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!

The Xbox Kinect: Exploring the possibilities

kinect_in_education_small

I have a new role at my school this year as Head of eLearning & Library Resources.  Part of our vision for the Library is for it to become the “digital hub” of the school.  It is a place where staff can participate in ICT Professional Learning and experiment with technology.

I was fortunate enough to attend the 2010 VITTA Conference.  One of the many highlights for me was the Microsoft Kinect Lounge where I had the opportunity to try the Kinect system for myself.  I was taken by the amazing graphics, engaging games and the ease of which I could control the activities through simple gestures.  I was keen to trial the use of the Kinect system at school to see where it could take us.

The 2010 Horizon Report for Australia and New Zealand predicts that we will see a widespread adoption of Augmented Reality within the next two to three years and, within the next four to five years, the widespread use of gesture-based computing.  Yes, some people are sceptical about the relevance of this type of technology in education but with sites such as KinectEDucation emerging and Stephen Howell‘s work with Kinect and Scratch, there is no denying that there are exciting possibilities!

On Friday, we hosted two groups of staff in our Library where they had the opportunity to use Kinect Adventures. The first session was only 20 minutes long due to a school event and was made up of teachers currently participating in our ICT Professional Learning Teams Program.  The second session was an afternoon tea for members of our ICT Department.

Although our first session was brief, it was long enough for the teachers to try Kinect Adventures.  They worked in pairs to complete “River Rush” where they quickly learnt that communication and cooperation were necessary in order to successfully navigate the challenging white water rafting course.  What I loved about this session was the way the teachers jumped straight into the activities with so much enthusiasm.  (Friday Period 5 can be a challenging time for students and staff!)  They immediately recognised the educational value in the Kinect system and asked, “Where is this heading?  How can I use this with my students now?”  This then lead to a discussion about the use of the Kinect camera with a PC where students could create their own games.  (If you haven’t seen Stephen Howell’s amazing Kinect games created with Scratch, then you must!)

Scratch and Kinect from Stephen Howell on Vimeo.

scratch_and_kinect_stephen_howell

Our second session was a “Kinect Afternoon Tea” and designed to offer our ICT Department staff some “time out”.  We are very fortunate to have fabulous technical and “behind the scenes” staff.  What struck me about this session was the team spirit and healthy competition that quickly emerged.  They were encouraging each other and keen to see who was going to get the top score.  This was a use for the Kinect system that I had overlooked – staff team building.  Up to that point, I had focussed only uses only for students.  We decided that we would have to buy a trophy and acknowledge the “Kinect Champion”!

This week, during our ICT Professional Learning Teams Program, we will be discussing Augmented Reality in more detail and other teachers will have the opportunity to try the Xbox Kinect system for themselves.  I’m looking forward to the week ahead! 🙂