The Five Best Practices

     
During the holiday period I was fortunate enough to attend an Education Summit in Adelaide. I always find conferences inspirational and this one certainly was. This was a different sort of conference as it brought together the leadership of schools from across Australia and New Zealand that have been recognised as Apple Distinguished Schools. The conference was not at all about products, which we were all using in various configurations. The focus was clearly and coherently on our common interest of education / pedagogy.

One of the things I realise when I mix with other educators, leading change and innovation, is that there are some truly extraordinary people doing some truly exceptional things. These meetings and collaborative opportunities help to feed our vision. I often walk away realising that there is much, much more to do. This conference was no exception. Here assembled were many schools with mature dynamic 1:1 learning programs. Educators with clear vision and deep understanding of teaching and learning. They were representing schools whose teachers have been empowered through powerful professional learning commitments and where students are using technology as a natural part of their school life. The schools gathered were eclectic from across a wide spectrum of systems. This I think always enriches a conference because the models, challenges and solutions expressed are so diverse. There is always something new and unexpected and brilliant. There are perceptions and perspectives which always challenge our own narrow point of view. 

Through a series of workshops, we explored Five Best Practices relating to visionary leadership, innovative learning & teaching, ongoing professional learning, compelling evidence of success and flexible learning environments. Each of the workshops encouraged us to look at ourselves objectively and to interact with the other educators. While we might consider that we are making great strides in integrating technology, taking this time to reflect and learn from the experience of others was really beneficial. It fed directly to vision and brings clarity to future planning. It was all about connection and self appraisal.

The Five Best Practices concept is really worth a close look. It extends on criteria going beyond the Distinguished classification, looking at how schools can aspire to achieve Exemplary and Transformative descriptions.

Clearly we are on a continuum and being able to better articulate where we are on that continuum is essential to future planning e.g. while we are integrating and creating impressive workflows are we creating truly authentic learning experiences? How can we become more focussed on providing personalised opportunities for our students? How can we do better in providing formative feedback to teachers? How can we reinvent our learning spaces to really match the needs of students?
Materials and resources were all provided efficiently via iTunes U and we were pointed towards many of the great resources being produced by educators and available in the iTunes U Library. Of course the evolution of iTunes U with 3.0 has revolutionised the possibilities as it is now possible to provide direct feedback to students. https://www.apple.com/au/education/ipad/itunes-u/

  
A great highlight, for me, was speaker Tim Jarvis who provided compelling insights into leadership in extreme circumstances. He spoke about Shackleton’s Expedition to the Antarctic and about his own expedition to retrace the impossible Shackleton journey. It certainly put our own struggles into perspective. Here I have to add that intertwined with this extraordinary tale was a deeper message about global warming and the subsequent environmental issues. Here is Challenge Based Learning in the extreme. You can learn more about Tim Jarvis’s journey here: http://www.timjarvis.org/speaking/video/

 Another highlight speaker, educator Craig Smith, impressed with his passion and commitment to improving learning experiences of Autistic students. His creative use of technology to improve outcomes was inspired e.g. Using Minecraft to create digital representations.

    

 

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Rising to the Challenge

We are constantly challenged to remain current in the fast changing educational landscape. Leveraging knowledge of others is crucial and much of what we have been able to achieve has been as a result of interaction with the broader educational community. This is a landscape where the possibilities offered by technology are outstripping pedagogical practices.This statement by Thornburg in 2004, surprisingly, still holds currency.

“The notion of educational practice as the impartation of a (largely decontextualised) body of information to be regurgitated on examinations is dead. It has been dead for a long time, although vestiges of it seem to have survived. But consider this: this model of education is experiencing its own demise simply because it is inadequate for the educational needs of young people entering a dynamic workforce where lifelong learning and creativity are among the few certainties for success.” (Expectations, 2004, Thornburg Center)
  
Exploration of literature makes it abundantly clear that some systems are harnessing technology and pedagogy with greater success. Certainly we are seeing innovation occurring in Asia and Scandinavia. If we take PISA assessments as a litmus we must believe that some systems are working more effectively than others. 

“An in-depth report by the Grattan Institute on the successes of four of the top five territories—Hong Kong, Shanghai, South Korea and Singapore—found that the success of the East Asian ‘tiger’ countries in PISA is likely to be connected to reforms that have developed the capacity of teachers.”(Ben Jensen, Catching Up: Learning from the Best School Systems in East Asia (Melbourne: Grattan Institute, 2012)

“No education system in East Asia that participates in international tests ranks below the international average. Such outstanding performance has led to the perception that East Asian education systems, particularly Shanghai, Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore, exemplify practices and policies worthy of emulation worldwide”(Jensen, 2012) (OECD, 2011, 2014; Tucker, 2014, 2011) (Miao & Reynolds, 2014). (Ref: Zhao, Y. (2015). Lessons that matter: What should we learn from Asia?, Mitchell Institute discussion and policy paper No. 04/2015.)

