Jokaydia Unconference May 2010

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I was fortunate enough to attend part of the jokaydia Unconference last weekend.  It was a little tricky as, like so many others, I had to carefully plan the weekend around a number of family commitments.  I could have quite easily attended EVERY session at the unconference as there were a variety of informative, innovative and exciting sessions on offer.  If you are unfamiliar with the term “unconference”, click here for a definition.

For my first session, I went on a ReactionGrid tour and was excited to return to the ImmersED sim created by Kerry Johnson (Pandora Kurrajong).  I had visited the sim on my own and seen Kerry talk about it briefly at ACEC2010.  However, visiting the sim surrounded by other eductaors and having the opportunity to discuss aspects of the sim was a valuable experience for me.

I had been looking forward to attending the Robotics session with the ReactionGrid team and, despite some early technical difficulties, Kyle Gomboy and Chris Hart took us through the exciting possibilities when you combine OpenSim with Robotics and, in particular, free software such as the Microsoft Robotics Studio.  I came into the session under the impression that this was going to be something similar to Scratch 4 OpenSim.  However, I was very wrong!  Microsoft Robotics Studio will even allow you to connect a web cam so that movement of a real life person can be then translated to an in-world avatar! Wow!  There are a number of excellent resources about this topic on the jokaydia Unconference Session Wiki page.  Scroll down to Session 2: ReactionGrid Robotics Studio.

I attended my first jokaydia Unconference in 2009 and decided that perhaps it was time to really push myself “outside my comfort zone” and share the journey so far of our school’s virtual worlds program.  A twitter colleague suggested that I run a session and, although I had given many face-to-face presentations and workshops at my school, I knew that presenting in-world was going to be a “completely different ball game”!  However, I was hoping that sharing our story might inspire other educators who would like to implement a virtual worlds program at their school, but were presented with the challenges that so many of us are faced with when trying to implement change.

I decided to focus on the theme of “Implementing a Virtual Worlds Program in a Traditional School Environment”.  I was hoping the session would be more than just me talking about our school’s project so I tried to keep my slideshow “short and sweet” to leave plenty of time for questions and discussion.  I also prepared some items for a display. Jokay had very kindly scheduled the session in the beautiful Jokaydia Meeting Hall so there was plenty of room for a “Key Words” display and looping slideshow screen featuring screenshots of our OpenSim Project.

Overall, it was a very positive experience and I felt so privileged to be able to share our story with educators from around the world, including many who have been mentors and an inspiration to me.  I’m also very grateful to Jokay, for organising this wonderful virtual worlds event and John Wilson at Onlinevents for recording a number of the unconference sessions.  Being able to watch a recording of my first in-world presentation and critically evaluate it, was a valuable experience for me.  (Note to self: No more “ums” and “you knows”!)  A full list of presentation resources can be found at http://delicious.com/lucybarrow/bgsvirtualworlds

Thank you to Jokay and everyone involved in another highly successful jokaydia Unconference!

Part of the Global Movement at ACEC 2010

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Two years ago, I was extremely fortunate to travel to Canberra for the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2008.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the entire conference this year in Melbourne but, none-the-less, was excited to attended the final day of ACEC 2010.

It was like the final day was tailor made for me, with wonderful sessions to assist and inspire me.  And, after such a frantic and sometimes frustrating first term, I felt I needed some inspiring! 🙂

I had heard so much about Gary Stager and was keen to see his keynote presentation, You Say You Want a Revolution?
I know that Gary is sometimes controversial and his “straight talking” approach doesn’t appeal to everyone.  However, I was in the right frame of mind for some straight talking and “tough love”, as he put it.  Although Gary was direct in his presentation, I felt it was beautifully balanced with lots of humour.  It was a reminder that, although there are some worrying things occurring in my school and in education in general, I must not give up.  Not wanting to settle for an average 1:1 program but striving to help teachers create an excellent 1:1 program is paramount.

My next session, Virtual Worlds – their roles in learning, teaching and professional development, was with Lindy McKeown who “planted the virtual worlds seed” after her incredible keynote at the VITTA Conference in 2006.  I was truly amazed at what she showed us years ago in Second Life and I continue to be amazed today.  My school is currently in the process of setting up our private grid, Begonia Island, so seeing how Lindy conducted her session entirely from her “Terra Incognita Island” was fascinating.  Lindy was not physically present at the conference but “in-world” with Dr Bron Stuckey directing proceedings in the actual conference room.  We examined the roles of virtual worlds, their potential and explored active or passive forms of learning.  Getting the balance right when it comes to active and passive forms of learning in virtual worlds is important as we prepare to introduce our private grid to our students and staff.

In Virtual Worlds for Education – don’t just imagine the possibilities, experience them, I was excited to meet Kerry Johnson who I had previously met via Twitter.  Kerry has been a real inspiration to me as I have followed her OpenSim journey.  She is as friendly, caring and delightful in person as she is on Twitter!  Six months ago, I knew very little about OpenSim and the work of ReactionGrid, let alone how to actually setup a grid for our school.  Now I am coordinating the development of our private grid and loving the steep learning curve!  I owe a great deal of this progress to incredible educators like Kerry.  I was amazed to hear that Kerry also had very little experience when she started her work to establish the ImmersED grid and I came away with lots of tips and a greater confidence in my abilities.  Thank you Kerry!

My final session for the day was Professional Development and the Web with Steve Collis.  I have followed Steve’s work for years now and find him to be one of the most inspiring, innovative and giving educators I know.  Without fail, he will prepare wonderful resources for every presentation that he conducts, making it possible for people to participate from anywhere in the world.  Steve always speaks with such passion and I found myself with tears in my eyes as he invited Henrietta Miller to speak about how Twitter has inspired her in her role as a primary teacher.  It confirmed for me the need to continue developing my Personal Learning Network and the importance of introducing wonderful online tools such as Twitter to my colleagues.  Something that Steve said will stay with me…

I don’t think of myself as part of a school, but part of a global movement.

I need to stop thinking of myself as the Staff ICT Trainer at an Independent School.  Perhaps that is why I lose faith and feel frustrated when progress is slow or does not occur.  I am part of a global movement in education and that is a wonderful thing!

Of course, there is so much more to a conference than keynotes, presentations and workshops.  Having the opportunity to meet members of my Personal Learning Network is always exciting.  These are people who assist, encourage, share and make me laugh.  I’m not sure if they realise just how far reaching and valuable something as simple as a tweet can be, but it is something that I truly appreciate.

To the conference organisers, presenters and participants – thank you! 🙂

ELH: Life Lessons in ICT

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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.
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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. 🙂