee member, Kynan Robinson, is also passionate about modern learning (you can read his blog post about the conference here) and we knew we wanted to offer something to our delegates that reflected that if professional learning is changing so is our conference but at the same time provide an environment where people feel confident and comfortable.

It was from this discussion the the concept of a self organising conference came from.  What if the presenters got together and designed their own conference? What if some presenters decided not to have a structured 45 minute presentation but a session that you move in and out of at your own pace? What if the presenters decided to  team up and present rather than repeating the same sessions? And that was the direction we took.

Rather than asking for abstracts, which never really made sense to me anyway, we put a call out for expressions of interests.  No particular focus, no boundaries, no making your presentation fit.  Instead we looked at what the presenters wanted to present on and grouped these to make streams. From here we put these presenters in contact with each other to organise how their stream would run for the two days.   In some streams this was as simple as organising the order of their presentations.  For others it gave the opportunity to start the planning of their presentations fresh and working together to develop streamlined sessions.  Some presenters decided to pair up and present together while others decided to finish the day with a  panel of all the presenters in that stream.

One stream even took it a step further and decided to create a gaming in education playground which ran around three learning experiences. Delegates who headed to the session could participate in learning through presentation, learning through play and learning through experience. It was such an exciting area of the conference to drop by to as people were making poetry with Lego, playing Mario Bros with the Makey Makey and of course the very popular old style console games.

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Along side the gaming stream was the Institute of the Modern Learner.  At first the IOTML was not clear. A card handed by a nameless man in a jacket. A tweet here and there with the hashtag #fixthefuture. And then they started to infiltrate the keynotes.  A slide in Adrian Camm’s keynote followed by more tweets claiming we didn’t see anything.  It certainly had the imagination going and made you feel like you were part of something but at the same time know nothing. “The institute” is looking for thinkers who may be discouraged with the system to experiment and trial modern learnering, as we found at the end of the conference when they took over the final keynote! For me it was a great moment when two presenters took over the stage and talked of their passion as it proved it really is a conference owned by the delegates and presenters.

There were many aspects of the conference that I am very proud of.  One of them was having four Victorian keynotes (3 of which were teachers in classrooms) who demonstrated why we are leading the way in education.   And as Narissa Leung, our afternoon keynote, told us, is why we have the best educators in the world and was happy that DLTV are celebrating that.  For too long now we have flown in educators when we have such high quality educators right here in Victoria.  This was certainly reiterated by the speakers themselves as they opened with a thanks to DLTV for finally putting Victorian Educators on the stage.

Also at conference after conference I have seen more and more male keynotes and it had continued to puzzle me as I know there are so many amazing female educators doing innovating learning and teaching in our schools.  It was great to get two of these females on stage at DLTV and they certainly showed that women in education are great speakers, innovative teaches and have so much to share.  Both Britt  Gow and Narissa Leung were articulate with their message for educational change, engaging and passionate and had the audience enthralled as they shared their narrative of digital learning and teaching. Of course our other keynotes Adriam Camm and Khoa Doh were also exceptional.  Adrian started the conference with a  provoking presentation which made us doubt what we knew but  at the same time make the audience feel like they could make change right now. As for Khoa Doh, the moment he finished speaking I thought crowd’s applause would never stop. It was a special moment in the conference, reminding us that not everything is about technology but from our stories and experiences we can learn so much.

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Another moving moment was when Roland Guesthuasen used Morse code to send a message to space for Maggie Iaquinto who had passed away the week before the conference.  Maggie was such an important member of the IT community and much loved by VITTA and ICTEV.  She had a remarkable history  and the news of her passing certainly put a sombre feeling across the office and committee.  It was fitting that Roland chose to send a message into space for Maggie as she was the first civilian to speak to cosmonauts on Mir.  Using her computer and radio she was able to connect with over 19 cosmonauts over a number of years, using the little Russian she knew to assist her.  Later she set up an amateur radio station at her school so her IT students could quiz space scientists about the technology used on-board Mir.

On reflecting on the conference there are so many highlights it is difficult to list them all.  Some are around the structure, like having 15 minutes between sessions to chat and network, while others were around people like seeing pre service teachers presenting in their first conference.  Of course, regardless of what you do at a conference you are always judged by the quality of your wifi and food.  And I am confident in saying that we nailed it! Our catering was spot on for the dreary Melbourne day and not once did I have any problems with the wifi.

