I actually titled my first post about Spheros and my July EdTechSA conference workshop as "Meet The Robot That Got Me Interested In Robotics." It's true. I have neglected the area of robotics and programming for a long time. It was a personal blindspot and one that I felt guilty about but willing to leave because I felt that it would be outside of my comfort zone. I even felt like a fraud being a so-called leader in ICT or eLearning who had yet to properly engage in the STEM arena.

I'm getting better and I know that it is important. I even went along with our Lego Robotics teaching guru, Mel, to our state Lego RoboCup event. I still don't know a lot about being hands on with Mindstorms gear but learnt a lot by watching the two teams compete in the Soccer division and the Rescue section.

The good thing about my school is that we do have teacher leaders who will take ownership of initiatives and run with them with little more than moral and budgetary support from me. Our Beebots are used widely in our Early Years classes with a couple of teachers taking the lead - and we have had our kids use them for learning Vietnamese!

But Spheros in our school has been my own journey. I have added to the original 15 Spheros that I bought in March, bringing two Sphero SPRKs and four Ollies in as additions. I just want to reflect on what else I have learned since the last post when I was still just working with my Digital Leaders.

This term, I started to work with some classes within my own building. I am line manager for four classroom teachers and my office is based in that building. I am also the self appointed Sphero maintenance person - I keep them secure, charge them prior to use and kept tabs on the apps needed on the building's squad of 10 iPads. Just prior to starting with the first class, I saw a tweet about an app called Tickle that uses a Scratch style interface to program a number of connected robots including both Sphero and Ollie. It is easier to use than MacroLab and as I was about to introduce programming robots to Year 3 and 4 students, it was the perfect tool to use to set some simple programming challenges.

I listened to a great podcast on Teaching With Sphero Robots which I found via Wes Fryer, where I picked up a great tip about numbering the Spheros and the iPads and pre-connecting them so that when woken up, there isn't the Bluetooth configuring or misconnections that can happen when multiple Spheros try to connect to multiple devices simultaneously. This was fine except for when I had a flat Sphero that meant grabbing a new one, waking it up and connecting it out of this carefully planned sequence. I lined up Digital Leaders to help out in the classrooms and we made a start with three different classrooms.

The students used a checklist sheet that was based loosely on the badge system I had been using with Digital Leaders and a skills sheet I used with staff during a Student Free Day professional learning session. Basically it works them through at their own pace to gradually move from using the Sphero as a Connected Toy over to using it to Program. I set a simple programming Challenge as the first step for using Tickle.simple tickle challengeThis was very engaging and I was surprised at how quickly kids adapted to the app and completed the challenge. For those who were struggling, some help from a Digital Leader gave them the confidence to persist and work through. The next step was to design a maze and program your way around that maze using Tickle. I created an example maze using a large Nerf Gun box but one of the teachers I worked with, Salma, suggested that masking tape on the carpet would work just as well. The common area between the classrooms is now covered in a variety of challenges! Again, watching how some kids went into a flow state of trial and error as they tried and adjusted and tried again until their Sphero was following their predetermined path and changing through a planned sequence of colours.

This was really pleasing to see. The checklist sheet become the self directed learning sequence, and kids would call their teacher over to see them achieve the next skill and have it signed off, so the formative assessment angle was working really well.

Using this sort of technology will always have its issues and you just have to be flexible and adaptive. If you are patient and just work through ways of solving a problem, the kids see that approach being modelled and immediately reduce their own agitation when things "go wrong" or "don't work". Sometimes a Sphero wouldn't charge properly and it would mean getting a spare and helping them get connected so they could get back on task. Sometimes Tickle would lose connection with the Sphero and so a process of shutting down open apps and then re-opening them would solve the problem. The great thing was that all three teachers picked up their comfort levels using these robots and didn't require me to lead their following lessons  but were more than happy for me to be the person to ensure they were charged and organised!!


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I find the internet to be a very interesting place. There are bits of me floating all over the place - here on my blog, in the comments of a myriad of other bloggers, in social networking nooks and crannies, in online events. And it never really goes away - stuff you think is gone can be tracked down and revisited, even if it is in an altered form.

