VITTA – Shift Happens Conference 2008 November 18, 2008Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: Conference, IFIP, Melbourne, Prague, Shift Happens, Tohatoha, VIASL, VITTA
I will be making a whistle stop trip to Melbourne next week to attend for one day and present at the VITTA – Shift Happens 2008 conference. It will be my first trip to Melbourne and my first trip to Australia.
I am looking forward to going, although like my Prague trip earlier this year, the schedule is full! I will be leaving on the 7:30 flight on Monday and on arrival I shall be picking up my rental car and driving straight to Serpell School to help cement a collaborative link between there and classes on the Supertanker. I shall be there all day. Not sure what the evening will bring, but I have a couple of contacts in Melbourne or maybe the Serpell team will feel the need to entertain, not sure. I am staying at the conference hotel, so will crash there and then attend the conference on the Tuesday. I have to chair one session, I have just learnt! I will be presenting at 2:30 and then at 5:30 I have to be off back through the rush hour traffic to make my 7:30 flight back to Auckland, getting in at 1:10AM just in time for a cluster day… Spirulina and Berrocca mixed with V might be the order of the day this time next week!
Prague – conference day 4 June 27, 2008Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: IFIP 2008 Prague, VIASL
The most common word used in the various conference sessions today was ‘subvert.’ It seems that there is an impatience for change, that we can see change is happening or is about to occur, but it is not happening quickly enough. And much of the day was spent exploring just what the impediments to change might be and how we can facilitate the change, hence the guerilla tactics of subversion.
Many themes appeared again and again. Learning experiences need to be authentic and that students need to have a range of tools to choose from in order to do a set task and in addition they should know which tool is the most appropriate for the task. We have to resist the temptation or pressure to use an expensive ICT tool simply because it is an expensive ICT tool. With regard to pedagogies we discussed a lot about how ICT’s are often imposed onto an existing or traditional pedagogy, with the end result being a bit of a Prince Charles (“Carbunkle on the face of an old friend.”) We also discussed what an ICT pedagogy should look like, but the debate around this ranged around the argument that there is not a pencil pedagogy an OHP pedagogy, rather the environment of learning changes as a result of new technology and therefore the pedagogy that subsequently evolves is not specifically an ICT one.
One of the impediments to effective delivery was the whole permissions issue for users of networks. The managers of networks were likened as “network Nazis” Networks can become so locked down that any creativity is stiffled because of the draconian network security policies. There is a tension between network administrators and their users, there is an adage that goes, ‘this network would run just fine if it were not for those damned users.’ Security on a a network equates to stablility and minimised work load for administrators, but equates to inertia and disenfranchisement for the users. If we want innovation, we have to review the fortress mentality of our networks. I for one have recently gone down this road on our network and have yet to gain the benefits.
The final keynote of the day was a presentation of some research into the effectiveness of IWBs in classrooms. It was a UK government funded project and the findings are really interesting. It was found that in schools where the entire school was equipped with IWBs there was a technology critical mass that encouraged collaborative support amongst colleagues and was a very motivational addition to each classroom, even the teachers who were predicted not to be adopters of the technology found that they became enthusiastic about them in a very short time.
The study followed students in several schools over two years and it was found that the middle to high achieving students made significant progress in their numeracy and literacy attainment compared to students who had not been taught in classes without IWB’s in them. The bottom 20% of students made progress but not at the same rate as the others. It was discussed whether the IWB was actually an impediment to their attainment and the conclusion that has been postulated but has yet to be researched is that these children do not thrive in whole class situations and that it is the learning style and not the technology that is the issue.
With regard to teachers using IWB’s and student attainment, there was a clear relationship. When the board is first installed there is an innovation dip as the teacher gets to grips with using the technology and how to implement the new tool into their classroom practice. What happens is a clear three step process:
- Teachers fit the new technology into their existing pedagogy
- Collaborative exploration of new opportunities offered by the new technology
- Embedding of the technologies into transformed pedagogic practices
It was made clear that it takes a long time up to two years for the full benefits of the IWB and student attainment to be gained as indicated by the results of the research. The conference has been a wonderfully affirming event, we have made some new friends met some really interesting people who are very interested in what Helen and I are doing. It looks as though we will get further follow up as a result of our presentation. The effort of putting a paper together, and of actually getting here has now been completely worth it.
