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Ulearn09 breakout 7 presentation October 10, 2009

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I have just published a new post on http://dakinane.com/blog about my breakout 7 presentation at Ulearn09.  Check it out.

Ulearn09 breakout 1 October 10, 2009

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I have just posted about my breakout 1 session over on dakinane.com/blog.  Check it out.

Lookah.tv goes live October 2, 2009

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A new post about this initiative has been posted at http://dakinane.com/blog

Ulearn 09 June 1, 2009

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I have started to submit my submissions for Ulearn 09. I have decided that this year I will try to present at more breakouts than I attend. So far I have submitted two proposals and am working on some others. I really enjoy presenting.

I wonder though how useful, long term, these show and tell sessions really are? I have found that I get positive feedback from my sessions at the end of each one that I have run. I certainly have not had someone come up to me and say that I have just wasted 90 minutes of their time! I expect the average conference attendee is too polite and the anonymous paper feedback forms do not indicate dissatisfaction. However, I never hear from my audience again, despite me encouraging them to comment on my blog or e-mail me for more assistance. Do they use my tools once back in school? Are my support materials so thorough that I have dealt with every single possible query? I doubt it. So just how useful to the ordinary punter are these sessions? Is it simply a case that even though attendees leave Ulearn enthused, the enthusiasm is dissipated by the realities and restrictions of the school environment they return to? Do the ideas illustrated at Ulearn remain just that, ideas? I doubt that, but the reality must be a hybrid of the above.

Then there is the perpetual worry about pitching the session, where should I pitch it? I fear that Ulearn breakout presenters are stuck in a perpetual model of pitching their support at entry level or first time users. If this is the case, we will be forever stuck in a model of showcasing the latest idea or tools for new users, teaching skills that could be learned from 30 minutes in Google and on You Tube. We never see practical sessions at Ulearn labelled “advanced Blender users should attend” for example, why not? We never see abstracts that say “integrating Inspiration for elite users.’ If Ulearn is the premier ICT PD conference for New Zealand teachers, then I think that we need to see this kind of differentiation. Otherwise presenters like me and the plethora of other highly skilled attendees have to resort to Google and YouTube for our PD and use the breakouts as a pulpit to reach out to the yet to be converted. A perpetual beta of PD.

Ulearn08 – reflections October 12, 2008

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Post war teaching evangelists...

Post war teaching evangelists...zzzz

A growing disquiet has been welling in me throughout this year’s Ulearn08 conference and now that I am home, this disquiet has turned into more of a roar! The euphoria of the event has subsided and a couple of good nights sleep later I now gaze at the reality of re-boarding the Supertanker and the game of chess that is managing the politics of change, no longer is it sufficient to use the Nike ad slogan of “Just do it.”

One of the words that kept coming up throughout the discussions that I had with other delegates was ‘disconnect.’ We were using disconnect in relation to creating relevant and authentic learning experiences for students, but increasingly I began to recognise that there is also a level of disconnect with teachers and this is the cause of my disquiet.

My main concern with events like Ulearn08 is that they are a tabernacle, a temple, a crucible of self affirmation. Each keynote is preaching to the converted and each breakout, provides more initiatives, tools, tips and techniques for the eager devotees; they in turn internalise the ICT/C21pedagogy gospel and in dewey eyed and rosy cheeked  fervour, add what they have heard to their own large and growing armoury of web2.0 tools and to their individual e-learning pedagogy. All that is missing is the occasional euphoric ‘Hallelujah!’ and ‘Amen’ from the floor to complete the picture. To continue the metaphor, the eager disciples were released from the Ulearn08 temple on Friday to return to their schools to evangelise the needs of the C21 learner. My question is, how effective is this model?

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson in their opening Keynote speech ended their presentation by arguing that we have a moral obligation to rapidly change our teaching styles and learning environments to meet the needs of the C21 learner.  Bruce McIntyre argued from a business perspective as did Steven Carden that out of the box thinking, creativity, and an entrepreneurial approach are the hallmarks of modern business success.  Mark Treadwell has long argued that the new education paradigm is here and the old industrial model of education is redundant, but still it persists.  In one of her spotlight sessions Sheryl got us to think about  how education has changed over the last 100 years and what is needed to be changed in order for students of today to be successful.  She recounted the words of Seymour Papert who reportedly asked who would fare better today if we went back 100 years in time, grabbed a C19 surgeon and teacher and transposed them into the C21 environment of their respective professions.  Who would fare better patient or student?  Surgery with  an ether mist and non sterile scalpels anyone?  We all know that the teacher would be fine and that the students would notice odd clothes and little else different.  What a damning indictment of educational innovation over the last 100 years that vision is.

And yet we could see it, the future that is, we have all internalised and agree  (those that attend Ulearn type conferences that is) with the blend of arguments for change and rapid change now. We could all see the brave new world of engaging, relevant and authentic student learning.  So where is it?  The final keynote got perhaps the loudest applause from the floor, the great work that is happening at Manaia Kindergarten is a joy to behold, but the saddest moment was perhaps the story of the student who had transferred from Kindergarten to Year 0 and presented his new teacher with a business card with his blog address on it, with the statement “This is my blog address, you will be needing that.”  I have no idea of the ICT enthusiasm of that child’s New Entrant teacher, but I got the distinct impression from the presenter that the notion of blogs and all things web2.0 were not on the agenda of that student’s new teacher.

And this is the point.  We can not rely on student pressure for change, how truly empowered was that Kindergarten student? The educational revolution we aspire to will not happen through student agitation or revolt.  Students are already disconnecting during school hours, they do not see it as relevant to them or their world, especially and increasingly at secondary level.  So why hold conferences like Ulearn?  Do not get me wrong, I loved going and will want to continue to attend and present, but I now know that unless the message changes or the audience changes, then change will be slow and we as a nation do not have time on our side.  Every day we continue to think about change, discuss it or debate it; it is a day wasted for our students be they at Kindergarten or in Year 13.  The problem is that united at a Ulearn type event we can see the future and know that it is right, but back in our schools we are lone or minority beacons for change.  How do you argue against an experienced teacher who argues that they have had consistently good results for years that they  produce literate, numerate students using worksheets? How do you persuade a management team who measure their success against student test results from the self same teachers, to change?  It is just that they do not see or  do  not want to see, that the old paradigm is just that, old and outmoded.  It is these teachers and management teams that are disconnected from the needs of the students in their charge…

My epiphany from the conference is that none of us who attended this year should attend next year and that the conference name should be changed.  I will be recommending that next year it should be  representatives from the BOT, senior management and teachers who do not recognise the need for change, who should attend and what is more the conference name should be changed from Ulearn09 to Theyneedtoknowandunderstand09.

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