My first session was a keynote by Maureen Morriss, an educator most recently working in New York, helping schools and teachers develop their teaching capabilities in Literacy. A key message I drew from this was the importance of thinking of the intention first before selecting the appropriate tool – Morriss noted that many educators use Interactive Whiteboards as plugged in blackboards, rather than using the capabilities of these boards to fundamentally alter their practice. The other key message that really resonated was that the age of the teacher as all knowing wise owl is gone (thank goodness!) and that we need to amend our teaching accordingly. It gives us the perfect opportunity to model for our students the qualities of lifelong learning and what that looks like as an adult taking on new ideas and experiences.
Next was Maggie Garard of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, talking about multi-modal teaching and learning strategies and resources. While some were similar to those outlined in the session I attended on Friday, I liked some of the insights she gave about promoting digital citizenship. In particular, I liked the advice that we need to help students understand all facets of publishing online and not just the physical act of doing so. They need to be aware of the potential for feedback (both positive and negative) and other people using or remixing their work, with or without their permission. The clips of Noah and Saskia that she showed could be used to great effect as part of such a discussion.
Other resources were also outlined that could be used as valuable tools in a range of classroom programs including Kahootz, the Learning Federation website and the Australian Screen collection. All have been around a while and you may already be familiar with them but I appreciated the refresher and will be rediscovering them as I tackle my planning for Term 3.
I followed this with a session with Michele Anstey and Geoff Bull on creating multimodal texts in a multiliterate classroom. This was a fantastic presentation which asked us to consider the different semiotic systems which are drawn upon in multimodal texts – linguistic, visual, audio, gestural and spatial. Their presentation gave practical suggestions about how to tackle teaching some of the various ‘grammars’ associated with each of the semiotic systems through the construction of a multimodal text. They stressed the importance of the ‘before’ in the process – considering a design brief, planning to ensure that appropriate aspects are used to meet the purpose, appeal to the audience and are relevant to the context of the piece. If you want to know more, check out their new book, Evolving Pedagogies – Reading and writing in a multimodal world and the supporting website to the text. I left this presentation wanting to immediately head back into my classroom to begin planning, excited by the possibilities for looking more deeply into ‘consuming and producing’ multimodal texts.
And on that positive note, I shall end my coverage of the conference. Overall, a fantastic experience and opportunity to network with other educators and sample the happenings from all corners of the globe. Probably my only real criticism was the lack of internet access for either participants or presenters which I think was both disappointing and ironic considering the topic of the conference. We are living in a multiliterate, multicultural and multifaceted world and acknowledging that by ensuring that the discussion could be carried on with others not present in the building would have been a small but important step. I look forward to next year’s conference in Sydney and hearing how this conversation about the evolution of Literacy in ‘new times’ develops in classrooms, staffrooms and research centres throughout Australia and the world. No one can deny that we are teaching in exciting times!