Conferences & PD

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.

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.


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!


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.

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.


I was very lucky to attend today's seminar with Dr Joyce Valenza here in Adelaide, and my head is still swimming from the sheer breadth she covered in the day. The whole day in terms of her presentation, her links and pathways can all be found here on her wikispace created for this down under visit. So I won't try and recreate the day actually that would be impossible because what the site can't convey to you is the sheer passion that Joyce has. It certainly won't demonstrate the furious pace at which our collective brains were filled - I was asked to run the backchannel which was quiet and understated, but participants were too busy listening, watching and checking out links and tools on their laptops to be throwing back too many queries and challenges. By only using the wikispace, you would not also appreciate the urgency in her message - encouraging and enthused - but urgent nonetheless. With an audience of mainly teacher-librarians, I got the feeling that the urgency is as much for the future of this role in schools as it was for the future of our students but of course, the two are connected.

So, thank you, Joyce, for a brilliant day. What your brilliant online resource does is enable those of us at today's seminar to go back through your day in smaller bite size chunks at a pace that allows for deeper reflection, fuller exploration and lengthy consideration of how to change and improve the learning for our respective student communities. It'll be something I'll chew for quite a while and is a very timely focus as I start in on my new role.

My local professional association, CEGSA in alliance with SLASA are holding a joint conference starting on Friday 13th May. What is really cool is that Judy O'Connell, one of my favourite Aussie edubloggers is the Friday twilight keynote, and I'm really looking forward to meeting her and hearing her speak. Judy has always been encouraging of my online efforts and generously gave me a thorough tour of Jokaydia in Second Life when I was getting the feel for that environment.

I'm also presenting one of the sessions after the keynote, and have decided to do a bit of ramble through the world of digital content in the search for what constitutes digital literacy in 2011. Unlike Judy, I won't be guaranteed an audience which is always a risk when investing so much personal time for a presentation. Maybe I'll post the script and slides after the event for anyone interested. Here's the abstract:

Digital Content Meets Digital Literacy

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.

Hopefully, I'll get to have a chat with Judy at the conference dinner later on Friday evening. It is always nice to meet online colleagues face to face.

Update: Unfortunately, the conference has been postponed for the foreseeable future. I'll have to wait for another opportunity to meet Judy! was

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I returned yesterday from three days in Melbourne attending the first Microsoft Innovative Schools Forum for 2011. Twenty schools were selected from around Australia to participate as the 2011 cohort and Melbourne was the first event in a program that is designed to promote innovation and networking between public schools with a change agenda that leverages the potential of ICT. My school, along with Charles Campbell Secondary School, was fortunate enough to be one of the two South Australian representatives attending with our key select group of Ann, my principal, myself as the ICT coordinator and Trent, our focus classroom teacher. Each school sent a similar team of three. The forum consisted of an official launch at Parliament House in East Melbourne on the Wednesday night, a full Thursday meeting, setting up for and connecting the 2011 cohort at an inner city conference facility, and the Friday was spent out at the fabulous Silverton Primary School following through on a focussed inquiry that would tie to our own school's developing project plans.

Trent and I flew out of Adelaide early Wednesday and took the opportunity to visit Dallas Brooks Community School. Amanda and Lynn, the two campus principals, and Ramon, their ELearning coordinator were extremely generous with their time and we got a really good look around a school that has really made a name for itself. I won't go into a lengthy description about the school here but if you go to this page, click on the Worldwide tab and scroll down to Dallas Primary, then the embedded video tells their story far better than I can.

