WebQuest update

Among the components of the 2011 & 2012 offers of the course that I thought I wanted to retain for 2013, albeit with some changes, the WebQuest seemed to be a clear keeper. It models the use of a tried and tested method of making ICT integral to student-centred learning and teaching in the course. Based on feedback from students in 2012 it appears to have worked well as a way of exposing some issues that arise around technologies that trigger a variety of responses based on differing values, and it raised awareness about a technological issue that is likely to affect the lives of many students in the course and about which many of them, by their own account, had very limited knowledge before working through the WebQuest, which addressed several of the course objectives as revised for the 2013 offer: 

  • Demonstrate understanding of technology as a human activity
  • Demonstrate knowledge and skills relevant to the content of technology education
  • Demonstrate understanding of how ICT can be integrated to enhance learning in technology education
  • Demonstrate knowledge of course content using appropriate modes and conventions of expression with attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation and bibliographic referencing.

In marking student submissions in 2012 it became apparent that some of the instructions about the process and what was required for submission might have been clearer. Some students struggled to address the marking criteria within the 200 word limit for each of the 3 response segments. The responses had been deliberately specified as short in order to encourage students to focus on the key ideas and to limit the volume of reading and writing necessary for them to engage with the discussion forums. Short responses were also expected to assist the markers. 

Thus the work required to tidy up the WebQuest was relatively simple – clarify the instructions to assist students through the process, and simplify and clarify the marking criteria to improve the reliability of the activity as a method of assessing learning against the objectives. Checking and updating of links to online resources provided in the WebQuest was also required but that part of the renovation would be best done just before the start of the 2013 offer so that resources would be as up to date as possible. I also wanted to ensure that the WebQuest would display in a readable fashion on any device from a desktop computer to a smartphone so some work on the HTML and CSS might be required.

There had been some comments about students suggesting that verification by screenshot ought not be necessary for students attending class on campus and participating in discussion there. Although there is some validity in that comment, I was also aware that many students had commented in their assessment submissions that this was the first time they had learned how to grab screenshots and they thought it was a useful skill. On that basis I decided to retain that requirement as part of the effort to build and reinforce useful ICT skills.

My memories of where students appeared to have difficulty with the process and with the marking criteria were reasonably fresh so it was a relatively simple matter to work through the sections of the WebQuest making adjustments to address the known issues. Whether those will cause different issues will be revealed when the activity runs again in 2013. In the meantime the WebQuest content is tidied up, saving last minute checks to links just before semester begins. 

The structure of the WebQuest is based on that promoted by Bernie Dodge on his original WebQuest site. I built the pages in DreamWeaver with a simple stylesheet to handle the presentation. When I tweaked the site in 2012 I was thinking about mobile and included some media queries to deal with different screen sites. Changing page width in browsers on my iMac produced the expected adjustments to presentation, including rearrangement of navigation elements, but when I checked the updated site on my iPhone it preferred to present a ‘zoomed’ version with the full-size site in miniature. That was workable with ‘pinching’ but not what I wanted so I dug around my personal site and borrowed the ‘viewport’ code I’ve been using there. A few more tweaks to the media queries got that working well enough for now – more changes may follow when I have time and more knowledge – and opportunity to test on more devices. The tables that I used for the marking guide had multiple columns that did not squeeze down well for display in readable text on a small screen. Rather than try to replicate a previous effort to reformat a wide table of research supervision, I opted to rework the table into a vertical format.

The revised CSG WebQuest is now pretty much ready for use in 2013. It will be necessary to check and update links to resources and integrate it into the Moodle space for the course before the semester begins but, unless I have some brilliant idea for change, it is otherwise done.

SITE 2012 Day 4

The keynote on the final day of the conference was delivered by Mark Milliron, Chancellor of Western Governors University. This was a clear case of ‘save the best for last’ and was a lively presentation on building out the new generation of learning. Although the presentation included little that was new it was put together in a clear and compelling package around ’emerging insights’: tune the blend, mobility matters, get serious about play/simulation, move from social to learning networks, and leverage high engagement technologies. The presentation was laced with interesting stories and pithy advice such as ‘tune the blend to make the human moment precious’ – that is, use technology to take the base load so that human engagement is used to maximum advantage. It was engaging enough that we opted to stay for the second hour of conversation, much of which focused on the mode of operation of Western Governors University as an online university focusing on competencies and using curriculum content which is curated from other sources rather than built to order.

