Archive for the 'Conferences & PD' Category

ACEC2014 Takeaways

I’m not a big fan of the food at the Adelaide Convention Centre, so during the lunch break during the past two days at ACEC2014, I wandered off to Hindley Street in the nearby CBD in search of a quick and tasty takeaway lunch. And tonight when I got home, my wife suggested that we get pizza for a treat so on my way down to the local pizza outlet, the idea of ACEC takeaways came to me as an alternative way of reflecting on the important bits from the sessions I’ve been to over the past few days.

File:Pizza Port Melbourne.jpg

So apologies in advance to any of the speakers if this feels a bit odd and a touch disrespectful to your work but I am trying to tap into my creative side here and ensure that I commit to debriefing my brain.

Alec’s Web Cafe
Proprietor: Alec Couros
Menu includes: Canadian insights, digital identity donuts, hacked teachers

This charming eatery features a wide open dining area with glass partitions fronting the kitchen ensuring that the whole place is entirely public. Retro posters (Apple Macintosh, Napster) adorn the walls but the menu is ever changing to reflect the dining habits of today’s web consumer. Best of all, diners can walk right into the participatory kitchen and cook their own versions of the menu offerings.

@murcha Twitter Pantry
Proprietor: Anne Mirtschin
Menu includes: Wholesome country food, small nugget links spiced by influences from around the world.

The reviewer was flattered to be recognised and then cited as an inspiring factor in this fine dining establishment by Anne, which was both surprising and humbling. The Pantry featured sharing of multiple recipes, plus handy tips for preparation and cooking catering for all comers from the first time diner to the regular with their favourite table. A tasty backchannel was also available.

Humanlit Cafeteria
Proprietor: Georgina Pazzi
Menu includes: Generous serves of inspiration, new terminologies.

This cafe manages to balance the palate between classroom practicalities and leadership vision, which is no mean feat. Menu focuses on a number of tasty literacies with #humanlit being the signature dish. Cuisine is influenced by NMC2014 and personalisation. Diners will feel “in the flow” when eating here and are encouraged to scrawl their personal motto on the feature wall when leaving. I seem to remember this establishment winning awards in the past as well.

GGG (Greg Gebhardt’s Gastronomy)
Proprietor: Greg Gebhardt
Menu includes: Double serves of both safety and glimpses of the future.

This restaurant is divided into two distinct dining areas, one sponsored by the Federal Government and another solely funded by the owner himself. The Government section seemed to be populated by numerous young people on multiple devices, but the engaging menu kept them all in a safe and focussed environment. The trick seemed to around referring to the customers as Digital Citizens as the mention of Cybersafety seemed to have them seeking out more risky locations. Meanwhile, the other area is very futuristic with the menu containing many beta items, and even a few dishes that have yet to be made! Many teachers have found dining in this area to be an intimidating experience but some hardcore educators are always willing to try the hottest and newest thing on the menu.

Schrock’s Diner
Proprietor: Kathy Schrock
Menu includes: All drinks served in Google Glasses, and a wide range of tasty apps.

This place is fast paced with a seemingly endless menu of digital delights. The theme of the diner is Story as it relates to learning, with numerous videos playing on the wall projections while waiting for my meal. True to expectations, the simple treats are likely to stick in my memory for a long time to come.

The Observation Deck
Proprietor: Paul Herbert
Menu includes: Liberal doses of self deprecating humour, practical processes.

Technology plays a role here but took a back seat when I settled in for my meal. Practical nourishment for leaders is the specialty here but don’t expect to be able to dine alone. You are encouraged to give feedback to the staff here, but they will also take the opportunity to rate you as a customer. My key takeaway here was to ask diners (students) here – what were you eating (doing)? and why were eating (doing) that? That will tell you most of what you need to know about any restaurant!

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I also enjoyed sessions from Stephen McGinley, the staff from Cowandilla Primary School and a grounded, thoughtful session from Rebecca Davies that will have me rethinking my own approaches to my role at school.

With all of this dining, I’ll take a while to think off the digital calories, but it will help me fuel an improved approach to my work and my own personal learning.

By the way, if you went (or are still going) to ACEC2014, what were your takeaways? Share them in the comments, on Twitter or your own personal patch of cyberspace and send a link back this way.

EduTECH 2014 – Virtual Version

Cross-posted from my staff blog where I set up a Virtual EduTECH page for interested staff who wanted to know a bit more about the conference that the select five of us who went got to see. Putting this together showed me that sometimes someone else does say it better, than curation is a great way to assemble a shared experience and favouriting Tweets as the conference goes along is a heck of a lot easier than trawling back through 4 days of a #hashtagged Twitter stream. I think that if you didn’t get to go to this conference then a thorough exploration of the stuff assembled below will go pretty close to making you feel like you knew what was happening and the big ideas that flowed through the conference and out through the digital ecosphere.

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Sugata Mitra - From a hole in the wall to the cloud
Article that summarises most of the ideas from his keynote.
He talked a lot about the concept of SOLE (Self Organising Learning Environments) – link to Tumblr showcasing examples and ideas.
Here is his talk summarised in cartoon form.


Anthony Salcito – Lead a Learning Revolution

Jenny LucaDigital Literacy  Enter in your school email address to access her slideshow

Judy o’ConnellWeb 3.0

Sir Ken Robinson – Learning To Be Creative
Keynote summary including links to videos shown.


Ewan McIntosh – Agile Leadership in Learning


Ewan’s talk summarised via Storify by corisel.

Gary Stager – Making School Reform

Tom Barrett – Creativity and the Australian Curriculum

Dan HaeslerHow to use technology to enhance student engagement, motivation and wellbeing

Joyce ValenzaHacking the Library

Greg Whitby - Developing a contemporary model of learning & teaching for a connected world

Ian JukesAligning technology initiatives in the age of disruptive innovation

Sue Waters, who works for Edublogs, took it upon herself to curate the photos, videos, tweets and blogposts into Flipboard creating a digital artifact that delves even deeper than this virtual line up here. Check it out – it is a real treat and shows the power of crowdsourcing showing that it is possible to see things from other people’s point of view. CHECK IT OUT!


