Learning in Sydney

Sydney is a great city. As well as being visually stunning, there is always something interesting going on. The Vivid Sydney Festival launched last week, which is definitely worth checking out.

With my work at EdTechTeam I love being part of the crew that runs Summits all over the world, but as a proud Sydneysider I get especially excited when we bring the Summit to Sydney. And this year I’m especially excited about the Summit because of a few extras it brings with it, which I wanted to tell you about.

First, the actual Summit itself is being held in a NSW public school for the first time. We’ve run the event in private and Catholic schools in the past with some wonderful host schools. But I’ve always wanted the public sector to be able to share the Summit experience too, so I am thrilled that this year EdTechTeam is able to partner with the NSW Department of Education and Anzac Park Public School to host the 2017 EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education. The NSW DET has made Google GSuite available to every public school across NSW via the DET Portal, so there are a lot of teachers and students in these schools who will soon discover just how amazing these tools are and how they can change the way our schools operate.  I think that’s exciting!

Anzac Park Public School is a brand new DET school in North Sydney. It features modern learning spaces and an open design, and the DET was especially keen to showcase it as a great example of their future schools. I know it will be a great place to host the 2017 Sydney Summit and I’m sure those who attend will enjoy spending time there.

Of course, whiel I’m excited that more public schools can join us for the Summit this year, the event is open to ALL teachers in every sector – public, Catholic and independent.

Find out more about the 2017 EdTechTeam Sydney Summit here

In addition to the actual Summit on July 4 and 5, there are also two more awesome events on either side of it.

The first is a PreSummit workshop for anyone wanting to prepare for their Google Level 2 Certification exam. It’s being run the day before the Sydney Summit on July 3, also at Anzac Park, you can take part in a full day bootcamp workshop that will not only be a great hands-on deep dive into the GSuite tools, but also get you ready to sit the Level 2 exam and get certified in them. If you’re after the certification and would like some support in getting it, this is for you.

Find out more about the Level 2 Certification Bootcamp Presummit here

Then following the Summit on July 6 (at a venue still to be announced), EdTechTeam Press will be offering a full day masterclass with the authors of three amazing books about educational change – Trevor Mackenzie from Canada, author of Dive into Inquiry, Lisa Highfill from the USA, coauthor of The HyperDoc Handbook, and Holly Clark, the coauthor of The Google Infused Classroom. These three authors will take you on deep dive into the concepts discussed in the books, and help you apply the principles in your classroom/ It’s like a book club on steroids! There is also the opportunity to extend that learning with some pre and post discussion group activities online, and I think this is a great opportunity to try something different for your PD needs.

Find out more about the EdTechTeam Press Masterclass Booktour here

Three great PD opportunities for one great city!  Hope to see some of you there!

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons via Destination NSW CC BY-SA

Google Teacher Academy in Sydney

At the recent Google Apps for Education Summit held at MLC School in Sydney, details for the next Google Teacher Academy were announced. Rather appropriately, the next GTA will be held in Sydney on May 7/8 at the Google Offices in Pyrmont.

Full details and a link to the application form can be found at http://www.google.com.au/edu/teachers/google-teacher-academy.html

It’s a great couple of days and although it can certainly be a bit of a brain dump and information overload, you’ll have the opportunity to network with other passionate and dedicated educators, meet with some of the local Sydney Google staff, become a part of the very active Google Certified Teacher community, and join in some fun social events as well.

The event is open to people from all over the world… at the last Sydney GTA in 2011 we had participants from the US, Guam, France, Russia and other places. People come from far and wide to attend the GTA. Of course, I happen to think it would be nice to grow the local GCT community even more, so come on you Aussies and Kiwis, get your applications in by February 28.

I’m looking forward to meeting lots of you there!

Happy New Year

Hope 2010 is a great year for you all!

This photo is made of three separate images stitched together with Photoshop.  It’s the calm before the fireworks storm!  I thought it turned out quite well considering I didn’t have a tripod and was just leaning up against the wall to hold the camera steady on a 4 second/f3.5 setting.

CC photo by betchaboy
http://www.flickr.com/photos/betchaboy/4233820172/

Ways of Working

I hope you’ve all been following the K12 Online Conference this year. There have been some fabulous presentations coming out of this year’s event and, as usual, there has been a diverse collection of topics and ideas with something for everyone. You can check out the entire conference at k12online.ning.com

I had the privilege of being able to contribute to the conference again this year with a presentation called Ways of Working. I must admit that it deviated a bit from my original submission idea, which was to create a movie that followed the processes used by three different students as they responded to a task from their teacher. I was planning on looking how each of the three students used the web and social technologies to take a slightly different approach to dealing with the set task.

As so often happens, the intention of what I wanted to do was quickly drowned out by the time and resources I actually had to make it happen, so the presentation morphed into what you see above. It’s not exactly what I’d planned, but I’m still pretty happy with it… it still looks at most of the things I wanted to include, but just not in the way I’d originally envisioned.

