Ignite Sydney – edtech confernece 2010

To borrow a phrase from and idea from Chris Lehmann. Sydney, despite its size often seems to struggle to gather educational technology innovators in a bus shelter, let alone a cross sector event – that costs nothing.

I am pleased to announce that Macquarie University will host a free, cross sector event on 22nd September 2010 in the new Arts faculty (old film and television school) in several theatres and workshop rooms.

The theme and aim is about transition, sharing ideas and stories of how educational technology is changing the way we learn and teach, often faster than we think.

There are four strands to the day and I hope something for everyone to enjoy and share. For those who can’t attend in person, presentations with be streamed in a webinar and several sessions held in Second Life.

Best of all, the aim is to get students to share some of the amazing work they are doing to a wide audience. Aside from the scheduled sessions, there is an unconference, where anyone is free to present and share ideas.

There will also be workshops on using technologies, including virtual worlds and games care of our friends Jo Kay and Debbie Evans at Macquarie ICT innovations.

Speakers include Ben Jones, Steve Collis, Lucy Barrow, Roger Pryor, Matt Bower, Pip Cleaves, Sue Gregory, Judy O’Connell and student showcases from all sectors are in the line-up.

More info will be out next week on the event website, with free registrations. We hope to seeleaders, teachers, student, academics and anyone interested in educational technology.

Space is limted to 250, so I hope you’ll make a date in your diary now. We particularly invite student teachers to come, and find out the very real innovation in school, tafe and higher education for yourself. There is no doubt that technology has changed education – this day is all about showing that and giving a roadmap on what works. We are past the why? And into the how … I hope you’ll pass the message on to others and hassle the boss-leader for a big day out.

Learning about the metaverse: free PD for teachers

Imagine your in a week long professional development programme. Lets see if I can sell you a seat in mine.

“Building a PLN with Web2.0”

The session runs Sunday to Sunday, and were expecting you’ll be working from 6am to 11pm, but you can choose what hours you keep entirely. In that time you need to find around 200 people in social networks that have a common interest in education, and introduce yourself. There is no room allocation, campus or learning system required to attend the course.

The assessment task-

You have analyse and decode anything they say or share in the context of your classroom – finding evidence that any of it is valid now, and prioritise that which will be needed in 5 years.

By the end of the week you must have had at least one new idea, and helped ten other people to realise theres. You must create, maintain and share a cyber-bibliography of at least 100 things, justifying why they are related to your idea, and find 100 more from everyone elses, that relates to yours, but not duplicate it.

The test-

The final test is a 300 word blog post demonstrsting media literacy and deep research over the week to answer the following question “what will online communities look like in the future”. Grades are not issued, so you can select your own (if you think they are an indicator).

There is no class list, or prescribed reading or software for the course, and class will be held entirely online, in any space you choose.

Before you take teachers into virtual worlds, think carefully about the task, so when you attempt to explain the metaverse, they have a realistic task to work on, lets not pretend otherwise.

Kid’s skill and knowledge transfer in MMOs

Today, I gave in. Mr9 took command of Starcraft 2. He had no idea what it was, but has been playing World of Warcraft for a couple of years now – running Level 80 characters; and being as familiar with Azeroth as he is with the local park, his school or favourite surf-beach breaks.

I wondered what he’d make of it – given that is is nothing like Warcraft, and he’s never played Age of Empires etc., or other strategy game like it. I expected a rage-quit within about 30 minutes – as he headed back to Warcraft to beat up more non-playing characters to disrupt civil life in Booty Bay (his current favourite activity). Nothing. Silence from his lair as I sneeked around to spy on him.

An hour later, I braved the conversation; which I have to say was one sided, as he tried to explain the basic situation and his strategy. He’d already decided it was best to hook up with other players, watch some YouTube and take early risks to see what patterns and formations worked at his new n00bish level. He was focused on levelling; getting his reputation up etc., and had obviously transferred the socio-cultural tactics and strategies in Warcraft to a completely new genre of game.