EduTech 2014

Photo by my colleague, Salma.

Photo by my colleague, Salma.

I am on the return leg home from Brisbane where four of my colleagues and I have spent the past two days at EduTECH. Personally I think that this event is misnamed because it is much more about learning with a focus on the rapidly approaching future than any particular focus on technology. Sure, there are tons of vendors in the exhibition area; some plugging products at odds with the pedagogies being espoused in the keynote sessions. But looking through the list of speakers shows big picture thinkers, education leaders with a story of change to tell and other learning focussed edu-celebrities all of who contrast with the invited speakers from the Gold class sponsors who have to subtly (or not so) remind us of their products or services in their addresses. But they help to pay the bills and keep the costs to us delegates within range of our school budgets so their presence on the program is a given. Without fail, it was their sessions that had the quickest “vote with your feet” factor in play.

For someone like me whose role is centred on change and enriching use of technology the list of “want to see” speakers was comprehensive. I loved Sugata Mitra, couldn’t wait to hear from Jenny Luca and Judy O’Connell, enjoyed but felt a bit ho-hum about the big draw card Sir Ken Robinson, even though it feels like sacrilege to say so. (No death threats please, Ken Robinson fans!) Tom Barrett was great, Ian Jukes was fervent but captivating and where else could you face the difficult choice of either Ewan McIntosh or Gary Stager?

EduTECH is a bit of a keynote-fest but the subtle interactivity running through the online back channels meant you could peek into the minds of others as salient points were made in the Great Hall or Plaza Ballroom. During Ian Jukes’ closing keynote the #EduTECH hashtag stream reached over 10.5 thousand tweets and retweets. That’s a lot especially when I can remember conferences a few years back where you would be lucky to have 20 people in the flow of conversation. It was really interesting to see my colleagues all at varying stages of engagement with using Twitter as a tool for learning really embrace the interaction and the widening of the learning experience. They were truly experiencing the well worn phrase “The smartest person in the room is the room” and certainly, not on a scale that they had experienced before.


Sugata Mitra was interesting to me because of his research based approach to his work and how that influenced his conclusions. The big message that came through for me was about collaboration and students learning together. There were images of large screen computers with flexible furniture to facilitate students using the screen together to collaborate and to de-privatise the learning – a push away from the concepts of 1:1 devices. He talked about optimum learning being on the edge of chaos.

I must admit that I made the choice to make a early exit from the Vice President of Microsoft Education’s keynote as his message seemed to be leading down a well trodden path that I’ve seen enough times before, and not even find out what the gentleman from Intel planned to cover. That was fine, plenty stayed to listen and I wanted to connect with educators that I knew were here. Quite a few schools from South Australia had teams in attendance and it was great to connect with other colleagues in the process of enacting positive change. It was also a chance to meet a few more people who I’ve interacted with online over quite a few years. I had Jenny Luca sit a row in front of me (she made an interesting comment to me about me being someone who seemed to have retreated offline, a very true statement that requires more thought on my behalf) and I ran into Judy O’Connell in the exhibition hall. I ran into Tom Barrett again but we’ve crossed paths quite a few times over the last few years but it was my search for Sue Waters that would prove to be most elusive. Sue is someone who I have known online since 2006 when she was doing podcasting and other interesting stuff as part of her TAFE lecturer role. When I saw her name in the Twitter stream, my mind flashed back to Skype chats with cutting edge thinkers like Alex Hayes, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Clay Burell. Sue is now extremely well known as an integral part of the Edublogs team, where she gets to do what she enjoys most in her own words, helping others. I think that Sue is one of the most awesome people going around and it was totally worth the missed crossing paths and “Where are you now?” direct messages on Twitter to talk to her face to face ten minutes or so before the closing keynote. A funny side note is that Scott, one of the WGS teachers with our group, unwittingly met Sue the day before when he was searching for a way to charge his fast draining phone and offered to lend him a cord!

Both Ewan and Tom were excellent in their presentations with Ewan’s thoughts on tensions and leadership being particularly relevant for me and my current headspace in my recently resumed role. Before we left, I set up a Virtual EduTECH page on our new staff blog that embedded the #EduTECH stream to encourage interested staff to follow along. Before we left on Monday, my principal Frank had the page up on the flatscreen in the staffroom to help pique interest in what we were participating in. My task is now to curate links and videos from the important speakers so that the team who went have some memory triggers to help propagate the key themes and ideas that match our school’s directions.

Soaking in this big picture thinking for two days does require some thought decompression and entangling of intertwined messages. I’ll probably do that here over the course of a few posts here. But for now, as we begin the descent into Adelaide, this will do as the first part of that process.

Brisbane, Southbank side, pic by me.

Brisbane, Southbank side, pic by me.

The Corporate Helping Hand

Technology can be a major driver of innovation within any school setting. So, it makes sense that the corporations that develop and sell the devices, infrastructure and software that are part of this picture would want to be publicly visible as a key factor for positive change. A recent example of this came my way via Tim Holt who reflected on a partnership between Science Leadership Academy, an acknowledged innovative school in the US, and Dell who are funding Chromebooks and other benefits for the school. Now, this is a great coup for the school involved and is a win/win PR wise for both the school and the tech corporation who are very publicly providing this innovative support. But as Tim points out, “this sweetheart deal he is getting from Dell is NOTHING like what every other school will get“. There is a lot more to this story which you can follow through on the comments on Tim’s blog but I am interested in the point where the corporate helping hand starts to feel more like a forceful push in the back.