It was an interested experience to hang all this stuff off a single focus point, in this case, the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition that takes place in Sydney each October/November. I particularly liked the idea of using SxS as the core for the presentation because I know of quite a few schools that do actually use it as the basis for a thematic unit of work for their students so I know that it really does have a “real world” use in education. I was also quite fascinated with the way that social media and web technologies have infiltrated and expanded the event over the last few years, and I think it offers a great example of how the web and the real world can collide in a good way. I also liked the notion that the use of technology in schools can (and should!) be used to support real live physical events, and that technology really can be used to enrich a real world experience. And finally, because K12 Online is such an international event, I wanted to take the opportunity to showcase a little bit of Sydney, this beautiful city in which I feel so lucky to live.

Hope you enjoy the presentation, and that you take the time to check out the other 79 or so presentations that have been part of the conference this year.

It's about the Conversations

We may be just a couple of NYFBs, but I had the pleasure yesterday of catching up with Jenny Luca from Melbourne, author of the Lucacept blog. Jenny was in town with her friend Helen to attend a presentation by Garr Reynolds on how to do better presentations. We made tentative plans to catch up and fortunately things fell into place and we were able to actually meet up.

After the ridiculously difficult task of finding a parking spot, made all the more difficult by the fact that I left my wallet at home and so had no money to pay for even meter parking, I eventually found a legal parking spot only a short walk from where we could meet. Thank you universe.

Jenny is one of the refreshing voices in the Aussie blogosphere, with so much passion and enthusiasm for education and how technology can make it better. I was very keen to meet up and have a chat. After finally meeting on the corner of Grosvenor and George streets, I suggested we go take a look at the new Sydney Apple Store at King and George, just a few blocks away. We talked all the way up the street, into the Apple Store, up the stairs, and I think we talked the entire time we were there. Helen got into the shopping spirit and picked up a nice set of Bose speakers for her son’s Mac, but I think Jenny and I just talked the whole time.

Eventually we went over the road, found a little coffee shop in the Strand Arcade, and sat and talked some more. As Jenny and I observed numerous times, it really IS all about the conversations and although I love the intellectual to-and-fro of the blogosphere, there is something very nice about having a face to face conversation. Jenny has a lot of great insights and ideas, (despite her insistence at being a mere noob, her Clustrmap gives a different picture!) and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to catch up with her in person.

Heck, it’s even made me an even more LR.

You say that like it’s a bad thing

Last Friday I had a fabulous day at the Why 2 of Web 2.0 seminar in Sydney, where the special guest speaker was Wil Richardson.  Wil was also ably supported by other speakers including Australians Judy O’Connell and Westley Field.

I was very keen to hear Wil speak, after having read his blog for a while now and also having met in the occasional UStream backchannel.  He had lots of good things to say (which he kindly allowed me to record with my iPod so I may post up some audio snippets.)   I was fortunate to get a seat right at the front, thanks to Judy offering to let me share the powerboard at the front table so I could plug in my Mac.  I was also able to piggyback on the wifi service and browse the various sites that Will was referring to as he told the audience about them… quite a few really interesting sites in his list , most of which are now in my del.icio.us feed.

One of my colleagues from school also attend the event, and when I got back to school the next day I asked how he enjoyed it.  His reply was fairly lukewarm, with the comment that he thought a lot of the things Wil was saying made him sound like a zealot.  Google says that a zealot is a “fanatically committed person“, or “one who espouses a cause… in an immoderately partisan manner“.

I don’t think my colleague used the term zealot in a particularly positive sense – I’m sure it wasn’t meant as a compliment.  Personally, if a zealot is a fanatically committed person then I think we need more zealots in education.  I also have strong beliefs about the nature of school and learning and think that we need to act quickly and radically if schools are to maintain any sort of relevance in today’s world.  I also think we need to be fairly drastic about making these changes, so I guess that makes me a zealot too.

Wil gave a number of (what I thought were) powerful examples of how the world is changing.  He used some great examples from Friedman’s The World is Flat and Tapscott’s Wikinomics; examples that clearly show how much our schools are out of sync with the world we say we are preparing our children for.  In  particular, one of the stories that seemed to rankle a few listeners, including my colleague, was the one about a student who was given a research task by his teacher and how he approached this task.

The student found very little information about the topic, not even on Wikipedia. What would you do if you were this student?

Here’s what he did.  He created a Wikipedia entry using the limited information that he did know.  Over the next few days and weeks, the Wikipedia entry on the topic was edited, amended, added-to and improved by many other people.  All of their individual little bits of knowledge gradually built up the topic until there was quite a comprehensive article written about it.  The student then used this article to submit for his research project.

