Second National Leading a Digital School Conference

11 08 2008

 

Day 1 Wednesday 3 September 2008

The Keynote was given by Daniel Ingvarson.  It was an interesting session where he described what Gen y’ers will face in the future.  The session did not describe the solution but rather elucidated the problem(s) we were facing as educators.  The type of world that students will face, and questions about our capacity as educators to meet with this were components of the presentation.  Daniel referred to a number of books but one I am interested in following up with was "Optimizing Student Success in School with the Other Three RS: Reasoning, Resilience, and Responsibility" by Robert, J Sternberg (Editor), Rena, F Subotnik (Editor).  [ I did follow up with this book as it can be found on Google books at: http://books.google.com/books?id=GDFeJnFlCfUC. I checked this out but it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be and as it was a bit expensive I’ve added it to my Google library but haven’t purchased a copy at this stage.]

The second session was by Diana Brook on Designing Digital Learning Spaces.  There were no real surprises in the session and the issue of allocating connections to notebooks was not really extensively dealt with.  One of the key problems which currently exists which is due in part to the limited capacity of notebook batteries and the power consumption of the notebooks, and due to the limit in bandwidth of wireless is the need to tether to AC power outlet and/or a network point.  Getting this to notebooks is problematic and Diana didn’t cover this specific topic, but covered numerous other aspects of designing learning spaces.  Her powerpoint presentation is on the CD and it has some good material in it.  I think a reference was also made to Scootle in this session which (I think) was the new site for Learning Federation content.  I checked out Scootle and it seems to be well laid out but unfortunately I don’t currently have a logon [but have emailed to see if someone can get me on].  It can be found at http://www.scootle.edu.au/ec/p/home.

The third session attended was from Sanyo who talked about their short throw data projectors.  These are a good unit and built specifically for the education market.  They had a number of anti theft measures built into them including being an orange colour without any push button controls.  The cost of these units would likely be greater than $3500 with the NSW Ed department is buying them across the state for about $2500 each.  There are a number of OHS advantages of using short throw projectors – BECTA apparently has some advice on this.  It was suggested when deciding which DP brightness you go for – 1000 ANSI lumen per square metre is required.

The fourth session for the day was by Bryn Jones and he talked about Effective Planning for ICT Integration.  Bryn was to some extent a little flat and perhaps disappointed with the change which has occurred as a result of ICT within schools. I took it to mean that we know what we should be doing unfortunately we’re just not executing very well. His presentation made sense and clearly was not a hype session.  His "11 things that can make a difference in using ICT to improve learning" is a very interesting list.  It can be found at http://ictpd.net. A lot of the other methods he mentioned about planning we, at BSSC, already do something similar to and there was nothing which stood out over the two sessions that would perhaps significantly alter current planning – other than if we keep doing what we have been doing we’ll get what we’ve already got.  The list of things is something that is worth reflecting and acting on.

Day 2 Thursday 4 September 2008

The Day 2 Keynote was delivered by Kevin Richardson.  Points noted:

  • "If the rate of change inside an organization is less that the rate of change outside… their end is in sight". Jack Welch (GE CEO)
  • Students and educators beware the digital footprint as companies are keeping records of these.
  • Cyber bullying risks, etc.
  • Referred to Brodmann’s area 10 of the brain which is associated with Multitasking and is likely more develeoped in Gen Y
  • Technology doesn’t rate with parents as a reason to choose a school.

Session 1 Day 2 was by Bryn Jones and was part 2 of Effective Planning for ICT Integration.  Refer comments previous day.  A couple of other thoughts are as follows:

  • Shouldn’t have an ICT plan, but should be part of a school plan. 
  • One part of what was suggested was to use a tool so that projects are integrated into the strategic plan of college. Identify simple projects which gets the best results, in the quickest manner.
  • ICT planning should not be a shopping list but rather a list of projects.

