Tag Archives: Learning tech

FutureSchools Conference 12-14 March 2014 – my thoughts

The FutureSchools Conference 2014 was held at Australian Technology Park in Everleigh, Sydney. This literally post-industrialist site,drawing attention to its 19th C construction and more recent 20th C re-construction, seemed a fitting location for a conference that focused primarily on what a future school might look like.


Day 1 was advertised as a ‘Masterclass’ with Stephen Heppell. Originally billed as the chance to work with Stephen in a small group, the session blew out to a large lecture-style presentation; nonetheless, there were some illuminating insights from Stephen’s long and varied career. Days 2 and 3 were the Conference proper. With a range of schools – independent / affluent government /  struggling government – talking about topics such as learning space design; re-conceptualising organisational structure to promote post-industrial learning models; transparent, student-chosen  technology; extended learning periods with flexible timetabling; student voice; peer instruction and flipped instruction; engendering staff enthusiasm for change; and project/ problem-based learning. Below are links to my posts about some of the sessions that offered relevant prompts for my own professional work. Incidentally, the twitter stream was relatively active and can be viewed here.

The programme for the two days of the conference were:

Day 1:

  • Stephen Heppell Keynote
  • Northern Beaches Christian College (Sydney) Keynote
  • Brisbane Boys’ College building program
  • St Raphael’s School (Melbourne) managing transitions
  • Belmont Primary School (Melbourne) modernising a heritage listed school
  • New South Wales Dept of Education and Communities identifying future directions
  • Panel discussion: creating your vision for the future school

DAY 2:

Eric Mazur Keynote

  • Scoth Oakburn (Tasmania) placing technology at the forefront of inspiring learning places
  • Stonefields School (Auckland) designing learning hubs
  • Australian Science and mathematics School (South Australia) ‘FutureSchool’
  • Newington College (Sydney) student panel discussion
  • Churchie (Brisbane) effect of design on learning
  • Mordialloc College (Melbourne) flexible learning and teaching

Wallwisher becomes Padlet – and reminds me that it’s pretty handy!

Quite some months ago I set up my Wallwisher account and thought I’d try it out with some classes – primarily, I thought, to gain some anonymous feedback as lessons progressed, allowing me to tailor subsequent lesson to address the feedback received. I did – then forgot about it when we swung into exam mode and then extended holidays.

Wallwisher came back onto my radar today in its new incarnatiion, Padlet, with the same simple to use features in a more advanced form.

Reminded of how useful it is for quick ‘snapshots’ of student learning, I quickly set up a wall (pad?) for my Year 12 class and asked them to post on the wall as follows, about our current unit of study:

  • a note on the right = something they enjoyed or really felt rewarded by
  • a note on the left = something a bit ‘meh’, or they weren’t satisfied by
  • a note in the middle = something interesting they will take away

This simple visual division helped me see at a glance certain trends, and the anonymity encouraged frank (but polite!) expressions of opinion.

Now it’s back on the radar, I can see Padlet/Wallwisher coming out often….

Diigo – the educator account

Great news this year that Diigo has created accounts designed for educators. It’ll streamline the way that we create groups for use with our students, and will make them more secure as well for younger students.

Another new tool for creating a learning channel

Image representing Thinglink as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

I’m grateful to my colleague, Teresa, for introducing me to the tool ‘Thinglink’ (http://www.thinglink.com/learn) recently. Simply, it allows you to upload an image and place links to online resources – video, audio, text, etc. – on the image in places that resonate with that resource. So, for example, a map could have video links pinned to cities marked on them; a picture of the human body could have links to explanatory notes; an image of punctuation marks could be linked to audio explanations of each, etc.

I think I’ll use this tool to encourage my students to make connections themselves – a creative way to collect research links on a particular theme or topic.

BYOD at SRC- discussion starter

First principle: all IT devices, infrastructure, software are ultimately chosen and deployed for the benefit of students’ education.

Second principle: all IT should encourage efficiency and innovation

Third principle: all IT should be cost-effective in longevity, including maintenance costs

BYOD for staff

Probably not. mixing personal and professional can raise interestingly thorny issues about privacy (for example, we have tools that can examine devices on the network).

However, we may give staff a choice to use one of two or three different devices, based on the role they have and the area in which they work. For example:

  • admin staff have desktops because they primarily work in the one location – but they could have the choice of a dockable laptop if they frequently work in other spaces (including home).
  • some teaching staff will never see themselves wandering around the room, passing the slate device from one student to another, handwriting, etc. – but others might choose this sort of device over a traditional laptop

There are pros and cons involved in each choice – staff must accept this. While some staff may be given access to multiple devices based on curriculum need,

BYOD for students

Ultimately this is where financial constraints are leading. Preparation essential now for 2015 when the first BYOD devices will be on campus. Three main issues to plan ahead for:

  1. connectivity
  2. maintenance/ support on campus (including short-term replacement devices) and after hours
  3. compatibility
  1. Connectivity is the core element of successful IT provision for the imaginable future. It is the highest priority for capital expenditure to extend and beef up the existing network, to build in redundancy, and to provide proactive maintenance. With the existing DLink wireless network due for upgrade or replacement to begin in 2014/2015, we have the opportunity to move to the latest technology.
  2. Support staff currently spend most time supporting college-owned devices. While this will remain a priority for staff, the vast majority of support for students will be reduced to connectivity issues and simple troubleshooting. We would not see our staff providing detailed technical support for the BYO devices. This means that the current resource allocation – where most is assigned to helpdesk – should be shifted to the network and systems administration roles.
  3. Rather than allow open season, the College will provide a list of devices that will meet the educational IT requirements of the curriculum. The range should be cognisant of price / capacity to pay. We then need to choose one of the following options:
    1. parents source and buy devices (on the list) totally independently.
    2. parents buy devices (on the list) from a central (external) provider/ consortium engaged by the College.

Again, there are pros and cons of each. The first has the advantage of parents being able to source their own supplier and arrange maintenance/ warranty to their liking. However, the benefits of a collective approach to purchasing and maintenance, such as the second option allows, are lost.

21st Century Skills (technology-mediated for the most part)

I’m in the process of collecting sites that define/ outline/ prescribe as some sort of framework the range of skills that are thought to constitute 21st C literacy. Suggestions for additions welcome.