EDUTECH conference Brisbane 2014


I recently attended the Edutech conference in Brisbane. With its array of fabulous speakers, opportunities to network and possibilities to catch up with educational suppliers of everthing “IT”, it was a great experience. Some reflections from a few of the sessions that I attended and speakers that I heard will follow in subsequent blogs. In the meantime here are my reflections on our first two keynote speakers.

From a hole in the wall to the cloud: engaging your students to fulfil their sense of wonder and passion for Learning.
Sugata Mitra
Professor of Educational Technology, Newcastle University & ‘global education superstar’

Prof. Mitra spoke enthusiastically about the results shown when students’ capacities are fostered to learn on their own and teach each other. He encouraged us to try to move beyond knowledge to an era of learning based upon imagination, creation and asking new questions. He highlighted the importance of collaboration.
Previously school system did not encourage creativity as the workforce discouraged anything other than rote and routine. Mitra pondered whether the current pedagogy, curriculum and assessment can produce creative children or whether we need a different style or indeed something totally different. If not we are not just producing children who will not be relevant in the skillsets demanded by future employment but will in fact be unemployable. He asked is knowledge obsolete, when answers to knowledge based questions can be so easily accessed. Emphasis on knowledge based assessment can also wire students to the reptilian component of the brain which sees things as threats and learning is not as great.

His talk emphasised for me that we need to move to 1 to 1 devices carefully so that students aren’t starved of the opportunities to collaborate in their learning. Our future classes should
• Foster students’ capacities to learn on their own and teach each other
• Move beyond knowledge to an era of learning based upon imagination, creation and asking new questions – ask: Do you think it could be wrong? rather than saying: That is wrong
• Interact with the cloud as the new domain of intelligence and learning
• Support students to connect with information and mentors online
• Relevance is important where skills and employability are concerned
• Self organised learning environments (SOLE) when asking the right questions can instil in students a desire to learn and overcome disengagement
However in slight disagreement, without some knowledge how do we ensure that what we are learning is in fact relevant and authoritative?

Embracing innovation in education.
Anthony Alcito Vice President Worldwide education Microsoft (USA)
Anthony Alcito began his presentation by asking the questions: Are we making transformation holistically? Are we developing a culture of innovation not just focussing on the acquisition of technology? He proposed that we should be encouraging holistic learning, with learning occurring both inside and outside the classroom, we need students to produce and create things not just rote respond. It is time to shift the pedagogy rather than acquiring and adapting to the technology, to deep learning projects
He suggested that when we are our helpful best, students are not learning as much but we should be promoting a curriculum of questions, peer assessment and certification without examinations.
Alcito introduced software :
Corinth Classroom which is a creator of learning objects and is aiming to put maximum creative power into teachers’ hands with minimum effort and enabling high-quality digital content easier than ever to integrate into the classroom. Choose among hundreds of objects, developed in conjunction with research universities, spanning a wide spectrum of subjects and integrate them into your own projects in minutes.
OSLO the capability of modeling a wide range of reflective, refractive and diffractive components. In addition, OSLO is used to simulate and analyze the performance of optical systems. OSLO’s CCL (Compiled Command Language), which is a subset of the C programming language, can be used to develop specialized optical and lens design software tools for modeling, testing, and tolerancing optical systems. There is a free education version available.
TEACH Intel® Teach is a proven program that helps K–12 teachers integrate technology effectively into classrooms and promote student-centered approaches, engaging students in learning and preparing them with critical skills for success in our digital world. It aims for transformational learning.
In summing up Alcito insisted:
• change is about people and culture,
• research matters,
• we should expect more from technology
• We must use data effectively
• It is essential that we empower teachers and
• Relevance is imperative – skills must be linked to employability

Inside a dog

I was asked to speak at our March Cotlibs meeting. The agenda for the afternoon was on Library activities to promote reading. I gave a presentation on Insideadog. This online interactive literature website is a place for teen readers, it is all about books – by young people, for young people and the home of Inky, the reading wonder-dog. Inside a dog 1
How did I use it?
I worked with a Year 8 class in collaboration with their class teacher. All students registered for their own account, searched for good books on our library shelves, read book reviews on Insideadog and set up a book list.Inside a dog2

Students were encouraged to move books from Books I want to read across to Books I’ve read column and watch their list grow.
I set up a book club –Ms Cav’s Year 8 library blog and had students join the book club.
I trialed the forums – general discussion, section of the bookclub and the blogs section to see which was more useful and ran with the blogs section, interestingly the forum section has now been taken out of the bookclub home page
I posed questions such as “Which character could you see yourself becoming friends with and why?” “What characters could you see yourself not becoming friends with and why?” “What has been the best ending of a book you have read recently?” and students blogged their responses, to both my questions and towards the end began responding to each other’s responses.
Inside a dog 3 I encouraged students to keep abreast of Inky’s news and encouraged students to comment when something arose that interested them.

We regularly popped into the author of the month, however no amount of encouraging would see the girls blogging to the author. Inside a dog 4

Uploading book reviews to the site was extremely appealing and a quarter of the students did this of their own volition.
There are also competitions on the site however I don’t think students participated in these.
Inside a dog 5

Would I use it again?

Most certainly but would make the following changes:
Ask all students to do updates to their computers at regular intervals – IT issues did make the program problematic and discouraged a number of users. The verification process was long-winded because of these IT issues (verification failed to show up on laptops that updates had not been installed) but it is possible to work around this by having students sharing the laptops that are showing the verification code, for others to register on.I set the securities to private but would keep membership open until all students had signed up. This would also overcome the verification process issues. The major change I would make would be to our use of the author in residence section. We totally underutilized this valuable tool and in future I would link to it every time the class were undertaking our Insideadog activities.