Slide2Learn 2014 – Sydney

Slide2Learn was a conference I had been keen to go to for a few years.   This year it was in Sydney which was an attractive option so off we went – myself and three teachers from my school in the first few days of our holidays.

My feeling at the end of two fairly major PD experiences this year (Slide2Learn and Edutech) is that all I am getting now is affirmation.  Nothing is a revelation to me and I guess that I need to feel the confidence and conviction in my own outlook and in the outlook of progressive educators around me – some of whom exist  only in an online context for much of the year – to continue with direction, clarity, energy and strategy.

Within following posts, I summarise some of the other sessions, especially the keynotes,  but will pinpoint my key take-aways first.

My take-aways:

  • My feelings about technology as a catalyst is supported by many others.  What we have to decide as a school is what we want it to be a catalyst for.  Graham Brown Martin from Learning (re)imagined discussed this in depth when talking about his global journey to discover ways in which a connected society is transforming learning.  (see my separate blog post about this).
  • Experimenting with giving students more control is something that proactive educators the world over are doing.  Sometimes this does not go smoothly.  Whilst I was at slide2learn I was also following the ISTE tweet stream and since last year’s ISTE, many teachers have experimented along these lines. The reasons it might not go smoothly are diverse and one reason is that students are uncomfortable with student directed projects because they haven’t yet learned the strategies they need to have to be able to take charge of their own learning.  As teachers, we also need to get to a point where the strategies we know will support directed projects are ones we introduce and explicitly teach.  Inquiry learning is a model of teaching employed by the Australian National Curriculum throughout Science, History and Geography.  I wondered about whether we are approaching it in such a way that genuine inquiry (which many see as a pedagogical approach)is supported and scaffolded to the point where students are able to take an inquiry approach to real and important things by the time they reach the end of Primary School?
  • Engagement DOES matter.  When we engage students this is completely different from entertaining them.   Technology can often be a tool that you can use to spark this interest.   Technology can also be the tool that offers them choice in how they explore and communicate.
  • Ownership is empowerment and empowerment can lead to engagement.
  • Authentic audience is key and currently we are severely restricted (because of a number of factors) in being able to give our students an authentic audience.
  • We need to host a ‘showcase’ event by the end of this coming term to showcase some of the things we have been doing in the BYO class.

My overall feelings at the end of the 2 day conference:

  • the affirming nature of being around people who ‘get it’.    I think that conferences like this are important even if I am not learning anything really new and the reason for this is that there is enormous value in connecting with inspiring people.   Once a year is not enough however and I am aware that Twitter is an invaluable tool for continuing the momentum.  Possibly communities of people in my city should be sought after also.
  • the sense of companionship in being with people who will return to my school with me after the conference having experienced similar things and who have had the opportunity to explore, think, discuss and experiment. Teachers don’t get to do this enough.  Schools are busy places and it seems within hours of a new term starting, people get on a fast track conveyor belt where it is understandably difficult to see beyond and outside.
  • the journey we are on as a school and as a staff is a good one and one that we need to continue.  There are challenges – that is clear.  But we need to continue with strategy, confidence and faith.

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