In subsequent sessions I attended presentations on social media  and Web 2.0 applications in education, learning theories related to Twitter, building video content using Flash, teacher networks, and a technology integration course for preservice teachers. The most interesting of these was the presentation by Tom Carroll and colleagues about Teachers Learning in Networked Communities (TLINC) 2.0 which pointed to some potential around development of professional learning communities and/or personal learning networks for teachers as a path to addressing issues of retention.

The connection by SITE to SXSWEdu provided access to the SXSW Startup Crawl as edutainment for the early evening. A small group of us visited a series of sites around downtown Austin to enjoy hospitality and exposure to software startups. Although few, if any, of them had direct relevance to education the experience did provide some interesting insights into the culture of software development, the playful workplace culture that characterises such enterprises, and the potential for creative approaches to software in activities including education.

As usual, SITE has provided a mix of interesting papers from colleagues working at the edge of new developments and opportunities to catch up in informal settings. The challenge will be to find ways to implement some of that in our own context once I return to campus.

SITE 2012 Day 3

Making it down the I-35 for an 8:30 start with the keynote rather than rushing for a 7:30 SIG meeting allowed for some extra sleep and a less frantic start to the day. The keynote was provided by a panel of 4 Deans – 2 from the USA, 1 from NZ and 1 from Israel. Each gave a brief presentation, followed by a period of questions directed to the panel. Many of the challenges faced by education faculties were similar across contexts. For example, the Deans from both New Mexico and NZ spoke about the ways in which they are engaging with indigenous populations and all faced challenges with rapidly changing technologies and the drive, for varying reasons, to take their offerings online.

In the hour following the keynote I met with Matt Koehler to discuss the visit that he and Punya Mishra will be making to Australia for the TTF National Support Network meeting on 15 and 16 March. We talked about the project and its background, what had been achieved so far, the evaluation framework, and what might be expected of Matt and Punya during the Sydney meeting. Fortunately I had received recent updates on the planned program for the 2 day meeting and a summary of the research outcomes that I was able to share as background for their thinking about the content of presentations.

In the session before lunch I participated in a panel of editors of journals in the field. In addition to JTATE, the panel represented the other SITE journal, Contemporary Issues in Teacher Education, the ISTE journals, Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education and Journal of Research on Technology in Education, and Computers in the Schools. The panel briefly outlined the focus of each journal and then engaged in a Q&A session with the audience who were mostly interested in how to get published.

Over lunch I met with Debbie Sprague, outgoing Editor of JTATE, to catch up on the status of various papers in the journal system. We looked at the various parts of the system I will need to use to manage allocation of reviews, posting of decisions, and preparation for publication. An issue has recently gone to press and there are enough papers accepted for the next issue. Beyond that we are looking for content and, depending on what comes in post-conference, may need to encourage some authors to submit.

During the afternoon I attended a session about transitioning from traditional face-to-face to online for teacher education with a focus on preparing teachers to work online in K12 settings. Most of the afternoon was in a 2 hour symposium, What would John Dewey do?, in which Punya Mishra, Matt Koehler and their team from Michigan State presented on how they designed and implemented their Master of Arts in Educational Technology program.

The poster and demonstration session ran from 5:15 – 6:45 pm after which I had been invited to a reception arranged by the Iowa State group at Iron Cactus. Majella joined me for Tex Mex cuisine and an evening of interesting conversations with some USA friends from SITE, graduate students from Iowa State, and Niki Davis and her Dean, Lyndsey Connors, from Canterbury University in Christchurch, NZ.

SITE 2012 Day 2

My time at SITE has been busy enough to negate my good intentions of compiling this report on a daily basis. Here I am at lunch time on the final day and I’m just now finding time to make some notes about the second day of the conference proper.

I started the second day early, attending the TPACK SIG meeting to catch up on developments in that area and to accept one of 4 SIG awards for my paper – Looking for evidence of change: Evaluation in the Teaching Teachers for the Future project – presented the previous day. The TPACK SIG awards took the form of a large coffee mug, a ‘Thompson’, named in honour of Ann Thompson, a former president of SITE and and early mover on TPACK.