Corporations that have a stake in the education pie all want to be seen as the answer to innovation, or in many cases, just keeping pace. Schools are always under the pump when it comes to funding. Every Google Educator, Apple Distinguished Educator, Microsoft Innovative Educator or Intel Teach facilitator is the equivalent of me wearing my favourite Rip Curl tee-shirt out in public – a form of advertising. There is somewhat of an insinuation that those educators who sport these fancy titles, not earned from a university course or form of scholarship but from an application form or a weekend of workshopping, are somehow better or more qualified at being better educators than everyone else. (Disclosure: I have an Intel Teach course diploma somewhere in my cupboard and I can tell you that it has made little to no difference to my capacity as an educator.)

Late last term I went to a day event that was the launch of a partnership between my own education department (DECD) and Microsoft. I heard about it via a Community of Practice group that my school is involved in around Innovative Learning Environments, and we knew that a couple of schools within our group had been involved in the Microsoft Innovative Schools program so a colleague and I went along to see what this partnership could be offering or mean to the system as a whole. (Another disclosure: I have been involved in the Microsoft Innovative Schools program too, at the school I worked at prior to WGS, and benefitted from their sponsored interstate trips.) The message is one of the corporation is here to give back to you, the schools, here’s what we can offer you, here’s a sample of the sort of Professional Learning on offer. Which is great but being the sort of person I am, I tend to notice the subtle sub-messages, real or imagined, throughout the day that still bug me.

An example of when I feel the corporate heavy hand in the middle of my back – when a graphic of devices is shown to the audience, starting with the least powerful Smartphone then tablets then laptops and finally, the tablet PC as the ultimate learning machine. Windows machines dominate the graphic (as you would expect at a Microsoft funded day) and the sole token outsider in the graphic is an iPad just to the right of the Smartphone and well left of the inferred-superior Microsoft Surface. The message is clear about what constitutes an innovative learning device. We are also presented with a definitive list of 21st Century Learning skills – despite the fact that a quick search will provide many alternatives – but any professional learning from this partnership won’t be referencing any of the alternatives. And just in case, you think I am just being anti-MS, I think that Apple’s coining of the phrase “Challenge Based Learning” is just as blatant a grab for the pedagogical truth.

When I make decisions about the right tools for my students, I want that decision to be free of that feeling in the middle of my back. Schools should be free to decide that at a local level, and generally are, but partnerships that send heavy handed messages curb our freedom to help our students with learning and lessen world views instead of widening them.

Mixed Messages And Simple Truths

On Monday, I heard Dylan William say that computers don’t make a difference to learning in the classroom. On Thursday, I heard Gerry White say that technology is responsible for a 12% increase in achievement. Both asserted that their statements were backed by research.

Dylan William said on Monday (and Friday), “You are entitled to your own opinions. You are not, however, entitled to your own facts.”

John Hattie said something similar back in 2011 when he was in Adelaide, “I’m sorry but you can’t argue with the research.”

Over time, we as educators have become used to listening to and reading from gurus with simple truths. So many of us feel that we are well below the expertise of these edugurus (and I don’t mean to single out the examples above as being the only ones going around) so we pack into venues, feverishly copying dot points from slideshows, handing over cash to buy the book and match up the dispensed wisdom against our own learning, our own classrooms and schools to see if we are headed in the prescribed direction. I am guilty as anyone of being part of this phenomenon but it is interesting how connecting to lots of non-edugurus has helped me spot the mixed messages and view this dispensed wisdom through a more critical (some might say cynical) lense.

Another example from Monday. When I first arrived at my previous school, there were a few teachers who were using the Brain Gym program pushed by a teacher who considered himself an expert on the matter of brain research. He had attended Brain Gym training, had gone to other Brain based PD (quite popular about ten years ago) but something about the whole program didn’t sit right with me. I got some evidence that this was so when Ewan McIntosh published a blog post in 2007 that queried some of the bogus science and research that was at the core of the program. He was of course being informed by others in his network, so he published further posts and pointed to the growing evidence. But if back in 2007, I told those devotees of Brain Gym of Ewan’s findings, I would have been scoffed at.

“What would some blogger know about Brain Gym? He’s not an expert. It’s based on up to date brain research.”

So I kept my mouth shut. But then Dylan William canned Brain Gym on Monday as well. Suddenly, teachers knew for sure that it was bogus, because an authoritative voice had said so. Not one of their colleagues, not some mysterious blogger from Scotland but someone who is currently viewed by our Australian educational community as an expert. We, as educators, are so conditioned to the notion that our knowledge isn’t expert enough, that our day to day experiences aren’t enough to grasp the bigger picture that we concede the higher factual ground to those on the stage or behind the podium.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a post against people like Dylan William or John Hattie who bring us their research, their findings and their advice. What they bring to us via their research, their books and their presentations is extremely valuable.  But I hope that as you sit in a keynote with a phone, tablet or laptop that connects you to the motherlode of information, the internet, you have enough faith in yourself to conduct some research of your own. Confront the mixed messages, don’t take the word of any guru as gospel, and look for the truths that emerge as you do so.

Just think of it as a form of information literacy.

Adapted from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/41818779@N00/98309338 by Robert Scales.

#DLDA

This week is a bit of an overload on conference /professional learning events for me. On Monday, it was a whole day event with Dylan William, the Assessment for Learning guru along with the rest of my Woodville Gardens School colleagues. That was pretty good and I have some notes and quotes stored on my laptop.

“Technology is a great servant but a terrible master.” Dylan William during his session.