A couple of days ago, I received a comment from one of my favourite all time bloggers, Claudia Ceraso. Claudia lives in Argentina, is bilingual, and does not post very often on her blog but her posts were some of the best and most thought provoking that I had read. The ideas she was exploring about networked learning, about online identity and the way ideas and thinking can be shaped by online interactions were ponderous and helped remold my own thinking. And so her comment prompted me to go back and check out how our online exchanges helped shape out emerging ideas.

Another of her posts linked back to a post from Alan Levine who I was lucky enough to have a meal with about 8 years ago thanks to Michael Coghlan. Alan does great stuff online that I aspire to and that I feel represents all of the potential the internet offers learners. Alan is open, he shares, he experiments, he openly documents and he creates. He interacts with all who cross his virtual (and real life) paths without any pecking order. When I read educators on Twitter seeking to stake their names next to virtual events, or to package up and promote their piece of entrepreneurial digimedia (no links as to not cause controversy or get others offside), I think that Alan is the antithesis of that state of mind. His spirit and his innovative approach is where I want (or would like) to be at.

Another blogger interacting with Alan a few years was Jennifer Dalby. In my opinion, she was a great blogger. Awesome thought provoking stuff that she seemed to be never really happy with because she ended taking the whole lot down. Jen wrote this really awesome series about online communities, social media and networked learning called the Onramp Installments, and when she pulled the plug on her blog, it seemed to disappear. However, a quick Google of "injenuity onramp" found them neatly archived at her blog which was a pleasant surprise.

What I was going to suggest was the use of the Wayback Machine which is an amazing meg-archive of a lot of digital stuff. As long as you know the URL of a long lost site, you can punch that in and see what was captured over the past decade or so. If I type in my blog's URL, I can see 206 captures since 2006. It preserves quite a lot including the theme I was using at the time.


Another one of my favourite bloggers was Doug Noon, an elementary school teacher from Fairbanks, Alaska. He hosted his own blog so when he took it down, it was gone for good. Except I can still revisit his writings on the Wayback Machine. Thankfully, he still freely posts his beautiful pictures of Alaska via his Flickr account. Now I don't know what prompted him to wind up his blogging so I won't be be linking to any of his digital contributions here but suffice to say, if you have any digital digging skills there are many, many sites that can come back to life via the Wayback Machine. Odds are that eventually it might be the only place to check out this post in the future!



My blog had its tenth birthday last month. And probably, as I treat my actual birthday, I didn't really pay it much attention. I had thoughts about doing a post on the actual day but didn't really have something to say. I even thought about doing a give-away or a competition, but I have a feeling that the days of readers numbering in the hundreds (probably down to single figures now) are long gone.

But ten years is a significant slab of time. I started writing here because my school at the time had just installed interactive whiteboards and I figured that blogging might have been a good way to connect to others to get ideas and advice in their best use for learning. What I did stumble into was networked learning, exposure to innovative minds and a handy ringside seat into the broader development of educators delving into social media.

I don't blog now nearly as much as I did back then. But I have been able to interact with many great thinkers and innovators - some who still influence my thinking to this day. Certainly, there were many well established edubloggers around when I started this journey so I am certainly no pioneer. Along with Michael Coghlan and Mike Seyfang, I was one of the earlier South Australian bloggers flexing our developing social media muscles. When I think about the early edubloggers I was reading, many were well established in their craft - if you aren't aware of Stephen Downes', Nancy White's and Alan Levine's amazing bodies of work, then you need to take the time meander down their well established digital paths. George Siemens may well be hailed as the mind behind Connectivism as a learning theory, but Leigh Blackall deserves as least as much acknowledgement as an active mind developing awareness about Networked Learning. If you don't believe me, check out the Revision History tab on the Wikipedia entry to see how much time he has put in there. He (along with Alex Hayes) was the first to expose me to the concept of "free ranging" showing how one's learning can be stored in a range of digital depositories. This was a concept that he continues to use - it might explain why his work isn't cited by "experts" because he actually practices his ideas rather than just theorise from a traditional academic viewpoint. I strongly believe that Leigh's name and ideas should be more widely known and acknowledged in the Australian edtech community. But I suppose he isn't founding edtech Twitter hashtags, or being an "edupreneur" so the importance of his ideas are somewhat neglected.