As exhausted as I was after the conference, I was certainly reinvigorated by reading through the tweets and feedback from delegates.  It was such as great feeling having positive feedback to the small changes we had made and the hard work we put in to ensuring delegates were able to experience n the conference in a new and exciting way. So where to next year?  Well, there is plenty more to do!  Certainly some tweaking from this year; better maps to get around, rethinking the rooms and learning spaces and getting more students involved.  Well, best get planning I guess!

 

 

 

 

Professional Learning | Really?

You may have seen this YouTube clip that is circling social media at the moment.

It was taken at a Chicago Professional Development session and was shared as an example of why teachers are going out of their minds on the Washington Post blog, Answer Sheet. In the last couple of days I have also read Wes Fryer’s post, with a good reminder not to turn this into a stereotype and also Larry Ferlazzo’s blog, who felt “Yes, you can make a lot of things look bad taken out of context, but I don’t think a case can be made that this is appropriate for any professional development, or classroom, context….”

When I first watched it many emotions swarmed inside me; sadness, horror, embarrassment, anger, disbelief. At one stage I may have laughed at the outrageousness of it all.

There is one part of the video which continues to niggle at me. What makes me most upset is that no one stood up to it.  Are we so disempowered that we can’t stand up for what we know is right? Every teacher in the room knows this is not learning. But still they responded and chanted. And if I had been there I would have done exactly the same thing. I know that because I do already. I sit through “content delivery” at professional development after professional development and I feel myself being patronised but I continue to put up with it. I know better but still I let it go on.

If there is anything I can learn from this video it is that I need to speak up. I shouldn’t sit by and let this happen. I need to offer support to those facilitating professional learning and offer feedback. Not in a  survey but in a real face to face feedback.  I need to use my knowledge and experience about learning and share this with others.  I need to encourage others not to accept this either and nor should our students. I need to take a stand so this doesn’t become the stereotype of professional learning in any setting.

 

PLE Murder Mystery

On Thursday and Friday this week I was lucky enough to run two workshops at the PLE Conference held at Monash University.  The PLE Conference is a two day conference held in two cities, Melbourne and Berlin.  This year’s program, Personal Learning Environments: Learning and Diversity in the Cities of the Future, was full of presentations looking at the use of PLEs in education and examined the use of technology enhanced learning.

A PLE, or a Personal Learning Environment includes methods, tools, communities, and services constituting individual learning infrastructures or ecosystems which learners use to direct their own learning and pursue their learning goals.

The first workshop I did was a Murder Mystery.  Although I have never participated in a Murder Mystery dinner party I love the idea of immersing yourself in a character for an evening of mystery!  So I thought why not add that to a presentation.  I hoped that by placing the participants in different situations and looking at PLEs from different perspectives would help to make clear our understandings of PLEs and the different ways we use them.  In the session, participants were able to play the devils advocate and possibly the opportunity to play a role that went against their true beliefs of Personal Learning Environment.

The setting for the Murder Mystery was the launch of PLE – a new program that brings together different tools of collaboration, work flow and networking.  At the launch were a variety of people, some who loved the idea, others who felt a PLE should not be forced upon someone and of course those who were anti technology all together.  As part of the launch I shared a few of the tools which would appear as part of the make believe program’s suite of tools.

Unfortunately for Paula Louise Evans, the CEO of PLE, she was the victim of the afternoon and the other characters spent the rest of the session trying to determine the killer. Needless to say we all had a lot of fun.  The conference participants were wonderful getting in to their characters and there were many robust conversations about PLEs.

My second workshop looked at my Personal Learning Environment.  After having participants choose a photo that best represents their Personal Learning Environment, I used Richard Olsen’s White Paper, Understanding Virtual Pedagogies for Contemporary Teaching and Learning and the Collective Knowledge Construction Model to map some of the tools and networks I use as part of my PLE.

Then came the fun part as we used some craft materials to make a visualisation of our Personal Learning environment  It was really interesting to see the different ways people think of their PLEs.

I enjoyed being part of the conference and enjoyed the opportunity to see how others are using technology to enhance learning experience and enjoyed the opportunity to tackle questions such as what is the difference between personal and personalisation.  If you would like to check out any of the tweets for the conference you can do so with the Storifys of Day One and Day Two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hacked Learning

Image: ‘hack my creativity 1

hack my creativity 1

Found on flickrcc.net

I have been hearing a lot about hacked design recently.  You may be confused with hacking we associate with computer systems but this requires taking an already design object and changing it to fit another purpose. Or as the Hacked Design Blog explains it, “Hacking is user initiated product intervention. The idea is to take an object and optimize its function through an alteration that was not intended by the manufacture.” Blogs and websites are popping up like the Ikea Hackers community where people share their ideas and how they have repurposed furniture and designs.