Today I went to an event titled Designing Learning in the Digital Age (twitter hashtag #DLDA) featuring Dr Gerry White as the opening keynote and sessions from Michael Coghlan, Alison Miller and Mike Seyfang. I went along because in my role as a Learning Technologies leader, I wanted to hear from and interact with other Australian elearning leaders and thinkers to help distill and define my own thinking about the directions I intend to push for at my school. It was an excellent day – and it brings home to me that we have local elearning expertise of the highest quality to interact and connect with. Why many educators feel that they are only really getting on board with networked learning if they can attend face to face sessions with an imported expert is a mystery for me. For me, Gerry’s keynote was a fascinating and informative meander through the online landscape, tying new trends with snippets from his research background. At times, he was blunt and passionate, but I think I have a much deeper appreciation for what he contributed to Australian elearning in his time as head of educationau, and the contributions he still continues to make. If you have a spare 90 minutes, it is well worth checking out the recording – http://t.co/YzPzP7w6.

“… technology is also about how people communicate and collaborate. It is also about the relationships between people.” Gerry White today.

As is usually the case with a day like this where a stack of ICT related topics are explored, there is heaps to consider, ponder and think through. I wrote some notes along the way, I’m re-listening to the opening keynote as I type – and I think I’ll pick out some of the ideas to interrogate in a few future blog posts.

Tomorrow, my boss, Frank and I present at an ILE (Innovative Learning Environments) conference that features Dylan William again, about the research project that we’ve started looking at learning using digital gaming. A few things from today will be resonating in my brain as I explain our project to other interested educators.

A screengrab from Gerry’s talk that highlights a great quote.

 

 

CEGSA2012 Presentation – Digital Content Meets Digital Literacy

Text and slides from today’s presentation. Unfortunately for my slide design which featured a growing mindmap, I presented on a LCD screen which made it difficult for delegates to see properly. So the embed from Slideshare here may not be much clearer – maybe download it and then read the text below in tandem to see the finer detail.

Digital literacy cegsa2012

View more presentations from grahamwegner

Abstract:
The world is awash in digital content – we connect to it via the internet, our desktops, our laptops, our tablets and our mobile phones. Traditional media (newspapers, television, radio, books and magazines) has had to quickly adapt to the new world using a combination of reaction and adaptation. This ubiquitous digital content has changed what it means to be literate forever. So what is worth noticing in this “digital sea”? What should the average educator know about digital literacy? What should they be aware of in a world where all information, true, false, theoretical and fictional, is only a search away?
This presentation will be an exploration of the current digital landscape – connecting the dots between how traditional media is adapting and how user generated content and social media bring their own set of new literacy requirements for educators and students alike to grapple with. By taking a close and critical view at this array of digital content, you will see that literacy needs to expand beyond print and traditional authorship and educators need to well informed in order to become digital literate themselves if they are to equip their students to cope in the world as it currently exists.

What I said:

The title of this presentation is Digital Content Meets Digital Literacy. It’s a bit of an inherited title as originally Rod Martin of Era Publications talked with me about doing a joint presentation with this title where he would offer insight and expertise from the perspective of someone producing digital content for the education market and I would contrast that with the reality of the school environment where filters, technical aspects and budgets put some real constraints on how that digital content is then acquired and utilised. Well, that was an ambitious topic and certainly one worth exploring and both Rod and I decided that if we were to do it, we would want to do it properly and neither one of us had the time to put our heads together to make that particular presentation happen.
So I took the opportunity to take the same presentation title and offer a different style of presentation which is more of a circular journey that raises as many questions as answers. I don’t claim to be defining digital literacy here today but I do want to offer this quote as a great starting point for examining the role of digital content in a connected world.

I think if we keep that quote in mind as I work my way through this particular journey, you will see why educators have to be not just aware of the digital world as it exists today but to be literate in that world ourselves if we are to be effective in giving our students skills to navigate and manipulate the digital content that we are awash in today. Actually, while we’re soaking in poignant quotes, try this one on for size.

So David Warlick’s premise is that mere reading and writing as we know it isn’t enough to qualify as being literate. For most of us, our own education equipped us well for a world where text in paper form was the dominant format. It’s still there, especially in education, which is why so many of us are still well equipped to hold the positions we do. But the birth of the internet, and its popular offshoot, the World Wide Web, has definitely changed the availability of information from being once being scarce and only produced by suitably qualified people – authors, journalists, scientists, politicians, policy writers, curriculum consultants and curated by equally qualified gatekeepers – librarians, news editors, media magnates and politicians.

Information, inspiration, creation and other forms that make up literature are now longer a scarce resource – the web has been the great democratiser, making it possible for anyone and everyone to publish whatever they want to share. And that’s both a good and a bad thing!
So to use a metaphor from the introductory song, we are floating in the digital sea. Now using that metaphor, we definitely don’t want to be drowning and it would be even better if we were able to sail across these waters and have some say about how to navigate, control and even contribute to the content.

So, throughout these presentation I’m going to be building this mindmap. It is styled to represent the non linear nature of digital content and how the skills we are going to need have to be flexible and able to change directions quickly and sometimes to go in several at once.

So, how did this digitization of content start? It’s by no means a process that’s even complete today and the web certainly didn’t start with traditional media but with scientists and computer enthusiasts who used this new connected technology to share and create. But for education’s sake, we’ll start with what the newspapers and print media started to do, because in schools we’ve always used their resources as way of keeping up to date. Even today, we still get a class that orders a week’s worth of Advertisers when they look at current events or newspapers in education. So what changed when the media companies decided to move online. Well, initially, they produced digital versions of what they printed on paper.

Well, actually, only part of what they produced because they still held the opinion that people bought newspapers and magazines for the whole product – the classifieds, the births and deaths, the editorials, the sports columns and yes, even the advertising – so we mostly get the headlines, the important stuff. Magazines featured cut down versions of their paper product because they were still protecting their golden goose.

So, what else did digital content look like when we started bringing it into schools? The publishing companies who produce the books and encyclopedias and reference materials for our schools are still working it out as we speak.

