Muddling in Moodle

Those of us involved with developing and teaching courses hear a lot about the desirability of consistency which sometimes seems to be interpreted as just short of uniformity. Historically that is based on student responses to a survey conducted a few years ago which was interpreted as students wanting to see the same features in the same locations in different courses. An alternative interpretation of the data I saw might be that students wanted more consistency in the availability of staff in courses. At times it has seemed as though having courses appear too similar has confused students about where they are leading to questions being directed to the wrong staff. Nevertheless, there is probably value in looking for consistency at a high level such as exists among different web browsers or word processors in respect of essential features.


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Dogged optimist?

Being an optimist sometimes seems to require a degree of dogged determination. It can be necessary to hang on, sometimes for years, in the hope that things will be right in the end. Those of a more pessimistic persuasion would probably describe it as delusion rather than hope but that’s the core of the difference between the half-full and half-empty views of the world.

USQ has been offering fully online courses for almost 20 years. Unlike the early online offerings in some places that required attendance at face-to-face class meetings at beginning and end, and sometimes in between, USQ dived in at the deep end. Online courses had no required face-to-face meetings, no printed or optical media materials through the post, and mostly no required synchronous connections. An online or WEB course was just that. It all happened on the web.

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Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014

This time last week I was in Adelaide to attend the Australian Computers in Education Conference (ACEC2014), the once annual but now biennial conference of the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE). ACCE is the peak national professional group for those interested in ICT in education. It brings together state associations like the Queensland Society for Information Technology in Education (QSITE) and EdTechSA, which was the host on this occasion, and is the national affiliate for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The members of these associations are predominantly K-12 teachers but also include teacher educators with interest in the field. That makes their conferences, and especially ACEC, interesting as sites where academics and teachers come together with research papers mixed with presentations with a strong classroom focus. ACEC is a rare opportunity for interactions across the school-university spectrum.

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Digital paradoxes around openness

I just got back from from listening to Penny Carnaby from Lincoln University in New Zealand talking about Embracing the Digital Paradox! Exploring the impact of the Canterbury Earthquakes (a natural disaster) on scholarship, learning and teaching. That was mostly about the aftermath of the Canterbury/Christchurch earthquakes, the roles played by digital media in providing support for people immediately and more long term, and the role of the National Library of New Zealand and other agencies collaborating to ensure that documentary records were preserved. One major project that arose is CEISMIC which is a digital archive of the events. 

Discussion in response to her presentation ranged across a variety of topics but eventually highlighted what I thought were some interesting paradoxes.

Penny talked about the challenges in moving academic publication toward openness which runs against the tradition of tightly control refereed journals that are held in university libraries and are not widely available to the public. She also mentioned the roles of elite gatekeepers in controlling access to those publication venues and effectively determining what is of most value. It struck me that those positions were paradoxical.

The pecking order of academic journals is typically determined by measures like the Impact Factor based on citations which imply wider readership if they are higher. On that basis I’d expect open publications to be more widely read and cited and therefore potentially rated as more valuable than closed.

When it comes to elites determining what is valued there is something of a mystery involved in academics, who are often iconoclastic and known for contrariness, accepting such verdicts rather than determining the value of something for themselves. True there may be something of the club involved but it’s strange nonetheless.

Another member of the audience asked a question about the reluctance of students to engage in online discussions in courses despite their propensity for using social media in daily life. That seems paradoxical but the answer may lie in another paradox that we tell students that online discussion is desirable but we assess them on individual, rather than cooperative, work thus according no particular value to engaging in discussions. In fact, we discourage cooperation when it matters most, around assessment, and tend to punish collusion as serious misconduct.

If we really are moving to a more open academic world we may have some work to do lining up various aspects of our work for consistency. Various inconsistencies may become more apparent as we open up. That might not be a bad thing.

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SITE 2013 report

During the week from 24 to 29 March I attended the 24th Annual Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) which was held in New Orleans. I was grateful for Faculty support, both financial and for time away to attend the conference. The necessities of travel resulted in some free time on the weekend prior to the conference when I was able to see some of New Orleans and a couple of nearby historic plantations. I have shared some photographs in a Flickr set for those who may be interested.

