137 days have passed… #hardiefellowship

days passed 137

It’s been a while since I found time to sit, reflect and put my thoughts down in this space. Sometimes finding the time to do all three is challenging, especially when life gets busy. Today I noticed that I have been away from Tasmania for 137 days, I am over one third of the way through the Hardie Fellowship. Things have been busy and I have been learning lots. The learning has occurred in many spaces, online and face-to-face.

Today I find myself in Lansing Michigan at the Meaningful Play Conference. It’s focus is on gaming, I will talk more about that at a later date – once it has finished and I have had a chance to reflect.

Lately I have been learning about the methodology of qualitative research. I have really enjoyed this, as it is a type of research that digs deep into the phenomena with regard to the question being investigated. This leads me to the importance of listening to people’s stories and gaining meaning from them. Recently I have been chatting to a range of people about student loans and what they look like here in America. I have been doing this for the TER Podcast and it will form part of a podcast towards the end of this year. As a result of doing this one thing has sparked my attention. The concept of education providing opportunity, yet sometimes accessing education is the barrier. Often we cite money being the barrier for people engaging in further education, yet is it? Is money really the barrier. Do fees associated with courses present the barrier we perceive?

If fees alone presented a barrier for people accessing further educational opportunities providing a loan system, whether it be like that in America or the various fee help currently available in Australia, should eliminate this. Well does it? This is something that these conversations have explored indirectly. Accessing education in a space that is alien from the social structure that you have grown up in presents identifiable barriers and hurdles that need addressing. These are often unspoken and present significant issues that can stop one from pursuing further education. Maybe the use of the word ‘unspoken’ is unwise of me, as sometimes by merely speaking a barrier is created.

Educational spaces are social spaces and they have social norms, expectations and values inherently attached to them. If you are not aware of these then accessing the social space and the affordances that it brings can be difficult, and in some cases too hard. The barrier cannot be penetrated.

Providing a means of reducing the barrier and enabling it to become a minor hurdle where one you can jump over it requires much thought and effort, not just from the person wishing to access the educational opportunity but also from those providing it, to enable equity regarding access. One of the programs that hopes to provide this is the Kids on Campus Program offered at Ohio University. The concept of this program has now been picked up and is being explored by Katrina McNab, who is a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania. It is nice to know that I have had the opportunity to link Katrina up with this idea and that she has the enthusiasm and desire to explore it further from a Tasmanian perspective. It really makes me see the value of spending 137 days in the USA so far. Not to mention the value of being connected on Twitter (it is connected educators month) as it was through twitter that I learnt about the Kids on Campus Program and connected with Katrina. Katrina saw one of my tweets and that led to an exchange of DMs due to her interest being sparked and being in a position where she could explore the potential of this idea.

I personally have a strong connection to reducing the barriers and making them into mere hurdles that present an achievable challenge for others who desire to further their education. I value the support that those around me provided when I was younger, which enabled me to achieve my goals with regard to furthering my education beyond high school. I also value the support that those around me now have provided, which has enabled me to have this opportunity to access learning here in the USA. It is only through the support of others, combined with a strong desire to achieve the gaol that it can be done when there are hurdles that exist.

How can you help remove barriers to learning and provide support to others so they can jump the hurdles that are presented to them?

I noticed the other day that the invite for the announcement regarding the next round of Hardie Fellowships arrived at my Tasmanian address. I wish to pass on a my congratulations. It is a great honour, experience and opportunity to be awarded a Hardie Fellowship.

Time to play! Time to play with apps.

Over the course of this semester, in one of the units I am enrolled in, we are to explore a range of applications for education. The use of this term intrigues me, to say the least. What is an application? I ask this question because I am concerned that my understanding may be limited and somewhat determined by the devices I use. Are apps only found on iPads and iPhones or other mobile devices? Is a game an application? Is it a word doc? Or is it a bundle of information stored in one place? Is Facebook an app? With a quick google search it becomes evident that the word application is broad reaching.


Software that processes data for the user. Except for “system software,” which provides the infrastructure in the computer (operating system, utilities and related components), all software programs are application programs.