I wonder what it would look like if we took this view of education and decided to hack learning? I hear schools that say, “We do Walker Learning”  or “We are an inquiry based learning school.” But it worries me how limiting it is to put learning in a neat little box.  Imagine if blogs popped up talking about how I used this aspect of design thinking and mixed it with this part of project based learning and repurposed it to meet the needs of my students? What if schools started to say we are “hack schools.” We choose learning based on our students?

So how do we define hacking?  We often think of it as something illegal and wrong.  But if we think of it as taking something that had one purpose and mix it with other tools, resources and thinking to create some new and even more functional.  The RSA suggest hacking has evolved from, “audacious breaches of private electronic systems, through to one which increasingly invokes a broader range of stunts and sabotages of convention.”  Once again you may have thought of sabotage as something negative, to ruin.  But what if we think of it as an ‘obstruction of normal operations’ and that is what we use in hacking learning.

Imagine if rather than looking for the perfect “thinking” or “learning” we hacked learning to produce the best opportunities for our students at that given time, in that context and in that environment. Rather than putting a label on learning we actually get to the bottom of what is important at that precise moment in that child’s learning.

Actually I know that this is already happening. Teachers willing to take a risk, to see things as they should be not as they are, are breaking the learning design rules to create new opportunities for students.  But I would love to see more of it.

Virtual Book Club

I was out to dinner this evening with a friend when she asked how often I wrote in my blog.  She knows how often I talk about blog posts I have ‘half written’ and I think she expected me to say more often.

When I took on my new position in September one of the things I promised myself was that I was going to have more time to write when I didn’t have to worry about planning, report writing, planning, marking, planning…..

But the funny thing is that when I finally had some spare time I filled it up very quickly! And not with blog post writing! I cringe that my last post was in January.  In fact it coincides with the week before I started uni.  I spent the first half of the year heading back to uni to complete my first unit in a Master of Educational Policy (International). When I look back to January I was very excited. The prospect of learning more, from people who are experts in the field, talking to fellow learners, wrapping myself in new knowledge.

But I must admit it wasn’t quite what I expected. I didn’t enjoy being talked at for hours on end.  And when the feedback I received felt generic and lacking I lost interest   In my first essay I spent hours each week reading, immersing myself in understanding the Finnish and English education systems.  I would go to bed reading about them, dream about them and use my lunch break to research more about them. But my feedback didn’t acknowledge any of that.  Now just to be clear I wasn’t concerned with my mark.  In fact it was exactly where I had self assessed myself.  That wasn’t a problem.  But the areas I had thought were my strengths had become my weaknesses.

It made it really tough to thrash out the next essay.  I found my self not caring, ploughing through and doing what I needed to. My motivation had completely gone. I completed it and handed it in.  But I didn’t love it as I had the first. The first I carried with me, nurtured it and held it close.  This one I did through guilt.

Now that has got me reflecting about my motivation.  Another goal I had when I changed jobs was to read more.  I have  a growing pile of books on my bedside table that I desperately want to read.  This year I have managed to read three books.  Not many but still more than the last couple of years.  I think this is more in relation to the amount of time I spend on public transport. I wondered how I could be more motivated to read.  Don’t get me wrong I love reading and I want to. But there is always something else that needs doing.  How can I prioritise reading?

Image: ‘Tome Reader

Tome Reader

Found on flickrcc.net

So that brings me to my idea of a virtual book club.  I don’t think I could commit to a book club in someone’s lounge room and God forbid my lounge room!  But a get together on Google Hangouts once a month I could do.  So would this motivate me to read more?  I think it would.  I make countless notes in the margins when I read but never have a chance to share them so what more motivation would I need than to know I could discuss my thoughts, share my curiosities and hear other ideas.

I have just purchased a copy of Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess after reading about it on Twitter and propose that be our first book.  If you are interested in joining my book club just leave a comment or chase me up on twitter.

Now back to finish off another half written blog post…..

Minecraft and Me

I love putting myself in the student’s shoes. It gives you a sense of what we as teachers put them through during a learning experience.

For some time now I have heard many people talking about the game Minecraft.  I really wanted to know more about it but had put it in the too hard basket after making a couple of attempts to work it out.

Minecraft is a 3D game of blocks where you are dropped into a world with limited tools and need to use the resources around you to survive from the monsters, which come out at night.  It is a little like being dropped into the middle of Legoland. Like the real world you are subject to the elements of the environment you are dropped into, like snow or rain.  In the first day you are dropped into a new world the race is on to find shelter before night falls.