I think one of the first shifts we saw was when Microsoft decided that they could digitise the encyclopedia and so Encarta was born.

Here was an encyclopedia that didn’t merely rely on words and a few pics and diagrams here and there but included video clips, grainy and very short at first, audio, and a search system that threw away the traditional index and held 25 – 50 volumes of information on one shiny CD-ROM.

Remember Living Books? Paper based books re-invented with read along voices, cute animated scenes all held on the same CD-ROM format. Still, the publishing companies still didn’t need to start sweating yet. This was the late nineties and most schools had a slow web connection, and these first digital books were more a novelty than a great leap forward in digital content.

That’s happening now with eBooks however. Now, your favourite book can be a quick download and read on small portable devices like the Kindle and even the iPad now. Still, I’m sure that many publishing companies are quite nervous about this change of events. Certainly Australian bookstores are now starting to feel the pinch, even though it is still mainly tree based books that are being sold via the internet.

What the publishers are nervously eyeing off is what has already unfolded in dramatic fashion over in the music and entertainment industries.

Over time, we have had the LP, the short lived cartridge, the cassette and the CD as formats for carrying our favoured songs. But a new web based format known as mp3 and a brash internet company named Napster turned comfortable retail sales of music on its head with its peer to peer filesharing that had the music companies fearing for their future.

Napster was eventually shutdown by the industry, but you can see its legacy in today’s model for legal music distribution in iTunes where the consumer can buy songs one at a time. Has anyone noticed how CD prices have tumbled as a result? Now, at this point, you may be thinking, what has this all got to do with digital literacy? Well, bear with me, at the moment I’m just laying out the digital landscape that we and our students are part of, and I hope to show some of the connections as we go along and how being literate in this scenario requires more than what traditional literacy entails.

One thing that the web has enabled is the what is commonly known as user-generated content, which could be broadly seen as anything that can be uploaded and viewed on the web without requiring a gatekeeper or expert vetting its value prior to its publication. This content is all digital and is accessible to anyone with a web connection, although what can be put on the web has become increasingly complex and sophisticated in form as time has gone on. The era of Web 2.0 that began around the early 2000’s is part of this process that took the opportunity of publishing to the web out of the sole hands of geeks and web designers and into the realm of literally anyone at all.

We now have big video hosting sites – YouTube is the king of it all and if you want to look at the best and the worst the web has to offer in one place, well, this is it. Here, you can find some of the most profound, most creative ideas posted by people who previously didn’t have an avenue for their ideas – like this video.

Yet, you can pick almost any video at random, scroll down to the comments and see the worst of human literacy at work, responders with little grasp of their native language in written form and so many that are devoid of human compassion and full of vitriol, contempt and hatred for fellow human beings. But maybe this is just a mirror showing a side of human nature that traditional literacy could pretend didn’t exist – that human expression like this could never make past an editor’s eagle eye, would never make it into an opinion piece or a story – because our rules for literacy would allow us, the ones with the traditional literacy skills, to disregard or even forget about the existence of those marginalised by society and their right to communicate. The web enables that – and it does bring another angle to why we need capable, competent, literate students so that discourse in all digital forums doesn’t automatically descend to its lowest forms in both content and form.

YouTube is a great example of how the form of video as a form of communication is evolving and forms part of what we call social media.

Social media sites give the individual huge powers to communicate, to collect, to trade, to exchange with other individuals.

This Hugh MacLeod cartoon sums up the fast pace of social media change pretty well.

Blogs are a commonplace form across the web, and can be found covering a wide spectrum of topics from food to science to cats to various forms of depravity.

Twitter is another form of social media that is another model that enables the individual to broadcast to an audience of many, and no qualifications or traditionally proven expertise is needed for others to join in and become a follower.

Add other social media options like reblogging

think sites like tumblr or posterous

or the one that rules the planet at the moment, Facebook.

Here’s an interesting phenomenon at play in social media. YouTube was initially kept very busy taking down fan uploads of their favourite artists songs and video clips because the music industry was very stringent about applying copyright protection. That has changed to now when you look at one of these clips, a handy little Download from iTunes link appears near the clip as the companies have realised that watching the clip could lead to a legal music purchase. So, the habits of internet users is influencing a reshaping of the music industry’s approach, even though they are a long way from embracing the new paradigm.

And what we see these sites enabling to a greater degree than ever before is that despite copyright laws and concepts like intellectual property, users all around the world are taking their culture’s literature and icons and works of art and remixing them in a form of self expression that is easily shared with one click of the upload button.

First, you may remember this Cadbury advert from a few years back.
Then some clever person thought that maybe a different soundtrack could be added to the gorilla to create something new.
Let’s try a more contemporary remix – again both what you see and what you hear are both original creations from two different sources, but it takes this third person with no other motivation than the joy of coming up with a new idea or angle on a theme or a meme as they are sometimes referred to on the web.
This last one is my favourite.
This one takes things a little further – while the others match the song to the existing footage of the drumming gorilla, this is more of a cut up and mash up, where the footage has been sped up and spliced up to fit the tempo of this particular track.
And we see this sort of thing all over the web, where pieces of popular culture are re-purposed and re-mixed into personalised versions.

We cannot ignore the impact of digitally placed games either.

We have console based gaming, portable gaming, web based gaming, and now mobile phone gaming. The breadth of this area that many of us older educators find to be quite foreign and perplexing is so vast that it is hard to capture all of the literacy here in one place. So, I’m going to just share one example that is all the rage at our house – the world of Pokemon and the many digital forms it inhabits. Now it’s not really important to understand what Pokemon is or how it all fits together in its many incarnations but when dealing with many of our students it is important to realise that Pokemon is typical of many game based franchises today.

