Post 2: Expanding Learning Horizons Conference 2011

Each year, the Expanding Learning Horizons Conference has many highlights. Previously, the main focus of the conference has been the technology, the software, the web 2.0 tools, etc… However, this year, we saw a real focus on the Learning and Teaching approaches and how technology can enhance these approaches.

Keynote Presentation:
Emerging technologies that will change our thinking
Lawrence Crumpton
Lawrence outlined a number of exciting emerging technologies, some that are closer than we think. I am a huge fan of the Kinect technologies and the possibilities it presents our students to create their own games and gesture based computing options for existing software. We are fortunate enough to have access to this technology right now in our School and I am keen to continue exploring this concept.

Keynote Presentation:
Inquiry based learning and other contemporary pedagogies in a technology rich world
Diana Laufenberg and Mike Valentine
“We teach kids, not subjects.”
I agreed whole heartedly with Diana’s statement and the motto of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. I also felt a sense of relief as, for some time, I felt that it wasn’t quite right that many teachers referred to themselves as a “Maths teacher”, “English teacher”, “Science teacher”, etc… First and foremost, we are educators. As such, we need to understand that an approach that is used with primary aged students can be just as valid in a secondary setting and an approach used in the Humanities curriculum can be just as valid in the Maths curriculum, etc…
“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Just days before ELH, Nathan Burgess shared a link with us to the 21st Century Fluency Project and the above statement brought me back to this project, especially the concept of the “Fluencies” as illustrated below.

Critical Conversation:
Why is change so hard?
Jenny Little
Jenny spoke about the six years she spent teaching in Germany and about implementing change in schools. “We will change things one conversation at a time.” She shared with us some excellent print resources that were instrumental in these conversations taking place. My previous ELH postshows all of the books that we are purchasing as a result of the ELH conference.Keynote Presentation:
Building capacity and supporting innovative practice
Karen Ward, Travis Smith and Andrew Taylor
The concept of Peer Coaching was mentioned a number of times throughout the conference and this keynote presentation gave us more information about the approach and how it had been used successfully in different school environments. We sometimes see teachers who stay inside the “four walls of their classroom”. I feel that we need to encourage teachers to look outside these four walls – to their colleagues, to those in other schools and to other educators around the world. You can click hereto learn more about the Microsoft Peer Coaching Program.Breakout Session:
Empowered by Immersion
Lou Deibe and Rowena Beale
Lou and Rowena are from Northern Beaches Christian School and outlined “The Matrix”, a Project Based Learning approach in a creative and engaging way. The school offers a variety of Professional Learning Programs as well as school tours as part of SCIL (Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning). I was excited to hear that Ian Riethoff was making arrangements to attend a full day workshop about The Matrix approach!

Keynote Presentation:
New media, New Kids – New Literacies, Now Citizens
Jason Ohler
Jason Ohler’s keynote presentation and then follow-up breakout session was a real highlight of the conference for many of us. He was one of the most engaging speakers I have ever seen! He spoke of his experience using Digital Storytelling with students and about the importance of technology in their lives. I especially liked the term, “screasels” that he used to describe the screen on a digital device. The term comes from the combination of the word “screen” and “easel”. We need to remember how important that screen is to the students of today – it is their easel 🙂

Breakout Session:
Problem Based Learning
Julie-Anne Angell
Another great session that outlined one school’s use of the Problem Based Learning approach was, “Peanut Butter and Lettuce – who said it doesn’t mix?” Julie-Anne outlined how this approach is used at various year levels, including Year 12. Students are developing 21st Century skills and working together to solve real world issues. For me, this session highlighted how the new “3 R’s” were evident in this approach – “rich, real and relevant”.
You can click here to view the fabulous resources for this session on Julie-Anne’s blog.

The Expanding Learning Horizons Conference was, again, filled with so many highlights.  I have been incredibly fortunate to have attended this conference for the past five years as our school sees it as valuable and relevant to our context.  I have never walked away from ELH feeling disappointed.  This year, to be able to share the conference once again with a number of my colleagues, added greatly to the experience.  Many thanks to the Expanding Learning Horizons Team for another wonderful conference!

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. 🙂