Did he like it – yes. He found it more puzzling; more of a riddle to solve, and said he didn’t rage quit, as he knew that working harder would pay off. Then he took the dog for a walk, and spent some time bouncing off a matress he and his sister had put against the wall for fun.

I wonder just how his teachers, now or in the future can begin to understand how kids like him – and there are millions just like him – are learning to learn unless they first learn to play – and give away this stupid idea that being able to remember facts, and not seek them from literature and others when they need them (Socrates vs Plato, Does Google make you stupid etc) as being something worth looking into. Maybe he can take the computer skills test – oh no wait, they canned it as teachers cant do it. Snarky – you bet, worried – no way.

TPack Model for Tech Integration

I encountered this at MICDS, the TPACK model for teaching – Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. TPACK is “a way of thinking about the knowledge teachers need to understand to integrate technology effectively into their classrooms (Mishra & Koehler, 2008).” Teachers who exhibit best practices with technology are “creative, flexible, and adapt ways in which they navigate the constraints, affordances, and interactions within TPACK framework. (Mishra & Koehler, 2008).”

While we often talk about the integration of technology into learning, this simple diagram clearly illustrates the complexity and consideration that is required to do so. This model does not include the more debatable concepts in connectivism brought into play by the maturation of convergence of social media.

In order to realise this TPACK model, it clearly falls to those ‘professional developers’ and ‘leaders’ who have access to schools and teachers to carefully model how to bring about this holistic embedding of technology in teaching strategy – and not focus on integrating supplied technology into existing frameworks.

Without serious investigation of teaching method (Project Based Learning for example), and asking the hard questions about formative assessment and differentiated learning, many issues will remain. Where this requirement for better craft-performance is optional, where little time and money is invested in people and while the philosophy (cognitive apprenticeship – though it’s linear scope, sequence and test) dominates the belief of senior executives – this is a very hard diagram to realise.

However, I think it gives professional developers and instructional designers a clear view of what we need to deliver holistically – and the need to avoid banging on about any one technology or tool. For me, the wrapper to enable this is Project Based Learning – or some variant, as without taking a holistic, balanced approach – be that an hour session or a year … we actually create further in-balances.

If we remove the contestable term ‘social media’ for a moment, I think TPACK will make a great deal more sense to teachers whom cannot avoid collision with technology in learning and teaching.


Koehler, M. & Mishra, P. (2008, March). Introducing technological pedagogical content knowledge. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, New York City, NY. Retrieved on July 19, 2008 from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/2008/03/11/tpack-aera-new-york/

Koehler, M. & Mishra, P. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. Retrieved on July 19, 2008 from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=12516

Predictions for 2010

The outer rim of EdTech for 2010 — good and bad for (Australian) Education

Blogs, wikis, podcasts – the staple diet of the ed-tech revolution will further be considered bubblegum edu-punk as many of the early advocates move into new areas and newcomers leap frog much of the under-pinning principles that were foundational in 2005 – 2009

Consulting Cartels will continue to be the vocal and visible agents of change within small networks – sharing quality ideas and information, but remaining price-distant from ordinary teachers in public education. Scale and reach will remain their biggest challenge — and a potential risk exists that they may be widening the equity gap not closing it. Open Education and Open Professional Development will remain flaky and fragile. If there is an educational-community, I think that this will be it’s biggest challenge. Free vs Fee Professional Development.

DER/DET notebooks will show little evidential ‘performance benefits’ for student-learning outcomes. The lack of data will see reports continue to focus on infrastructure and support benefits in hardware/software maturation. Pedagogical shift in curriculum demands will remain static, despite the National Curriculum and Board of Studies rhetoric of 2009. Implementation and quality assurance will be on a scale too large to deal with for some time — radical changes to the HSC will continue to be too hot for politicians to tackle. We’ll see a few more chairs moved, and a few more pilots — and a new Minister for Education.

