2014 in review

Hawaii reflections

If you write a blog, you have a great record of your thinking: the things that have inspired you, the ideas you have puzzled over, the events you have attended, even the challenges you have faced. I just browsed through my posts from 2014 and although not as numerous as previous years, they tell a story. I seem to have been a bit of professional learning junkie – attended many Teachmeets as well as a couple of formal conferences.

One of my most visited blog posts was You have a class Blog – Now What?   I have had the pleasure of working with many teachers helping them with the setting up class blogs and it started to get frustrating that their impact was not as great as I think they might be.  I now think that a teacher needs to understand and actively seek the benefits of being a Connected Educator, before or at the very least whilst setting up a blog.   So many teachers have said to me that they don’t see the point, no-one reads it and the effort does not translate into any added value for them or their students.   The exceptions are those who are creating a network alongside their blogging activities.   Whether they be actively engaging  their parent community or reaching beyond the school to other classes, they are making a difference and are feeling encouraged to continue.

The concept of collaboration is understood by teachers but when it involves actively pursuing on-line networks, many are yet to take the plunge or even understand the pathway.  This is an area I would like to focus my work on in the future.  My connections have enriched my career in so many ways that I cannot imagine life without them.  I revel in the opportunity to watch a Twitter feed/ Google+ Community, chat at a conference or Teachmeet etc and pick up news or ideas or to ask a question or contribute an answer.    Of course, it remains paramount that any of this revolves around relationships.   George Couros wrote recently:

If you are a school that does not focus on building relationships, you are on a faster road to irrelevance than one that doesn’t use technology.  

 In a world where information is easy to access and I can always find better content online than I can in school, the refocus on relationships is more crucial now than ever. Embrace technology; it will provide people opportunities that we could have dreamed of when we were kids.  But just remember that people will always be the most important part of the education system.

In conducting a bit of a mental audit on the ways I have seen technology used in my school, I am comfortable that our focus has been on the relationships.  At the end of any shared Google document, Tweet, Blog post or Skype call, was a person or a group of people we were actively engaging with.  We had clear purpose in our communication – whether it be collaborating on a task, informing parents, seeking information from experts, providing an audience for our young writers.   Technology was the enabler for the building and strengthening of the relationships.

George is right “people will always be the most important part” and I would like to thank a small band of my ‘people’ who nominated me for an award this year – I humbly accept it as I said to the teachers I work with I take pride if I have been in any way influential in all the wonderful things they are doing with our students.   I draw energy from my association with members of my PLN both at school and beyond and look forward to sharing many more stories in 2015.  Now it is time to go to the beach for a bit of rejuvenation!

Professional learning junkie or just curious?

I participate in all of the following types of learning opportunities.  Some may call me a junkie but I gain something from each, something different from each.  Each type has the added value of meeting members of your Professional network created through Social media face to face. The nature of the opportunities could be summarised as follows:

Large scale conferences (eg EduTech, ISTE)

  • Sponsors
  • Keynotes – mainly Ed Guru types with a smattering of high profile current practicioners
  • Programs and Trade Shows
  • Largely big picture issues
  • Open to all but limited by funds available


Industry Association Conferences (DLTV and ACEC2014)

  • Sponsors
  • One or two keynotes
  • Most sessions run by practising teachers – practical
  • Open to all but limited by funds available
  • Lower cost ?


Teachmeets (Teachmeet Melbourne)

  • For teachers by teachers
  • Limited structure
  • Free
  • Mixture of practical skills and issues


School based Professional learning Inquiry

  • Action research
  • Practical – directly related to student outcomes
  • Free
  • Amongst colleagues

Twitter / Google+ / Scootle Community 

  • Personalised to my needs and interests
  • Online – Any time, any where
  • Creates a PLN

Is one better than the other ?  I don’t think so, but I would not want to limit myself to one type.  The mixture provides a blend of experiences that I value.

What Professional Learning Opportunities do you value ? Why ?


Questions and reflections on #edutech

Having just returned from two days of educational stimulation and exhaustion at EduTech conference in Brisbane, I wonder; does anyone go to conferences like these seeking answers?  Do they arrive bright-eyed at the opening keynotes in anticipation of getting answers to all or even some of their school problems? Are they seeking a clear indication and plan for a future direction?  I hope not, as I believe they would come away disappointed.  It would be like bobbing for apples in a swimming pool.

The day after I returned, I was asked by my 84 year old dad (non-teaching background), “What was it all about?”. “Well, it was called EduTECH, so it was about Educational technology, but not really, it was more about how we have to change our schools and teaching because of technology.”