Speaking of Twitter, I was an early educator user, signing up for my account back in March 2007. No #hashtagchats, no "Welcome to my PLN" autoreplies, no inserted ads or "while you were away" reminders. Not many Australians in the first few years either - and my Twitter connections were basically bloggers who I was already reading. After a year or so, I did start to see some clever Twitter only educators start to leverage the tool in new ways which has led to the massive info-stream that you get nowadays. I've always thought that you only add a connection that adds to your learning so I have never felt the need to follow back. And if I don't add much to your learning, then perhaps I should be cut loose from your Following list as well.

It is pretty cool that I can look back at my state_of_brain over the period of ten years. I have engaged with so many digital learners and my own learning has been super fast tracked that I take the connection for granted. Even in 2015, I encounter adults who are amazed at how quickly I can find what I want online, how I can reference some many other great thinkers so quickly - and I am amazed that what I do isn't just commonplace in educators anyway. It should be - I am no one special. If I can be connected and learning, anyone can. Ten years here at my favourite Edublogs haunt proves it.

I can remember a conversation with a fellow Year 12 student back in 1983. He said, "On the last day of school here, I'm going to walk off the grounds, turn around and take one last look at this place, and then turn around and never look back."

As far as I know, he has been true to his word ever since. I can relate to his perspective because high school does not hold any special memories for me. So it was with a wry smile that I noted that this year's EdTechSA conference was to be held at my old school, Immanuel College in the brand new senior school named after my year 12 English teacher (probably one of the better teachers I had in my secondary years). I was a boarder for 5 years and the new centre sits right on top of where the old boys' boarding house used to be. So it certainly brought back some conflicting memories to be heading back over the past two days to attend and present at this year's EdTechSA conference.

Where once were rooms lined with beds and wooden cupboards, has been replaced with a contemporary learning environment that reminded in some ways of the Australian Science and Mathematics School up at Bedford Park. For a smallish conference, it was the perfect venue. The theatre was comfortably full for the keynote speakers, the rooms were spacious for the various workshops and the program was full of great learning opportunities.

Things started out well with an engaging keynote on Global Learning from Julie Lindsay. Her words got me thinking that my school Woodville Gardens is very global with its large EALD population - kids who come from refugee backgrounds alongside of second and third generation kids whose families still head over to Vietnam or India for a few months every year to catch up with family. She reminded me of my old online collaborative project with Doug Noon's Alaskan kids, and got me thinking about the possibilities that could be utilised at my current site.

I got to play with an Arduino board in one session and gain a starting view into the SOLO taxonomy. I heard about some new web based research tools and then played around with QR codes and AudioBoo in the afternoon. I got a better insight into the potential of Lego EV3 robotics, introduced a bunch of educators to the engagement of Spheros and rounded off with a spot of 3D printing and an insight to Jarrod Lambshed's journey with his Connected Classroom.

In presentation mode during my session: https://www.flickr.com/photos/134717758@N06/19739886481/ by jessottewell27

Participants hands-on Sphero action. https://www.flickr.com/photos/134717758@N06/19546803150/ by jessottewell27

"Now, this is a Sphero." https://www.flickr.com/photos/134717758@N06/19548632679/ by jessottewell27

So, great conference, very cool venue, learned heaps, but I never got the urge to stroll around memory lane or check into the Old Scholars office. Like Tom March alluded to in the final keynote, some things are best left in the past.

Feedly has replaced my Google Reader as the place to read blog posts from my wide array of learning sources. There's a handy little feature that enables you to Save For Later. I use this for posts from bloggers who have written something cool that I either find challenging and want to explore further, or in the case of this post, they have managed to write about an issue that I've been thinking about in a very clear and concise way. Simply, they have said it better than I could. So, I thought I would share some of these now.

How Language Shapes Solutions - John Spencer.
The bit that I wish I had written:

Ultimately, we have these intense conflicts in education that begin with the implied metaphors. The hardest thing is that it's so easy to forget that other people are using language tied to a metaphor that is vastly different from your own. What feels cold an impersonal to some makes sense to others. What feels shallow and subject to some feels warm and human to others.

