Education Nation | The Playground

They do not know how to talk to educators”
-An Education Nation delegate’s observation regarding vendors.

Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.

I would like to begin this article by sharing a personal story, and I would like you to try to place yourself in my shoes throughout. I arrived at an education conference last year wide-eyed and more than a little naive about what  was going to see and hear from the vendors. It was my very first conference and the first time I had been exposed to an educational vendor expo. I spoke with all of the vendors who had something that intrigued me or made me curious, and they all went something like this:

“How are you?”

“Well, thanks, you?”

“Yeah, good. Have you heard of our product before? It can do x, y and z.”

“Ok, can it do p or q?”

“I don’t think so, no.”

There were also a number of vendors, actually, the majority, who made no effort to engage me, or other delegates. Their body language was closed off, their facial expressions were bored and disinterested and they appeared more interested in chatting with their colleagues on their own stand and those around them. Many of them had signage that told a delegate everything they needed to know about the product and discouraged talking to them. If you did approach those vendors, they answered the questions with product knowledge drawn from within their box of knowledge about that product.

Though I was asked questions by vendors such as what year group do you teach, what subject do you teach, and have you tried competitor A’s product? Because ours is far superior, they were superficial questions which were asked from a superficial interest, driven by wanting to sell me the product or get my details for later promotional e-mails* as opposed to wanting to understand what I am trying to do in my classroom with my students at the moment and what challenges I have that they can work with me to solve. The vendors were also, it appeared, unwilling to leave the safety and comfort of their stand to get amongst the delegates and get to know and understand them and their needs.

The vendors had no understanding of how to get to know me as an educator and my needs, challenges and goals. They knew how to rattle off their sales pitch, and could do so with aplomb. This is, I believe, a distinct difference in approach and attitude.

I suspect that many of you are, whether figuratively or literally, nodding your head in agreement at this point, as your experience with vendors at expos has been somewhat similar. I had a conversation with someone recently who pointed out that it is partially our fault, as educators, for going in and often just asking “what can it do? as opposed to going in and asking “I teach x to y students and am trying to do z but have come up against problems a, b and c. Do you have a solution?”

When I initially came across Education Nation during a twitter chat earlier in the year, one of the aspects which caught my eye was the way in which the organisers had positioned the traditional vendor exhibition floor, which they were dubbing The Playground. It sounded like it would be different.

Capture

In case you are unable to read the text on that image from the Education Nation website, this is what is says:

Let’s face facts – people who attend education events are normally there for the learning opportunities they offer… NOT to speak to ‘vendors’ in the expo.
But why?
Sure, the companies who exhibit want you to buy their products and solutions. And traditionally, organisers set the area up for exactly that purpose. But we forget one key point…
Without their products, solutions and services there’d be no buildings, no technology, no furniture, no content, no resources…there’d be no education system. The people who exhibit at an education event are every bit as important to Australian education as the schools and staff themselves.
In other words, they’re not just ‘vendors’, they’re your partners. And the expo at Education Nation will reflect that.
We won’t be setting out rows of stand after stand, pushing ‘special offers’, or telling YOUR partners how they can talk to you. We’ll create a different kind of space – one that’s interactive, exciting, fun and most importantly, valuable.
At Education Nation, we’ll create ‘The Playground’. 

I was excited by the prospects of this. My imagining of The Playground would be that the Vendors would not only know their products but would have an understanding of education and specific challenges in at least some of the areas that are faced on a daily basis. More importantly, though, I had imagined that the vendors would be intermingling with the delegates, engaging in discussions about education and specific contexts within which the delegates are teaching and the specific challenges we were facing.

This was not the case.

Acer came to the Education Nation party, and had, inarguably, the largest stand there and were the official coffee provider with a barista at one end of their stand (who made consistently great hot chocolates, but from what I heard, terrible coffee).

Although I am going to explicitly use Acer as an example in this story, it applies equally to all of the vendors, not just at Education Nation, but at any educational conference. I stood in line for my hot chocolate on several occasions and not once was I engaged in conversation by an Acer representative; no sales pitch, no good morning, how are you? I did approach the Acer stand at one point with the express purpose of scoping out what they had on offer and approached a computer that had a driving computer game on display. However, what captured my interest was actually the monitor, which was a wide-screen curved monitor.

An Acer representative approached me, just as I was starting to look at the monitor and told me that the game was playable and to just use particular keys on the keyboard to drive the car. He then turned and moved away. There was no discussion, no sales pitch, no what has you interested in this computer? No what computer are you using at school or at home at the moment? Nothing. Sadly, that is not the worst part of the story.

One of the presenters at Education Nation was Nick Patsianas (@nickpatsianas), a current Year Twelve student who is also, and I use this term as a compliment, a huge computer nerd (I would only label myself as a minor computer nerd). He was engaged in a conversation with one of the Acer representatives about some of the laptops they had on display and was explaining to the  representative about how a particular component of the laptop works and why that was good for him as a student. He also explained to the representative  that another feature that was purported to be in benefit, was actually a flaw, and why that was the case.

A delegate had more knowledge of the product the vendor was promoting, than the vendor himself did.

PC Locs had a stand there as well, and the representatives looked bored, disinterested and disengaged and made no effort to engage those walking past their stand, in any way unless someone actually stopped to look at a product that they had. The Brainary stand had a robot that could walk, dance and talk, and it gained some attraction, but I do not know how much genuine interest there was, and how much was due to the gimmick of the robot. Latitude Travel also showed little interest in engaging people in conversation, they certainly made no attempt to draw me in. ABI were there showing off their Snowflake system. They had a flat screen touch panel, upright, showing a simple screen, and a banner with all the info you needed to know about it.

The representative, as did many of the company representatives there, looked bored and did not show off the fact that the flatscreen touch panel could go from full vertical to horizontal and was height adjustable, and then when he did show that off, could not explain why that would be of use to a teacher for collaborative learning and publishing of work for a wider audience.