Despite my best intentions to prepare this report during the period of the conference and submit it by email on the way home that did not happen because I was busy during the conference and had a few other pressing tasks that needed to be completed before I returned to the office. I did manage to report on the conference as it happened by ‘live tweeting’ from the sessions that I attended. That material is conveniently collected on a website at and includes key points, images of key slides, and links to relevant sites. I find that live tweeting helps me to focus on the presentation and avoid losing concentration as a consequence of shifting timezones.

I was involved in 3 presentations during the conference. Re-visioning Teacher Preparation for Mobility: Dual Imperatives was co-authored with Romina Jamieson-Proctor, Petrea Redmond, and Wendy Fasso (CQU). It reported results from the DEHub funded project we completed last year and has been accepted with minor revisions for publication as one of about 25 chapters in the SITE Research Highlights book for 2013. A copy of the paper will be submitted to USQ ePrints but I am happy to provide a copy for anybody who wants one. The other two presentations were panels in which I participated in my role as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education. In the first of those the associate editors of JTATE engaged in discussion with prospective authors about the journal focus and publication process. In the second I joined editors of other journals in the field for a short presentation and discussion with participants interesting in publishing work in the field.

In addition to presenting and attending presentations I was involved as JTATE Editor in meetings of the Consultative Council and SITE Executive and in a SITE Leadership meeting that elected the next President of SITE who will take office at the conference in 2014. I was also co-opted to assist with jading the poster presentations.

Each of the 4 days of conference began with a keynote. Day 1 was Milton Chen from the George Lucas Foundation who spoke about the issues addressed in his book, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools, primarily around the action that is needed for schooling to respond to changing times. The remaining keynotes all addressed global issues of equity from different perspectives. Paul Kim from Stanford University spoke about MOOCs from the perspective of the work he has done in developing countries and the MOOC he developed to around designing new learning environments to address some of the issues. Mariana Patru from UNESCO spoke about the developments in policy and practice required to build a digital-age teaching profession around the globe. Peter Dzvimbo from University of South Africa addressed the challenges for integrating ICT in teacher education and schooling in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to the keynotes I was able to attend 2 significant invited presentations – one by former SITE President, Ann Thompson, about the past present and future of ICT in teacher education and another by Don Knezek, recently retired as CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, on the need for advocacy around ICT in teacher education.

Despite difficult economic conditions in the USA and elsewhere attendance at SITE was up this year with about 1300 attendees from 65 countries. Most of those had some involvement in one or more presentations so there were typically 12 or more choices available during parallel sessions. I managed to attend more than a dozen parallel sessions, each with 2 or 3 presentations. Topics included TPACK (measurement, necessary leadership conditions, video cases for development, development in secondary programs), mobile learning (mobile portfolios, mobile app for monitoring teaching practice), digital stories, action-oriented research, hybrid and online doctoral programs, and more. The full proceedings of SITE will be available through the Education and Information Technology Library database for those who may be interested in more detail. Expect that to take a week or two to become available.

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Introducing digital technologies for teacher education students

In a previous post, Scratching about with planning, written in August before I went on leave, I wrote about my intentions for addressing the digital technologies element of the proposed Australian Curriculum in my revision of EDP4130 Technology Curriculum and Pedagogy. I had settled on Scratch as a medium that could be used to introduce the basics of computer program to preservice teachers in ways that they should be able to adapt for use in their own future classrooms. At that time my plan for the available 10 weeks of classes was to offer a 3 week structured introduction to Scratch, followed by a small common project using Scratch, an individual project with Scratch, and exploration of alternatives to Scratch.

After thinking about that and working through the development of materials the final configuration is similar but less focused on Scratch. Work with Scratch now uses 50% of the time for digital technologies, rather than 70% as in the earlier planning. The final configuration is as follows:

Class weeks Activity
1 – 3 Structured introduction to Scratch using ideas from various sources
4 – 5 Extension project work (individual or small group) using Scratch
6 – 7 Exploring alternatives to Scratch (individual or small group)
8 – 10 Independent digital technologies project (individual or small group)

Preparation of the material has progressed as far as preparing a working draft and putting it on my web server. The first introductory activities are based on the Scratch Getting Started Guide but most of the remainder of the activities in the first three classes are based on lessons developed by Simon Haughton with some adjustments for the learners being adult preservice teachers rather than school children. The remaining classes are open to students exploring in directions that appeal to them with suggestions offered for starting points in their explorations beyond Scratch

That part of the course now appears to be ready for use by students who will be attending classes on campus and those who will study entirely online. I have yet to prepare some accompanying material that will make links between the learning activities, ideas presented in the curriculum documents, and simple programming concepts. I also need to prepare some simple quiz items that can be used to check student understanding of the key ideas.

