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!