I have problems with other people's words a lot of the time. Well, more accurately, I find it frustrating that a phrase or snippet of language can be bandied around social media as it is universally understood or accepted. I don't like the over-frequent use of the acronym PLN as one example especially when phrases like "welcome to my PLN" and "thanks to my PLN" oversimplify and narrow the concept of people connecting online for the purposes of sharing and interacting with each other. I dislike the word "edupreneur" because it sounds exploitative and gives off a vibe that being an educator isn't enough - one must transcend that and be an "edupreneur"(said aloud in a sarcastic tone). For me, an entrepreneur is someone seeking business opportunities in new territory and buys into that myth of modern consumerism that everyone can be rich and successful when the reality is that for rich people to exist, the poor must be the ones who lose out. For me, I can't combine those mental images with my self perceived role of educator as working for a social good - the words fight against each other. So, call me an "edupreneur" and I'll probably be insulted. As for PLN, I just see myself as participating in networked learning. PLN is just a way of trying to make a group out of a bunch of digital connections.

Is online sharing about the journey or destination? - Stephanie Thompson
The bit that I wish I had written:

I worry that we’ve got to the point we’re all so used to being spoonfed content, that we’ve lost something along the way. Genuine conversation.

One of the things that drew me into blogging was the ability to connect, as you followed a person’s writing over a period of weeks, months and years you got to know the writers as people. There are so many people I’ve met, reconnected with and stay in contact with through blogging and tweeting.

And I feel like that community has been lost.  

We’ve become less attached to conversations and people and are now much more likely to turn to quick fixes.

The rise of the expert bloggers and tweeters with thousands of follows has permanently changed the tone of edublogging and not for the better. A lot of the content showing up online isn’t conversational in nature – they are standalone pieces designed to be re-shared through vast social networks.

I like the fact that Stephanie links to my good friend, Tom Barrett, in the middle of this section. Because the only way that I know Tom is through the conversational medium of blogging - without that connection, we would be just two Twitter handles occasionally crossing paths. Stephanie makes some really good points throughout her post and points to many other great learning thinkers in the process. I just think she sums things up a lot of my feelings in a really concise way. And it just occurred to me, there are some educators out there who think Twitter = PLN!

Online identity, work spaces and folios – a celebration of awareness - Leigh Blackall
The bit that I wish I had written:

Most people who do a search on their name come to realise that the search result is essentially the first page of their online identity – their folio. It could be personal, it could be professional, often it’s both. Their next realisation might be that the way they work online, the processes, platforms, linkages and associations in the data that they generate, all has an impact on their portfolio-as-a-search-result. Their search terms and saved bookmarks, the media they upload and download, their playlists, click-through history, viewing times, purchase history, GPS location, and strength of linkage to other people, collaborators and projects. All this data is built up around us as we work online, and can be used to create, shape and grow a personalised and professional workspace. It can be harnessed to improve the quality and efficiency of our work. Our search results on topics of inquiry can become more targeted, or recommendations and linkages can be made more relevant. This includes advertisers and surveillance agencies of course, which at this point in time at least, we might consider as our symbiotic relationship.

Read that bit and you realise that PLN is too simplistic a term to describe what is really going on every time you use the internet. As regular readers will know, I have the deepest respect for Leigh as a thinker and analyser of online learning and wish that anyone involved in education trying to leverage the internet in any way would go and familiarise themselves with his huge body of work. He really is one of the great minds of the last twenty years or so, deserving as much (if not more) credit than many of the higher profile people commonly cited in online spaces.

To keep things manageable, I'll share one more Save.

Mixed advice about social media - Dr. Ashley Tan
The bit that I wish I had written:

You also cannot always be positive. Sometimes you have to be point out flaws, be a critical friend, or simply provide balance. But you can do it professionally and after you have established yourself as a trusted entity.

Some people might label providing an opposing view as “negativity” and the author advises disconnecting with it. This is not always advisable because you might suffer from group think or delude yourself into thinking that there is no thought contrary to your own.

Ashley was responding to a post that was serving out some "social media advice" and it is an issue that I struggle with a lot, especially on Twitter. My efforts to be thought provoking can come across as being provocative, my attempts at counter argument can appear to be anti-concept and often the result is:

Now I have no idea how that links to Ashley's post at all but I do like the fact that I don't have to be agreeable or follow other people's rules of conduct when using social media. As long I have my own personal code of conduct to follow, I am free to express myself in the manner of my choosing.