In the entertainment world, it refers to games (see gaming). In the business world, it refers to the data entry, update, query and report programs that make up the company’s bread and butter information systems (order entry, billing, inventory, human resources, payroll, manufacturing, etc.).


The term may also refer to a generic application, often called a “productivity program,” such as a Web browser, spreadsheet, word processor, database or e-mail program. For a list of major application software categories, see application software. See productivity software, application, program and software. Contrast with system program. (http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/37919/application-program accessed 9/3/14)


The reason why I was interested in this was due to my need to crowdsource a list of apps to investigate and explore. I didn’t want to stay confined to what I was aware of and the filtering that I undertake when things come my way. So I flicked a request out on Twitter, Voxer, Skype, Yammer, and now here which connects to Linkedin and Tumblr, just to see what I would get. What other people understand an application to be would determine what would be shared with me and I do need to be aware of what frames their understanding.


I asked people for apps they were using and liked, along with apps that appealed to them but they had not had time to explore. In doing so, I received some clarifying questions that encompassed the concept of purpose. Purpose, for me, didn’t really rate highly within sourcing  a list of apps, due to the fact that I would determine possible purposes when I play with them. Not to mention that one person’s perception of purpose is also shaped by their experience and thinking.

In doing this it became clear to me that I would be able to delve into playing with MinecraftEDU, as this is a game, and games are apps. I have not explored this version of Minecraft, rather I have just read about it and listened to others, so to have the opportunity to understand it better is a valuable opportunity. There are also apps that I have dabbled with that I would like to explore further, that I have not had time to do so or the need, that have a potential classroom use – so this is a great excuse to play.

With regard to using apps in the classroom, over the last couple of years I have taught in a very personalised learning focused classroom, where each student determined what they wanted to learn and how they would go about it. This has meant that I have seen students use a large number of apps to learn, but not necessarily purposefully learnt the apps myself. At times we have either learnt together, or they have determined what to use and employed it into their learning. So the notion of all my class using the one app for the one purpose has been a little foreign to me recently (even with creating documents a range of apps were used). This has included apps required for presentation of work and documenting work – students have chosen what they are comfortable with and have self taught and taught others to use them. A great example of this was that of Prezi. Our students had to create an hour long presentation of their learning and so a number of them wanted to use a slideshow of some description. One student became proficient in the use of it through teaching himself, the others learnt from him. I however, have never used prezi to create a presentation of my own. I have guided the students in providing feedback, I have occasionally had a play with adding a photo when they have wanted me too, but for the most I have been their support and a bit of a ‘meddler’ in their learning (in the sense that I get to question and dabble but it is not my own, with the intent to spark further inquiry), providing guidance along the way.

This weeks play has focussed on Little Alchemy. Go on, go play it. It is fun. Also if you have some apps that I could potentially explore leave a reply with details :) 

Culture shock – sometimes you just don’t expect it!

Coffee had nothing to do with my culture shock!

Coffee had nothing to do with my culture shock!


It has taken me a while to write this post, as it has been filled with lots of emotion on a really deep level. It has caused me to be brutally aware of what I value in education. I wasn’t expecting to feel so confronted or to react in such a way. I feel glad that I have had such a strong response to these things, but at the same time am concerned.  Do I miss these things in my own culture, due to being immersed in it and it being ‘normal’.

The other week the speaker at Rotary talked about an Amesville Elementary School that had suffered funding cut backs and the result was no provision for a Librarian which led to the school Library finally closing a year ago. Immediately my heart sank at understanding their predicament. My firm belief is that Libraries are extremely important to learning and supporting learning. They provide incredible resources, not just in the books or technology that can be found in them but in the human resource. Librarians are incredible people, their knowledge and ability sift through things and provide solutions astounds me. In my own teaching career I have relied heavily on the Librarian, they have been a sounding board, a thought provoker, a source of knowledge and so much more. My classes have benefitted from the impact that one person has had on my teaching practice. To know that a school does not have a Librarian (teacher/librarian), someone who is passionate about that space (regardless of the form that it takes, being aware that some schools are considering dispersing the Library around their school) and its involvement in learning, would strongly suggest a significant element is missing with regard to supporting learning. How would I operate as a teacher in that school? Who would support me in the way I am usually supported by that person? What flow on impacts would occur in my classroom?