Session 2 Day 2 was by Marting Levins on "What they Don’t tell you about Ubiquitous Computing".  He described a great multidisciplinary project they had done with rock launchers which involved technology, maths etc.   He talked about Changing & Staying the same

  • Constructionist – student actually produces something
  • Collaborative
  • Creative
  • Complementary

From an ICT Management point of view most of the technology management was outsourced.  However, students were also substantially involved in the support of notebooks.

  • Strategic Alliance – Are you in it for the long term
  • Lease or Buy – consider 2 year ownership
  • Infrastructure – Wireless, solid, scalable
  • Repairs/Insurance – carry your own

Management

  • Student help desk
  • Remote managment
  • Are clients admin users – don’t allow students to be admins

Asset Management

Kids

  • Involve them in setting policy although this may be difficult
  • Be ware that some students will do better and some will do worse and this may relate to their capacity to collaborate.
  • Kids self assessing has a huge impact on outcomes
  • Students take their computers and blog where ever they go.
  • Ability to write – Maine – suggest improves with use of 1:1

Session 3 Day 2 was by Kerrie Smith she spoke abouth "Supporting Professional Development in a Digital World".  As it turned out the presentation focused on facilities offered through edna http://www.edna.edu.au/edna/go.  As part of this a number of resources were highlighted including http://me.edu.au/, http://www.ning.com/ (a social networking site). 

Session 4 Day 2 was by Lauren O’Grady on "Interactive Whiteboards for School Leaders". 

Session 5 Day 2 was by Peter West on "Creating Positive Technological Change". 

Day 3 Saturday 6 September 2008

The first session was with Daniel Ingvarson (the keynote from Day 1).  This was a session I was looking forward to – as a follow on from the keynote and to (perhaps) be provided with some more information on what we (our school) should do to meet with these challenges.  He raised the term Virtual Learning Environments which he defined as an extension of Learning Management systems.  He suggested current VLEs don’t recognise individual differences. The wiki, blog, pod and vodcast seemed to all be tools which would assist in achieving this.  He mentioned FITS from BECTA http://www.becta.org.uk/tsas/index.cfm?refsect=ntss&bcsect=default&sect=fits&id=MANIFEST01_RESOURCE2.  The importance of tagging to assist in "agile" content use was use. SIF compliance is important.

Session 2 Day 3 was by Chris Betcher on "Teacher 2.0 – The Mindset makes the Difference". He has a website which can be found at www.betchblog.com, betchablog.wikispaces.com. Chris has posted his presentation on the wikispaces site. It was a worthwhile presentation and I was very impressed by Chris’ dynamic approach.  His thought on what should be expected of teacher in a web 2.0 world was worth hearing. 

Session 3 Day 3 was by Peter Kent on "Leveraging the Potential of ICTs to Enhance Pedagogy".  He was really interesting although much of what he talked about applied to use of whiteboards in the primary sector. However, here’s a few points he made:

  • In 2000 BECTA has found no link between $s spent on ICT and Learning outcomes, when they reexamined in 2007 the link was mixed at best,
  • quality of teaching is still the best key to outcomes,
  • (I think he said) ICT can amplify good teaching

Peter’s presentation is on the CD.

Session 4 Day 3 was by John Pearce on "I Wanna be part of the Wiki Wow".  Unfortunately the session didn’t work well due to a lack of connectivity.  The disk only has a link to John’s wiki at http://web2forprins.pbwiki.com/.  Mention was made of a few online wiki services being:

Conclusions

Having attended the "Second National Leading a Digital School Conference" and completed some post reading I am in a position to make some summary comments.  As with all conferences some of the important learning is as a result of the conference or as a follow on and assimilation of the information and knowledge gained.  So here’s what I think I can reflect on after the conference.

It was clear that Web 2.0 is well in favour.  From a technical perspective the goal of single logon and central school control of ICT is no longer the flavour of the day – rather multiple accounts at a multitude of web 2.0 web services is quite OK.  In many cases avoiding road blocks and limitations from the school’s own services.  If you want a blog use one of the educational blogs.  If you want a wiki use one of wetpaint, pbwiki or another educational centric wiki.  However, if you’ve got time then setup a Moodle site or have someone set it up for you and you could run your own blogs from there.  However, most of the presenters appeared to be using specific sites for the purpose of utilising Web 2.0 tools rather than their own Learning Management System or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as they are now often referred to as.  However, when VLEs were mentioned I didn’t hear much other than Moodle as the way they can be implemented.