The vendors did not know how to engage educators appropriately.

Vendors, there is something you need to understand about educators. You complained we were not talking to you at Education Nation but there is a reason for that. We can find out everything we want to know about your product online. You cannot find out anything about our teaching context and the challenges we face in our specific room without engaging in conversation with us. Talk to us, not at us. Ask us what we want to be able to do and what our challenges are, rather than rattle off the specifications of the product. Leave your stands and have lunch or coffee with us. Ask us who we have just listened to speak and what we took away from that talk. Or, be even more genuine, and sit in on the talks, show an interest in education rather than just selling us products and tools and services.

Educators, there is something we need to realise about vendors. If we continue to simply ask what a product does, the vendors will continue to sell to us and talk at us. We need to go in and tell them what we want to do, whether it is a concrete function or an abstract dream. We need to share our real, genuine, everyday systemic, policy, process and people-power challenges with them to give them insight into what we face and allow them to go back to their companies and brainstorm ways of surmounting those challenges.

Until we change how we engage with the vendors, the vendors will continue to not know how to engage with us.

*There is an exception to this. Rowan and Yohan from MyEdApp engaged me in conversation very differently and did make an effort to understand my context.

List of FutureSchools 2016 Articles

Hello everyone, here is a bonus article for the weekend, a consolidated list of all of my review articles from FutureScchools 2016.

Day One: Masterclass with Jennie Magiera

  1. Day One Session One – Questioning and CBL
  2. Day One Session Two – Badges, Gamification and a Problem Based Activity
  3. Day One Session Three – Teacher IEPs
  4. Day One Session Three Part Two – App Speed Dating

Days Two and Three: The ClassTech Conference Stream.

  1. Day Two Session One Part One – Think U Know and Edventures
  2. Day Two Session One Part Two – Storytelling and Data
  3. Day Two Session Two – Drones and Augmented Reality
  4. Day Two Session Three Part One – PBL and STEM
  5. Day Two Session Three Part Two – Perception, Imagination and Creativity
  6. Day Two Session Four – Film Making and Makerspace.
  7. Day Three Session One Part One – Gamification.
  8. Day Three Session One Part Two – STEM and the Roundtable Sessions.
  9. Day Three Session Three – 3D Design and Printing, Robotics.
  10. Day Three Session Four – Virtual Reality, Creativity.

FutureSchool Review – Day 3 Session 4

Welcome back for this, the final article in my review of FutureSchools 2016. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here.I had looked at the agenda for the afternoon session and was not particularly excited by what I saw and did consider leaving early, but made the decision to stay and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the final session and how engaging both Marissa Peters and Jim Sill were.

Marissa Peters is an ICT Specialist from St John’s Primary School in East Frankston, Victoria. Marissa’s presentation title of The Dreams You Dream! The Use of Virtual Reality in the Classroom did not grab my interest as virtual reality (VR) is not something that is on my radar for use in the classroom. Marissa opened by commenting that the world of reality is limited, whereas our imaginations are boundless and that VR takes our five senses and extends them further.

Marissa spoke about Google Cardboard, which I had previously heard of, but never actually known what it was or how it worked. It seems like it has some potential for use in the classroom, but requires smartphones, which, when schools are pushing towards tables, is mildly annoying. That said, I am not sure that it would be comfortably usable with a tablet.

Marissa also spoke about how they let the students play in order to become comfortable with the concept of VR, with titles including Minecraft, Titans of Space, Photosphere, Alice and Google Expeditions. Marissa identified that as part of their entry into the VR space, her and her students became consumers rather than creators, which is difficult to change at this point in time. There are some tools out there to allow students to become creators of content, such as Unity 3D.

It was acknowledged that VR takes significant time to embed in place, and to train students and staff in obtaining the most benefit from the experiences, rather than it simply being an interesting gimmick. I can certainly see a place for Google Expeditions in the classroom, however, once again, when we are asking our students to bring tablets into class, it is difficult to turn around and ask that they also bring phones in, particularly in a primary school context.

Marissa closed with a quote attributed to Thomas Edison and posited that as Educators, it should be a motto for us to guide as and remind us to push through failures.

quote-thomas-a-edison-i-have-not-failed-ive-just-found-89977
The quote attributed to Thomas A. Edison that Marissa Peters used to close out her presentation. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/jg642p5 on 18 March 2016

Jim Sill (@MisterSill), Director of Global Development with EdTech Team and his title of The Wild and Reckless World of Creativity was rather ambiguous, and he opened by showing us a clip from Madonna’s 1984 music video for her single Material Girl, telling us that we now all lived in a Twitter world, with the Twitter culture permeating most facets and most societies in the world.Personally, I am a fan of Twitter as a professional development tool and as a tool for learning, and Jim described getting the best use from Twitter as taking a cup, dipping it in a river and having a drink from the cup. “You don’t try and capture the whole river” Jim reminded us, and the admonishment to not worry about keeping up with all of Twitter, which some try to do, or feel that they should be doing, is a useful one, particularly for those new to Twitter.

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Self-branding #futureschools #digitaltattoo

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Jim continued by talking about selfies, selcas (the Korean term for selfie), the toilet selfie (“It does not matter how well dressed you are, you are still taking a photo in the room where you poop!”) and categorised these as a form of self-branding and self-identification which form part of the user’s online footprint. As a side note, I have recently heard digital footprints being referred to instead as digital tattoos, which I think is an interesting and important distinction. The below video by Juan Enriquez speaks to this concept and is well worth watching.

Jim spoke about how YouTube is essentially a hook farm full of ways for teachers to capture students’ interest in a topic, how Instagram has changed our relationships with food, with tourism and with each other and how GoPro makes everything look awesome. Jim commented that many teachers do not try new ideas, new technologies, new pedagogies due to a fear of failure, whether as a result of having been figuratively burnt in the past, or a lack of support from colleagues, they are paralysed by fear, and that fear is the big killer of new ideas and products.

