Well, our state conference is over for another year and even though I made a few attempts to live blog events, a number of factors (mainly self created) tended to interfere. I was involved as a presenter on four occasions and after you take the keynotes out of the equation, there wasn't much to attend for my own learning. At the risk of sounding like a blog snob, it's lucky I don't rely on conferences anymore for inspiration or ideas. I did live blog Gerry White's keynote which, for me, presented lots of familiar ideas and themes - although I wouldn't have called it provocative as some other delegates described it, unless you think criticising Australia's major telco, Telstra, fits that description. The most valuable part was the conversation with others afterwards. One, with Mike Seyfang who had a frustrating morning banging his head against the school online barriers trying to get connected, was about the artificial scarcity that is created by telcos in providing broadband penetration into education or Australian society for that matter. It strikes me that education and teachers are still stuck in the "artificial scarcity" game as well - possibly to unconsciously protect their own future. So many stakeholders are in for their slice of the pie, ranging from the copyright protected resources we use as part of our work to the vendors out in the corridor pushing their products that we cannot do without and are only available from them at their set price.
So here are a few random personal observations from the two days.
I was involved in a presentation and a workshop on the Thursday where I shared duties and ideas with others. The first was a forum hosted by our loose local network of Web 2.0 in education advocates, the Net2Blazers (coming to a Ning near you soon!) with a panel discussion with the initial question, "The world has changed so why haven't we?" I was worried that we'd be talking to ourselves as we were straight after the opening keynote and maybe people would be more interested in more specific offerings on at the same time. But a small group turned up to listen to our pontifications and the group ended up pointing a few interested teachers towards the Classroom 2.0 Ning as a worthwhile starting point for connection to other educators without the personal responsibility of a blog.
Yvonne Murtagh and I ran a workshop called More Cool Web 2 Tools where in explanation to the idea of using Creative Commons licensed images via FlickrStorm and FlickrCC, there was a wider discussion in relation to copyright awareness (or lack thereof) amongst South Australian teachers. It was good to work with a group where over half of the participants had del.icio.us accounts, so they could add our workshop coded list to their account.
I found Friday morning's keynote with Dr. Peter Evans to be quite frustrating. He stated in his presentation (full of text filled slides that would make Dan Meyer weep) that we had "to walk the talk" in terms of being online learners committed to openness. How come his example of online community was a wiki based "walled garden" only open to registered users? His message of "good fences make good neighbours" seems to be at odds with the way I've experienced effective and vibrant online communities. Evans' idea that you need to have your content and dialogue to be transferable from one institution brings to mind the idea of an LMS with glass walls. What ever happened to "small pieces loosely joined "?
I went through my slides, flipchart and del.icio.us lists the night before with the nagging feeling that maybe no-one would even turn up for my Online Teachers presentation. When I expressed my concerns to Peter Ruwoldt, he merely offered me a handkerchief for my tears!
Ironically, 4 out of the 5 attendees at my above mentioned presentation are already online and connected! I had the privelege of pitching my ideas to well established edubloggers - Bill Kerr, Al Upton, Jason Plunkett and Janet Hawtin ) so I kinda missed the audience I was initially after and was preaching to the converted! Compare that to my final session (during the graveyard shift prior to the end of the conference) called iwb 2.0 that was full, ran overtime and received a round of applause - it shows where most educators heads are at. It was a bit subversive though - get them in through the door lured by the iwb and have them asking about del.icio.us accounts by the end!
I stayed after my presentation to hear an excellent talk from Bill Kerr on Alan Kay's Educational Vision. As a bonus, I got my hands on a genuine OLPC laptop and received a Software Freedom Awareness CD from Janet Hawtin, produced by the innovative folk at Grant High School in Mount Gambier. Loads of great open source software and as Jason Plunkett said to me, "A CD costs 30 cents. You can afford to spend 30 cents per student to give them access to all of these applications!" One of the best things I got out of the conference!
Great response to the conf Graham – I’m ecstatic to see the distance you have travelled .. and the contributions! Mind you a ‘four mug’ conference doesn’t leave all that much room for checking out other presentations/workshops. Maybe it would’ve been better with a bottle of wine (or similar) for each session you did?