Other bloggers have described the content of the sessions in great detail and reflected on how this will impact on their teaching,  Kathy Turley and Simon McKenzie to name just two.   My note taking was too poor to produce such informative summaries for any readers here.  I was letting others on Twitter synthesise the main points and summarise the buzz (thanks to all #edutech contributors and summarised excellently here by Alex Semmens!).

So all I have to share are some of my ponderings :

  • The message is that teachers have to change their views of their role.  I know we have been hearing “No sage on the stage” for a long time but it is getting louder and louder and more important.  Technology is not replacing us, but it should be making us change our tack on our craft.
  • Flexibility seems to be one of the most important features of both schools and the teachers working in them.  Flexible access to devices, flexible working spaces, flexible timetables, flexible lesson structures, flexible mindsets amongst administrators, teachers and students.  Daniel Pink spoke of the power of ‘un-commissioned work’ – this does not happen in a classroom where time pressures are extreme.
  • There is a strong push to change, however the reality of the assessment system we send our students towards is a large disincentive for many and excuse for others. The famous Dewey quote; “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow’, could perhaps be re-considered; “If we assess today as we assessed yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”.  What can we do about this major issue?
  • Students often don’t get enough credit – many presenters had examples of how amazing things can occur when we loosen the reins, this probably applies to teachers too!
PicTwitter from Lauren Batty @LaurenBatty01
PicTwitter from Lauren Batty

Overall, I was privileged to be entertained, informed and challenged by the ideas of Dan Pink, Sal Khan, Stephen Heppell, Ewan McIntosh, Alan NovemberStephen Harris and Sir Ken Robinson.   I was just as excited to hear the story of Star of the Sea School Cleveland and Alice Leung and to chat amongst my colleagues about how any of this can translate into change in our varied workplaces.

In this blogpost, Ewan McIntosh summarises the theory of Guy Claxton;  The magnificent eight qualities of powerful learners and he expanded on that in his presentation.  The words viewed here might seem like catch-cries without the context but the message was strong.

The ‘big’ conference experience has also left me appreciating more and more the joys I experience at the far more intimate professional learning gatherings hosted by Teachmeet Melbourne.  There is so much wisdom in every school community, every local neighbourhood and definitely at every TeachMeet.  It is no surprise that we see responsibility, real change, choice, collaboration, respect and challenges at every event.

A story about collaboration

How a group of five teachers came to present at ICTEV Conference on #TMMelb

Anyone who has read this blog before will know that I am passionate about the Teachmeet movement.  My involvement has opened many doors to me and one of the most significant things has been the people I have met.

Earlier this year, at a de-brief session after a Teachmeet, one member (OK it was Mel) suggested that we could present about TM’s at the upcoming ICTEV conference. Everyone thought it was a great idea and as is customary in any group – one person was appointed, duly delegated, or dobbed in to the task of submitting the application (OK it was Mel again).  Well it must have been done well as it was accepted and the proposal became a reality – we were set to present, but that was in May, that was ages away.   A ‘planning session’ was allocated but the beautiful Japanese cuisine got in the way of the ‘planned’ planning, barring a few careful notes on a napkin. (Thanks Mel)   The only real decision that night was that it should be a joint presentation.  Teachmeets are after all, a shared, social  event, so the presentation would reflect this.

So, it came down to a few weeks before the event and opportunities for a group planning session were getting slim. A face to face meeting was getting difficult to manage.  Emails were flying to and fro.  After all, these are busy educators and women, there are lessons to plan, reports to write, essays to complete etc.   So what do any innovative, well rounded and resourced networked educators do ?  They ‘hang-out’.   Monday night, a fortnight before the conference, from lounge rooms, kitchen tables and bedrooms across suburban Melbourne a ‘virtual’ gathering occurred. Google Hangout proved a perfect arena for this chat and planning session.  After the bestowing of fake moustaches, crowns and tiaras (a fun feature of hangouts – now I am wishing I had some screenshots to share!) we were down to the important business, working on many screens switching between a shared Google Presentation.   A fine oiled machine soon had a set of ideas, designed and ordered.  A plan was constructed!   Elements were allocated to each member  and that was that.  We all attended to our allocated tasks and trusted that in the good old show business fashion, it would be alright on the night ! (or afternoon as was the case).

ICTEV tweets
I am pleased to report that it went very well.  We stayed within our allocated 7 minute speed sharing limit, which is a practiced skill for any TeachMeet attendee.  We shared our message and passion.

It was a delight to be part of this small piece of collaboration.  Thanks to all involved. I wonder what we can do next ?

Come along to a TeachMeet event and become part of a wonderful group of people who want to share, question and challenge.

Our presentation – not the same without Brette’s questioning techniques!