Prague – conference day 3 June 26, 2008Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: IFIP 2008 Prague, Images, Prague, VIASL
Today was meant to be split into two. The morning was to be spent visiting two Czech schools and in the afternoon doing some cultural stuff visiting the local silver mines and the town hall. At the end of the day yesterday we were informed that the schools would welcome us but the children would be on school trips, in other words we would be visiting empty classes! I elected to give that a miss and take the opportunity to see a little bit of Prague.
By all accounts history has been kind to Prague in terms of architectural loss due to conflict. When you consider that cities like Plymouth, Dresden and London were heavily affected by the conflict of WWII Prague survived that, it seems to me, intact. The Soviet invasion might also have been a stimulus for the removal of decadent architecture in the name of comrade Stalin, a cleansing process as it were. I am glad to say that neither incident seems to have scarred the cities architecture, I am sure the populace would take a different view of the scars caused by invasion and occupation. In short Prague is a delight, a fondant icing extravaganza, a city of embelishments and ornamentation. Quite simply it is fantastic eye candy. The winding streets of the old city, the mix of Gothic, Baroque and the European C17th and C18th styles make for an intoxicating mix.
We have walked through the winding streets, taken the trams and have got a real feel for the city. We spent most of today up at the castle. The following slide show is a representation of where we have been today.
Prague – conference day 2 June 26, 2008Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: David Kinane, Helen Hardie, IFIP 2008 Prague, Presentation, VIASL
Today was the day that we were to present our paper. The first keynote presentation of the conference was given, it had been delayed 24 hours due to Easy Jet losing one of our speakers. In fairness I think that the flight had been cancelled due to technical issues and so the speaker could not get to us yesterday.
The keynote meant that Helen and I finally we got to sit through a presentation that was not based around the interpretation of statistical analysis culled from some University funded research and got to listen to something that we could actually apply to our classes. I will post about this later as it needs some research into websites and gps modules on PDAs but looks very exciting.
As the time drew nearer to our time slot, Helen grew progressively more anxious about the whole affair. I was more sanguine although the butterflies were swarming somewhat by the time of the tea break. We had one moment of stress when the flash video embedded into our second slide would not play. Despite having triple checked everything before leaving New Zealand this one thing decided not to play ball today. It was doubly difficult as I then had to try and troubleshoot the error using a computer that had been set up for Czech users and therefore all the menus were all in Czech. Time ran out and we just had to run the slide without the animation, a shame really as it was a video made from Google Earth that flew from Woodford school to Meadowbank and back several times, visually illustrating the link and the distance over which our partnership has been created.
The presentation went really well and we infact ran out of time. When it came to questions we were asked a lot of questions and the buzz in the room indicated that we had struck a chord with our audience, all the seats had been taken for our session and many were standing at the back too. Not that we can claim the entire audience as there were two other presentations that followed us. The questioning and congratulations continued as the other presenters set up for their session. We felt very pleased at how the presentation had been received, the general buzz and the questioning.
At the end of the whole session we broke for lunch and were promptly joined by three others who wanted to continue discussing what we had presented, it was a very affirming moment. At lunch we were questioned more closely about what we had done and how we had done it. I also expanded on my ‘dial an expert’ initiative and they were interested in my links with Sandi in New York and remote music teaching. We also discussed Second Life as a vehicle for learning, it was a really excellent lunch and passed far too quickly. As a result I have been asked to speak to a conference of Primary Head teachers in England later in the year. At this stage it might be via a Skype connection or there was even talk of me being flown up to London to present next year. This is all very affirming stuff and I have said yes to the offers too.