The Tuesday keynote was presented remotely by Larry Johnson from the NMC Horizon Project and was shared across the Internet with the SXSWEdu conference down the road in Austin and the COSN conference in New York. The focus of the presentation was on rapidly changing technologies, the Horizon Report, and implications for higher education. Mobile computing and tablets are the near horizon focus for 2012 and represent trends that we need to accommodate in planning for revisions to courses and programs.

I managed to attend several parallel sessions through the day. They addressed topics including using TPACK to analyse teachers’ task design in a Swedish 1:1 setting, evaluation of a 2 year PD project in Nevada, extreme learning (including adventure learning), digital storytelling, idea videos, and authentic learning in instructional design (presented by my former doctoral student, Jay Wilson). The take home lessons were about variety and creativity in the ways that teacher educators and their students are working to build capabilities for learning and teaching with ICT. There is clearly no single solution but many different tools can be used to achieve useful outcomes.

Two hours of the afternoon were devoted to presentation of our symposium with 4 papers about different aspects of the Teaching Teachers for the Future project. The symposium was organised by Chris Campbell from University of Queensland and other presenters included Matthew Kearney (UTS), and Jason Zagami (Griffith). Jason presented over Skype. My contribution to the symposium considered redesign of EDP4130 Technology Curriculum and Pedagogy to make TPACK and ICT integration more explicit.

The SITE welcome reception from 6:30 – 7:30 pm was followed by the Leadership Summit dinner from 7:30 – 9:30 pm. After 14 hours of conference it was time to call it a day.

SITE 2012 Day 1

Our hotel breakfast was simple, bagels and cream cheese, but slower than anticipated and traffic was heavier than on Sunday so we were late for the SIG meetings which started at 7:30 am.

Welcome and keynote followed at 8:30. Jim Bower, a computational neuro-biologist from University of Texas at San Antonio, provided the keynote. He pitched at the conference theme about exponential change and ran through some of the usual material about rates of change in population, computing power, and other technologies. He made strong points about the unsuitability of lecturing as a mode of education, originally introduced to solve problems of scalability in medieval universities but no longer relevant when information is so easily accessible from the Internet. The final part of his presentation dealt with the educational website, Whyville, he has developed for kids. The site provides for learning by working independently with simulations to collect data for analysis to drive the learning. There were some interesting examples of how kids, faced with the implications of the data they had collected, could learn through solving problems in the simulated world.

In the first parallel sessions I attended the first part of a symposium about TPACK investigations conducted in various parts of the world. The session was coordinated by Petra Fisser from Twente and included presentations about TPACK research from Ghana and Tanzania. In the next session before lunch I was part of a panel in a discussion with intending authors for the Journal of Technology of Teacher Education.

Over lunch I attended the meeting of the SITE Consultative Council as incoming editor of JTATE. The meeting discussed international initiatives of SITE and the appointment of new Associate Editors for JTATE.

Following lunch I presented my first paper for the conference – Looking for evidence of change: Evaluation in the Teaching Teachers for the Future project. The paper presented some comparisons of national data from the first 2011 TTF survey and data from USQ collected in that survey and in previous work from 2009 and 2010. The analysis found that USQ had significantly higher scores than the national means on most of the measures in 2011 and that there had been some significant increases on common items from 2009 to 2011. That seems to be reason for optimism about the work being done in our program and may have resulted from the reintroduction of an ICT pedagogy course (EDC3100) and the introduction of online offers exposing students and staff to more work with ICT with a resultant increase in confidence. I was fortunate to have the paper recognised by awards in the TPACK SIG and the general conference awards.

For the balance of the afternoon, before the SITE Executive Board meeting at 3:45 pm, I was able to catch presentations about evaluating the use of interactive whiteboards in Pennsylvania schools, a classroom observation tool for assessing ICT integration, a description of ICT use in a cohort doctoral program at Arizona State, and the use of video activities for learning literacy and content in Dutch primary education.