But I can tell you what I saw, and that was students focussed on their learning, using technology tools as they required, across the year levels in a variety of ways. We had a look through the Year 5/6 unit first and saw the students using their 1:1 netbooks. Much like I saw at St Albans Meadows 18 months ago, the devices were an integral part of the classroom, students using them as the need arose in a very independent way. There were no whole class teacher led lessons going on, but a mixture of independent and paired kids working on tasks, or small groups focussed on a particular activity. Throughout the school, this was a real feature and what impressed me was the focus of these students, many of whom come from a disadvantaged background. In one classroom, there were two Year Six students coaching some Year One students on how to use an X-Box Kinect that focussed on developing their gross motor skills. They had four young proteges and worked with them in pairs, bringing one pair to use the LCD television at the front of the room while the other two simply picked up their readers and continued with that particular task. While this went on, a larger group of students were seated in a corner on the floor working with their teacher on word letter blends, completely absorbed in their activity and no paying any attention to the potentially distracting Kinect action. Dallas has a student television station that is part of a larger focus on oral language skills - something that their large English as a Second Language population needs as a priority. My takeaway from this is not that every primary school needs a television station, but that having a whole school project around a student priority is a great way for all year levels to connect.

I think one mental danger when visiting other schools is to start thinking about what can be replicated back at my own school, or grabbing ideas that start next week, when clearly what I saw there was part of a long term big picture strategy that requires staff commitment, exceptional leadership, piece by piece implementation and tellingly, a commitment to being as open as possible. The fact that we were able to access that is a great example of that openness. Dallas are also a Microsoft Innovative School (Pathfinder status) and Amanda's and Lynn's advice on how we could get the most of the program was very helpful.


Kinect @ Dallas

Parliament House
This was a pretty swish affair with all 2011 school teams gathering around drinks and nibbles before an official launch by the Microsoft Australia Education team, in partnership with the Victorian DEECD. We heard from the principals of Dallas and Silverton, and got the chance to mingle and start the networking that promises to be a major feature of this program.

2011 Microsoft Forum Launch

2011 Microsoft Forum Launch

Wegner with Kennett

Wegner with Kennett

Forum Day One - Cliftons
Our next day was run at the Cliftons Conference Centre a short stroll from our accommodation, where the day was capably run by Sean Tierney, Joan Dalton and Cheryl Doig. We were paired with another person from another school to conduct a Partner Inquiry. I got to connect with a young teacher, Mitchell, from Buckley Park College who was a very nice person with a high level of tech-savviness. She had the AnswerGarden page for the group up and bookmarked before I could even get logged into delicious. I suppose that could explain why she was the school's eLearning Coach. The two of us then made up a larger six person Co-Lab who met to introduce ourselves. The Co-Lab was made of two principals, two middle managers (like myself, holding down coordinator or Assistant Principal positions) and two classroom practitioners and our group of six came from six different states. Later the group met to discuss a document called the Learning talk Covenant using a structured method called "final word". We all read silently, highlighting a phrase or section that struck a chord with us. That was shared in turn, with each Co-Lab member reading their chosen segment aloud, then each other member responding until the original person had the "final word". A lot of this activity was geared towards opening lines of communication and getting us all to be open to listening to other cohort members without necessarily polluting conversational waters with our own experiences from and change agendas for our own schools.

We had a look at an online project for students called DeforestAction, which is what Microsoft Education believe technology enabled learning could (and maybe should) look like. Another tool we were introduced to was the Microsoft PIL "Building Skills for Tomorrow" which shares a strong resemblance to many similar tools, including the ISTE NETS which we use at my school. At this stage, we re-convened back in our school teams as we then use that tool to hone in on planning a Learning Walk¹ for the next day's program at Sliverton. Ann, Trent and I identified Love of Learning as our focus, keeping in mind the possible transference to our own school's needs. We then formed planning groups with other people covering the same Skill, and worked out what questions we would focus on asking students and staff in the classrooms at Silverton, what we would be looking for in terms of student learning and facilities and tools to assist that learning, plus thinking about what it would sound look as well. I worked with a teacher, Julie from Tasmania, and a high school teacher from Townsville in Queensland.

Old Melbourne Gaol
This was the site for the Gala Dinner and we were assigned three other schools to sit with. We were given a guided tour by Mrs. Kelly, the "mother" of infamous Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, who was hanged in that very gaol in November 1880. The dinner was served at an enormous long table running the length of the bottom level of the gaol and was a great chance to meet and mix with others.