Apparently, the student’s teacher discovered what had happened and the student was awarded an F – a failing grade.  Being the zealot that he is, Will suggested that the student should have received an A grade.  This suggestion raised a few eyebrows…  in the afternoon discussion panel the suggestion that this kid would get an A for doing something like this was questioned by a number of people.  They suggested that the kid had cheated, had acted dishonestly, had not done the task, had rorted the system, etc, and therefore should have failed the task.  I think they are missing the point.

While I can see both sides of the situation, there is no way I would have failed the kid for doing this.  There may be more to the story than I’m  privy to, but on the face of it, failing a student for using their initiative in this manner makes no sense to me.    If I were an employer, I’d much rather give a job to a kid like this who knows how to find a solution in an innovative way, rather than a “rule follower” that just accepts that very little information is available.

It’s interesting that the teachers I’ve told this story to say “Oh, you can’t do that! That’s cheating!”, but the business people I’ve told the story to usually respond with a laugh and say “I want that kid working for me!”.  And really, this is the gap that the education world is struggling with so much.   The “real world” wants people who can find solutions in creative ways, who can innovate and work with teams to collaboratively find solutions to difficult problems.  The “education world” still seems focussed on measuring individual effort, rewarding those who follow the rules and stay inside the lines, those who rehash existing information rather than finding ways of creating new information.

Wil spoke about many things, but I think this story was the most powerful example of the chasm between what the world expects of our children and what most school are prepared to deliver.  One wants to award an F, the other wants to award an A.

One of us is completely screwed up, and I’m pretty sure it’s not the zealots.

You can find the UStream recording from Will’s talk here, and his conference wiki here.

Real Life and Real Life Learning

Kent Peterson, Chris Betcher, Linda Johannesson and Susan SedroiIn previous posts, I’ve mentioned how nice it is to occasionally convert some of our online connections into real ones.  This week I had the opportunity to again meet up with someone I’d only ever know through the blogosphere.

Susan Sedro is a teacher at the Singapore American School where she does ICT support for years 3, 4 and 5.  The first time I “met” her was during a group Skype call back in September last year and since that time we have read each other’s blogs, chatted occasionally on Skype and, along with Kim Cofino, even recorded an episode of Virtual Staffroom together.

I’d noticed that Susan was asking some very Aussie-centric questions on Twitter a while back, wanting to know the best places to go snorkelling on the Barrier Reef, etc, so I assumed she might be planning a trip down here.  We got in contact and I said if she was in Australia to give me a yell and we’d catch up.  Well, she yelled and we caught up.

So last Wednesday night, Linda and I met Susan and her partner Kent in front of the Orient Hotel at the Rocks here in Sydney.  We had a very pleasant evening wandering around the city, starting by catching a cab down to Darling Harbour, walking across the old Pyrmont Bridge to have an al-fresco dinner and a few beers at the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel, followed by a walk through Darling Harbour, up Liverpool Street through the Spanish Quarter, left into George Street past Town Hall and St Andrews Cathedral and all the way down to Wynyard Station.  It was a nice night for a walk and we had a good chat about all sorts of things, some education-related, and some not.

I made the offer to Susan and Kent to drop into my school, PLC, at some stage if they had time.  Fortunately, their plans for the next day had them catching a train that went right through Croydon so they took me up on the offer and popped in on their way.  We did a quick tour of some of the school, and even dropped into one of the computer rooms where Year 4 was having a lesson and had a chat with some of the kids.

My school runs a program called Transition Class, which caters for special needs students with fairly significant learning disabilities.  These students, about 20 of them, attend regular classes but also focus on learning a lot of life skills.  To help facilitate this, PLC bought a house next door to the school which they call Transition House and the kids regularly spend time there, learning very practical skills to teach them to look after themselves. One of the wonderful things these kids do every term is called Transition Cafe, where they host and manage a cafe luncheon for PLC staff… the menu is prepared, orders are taken and the food is cooked and served by the transition students and it’s a wonderful example of real life, relevant learning in action. Kent and Susan’s visit just happened to coincide with this term’s Transition Cafe event so of course they were invited to join us for lunch at the table reserved for the IT Services team.  We all had a very pleasant time sitting in the sunshine, chatting and being served by our wonderful transition kids.

I had to sneak off from lunch a little early as I had an IWB workshop I’d promised to run for our Creative Arts staff.  I left Susan and Kent in the capable hands of our IT Director, Chris Waterman, who escorted them over to meet me just as the IWB session was winding up, and we took another quick tour through The Croydon, an old pub that was bought by the school a few years ago and converted to our centre for technology and the arts, before eventually bidding them farewell as they continued on with their day.

Meeting IRL is a good thing… If you ever get the chance to meet up with colleagues you’ve only ever known through the network, I’d encourage you to do it.  It was terrific to meet Susan and Kent, and I’m hoping to be able to take them up on their offer to catch up in Singapore one day.

I think it would be rather nice to sit and share a beer or two at Raffles Hotel.  🙂