But now, the right thing for me to do would be to go and give these people a bit of feedback via the comments on their blogs, because a Twitter shoutout does not do their work justice.

I've been at Woodville Gardens School now for nearly four years in my role as Assistant Principal, and I have learnt a lot. The school, the community, my colleagues have all given me a greater appreciation of things on so many levels. Tonight I thought I would try and articulate a few of these.

A DigiTech TeachMeet was held tonight at my school. A bunch of educators keen on educational technology from mainly the western suburbs here in Adelaide gathered to share, enjoying the comfortable surrounds of our resource centre. Two of my colleagues shared about their practice - for the first time in front of others who weren't their immediate colleagues - and they were brilliant. Julie shared about her use of video making with Year 1 students in their History Inquiry and Kellie shared about her long term practice of Discovery Time which has elements of inquiry, technology and making all wrapped together with her Reception students. Seeing them both present so well gave me a greater appreciation of the high level of teachers we have at our school. Granted, these two are exemplary but the fact that what they talked about is as good as anything happening in any school in Australia made me proud to be their colleague.

This school has given me a greater appreciation for how tough some kids, even here in Australia, can have it and that our society still doesn't really know what to do about it. The media likes to come down hard on schools like ours for our NAPLAN results which don't match schools where everyone comes to class well fed, in clean clothes, with a full night's sleep, without memories of trauma or abuse and from a household with all of the amenities that modern life can provide. Some of our kids do pretty well considering that some have to go home to be substitute mothers or to be unpaid cleaners. Some of our kids have been speaking English for less than a couple of years and for some, school is the only place with comforting rules and safety and where the adults in charge have to speak nicely and listen to their point of view. It has made me very appreciative of how I can provide so much for my own kids and how really they want for very little.

I have a greater appreciation for other cultures and how difficult it must be to be in a place where all of the norms of your world that you grew up in are all out the window. At the same time, I can see how appreciative many of these parents of varying backgrounds are of the opportunity that education can open up for their children. I still enjoy the sight of seeing kids of varying backgrounds walk out of the school grounds deep in conversation with others talking about going to Vietnamese lessons, or what happens at the local mosque or their last trip up to the bush. End of term class parties are certainly a great mix of cuisines as home made spring rolls sit alongside samosas and Tim Tams.

I'm super appreciative of being part of a large leadership team. We all bring our individual strengths and talents to the table but we are pointed in the same direction. I've learnt stacks about multicultural families from my fellow AP, Anna. I've got a much deeper understanding of special needs students and the support required to make a difference from our coordinator, Dee. I've improved my restorative justice skills and "turning things around" conversations from watching our counselling team, Liz and Marek in action. The Heads of School, Ashley and Marg, who both have time to listen to me lay out my concerns and issues and offer their advice in moving forward. Add to that a hugely influential Principal, Frank (two weeks away from retiring) who has shown me the value of the big picture, and the difference that innovation can make in a place where conventional thinking and traditional ideas will be limited in their impact. I have a great appreciation of how much I learn from these people, my colleagues. I'm lucky to be a part of it all.

And when I get to play the role of host like tonight, it is nice to appreciate working in a facility that is less than five years old, where the technology is at a high level and where the kids who come from either complex or disadvantaged backgrounds get a place that they can be proud of, that is theirs.

Last year, I compiled a virtual version of EduTech for my staff, hunting videos that were close to the presentations that we saw live. It is over on our staff blog but seeing I've done the hunting and embedding, there may be readers who might like a look as well.


This year, the WGS attendees included Kellie, Julie, Bianca, Vas, Jayne, Mel, Tamsin and Graham. This year we had our own Twitter hashtag #wgsET which helps to collate all of our resources, insights.

Here are some links and videos from some of the presenters:

Eric Mazur,  Assessment - The Silent Killer of Learning

Super Awesome Sylvia, 13 year old maker expert

Nick Jackson from Adelaide spoke eloquently about digital Leadership and ended his talk with this jawdropping conclusion.