This school is a privileged one in the sense that there is a wonderful retired Librarian and a committed group of caring people who have spent many hours of their own time trying to change this situation. The old books have been sorted through and removed (there were lots of them, most being published in the 50’s and 60’s) and a fundraising campaign is underway, with a target of raising $16000. These students and teachers will benefit from the kind generosity of this group of people, and more so from the depth of knowledge that the retired Librarian brings to the situation. She is currently ensuring that any books purchased are fit for purpose, fit for the inquiring student minds that exist in that school.

The other situation that occurred, which you would be aware of due to media coverage, is that of the shooting and consequent passing of Michael Brown. The moment that I felt utter despair was when I read about the school he attended. It can be found here, and is worth reading, http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/14/this-was-michael-browns-high-school/. Diane Ravitch is an educational historian here in the USA and her work is certainly worth reading. She has a position on Charter schools and other aspects of education reform, she is honest about her own journey with regard to such policies that have been implemented and their consequent impact. One piece she wrote in 2010 can be found here http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/summer2010/Ravitch.pdf. It too is worth taking the time to read, it is rather long so I suggest if you choose to read it that you have a quiet space and some time on your hands.

So for me the culture shock has not been the food or the little things that occur from day to day, but a significant realisation that equity and equality are important to me on a very deep level. So much so, that they have resulted in me feeling angry, despair, and sadness and led me to question my responses. What is it that’s evoking such emotion, do similar inequalities and inequities exist in Australia, do I not notice them? How do I ensure that in situations that I have the ability to bring about effective change, that these are at the forefront of  decision making…

I love Twitter and here is why

phone and twitter


Twitter, for me holds, a significant place in my learning. It is a place where I connect freely with other educators and have opportunity to learn from them and converse with them. It is a space that provides a great place for sharing and being. I love the fact that groups of educators meet together to discuss issues and dig deep to find answers, and in many cases more questions. I feel freed in the concept that it is not held back by system agenda/focus.


Today I found Twitter interesting. As I poached my egg and forgot about it, which meant it was no longer all gooey and runny on the inside, I was immersed in discussions between a number of educators, both openly and privately, it occurred to me that there are moments that it really gets me fired up. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me think and question more. There was a discussion that branched off one of the newly formed chats that did this for me. And it has led to the following things floating around in my head:

1. I love the fact that for the majority of time twitter is a place that organic and authentic conversation sprouts up – lets not lose this!

2. There are fabulous twitter chats out there that germinate out of these conversations in in this organic and authentic environment that become significant hashtags and weekly events.

3. I am thankful that there is a doc out there, created by @7Mrsjames, that is built around supporting twitter edu chats by highlighting when they occur.

4. I admire the chats that promote each others chats. There is a true sense of respect in this, especially when those facilitators/creators participate in other chats.

5. I appreciate chats that seek to engage those who wish to participate beyond the layer we see on the Twitter stream. They seek direction from their audience  with regard to the chat from week to week. This is different for each chat, in some cases it is with guest moderators, question development etc… This enables the chat to stay focused on its participants. The chat facilitators/creators listen to those participating and often hand over the control. They ‘let go’ and allow for the participants, those the chat was created for, to have ownership.

6. The chats I love the most are ones that are not built on overt promotion of a group, system or bandwagon, but that allow that organic and authentic conversation to flow.

7. I admire those that facilitate a chat in their own time. It takes significant time and commitment as these things don’t just happen. They are built on relationships, trust and respect.


For those thinking or embarking on the journey of leading a weekly Twitter chat there are some things to consider:

1. Is there already a chat out there doing what you want to do? Can you get involved in that and support it? Does there need to be another chat along the same lines?

2. What time will the chat run? What other chats are on? If there is, how do you respectfully ensure they are not impacted by your chat? Do you need to pick another time?

3. Is this all about CV building? Cause if it is, think again! That word authentic is important and those who might be interested in your chat, they will take the time to investigate. They will google you, watch your conversations on a range of platforms. Be aware that everything you say in an open environment is viewable, tone is picked up through the flow of a discussion. People are savvy to side conversations and backchannels. A weekly Twitter chat is about trust, relationships and learning in an edu environment using Twitter as a tool. Yes, it may be useful for your CV and any future job aspirations, but should this be the motivating reason to enter this space?

