EduTech 2014 – My Take-Aways

Edutech 2014 was fantastic.   Was the message similar to previous years – yes….much of it was.    It is a message  that can be repeated however as its relevance is unquestionable.

Did the opening keynote live up to Dan Pink’s 2013 outgoing and engaging keynote?   No, not quite.  Sugatra is a quieter and more unassuming person than Mr Pink……but his message is no less important  – of the need to question what it is that we do and the assumptions we make about learning and our students.

The rest was a fast paced and engrossing series of sessions and keynotes with people who have inspiring messages and a passionate voice.   I relish opportunities like these as they provide opportunity to hear messages that I intuitively know and these people often provide the evidence…….and also, as much as I love hearing new things and things that challenge me, I also value the affirmations that come with being in the presence of like-minded people who have the confidence and determination to continue doing what they know is right for today’s kids…….

My take-aways …… if I had to pick 5 or 6 or 7:

1. Ken Robinson – brilliant presentation by Sir Ken with the same enduring message that mirrors his beliefs and passion. Being in the audience was an honour and a privilege. Something new for me in this presentation was his use of organic farming as a metaphor for education. See my post below for further.

2. Gary Stager and the power of students making, programming and using computers in powerful ways. With the Technology Curriculum fast approaching, his presentation was particularly relevant and brought up many ideas which are ‘on the agenda’ for me.   At the forefront of my mind is the need to ensure that the digital technologies strand is integrated throughout current areas of the curriculum and that it doesn’t become some extra for teachers to accommodate in an already overcrowded curriculum.

3.   The importance of a 5 year plan, a vision and strategic movements towards this vision as a community.

4.   Innovation is not experimentation – it is based on good theory and backed by sound evidence.

5.   Let’s keep the focus on the student and what they need.

6.  SOLE – self organised learning environment.  In a crowded curriculum, can we find one session a week in which take a question from the curriculum (much of it is meant to be inquiry based anyway) make it more interesting if necessary and allow students to work in groups to answer it.     Should Legacy be more like this? ( Or should Legacy be in addition to this?)

 A summary of EduTECH from Kings College



Day 2 – EduTECH 2014

Gary Stager


Gary was someone I was really looking forward to as I had missed his keynote last year to get back to school to host Bob Rogers with a PD workshop.    I follow him with eagerness on Twitter and read a lot of his blogs and research.  He is the Executive Director of the Constructivist Consortium and a TED talk is here.  I find him quite provocative and unafraid to say exactly what he believes in…..and he does ruffle feathers world-wide.   By the same token he has a worldwide following of educators who are open to his ideas and stand with him in an attempt to rebel against an education system that is teaching to testing and as a result becoming narrower and less relevant to the real world.

The idea of incorporating ‘making’ into our school is something I am interested in. This incorporates robotics, programming and techno-type tasks where the kids are collaboratively making things with their hands.   With the Technology curriculum being implemented next year, many of these ideas are directly relevant to us.    I am also very interested in making sure the Digital Technology strand is integrated across and through our current curriculum and that it doesn’t become a separate curriculum area.

He refers a lot to Papert and his ideas.  Click here for a page of links related to this.

My summary of his keynote:

Gary Stager speaks loudly and courageously about school reform and giving kids what they deserve.  He speaks scathingly about ‘one size fits all’ education and passionately in regards to the heights students are able to reach if we give them the opportunity.