It’s a shame you couldn’t stay around for the committee debriefing afterwards – As we start to use and demonstrate online social networks ourselves, others will come to see the benefits, use and adopt them for their own learning and collaborations. We’re still very much a minority but there really are people with vision within the system – we just have to develop strategies to reach them AND the teachers as well. Targeting both ends (but not directing them) – that’s why I talk of “using what we have NOW”, “developing a critical mass” and (a most innapropriate phrase for SA) “the snowball effect”. It appalls me that words like ‘web authoring’ ‘web hosting’, ‘chat’, ‘games’ and ‘storage’ (this is a big one) continue to stop our access to faciliate rich learning. As more sites become available then we will have more options. For now ‘work arounds’ and using unfiltered sites (eg edublogs.org) are what we have to work with. That’s why I’m developing the South Australian Preschools Blogging Network … ‘get them while they’re young’ actually is get ‘them’ (the system and the teachers) while they’re (the kids) are young 🙂 http://hayki.edublogs.org/
Meanwhile I hope my passion for online social learning tools and fury of the obstructions (including “negligent” – my words – administrators and teachers) were evident at the conference. Online learning is part of our work detail – it’s embedded in what we signed up for!
I also implore you to continue your quest to spread the word of what is, can, could and might be integral to new directions of learning in SA and beyond … not that anyone could stop you now 🙂
Although I’ve yet to determine my own ‘re-entry’ strategy into the global networking scene, I’ve got you to thank for encouraging me to dedicate more time there.
Thanks again for your continued contributions. It’s great having you on our committee now. I’m sure we will see more Ning and Twitter (or similar) forming part of our 2008 conference. It’s time to start planning and seeking out more kind hearted keynotes. Ideas abound 🙂
The world is such a glorious resource and is full of wonderful souls. I can’t wait to get back to it. Cheers, Al
Thanks Graham it is always useful to see what others are doing. The FOSS wiki was missing a couple of key bits of software that I’d promote. Artrage is a great painting tool for schools to have. Camstudio is another I’d really recommend for people to make instructional video. My list is at
if anyone is interested.
That OLPC laptop looked interesting. I’d love to have a play. What are your thoughts on it after having a hands on?
“When I expressed my concerns to Peter Ruwoldt, he merely offered me a handkerchief for my tears!”
I am really pleased that you found the Open Source software of interest. You have a blog with a great reputation that could do a lot of good in terms of spreading an understanding about this. FOSS provides a fantastic way for schools to be encouraging students to be continuing with their learning outside of school unencumbered.
‘Learn with the Free Stuff first’.
Interesting isn’t it how the trends change and evolve. Maybe it’s because we have a more open environment over here in Vic insofar as blogs etc and schools go. At last year’s equivalent to CEGSA, the ICTEV conference, there were 3-4 Web 2.0 based sessions on offer compared with the 7-8 focussed on IWB’s. This year there were some 15 Web 2.0 sessions including James F and Jo as well as Greg Gephart from Netalert. So maybe the full wave is yet to hit over there in SA.
As I blogged recently I was very disappointed by the attendance at one of my sessions at the Science Teachers Conference in Perth recently. For the practical hands on session, make a blog and wiki I only had four participants yet back in Melbourne the next Friday I had 15 participants. This despite a worry from the ICTEV people about teachers attending all day PD’s in their hols. I wouldn’t despair too much as in the words of that old ad, “It won’t happen overnight but it will happen” (I think old age is hitting as that doesn’t sound quite correct even though the sentiments are what I mean.)
In the mean time it gives you more time to hone that message for when the hordes do start beating down the door. Hey I’m jealous though that you got to have such a laid back chat with Al etc. 🙂
Al, Paul and Peter, thanks for your feedback here. On the FOSS front, I am big supporter of increasing awareness about open source and free software amongst educators – but I do like to have some background knowledge before I make assertions that are inaccurate. It has taken online involvement to raise my awareness and I do use some of the apps on the CD already. I’d be more than happy to “spread the understanding” but I think you will find many open source advocates with greater knowledge and influence than me already reading this blog. Have you read Miguel Guhlin or Tom Hoffmann for starters?
Hi GW and folks
I agree that we need open communities.
I did think that an approach of having the user decide if their individual component of info was public was ok. It means people could draft something and ‘publish’ it later? Perhaps I am sliding into codgerness.
I found the mix of concrete squeak and web 2 conversation in Bill and Graham’s presentations useful.
I feel that the SJ stuff about teachers is more a product of context and delivering to formal requirements than any innate SJ flavour. Although I guess if you want stretchy folk they will self select out of more formal contexts.
Apologies for not putting a paper in and for being a chaos fairy on the day. Hoping that the codecamp will become a kind of applied group paper/project.
JP just made a brilliant post relating to the artificial scarcity stuff on his confused of calcutta blog. Take a peek. Subscribe.
Fang – Mike Seyfang
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