From a technical point of view we could see that much of what we are currently doing at BSSC is right. However, from a learning perspective I’m not quite sure.  I’m not quite sure because there was considerable suggestion from the conference that, even given the past expenditure on ICT, we have not been overly successful at improving education.  There appears to be a limited relationship between expenditure on ICT and improvement in Learning outcomes.   One suggestion was we need to change what we measure, although even if this is done there’s not a lot of evidence to indicate technology equates to significant improvement in education.  I still have the sense that we are still overwhelmingly a group of teachers who stand in front of group of students teaching in the same old way.  Technology does not improve a poor teacher or poor instruction. That’s not to say there are not good examples of how to do things better. There are and we certainly had a few of these demonstrated and explained.  However, it is overwhelmingly clear that ICT, to date, has not transformed educational practices. 

So from a personal point of view I believe the challenge is to go to where the puck will be as the oft quoted hockey great Wayne Gretzky has said.  However, there remain a challenge with Technology in that we don’t quite know where the future will be.  However, we can make some highly informed guesses and potentially be more correct than by not doing this.  As such I think that:

  • online services such as blogs, wikis, social networking sites and the like will continue to grow and be significant for education programs.
  • each of us will have multiple emails, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, etc.
  • being mobile and having being able share are critical services we need to provide,
  • we should all be willing to pick up, test and dump services rapidly as systems evolve,
  • need to minimise bureaucracy in dealing with new systems but also realise that new risks will present as systems evolve.

To distill this down I might state:

  1. What we are currently doing with our use of technology is not currently improving educational outcomes,
  2. It’s clear that the world is changing and that we need to reflect on what we teach and what is the focus of our educational system,
  3. Amongst the new skills will be collaboration, communication, problem solving etc.  (note I’ve looked for a definitive list of required skills but can’t find one – and it appears that what exists are variations of this list – with some providing greater details.)
  4. Web 2.0 technologies and existing technologies exist which offer great opportunities to for us to succeed in areas of education which we have, to date, failed to make much progress.
  5. We need to embrace these new technologies and use them in a way which really will assist development of the skills which students will need to exist in a future. 

This is our challenge and it relates to the work we are doing with our eLearning planning and Infrastructure planning currently.  Essentially if we keep doing what we have been doing we will get what we have got and that may not be good enough.  However, it’s clear that an eLearning plan or new infrastructure are not the most significant factors in ensuring the appropriate changes occur, but as is well known it will be the Learning programs and the teachers which will have the most significant impact on outcomes.

As educators we should to add value to what already exists.  The fact is that there is great content "out there" and this content will continue to improve.  On a personal level, I have for a long time felt that one possible model for education service delivery is to logically separate roles within education where some staff might be content creators and others instructors, others tutors and others assessors.  That is it shouldn’t be necessary for all teachers to do everything or everything well.   While I think the logical separation of roles is valuable as a thought exercise actually physically separating the roles is a bit more challenging and may not be necessary.  In fact I’d hate to think someone was employed as just an assessor, or just a content producer, but what I am suggesting is there is scope for greater specialisation of roles.  Associated with this, which came out of the conference, was the suggestion that if we "as teachers and traditional educational institutes" don’t start doing things better then we may have to compete with the Murdochs and Packers of this world when they realise there’s a buck to be made from education and are allowed to register as schools.  So it is worth while as an exercise to look at education from a business perspective and I think if you do this then the efficiency question clearly becomes a significant question.  Getting people to do what they do well is clearly something a business would want to do and obtaining an efficiency in some processes would be a fair point of consideration and I think it is something schools should look at and consider.  I don’t want to be misunderstood on this point though.  Efficiency is not the key point of educational delivery.  However, it is reasonable to break down what we do as teachers and put an economic worth on the things we do.  Perhaps by doing this we can reflect on the economics of teaching.

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