He worked in 1990 with MLC as they instigated one of the first 1-1 laptop programs in Australia……and since then has worked with schools and organisations the world over to implement project based learning programs that utilise technology.
He regards computers as vehicles of self expression and believes in using computers to do and learn things that were unimaginable a few years ago.
At the very least, teachers are adding more colours to the crayon box when they can use technology effectively in powerful ways to enhance thinking and learning.
He talked about Maker Faires and as making as being a stance.  To read more about the Maker Movement, simply google it or go here.
Specific software:
  • Design video games  – micro worlds
  • Teaching programming – a meaningful context for teaching maths.
  • Turtle ART
  • MicroWorlds
‘We have overvalued learning with our heads and undervalued learning with our hands’, he says.
His latest book:  here
Dan Heusler
Dan Heusler presented a keynote on engagement and motivation and how technology can assist us in this area.  He is one of Australia’s most sought after educational thought leaders and works with a diverse range of people and organisations as well as featuring in and writing for the mainstream media.
He started by talking about some polls and surveys, including the latest Gallup Poll on Australian students last year which showed that by Year 5, 30%  of our kids are disengaged.  This was familiar to me as I had read this quite recently.   He added that by Year 12, 50 % are disengaged.    He also talked about PISA and some areas of PISA that don’t often get the same amount of publicity as the tests for basic literacy and numeracy.   These are statement to which students have to agree or disagree.
“I feel like I don’t belong or that I am not happy at school”.   Australia comes 18th.
In Korea – 40% of kids feel like they don’t belong.
He made the point that this ‘connectednes’s or lack of  is a better predictor of success than more traditional testing.
Dan talked a lot about engagement and that it is easy to confuse conformity and compliance for engagement.
Key question:  Would kids turn up to school if they didn’t have to????
He talked about positive psychology – and discussed engagement, purpose, meaning.   He discussed that most kids are ok….but that we need to feel responsible for moving them further up on that spectrum.  To do this, we need to engage them in their lives, the world around them and ultimately their future.
He talked about the need for respect, trust and care to be evident in relationships between teachers and students.
He touched upon the Australian Curriculum and the General Capabilities  and how may present opportunities for a ‘way in’ for school wanting to do something innovative.
We need to empower kids to change the world and to convince them that everyone has the power to change someone’s world.

Greg Whitby



Greg Whitby is also a Twitter follow of mine.  He leads a system of Catholic schools in NSW and has been at the helm through a strategic implementation of change and innovation.

He very early made a number of key points in his keynote and said that he would revisit these again and again throughout his presentation.

1.   Any learning experience that delivers answers is not worth it.

2.  National Curriculum – we should challenge this if it doesn’t suit our teachers or students.

3.  Teachers matter.

4.  Premise – we need to shift the responsibility of control from the teacher to the student.

5.  Schooling has to be about innovation.

6.  Do the work by doing the work.

7.  Theory of action – we want to improve learning…..we want to provide a rewarding environment for teachers.  The focus must always be on the teacher and building the capacity of teachers.    There must be an investment in a community of practice and we must look at the evidence.

He talked a little about innovation and made it clear that innovation is NOT experimentation.   The work we do must be based on good theory and we have to be confident that we are moving ahead with the research behind us.  He mentioned BYO programs with this and said this is what they have done.


Ewan Mcintosh

I didn’t go and see Ewan this year as it clashed with Gary’s session but his session on Agile Leadership was well received.

ewan bigger

EduTech 2014


Sugatra Mitra


sugatrasugatra bigger)

Hole in the Wall

School in the Cloud

Sugatra talked about his projects to ensure all audience members knew about the background to where he finds himself now.

A significant finding of the Hole in the Wall experiment was that children taught themselves computer skills to the same level as an office worker in 9 months of collaborative unguided exploration.

He made the point that if the brain is threatened, your ability to learn is threatened and that this is what happens in our classrooms all the time.

SOLE – self organised learning environment.   Teachers can do this just once a week.   They can take the curriculum, turn it into an interesting question and allow students to work in groups to answer the question.  He has never seen this fail.

He talked a lot about ‘The Edge of Chaos’ – and raised the idea that possibly learning is an edge of chaos phenomenon.


Sir Ken Robinson





Sir Ken Robinson was greeted with a rockstar welcome.  He started off in his usual self-depreciating manner which is very endearing.  He is quite lovely to listen to and speaks a lot of sense about global education and challenges it faces.  This was the first time I had been with Ken in a live situation as last year at EduTech he was on live hook up.

He talked about creativity and he referred to his three main points that he often brings up:

1. We are living in revolutionary times.

2. We need to think differently about the education that is best for our children to receive

3.  We need to behave differently.

The major difference in his talk this year was that he used the metaphor of organic farming to refer to education and the way it needs to evolve to suit time we are living in now.

Organic Farming

1.  Has a focus on the health and vitality of living things.

Diversity has to be considered in addition to the right nutrients and a focus on the culture and not the output.

2.   Ecology

All living things have a life cycle and a system of interdependence.

3.  Fairness and equity are important.

4.  Care is important.

 ken flower

He reinforced that we need a revolution in education.

1.  Culture in which people will thrive.

2.  Collaboration and interdependence

3.  Fairness, equity,

4.  Care