There is a strong perception that the strength of these systems, and I must include Finland here, is that these systems are actively evolving to embrace pedagogical practices which better prepare students for a 21st Century World. To continue our evolution we should look beyond the traditional conferences and courses. We need to look at regions that are innovating differently and importantly are perceived to be succeeding. We should see what can be learned from the innovators in Asia.

“Outside observers have largely neglected or misunderstood these reform efforts, either failing to address why and how East Asian education systems have engaged in continuous reform over the past three decades or mistakenly treating some of these reform efforts as reasons for outstanding performance on international assessments. As a result, many of the popularly promoted lessons drawn by outside observers relate at best to the recent past of education in East Asia, while these systems have been actively working to create an education of the future.” (Ref: Zhao, Y. (2015). Lessons that matter: What should we learn from Asia?, Mitchell Institute discussion and policy paper No. 04/2015.)

And finally this comment, while reflecting on the UK system, is relevant here too. 

“Success will go to those individuals and nations that are swift to adapt, slow to complain and open to change. The task for UK policymakers is to help its citizens rise to this challenge.” (Andreas Schleicher is deputy director for education and special adviser on education policy to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Secretary General.)

Here I have included links to a couple of conferences occurring in Singapore and Hong Kong later this year which look worthwhile opportunities. (Wish list items)

https://asia.bettshow.com

http://www.ltexpo.com.hk/expo/who-will-visit/

Readings:

http://www.mitchellinstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Lessons_that_matter_what_should_we_learn_from_Asias_school_systems.pdf

http://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/129_report_learning_from_the_best_main.pdf

https://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6301764

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/28/finland-education-overhaul_n_6958786.html

A Journey Filled With Connections

The last month has been filled with rich moments. I have travelled to Melbourne and Canberra and have participated in events locally too. This has really been a journey of connection. 
  
I attended the Association of Independent Schools ICT Conference in Canberra. This is a great opportunity to connect with educators from across Australia. There are also a wide range of vendors attending so it is a great chance to learn about current trends and to ask deeper questions about possibilities. There were some excellent speakers including Jeff Utecht, Dr Jane Hunter, Nas Campanella & Colin James. 

Two of the presenters Dr Jane Hunter and Nas Campanella were of particular interest to me.
Dr Jane Hunter is a teacher educator in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney (UWS), Australia. She has received five teaching awards for Outstanding Contributions for Student Learning in universities and is now on an international team of educators providing Technology Enriched Instruction around the world. Her doctoral thesis developed a new model for technology integration in learning in schools; titled High Possibility Classrooms. 

Dr Hunter’s presentation sparked particular interest for a couple of reasons. I am very interested in evolving pedagogy and enabling teachers to open the learning opportunities through integration of technology. I am also interested in gauging improvement in non traditional, technology rich environments. 

I really enjoyed listening to her ideas and in a subsequent workshop there was some great discussion. I am looking forward to reading her book which I hope will further inform our own vision. http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138781337/

A later discussion with her via Twitter regarding The SAMR Model resulted in a wide exploration re TPACK, SAMR and RAT. This resulted in finding another really excellent article 

https://idea.library.drexel.edu/islandora/object/idea:4534/datastream/OBJ/download/UBIQUITOUS_COMPUTNG___SYSTEMIC_TRANSFORMATION_TO_21ST_CENTURY_TEACHING_AND_LEARNING.pdf

This article strongly references TPACK and SAMR and provides some excellent tangible recommendations founded on the research conducted by the author regarding the development of 21st Century schools. 

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Nas Campanella a journalist and newsreader for the ABC and Triple J. 26-year-old Nas is blind and has a medical condition which prevents her from reading braille.

Nas discussed the challenges of navigating life with a disability and of facing discrimination as well as the positives and negatives of technologies that helped her at school, university and in the workplace. 

Her tenacity, in the face of adversity, was truly inspiring and her capability is extraordinary. It underlined, for me, how crucial it is for schools to persevere with challenges that appear and how important it is for educators be open minded in resolving the needs of students. In Nas’s circumstance at one point there was a disconnect between support being provided and her real need. Understanding her need and then supplying a credible solution was vital and ultimately opened a world of possibilities to her. Clearly great schools and great educators are the ones who can really make a difference by being aware and responsive. We certainly should personalise our approach to our students. I have included a graphic which was created during her speech at the conference. It summarises the key points from her speech. Thanks to Rachel Dight for the great graphic.