Wegner with Ned Kelly

Wegner with Ned Kelly

Friday saw everyone up early and on the bus down to Silverton Primary on the south east side of Melbourne. We were greeted by the two school captains and ushered into the school's new BER funded hall. We got ourselves ready for our targetted Learning walk throughout the school where we were free to talk to any child, staff member or leader about what we were seeing. We met Tony Bryant, the principal and got into our teams to check out the school. The first thing I noticed was a large LCD television screen embedded into a wall with a Wii-mote hanging from a hook - Wii for the students during their break times! We went into the Year 5/6 Learning Centre first and what struck me first was how scattered the students were around the unit, all engaged in a variety of learning activities using a blend of technologies and traditional paper based materials. The students were obviously used to having visitors and happily spoke about their learning. We saw inquiry tasks around the topic of the Victorian gold rush before adjourning to the Year 3/4 Centre where Literacy block was in full swing. Again, technology was there but used as one of many choices for the learning to be done. Students were constructing learning goals on documents and small groups were gathered around portable projectors examining texts as part of their reading program. We looked at the Year 1/2 kids and the Preps involved in their Discovery Time, which is a structured play program that had a very detailed ongoing assessment regime maintained by the supervising teachers. I spoke to the Multimedia teacher, who ran the Television and Radio station, an enterprise much like the one at Dallas, that was a whole school project focused on improving the oral speaking skills of their students. There were predetermined roles for various year levels - the Year 1/2s were the anchors, the Year 3/4 kids did the filming and the Year 5/6 students were the reporters. The footage was then broadcast around the school on the many LCD screens and uploaded onto the school website where the parent community could access it.

TV Station @ Silverton

TV Station @ Silverton

The Learning Walk focused us on the Love of Learning angle, and we took photos and snippets of Flipcam footage because our final task was to start a multimedia presentation on that angle about the school that we could share with other 2011 MIS cohort members and to take back home to our own schools. We also shared our start on this with another school - in this case, Coomera Springs State School from Queensland. Seeing another group's take on the school also opened up our own perspectives. No matter about what anyone thought about the school's practices, it is one heck of a statement of trust and belief to open up your school to sixty high level educators for examination and Silverton should be congratulated on that. They do have a lot to be proud of.

Learning Centre @ Silverton

Learning Centre @ Silverton

So, What's The Big Deal

Microsoft is often portrayed as being the bad guy in the technology world and there are some good reasons for that label. But Apple advocates don't hold the moral high ground either when it comes to monopolistic practices, so I'm fine with my work at educational improvement for my school and its learners being associated with the Microsoft name. Truth be known, I've applied three times to be a Microsoft Innovative Educator and never got close. But my record with helping my school to gain entry to these sort of programs is a lot better, and now I'd rather be a team player than an individual maverick seeking acknowledgement from a mystery corporate judge. So, this opportunity to meet and mingle with leaders and teachers from over twenty public schools around Australia trying to make a difference is a career highlight. The Microsoft funding gives us access to some of the highest quality facilitators available in this part of the world and a chance to look closely under the hood of schools that have moved to the next highest level in the Microsoft Education program. These three days have been invaluable for examining where our school is heading, whether the initiatives we are trialling will have legs, gaining some affirmation for the programs and ideas we already have in place and making plans to continue the growth of learning programs for our students.

I have had some personal revelations building from my participation at the recent ACEL conference when thinking about my own leadership roles and opportunities within our education system. The message I got from that conference was don't be afraid to look for the next opportunity, be ready to move if needed and don't stay in one place for too long so that your own change agenda becomes mundane and ineffective. But listening to Tony describe his school's journey and his role over an extended period of time (he started as principal in 1989) had me re-thinking about what it means to make a difference. I'm lucky. I work at a progressive school in a role well suited to my skills and knowledge in Learning Technologies and one could argue that the school could continue to progress without my input but another school less advanced in their journey would benefit from my experience. Our school has already that several times as teachers and other leaders have gone onto more influential positions in other schools, thereby raising the possibilities for their new schools and improving the education system in that way. But another way to look at that could be that my current position helps drive our school in time to a level similar to Dallas and Silverton - the influence is then that schools come to look at what we do and take those ideas and seeds for improvement back to their home base. Either way is a valid use of my talents - and my leadership does not have to come from a positional title. I like to think that I also provide some of that influence via this blog and my other online contributions, showing that ordinary educators need to roll up their sleeves and get online to mix it up and trade ideas and knowledge with other educators worldwide.

