ELH: Life Lessons in ICT

lorne_sunset_elh

I was fortunate enough to attend the Exapanding Learning Horizons Conference which is held each year in Lorne.
2009 was the third ELH conference I had attended and, this year, I had the pleasure of sharing it with five of my colleagues. This definitely added to the experience! 🙂

The highlights for me were many and varied.  During a number of sessions throughout the conference, you could have been forgiven for thinking that we were attending a personal development conference and not an ICT one.  For me, this was why this year’s ELH conference made an even bigger impact on me than previous years.  I really felt that things were “coming together”, so to speak.  Valuable lessons in life were merging with ICT and educational issues – I loved it!

It was during two of the Critical Conversations sessions that I felt real connections were made between life and ICT in education.  The discussions during both of these sessions headed down the ICT Professional Development path.  In one session, I heard Margaret Meijers talk about the importance of the right attitude and, in another, I met Roy Williams, who told me of his great passion for Physics.  The idea of the importance of picking up on people’s passion and linking this with ICT was then raised during the Critical Conversation by Peter Steer.
attitude_determines_altitude
I was first introduced to the idea of Attitude determines Altitude by Roger Barrow, whilst he studied for his Private Pilot’s Licence.  Although the “attitude” it refers to is the attitude of an aircraft, of course it also suggests that with the right mental attitude and self-belief, we can achieve great things!

Teachers with the right attitude, even those who lack ICT skills, means that we are half-way there.
Teachers who do not have the right attitude towards the use of ICT in education means that we have an even greater challenge on our hands!
I would rather train a room full of “believers” who lack the skills than try to convince the “non-believers”!

Keynote speakers Andrew Douch and Travis Smith were both inspiring. Andrew showed us how ICT is “Redefining the Classroom” and how his use of Web 2.0 tools has improved the academic results of his students.  However, it is not just his use of Web 2.0 tools – it is also his passion for learning.  His students love Biology!  Travis’ enthusiasm and sense of humor was also a highlight for me.  His keynote presentation about “Scaling Innovation in Teacher Practice” touched on a number of important issues that generated valuable discussions with my colleagues.  He also included just the right amount of free software to keep us “Web 2.0-holics” happy! 🙂

I was fortunate to spend an entire afternoon with Steve Collis as he outlined his school’s “Real Audience Project“.  He illustrated the many innovative ways his school uses ICT to publish a variety of student work from traditional printed books via lulu.com to podcasts aired via their own school internet radio station using SHOUTcast.

Steve’s colleague, Mark Liddell, gave an incredible presentation titled, “Technology Ideas for Mathematics“.  Maths is definitely not my strength so I was intrigued to see how Mark approached his use of ICT with his students.  Again, it was this presenter’s passion that shone through.  If only I had a Maths teacher like Mark when I was at school!

Learn how to learn with passion and curiosity

Learn how to learn with passion and curiosity

There were many other highlights throughout the conference and I would need to several blog posts to do this conference justice.  However, for me, all of the highlights involved people who have an enormous amount of passion for what they do.  At the 2008 ICTEV Conference, I heard Margaret Meijers say, “Learn how to learn with passion and curiosity”.  At the moment, I am reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book, The Element, in which he speaks about “how finding your passion changes everything”. It was clear to me from the keynote speakers, presenters and the many people I met and spoke to at ELH that they had all found their passion. 🙂

“…Kids have souls too that need nurturing, no matter how resistant or damaged they may be”

Quote by Karl Menninger

When Jim Stynes was asked about his school days in the June 2008 issue of iteach, the newsletter of the Victorian Institute of Teaching in Australia, he was asked the following question:
“What contributions do teachers make to society?” Stynes replied,
“Many help shape the minds and souls of our greatest students and prepare them for the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, some still don’t recognise that kids have souls too that need nurturing, no matter how resistant or damaged they may be.”

Reading this made me think of an article I had read earlier by The Revd Dr Timothy Gaden (Dean of the Theological School & College Chaplain, Trinity College, University of Melbourne) after he gave a presentation at my school. I was unable to see his presentation but was told that it was a “hot topic that had generated a great deal of spirited discussion”. Tim spoke about “the education of the whole person” and how, as teachers, we need to be mindful of the powerful role we play in nurturing our students. As it is something that I am quite passionate about, I eagerly read Tim’s article passed onto me by our School Chaplain. I am very grateful to Tim for allowing me to share his article and write about it in this blog.

Tim began his article by describing the teachers that left a lasting impression on him.

“I hardly remember anything that they taught me, but I remember them. And you will have your own memories of teachers who taught you. It is unlikely that you, any more than I, remember them because of what they taught. I bet that you remember them for how they taught, for who they were as people.”

He then quoted American Psychologist, Karl Menninger, “What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” (How I love this quote!)

I had not even reached the end of the first page, yet what I was reading was having a huge impact. I was thinking to myself, “Yes, I bet it was a spirited discussion!”

He spoke of teachers going to class, himself included, with a “big, fat syringe” of content that needs to be taught in order to cover the curriculum so that students can achieve good exam results.

If you are unable to read his 4.25 pages of brilliance, I would encourage you to think about where you fit in. Are you a teacher who is a mentor, who nurtures the learner? Or are you under pressure to focus on the content? Maybe you are a balance between the two? At this year’s ICTEV Conference, Tasmanian Educator, Margaret Meijers, said in her keynote address, “Teachers are still clinging on trying to be the experts.”

So what does all of this have to do with ICT in Education? To me, ICT provides the perfect opportunity to empty that “big, fat syringe” of content in exciting and engaging ways for our students. However, there are some instances where the right tools will also provide us with the opportunity to “educate the whole person” and connect on a level that can often not be achieved via traditional means.

I have seen a perfect example of this with Andrew Douch, a Biology teacher who has an amazing rapport with his students with an incredible ability to connect with them. Of course, in Andrew’s case, being a warm and friendly person certainly helps! However, his use of emerging technologies has helped him to connect with his students in a very special way. You only need to look at Andrew’s facebook page and read the endless posts from past and present students to see that he is admired by many.

I think at times we completely underestimate the impact we have on our students. Our influence may not become apparent for many, many years to come. And what an incredible vocation it is, to have the opportunity to shape people’s lives.

Quote by Bertrand Russell

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Do you believe in signs?

Signs

Despite the fact that I am passionate about ICT and especially Web 2.0, I never felt the need to have my own blog.
“Do you have a blog?” people would ask and I would reply, “Naaah” as if to say, “Why would I need one of those?”
I believe in signs and it was a number of very clear ones that finally encouraged me to the take the plunge!
I have been inspired by wonderful educators like John Pearce, Andrew Douch and more recently, Marcia Phillips’ work as part of the Schools Library Association of Victoria.
John, Andrew and Marcia work in completely different fields of education – John as a primary teacher, Andrew as a Biology teacher and Marcia as a teacher-librarian.
To me, education is the most wonderful field to work in! An industry in which we constantly learn, share, support and laugh with one another.
So now I’m not going to ignore the signs any longer. Maybe I do have something to share after all!