The rest of the day continued in a similar vein, the afternoon was dedicated to seeing how ICT has been implemented in schools from a Czech perspective, there were two particularly excellent presentations from students. The first one was a whole bunch of interactive whiteboard activities that the sudents have created, they demonstrated the whole ‘interactive’ element of the whiteboards with them being the teachers and controlling the board. There has been lots of disucssion over the last two days about effective whiteboard use and the concensus is that best practice comes when the teacher ceases to be the ‘controller of the board.’ There was an excellent presentation by a 19 year old student who designs and builds his own line following robots. He has only been doing this for a year and already he has built a robot that fits inside a matchbox!
At the end of the day there is a always a reflection session. Today Helen and I and our presentation was the focus of discussion for half of that entire block of time. What we have done has made a significant section of the delegates sit up and think about the possibilities of an online collaborative learning environment to engage students in their learning. We have certainly made the most audible buzz of the entire conference so far.
At one point one of the academics stated that what we were doing and us in particular are not special, there was an audible intake of breath from a lot of the other delegates, there was a feeling that this was a bit much! But this particular person had earlier complimented us on what we had achieved and done. It was a bit of a slap in the face at the time, but I do not think that is what she intended and on reflection I feel that what she was trying to say in a rather inelegant and clumsy way was this: What Helen and I have achieved is the result of a mash up /a combination of readily available and free technologies on the web. We have subverted their use to our own ends and have put a lot of effort into getting our tohatoha community to work and it now has its own momentum.
I still think, despite what she said, that this has taken vision on my behalf to marry up these technologies. It has taken tremendous effort from both of us to sustain the community. We will continue to explore new and varied ways to improve the methods of communication between students and between teachers and students.
For me the bigger question and I think the implied criticism from this particular academic was; if these tools are so readily available, why are there not more of these communities doing exactly what we have created? Discuss:
Prague Conference – day 1 June 24, 2008Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: Conference, IFIP, Prague, presenting, UNESCO, VIASL
Our hotel is a short 400m walk from the University and over breakfast it was obvious, because of the conversations we heard, that many of the guests would turn out to be our fellow delegates. After a short walk on cobbled streets, past one onion domed church in blistering heat at 8:00 am, we arrived at the university. The university is celebrating its 660th birthday, but the faculty of education is only 70 years old and this particular faculty building’s architecture proudly flaunted its stolid early C20th architectural style. Registration was a quick affair and all at once we were in the lecture theatre armed with the usual booty of conference registrations!
A quick scan down the list of presenters revealed that I was the only representative from New Zealand and to my increasing alarm that Helen and I were the only practicing teachers. All the others who were to speak are all University lecturers with PhD’s. As the day wore on it became abundantly clear that the vast majority of the papers being discussed had already been published and peer reviewed in academic journals. Helen and I started to feel like minnows swimming in a tank of sharks! However as the day wore on this welling sense of dread was abated somewhat when the organising president of the World Computer Congress 2009 specifically mentioned our presentation stating that he was particularly looking forward to hearing how we had built and sustained our ‘vibrant online learning community.’ After that we started to begin to feel a little better, even privilleged to be the only representatives of the real world reality of classroom teaching that our fellow delegates theorise about at this conference.
There is no doubt that we are presenting at an important organisation. IFIP is an organisation that was set up by UNESCO and has 14 organising committees. The age of the committe is denoted by the number and the education one, at which we are speaking is 3, which indicates that it was set up at the start of the organisation. The AGM is tomorrow. By the way, the organising president of WCC2009 asked me in one of he breaks whether i would be presenting at WCC2009. I knew about the conference from earlier net searches, it is in Brasil…. I wonder if I could get funding?
So as I write this we are due to do our presentation in just a few hours. Last night, we wandered around the old part of the city to clear our heads. Prague is truly wonderful, well the old bits that we have seen are. We had dinner in a fantastic restaurant and then got back to the hotel to work on our presentation for the final time. Today’s the day.