With Pokemon, there are the games for various consoles or portable devices, there are official websites, there are DVDs of the TV series and animated movies, there are the trading cards (which have been the source of controversy in many a school playground), the soft toy collection and of course, the manuals and Pokedex that form the core of the purpose behind the Pokemon universe. I have an example of one of these manuals here, I’ve borrowed it from my son and I’ll pass it around. Check it out and just ponder what types of literacy are needed to comprehend and make sense of this hue mass of detail and information.
This is just the stuff from the official company, Nintendo. What has happened beyond the control of the company is the stuff that is really interesting, where the fans and consumers of Pokemon have started to create their own digital content.

There is the Bulbapedia, sort of like Wikipedia but solely devoted to Pokemon. Like Wikipedia, it can be edited by anyone.

There is a number of Pokemon fan fiction sites where budding authors put up their work for the community to critique and add to.

There are video walkthroughs. I’ll just let this one run through in the background and just expand a little here. When my son is playing one of his Pokemon games, (he’s only 7) he’ll quite often find a tricky section that he doesn’t have the patience to work through. Firstly, he’ll consult the Pokemon Strategy Guide if he has one, then he’ll ask me if he can go onto YouTube to look for a walkthrough. These are basically videos put up by other Pokemon users showing how to solve a particular section. They sometimes highlight the cheats, sometimes my son will listen to their audio commentary to understand why a particular strategy is being used or he just looks at the screen and watches their gameplay and applies that to his own situation.

So, whether it is Pokemon, or World of Warcraft, or Runescape or Mario or Crash Bandicoot or Guitar Hero, the gaming environment is one that students, indeed not just kids, will seek out as a place for immersive engagement.

We have now seen that many in the education sector are trying to capture, with varying degrees of success, that same engagement by producing material that could be loosely termed, edutainment. Mathletics is a recent example – often though, the gaming elements are quite superficial, and the buy in from the student is not the same as with the established game franchises.

So, I’ve laid a number of pieces for the digital content puzzle, and I’ve probably taken too long a time to get to this point, but it’s time to MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL, and look for the digital literacy considerations.

How do we make sure that we have digitally literate citizens?

We know that in the right hands, social media tools can make a difference to bringing about change for the better, as was seen earlier this year with the social uprising in Egypt.

So, Encarta is no longer with us and instead we have Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that anyone could edit and is more comprehensive that any non-digital edition could ever hope to be. What literacy skills does one need to be able to evaluate the worth of any article from this resource?
Does it redefine what an expert is?

What will you do with those encyclopedia sets sitting in your school library?

Games bring a whole new angle to “choose your own adventure”. How can we leverage their power, the passion that drives people to create fan fiction, to create video walkthroughs, and bring that into our classrooms? Games also allow for collaboration, with games that link multiple users together. Truly, chose your own becomes CHOOSE OUR OWN.

News sites now allow commenting on their articles in a feature taken directly from the blogging arena.

What we are seeing here is a reluctance of savvy literate readers to take mainstream news reporting as the absolute truth, and news corporations are having to make that adjustments.
I talked earlier about the particular literacy demands of using a microblogging service like Twitter, where you must deliver your cohesive message in 140 characters or less. In the hands of educators, entrepreneurs and hobbyists, Twitter is an immensely powerful tool, building community and enabling viral news to spread as needed. On the flipside, we have the celebrity mis-use of Twitter,

the Charlie Sheen effect, where a powerful medium becomes the outsized blowhorn for the egotistical inanities of people who enjoy an excessive share of the limelight anyway. How do we teach our students to recognise this bluster for what it is?

How do we help students to navigate a digital sea where anyone who wants to can have a say?

Are we looking at what author Andrew Keen calls, The Cult Of The Amateur, where he postulates that the internet is actually making us dumber?

How do we cope with the fact that digital content resides in our pockets now, available whenever we have a whim to connect? I never read the magazines at the doctor’s any more, because I have the whole WWW at my fingertips. I have my music collection, a batch of digital books and games as well. This is the tool we want the kids to turn off and put away. And certain content translates better onto the small screen than other types – does our choice of device mean that certain types of content will prevail?

And most of this digital content is free to access. Well, there are many ways that companies can extract some payment from us – be it through buying an app for our phone, or agreeing to subject ourselves to insidious advertising just so we can use their service. But digital means easy to replicate and copy and that means costs for production are driven down. An eBook costs less to distribute than a paper based one,

amateur photography sites like Flickr are drying up the chances for remuneration for professional photographers.

The web and its infinite well of digital content means that talent has a new way of gaining attention and being noticed. YouTube has launched more than one music star, blogging has helped more than one person into paid authorship and I have numerous examples of educators who’ve moved into more personalised career opportunities (sadly, I’m not one of them!) because of their digital literacy skills that has meant they stand up and above the crowd. How can these skills be utilised by our students to help shape and determine their own future?

So, in summary, a few key points to wind this whirlwind roundabout journey across the digital sea. Will Richardson, who was probably paraphrasing someone else stated the obvious when he quoted, “The web changes everything.”

It’s also pretty obvious that the majority of information in the world today is digital, and the majority of that lives in the cloud, sitting on someone’s server somewhere in the world, connected 24/7/365. I found a great graphic that illustrates this while preparing this presentation on Scott McLeod’s blog where he highlighted a talk by Rob McCrae, ICT Director for the Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland, New Zealand to his school parent community as he rolled out a 1:1 laptop program.

As well as talking about the change from “just in case” learning to “just in time” learning, he showed this infographic that shows how 95% of the world’s information is now digital, compared to 1986 where 99% of information was written down. And keeping this in perspective is the fact that information is growing exponentially as well so the 95% is not the same amount as it would have been back in 1986. And 1986 was the year before I started teaching, so I remember it well.

So, that brings us right back to my original starting quote from Bud Hunt, “You cannot be manipulated by a form of media which you can yourself manipulate.”