After the Executive meeting we had time to join the participants in SXSWEdu for an open air reception in Brush Square Park in downtown Austin. By the time that was done we had completed another 12 hour day and it was time to rest and recover.

Microsoft TEI at SITE 2012

I spent Sunday at the SITE – Microsoft Teacher Education Initiative meeting. It was a very full day, beginning with breakfast at 7:30 am and concluding with dinner at 7:00 pm. We arrived back our hotel after that around 9:00 pm.

The formal program began after breakfast, at 8:30 am, with a short introduction from Mike Searson (SITE President) and Jim Ptaszynski (Microsoft Senior Director, World Wide Higher Education). That was followed by an introduction to Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) provided by Punya Mishra and a sample teaching case with video clips being developed for teacher educators by Mark Hofer.

Those presentations were followed by a sequence of three parallel sessions presenting ideas for workshops in specific areas – Social Studies Education (Cheryl Bolick & John Lee) and English Education (Melanie Shoffner & Marshall George), Mathematics Education (Joe Garofalo & Robin Angotti) and Science Education (Janice Anderson & David Slykhuis), Games & Simulations (David Gibson & Robin Angotti) and World Languages (Yan Zu, Gregory Shepherd & Mike Searson). I landed in the A series – Social Studies, Mathematics, and Games & Simulations. Each session ran for 90 minutes and included varying degrees of audience participation. Each was condensed from a fuller version and had sufficient content to make a full day workshop with material that highlighted the possibilities for making ICT integral to learning in the relevant area.

As incoming Editor of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education I was a member of a panel of journal editors moderated by Gerald Knezek. Discussion focused on the research objectives and approaches that might be appropriate for evaluating the TEI and how the work should be disseminated. In addition to JTATE the panel included representation for ETR&D, TechTrends, JDLTE, Computers in the Schools, and CITE.

Following a wrap up by Jim Ptaszynski and Mike Searson the day ended with social interaction and dinner.

This was the first trial of the proposed package for the TEI workshops. It is to be trialled again at University of North Carolina in May and then launched at ISTE in June. The package appears to have real potential and might be a good follow on from the Teaching Teachers for the Future project in the Australian context. I’ve suggested that possibility to Jim Ptaszynski and will contact him with information about the TTF so that he can brief Microsoft representatives in Australia.

SITE 2011

From 5 – 13 March I travelled to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend the 22nd International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE). The conference attracted almost 1200 delegates representing more than 50 countries, which was heartening for the society in a time of restricted financial support from many universities in the USA and elsewhere. I am grateful to the faculty for support to attend the conference which I have been attending annually since 1998.

Because of my involvement in the management of SITE it is always a busy conference for me but this one was especially busy. I participated in an IFIP WG3.3 conference on the days prior to SITE, attended various meetings of SITE committees, was involved in 2 meetings about a UNESCO sponsored EDUSummIT to be held in Paris in June, and participated in 5 presentations.

IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) is an international organisation established under the auspices of UNESCO in 1960. It operates through 14 technical committees of which the third (TC 3) deals with Education. Each TC has a number of working groups. WG 3.3 Research on Education Applications of Information Technologies had been invited to SITE and had arranged for a workshop on Research in digital technologies, futures and education to be held on March 6 & 7. Prof Niki Davis, currently at University of Canterbury, had  arranged for me to be invited to the workshop which was focused on reading and critiquing papers by participants with the intention of developing them for journal submission. In addition to the papers I had already submitted for SITE I prepared a paper, ICT access and confidence with applications among pre-service teachers, for this conference with Romina Jamieson-Proctor and Glenn Finger (Griffith) based on some data we collected in 2010. During the workshop I was proposed for full membership of WG 3.3 and am awaiting confirmation of that by TC 3.

My formal SITE conference activity commenced with the Executive Board meeting on 7 March. Other activity associated with my roles in SITE included attendance at the meeting of the International Education SIG, attending the Consultative Council meeting where Joke Voogt (Twente) and I presented a short discussion paper on developing the international profile of SITE, representing the editor of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (for which I am an associate editor and was acting editor during part of 2010) on a panel of editors, attending the SITE leadership dinner, and introducing the IFIP keynote panel. In my role as a SITE Vice-President with responsibility for international development I also participated in two meetings about the organisation of a follow-up EDUSummIT to be held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in June.

