Will I strike gold today? Education Expo 2008

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My Director of ICT often talks about attending Professional Development and Conferences and finding the “gold nugget” – that one special thing that you can take away with you. The Education Expo is held each year in Sydney and is a free community event showcasing all-things education and with a focus on eLearning. I had never attended the Education Expo before so was very keen to see what it was all about.
There is something quite appealing about a short visit to a busy city like Sydney. Maybe because my new home is so different! Could this expo really be as big as they say? And will I find a “gold nugget” today? Yes and yes!
The first thing that caught my attention was the huge Mathletics display. It was certainly a very clever setup. A number of computers for children to compete against each other using the program with LCD screens displaying the participants’ results. As I walked back-and-forth throughout the morning, the Mathletics area was constantly buzzing with activity. There is certainly no doubt that students love this concept.
The makers of Mathletics have now introduced Spellodrome, the same type of concept for Spelling. It looked promising but I had not struck gold – yet.
I met the friendly crew at the Australian Defence Forces stand who were very keen to hear about our Aviation Program. Roger Barrow has run ‘Ad Astra Aviation’ as part of our withdrawal enrichment program for gifted and talented students in Years 7, 8 and 9. Upon hearing this, the officer was only too happy to give me a generous handful of materials including free flight simulator DVDs. There are many fabulous resources available from the Australian Defence Force Academy and officers will also visit schools to give career talks.
I was very impressed with a financial literacy program called Kids Money. I spoke to Greg Smith, the program’s creator, financial advisor and writer for Woman’s Day. I believe that teaching our children financial literacy from a young age is something that we overlook as parents and something that is sadly lacking in our curriculum. Yes, we cover ‘Money’ in our Maths curriculum, but do we teach our students financial literacy? The only program that I know of is ‘Earn & Learn’. I wonder if there are other Primary School teachers including finacial literacy in their curriculum?
The program makes use of a variety of resources such as:
> A cleverly designed money box that will make you immediately realise that the days of one cute piggybank are gone!
> CD with spread sheet software designed to help children keep track of their money
> Picture story books with appealing characters and stories to illustrate and teach different aspects of financial literacy
> Colouring book
> Web site with supporting activities
I purchased the items for my own daughter and am keen to see her response. I can also see great possibilities to include this type of program in our primary curriculum. But how can we introduce it? I have one enthusiastic staff member who has used ‘Earn & Learn’ and the ‘Cash Flow for Kids’ game with his students at previous schools. Perhaps this program could be introduced as part of a Special Curriculum Project at our school? A Special Curriculum Project allows a teacher to submit a curriculum idea that is supported through funding for equipment, resources, professional development and time. The teacher presents his/her progress throughout the year to the school’s Curriculum Committee. I am hoping that a Special Curriculum Project could be the “kick start” that is needed to introduce something like Kids Money to our students.
So, was Kids Money the “gold nugget”? Yes, the first one, that is. Soon after I found my second…
Having recently purchased an Eee PC that runs on the Linux Operating System, I was excited to see a Linux stand at the Education Expo. The Linux folk are definitely not your usual Computer Geeks (and I use that term as a compliment). I love the Linux philosophy, maybe because it is basically one of “sharing”. They are so passionate about software development and about encouraging students to explore the possibilities outside Windows. As an ICT educator, I believe that it is part of my role to make students aware of and, if possible, give them experience with Windows, Mac and Linux Operating Systems. That was one aspect of being a primary ICT specialist that I really enjoyed – giving students a taste of different aspects of ICT.
At the Linux stand I met the lovely Melissa, who introduced me to the One Laptop Per Child computer. A nice, compact computer running on Linux, although I’m not sure about the rubber keyboard. That might take some getting used to! Apparently it retails for around $300 – a great buy.
However, what really impressed me was the Optimate PC by Optima. Apparently it retails for around $400 and, in my opinion, will definitely give the Eee PC a run for its money! It runs on Windows XP and not only appears to be very robust, but weighs less than 1.5kg. If I hadn’t have just purchased an Eee PC, I would definitely be looking more closely into the Opimate PC.
Finally, I was also able to pick up a CD featuring open source educational software that runs on both Linux and Windows. I will be exploring this further to see what can be added to our school network image in the future.
So yes, I did find a “gold nugget” – a couple of them in fact! Not only was I treated to a bit of “time out” in Sydney but also to a great Education Expo!

I have just come across information about The Education Show to be held at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th August. This is another exciting free event that not only features an expo but free seminars for educators as well.