The government will introduce a brain-missing filter and focus on the desire for Rudd to be remembered as the man who ‘built the digital Australia’. Deals will be done to assure that outcome in the same way Howard traded gambling for GST a decade before. We won’t care however, as we will continue to spend twice as much time and money on social games than any other passive content such as the movies or television services. Star Wars will become the number 2 MMO, but will suffer service issues and lag — nothing to worry Blizzard — who will demonstrate that you can destroy an entire profitable empire completely and rebuild a better one because of community — a lesson that will be missed by business and finance who truly believe Sherlock Homes was a good movie and handing more money to morons that squander it is not nation-killing.

Netbooks will drop off the face of the earth as soon as Apple release the ‘big touch’. Laptops will also suffer as Apple dives the price of iPhones to back-fill their market position. The technorati will buy the big-itouch and a Android phone, just to be uber cool of course.

ePaper and eBook readers will become normal consumer items. No one really wanted a mini-laptop in the first place. 3G will become a normal – low cost option – on pre-paid phones … thus allowing students to access anything, making the filter totally pointless and anonymous. Old media will continue to thrash around and talk about porn, perverts, drugs, mafia and other nasties that will continue to rip their micro-world apart – puppy dogging Twitter and leaching Mashable content to regurge to armchair-zombie-masses, unable to get their head around Google Wave which will quietly dissipate with insufficient fanbois to keep it surging.

Reaction Grid will become the defacto host for Educational Second Life. Linden will all but abandon Teen Second Life … and AU public education will still ignore everything ‘virtual’ and ‘game based’.

Private education will start to use private-grids in more serious and connected ways – further increasing the digital divide.

Augmented reality toys will become integral to console based gaming. Away from basic eye-toys, serious games and strategy will use augmented reality onto the table top, using transmedia strategies in their product offerings. Reaction Grid will respond to these changes first.

The number of teachers using technology in new and resonant ways in school will stagnate — and more will leave public to work in private because of the ‘virtual glass ceiling’. Many schools will find it frustratingly hard to integrate technology — due to policy — that keeps outsiders – outside. Large systems will not re-assess their HR policy and continue to hire people who are unable to lead them anywhere other than in circles — believing qualification and time-served are more important than ePortfolios, digital-authority and reputation.

I hope I’m wrong about some of these.

Twilight – Covert-Operations and banned ideas

Cover of

DISCOVERING who is doing what, sneeking about, looking for covert technologies, is a twilight though bloodless activity I engage in.

How did the Twilight novel end up the banned list in the locker library … 

Maybe some of the attraction is to rebel against the filtration and prejudice that stops what we perceive to be ‘better’ outcomes and opportunities. This action usually changes the social-dynamics of the ‘community’,. Even a once welcomed innovation can easily turn to a nasty intrusion, if we persist enough, and not pay close attention to behavioral signals. There are numerous stories of people feeling private backlash behind the public facade ofcollegiality – and at times they are aware of this, but do it anyway.

There is good reason for newcomers keep a low profile. Indeed many of MITs projects once started as a ‘secret box’ for fear that someone would shut it down. (just for the record, I’m not in the shut down business).

This student story post is a fantastic example of not just being covert; but how others are attracted to groups and networks that appear to be offering change. The multiplyer effect that often drives networks and movements.

Human behavioural intelligence influences perception, belief and propensity to enquire or avoid something different (not just new).

In this case, the tale unfolds of how banned books, are distributed as an initial reaction to authoritarian policy; but leads to attracting others. They be attracted to the cause; but metacognitively, they are thinking about the content – what makes ‘Catcher in the Rye‘ a banned book? – This would make a great project … and indeed that is what it became. Interestingly, the story ends with the provocateur banning Twilight.

There’s a literature project right there! – Why do people do people engage in special-operations others seek to ban?