I’ll leave that with you and for you to work out what that means for you as an individual, what that might mean for your colleagues and your school community, and what it means for an education system as a whole. Now some of you might think that this means spending all of your free time getting plugged in – well, I am saying that we do need a greater overall awareness and experience with this array of digital content – but I’ll leave you with a cartoon from the wonderful Hugh MacLeod that perhaps sums up a balanced way forward.

Thank you.

CEGSA 2012 – George And Tony

Going to a CEGSA conference is always a weird experience for me. It’s run by my local professional association on which I spent two years as a committee member  (where I don’t think that I contributed a great deal) so I know most of the people behind the scenes who work damn hard to put together a conference of quality. It isn’t easy in South Australia, which is somewhat isolated from the more populated eastern seaboard, to afford to attract big name educators who will attract interest from the wider education community. There is a nice, grassrooots feeling about CEGSA’s annual conference as it depends mostly on local educators putting their hands up to share what they are doing. But I think I am a naturally skeptical and hard-to-enthuse type of person and I want to be challenged in my thinking on the level that I can get at any time from networked learning. I found myself feeling a common connection with Biance Hewes’ post about ISTE where she describes herself as having “moodiness and cynicism” and becoming a “grinch”. I completely get that. (Even if she might not appreciate my out of context comparison. Seriously though, she is one of the best Aussie edubloggers going around.)

So, I always look forward to this conference with a bit of excitement. It is cool to catch up with ex-colleagues and network with educators in similar roles – but I do want presenters to give me something new for my brain to chew on.

So Day One’s keynote speakers were George Couros and Tony Bryant. George is the younger brother of Alec Couros, a higher education blogger who I have reading for a few years. George is newer on the scene, a Canadian divisional principal, and I must admit I only recently subscribed to his blog to start reading his work. No problem, he only really heard of me today for the first time. But he has become highly influential in a relatively short period of time and his savviness in social media is evident. So, his keynote was enjoyable and focussed on the need for educators to become more informed around social media and continue to learn about the connected world that our students live in. Nothing that I haven’t heard before or written or presented about myself in the past – but he has a much bigger platform to spread his ideas from. I then went to his workshop on Digital Footprints which went through how to take control of and use tools to connect on the web. A point of interest was one educator there (from an elite private school here in Adelaide no less) who wanted to pick a bone with George about the “evidence” behind a video he showed during the presentation where an American college student takes institutional education to task over its lack of relevance. George responded well, saying that it was imperative that we addressed disengagement by ensuring that our disadvantaged students gained access to the skills and tools that could engage and make their learning relevant. I’ve heard criticisms similar to this before – all from educators involved in schools where they have been successful in a traditional academic sense with their students and the whole “change or be irrelevant” message is one they don’t see, or from private schools where they can show the disengaged students the door and make them the state school’s problem. I think that George was spot on in this regard.

He also spoke about and discussed the Facebook issue for students where past indiscretions could came back to haunt them. I’m still not so sure that things will pan out that way. I see quite a lot of kids in that space who create multiple personal accounts and identities all with a mix of fact and fiction, easily jettisoned if the need arises – and certainly almost impossible for a potential employer to definitively use as an accurate past digital history. Time will tell – and Facebook is no certainty to be around when the current group of upper primary kids start looking for jobs. So, George was an engaging personality and reinforced a lot of what I already know. But it is definitely an Australian thing to need an overseas expert to tell us what we should be doing.

Tony Bryant was the second keynote and he is the principal of Silverton Primary School in Melbourne, Victoria. I have had the privilege of hearing him speak on his own turf, during a Microsoft Innovative Schools visit early last year, and much of what he said today was similar in nature. His talk is very informative for me in my role as leader in working out what is important in defining the way forward at my school. He suggested a lot of commonsense innovation, and I went to his next presentation on Personalised Learning where he battled a fading voice to describe what it looks like at Silverton. He also pointed out that meaningful change isn’t a fast process, and that it requires patience and being a “committed sardine”!

So, my plan was to concentrate on the “big names” to get value from my day. I am still stewing on what I heard and saw – and tomorrow I have my own presentation to give. I’ve dusted off the presentation that never got to be after the Judy O’Connell headlining event for CEGSA and SLASA was canned, put it back together and we will see if anyone wants to hear about “Digital Literacy” in the last session of the conference. After my declining cohort experience at the ITL Masterclass, I am not confident that anyone will be interested in a small timer’s big picture perspective. After all, it probably isn’t anything that Will Richardson hasn’t already said in his blog and recorded presentations all over the web. But I am a local and I am free. Maybe I’ll push the slideshow up to the web and record the talk for others to check out.

George speaks during his keynote – CEGSA2012.

ITL Masterclass Reflections

Running A Cohort For The First Time

So, I went to the second ITL Masterclass conference here in Adelaide on the Friday and Saturday just gone. I was fortunate enough to be one of the Cohort leaders for this smaller, more focussed conference after submitting my suggested Cohort Session. The website describes the difference between running a cohort and running a more traditional workshop or presentation:

A Cohort Session, in 4 blocks of time totalling 5.5 hours over two days. Prior to the conference, delegates choose one topic of interest only, from several available topics (see topics below). All participants who choose the same topic will form a cohort and work together to discuss and reflect on the topic for the duration of the Cohort Session. Delegates in each cohort will be able to have deep, meaningful, conversations about the chosen topic. They will sit together, to brainstorm, hypothesize, and then create a product as a result of these conversations. The product will also assist participants to recall their thinking and ideas after the conference. Each cohort session topic will be led and facilitated by a talented hand picked Australian educator. The educators are considered by their peers to be the ‘cream of the crop” in terms of their educational and classroom practice and the ways they embed digital technology into their teaching and learning practice. They do not necessarily use digital technology 100% of the time, but when they use it they use it for a sound educational purpose. In this conference format, participants will leave the conference with a highly valuable Personal Learning Network (PLN).