I contributed to four refereed presentations at SITE this year:

Albion, P. R. (2011). Come the Revolution: Pre-service Teachers’ Access to, Attitudes toward, and Skills with ICT. In M. Koehler & P. Mishra (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education 22nd International Conference 2011 (pp. 74-81). Nashvillle, TN: AACE.

Albion, P. R., & Erwee, R. (2011). Preparing for doctoral supervision at a distance: Lessons from experience. In M. Koehler & P. Mishra (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education 22nd International Conference 2011 (pp. 82-89). Nashvillle, TN: AACE.

Erwee, R., & Albion, P. R. (2011). New Communication Media Challenges for Supervisors and External Doctoral Students. In M. Koehler & P. Mishra (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education 22nd International Conference 2011 (pp. 252-259). Nashvillle, TN: AACE.

Sprague, D., Albion, P. R., Ferdig, R., Maddux, C., & Leins, J. (2011). Publishing in the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (JTATE). In M. Koehler & P. Mishra (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education 22nd International Conference 2011 (pp. 1680-1684). Nashvillle, TN: AACE.

These and other SITE conference papers will be available from the Education & Information Technology Digital Library to which the USQ Library subscribes. The second paper has already been accepted for the 2011 edition of the SITE Research Highlights book and the first is still in review for that publication.

The Tuesday keynote was Yong Zhao who spoke about Students as Global Entrepreneurs, from a USA perspective but with broader implications, concluding with encouragement  to invent a job, not find one. The gist of his message may be gleaned from his blog. On Wednesday incoming President of SITE, Mike Searson, presented his keynote on Bucky’s Map and Global Perspectives in a Digital Age, encouraging consideration of how our perspectives on the world are developed and may be made more global. The Thursday keynote was delivered by a panel of IFIP WG 3.3 members and introduced the work of IFIP and the working group. The final keynote on Friday, The Great Educational Reset of 2011: Mobile, was delivered by Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway with the core message that personal devices that are truly mobile, not merely ‘carry along’ like netbooks and tablets, can enhance learning by increasing time on task. They described results from the USA and Singapore where students using mobile devices recorded improved performance on standard tests.

I was able to attend a variety of interesting presentations including one by USQ masters student, Penny Neuendorf, from Canberra Institute of Technology. I had supervised Penny’s masters project but had not previously met her. I was able to attend several presentations about TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge), which is the framework being used to underpin the DEEWR-funded national project, Teaching Teachers for the Future, in which the Faculty will be participating through 2011 and into 2012.

The major messages that I brought away and that may have wider relevance for the Faculty were around TPACK, the potential of mobile devices for learning, and the effects of globalisation on education at all levels. I will be reflecting on these themes as I consider revisions to courses and would welcome the opportunity to engage in conversations with colleagues who may share interests in these topics.

Sydney Symposium – The Future of Teacher Education and School Leader Education

From 26 July – 29 July I attended the 2010 Sydney Symposium – The Future of Teacher Education and School Leader Education at Macquarie University. This was a small working conference to which I had been invited by the organiser, and former USQ colleague, Prof. Ian Gibson. Attendees came from Australia, New Zealand and the USA, and included teacher education academics, some of whom I know well from SITE or elsewhere, and representatives of professional organisations such as the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

Papers for the symposium were refereed and then made available for reading prior to the conference to facilitate discussion. Following the symposium there is to be opportunity for revision of papers based on the discussions and the revised versions are to be published in a book following a further round of peer review.

The symposium program was split into two broad sections of two days each in which the focus was first on teacher preparation and then on development of leaders. The program was a full one with a succession of presentations and small working groups that produced notes in shared documents during working sessions following one or more presentations on a subtheme. The working session on the final morning collated that material into recommendations that will be made available more widely following some post-conference editorial work to produce a coherent document.

Although many of the symposium participants shared an interest in the educational application of ICT that did not dominate discussion though it did influence and inform it. Ken Kay for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills was a presenter and ideas from that area influenced thinking around the tables as did ideas from AITSL, the NSW Institute of Teachers, and education systems, mostly from NSW, that were represented. The final document, when it is available, will be a useful prompt to thinking about future development of our programs.