Jim asked us to consider what kind of world we live in and the types of tools that we use to activate and access our students, reminding us that our world, outside the bubble of education and the classroom, does not have a safety net. He invoked Prensky’s notion of the digital native and digital immigrant, not the first time Prensky had been referenced during the conference, and how it is an old concept (the paper linked above was published in 2001) yet it is still used today. Jim told us how because of when he was born, he was a bicycle native. He was born in a time when bicycles were commonplace and everyone had one, yet, they were once considered to be …diabolical devices of the demon of darkness…full of guile and deceit.” 

Jim reminded us that we all started with training wheels on our bicycles, and that the move towards two-wheeled freedom was a gradual one, guided by our elders. In the same way, we should be training our children and our students in how to truly use technology. Jim quoted Mike Welsch as having said that incoming students in his college courses were showing only a superficial familiarity with digital tools. The term digital native should not be used in anything but the general time-frame sense, but that the term digital naives is an accurate descriptor for many students in their ability to meaningfully use digital tools.

We were shown a portion of a 360 video that Jim had taken while travelling by rickshaw in Mumbai, and he spoke about how the use of videos such as this provided options for viewer choice narratives as the viewer chose what to watch, and while this could be a powerful tool, we need to keep asking the question is this relevant or useful to our teaching and learning?

Jim echoed the point that had been made a number of times earlier int he conference that all teachers need to start somewhere on the SAMR model, and that the innovators and early adopters can create a bridge from substitution and augmentation across to modification and redefinition to assist those teachers who are slower to take up technology and assist the way they integrate technology in their teaching.

“Your first few ideas usually suck” we were told, and that the zoom-in metacognitive strategy can help us move beyond the first ideas. Jim said that we should launch early and iterate regularly, with an interesting quote attributed to Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn:

careerlesson_launchingfirstproduct
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h3c8qhq on 18 March 2016

I look back at the very first flipped learning videos I created and I cringe. They are horrible. Dry, slow, stilted, and most definitely uninteresting. Yet they were a starting point, and they have helped me to create better videos. Teachers need to maintain the beginner’s mindset, Jim continued, and that for some reason, education is always expected to be polished, which is unrealistic as it is not. As teachers, we regularly make mistakes, get our words mixed up, do not quite finish our explanations, forget to hand out enough materials for science and any number of other commonplace errors that are easy to make when you are managing a room of thirty very different students. He encouraged us to embrace our mistakes, which is advice that Joel Speranza gave us in relation to flipped learning video creation and, quoting Goethe, that doubt grows with knowledge.

Jim closed with a few thoughts. As teachers, we live in a world of creative minds and we need to be careful with those minds, lest we stamp out the creativity, whilst encouraging our students to remain young and not become a statistic that we hear about in the news. Embrace creativity and put a saddle on it and have a go; be open with stories of success and of failure to guide our students so they can learn from our mistakes and our good choices and that providing opportunities for our students to share their ideas globally can create powerful connections and turn students into teachers.

Jim’s presentation was energetic and engaging, an excellent speaker to close out the conference with on a Friday afternoon and I am glad that I stayed for both his and Marissa’s sessions. The conference overall was definitely worthwhile attending in my opinion. I had some valuable conversations with a number of people, was able to finally meet some educators that I had been interacting with via Twitter for a while and strengthen connections with others. I am unsure whether I will attend FutureSchools next year, purely from the perspective of it moving to Melbourne and EduTech moving to Sydney.

I hope that you have found some benefit from reading through these review articles, I know that writing them has been a useful process for consolidating my own learnings. As always, thank you for reading.

FutureSchools Review – Day 3 Session 3

Welcome back for this penultimate article in my FutureSchools 2016 series. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. When I looked at the program for the day, I must admit a certain amount of disinterest in this session, covering as it was, 3D Printing and Robotics and their application and integration within the curriculum. I do believe that both areas hold some application and as teaching tools, however, at this point in time, they are not on my radar. We do have some small groups dabbling with some older Lego-based robotics, but that is the extent of it.

Shireen Winrow (@Shireenwin), the E-Learning facilitator at Redlands School, opened the session speaking under the title Integrating 3D design and printing into the curriculum. Shireen spoke about the continuum of growth when implementing 3D printing from beginning through to integrating and then transforming learning. She spoke about her entry point with students being the designing and printing of small stars.

They utilised an app to design a tree, and then hand-drew a leaf, and used the app to clone, flip and rotate them in order to position them upon the tree, which generated a discussion about spatial awareness and associated mathematical skills, on top of creative arts to actually draw the leaf. Shireen did make one comment at this point which made myself and a number of those around me laugh when talking about the actual printing of the final product; which was that the 3D printer failed and so they had to just switch to using the laser cutter to cut some templates. The financial investment to own either of those tools is not something that is achievable for many schools.

ships-in-harbour-are-safe-but-thats-not-what-ships-are-built-for-john-shedd
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h9efxuo on 16 March 2016

 

Shireen spoke about including thinking skills in the teaching of 3D design and made the comment that “….you can’t think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.” My understanding of what Shireen was meaning here was that to effectively teach thinking skills, that you need to have students thinking about their thinking, whilst thinking about something, it is something that needs to be done in-situ, whilst completing another activity in order to have some context within which to think about your thinking.

The Year Two unit based on types of Transport required students to select a mode of transport and identify the various shapes that would be required to create that in a 3D model, such as needing a cylinder for the handle of a broom. A Year Five unit required students to design a character, including what they look like, clothing and come up with a written justification for how they look, in the form of a story about that character. Using a program called Thingmaker, students were then required to print them using the 3D printer.

Year Six took this a step further, being required to select a character from a book, and go through the same process, with the justification required to contain textual evidence for choices made about the appearance, and the resultant 3D printed characters were displayed in the school library.

