Having recently returned from a national conference for educators in Lutheran schools, I have been thinking about what I learned, and what I will do with what I have learned.
Conferences can be great to attend, especially when there are large numbers of people who you know also in attendance. The networking and friendship renewal which goes on can be exhilarating. Keynote speakers can be inspiring and workshop presenters can engage the mind with possibilities. There is often much that you can get out of conferences; you can return from them with a heightened sense of excitement about what you want to achieve in your role back at school. Indeed, conferences can at times have a lasting impact on what happens in your workplace.
The lasting impact I have from this conference isn’t just the individual ‘bits of information’ I picked up on, or the new strategies and ideas presented. The lasting impact was seeing the way technology was used to enhance the conference and then considering how this could be of benefit as an educator. This is the first conference I have been to that had an integrated approach to using ICT to engage and connect participants. I was impressed that the conference actually endeavoured to emulate good teaching practice. There were some great presenters, and they had great things to share but my ‘deep learning’ happened elsewhere! These are my six main learning points (and the topics for my next 6 blog posts):
- Youtube Front-loading
- Using Twitter to Learn
- The Conference App
- Live Online Conference Presenters
- The Power of Google Docs
- YouTube Followup…Ongoing Learning
Have just returned from Brisbane. This conference was the first conference I have attended where Social Media was a significant part of it. I have to say that it was a terrific experience to connect online with other educators. The real value I got out of it was being able to read on the conference hastag what other attendee’s thoughts were about presenters and their statements. There were a number times that I thought ‘Wow!’
I got so much out of the conference. I made the decision very early on to try and immerse myself in following the conference Twitter back channel by reading it constantly and contributing where I felt I had something to offer. I learnt a lot!
As I have just stated I got some immediate insight into what other attendees were thinking. This happened predominantly through people’s quoting of presenters. Every once in a while though someone would ask a question which prompted me to reflect on what was being said and every now and again a response came from someone else following the Twitter back channel. Also, there were a couple of occasions where a discussion ensued between people where someone would would challenge what was being tweeted. This added to the learning.
I also learnt from workshops I didn’t attend. At one point in the conference it became obvious that I made the wrong choice of workshops and wished that I had attended another one. I couldn’t because the workshop was at another venue, but I was able to catch up with other attendees and ask about it. It was valuable to read comments from other sessions which connected with session I was attending.
I need to wear hearing aids and there were a number of times where I was unable to hear what the presenter had said. In fact, in one of the presentations the keynote speaker’s was so hard to follow for me that the only thing I got out of it was from the Twitter feed! It was a wonderful presentation!
I hope that future conferences I attend will have Twitter as a significant part of it. I would like to see more of the staff in our schools use it. I got the sense that about 10% of people at the conference engaged with the Twitter aspect of the conference. This begs the question why? Which in turn leads me to ask how could greater engagement be fostered? It really took no effort to have the hashtag open as there was a dedicated wifi connection provided for us and it really was very easy to switch between taking notes on Google Drive and reading the Twitter feed. The Twitter feed on the hashtag could have been put up on a screen in the auditorium. There could have been greater use of the Twitter questions as part of the Q&A sessions. A workshop on use of social media by educators could have been offered.
The Brisbane ACLE was the most engaged I have been at a conference and I think a lot of that had to do with the high prominence of social media, especially Twitter. There was also a dedicated Facebook page but I didn’t use it at all. It certainly received some attention after the conference dinner however.
The question has arisen, what is the benefit to our college in having a Twitter account. My first response is ‘Why not?’
This quote from George Couros explains how not having a Twitter account could be counterproductive: ‘The more savvy someone is with social media, the more frustrated the person will become with this approach, and if he or she has another option, the person will take it…We need to not only get into the same room but also talk when we are all there.’ In other words when people have confidence in using social media, and in fact use it and rely on it in their day to day life, they can become disenchanted and actually look elsewhere. I would count myself as one of those people.
The main impediment perhaps in our situation is the number of people in our college community who use Twitter (we know there are students using it) which at first glance would be low. There is no doubt however that there are some people who use Twitter and maybe looking for the college to catch up. What if another school in our region fills this vacuum and uses Twitter to engage with the community. This also gives us an opportunity to become progressive and educative, giving our parent community, and the wider local community, a chance to engage meaningfully in a globally significant digital platform.