Larry Rosenstock, CEO of High Tech High

Eric Sheninger, Digital Leadership

EduTECH 2015: Eric Sheninger from EducationHQ on Vimeo.

Sylvia Martinez, The Maker Movement: A global revolution goes to school

Ted McCainTeaching for Tomorrow - teaching as facilitating, learning as discovering

EduTECH 2015: Heidi Hayes Jacobs from EducationHQ on Vimeo.

This year was the third time that I have been to EduTech. In 2013, I went with Frank, my principal and we noticed that a number of South Australian schools were sending groups of teachers rather than just a couple of members of their leadership team. I must have been in a major blogging slump then because I didn't reflect on any of that conference although Dan Pink was there, so was Gary Stager, Stephen Heppell and Alan November, along with Skype-ins from Sir Ken and Salman Khan. So in 2014, we expanded the group going to include my fellow AP, Anna along with three teachers who represented the Early Year, middle primary and upper primary teams. That conference featured a huge line up of big edu-names, none beamed in, including Sugata Mitra, Sir Ken, Ewan McIntosh and Ian Jukes. I blogged about that experience here.

I think I've become the defacto tour guide for our school because late last year, Ashley, our Early Years Head of School pulled me aside and said that senior leadership had approved funding to take 8 people to the conference in 2015. I know that last year's attendees have all used many of the ideas to improve their practice, to become more connected to others beyond our site and to become drivers of innovation in terms of learning opportunities for our students. So, we ran our process and selected our participants and we headed out last Monday evening for Brisbane. The group was a good mix of year level expertise, experienced and early career teachers, excitement and nerves.

I decided that I wouldn't spend time during talks making notes because I didn't want to be carrying an iPad or laptop around all day - I thought my phone would do the job. Using Twitter, I either posted a quick observation or favourited someone else's tweet to build up a timeline of gathered cyber-notes. I had done my research about who I wanted to see - and was pleased to see that two speakers, Shelly Terrell and Simon Breakspear, who I was keen to see were available after initially being booked out. I even volunteered to speak at one of the four TeachMeet sessions about my Student Leadership program. I hoped to catch up with educators that I normally only get to converse with online but apart from that, I was hoping to be quite open and flexible about my EduTech experience.

Now, I know that EduTech is a commercial event with loads of sponsors, a huge vendor area but I've stated my opinion about that a couple of blog posts back. There are useful things that I might want to consider purchasing for my school and I'm not forced to go to any of the booths. For instance, I got to see first hand the 3D printer that I'd been recommended, and hopefully will be able to cash in on a special they were offering at the moment. The Maker Space area was filled with great making and coding resources (I like Cubelets and Little Bits) but guess what, they cost money.

But the value was in the discussions with my colleagues - What did you think of that? How do you think that would go at our school? What do you need to get things happening? What's challenging you right now? What tells you that you're on the right track? What does this all mean for our students? We sat and listened to Eric Mazur together, then went our separate ways, then met back up and talked and then scattered and then crossed paths again. I got to catch up with online colleagues (Sue Waters, Tom Barrett, Ewan McIntosh), and compare their work with my own, to catch up on the gossip and introduce some of these personal influences to my day-to-day colleagues. I met some more recent online links for the first time as well (Corinne Campbell, Matt Easterman) and chatted with other South Aussie colleagues (Paul Luke, Dave Henty-Smith, Nick Jackson). We got the whole group happening on Twitter - regular users helped the novices to build out their connections in a flurry of first time tweets, retweets and favourites.

If I had to pick a couple of highlights, I would say that the workshop with Shelly Terrell was the number one pick. She talked about and demonstrated online spaces both for teachers and students. She was so easy to listen to and a ninety session passed in no time at all. I also enjoyed Eric Sheninger, whose insights about leadership in a school striving for continual improvement and innovation were invaluable as one who aspires to meaningful leadership. I even bought his book, "Digital Leadership" but stopped short of getting it signed like some did (never understood the appeal of autographs, really). I wasn't as dedicated as I could have been about getting to sessions and missed a few that would have been good. Being a previous delegate, I could tell where the sponsor's sessions were on the agenda and knew when to vote with my feet. I'm not sure what the solution is in that regard - sponsors who have paid big dollars will want their product featured in one way or another but educators are too savvy to get sucked in for anything too blatant.