If you’ve got a project, a black-ops operation, twisting the syllabus and weathering the backlash – good on ya!, love to hear your story or thoughts on this.

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Russian invasion!

INCREASINGLY it seems, newcomers are taking their classes online in blogs, wikis and online communities. There is a wealth of published materials that encourage and celebrate the adoption of technology in the classroom. Schools need to  provide adequate orientation and safety assurances; taking the newcomer through practical guidance be an effective, safe, online course facilitator. As soon as part of a course is online, the role of teacher is opened to greater risk and responsibility.

Schools with hundreds of kids online, without obtaining any additional ‘permission’ or ‘advice’ on social media risk assessment is a reality.

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I noticed a Ning site, for middle school students that was left open. It appeared that the site was abandoned. A russian ‘porn spammer’ had joined the group, and immediately added all the students as a friend, leaving a comment on their wall inviting them to visit ‘her’ online. It is highly likely that kids signed up to the Ning with an email address, and that they receive notifications – as a year or so later this new member, produced a flurry or activity in the ‘old abandoned’ Ning.

Replies and comments to the new user flourished.

There is an excellent Social Media Guidlines project in the USA that is well worth adding to; and modelling from developed by Gina Hartman, Educational Technology Specialist in the Francis Howell School District. As more newcomers arrive, and more technology appears in classrooms, the risk grows – as I believe that the risk has a proportional relationship with experience, ability and understanding.

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Providing orientation training to the online space is very important – and seeking help to do it is advisable and you want your employer to support and acknowledge that in sharing the risk – else you may wear all of it, if you have an invasion.

Demonstrating that you can operate effectively and safely, just like ‘safety’ tests in an industrial workshop or science laboratory – is something that should be a norm, like manual handling and OH&S.

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Virtual Learning

Today I had the chance to try out some ‘technologies’ in Macquarie University’s lecture theatres.

This presentation was mashed over an hour with a ‘virtual’ hook up with Annabel Astbury and Jokay. Its always hard to know how to ‘pitch’ virtual worlds, but I see them as highly motivating and engaging spaces that students find ‘enjoyable’. The degree of ‘fun’ that they offer I think gives me some latitude to explore more challenging questions of pre-teachers.

The invitation to ‘live comment’ using Tinychat was met with blank looks as the opened their highly decorated ring-binders and set out their ball point pens. This presentation is also online, so ask questions, don’t write alone. But of course, no one was used to the idea of live note taking, but that was a message not something I thought would happen.

I think you have to have a serious message, but with mixed media presentation when talking about Web2.0 or virtual worlds. It’s a style thing. I like to use Apples ‘spaces’ to bounce around screens, but also like to have a lot of fast-paced slides, mixed with a few videos to allow a break from the onslaught.

Other like to run off a wiki or a set of bookmarks – I like pictures.

I don’t expect students will take specific ‘facts’ from the presentation, and indeed, I don’t want them too. All too often technical presentations for ICT get bogged down in ‘details’ and ‘yeah buts’. What I want them to do is take away one simple question – as “What I am doing motivating for students”, and then perhaps to start thinking of reasons to think about other things. Today I used World of Warcraft and Second Life – to demonstrate how we can use narratives and motivation to develop a range of ‘soft skills’, contrasted against the freedom of virtual worlds such as Second Life and Open Sim. I am sure that the students are not about to explore this stuff deeply. It’s just one hour in their course, but I’d like them to feel is that it is not okay to dismiss it.

The next step is to mix Second Life ‘live’ with a lecture, having students in-room and in-world. As the lecture is delivered, the backchannel should light up. All I have to do now is find an academic mad-enough to try this – or even better try and hook our theatre with another class. And to me, that is the hard part of EdTech – getting someone to take a ‘risk’ – a one hour ‘risk’. The technology itself is a piece of cake … the saga continues. A lot of work for an hour I grant you. But no matter how hard it was, it won’t be again … and there is always a next time.