Prague June 24, 2008Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: dakinane, IFIP, Prague, VIASL
The journey to Prague has been an interesting one. I will refrain from commenting on Easy Jet until I get back from Athens at the end of next week, but suffice it to say that we were delayed. Indeed, delayed, inconvenienced and downright petrified would be good words to describe Sunday.
Apart from the fun of seeing my brother in law, there was a logic to staying in Luton, where he lives. Over the duration of my stay I will be flying into and out of three of London’s airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton. Luton is ideally placed as a place to stay for this kind of trip. However I use the words Luton, ideal and stay advisedly in one sentence. If the architectural historian who critiques northern architecture, Grundy’s Wonders could be enticed to venture south, he would have a lot to say about Luton and not a lot of it would be good…
However the train route that Luton is on links directly with Brighton on the south coast and one of the stations along the way is Gatwick airport, this is what makes makes Luton an ideal location, it is an easy drive from Heathrow, has its own airport and is on the direct train link to Gatwick. However this weekend, right after I had been charged 22 pounds, I learnt that I was not able to go right through London, but had to get off at St Pancras due to essential engineering works at Blackfriars. I therefore had to get accross town, suitcase and all using the tube, what an exercise in madness that is, how anyone with a wheelchair negotiates the London Underground with its myriad of levels, stairs and inter connecting bridges is a wonder. Anyway the 50 minute trip from Luton to Gatwick took just over two hours. So hot and sweaty I was late to meet Helen.
After the initial hellos we quickly settled to working on our presentation for the first time in person amidst the throngs of the great British public making their annual pilgrimage to the Costas for too much sun, too much of everything…
We were delayed by Easy Jet and had to hang around for ages to check in, the cute dogs of Auckland Airport were not nearly as cute at Gatwick. This was in part due to their breed but principally they were being handled by Police, armed to the teeth with machine guns and they were not checking to see if you had a banana in your bag, they were looking for something all together more sinister. After the scrum of check in and the dogs and guns, we had to run the gauntlet of UK security. They make you take everything off, shoes, belts, watches etc (interestingly the metal in my arm, does not set off the alarms). With everything being scanned it is and was hard to keep track of what you had upon you before the deconstruction of your being to be scanned, prodded and x-rayed. I temporarily mislaid my passport in the melee. Helen however did not fair as well as me, she had already been through the same security process earlier in the day as part of her flight up to London from Plymouth, however on this second scan they found her utility knife in her handbag (see above) it was all very funny, but it was not happening to me…
90 minutes after we should have left we departed Gatwick on an Airbus bound for Prague. We were further delayed by the luggage handlers in Prague, so it was well after 11:00 when we staggered out of the terminal to be picked up by the hotel transfer driver, who spoke two words of English, yes and no and used them in a random staccato fashion that made no sense, by the time we had left the airport perimeter we had all fallen into a weary silence, partly brought on by his driving skill. He was a man on a mission, traffic lights and general road craft were an optional extra as was the brake pedal, my right leg had practically cramped through phantom breaking by the time we arrived at the hotel. It has to be said that traveling at speed on a motorway is one thing, however doing that same speed on the cobbled streets of a medieval city is quite another. At one point after we had crossed the river into the old city, we were doing 110km… Sleep was not an easy state to acquire that night as images of the city, replayed at great speed, flashed disconcertingly across my sub conscious state… What a way to prepare for a presentation.
Good to go June 18, 2008Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: A380, dakinane, Helen Hardie, IFIP, Prague, Singapore Airlines, Tohatoha, VIASL
My bags are packed, tickets double checked. (Not that they issue tickets these days! I have a print out from my computer and have already reserved my seats there and back!) All cables and electronic peripherals that seem to be the indispensable ephemera of modern existence are all charged. International adapters packed and presentation printed off, saved in three places and even posted to a wiki (just in case!). Camera with plenty of CF cards packed and lenses polished. I am good to go.