Shireen spoke about some tools that they had utilised, including Thingiverse, BuildWithChrome, Adobe Photoshop, Morphi, Thingmaker, 3D Creationist and Makers Empire. She also commented that when starting out with 3D Printing, that you need to experiment, and take calculated risks.

Following Shireen was John Burfoot (@johnburfoot), the Lead Robotics Facilitator at Mac ICT (@MacICT). John said that robotics in schools is more prevalent now than ever before and that robotics can inform students of various vocational opportunities in addition to helping them learn how to solve problems, persevere, work collaboratively and think logically.

Robotics utilise an inquiry-based learning strategy and is an interactive teaching and learning resource. Technology offers a tool to allow students to explore, learn, create and play at the same time. John mentioned that research published in 2010 found that there were typically three different approaches to planning and implementing inquiry-based learning with a robotics focus. The first was theme-based, where the initial learning stimulus and subsequent learning was focused on something, a zoo, transport, space etc. The second was Project or Problem Based Learning such as the need to feed the pet cat while the family was away on holidays and how that can be achieved; while the third was goal oriented such as RoboCup, Robo Soccer, or the UAV Challenge.

John spoke about the use of themes, STEAM, storytelling and exhibitions as some varied options for integrating robotics within the curriculum, and that new options are emerging on a regular basis, including, just recently the Lego WeDo, Bee-Bots and the Sphero. John closed out by reminding us that Lego Engineering is a great first port of call for robotics but that there are plenty of other easy to learn options available, and that the Parrot drone, which can be programmed through the Tickle App is a great starting point for drones.

As always, thank you for reading, and keep an eye out tomorrow for the final articles in this years FutureSchools review.

Jump straight to the next article in the series.

FutureSchools Review – Day 3 Session 1 Part 2

Welcome back for part two of the view of session two of the FutureSchools conference. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. Following Peggy Sheehy, was Glenn Carmichael, who described the school in which he teaches as “…a smallish high school…” called St Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart, speaking under the title STEM Projects with real world applications.

Michael spoke about how he heard the question “…when will we use this?” on a regular basis from his students, and that it seemed as thought mathematics was the subject in which this question was asked more in than any other, which I think is true. From my own schooling, I would not have even considered asking that question in English, science or creative arts, yet in mathematics, it seems like it is asked on a regular basis (read this interesting and thought-provoking article on the topic).

Glenn discussed how the school wanted to embed STEM in the school in a manner that it had intrinsic value to students and spoke about two projects that were utilised to put that in place. The first  project required students to develop an iPhone app that had meaning and practical use for them. From a programming perspective, xcode was utilised as it is free and is a real coding language, not a kiddy language with excellent tools for student planning including a storyboarding facility and the ability to simulate the app in its current state to debug and test various iterations. The students, after much discussion, concluded that they would develop an app for use at school to fill in a lot of the gaps in information that students required for getting around.

Glenn related how student timetables were not particularly informative, with a time, room code and a teacher code being the sum total, and that the teacher code did not necessarily mean that you knew who it was before your first class when you first arrived. I remember my first timetable in year seven, and it had a timeslot, room identification and the teachers name (Mrs Smith etc). This particular teacher coding, from what I recall of what Glenn said was a series of letter from their name. Students decided they wanted an app that provided a mapping function so that you could work out where rooms were, and the easiest route from where you were to where you needed to go, teacher’s names and their photo, a to do list, and useful links.

The project had inherent usefulness and significance to the students involved in the project and as such, the natural engagement in the project was high. The decision was made that simply embedding Google Maps would not be sufficient, as it would not provide the specific room locations, or the ability to allow for second level rooms, that a custom map would, which meant that students had to create their own maps with all of the mathematical skills and concepts that go along with that.

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Student mapping of a school #futureschools

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The students were also required to create and present a sales pitch to gain experience in considering factors such as cost/profit margins, clients wishes against what the developer wanted (colour schemes to fit with corporate designs etc.), modification of prototype to meet client demands, determining cost of production and then what a fair retail price would be.

Glenn did indicate that the learning curve on xcode was incredibly steep and that the success and failure rates of students in completing particular tasks needed to be balanced. As a result of the challenges from learning xcode, xcode Edu was created, a more manageable version for use with students.

The second project was a 3D Printing project where students utilised Google Sketchup with two add-ons; one called Solid Inspector and the other being Sketchup STL. Once again, students were required to treat the project as a business project and determine the real cost of the final product, including time, plastics, general wear and tear on the 3D printer itself, electricity (which introduced unit conversion), packaging and handling.

Glenn spoke very well and was apologetic at having to rush through his presentation, openly admitting that he had a number of short videos that he could not show due to time constraints at having to start late.

After Glenn’s brief talk, it was the morning break which was followed by the roundtable sessions. Last year, I was not very impressed with how the roundtable sessions had been organised from the perspective of the physical set up. None of the issues have been addressed or remedied in preparation for this year, and if anything, they were worse. My first roundtable was with Glenn and I was excited to be able to hear him speak further and hopefully glean some of what he had been forced to omit in his conference presentation. It was not to be.

Once again, the round tables were tucked at one end of the expo hall, where the concrete floor combined with the cavernous size of the overall space to create an annoyingly loud echo chamber with multiple conversations overlapping creating a cacophony of noise. I was again standing at the back, approximately three metres away from Glenn and could not hear him. At one point, there was someone at the other end of the table speaking, and I could not hear them, and when the person in front of me, who was sitting down, asked a question, I could not hear them very clearly. My total notes from the session consisted of the FutureLearn online professional development side could be useful for coding and STEM-based learning as an educator, and a something which I did manage to hear, as it was very early in the roundtable, when he said “this is bigger than I thought; it was meant to be a small group.”