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Lost Generation

Julie Lindsay found this. It is very powerful, and very clever in how it works. It made me think that there must be a ‘teacher‘ version that could be applied.

I refuse to believe teaching is changing or that I can bigger difference with technology to improve learning if I engage with it

… could easy become …

if I engage learning with technology, I can make a bigger difference and I will refuse to believe that teaching can’t change.

Will Richardson has said this many times, that the change starts with you – not with the system, the school, the administration, the network, the institution. It helps if they openly assist and not cling to the mantra of 19th century industralists – but I for one seriously lack the social capital to change a great deal. I can do it for myself and for my own kids – and at least advocte to them (as they can’t yet to it themselves). For all our abilities and opportunities at the individual level we are frail. At the network level we are amazing. I think for me, like many, the network gives you the bounce you need. Reading about things, people and events on the other side of the world renews the spirit to push on, when logically you should log-off.

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Infinate Learning

FI-ligature type in 12p Garamond.
Image via Wikipedia

It is an exciting and challenging time for education. In the 20th century we perceived information as scarce while in the 21st century it is over abundant. Now students have the ability to search, work or publish at will, using text, audio, and video, or any combination these. The have un-precedented access to technologies previously cost prohibitive for schools, which are usually instant and often free. Learning and teaching has become a multimodal, multi-literate conversation – where participation is an everyday reality for teachers, librarians, administrators and students.

The opposing forces of ‘memory and forgetfulness’ no longer dominate learning. Since Gutenberg’s movable type in the mid 1400s, technology has allowed us to expand our creative and mental horizons, progressively chipping away at the need to ‘memorise’ and ‘recall’. Today more information is stored digitally than in all the libraries in the world combined. We simply don’t need to ‘remember’ everything. The output of ICTs exceeds the wildest dreams of nineteenth century industrialists, and alters our view of memory; forgetfulness; creativity and originality.  Schools need to extend their vision of learning beyond ‘memory-arts’. We are in a hyperdynamic world of connections, relationships, and adaptive tools that help us make sense of the information flooding about us. We are standing at the entry of an age of infinite recall and infinite memory, the lines between original works and derivatives is blurred because duplication is simple and storage cheap. The idea that students learn from single or even limited origins is naive. Originality and creativity is now an additive and transformative process. Students need to develop insight into how to navigate and select a pathway in the online world – and for that they need help – by creating better resources, developing better frameworks inside what schools call ‘information literacy’.

Students that score well on exams can also be strategic surface learners. They want and demand the ‘answers’. While there is pressure to ‘perform’ and ‘get results’, it seems that online learning is adapting and evolving regardless of what mainstream education thinks.

For example : The Florida Virtual High School – has a very different pedagogy, and very different approach to learning.

In two words? Personalized instruction. You want choices. You want to feel that you or your students are not just numbers. You want to work at your own pace. You’d like to study at home or from a library or coffee shop. You want some say in your education, and you want classes that hold your interest!

If these are the things you want for yourself or your students, you have come to the right place. We have built our school on these beliefs:

  • Every student is unique, so learning should be dynamic, flexible and engaging.
  • Studies should be integrated rather than isolated.
  • Students, parents, community members, and schools share responsibility for learning.
  • Students should have choices in how they learn and how they present what they know.
  • Students should be provided guidance with school and career planning.
  • Assessments should provide insights not only of student progress but also of instruction and curriculum

We are presented with infinite memory. We can store, retrieve infinitely more than our fragile memory. Our lives are not limited by local contemporaries or restrained by single sources of information. The internet wiped away that idea a long time ago. The next wave for education to deal with is the nature of schools and the mode of learning itself – in the global context. It is already happening. As Australia starts looking at the next phase of it’s ‘digital education revolution’ – I hope that it pays attention to schools like the FVS. I wonder what would happen if we had a HSC Virtual High School? – Now there’s an idea.

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