Other people have explained more eloquently why and how schools can use Twitter such as George Couros here and via a short video that gives a quick taster of how Twitter can be used in schools here.
I summary, my thoughts are:
- The first and most basic reason is to at least reserve a twitter handle you would want to use before someone else gets it
- Schools promote themselves as progressive, digitally modern schools but without using Twitter are we really missing an important ingredient in living this out
- It is a great opportunity to show the community that the school is actively involved in the positive use of social media and digital technologies.
- It gives the school an opportunity to engage with the school community
Here are examples of school Twitter accounts:
St Peter’s Blackwood
A blog which gives a good rundown of using a school Twitter account as part of it’s marketing strategy at this link
My son is an avid collector of AFL Football Cards. So how does trading work today? I remember going next door to friends’ places to swap postage stamps. Today, he is comparing cards and organising trades over Face time with mate from his previous school. They haven’t been looking at each other as the video feature is used for showing the cards to each other. But, old methods still prevail – they will send them to each other via the post!
Love the quote below from Andy Hargreaves in the Globe and Mail online. The article talks about what’s wrong with national school testing but this quote goes back to what makes a difference if we want create better outcomes in our schools. NAPLAN isn’t making our schools better (probably the opposite), and having a national curriculum won’t either. Most things (maybe all?) that get mandated for schools don’t actually improve them. Harnessing the collective and informed wisdom of all makes the difference. A collaborative culture and an inquiry mindset does.
The quote: “‘It used to be my children in my class, now it’s our children in our school.’ In practice, this means that whenever a child struggles, all teachers who teach and have taught that child pool their knowledge to find a solution.”
Read it all at the Globe and Mail.
A year ago I had a class with a couple of children diagnosed with ASC. I wish I knew more at the time. I was less prepared than I thought I was. Last night we had a great staff meeting session from one of our Year 2 teachers, Sharyn, who shared her knowledge and experience about ASC. Here is a summary of the information I wish I knew when I had ASC students in the past.
The amygdala is generally larger in children with this condition which suggests that ASC may be impacted by the growth of the brain. Children with ASC are not all the same – each individual has different traits. Visual learning is a primary method of understanding the world – visual cue cards can be an effective way of conveying instructions. Special interests are a great motivation but can change regularly – need to be aware of what the latest interest is (sometimes interests last days or only hours). Uptake time with information is important. Routine is important so if there is a change it’s good to consider how to manage it with ASC students. Sensory needs vary but there are impacts on the senses with ASC students (noise, temperature, proximity to others etc.). Anxiety is a key trigger for emotional intensity – meltdowns can be avoided when the signals are read (too late when it’s started) by suggesting thought blockers. Parents are experts on their child – use them by working with them, asking them what works at home.
As an aside, we also had some great information about working with Dyslexia thanks to Kel and Bec. A couple of suggestions which stand out: – use blue highlighter along the lines they write on as well as specially printed pages available on the internet. Use of blutak to do the spaces between words in sentences as a kinetic strategy for students.
We are planning to purchase a large number of iPads to replace the laptops which are currently on lease at school. Essentially, ease of use is the main benefit, especially for our Junior Primary students. The quick start-up is a great feature. Also, we can see great value in the different tools available through the many different apps which could support the learning of the students.
The question being asked is what apps do we want to suggest for downloading onto these iPads? There is much to consider and there are a plethora of lists available online promoting the virtues of different apps. They are great because they give us a starting point to try different ones out. However, they can be a trap if we don’t ask why?
Schools need to ask this question to help us make wise choices. Getting great apps on our iPad isn’t going to make great learning happen. Thinking about why we want certain apps and how they are going to be used by the students to promote learning is going to make it more likely they will be beneficial.
Consume, collaborate and create are the three things we need to be looking at to help us with this question. Edudemic has a very good list of apps which fit into these categories with some tips on how to use them.
- By consumption I am thinking apps such as ‘Mathsblaster’ which is a game based app which children can use to practise their mathematics. I am also thinking of books that may be downloaded for reading or apps that access information from the internet.
- For collaboration, mindmapping apps, Google Docs, Evernote and Edmodo are examples which come to mind as they allow people to work together online. Social networking can also enable collaboration via Twitter or through blogs.
- Finally, creation can take place through apps such as iMovie, Camera and Audioboo. Making something new is what we are looking to achieve.
This link has some great guidelines on how to set up iPads for classroom use. Click here.