My cohort theme was “Putting Meaning Into The 21 Century Learning Buzz Phrase” and I had no idea how many of the conference participants would even sign up for it. What I did find that thinking about how to lead a cohort of educators became a very daunting prospect and it wasn’t until about a month ago that the possible pathway of how to engage with the topic started to shape up in my brain. I thought that was an important topic to be discussing as there are plenty of papers and lists out there in the world stating what 21st century skills or learners should look like – but they were all heavily North American and I wondered if thinking about things from an Australian perspective might be a worthwhile concept to tackle. I also thought teaming the discussion with the development of a Tumblr site might also blend in the use of a contemporary tool to draw together the resources and ideas in one place. The concept of reblogging that is at the heart of Tumblr appealed to me as a way of pulling out the best parts of what others had already posted out on the web in our quest.

But the cohort leadership was a hard gig for me personally. I had twenty people come along for the first session, which then shrunk to twelve for the second as delegates voted with their feet to go to other cohorts that promised a better deal (which was encouraged as part of the conference culture), down to ten for the third and then a dedicated nine for the final session. I had issues with Tumblr in the first session that took up a lot of time initially – signing people up to the shared Tumblr site proved to be a hassle, then posting content on iPads was tricky for some – and I could feel the opportunity for discussion slipping away. I was happy with what I had as stimulus material but how I imagined things would stream out didn’t really pan out. My ego felt a bit bruised when the numbers dwindled – but the people who stayed were really great at engaging in discussing around what learning should look like today from varying perspectives.

Still, I am glad that I took on this challenge. It has given a greater appreciation of what needs to happen to create meaningful learning for adults – and I really did plan without really knowing how this cohort thing should or could work. I was envious of a couple of the other cohorts. Simon Crook in particular looked like he had his participants eating out of the palm of his hand and they were enjoying themselves too! (I saw some of the refugees from my session one there as well – but enough about my insecurities!) But I underestimated the power of hands on activity, and left the creation of the final product too much in the take up and learning curve of Tumblr which was steeper than I imagined for the beginner. My new favourite Twitter friends, Jenny Ashby and Lois Smethurst were much wiser than me in this regard and gave their participants plenty of opportunity to create in their cohort. It might just be that my ambition (a huge topic) was bigger than my ability.

But thank you to Val and Margo of IWBNet for giving me this wonderful and challenging opportunity.

Networking

It was really great to catch up with John Pearce again, and going out to dinner with him, Jenny and Lois was the highlight of the conference for me. All three are not only amazing educators with heaps to share but are all tremendously great people who I felt really comfortable with. We had a fun time walking down Rundle Mall, having a bite of Italian food and watching Jen haggle with the sales rep in Myer for a new iPad!

Keynotes

We had Laurie Lawrence on Day One and Greg Gebhardt on Day Two. Greg was outstanding in his keynote about the future of technology in learning while Laurie was entertaining but far less useful for my learning.

Final Word

Running a cohort left very little brain energy to go to or participate in other sessions, so I can only recall an interesting chat session around social media and a very thorough Twitter presentation from Lib Howe. Now it is back to the reality of report proofreading and focussing on getting ICT really happening at my school.

CEGSA2011 In A Few Paragraphs

CEGSA had its rescheduled annual conference on Saturday, and I attended this year as a regular participant with no responsibility for any presentations or workshops. I even dressed casually which backfired when the committee decided to issue awards for the 2010 Leading Lights and I got photographed with president Trudy Sweeney wearing jeans and a hoodie! Anyway, here are a few paragraph summaries of what I decided to attend.

Opening Keynote / Tom March:
The concept of the Webquest is not dead even though some leading edge educators might think so. Tom March, along with Bernie Dodge, is one of the co-creators of the concept that seems almost quaint now in the era of social media. But as Tom points out, it is important to not keep chasing the shiny new toys just because they seem exciting and new, and the webquest can be re-invented for the Web 2.0 era and push students into higher order learning.

Tom's Higher Order Learning Diagram

But the point that Tom made that resonated best with me was the concept of “grit” in learning. Engagement is one thing but meaningful purpose and a willingness to wrestle with learning and persist through to new understandings has never been more important.

Twitter observations:

Get Me On The Net / Karen Butler:

I really enjoyed the fact that Karen is one of those educators who doesn’t let technology issues become an excuse for not pursuing relevant learning for her students. She started by apologising for being nervous and unsure of how her presentation would go. She was surprised that she had a relatively full room, expecting only a handful of audience members. She needn’t have been either surprised or nervous as her presentation was excellent.

She showed us through a number of examples of her students producing short films on a wide range of contemporary issues. Karen really showed us the power and flexibility of new media in order to redo work to get things to a personal or accepted standard, with the video footage including claymation, remixed digital content as well as filmed footage by the students.

The second half of her presentation wrestled with issues that many of us championing technology in the classroom are familiar with – excessive filtering, making do with old and limited equipment, slow school web connections – but with a commitment to keep pushing to be innovative with whatever can be accessed. A really great presentation from a dedicated educator.

Penny Collins / To Google and Beyond:

A jam packed 45 sojourn through the many iterations of Google search from a recent Google certified teacher. Enthusiastic and informative and a few new avenues of attack the next time I go searching.

There was also a keynote from Margaret Lloyd on ICT and the Australian Curriculum after lunch, followed by a session using iPads from Christine Haynes, plugging Apple’s own Challenge Based Learning. (Does the world need yet another tech company producing ts own curricular or inquiry approach?) So, it was probably fitting and telling that my final session was on Oracle’s ThinkQuest run by the very capable and enthused Tina Photakis. Overall, a day well spent and the one day formula seemed to mean that all sessions were all worthwhile. Next year, it will probably be time for me to step up and offer something back to the local edtech community.