4. Is Twitter the best tool? Sometimes system led chats may find a tool like Yammer more appropriate.

5. Are you dedicated? It takes time to run a blog/website/FB page etc that hang off the chat. How will you manage this? Then there is the curation of the chats, more time required there too!

6. And finally, be honest. Making claims that are potentially misleading only lead to audience by out.


So take your time, think about it carefully. There are heaps of people out there who run successful weekly Twitter chats that have been going for a long time that will willingly help you out. That’s the thing about Twitter, people are helpful and happy to share.

Teachers are resistant to change! #play #validate #integrate #review

Do we all need to go in this direction at the same time?

Do we all need to go in this direction at the same time?

Teachers are resistant to change! Well, are teachers resistant to change? Let’s think about that statement for a while. What does it say? What does it mean? What message does it convey? Who says it? Is it right?

This is something that I have been thinking about for some time. I feel uncomfortable when I hear the statement. I feel even more uncomfortable when I hear those in positions of leadership make the comment that teachers are resistant to change. But why do I feel this way? What is it that strikes this emotion within  me? Do I feel a little disrespected? Is it a valid statement? Am I getting defensive unjustifiably?

I think as a broad overarching statement it is unfair and makes a negative assumption about a group of people who are constantly tweaking their practice to support the learning that is going on in their classrooms. I watch twitter chats that are filled with incredible educators who are involved in conversation that does not, in any manner, suggest they are resistant to change. Quite the opposite in fact. These people are constantly learning, challenging their mindsets and developing. I see this in staff rooms too, yet maybe it is not quite as visible. Sometimes you just need think time and the opportunity to eat your lunch. How this then plays out on the ground is an individual thing, a representation of them, who they are in the classroom, their values and beliefs.

I guess a question needs to be put back at those making the statement. Something like… what change is being resisted by the teacher/teachers and have they been mandated to undertake the change? I had a wonderful conversation with Seann Dikkers when I first arrived in Athens, Ohio, with regard to this statement. He immediately threw the question in there with regard to what are they resisting and is it mandated. Which makes me start to think is the statement fair and appropriate, as it is often used with regard to classroom practice, integration of technology and initiation of new curriculum (not it’s actual implementation) just to name a few areas of perceived resistance.

In further discussion with Seann the concept of acknowledging teachers as experts in their field was identified as vital. Teachers have studied, practiced and do understand their profession. Hence, as with any expert they need to validate any new practice, idea or perspective and or thinking. Validation is an incredibly important part of the process and cannot be underestimated. Sometimes I might appear to jump in and use tools as an earlier adopter, such as with Minecraft, however, this did not come about without considered thought, dabbling, trial/error and listening. I had used Quest Atlantis in class prior to Minecraft. I had good connections with people who were knowledgable about gaming and the underpinning learning associated with games regarding education. I spent time reading and writing Uni assignments to formulate my thoughts. In reality I needed time to validate the use of a tool such as Minecraft in the classroom setting. I needed time to play, tinker, think and explore. I needed to see how students reacted to it. I have undertaken a similar validation process with the integration of other tools, for example the use of photography in English. My summer holidays were spent toying with this idea, considering its value, would it provide better connection with learning and consequent learning outcomes improving, how would this work in the classroom setting. In a previous post you will note that my need to change my classroom practice was thwarted somewhat by policies imposed at school level. So sometimes change is not being resisted by the teacher, rather there are other things in play that might block the change.

If we are looking at the concept of change and managing that change, which I would argue is constant in the area of education, we need to provide opportunity for teachers to validate it. Validation is a process and it is slightly different for everyone. Experience and knowledge plays into this validation process. There is nothing wrong with not seeing something as valid at the time, it might be validated later. Healthy debate is vital, just accepting is passive. I think this is where the statement ‘Teachers are resistant to change’ bothers me most. We need time, the system we operate in needs to honour this by providing opportunities. Those in leadership need to support this validation process and understand it. In the busy interplay of the school day, juggling the competing demands of teaching and learning, this is often difficult and a discussion rarely had. It is easier to off handedly state teachers are resistant to change rather than acknowledge they are learners too, who come to the table with expertise and need to have time for play (one of the clear messages, underlying themes, associated with #ISTE2014 was that of play), tinkering, discourse, validating, integrating and reviewing.