I gave up after about ten minutes, as I was gaining nothing other than a headache, and spent the remainder of the session speaking with Brian Host, Paul Hamilton and Alfina Jackson, who introduced me to Meredith Ebbs, which from my perspective, was quite productive. I did not attend the second roundtable I had nominated as I strongly suspected it would be the same, and the conversation with Brian and Paul was, for me, valuable. I received a few pieces of advice, including the use of Blendspace as a host for flipped videos as a work around the NSW Department of Education block on YouTube, TeacherTube and Vimeo, and also a contact name regarding the inability of Android devices to connect to the DoE wi-fi.

I can only hope that with FutureSchools moving to Melbourne for 2017, that the issues with the roundtable sessions are properly addressed and those sessions are more beneficial for attendees. When you pay a significant sum for a conference (and I was not the only person that I am aware of who was there having self-funded their attendance) you expect all the sessions to be well managed. At this point, with the advice that FutureSchools is moving to Melbourne, and EduTech is moving to Sydney, I do not know which event I will attend as I have not been to EduTech previously. A decision for next year.

I hope you have gained some benefit from this article, and as always, thank you for reading. The next article will cover the penultimate session, with presentations from Shireen Winrow and John Burfoot.

Jump to the next article in the series.

FutureSchools Review – Day 3 Session 1 Part 1

“I am a child.
I come to you, a teacher.
I bring a whisper
Can you hear the poem in it?
Will you tell me what to think,
Or show me how?
Will you teach me answers,
Or the symmetry of a question well composed?”
– Carol Ann Tomlinson, I am child.

Welcome back to my review of the 2016 iteration of the FutureSchools conference, where we are now on the final day. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. The opening speaker for day three of the ClassTech conference stream at FutureSchools was Peggy Sheehy (@PeggySheehy) speaking under the title The Game Plan, and which I gathered from the agenda was a talk focusing on Gamification and game-based learning in education, a topic which I think has some interesting potential within the education sphere, but which is not on my radar at the present moment. I do need to make it clear from the outset that I did not know Peggy at all, and that I did have a number of takeaways from her presentation, but the fact that she disregarded her two-minute warning, and ended up finishing fifteen minutes overtime engendered a lot of anger and frustration in the room towards her. That said, I do feel that she had some significant things to say.

Peggy opened with a snippet of a poem from Carol Tomlinson, which I have sourced online and included above. Peggy reminded us there are many children who enter our classroom feeling, for a variety of reasons, as though they are less than their peers and that she finds it odd that there are so many education conferences, with big-name keynote speakers, yet with so little representation from the core of the industry, the students. This is not a universal truth, yet it does hold a lot of weight, and this video below is the result of students creating a keynote address for the Net Generation Education Project.

The video went viral very quickly, and Alan November (@globalearner) apparently told the group that if they shortened it to three minutes from the original length of just under six minutes, then he would viralise it world wide. The students eventual response was apparently that “….teachers expect us to sit through six hours of school, they can sit through a six-minute film.” This triggered a memory for me, of the time I recorded one of my teaching sessions, a forty-five minute session with a class of Stage Two students and how horrified I was when I realised how much talking I had done. We do, often, talk far too much as teachers.

Peggy made the point that students, outside of school, are playing Minecraft, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and a multitude of other high-quality games, yet we, as teachers, often get excited by something as low-tech as Classroom Jeopardy. This goes back to Stephen Lethbridge’s point that so much of what ends up in educational contexts, as a result of being popular in mainstream society, is a watered down version of the original concept that our students do not engage with in the same way that they would a high quality game.

Peggy brought up the point that smart phones these days are more powerful computers than those which sent man to the moon, yet we tell students to leave them in their bags, depriving them and us of a potentially powerful learning tool, a point which I heard Richard Byrnes make in his keynote at FutureSchools last year. Peggy reminded us that the now common four-colour pen and calculators both used to be items which were commonly prohibited in classrooms.

Switching concepts, Peggy stated that we “…need to stop the corporate handover of public schools…” and allow teachers to teach, a sentiment that I suspect Gary Stager (@GaryStager), with his frustration with educational corporations such as Pearson, would agree.

Peggy continued by saying that educational game designers need to forget everything they know about school, and that when designing games, they need to know the content just as well as they know the gaming structure, with the only company whose educational games she had confidence in was Filament Games (@FilamentGames). She quoted John Paul Gee as having said that we need to “…stop asking if games belong in schools, but which games belong in schools.” 

It was at this point that we were beyond the time for Peggy’s presentation, and she continued to speak, giving us a Marc Prensky quote (“…don’t bother me now mum, I’m learning”) and invoking Seymour Papert, who apparently called computers “…the children’s machine.” The next quote, from John Seely Brown was an intriguing one for me, as someone whose wife was a long time player of the World of Warcraft game, he has apparently been quoted as saying “I’d rather hire a high-end World of Warcraft raid leader than a Harvard graduate; the raid-leader  has the skills I need them to have.” The next statement was something I certainly agreed with, and I managed to get a quick picture of the slide.

Peggy next spoke about responses she had from teachers to the question “what do educational game designers need to know?”  There were a number of insightful and thought-provoking responses, but this particular response was the one which generated the most discussion at my table afterwards.

Peggy reminded us that game designers are the modern-day bards and storytellers and that we need to demand more from them. Her final point was that the Jenkins Report found that while youth video game was significantly up, youth violence rates were down. I have been unable to find this report online to link to. If you find it, please send me the link via the comments section or via a Tweet.

Peggy finished up here, fifteen minutes overtime, with a discontented murmur running through the crowd and with the next speaker anxiously waiting to begin his presentation. While I was frustrated at the talk being overtime despite having been given a two-minute warning, finding it rude and disrespectful to the subsequent speaker (who had to rush through his presentation as quickly as he could), I did find Peggy’s talk to be interesting and it generated some food for thought.

I will cover the following talk in tomorrow’s article. As always, thank you for reading, and please leave any comments, questions or concerns in the comments or contact me via Twitter.

Jump to Day Three session one part two.

FutureSchools Review – Day 2 Session 4

We’ve been conditioned to expect character development.”
– Ian Thomson.

