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!

 

 

 

 

Don’t throw away Wikipedia just yet!

I was in a classroom recently where the teacher was complaining that the children always go straight to Wikipedia when they want to know something so he has banned the kids from using it.

At the time I laughed with him that kids always do that.  But when I got home and wanted to know what Prince William’s surname is (after a random conversation at lunch!) – where was the first place I went?  Of course I went to Wikipedia.

I certainly put my self in the category of a competent reader and researcher and yet I actively choose Wikipedia for these reasons:

  • It has a wide number of entries and from previous experience I usually find what I am looking for.
  • It is very well linked.  If I don’t understand a word or would like to know more about an area there are plenty of links to other wiki pages.
  • It is well referenced.  The nature of the site makes ensures that people are citing what they are entering.  I can check the authenticity of the statement or where the information has come from by clicking a link.
  • I don’t have to get lost searching through a number of web pages and it generally pops up in my search as an option so it is easy to find!
  • It has external links so I can find more information.
  • It contains pictures to support the text.
  • It is well set out with paragraphs and sub headings so I scan the text easily.  Also each page is set out in a similar fashion so I know where to find particular information.
  • It is ad free

So I began to ask my children why they go straight to Wikipedia when they want to know the answer to a question.  And of course they gave me similar responses.

Therefore in my class, children are encouraged to use Wikipedia.  But I have taken it as an opportunity to teach the following aspects:

  • References are important and we need to check the validity of these.
  • It is always good to get a second or even a third opinion.
  • External links should support what you read.
  • We need to use our comprehension skills – evaluating, predicting, compare and contrast, fact and opinion.
  • Websites should be challenged.

I have also seen children chastised for not learning because of wikipedia.  I believe that we are moving into a new style of education where the content is not as important as it used to be.  I don’t believe it is important to know all of the Prime Ministers of Australia by memory but to know how to find out and use the information.  If we are teaching our kids to be creative, evaluative and forward thinkers then I hope Wikipedia has a place in our classrooms.  It certainly does in mine.

Do you use Wikipedia in your classroom?

What teaching points do you use?

Please leave a comment.

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.