I wonder if sometimes the statement ‘Teachers are resistant to change’ is more of an off handed way to deal with those not aligned to the direction being taken by the issuer of the statement… Does the statement create a divide? Relationships are an important foundation to change management.

#ISTE2014 reflection number 4 – #leadership time to play

Screenshot 2014-08-03 12.04.52


I mentioned in the previous post, about iphoneography, that I would talk more about a session that I attended that had direct links to the issues we faced internally at our school with regard to policy and use of different devices, along with the programs/tools that one can use within the school context.

We face a huge conflict in schools, which is not bad, rather it is more frustrating and finding the balance is essential to enabling the development of skills and learning in general to occur. We need our schools to be safe and that includes the way we use technology and what technology we use. As a result of this we often face conflict between current policy and the things, we as teachers, want to use in our classroom to promote engagement and learning. For example, in the school I teach mobile phones are banned from class, students are allowed to keep them in their locker and check them at lunch and recess time. This policy came about to reduce bullying that could occur through the use of such a device if unrestricted access was allowed. At the time it was created the policy did not cause any issue with regard to teaching and learning. Later on it was verbally acknowledged that teachers could request a child to bring a mobile phone to class if related to learning, but this, in itself creates conflict as we are faced with the overriding rule of no mobile phones in class. This presented a significant problem when I wanted all my students to bring their mobile phones to class to use the tools on them to participate in the activities that would support their learning in English, with a focus on visual literacy, digital literacy and citizenship in a digital space. These would then feed into persuasive and narrative writing tasks – things that are required for NAPLAN. There is no question about whether the intended learning outcomes were appropriate, they fitted with the curriculum and the nationwide testing we undertake in Grade 3, 5, 7 and 9. There was no question about the pedagogy being used to achieve the learning outcomes. However, policy stood in the way. It was at this point that some tweaking to policy was required. This is not as easy as you might first think, it requires conversations with those who have vested interest in the policy. It requires a shift in thinking with regard to those who have made the policy. This is where things can get tricky. As policy is not necessarily driven by learning. Policy is often driven by risk management (and a whole lot of other things). Hence, the conflict that can arise between learning and policy.

The session I attended at ISTE that linked so nicely with this was the Lead and Transform -an ISTE Town Hall event. Kathy Schrock did a fantastic job of curating the discussion and tweets via her backchannel twitter account.

Which can also be viewed here in PDF – remember to read from the bottom to the top :)235741111-ISTE14-Town-Hall-Lead-and-Transform14.

The first thing that resonated with me, as a result of the situation outlined above, was “Policies are often the biggest barriers to change.” To break this down, as change is an interesting word, policies dictate what we can and cannot do. They provide boundaries. In a world where the tools we are using today are different to those we used 20 years ago, to do a similar task,  we need to revisit the policies we have and ensure that they, themselves, are not being counter productive. Even the tools we use today to do a task are completely different to that of 2 years ago. We, as individuals, encounter incredible learning curves as the tools we have readily available to us change, this is no different to the school setting. As we become more connected as individuals why should this not be the case for the classroom? Policy and learning opportunities need to be provided to support this, otherwise schools become separated from the world outside their four walls. We need to look at them with the lens of learning.

This leads me to become acutely aware of the need for leaders to have the opportunity to play, the notion of play was an underlying theme throughout ISTE, with new tools and see for themselves how they are able to empower, engage and deepen learning. It was mentioned that encouraging open discussion on Twitter was a useful tool for enabling this to occur. For through a tool such as Twitter the following are achieved; voice, collaboration, sharing, thinking and acknowledgment.@LaurieBarron stated that “Educators are the biggest group of Twitter users.”, hence you see edu chats trending on twitter. The question ‘how does the connectivity help you’ was raised in an open question session. The answer that followed from @mccoyderek was “Online Twitter chat helps gather info from others in like situations and then work together and share out.”