Welcome back for this article, in which we will close out the second day of FutureSchools 2016 with talks from Ian Thomson and Stephen Lethbridge, speaking two vastly different topics. If you missed the previous article, you can find it hereIan (@ianthommygun) is the Director of ICT and the Arts at Amaroo School  in the A.C.T, and he spoke under the title of Film in Five; Unpacking Videos in Education, which was a title which captured my curiosity given the move of my school towards BYOD, and the use of moviemaking as one of the new ways for our students to demonstrate their learning in new ways that were not available to them previously.

Ian opened by showing us the above short film made by students of his is a narrative about a group of students covering for the fact they overslept an exam. Ian made the point that we need to use film-making authentically rather than putting it into a unit like the proverbial square peg in a round hole, which happens all to often. He indicated that Cisco predicted that approximately eighty percent of all internet traffic will be video content by the year 2019, which when you look at the rate in which the video content statistics grow on The Internet in Real-Time web page, is very easy to believe. Ian also pointed out that YouTube is the second most popular search engine in its own right. I can certainly believe that given the propensity for people to respond with “YouTube it” when asked how to do something.

Ian introduced the five guerilla-like components of making a good quality movie or short film and then apologised to the literary buffs and English teachers in the room as he distilled “…a thousand years of literary gold into one diagram.”

Ian said that we have been conditioned over the centuries to expect character development in any quality narrative and that filmmakers at any level need to ensure that they leverage that fact, alongside framing the plot-twist in order to maximise the exposure and impact of the twist. Ian next spoke about how the use of shot-framing, or lack thereof, tells him a lot about the skill level of a film-maker. He indicated that we should be using the rule of thirds or that we should, at least, be aware of and understand the rule if we are going to disregard it. He also introduced a concept which was new to me, the idea of look room. This was described as creating a virtual space for the person who is off-camera that is being spoken to, as without look room, it can appear as if the person speaking is talking to themselves. Additionally, shooting over the shoulder of someone can be a useful tactic for shooting interviews to generate authenticity. Ian’s final note was that unless camera movement is a deliberate tool, which can be incredibly useful in some contexts for tension purposes.

Ian gave us a brief overview of how to light a scene properly, including keeping the prime light source behind you and over either the right or left shoulder if possible to reduce unnecessary shadows and that where possible, we should utilise three light sources for evenness and if need be, a fleckie or reflector, for fine control over specific areas of a scene. The image below gives an indication of what this might look like. in practice.

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Retrieved from tinyurl.com/zdroul8 on 12 March 2016

Following on from light was sound, which Ian described as being just as important to the quality and success of a film as the image being seen, indicating that where possible, we should utilise microphones rather than rely on the microphones built into devices. The reason for this, he explained is that the built-in devices are designed to capture everything and you have very little control of what you end up with in your sound file. An external microphone can give you that control as their range is more focused, narrowing the size of the cone which is recorded. It was also mentioned that the use of headphones on set can allow you to hear background noise whilst filming, and thus take steps to reduce it if appropriate is important as our brain is very good at ignoring sounds like the hum of a fridge or a fluorescent light. Ian also talked about the love of school students, particularly in primary and lower secondary, to add background music to their films, which has a tendency to override the audio. He compared background music to a picture frame. It is nice to have and it can enhance the picture, but not one is there to see the frame, they want to see the picture.

The final component which Ian discussed was the order in which certain types of shots are used, and that there were essentially three types of shots; a wide or establishing shot which provided information such as time of day and location, a mid-shot which shows you who is in the scene and is often utilised for, or as, cutaways and finally the tight shot which is often referred to as the close-up, is typically the shot type used for dialogue and should adhere to both the rule of thirds and the look room rule mentioned previously. You can see an example of what these different shot types might look like in the image below.

editing_intro_1
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/gq89cu8 on 12 March 2016

Following on from Ian, and closing out the day was Stephen Lethbridge (@stephen_tpk) who is Principal of Taupaki School in Auckland, New Zealand. Stephen spoke under the title Race to the Maker Space and opened with a quote from Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad that was included in an article entitled Competing for the Future.

“So the urgent drives out the important; the future is left largely unexplored; and the capacity to act, rather than to think and imagine, becomes the sole measure of leadership.”
– Hamel, G., Prahalad, C.K., (1994), Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/zvxcqk2 on 12 March 2016

Stephen continued by pointing out that Makerspaces used to be a fringe affair, but that they have recently become the hot item on the edu-bandwagon with maker spaces popping up everywhere. I have to admit that at this point I was a little unsure where Stephen was pro-maker space or not, a topic I had heard Gary Stager speak about at Future Schools 2015 and when Stephen asked if the audience had been Gary Stagered I was confused even further.

Stephen continued pressing the point, questioning maker spaces by asking if they needed to be physical, what is required for a maker space and that there seems to be so many variants of does and does not qualify as a maker space, but that ultimately there is no reason they cannot be virtual spaces, something that he pointed to Minecraft as an example of, and further, made the point that the maker space should never be the only space in a school, community or class where creativity or making can occur. Stephen referred to the New Zealand number eight wire mentality, as an indicator that the mentality behind maker space is part of the country’s cultural DNA. For Stephen, the only thing needed for a maker space is “…a thinking teacher that adapts to change”  with the only tool required being the one in the image below.

Stephen spoke about the fact that maker spaces in school contexts were often attached to a single teacher and survived or failed based upon that teacher, including whether or not they stayed or moved on to a new school. Stephen continued by exploring the definition of a maker space as being a technological extension of the do it yourself culture, with a sub-culture of hacking having emerged which focuses on the pulling apart and re-purposing of parts and componentry, with a link to open-source plans.

The recognised founder of the maker movement is Seymour Papert, with Sylvia Libow-Martinez and Gary Stager the recognised patrons and champions of the maker movement. They have described making as something which is a purposeful expression of intellect.