I presented a paper that was co-authored with my younger daughter, Hannah, and provided an intergenerational perspective on the development of educational leaders – Successful succession through shared leadership: Preparing a new generation of educational leaders. The paper looked at leadership succession from the perspective of a millennial female looking to balance work and family while preserving opportunities for career advancement. Issues of work-life balance and opportunities for part-time workers to engage in shared leadership were discussed with a positive audience response.

On the final afternoon of the symposium I was able to participate with other attendees in site visits to Macquarie ICT Innovations CentreMLC School Burwood, and the NSW DET Centre for Learning Innovation. MLC, which has had a 1:1 laptop program for several years and favours openness and education rather than a locked down filtered network, was particularly interesting. More and more schools are moving to 1:1 computing and, regardless of the outcome of the pending federal election, we need to be thinking more about what differences in teacher preparation may be needed to respond to this trend.

RCEE 2010 & RHEd 2010

Last week I attended the 3rd Regional Conference on Engineering Education (RCEE 2010) and Research in Higher Education (RHEd 2010) held at the Grand Margherita Hotel in Kuching, Sarawak.

I was invited to deliver a plenary presentation on the challenges of implementing problem-based learning (PBL) in the university environment. I developed the presentation around the idea that implementing PBL is itself an experience of PBL as we seek to solve the problem(s) associated with designing and delivering a course in a PBL mode. My presentation drew on some ideas from Howard Barrows who argued early in the history of PBL that there is a spectrum of approaches that can achieve at least some of the goals of PBL. That understanding makes it easier to begin working with PBL by adopting an approach that works incrementally toward a full implementation rather than insisting on an “all or nothing” approach. My presentation slides are available on Slideshare.

Because I was going to be there for the entire conference I took the opportunity to submit a paper (written with colleagues, Jerry Maroulis & Romina Jamieson-Proctor) describing some of the initial results from a project on which we are working at USQ. The project has collected data from students and staff about access, attitudes and capabilities related to the use of ICT for learning. The paper focused on results from the Faculty of Engineering and Surveying which were likely to be of most relevance for the audience at this conference. The presentation slides for this paper are also on Slideshare.

The principal focus of the conference was on Engineering Education but the inclusion of Research in Higher Education element ensured that there were some papers of broader interest. One of particular interest described the development and testing of a system for automated social network analysis of Moodle discussion forums. The system is still in development but is capable of generating visual displays of levels of participation in networks based on incoming and outgoing messages. A system of this sort may have applications for research as well as for monitoring levels of student engagement in course discussions. It will be interesting to see if this, or a similar system, becomes available for use at USQ.

Although the conference schedule was busy I did manage to find some time to look around and to capture some images. A selection of those can be found in my Malaysia 2010 gallery.

ACEC 2010

From 5 April – 9 April I was in Melbourne to attend the Australian Computers in Education Conference. ACEC is held every second year under the auspices of the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE) which comprises the relevant teacher professional associations in each of the Australian states and territories. ACCE is itself the major Australian affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The conference attracts teachers from across Australia representing the variety of systems and sectors, together with a good representation of teacher educators interested in ICT and a sprinkling of international participants. For me it represents an opportunity to network with teacher educator colleagues from around Australia, hear first hand from teachers about how they are implementing ICT in classrooms, and enjoy a variety of interesting keynote presentations from Australia and abroad. I am grateful to the faculty for the support which assisted me to attend ACEC 2010.

I was co-author on two presentations at ACEC. The first was a paper reporting on the survey of TPACK preparedness that Romina Jamieson-Proctor, Glenn Finger (Griffith) and I conducted with final year students in 2009. That paper won a ‘highly commended paper award’ which was presented after the keynote on Thursday morning. The second was based on the work of doctoral student Kitty Ho and reported some results of her study of ICT use by Home Economics teachers in Hong Kong.

