VITTA conference day 2

Day 2 of the VITTA conference was another inspiring mix of practical and thought provoking presentations that have me eager to get back into the classroom to try out new ideas and share some gems with my colleagues. As well as presentations from educators, there were lively and interesting keynotes from Mark Pesce and Suelette Dreyfus, contemplating digital citizenship, what it means and how it continues to evolve as the technology and our society do. However I’m mentally worn out after 2 days of intense contemplation and am going to keep this brief(ish!). Instead of the ‘running commentary’ I gave about Day 1, today I want to share a couple of highlights.

One of the sessions I attended was on games-based learning, the result of a DEECD initiative to support innovative practice in schools.

  • Meredith and Boneo Primary Schools presented on creating digital games using Gamemaker and the rich literacy practices that this supported. Encouraging students to build their back story, focusing on the verbs and nouns of game play, developing characters and providing structure through a design brief all take students beyond just ‘playing’ into a more critical approach that helps develop their skills as active digital citizens. Powerful stuff.
  • Fitzroy North Primary School presented on using SimCity as part of a civics unit. The aim of this was to provide Grade 5/6 students with a more meaningful experience and understanding of decisions and consequences when building civic infrastructure and planning for the needs of present and future citizens. Hearing about this, I could instantly imagine the excitement of students in such an environment, being given opportunities to not just learn about adult concepts but test, re-test and succeed at them, all in a supported yet challenging environment.
  • Pentland Primary School presented on Lure of the Labyrinth – this blog post summarises it much better than I could and gives yet more examples of engaged and motivated students being inspired and challenged with technology.
  • Balwyn Primary School presented on Quest Atlantis – an online, multi-user game where students can explore, extend and build collaborative skills with other ‘Questers’ from around the world.

I hope I haven’t missed anyone on the list – all presentations were packed with sound reasons that games are a great way to engage students and don’t have to be an ‘add-on’ to learning. Games are learning! I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this topic in future posts – it’s something I’ve been trying to incorporate effectively into the ICT lab for a while and, thanks to the presenters today, I’m hoping to be able to enthuse others at my school to extend that into classrooms.

My other highlight was meeting up with fellow educators who I have been talking to, sharing with and, most importantly, learning from for ages. The difference is, this is the first time I’ve met most of them in person. Fostering a PLN through twitter has made a huge difference to my development as a teacher and has made what can be a very lonely and isolated journey feel a lot more supported and encouraged. Catching up with like-minded people today was, therefore, definitely a bonus of such an event and was the icing on the cake.

Thanks again to the organisers, presenters and attendees who all added to the buzz of such a vibrant event. Now to get back into the classroom and see if I can take that buzz with me…

Leading and learning from the edge – VITTA conference 2011

Another conference, another blog post. This time it’s the VITTA conference with 2 days of ICT bliss at Caulfield Racecourse.

Managing in a constantly changing world – Roger Larson
The keynote by Roger Larson (Senior Vice President, Strategy and Market development, Pearson Platforms) was actually interesting and not the blatant pushing of product that I was expecting. It resonated as a lot of the points he was making are ones I’m grappling with as part of my PhD literature review – the nature of education, the fact we haven’t moved on much in the last century of schooling and the role ICT can play in personalising and evolving what it means to be a learner (or a teacher, for that matter).

Roger referred to some of the work being done in different places on 21st Century skills including those of the Partnership for 21st century skills, The New Learning Institute and Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century skills. In probably my favourite point of the session, he noted the power of technology – it can provide higher quality and personalised learning for all, if used effectively. He then gave an example of schools in London who were now connected to a Managed Learning Environment, bringing together a number of services, learning tools and resources and providing an array of options for learning.

The next part of the keynote was a promising but, as it turned out, over ambitious attempt at using technology to bring together legendary ICT thinkers from around the planet. Yong Zhao and Stephen Heppell were to be hooked up with questions fed to them from participants via the twitter feed however the technology was not up to the task on this occasion. The brief insights we managed to get from Zhao were definitely worth the wait and it would have been a great session had the technology worked.

Copyright in the digital world – Sylvie Saab

Sylvie Saab of the National Copyright Unit ran a very informative session on copyright as it applies to schools – not an easy or straightforward topic to deliver but she achieved a level of clarity that was refreshing. Copyright is definitely an area that many teachers shy away from due to its complicated requirements. However it is both a topic important for us to consider and vital to pass on an awareness of it to our students.

The most important resource is the Smartcopying website with a plethora of information about how the regulations apply to different types of media. There’s not much more I can say on the topic other than to urge you to take a look and be informed – ignorance is no excuse!

Are we there yet? – Lynn Davie & Christian Enkelmann

Another thought provoking session showcasing some of the work that schools are doing around the state to use technology to enhance student learning and provide a range of options for students and teachers. The work of Ringwood North Primary School in using technology to help students connect and contribute to their community and Silverton Primary School integrating technology across their school were both great examples.

The presentation finished with a list of challenges to using technology which would have actually made a good starting point for a ‘think tank’ type segment (had time allowed!). Challenges such as defining what we mean by digital literacy, balancing the need for a standard operating environment with room for individual school innovation and how curriculum and assessment fits in with opportunities for innovation all added extra ‘food for thought’ and are deserving of a discussion in their own right. Save that one for another day!

Education first: Using technology to accelerate learning – Nathan Bailey

This keynote stressed the overriding theme of not just the conference but of any time when ‘technology’ and ‘education’ are used in the same sentence – pedagogy first. Nathan spoke of the changing nature of society from a factory model back to a ‘global village’ and how this is being explored through social classrooms at Monash University. He presented interesting research including a great finding that students prefer lecture style presentations when delivered with PowerPoint, despite further findings that these were actually less effective in terms of student learning! Nathan noted that content was ‘no longer king’ and that community had usurped it’s place and that, if teachers were still focused on content, they needed to prepare to compete with the internet….and lose.

Multimedia making learning real – Lois Smethurst

My final session was a hands on exploration, ably guided by Lois Smethurst of Berwick Lodge Primary. An inspiring session full of practical ideas and different ways to use a range of tools – voki, voicethread, blabberize and tux paint to name a few. They’re all tools that I’ve come across before but Lois gave lots of examples for their use that I just hadn’t thought of and I’m now eager to get back into the classroom to try them out. If you need some inspiration, check out her blog.

Sorry for the long post, particularly after such an absence. Obviously an inspiring day and I’m looking forward to seeing what Day 2 has to offer!