The video above is was shown by Stephen as a cute way of dealing with this dismay at the New Zealand Breakers defeat in the NBL grand final, but including a friendly dig about the All Black’s superiority over the Wallabies, with a side-reference to the DIY culture.

Making, Stephen declared, was a stance, allowing the opportunity for students to have authentic experiences making real things, with the chance to follow something through for, as long Gary Stager has put it, “…longer than a course of antibiotics.” Stephen continued, reminding us that when good ideas are found in wider society with potential applications within education, they are often changed to fit the structure of education which is currently in place, rather than the structure in place being adapted to fit the new idea, resulting in watered down variations (a theme which Peggy Sheehy picked up in her keynote address on day three).

Stephen proposed that we change making, that we think of it as a culture, a way of using tools to solve general problems, that it is about taking risks and making mistakes, and learning from them, that if it is good enough for our students, then it is good enough for the adults as well.

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#makerEd culture #futureschools

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In Stephen’s school, there is a Make Club, the Ministry of Make (@MakeClub_NZ) where students can come along to be involved in making, but that they must have a parent with them (a step made to prevent it turning into another after school care / babysitting service) and that the students involved have designed, built and coded new garbage bins that light up and speak to people when they put rubbish inside, in an effort to address the question of how to decrease the problems around litter in the community.

To provide the greatest opportunity for a maker space to succeed in a school, the Principal needs to become the lead mistake maker, modelling making mistakes productively, allowing Twitter connections and encouraging professional autonomy to allow teachers to provide opportunities for organic making as part of the teaching and learning within their classroom.

Above all, use the tools of today, today. Do not limit students to the tools of yesterday.

Jump straight to the next article in the FutureSchools review series.

FutureSchools Review – Day 2 Session 3 Part 2

In this article, I will be closing out the third session of day two from FutureSchools 2016, a presentation by Jill Margerison (@DrJMargerison), who is a teacher and the Associate Dean of E-Learning at The Southport School in Queensland. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. Jill was speaking under the heading Perception, Imagination and Creativity – Bringing new thinking to patterned thinking and began by reminding us that society has, and is, changing rapidly and that this has lead to a change in the locus of power and control in education, that progressive education strategies are shifting the locus of control more in the favour of students.

tech-native-support-comic
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/j8m5o2t on 12 March 2016

This, Jill told us, has increased the importance of data and the ability to understand, analyse and utilise data and that despite Marc Prensky’s notion of digital natives still being alive and well, it does not necessarily hold up as true in practice. From my own experience thus far, very few of my students knew the difference between the address bar and the search box on Google, and when I would ask them to type in a web address, they would often type it into the search bar on Google’s search page (which was the default homepage) and then be confused about why the website was not loading. Jill’s point was that a student being a digital native does not necessarily translate into their being able to utilise the technology to its full capacity and solve problems better or more efficiently than teachers.

Jill made the point that students can get lost in the technology and be happy being lost, with terms such as YouTube diving and  wiki-diving and that leveraging that interest for creative purposes is important as creativity has been linked to positivity and wellbeing, as well as to mindfulness, which is, increasingly, an issue vis-a-vis student anxiety. Jill spoke about the fact that children have an innate creativity, but that somewhere between childhood and adulthood, the creativity is lost, or as Sir Ken Robinson has said, it has been “…educated out of us.”

The now famous Alvin Toffler quote about the illiterate of the future being those unable to learn, unlearn and relearn was brought up and used as a segue into a brief discussion about the East-Asia Leadership Summit and the conversations at that event vis-a-vis the need for students’ thinking to be able to be divergent, convergent and perceptual. Jill pointed out that divergent thinking as a brainstorming process is not about generating the correct answer or solution, nor will it inherently increase academic results to be able to brainstorm well (however you might define that), but that it is a skill which is integral to problem-solving processes. Layered on top of the need for divergent thinking is the need to also be able to think convergently, and reach a single well-established result. Perceptual thinking was defined within this context as having an awareness of the mood around an idea, situation or context and being able to adjust thinking patterns within that frame of reference.

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Changing our thinking. #futureschools

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Jill closed by speaking about a teacher exchange between The Southport School and a school in Malaysia, which then led to collaborative learning utilising Google Hangouts to communicate and learn about each others’ cultures, expanding global awareness and forging strong international links.

I found Jill’s talk to be very interesting and there were thematic links between Jill’s talk and some other presentations, particularly Jim Sill, who closed out the conference on Day day three. I hope that you have found some benefit from this article, and as always, thank you for reading.

Jump to day two session four.

FutureSchools Review – Day 2 Session 3 Part 1

“A teacher does not need to teach everything.”
– Gavin Hays

Welcome back for the review series from FutureSchools 2016. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. This article will focus on the presentations by Gavin Hays and Jill Margerson, taking this series through to the afternoon break of day two. I have to admit that I entered this third session rather numb, mentally, feeling a touch of conference-itisthat sensation of having heard too many ideas and struggling to process them all. It still amazes me the number of people who sit there and do not appear top be taking any form of notes for later reflection, whether it be manual with a notebook and pen, or digital via some form of word processing app or Live-Tweeting. I would be lost without my notebook, but then, as the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.

Gavin Hays (@gavhays) is from the Parramatta Marist High School and was speaking under the title PBL and STEM Mashup. Gavin began by speaking about how they had implemented Project Based Learning (PBL1) across Years Seven to Nine and then Problem Based Learning (PBL2) across Years Ten to Twelve.

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The #PBL jigsaw #futureschools

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Gavin spoke about how PBL1 and PBL2 are both based around three key skills (top row in the PBL Jigsaw) that are supported by three attributes. Projects require authenticity, but this not necessarily mean based in the real-world or their local context, it means real and of significance to the students in some way. Limited PBL learning to the local context limits the scope of problems and projects. It was also discussed how groups are formed, sometimes teacher assigned, sometimes student formed, and that group roles are allocated, again, either by the teacher or determined within the group, as that is a realistic function of how groups often function in real-world contexts.