The conference proper began with a reception in the trade expo area on Tuesday evening but I opted to attend the Leadership Forum which ran from lunch time on Tuesday and discussed the implications of the Australian Curriculum for ICT in schools. The forum began with input from the manager of curriculum at ACARA, Evan Arthur (DEEWR) and Don Knezek (ISTE CEO). The draft documents of the Australian curriculum include ICT among 10 general capabilities and describe a continuum with 5 dimensions and benchmarks at years 2, 6 & 10. Evan Arthur noted that the Australian government had moved to provide equipment and connectivity for ICT in schools but that curriculum and pedagogy were also required. Don Knezek spoke about the move in the USA to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and especially engineering education in k-12 education. This was a theme that Don and others had addressed at SITE in the previous week. The focus in this US effort is not so much on ICT as on high level (21C) skills that use ICT. Discussions in the forum tended to focus on whether ICT in the curriculum should be represented as a general capability, a discipline area or both. On Thursday I was also able to attend a lunch time meeting of a reference group established as part of an Australian Council of Deans of Education project to secure some of the funding available under the recently announced ICT Innovation fund associated with the Digital Education Revolution.

Wednesday (Day 1 of the ‘real’ conference activity) began with welcomes, some awards and a performance from the drum line of the Australian Youth Band. By the end of that there was no excuse for not being awake for the first of the series of keynotes.

  1. Alan November began by inviting participants to turn on their mobile phones and respond to a question about the origin of the mass in trees by texting a code to a number or selecting an option from a web page. Most of the audience selected an incorrect answer which was shown to be consistent with performance of Harvard graduates and US school children on understanding of photosynthesis. His point was the disconnection between school learning at all levels and understanding relevant to the real world. His presentation went on to challenge preconceptions about how education works and included provocative claims such as that the delay in feedback means that homework has failure designed in. The remaining keynote/plenary presentations provided a variety of perspectives on ICT in education.
  2. Michelle Selinger presented snapshots of projects from around the globe that addressed digital equity in developing countries.
  3. Sylvia Martinez presented on the “92% solution”, so called because her GenYES project has used students, who represent 92% of the people in a typical school, to facilitate teacher learning about ICT in the context of their own schools and classrooms.
  4. Adam Elliot told the story of how he produced his Oscar-winning animation, Harvie Krumpet. Other than the brief mention of digital technologies toward the end of his presentation there was no obvious connection to ICT but it was a powerful and vastly entertaining story of success through perseverance and small steps which may be a metaphor for changing education in response to ICT.
  5. The presentation by Gary Stager on Friday morning was vintage Gary, beginning with a walk down memory lane about the glory days of Logo, laptops at MLC, and Gary’s links to that. He progressed to challenging and provocative comments about ICT in education, pronouncing the debate on 1:1 over and characterising interactive whiteboards as pre-Gutenberg technology that reinforces the dominance of the front of the room, suggesting that some teachers doing brilliant things with IWBs is not sufficient reason to give every teacher an IWB and that, on that argument, we should give every teacher a chainsaw because some teachers would do brilliant things with a chainsaw.
  6. In the final keynote, Chris Betcher spoke about ‘change, creativity, curriculum, community’ from which my take away message was the question: “Could education be more like Mythbusters than Who wants to be a millionaire?

In selecting breakout sessions I tried for a balance between those presented by teacher educators and/or researchers, and those by teachers grounded in schools and classrooms.

Paul Newhouse based his presentation, which won the best paper award, on research that he has been conducting in WA on assessment of performance in subjects such as PE using video and other digital tools. There were several presentations from a group at UNE who have been working on measuring learner engagement while working with ICT and another on the interaction between teacher beliefs and their planning for lessons. Each of these prompted thinking about how the ideas might be applied to my teaching and research at USQ.

The school-based presentations that I attended shared some common themes around 21st century learning (based around authentic problems/projects, supported by a variety of ICT, collaborative knowledge generating rather than regurgitating) and an evident trend, at least among the schools represented at ACEC, toward 1:1 programs – currently using laptops but with frequent discussion of smaller mobile devices. I came away from each one wondering how long teacher education can continue as a largely ICT-free zone with a substantial proportion of ‘stand and deliver’ in face-to-face or online mode. If it is true that teachers tend to teach as they are taught then it must be time evolve our practice to better represent what appears to be the emerging practice in many schools.

Those with an interest in experiencing more of the flavour of ACEC 2010 can visit the conference web site and/or review the #acec2010 Twitter stream.