1. A Learning Walk is defined as "a regular, focused walk in and around learning areas for a brief period of time - observing and gathering data - followed by reflection, feedback and setting of future goals."


Well, my talk at the CEASA Spotlight Seminar the other night seemed to go OK, although I'm not sure that I really addressed the question of how social media can be utilised by professional associations. A quick look at the CEASA website shows that even in this comparatively small state, there are over 50 associations under their umbrella. I belong to one - CEGSA - but I'm a relative newcomer to being a member, only joining a little over five years ago. So, I don't have this ingrained history of having a particular professional stake in the continued prosperity of an association. However, if my short stint on the CEGSA Committee is anything to go by, all associations have similar issues in terms of maintaining membership, maintaining a viable financial base and offering support to its members in their particular field of interest.

I use social media as an individual. Associations are about a community. I wasn't really sure where to look to find an association that was leveraging social media for its members until I remembered that Jo McLeay is now working for VITTA. Their approach is to offer an extremely resource rich website and add the social media in on the platforms where they are found out on the wild web. There's a blog and a Twitter account. The Twitter account is interesting in that it's not necessarily a collection of VITTA members on the following list but a carefully curated collection chosen for their potential value to the membership. A quick look at that collection shows a significant number of individuals, all obviously putting out tweets of significant interest for their own network, of which VITTA has now become a node. But as for how many VITTA members are availing themselves of this social media feed, well,  I couldn't tell.

Professional educator organisations cater for interest groups within the education community. They provide Professional Development sessions, run conferences, maintain websites and newletters with the aim of equipping their members with the latest resources and offering information and opportunities to improve their members' professional practice. This has worked well for quite a long time and many organisations have embraced the use of technology to improve outcomes for their membership base. But in the same way that the internet is a disruptive force starting to rumble through educational institutions, the web and in particular, social media services threaten the status quo. Online events like the K12 Online Conference show that membership to an organisation is no longer a requirement to hold or participate in Professional Learning of the highest quality. The ever popular TED Talks provides keynote quality out of the budget range of any South Australian organisation.

Professional associations are a way of pooling talent and resources for the common good of a larger group. But they have to provide value for their annual subscriptions or potential members are less enthused about joining. At the Seminar, two SLASA members showed an online referencing tool that their organisation had developed, pointing out that this had the potential to be a positive drawcard for their organisation and that licensed access to this tool could be an income generator for SLASA. But in my mind, there is a danger in this. My experiences and interactions with many educators online indicate that the days of hording an idea behind a locked web portal and charging for access are over. People will just search for another free tool online. That doesn't mean that talented members should not develop these useful tools. Just don't expect them to be a money spinner.

As I wrote before, professional associations are a way of pooling talent and resources for the common good of a larger group. Prior to the internet, this was a way of connecting locally as time and distance prevented the easy exchange of ideas between states and other countries. An annual conference of sister associations across the nation provided important cross-pollinating opportunities as key members travelled to an interstate venue and brought back new ideas and initiatives for the local group. Social media throws the need for most of that out the window. If I'm a Maths teacher, why would I restrict myself to only the ideas within my state association when increasingly, many of the best and most innovative ideas are being published and discussed across digital networks in various corners of the world? Now, it could be that many associations serve a niche demographic where educators of similar ilk world wide are not blogging, tweeting, YouTubing or pooling ideas and practices on a wiki. But there is a definite trend occurring. You could see the edtech community as being an innovator, with early adopters in other educational fields starting to multiply until all areas of the education spectrum have networked individuals sharing and benefitting via the web.