Yesterday, I finally decided to set aside a couple of hours and have a play.

 In their shoes lesson number 1: It takes me a long time to take a risk and have a go.

Before I signed up I had a look around the Minecraft website.  Although there was plenty of information on it, most of it made little sense to me.  That was until I saw a video about surviving your first day in Minecraft.

In their shoes lesson number 2: I need to do more than reading to understand.  When I see something in action it makes more sense.

So it was time to jump.  I signed up and I felt confident that I knew what to do during my first day in my new world after watching the video.

 Somehow I survived my first night with my life in tact.  How I am not sure.  By daylight I realised how to get out of the game and head back to the tutorials.

In their shoes lesson number 3: I don’t remember anything if I haven’t applied it.

 After watching the tutorials for a second and then third time  I felt confident to get back in and have another go.  This time I made progress.  In the first day I was able to make a crafting table and then I had time to go digging for coal.  That is when I found that if you mine down far enough you will come across lava.  And lava will kill you if you fall in it!  Obvious? Well, I realise that now!

Back to the tutorials I went.  This time I found that I could change some settings and make the monsters disappear.  <sigh of relief>

In their shoes lesson number 4: I don’t learn under pressure.

So I spent the next six hours slowly making my way through a few achievements and learning the ways of the world in Minecraft, with the help of the peaceful setting. I have now built a house with doors, lit a path between my house and where I am mining for resources and this afternoon I even put a lovely garden of flowers along the side of the house.

In their shoes lesson number 5: Learning something new takes time

So what did I learn?

In the first few hours in Minecraft I learnt:

  • It rains a lot in the jungle.
  • A good sense of direction in life does not equate to a good sense of direction in a game.
  • Lava kills.
  • Creepers are mean.
  • You can’t break a rock with your fist.
  • The days go very quickly when you are working hard.

I also learnt a lot about me:

  • I don’t like violence or scary things.
  • I like to have order (The first thing I built was a shed to store my tools and at the end of every day I organise my inventory)
  • I am a creature of habit.
  • The environmentalist in me shows through in a game. (I couldn’t kill an animal.  The kids in my class are looking into whether I can survive in Minecraft as a vegetarian and today they showed me how to make shears so I can get wool from the sheep without killing it!)
  • When I become frustrated (like being lost for 45 minutes) I like to take a break, walk away and then come  back to what I am doing.

This morning I couldn’t wait to get to school and share all I had done with the boys in my class (I don’t have any girls playing Minecraft.  Yet!)

The first 20 minutes of school was a great conversation about what I had done.  They were all bending over backwards to share with me what I could do next. In that time I was able to connect with them more than any other time this year.

Now I can’t wait to see where this Minecraft journey will take us. And what I can learn next.

Are you teaching for the 22nd Century?

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to meet up with some amazing educators to kick off our PLP ConnectU project.  This is a project funded by DEECD (Dept of Education in Victoria) is an opportunity for teachers to challenge the traditional view of teaching and learning.  Sheryl Nussbaum–Beach and Will Richardson, two educators who I highly respect and admire, kicked off the project yesterday.  We had many wonderful discussions about education and what we believe it should look like in the 21st century.

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In one discussion we were asked to answer the following questions

What about the world and society has changed since you went to school?

What about students has changed since you went to school?

What about schools has changed since you went to school?

What should school 2.0 look like to accommodate learners of the 21st century.

These questions were actually questions I had asked myself in the last couple of weeks as I was reading ‘The New Rules of Engagement – A guide to understanding and connecting with generation Y,’ by Michael McQueen. If you get a chance this is a great book and as it is not too long so it makes for a great weekend read.

The book begins by looking at the different types of generations and the worldly events, which have moulded each generation and concludes with strategies for educators and parents to engage different generations.

It addresses the fact that one generation can never be better than another, but each generation reflects the world of its time and is a production of the generations before it.

One thing that amazes me is that teaching has had limited change, where as learning has changed considerably.  Why, when we are teaching a generation of the ‘How and Why’, do we we continue to teach them the ‘When and Where?’   We are teaching a generation of children who have the content at their fingertips, understand the notion of lifelong learning, anytime, anywhere.

I was told last week that children who have a birth date post 2010 have a a fair chance of making the 22nd century.  To me this is a very powerful as I am not now just teaching for the 21st century but the 22nd century as well!

How will you teach students in the 21st century so they are still learning in the 22nd century?

How do you think the world, students and school have changed since you were a child?

Please leave a comment.