I view twitter as a great space for being challenged, changing mindset, picking up new ideas and immersing in great discussion. It is a space where educators can connect and learn from each other. We can never forget that we are all learning, that we are all at different stages and we all learn at different paces and through a variety of means. Those in formal leadership roles are on this journey too.


#ISTE2014 reflection number 3 #Minecraft

One of the most awesome things about #ISTE2014 was catching up with people in my PLN. People who I have been following for years, people who have inspired me and pushed me. My PLN is varied and that is what I love about it. I had the opportunity to catch up with @tasteach, a wonderful lady who is impacting the lives of people across the globe with her Student Blogging Challenge. She is not afraid to push the boundaries to ensure students get the best opportunities!

Then there was the Minecraft group – WOW! How lucky was I to meet up with them! @Knowclue was presenting at ISTE and invited me to share the Riverside High School story. She had three different sessions where our story was shared with regard to the wonderful things our students have learnt using Minecraft. Two of the sessions provided teachers the opportunity to play and one took on a lecture style format. As a result of meeting up with @Knowclue I was able to meet @Coggone, a quietly spoken teacher who had a fantastic story to tell about her own learning as she entered the world of Minecraft to explore mathematical concepts. She too presented in the three sessions. Then there was @MrMalmstrom who is the tech guru behind the work that @Knowclue does. @ruriknackerud was also present to help out, his focus is on research in the gaming area and continued to bring a smile to everyones face with his exuberance and wit. @mr_isaacs was also there to help, I had the opportunity to meet him at the Games, Learning and Society Conference a few weeks earlier. And last, but not least, @PeggySheehy who has a wealth of knowledge about games and gaming in the classroom, being well know for her use of World of Warcraft in educational settings. Being in the same room as these people and sharing our story in this format was an incredible opportunity. Thank you so much @Knowclue :)

2014-06-30 10.19.05 2014-06-30 10.18.54

Then came the icing on the cake. Often I wonder what someone really walks away with from a PL session and if it does have relevance to their classroom practice.  Than suddenly a tweet popped up the other day, where a teacher who attended one of the play sessions reflected on her ‘walk on the wild side’ with Minecraft.

Screenshot 2014-07-30 21.58.58


What wonderful feed back for @Knowclue. A huge amount of effort goes into submitting a potential presentation for a conference like ISTE, and I am sure that this put a big smile on her face, as it did mine :)


Here is Iram’s journey into play and learning with the ultimate learning tool, Minecraft:



The server is all a buzz! #minecraft #ProjectMIST


I’ve stayed up late tonight to get see how things are going on the ProjectMIST server. WOW! Things really are a buzz. So much has been built and so much is being built. I will have to go in and explore at a more appropriate time for me – it’s midnight and I need my beauty sleep lol! Taking a quick peek at the activity on the dynmap was so exciting! I miss that class. Lots of fun, great discussion and heaps of learning going on. Can’t wait to see some pics being posted by them.

Charter schools – what’s the go in Ohio?

Just been to Rotary. Today’s speaker, Steve Dyer (https://twitter.com/StephenODyer) spoke on the funding breakdown provided in the state of Ohio regarding education. When it’s broken down to a per student basis Charter schools get significantly more money per student than public schools from the state (Charter Schools: $7,446/ pupil compared Local school districts: $3,611/ pupil), yet their educational data on report cards is not anywhere near as good as the public schools. The other interesting thing Stephen mentioned, in discussion after his presentation, is that transport is provided for students to get to a Charter school. Yet no transport is provided for students to get to their local public school, as it is deemed that they don’t need transport provided due to being in the 3mile (5k) radius of their local public school. Which raises the question, where would a parent choose to send their child if getting to a public school, via walking, was not considered a safe option. Public schools appear to be on the back foot for a range of reasons, yet they are not under-performing like the Charter schools. The other thing mentioned was the connection to politics that appears to exist with Charter schools. Not only do I feel uncomfortable about this, but incredibly saddened by the inequity that hits me in the face. Admittedly, I’m only hearing one states perspective, and one person’s perspective who is employed by Innovation Ohio , on the impact of Charter schools. It’s always important to understand the bigger picture.


Please note that the majority of references were made in relation to the larger Charter School organisations, in particular those coming under the White Hat Management Group . There is an interesting article below:


Also, there was comment made with regard to some smaller Charter Schools who were doing great things with regard to student outcomes (being on par with or above Public Schools), but they did not have the political connections as the above mentioned.