So, if professional associations are to stay vibrant, healthy and relevant, they must work out how to leverage the tools social media offer and look at the trends towards openness and sharing in order to redefine themselves for the years ahead. I'm not at all sure what that could look like but like the education system itself, professional associations must continue to evolve to attract membership and then meet that membership's needs in an era where professional learning is ubiquitous as information itself.


Notes from Ewan's session here in Adelaide:ewan

Creativity in education - most over used and mis-used phrase in the classroom. Exploring how a startup company approaches creativity. Design thinking - used by architects, design artists, media etc - focuses on the concept of immersion, synthesis, ideation and prototyping.

Immersion - "When a wind blows, ride it." Education is naturally skeptical of new things and trends. Annual staff reviews don't make sense in a world where start ups look 3 months ahead at most. Changing plans is an "unattractive proposition" for education but it is impossible to see five years ahead for anything. Social TV - BBC Virtual Revolution.

Re-consider education from the perspective of a young person - what you know isn't as important as knowing how to find out what you want to know. Use a Google form to ask your students what mobile devices do you own. Share those results publicly via blogs. How can you use these devices and the media they use (game based worlds etc) in your classroom? Sense of immersion means total engagement.

Synthesis - showed a fast motion video of an advertising firm at work with a messy table where the team meets then breaks off to do individual work or pairs. Over time, the display board behind the meeting table takes shape and order while the piles of resources on the table lessen and become organised as the goals of the project reach completion. Showed Open Street Map which is like Google Maps created by the people for the people - a good demonstration of synthesis, showing his inside view of Mapumental. Synthesis is creating solutions to problems that have many different prongs. Use of blogs to summarise the day's learning to post out to the parent community - sort of like a learning Facebook update!

Ideation - often seen in schools as brainstorming, shouldn't be the first thing done. People bring biases to the table in the brainstorm (cognitive bias) - done after the immersion and synthesis to remove bias. Cited the music industry as an example - videos at rock concerts, iTunes links in YouTube etc. An example from Tom Barrett - Addition in Adelaide. Social writing -  using the blog to write a book in a collaborative way. Woodlands Junior School - another good example where 75% of Google's traffic for Mother's Day.

Prototyping - 5,127 failures before Dyson got the prototype right for his vacuum cleaner design. People trying out things to see what works. People editing the maps when the Haiti earthquake struck to provide up to date details for rescue and relief services. Use tools like Google Fusion Tables. Creative writing adventures via Google maps and Street View - prototyping is "playing around" but heading towards a solution (story etc.). Risk analysis is something that needs to be negotiated with students, parents and community. Developing entrepreneurial learning is not about making money but starting with  ideas as an individual but then connecting with others to bring their own ideas together.

Ewan's Challenge: What passion can you discover and explore in 100 hours? It is one hour every day for 3 months - becoming an expert in that time.


The big ISTE conference (formerly known as NECC) annoys me and fascinates me in equal measures. It is touted as the biggest and best edtech conference in the world, although BETT delegates might disagree and it is now pushing its "internationalist" angle. Interestingly, it is not scheduled to be held anywhere except the US for at least another 11 years. Now I'm just a critic from afar in my own little insular country, unlikely ever to set foot in the Blogger's Cafe, but I have a serious question for anyone who is willing to answer it.

I'm not looking to be a smart aleck and poke holes in any responses but I would like to know this.

What is it that one gets out of a visit to ISTE?

What changes to practice and consequently, learning results from attendance at this conference?

Can this be clearly seen within a defined period of time, say a year or six months?

I understand the personal gains, "meet your PLN" and all that but after that buzz subsides, what remains?

How does going to a mega-conference like ISTE actually make a difference at the level that counts, in the classroom or with the learner?

