Expanding Learning Horizons Conference 2012

Expanding Learning Horizons Conference 2012

We were again very fortunate to have a group of very enthusiastic staff attend the Expanding Learning Horizons Conference in Lorne, Victoria.

At the 2011 conference, there was a noticeable shift to a teaching and learning focus which continued this year.

On our school’s SharePoint Portal, we have a “Professional Learning Journal”.  When staff attend any off-campus professional learning or conferences, they create a blog post to share their experiences with their colleagues.  The following post was submitted as part of the Professional Learning Journal and it really caught my eye.

Crystal is an educator who is currently teaching in the Music and Humanities areas.  She is passionate about using technology with her students and I’m thrilled that she has agreed for us to also publish her post on this blog.  I’m sure you will agree that, as a first time blogger, Crystal has done a fabulous job not only telling us about the conference, but capturing her passion and enthusiasm.  Thank you Crystal!

 ELH2012 by Crystal B:

The theme of ELH 2012 was looking at “the emerging role of the contemporary teacher.”  The critical conversations, keynote presentations and interactive workshops were amazing and I feel extremely privileged to have been able to attend and to have been exposed to such great teaching and learning minds of the 21st Century. 

I would like to thank Stephen, Nathan and Lucy for their generosity in sending me to this conference and for their ongoing support and vision in developing our teaching and learning practices.

Below is perhaps a slight ‘rant’ on what I got out of the conference. This is just the start of the conversation that I feel we need to be having as contemporary teachers at Ballarat Grammar.

We cannot discuss teaching and learning in the 21st Century without looking at how our modern learners communicate with us, their peers and the wider community. They live in a digital world and it would be naïve of us as educators to think that we can teach in the 21st Century without embracing technology and using it, where appropriate, to enhance our communication and curriculum.

10 to 15 years ago the big question was how to get this technology to work? How do we set up a reliable network? How do we get students access to digital devices? Access to reliable technology is now a given! At Ballarat Grammar we have one of the most advanced network systems of any school in Australia, we have a 1 to 1 program from Years 7 – 11 (soon to be 7 – 12), at any time during the day students can access Email, Internet, Skype, Twitter etc. With the click of a button students have access to unlimited information and sources.  Access and reliability are no longer an issue!

5 years ago the big question for educators was what do I do with this technology? The students have access to it, but I don’t even know how to use it? Teacher competency with technology should now be a given! We have access to an amazing ICT training system, most of our communications now occur digitally, we have 1 to 1 access to staff tablets. We are living in a digital age and it is our responsibility to keep current!

Today the big question is how do we help our learners use this technology to enhance their understanding? We have unlimited access to all of this technology, but what do we do with it? The 21st Century learner  can be sitting in our classroom studying the effects of the Global Financial Crises, while Skyping a student in the failing US public education system and asking them what life has been like for them since the collapse of Wall Street.

Our role as the teacher is no longer to be the sole provider of information. Students can now gain information and opinions from a variety of sources all over the world. So how does this change our role? Surely we should be supporting students to discover truths for themselves and guiding them on how to use this access to endless information in a positive and discerning way. We should not be discussing the digital footprints we create with a focus on the negative, but rather encouraging students to create their digital footprints in a positive way.

The modern learner is social, creative, self-directed and inquiry-based. Students want to discover information for themselves. Shouldn’t it be our role as educators to guide them safely through this process and help them develop the skills required for life-long learning?

So how do we implement this? Blended Curriculum!!  This teaches students independence, resilience and allows students to learn at their own stage. One School that has successfully adopted this method into their middle years program is Saint Stephen’s College in Queensland.  They have set up tutorial based learning to encourage and support the modern self-directed, inquiry-based learner. I would like to investigate this further and perhaps look at Saint Stephen’s as a model. Watch this space…

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