The next couple of weeks will be daunting, fun an adventure all mixed into one. Tomorrow night (Thursday) I depart Auckland for Singapore, I hope to blog along the way if I can tap into some wifi hotspots. Not long to wait in Singapore, before getting on the London flight. I arrive in London Friday afternoon, local time. 2:15 AM Saturday morning for my body clock! I sat down and worked it out, this will be the 23rd time I have done this trip (Auckland to London or London to Auckland), I am currently working on a carbon footprint post…. As Steve Kosovich said to me recently, I will have to cycle to work for several eternities to work off that personal carbon debt!
I fly to Prague on Sunday and stay until Thursday. On the Friday I will ‘drop’ in on my old school in St Albans in Hertfordshire and surprise them, mind you if they read this, it will not be a surprise! I will be catching up with friends along the way too. On the Sunday I take a train to Plymouth, spend the remainder of Sunday on the trail of all things Brunel, especially the Royal Albert Bridge. Then on the Monday I will spend the day with Helen’s class and after school give a presentation at their staff meeting about how ICT is happening here on the Supertanker.
That evening it is back to London, then on the Tuesday I fly to Athens to meet my daughter who will have just flown in from Auckland, ensure that she makes her connecting flight to the island where her grandparents live for half of the year. Wednesday it is back to London and on the Friday I fly out of Heathrow on one of those shiny new A380 double deck super Jumbos that Singapore Airlines have just purchased.
Sometime on that Saturday evening I arrive back in Auckland.
As I have said, I intend to blog along the way, post a few images of my travels and generally divert from the educational norm of this post for some gratuitous tourist snaps! I will also be feeding back from the conference too.
For the next two weeks I think that, excess coffee, spirulina and the mantra that sleep is over rated will be the norm if I am to achieve what I have planned on my overly full itinerary. If there is a fuel embargo, French Air Traffic controllers strike or some such fact of European life, I am going to be in a bit of a bind as there is no room for error!
C’est la vie!
Countdown to Prague May 31, 2008Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: dakinane, Helen Hardie, IFIP 2008, Prague, Tohatoha, VIASL
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I leave for Prague on 19 June and things are starting to hot up. Helen and I have been collaborating via Skype to put our presentation together since March 5th when we heard that our paper had been accepted. In that time we have been shuttling backwards and forwards various iterations of our slide show (yes PowerPoint!-in truth I have created it on the Mac using Open Office Presentation and then embedding the Flash videos in PowerPoint. I have spent some time using Blender to animate our school logo for the presentation ) At the moment we are on our 6th iteration and even that has been modified several times in the last week. There is nothing like a looming deadline to bring out the jitters.
In the last week in particular I have been burning the midnight oil working not only on the slide show but the script too. Not that we are going to read our paper, it is just that we are working out exactly what needs to be said in relation to each slide. This process is fiddly enough when preparing a presentation individually but in our case, working as remotely as we do, it has proved very time consuming. In this particular case we seem to dove tail very well and despite the long hours the show is looking very good; on three nights this week I have stopped working well past midnight, by Friday I was very jaded . We are finally starting to feel OK about our presentation. When we actually get to meet and work together on 21 June, we can then put the final touches to the show.
Part of our anxiety is knowing exactly how to pitch our paper. We are not sure yet how many people we will be presenting to and what the composition of the audience will be. We are hoping that our audience will comprise fellow classroom practitioners, however the conference is being held at the Charles University as part of its 660th anniversary celebrations. Therefore the conference could be more academic than practical or collaborative, if this turns out to be the case is our paper of sufficient rigour or of a standard that we can be proud to present to an audience not of our peers? Time will tell, but by the early hours of this morning I had completely re-written the script (again!) It is now time to draw a line in the sand, be satisfied with the quality of the story that we have to tell and as the Nike ads implore us, just “do it.”
I knew that when I wrote the last paragraph, I would not be able to resist making some changes…. Helen had re-read the script overnight and had sent her alterations back. Having had a good nights sleep and having read her alterations, all good, I have spent several hours again today tinkering, each editing pass makes the script tighter and more polished. When will we stop tinkering? I doubt that we will!
I am sure that I can squeeze a few more edits in between now and June 19!