  Graphic by Rachel Dight 

If you’d like to learn more about Nas this short video via the ABC provides some insight. 

  
https://t.co/WjFFEHAcu1

In Melbourne I attended a “Stile” conference day. I enjoyed listening to the two excellent speakers Andrew Douch (The Tools of Engagement, Redefining the Classroom) & Georgina Pazzi (The power of online differentiation,The Differentiated Classroom in Action). We have certainly seen the possibilities around engagement and differentiation, individualisation and personalised learning blossom with ubiquitous technology in our learning environment.

The conference also provided a chance to meet with many educators who were using Stile actively in their classrooms. Victoria seems to be further ahead on the innovation curve. When we were considering our iPad trial Victoria and Western Australia were already rolling iPads into their classrooms and the Victorian Education Dept had embraced the innovation. We were able to leverage their experience to help enable our roll out. Similarly Stile has a strong base in Victoria (Stile’s home state) while in New South Wales it is just starting to gain a foothold. Here I must add that I also really love the rich content that Apple has and is producing via iTunes U. There is no reason why Stile and iTunes U can’t work well together in a school environment. The particular benefit, for us, of Stile has been the easy ability of teachers to deliver content, for students to return work and for easy, direct, formative feedback. Where it has been employed actively in our classrooms, in tandem with our iPad Program, it has revolutionised the teaching/learning environment. Discussions that I had with Stile educators provided insight and opened conversations around broad educational innovation. I was also privileged to spend a little time with Dr Alan Finkel AO, the Founder and Chairman of Stile. His interest in enabling educators to be more effective in their work and his commitment to STEM initiatives identifies him as an innovation leader. The fact that he made time to connect and really listen to educators showed his real commitment to making a difference at “the coal face”. 

  
I also attended an Open Morning hosted by CISCO at North Sydney. This too was a chance to meet with other educators. The CISCO presenters were very polished and knowledgeable. We have a CISCO wireless infrastructure so I was interested to look at where wireless is headed. Remaining current in a fast changing landscape is important. Two quick takeaways – yes wireless speed is much faster with the new standard Ac and CISCO’s new generation access points enable easy upgrade via an interchangeable component.

CISCO also have some fabulous conferencing hardware and software. As we reinvent our learning spaces bringing some of this into the mix would be great, but cost may be a factor for smaller schools like ourselves. I wasn’t convinced that a typical teleconferencing space would be the right fit for all schools. I can see that the possibilities for virtual excursions and interactions across the world will become a common part of our modern classrooms. I was interested to see that CISCO are putting energy into classroom design as they recognise the changing classroom dynamic. I hope we can leverage some of this in our own reinvention. 

I participated in an Apple Integrators Group which was held at the Apple HQ in Pitt Street, Sydney. It was good to have a chance to share and exchange ideas with other Apple oriented educators. Here too we met with some great Apple personnel who provided information about Apple support and provision. A Development Executive K-12 Education from Apple facilitated discussion and considered the factors which enable technology in the school environment. He also discussed tools which could help evaluate the capability of teachers and leadership in relation to their capacity re the SAMR model. The meeting was enabled via iTunes U which worked really well and some great learning resources were highlighted in iTunes U and in iBooks. We were shown resources that were developed by students and teachers and which were available to experience and download in the public domain. Being able to provide students with an audience, and an authentic reason to publish, is a very powerful motivator. Certainly something that we could leverage more extensively. 

These were my excursions. We also have had several incursions where we have shared experiences with visiting educators. These too have provided rich collaborative opportunities. It has been a very busy few weeks and we have learned a great deal which will help to improve our learning environment. 

@ The Future Schools Conference

  

 About twenty of our Year 3 and 4 students had a wonderful experience at the Future Schools Conference on 11th March and 12 March. The students participated in two full days of rich, Curriculum linked, learning with various forms of innovative technology.

Datacom, one of our professional development / technology partners, had arranged this extraordinary experience as a part of their involvement as a Future Schools Conference Sponsor. Furnware, another participant, provided a range of innovative furniture for the students to use while completing the various activities.

 “Furnware are thrilled to be part of the Future Schools Conference and the opportunity to join forces with Datacom who provided the perfect platform for the student’s to participate in an exciting, collaborative and flexible 21st century learning space.”  (LW, Furnware Pty Ltd.)

