Monday, 9 March 2015

TeachMeet Sunny Coast

On Saturday we drove up to the Sunshine Coast for my first TeachMeet in Australia. +Rebecca Davies had organised the event with the support from the fabulous crew at +Engage Research Lab at the University of the Sunshine Coast. It was great to see the turnout, especially this being the first TM there. Approx. 20-30 dedicated educators attended, travelling quite some distance from all directions.

As usual I'm trying to make sense of new things by comparing them to what I know. I have been involved with +TeachMeetNZ, and similar to there, mini-presentations were held and recorded, with the choice of 2 or 7 min in length. Like #educampnz the event was f2f and a wide range of people attended and interacted before, between and after the presentations, plenty of food to share, but there was no workshop aspect to the TM. Probably the most similar event in NZ I have been involved with is #eduignite sessions, but my experience is limited to last year's #eduigniterotovegas where I presented via GHO.

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations, but even more so, I enjoyed the f2f interaction with other passionate educators. I have worked geographically isolated from colleagues and team members for many years, and I don't mind it, but it is so nice to be in a room of like-minded people! ( +Annemarie Hyde, I didn't allow my inner tigger to come out yet as it was my first time meeting them, but watch out in the future:D).

Here are my reflections on the presentations:

+Rebecca Davies presented about #SAMR in the Classroom. I talk about this topic a lot myself, it was really good to hear someone else present on it. The main points I took away were that SAMR is a continuum with a space for all of us on it (there would be few teachers who would not at least type up their lesson plan, using technology at substitution level in their own work). Rebecca mentioned that students could be given the choice to what level they were completing a task after being introduced to the SAMR model. She stressed the importance of engaging teachers, of making the concept relevant to them and their classrooms, and how student learning gets enhanced when we use technology at the modification and redefinition level.

Kev McVay shared a project with us he led at St. Paul's School. He worked with a group of at-risk senior students on a project involving creating and racing go-carts. I really enjoyed listening to this, he spoke with great enthusiasm about the way the students engaged and succeeded where in other areas of schooling they might have been far less successful.

It was great that +Mark Yeates presentation followed this, he spoke about the learning he had taken out of many years in education and what his view of 21C pedagogy was. Relationships come first! While there is a lot of research out there that confirms this, it is great to hear passionate educators talk about how they have come to a particular approach in their practise.

Mic Black is not a teacher, he comes from a technical background which took nothing away form the education gained from his work and from his presentation! He ran a project with young people at the Sunshine Coast - check out PixelMosaic on Facebook. "If you describe yourself as a colour, what colour sequence would you use?" was the starting point, and the result can be seen at the Caloundra Regional Gallery until the end of this week. What absolutely fascinated me was the insights the children shared about why they chose particular colours (yellow and blue featured often as to be expected for children growing up at the Sunshine Coast). Mic also talked about engagement and about the way students with challenges successfully took part in the project.

Glenn Amezdroz shared some very valuable approaches from Visible Thinking Project Zero (I hope I got that right!), inspired from Art teaching, applied in his Senior H.P.E. context, but easily applicable in many more situations:
  • Using a powerful image, ask your 'audience' to describe what they "SEE, THINK, WONDER".
  • "What is going on? What do you see that makes you say that?"
  • At the end of a lesson, workshop, unit etc. ask for "I used to think..., but now I think..."
  • You can also use the newspaper headline approach to sum up the lesson / workshop / unit.
+Jacques du Toit shared with us the experience with the #TweetingAztecs. Within a senior history unit he integrated a tweeting aspect which led to greater student engagement and deeper understanding amidst lots of fun :) - and resulted in improved grades. It sounded like a fabulous experience and I hope more students get to experience approaches similar to this.

Jon Andrews spoke about educational research; there is lots of research out there, how do we know what is applicable to our context? Jon spoke about the need to engage with research as well as the need to undertake research, and how some schools are running their own research. This was very interesting for me as I had not come in contact with schools undertaking formal research yet (most NZ schools would be applying the teaching as inquiry approach in their classrooms, but what Jon talked about sounded more like publishable research if this makes sense). He also talked about the innovator's dilemma, describing the the journey of innovation like an s-curve, with the dilemma occurring at the end of the one innovation / the start of the next. Lots of food for thought I will have to follow up on.

I felt this was a hard act for me to follow. Many of you know how I dislike questions like "Is there an app for this?" because I am convinced pedagogy needs to come before the tool. I tried to make this point in my presentation about Three simple Web2.0 tools to support Collaboration.

+Katryna Starks is writing her PhD thesis on girls and gaming - Game Change (H)er - my ears pricked up straight away when I heard that! It was fascinating listening to her about how girls struggle to find suitable role models within gaming. As a mother of boys with one of them a (too) serious gamer now, this was particularly relevant, and I'm already looking forward to finding out more.
When I was teaching in the classroom, I often observed how around the age of 12 or so girls would shy away from the games boys were playing and their choices indeed were very limited - I remember my girls either playing dress up / make up type games, alternatively they went for preparing fast food orders or racing through space trying not to fall off the platforms (can't remember what the games were called). Interestingly, I only just realised this weekend when I read an essay my oldest boy wrote for Multimedia Studies, that Mirror's Edge. a game he spends too many hours on, has a female protagonist. I'm not sure though how suitable a role model that injures and kills enemies really is to our young woman! (It is not my favourite game as I can't see much creativity required by the player; however, in my son's defence, he is showing no interest in the fighting part, he just wants to speed run it and beat the times of other players).

The facilities at +Engage Research Lab were fantastic, and Ben Rolfe, Jason Riddell and others were wonderful hosts, sharing with us the work they do here. I can see young people like my Master14 move in there permanently in a heartbeat! Very cool, will definitely have to come back.

Overall it was a fabulous day, I learnt lots and met fabulous people, many more than I mentioned here. I would like to encourage everyone to take the opportunity to attend such an event, we learn heaps from and with each other. Next stop for me is GEG Gold Coast Meetup #2 - might see you there?

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