So, 2015 was still a solid investment for my team. The names weren't as big as 2014 but the conversations we had were just as important. I can't think of any other event that could provide what we got from our two days and expose them to ideas and concepts that will spark action back at the workplace. And I'm looking forward to see how that all plays out.



So, last night I decided to get with the times and check in on one of these #hashtagED Twitter chats that few of my online colleagues have been saying are the ultimate in online PD. The one that was being promoted a bit at EduTech was #AussieED and I took note of the 8.30 pm AEST start time, and dutifully watched for 8 pm my time with my trusty iPhone at the ready. I even saw the topic was around this idea of being a teacherpreneur which I thought could be interesting as it threw my mind back to a recent Stephen Downes post in which he wrote:

Why do I dislike the idea of teaching entrepreneurship so much? Because it changes the child's perspective from the idea of serving social needs through work and learning to one of serving the needs of people with money. And when you have this perspective, you can never get at the question of why these people have all the money in the first place, and you can never perform work which changes that.

This observation really resonates with me. Being an entrepreneur means the world of business, money making, exploiting of marketplace gaps and investing in hope of a future financial payoff. There is no problem with entrepreneurs in the education space - consultants, software developers, PD providers and so forth - even if some believe that they are more crucial than what they really are. But to apply that label to classroom teachers or school based leaders, well, that is a big stretch in my mind. So to me, a "teacherpreneur" would be someone from a teaching background constructing or plugging a service or product. But clearly, I am in the minority.

I was not really prepared for the scope of the #AussieED experience. I had loaded up TweetDeck and straightaway the tweets were running off the page so fast that I couldn't even read one before it was being bumped down the page. The moderators had posed some questions - the first being "What is your understanding of a teacher entrepreneur?" And it seemed like anything went ...

Q1- teachers who are forward thinking and break new ground by searching for new innovative ways to teach

A1. A educator who spends their time in the creative and innovative design of pedagogy.

A1 A teacher who creates, invents or re-invents an idea, system or product to more adequately meet the needs of learners

A1: Someone who invests in the needs of students and makes it their business to enhance youngsters' life chances.

A1 - one who tests, tries and believes in their ideas reaching out to as many as they can..inclusive to the core

It was starting to sound like anyone or anything could be classified as a teacherpreneur - but these responses seem at odds with the first hit on Google:


noun: entrepreneur; plural noun: entrepreneurs
  1. a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

Then a couple of tweets came through that was on my wavelength.

The term edupreneur is just another way to commercialise education. Look at the feed on this tag already

A1. Someone looking to exploit a niche. Regards the term intellectual property loosely. Doesn't need to be a teacher.

And it was true about the feed on the tag. As my head spun from all of the one way traffic on the #AussieED tag, I was amazed that there was very little pushback or challenging of the concept. It seemed universally accepted that being an entrepreneur is totally a positive thing, and not only that, almost anyone and anything related to teaching could be see as entrepreneurial! I figured to make any sense of this at all, I needed to start at the beginning with the initial question, and it got some traction with one of the moderators. The screengrab shows the conversation as it unfolded.

As you can see, an actual entrepreneur (who is in line with the dictionary definition) got involved in this conversation but I still felt like innovation is being mistaken for being entrepreneurial. I know they are not mutually exclusive but it is possible to be innovative with being entrepreneurial.

Anyway, at that point, I thought I would bail and go work on a blog post or something but I thought a brief acknowledgement to Brendan Jones was in order:

teacherpreneur chat2And there was the word of the night - antigroupthink - which summed up perfectly my experiences on that topic in #AussieED. I'll participate again sometime in the future but not before checking out the topic thoroughly first, and working out a strategy for dealing with the torrent of tweets.

I am looking forward to EduTech. I am lucky enough to be leading a group of seven of my staff off to Brisbane in under two weeks time. Several have been wanting an opportunity like this for a couple of years now, while others are nervous about participating in such a high profile event early in their teaching career.