#iste2014 reflection number 2 #assistivetech

Over the last 48 hours I have been to Canada and back, with the purpose to re-enter the USA on a student VISA. That provides lots of time on a plane, so what better way to use that time than to put my thoughts together…

ISTE was a couple of weeks ago and I’m still thinking through some of the things that popped up over that conference. It was fascinating, to say the least, being at a conference with just over 16000 educators. And as you can imagine the sheer numbers presented challenges at times. The line up for Starbucks coffee was never ending and some sessions saw disappointed faces, as potential attendees were turned away due to their popularity not being foreseen. However, link ups to screens were quickly created to ensure that disappointment did not last too long. And with plenty of coffee and PLN to touch base with, meet for the first time and engage with connecting was just as purposeful as the sessions themselves.

There was one session that I encountered the huge line up and the momentary disappointment of being turned away, the first IGNITE session.

2014-06-28 14.14.44

The YouTube video will give you and idea of how the session runs.

I soon learnt the need to get super organised and get to things early. Luckily, I did this with regard to Gary Staggers session, getting seated half an hour early (and yes, just lucky at that, grabbing a seat in the back row). However, I’ll digress a little to the session where I learnt the need to be organised. As this one still stands out I’m my mind.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to teach a young man who was provided an iPad as a tool to assist him with regard to his disability. I think this young man taught me much more than I ever taught him. Much of what we did in the first year with the iPad was trial and error, he had to help me understand what his learning needs were and what apps worked and what didn’t. He stretched me as a person and as a teacher. This was my first encounter with an iPad and to be honest I only purchased mine so I could work out how we could incorporate/use/integrate his, making learning more accessible for him. Prior to that I saw them as an expensive tool that allowed access to a range of media, a portable entertainment system if you like. An expensive entertainment system from my perspective at the time.

It was due to this that I watched with interest when Matthew Newton spoke about Google Glass as assistive technology. Wow! And you know he’s right, the potential for Google Glass to provide greater access to communicating, interacting and being is spot on. Google Glass for the right person could change the way they participate in learning and life.

Interestingly enough, there were many conversations occurring around Google Glass at the conference. There were early adopters sporting them on their face and a range of people who had played with them. It was intriguing to listen to some of the conversations. Some felt that the market was not ready for them. Raising issues of privacy with regard to those wearing them, being able to video and take pictures without others knowledge and then posting immediately to places like Facebook, blogs, photo sites, twitter and the like. It was even sighted that some establishments were refusing patrons to wear them when on their premises. Hm…this raises an interesting question – can’t a smart phone be used in a surreptitious manner?

Others raised the issue of cost and how this was not conducive to school budgets. Questioning potential learning gains was avidly discussed and the reality at this stage that one could not justifying the cost outlay as a result. Admittedly this is a big issue for schools with regard to purchasing technology. Will the integration of it be of value? And do you jump in as an early adopter, or wait? Learning from the early adopter is of great benefit, after all they politely make some mistakes that you can avoid.  And as for costs, well they usually come down as the tech tool becomes more common place. So it makes sense to hold off – right???

But let’s get back to google glass as an assistive tool and the issues that were raised.  Firstly, why does it need to be common place in the classroom? Surely it can be used in a manner that is optimum and if it allows one child to learn more effectively and their learning and everyday life is empowered by it, then that is good. Secondly, it’s about being a respectful citizen both online and face to face. So the tool is not the issue. It is the user. If one child in your class is using Google Glass to enable a more equitable learning environment for them then the issue of privacy, as raised earlier, is null and void for surely learning about and demonstrating that they are a good citizen will be part of their overall learning. And finally, someone has to be brave and make that step if the tool appears to have real benefit. Should we be scared about being an early adopter if it empowers the learning journey of a child that might otherwise be hitting obstacles that can be removed by such a device?

Lets find that child that will benefit, lets find that educator that will dive in and play. Lets learn together.

For notes on the first IGNITE session visit https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bhBndxabKwV1ZZjlowtVysZSdF-Ed-qgzTuNwUV9luI/pub by @kevinhuitt


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