 Datacom arranged for the students to work in small groups of 3/4 and rotate through the activities throughout the two days. 

  

Day one – Year 3: The learning activities for the year 3 students were based around their current History unit of Community and Remembrance. 

Students investigated signs and symbols of community groups through internet research. They collaborated using a OneNote Document to record their findings through written, drawn and video/audio recordings. Students then provided feedback to each other through a shared OneNote Notebook highlighting learning and asking focus questions.

Students created designs and symbols that represented themselves. Students brainstormed things that were important to them and how they can be represented symbolically. They used these patterns/symbols/colours to decorate clothing and/or cars on the “Design and Drive Sketch Book” and “Fashion Design Sketch Book” from Crayola. The students then scanned their creations into the corresponding app which turned their designs into 3D models they could manipulate on their iPads.

 Students designed and created a pendant which symbolised themselves or their family.  Students learnt about 3D printing. They designed a pendant/model to represent themselves or their family based on their knowledge about community symbols. They drew their designs on Furnware’s whiteboard table. Using the Maker’s Empire 3D modelling app the students built their designs into a 3D model and had it printed out on a 3D printer.

  

 Day two – Year 4: The learning activities for the year 4 students were based around their current History unit – Early Settlement (My Place).

 Students imagined they were on the First Fleet. They discussed what it would have been like to arrive in an unknown place – how different it would have been and the journey they took to get there. They brainstormed their ideas in text and pictures on Furnware’s whiteboard table. They then created a 3D model of something that the early settlers would have seen/experienced when they first arrived in Australia.

 Students investigated famous Australian explorers. In a shared OneNote Notebook students brainstormed all they knew about a variety of Australian explorers. Each student contributed their own knowledge to each page of the OneNote Notebook. They used both text and drawing to record their knowledge. Then students researched one of the explorers on the internet to find out something that wasn’t already known (already recorded on the page). When they found the additional information, the recorded it on the page as a voice recording (so as to avoid cutting and pasting information). 

Students took on the role of explorers at the Future Schools Expo. Students discussed how the early explorers would have found out new things and reported their findings back to their home country. They worked together to solve the Datacom treasure hunt through working out a series of clues around the expo. These clues came up on their iPads when they were at the correct booth. Students took pictures of interesting technology they saw at the expo and used these to put together a report to take back to school indicating why this type of technology would be good for their learning.

 One of the other Conference sponsors commented

“Future Schools is a great chance to see the current innovation that is taking place in education and to have the teachers who are driving that change in the one place. The Visiting students were a big hit at the expo. They were thrilled to be there and to be able to learn and participate in the wonderful learning activities provided by the Datacom educators.” (JR, Stile Education

  

Impressions – Technology K – 12 National Congress 2012

Link to Congress 2013

20120829-210353.jpg

At the end of May I attended the Technology K – 12 National Congress. I think this is one of the premium events in my PD calendar. This was my brief overview from the first day.

This week I am attending a two day K-12 national conference at Darling Harbour. The focus of this conference is around technology and is being attended by 1500 delegates from across Australia.

As I am writing I have just listened to presentations by some international speakers. Alan November and Stephen Heppell. Both of whom spoke about the trends in education across the world and the need to change teaching practice. To not only equip students with essential work skills and behaviours, but also to engage students. To make them more effective learners. To change how classrooms work and to leverage technology along with current best practice to improve outcomes. One of the common threads from speakers today has been to recognize the ability of technology to individualize learning and to move towards less teacher centered classrooms and towards student centered learning. There is also a strong sense that iPads and other mobile technology has shifted the range of possibilities for schools in general.

It was also interesting listening to Barry McGaw, Chairman, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). He spoke about the structure of the new National (digital) Curriculum and the inclusion of technology as a Key Area as well as becoming an integral part of all other subject areas. The roll out of the National Curriculum is already occurring in some States. In NSW its roll out has been delayed until around 2015. Barry McGraw also recognized that the current Naplan testing isn’t reflective of the Curriculum and needs revision. A digital online format for the Naplan test is in development. This test is also expected to be adaptive and will be focussed around the Curriculum.

I also attended a series of workshops which looked at specific areas of interest. Topics explored were around virtualization, 1:1 tablet programs and Digital Curriculum.

At the end of this first day Sir Ken Robinson, who is regarded internationally as a leading proponent of educational innovation, delivered a wonderful live online session to the packed auditorium of delegates. The discussion with Sir Ken centered around creativity and tapping technologies to drive transformation. He was a very compelling and engaging speaker.