However, across my network connections, there is a growing trend towards bagging EduTech both as a concept and as an event. I am not saying that some of the criticisms aren't valid or that educators aren't entitled to hold views that are anti-EduTech. It's just that incessant bleating of the same complaints over and over again that give out the vibe that it is an evil, money-sucking, leeching parasite of a conference for gullible teachers that I feel is unnecessary. I get the sense that some people would rub their hands together with glee if they heard that this event that has risen to prominence in just a short number of years was about to fold or to discontinue.

I've read the complaints. Overseas speakers get buckets of cash while our poor Aussie compatriots get no monetary recompense. It's too expensive. It is too big and too impersonal. It's a big echo-chamber. Too many vendors peddling wares to unwary schools. Too much celebration of the edu-celebrity. There's elements of truth in all of these generalisations. But it's not the total story.

There has to be a reason that huge numbers of Aussie educators flock to Brisbane - and it's not because we are all gullible sheep lining up to get fleeced. There has to be a reason why the big name speakers resonate with teachers - including teachers who don't join state professional edtech organisations. Everyone has different reasons - I can only share mine.

I enjoy the different speakers, especially the ones from beyond our shores because they can sometimes present ideas in new and different ways compared with the way institutions involved in learning operate in Australia. Everyone has their asking price, and if someone like Sugata Mitra is asking a six figure fee and EduTech are prepared to factor that into their expenses to put him in front of me (and several thousand compatriots), I don't have a problem with that. As with all speakers (and anything being spoken, written or conveyed about education and learning) the onus is on the attendee to be a critical consumer. I don't have to agree with everything that Sir Ken says as I feel that my learning is most informed by the tensions or points of difference that I notice. And being plugged into Twitter at the same time enables me to see into other people's brains at the same time and see how the story is resonating or reverberating there. I see more pushback or added value via Twitter than nodding and regurgitating but it could just be that I have chosen who to follow intelligently and strategically. The money angle is interesting because all speakers have a limited window of opportunity in which their reputation can reward them financially - does anyone remember Jamie McKenzie or Marc Prensky? These people were forward thinking at the time but their potential conference learning power has certainly diminished.

EduTech is not cheap but it is no more expensive than other similar sized events in Australia. The sheer size increases the chances of me meeting up with educators I currently connect to (I hate the phrase PLN) and meeting new teachers to add to those connections is awesome as well. Yes, there are lots of vendors there but I have never engaged in a conversation with a sales rep or consultant unless what they were showcasing piqued my interest and I wanted to ascertain if there was an opportunity of value for my school.

For me, it is a future of learning festival. It is not like the local EdTechSA conference - it is a totally different beast. It is big picture, forward looking and unashamedly so. I have seen first hand how exposure to new ideas as a live event (as opposed to watching a YouTube recording) has spawned innovation and forward movement at my own school from the colleagues who attended last year. It was a chance to press pause on their day to day classroom practice, deeply converse with their colleagues, see ideas from fresh and multiple viewpoints and resolve to rethink things when they get back to their classroom. For example, Scott, a colleague who heard Ewan McIntosh speak last year about Google-able and unGoogle-able questions went back and started a rethink about how he got his kids to research. This spread to his learning team and a planned approach to rethinking the middle school opportunities and learning programs for our students. Today that group attended a Design Thinking workshop with Tom Barrett as the next logical step in that process. The EduTech spark that got Scott pondering has lead to a steady flame of progress at our school. I am confident that my 2015 group of attendees will find sparks of their own.

So, I get that some people don't like the idea of for-profit event like EduTech. I get that they feel disrespected as Aussie educators of repute when they aren't offered dollars for their time and expertise. I don't have that problem because I'm not going to get asked or even imagine that I would be in that market space. I'm just happy to have a 7 minute slot at one of the TeachMeets and share that space with a bunch of educators who I wouldn't get to meet face to face under normal circumstances. I suppose that it all boils down to your own expectations. But for me, slagging off EduTech as a constant theme is tiresome. Plus it is kind of ironic to be moaning about a corporate influenced event on a platform like Facebook.

So if you are reading this, will be at EduTech and you see me, please say "G'day." I am a bit of an introvert so breaking the ice with new people is always welcome. And if you're not going, no worries. Everyone has different priorities - and a conference is just one way to get the brain connections buzzing.