The second attribute that is required is that there should be active exploration involved, that it should generate wonder and curiosity and focus, acting as a springboard for possibilities rather than a ceiling for activities. Gavin stressed the point here that the teacher does not need to teach everything, that students do need to grapple with learning and pushing through struggles.

Gavin then spoke about how they felt that they needed to explicitly teach the STEM content up front and how over time they eventually learned to trust their program and teachers were adding in the STEM content, concepts and skills organically. Students need to get to the point of frustration, and teachers need to provide scaffolding to allow them move beyond that, however that does not mean the scaffolding is provided immediately, at all times. There needs to be an opportunity for students to, potentially, work through something on their own. They found that students would often need three to four years to properly embed the attributes and skills that were being taught.

The skill of collaboration did need to be explicitly taught, including how to manage differences within a group, assign roles, set deadlines and that over the four year program, students would complete in the vicinity of one hundred and eighty projects and that it was early in Year Eight where students seemed to connect the dots with group management, task delegation and deadlines and the impact that those skills could have on the final product.

This led to a discussion about communication and how students needed to learn  to communicate with each other and also with the whole cohort, which was facilitated through the requirement for a presentation of projects, with the audience expected to listen and ask probing questions, forcing the presenters to really know and engage with their product and the skills and concepts underpinning it in order to be able to answer questions on the fly and with confidence.

STEM was additionally offered as an elective subject and was underpinned by a driving question which would necessitate being chunked for easier engagement, and assessment of the underlying problems and issues but that these driving questions would require significant understanding of a variety of concepts and skills across a range of curriculum areas and that the final design was first prototyped and tested, refined, re-prototyped, retested and then the final product produced.

Gavin’s final point was that we, and our students, need to continue learning, always, as life never stops teaching, which was a sage point to finish on.

I will halt this article there as it is Friday afternoon and I am still at school rather late and I very much want to go home. I will endeavour to get the next article, finishing out session three, tomorrow at some point. Until then, as always, thank you for reading.

Jump to day two, session three, part two.

FutureSchools Review – Day 2 Session 2

Welcome back for another review of FutureSchools. In this article, I look back on the second session of day two at the conference, featuring Michael Ha and Kaye North. If you have missed the previous article, you can find it here. After the morning break, Michael Ha (@NerdyPhysEder), the E-Learning Leader at Newington College speaking on Drones in Ed: A practical guide for drones, droids, and robots. Michael began with a story, how own story, speaking about how he migrated from Hong Kong with his family at the age of nine years old. He struggled with the language and did not have as a young man what Joe Hockey now infamously laid out as the starting point for success.

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Retrieved from tinyurl.com/jfa94g

Michael jumped forward in time and spoke about how at the time when drones were becoming commercially available, there was a trend in sports and physical education towards talking about game sense and that video recording of games was becoming relatively common, but that it was limited in its usefulness from the sideline at the typical elevation a coach (or PhysEd) teacher would find themselves during a PhysEd lesson). He pointed out that we typically watch sports on tv, and play them in computer games at  an angle of approximately forty-five degrees, as that allows the viewer to gain a better perspective on the play and that drones opened up new opportunities in this area.

Michael spoke about the learning curve vis-a-vis combining controlling a drone with pedagogy, and that it was not particularly successful until he found a system that allowed the wearing of a tracking device which the drone would then simply follow, allowing for a top down view of what was happening and very explicit discussion about areas of opportunity, with the students able to see what was happening in a way that they cannot when they are standing on the sideline.

Michael spoke about the parrot drone and that it can be programmed using the Tickle App. He demonstrated how simple this was by asking for someone from the audience to come up, and then giving them about one minute of instruction in how to program the drone using the app. We watched the gentleman put in some simple commands and then we watched the drone take off, move around and then do this:

Michael spoke about there being a range of applications for drones across the curriculum, beyond the obvious ones in PhysEd, for example, within the English syllabus, you could record some footage which then forms a stimulus for a creative writing task.

Michael did note that there are some legalities involved with drones and that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has been active in this area, updating the regulations around Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) as recently as December 2015, but that there are still opportunities for the use of drones in education, depending on your location.

Following Michael was Kaye North (@KayeNorth1), a teacher from Maryborough State High School in Queensland who spoke under the title Create and Engage with Augmented Reality. This was something which, though not on my radar as a teacher, I was interested in hearing about, having heard Paul Hamilton (@PaulHamilton8) speak on the topic during FutureSchools2015.

Kaye opened with a brief explanation of the concept of Augmented Reality and gave some examples of AR applications including Quiver, Aurasma, Anatomy 4D, and Floodlines. Kaye then gave a demonstration of how Quiver worked, which excited a lot of people, who I can only presume had not seen it in action before, and spoke about the wide range of educational-based Quivers that are now available.

Kaye also spoke about an augmented reality app that has been put out by NASA, called Spacecraft 3D and that it allowed you to interact with various space vehicles as well as manipulate your perspective of them and then about Anatomy4D, which allowed you to overlay various systems in the human body.

Kaye closed by speaking about the use of Aurasma, combined with Tellegami to allow students to create one-page posters with embedded presentations to provide an alternative way of assessing students learning, with the possibilities for the use of augmented reality in the classroom being limited only by our imaginations.

It was nice to hear of a few new apps (Anatomy 4D, Spacecraft 3D), however, for me, there was nothing new vis-a-vis pedagogical practices or opportunities in this presentation. I feel like augmented reality does have some application within education, however, I personally do not see it as having a large scope. I am open to being proved wrong of course, and I know that Paul Hamilton has been working on some projects for a while, and it sounds like Kaye has some interesting things going on in her school as well.

Thank you for reading this (slightly) shorter article and as always, I would like to hear any feedback or thoughts on the ideas contained therein. The next article will focus on the presentations by Gavin Hays and Jill Margerson.

Jump to day two, session three, part one.