Monthly Archives: February 2007


Like Darren, I've been asked to be a "context filter" for the Connectivism Conference. My invitation came from Bill Kerr, who teaches at a high school not far from where I live here in Adelaide. As a filter, my job is to view the ideas and concepts from the presentations through the focussed lense of my particular context. I work in the primary school setting, mainly with middle school aged kids. I have been proactive in the use of Resource Based Learning, especially as the internet became a increasingly useful tool for gathering information and then constructing knowledge. This methodology was redefined as Problem Based Learning at my current school and although I have never really delved into educational theory (which is where participating in the edublogosphere has been a boon for my own learning in this area) I see a focus on kids developing crucial skills and sifting through resources in order to construct their own understanding, hence my own classroom learning environments would be classified as constructivist.

One of the great things about the Read/Write Web is the ability to participate in events like the Online Connectivist Conference in an asynchronous fashion. The live session times are impractical for me and so, I'll be relying on the archived presentations (when I find the link on the Moodle) in order to do my filtering. And as there are a stack of work related tasks to complete, start and get on top of, my eventual responses could be quite asynchronous!

Going out on a limb here but I suspect a lot of my Aussie colleagues don't spend a lot of their time thinking about learning theories but rather concentrate or what works for them in their daily practice. They may know that the curriculum framework of this state, SACSA, is reputedly built on constructivist theory and by using that framework, they must be default constructivists. Last year, I attended a session at the International Middle Schooling Conference by Israeli academic, Yoram Harpaz, who pointed out the hypocritical differences between what most educators say they believe and how they actually implement learning for their students. The good thing about this conference when I finally engage with the topic and the conversation is that it will be a great refresher course in terms of comparing practice to theory. I do wonder how connectivism can work for the pre-adolescent years of schooling and how technology dependent that form of learning is. I really like a lot of questions Bill raises on his wiki in regards to whether we need to declare allegiance to one theory or another. My own classroom practice uses a multitude of methodologies ranging from explicit instruction to student initiated curriculum. Nearly every task is constructed with multiple entry points - an absolute necessity in the composite classrooms of the Australian primary sector - so that strugglers and capable kids can still engage with the same concepts and knowledge. I've pointed this out to some of the US based bloggers who read here that the use of textbooks is very limited in Aussie public primary schools. In my classroom, it is non-existent, unless you count a Maths or English Skills textbook from our teacher reference library, used only for guiding and designing curriculum content. So the whole idea of constructivism applies to my planning and programming and flows over to the learning experiences I provide for my students. I still believe in what politicians call "the basics" as the foundations on which students can build their own learning and consequently, their skills and knowledge. But where can this idea of connectivism fit in, especially with the five year old to thirteen year old age group?

So, when George has his presentation archives functioning (an e-mail earlier today said that they were experiencing difficulties with the recording of the first session) I'll download, listen, read and have a go at responding. Tony Forster already has but I'm even loathe to read his thoughts fully as I don't yet have the context for them and they may influence my filter perspective. We'll see I go.


I've been meaning to link and comment on a post from Tom Barrett called Has the IWB past it’s sell by date? that touches on the technology that is still hailed in many Australian schools as the next big thing. It is seemingly viewed by many as the ultimate educational ICT tool as there aren't too many other edtech tools around that command conferences solely dedicated to the one form of technology. How about about an iPod conference, anyone?

Tom says:

So the IWB is an old 2002 model car, and every year there has been a growth in sales - way back then the model had all of the latest features and was “cutting edge”; now the same model has had a paint job, a few bolt on extras like a new exhaust and ways to plug in your mp3 player - but the car itself has not changed.

Now, Tom is in the UK and there has been a massive push there to get IWB's into as many classrooms as possible, so maybe the cutting edge gloss has long gone. But here in Australia, it's still go-go-go to buy and install these tools and be seen by the educational community as embedding technology into learning. I've waxed and waned about this topic many times before - and I've been in charge of leading out an IWB program at my school!

But the IWB has been slowly becoming a much used element of my classroom practice so far this year. We've had a new server installed and it is still slowly being coaxed into service by our dedicated tech staff. But the computing room has been out of action, and kids don't have logons or internet accounts at the moment so the IWB has been a vital cog in connecting to the online world and setting the year up. I used the board when constructing our Class Vision and the Class Expectations, getting the kids to rank the different elements to create agreed statements.
"1. Communication. In LA20, we will be polite and show our listening skills through the use of eye contact and a positive tone of voice."

I've pulled up YouTube videos as free writing prompts, grabbed Wikipedia references and previewed digital pics straight from the camera so that the kids could veto my photographic talents before I post their likeness on the front wall for the year. Yes, I know for all of the internet stuff I would be just as well served using a data projector but the just-in-time opportunities have been invaluable already in just over a week.

So, maybe there are "newer models" in the pipeline as Tom suggests but as a vehicle for learning, I will be using my IWB for a while to come. After all, how many teachers do you know that drive new expensive cars anyway?

Attribution: Image: 'Toyota Camry' by A Surroca


I've finally gotten organised and uploaded a pdf of Web technology leaves SA schools behind, the newspaper article I was interviewed and photographed for. The journalist was David Sly, whose recent family challenges have been well documented over on Mike Seyfang's blog, and he was very considerate of me and my uncertainty about being interviewed on my Web 2.0 views. I'd be interested in any readers' impressions about the article - and the photographer did a great job framing me up between two dated library computers. article.jpg