I write as someone who is not even going across town to go to the local CEGSA conference this year. I feel like I have nothing worth contributing at present and my family priorities are doing exactly that at present - taking priority. But I am genuinely interested in any responses, either here in the comments or on your own blog.


The upcoming National Curriculum is part of a push for the improved teaching of Science and Mathematics. There has been Federal money flowing to the states to provide teacher training to support this, and in South Australia this has meant the adoption of the Primary Connections program:

‘PrimaryConnections: Linking science with literacy’ is an innovative approach to teaching and learning which aims to enhance primary school teachers’ confidence and competence for teaching science.

Teachers have been funded for this training and my school has been busy swinging this new approach into action. Our Science teacher has been using a team teaching approach (which has only started for my class this term) to help us become familiar with the Primary Connections approach, and today two weeks ago, my upper primary learning team went to our first training workshop out at Modbury. So, here for posterity and anyone who's interested are my notes recorded using the 5 R's model to be utilised by students in their Science Journal writing. (I won't refer to the practice as Journalling as one teacher present today was quite hot under the collar about this term, quite concerned about this "Americanism" creeping into our Aussie vocabulary. For me, English is an evolving language but hey, everyone has their little pet peeves.) The 5 R's are Reporting, Responding, Relating, Reasoning and Reconstructing.


The official name of the workshop was “Talking Science – developing a discourse of inquiry”. Primary Connections revolves around developing students' skills to:
1. Respond verbally 2. In written form  3. In graphic form about their Scientific knowledge and thinking.

We were shown an image of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and asked to respond using the three skills.

My written response: "The image of Eyjafjallajokull brings back a lot of information that I have read about the local impact. Iceland being a country that has a lot of permanent ice and then there is this massive heat erupting from below the earth’s surface, melting some of the permanent ice, causing flooding and doing things like taking down bridges etc."

We were reminded that we don’t know what science knowledge a student will bring to a given topic or prompt. The more open the task, the more varied the responses and methods that will be used to tackle that task. The importance of the art of discourse was emphasised. Discourse refers to conversation from a science point of view – talking with a “science hat” on.

We made use of Y charts scribing to discuss the ground rules for talk/discourse in the classroom. (Collective, reciprocal, supportive, cumulative & purposeful), which were then collated for a gallery walk.

We then were shown our next image of a rock wallaby.

We the applied the same process of verbal, written and graphic.


"I identified this animal through having seen them in the wild, the lower Southern Flinders Ranges. They are endangered because of feral animals like foxes and cats. We were also informed that other kangaroos can “adopt” a yellow footed joey via and raise them unwittingly."

Using the graphic form could be a diagram, a map, incorporates scales, horizontal line labelling – formal scientific standards need to be explicitly. The 5 E’s are the different phases of scientific inquiry.  (Engage, explore, explain, elaborate & evaluate)

(In the interests of finally publishing this post, I have decided not to do a Relating section. But in this part I would recall and take note of how my knowledge and conceptions have changed over the course of the day.)

(This is what I wrote off the top of my head as my group trialled the 5 R's during the workshop. It seems a shame to leave abandoned on a scrappy piece of A4 so here it is, regardless of the fact that it may make no sense to anyone but me.)

As we worked through the various tasks, it gave us a chance to "road test" how the various components of Primary Connections would work in the classroom. Looking at the photographic images of the volcano and the rock wallaby demonstrated how to start the students off on the social plane, something familiar that they would all have some varying knowledge and context for. It is there that the adage of "No one's wrong - there are just varying degrees of accuracy" can be applied by the teacher as they direct the questioning. As the goal is to move the students onto a more scientific headset, starting with a visual (of some familiarity) also demonstrates how the real world, the world the students experience, hear, read or view about, is completely science based and viewable through a science lense.

As we stepped through the 5 E's model, our activities enabled me to gain a deeper grasp. Every time we tackled an activity like the camping trip items, we became more aware of what goes on with our student discussion groups, and where your time as a teacher is best spent.


Well, that's what this blog post has been all about! This should have been up two weeks ago but the rest of my life kept getting in the way.