I think that Scratch looks simple and approachable. The success that it has had with kids bodes well but I’m still more than a bit nervous about how the preservice teachers will take to programming concepts. It’s a different way of thinking and I expect we will have some challenges through the semester.

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ICT and teacher education

David Jones asked “When will we no longer teach ICTs to pre-service teachers?” I was going to post a comment in response but doubted that I could keep it brief so opted to post here instead.

David’s post cites a recent exchange we had on Twitter:
Twitter exchange with @djplaner

I still think that the continuing evolution of technology is a critical part of the puzzle. That’s probably more true if we consider the broader domain of ICT (information and communication technology) rather than the narrower IT (information technology) but both are relevant for educators and are evolving in ways that require users to adapt behaviour by learning.

Educators typically face three sets of learning about new technologies. The first is the same learning about operation of a technology as is required by any user. The second is learning about the application of the technology to accomplish something useful for life in general and/or for specific areas of activity. The third is learning about the pedagogical applications of the technology. In terms of the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework proposed by Mishra and Koehler these are technological knowledge (TK), technological content knowledge (TCK), and technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK). Expert teachers blend these forms of knowledge to facilitate student learning.

For the past couple of decades optimists have argued that the challenges of effectively integrating ICT for learning and teaching will be solved by the new generation of teachers who have grown up with ICT. The flaw in that argument has always been that there is a procession of technologies that are newer than the graduates. It might be fair to assume that students arrive in teacher preparation programs with working knowledge of the operation of current technologies, although as well as school leavers our intake at USQ typically includes mature age candidates who may be less familiar with some technologies. However, the knowledge that pre-service teachers (PSTs) have about technologies is often superficial. They can manage day-to-day use for their own purposes (TK) but may not know about applications for specific content areas (TCK) and almost certainly have not considered the pedagogical applications (TPK).

David writes about the SAMR model and notes that much of the use of ICT for pedagogy has not moved beyond substitution/augmentation to modification/redefinition. The reason for that may lie at least partly in the constant evolution of ICT, which creates a moving target for innovation. It takes time to develop the easy familiarity with any tool that permits adaptive and creative use. By the time teachers develop their knowledge of any form of ICT to the point where they can become creative there is likely to be some new ICT to adopt.

There are other factors to consider. David notes the inertia of schools and systems that inhibit change. That is consistent with prior research. Becker (2000) noted that changes in teaching practice with computers occurred where teachers had necessary skills, some freedom in curriculum, access to equipment, and constructivist-compatible beliefs. Although most teachers now have basic skills and computer equipment is widely available, the recent push toward tighter control of curriculum and high stakes testing will not be helping with innovation.

For as long as I have been involved with teacher education, first as a student in 1973, as a teacher and principal from 1974 until 1991, and as a teacher educator since 1991, teacher preparation and development have included learning about ICTs (in the broad sense). In 1974 that included the use of blackboards, overhead projectors (OHPs), film and slide projectors, and duplicators. When I started at USQ in 1991 the program still included a course that addressed many of those technologies. It disappeared in the next program change but there was a required course that introduced common applications on computers. David now leads a course that is the current incarnation of that tradition. The specific content of the courses has evolved along with the ICTs available to teachers. Currently the course has a focus on pedagogy (TPK?) rather than technology (TK?) but it seems inevitable that it will be the occasion for at least some students to acquire knowledge and skills for technologies that are new for them.

This evolution of course specifics alongside ICTs seems inevitable and appropriate but we might ask whether anything of value has been lost in the process. The better courses in educational media included some principles and skills intended to improve the quality of material produced by teachers for use on blackboards, OHPs, and printed materials. Layout, selection of font styles and sizes for readability, and selection of colours for adequate contrast were part of that. Observation of materials produced by some of the current generation of PSTs suggests that including principles and skills for design in different media would still be relevant today though the media produced would be different.

Prior to my arrival at USQ there had been a period in which PSTs had learned at least the rudiments of programming in Logo as promoted by Seymour Papert. Learning about computer programming disappeared from teacher preparation as the focus of computing in schools shifted toward using more of the emerging educational software and integrating productivity applications. Recent developments in the technologies learning area within the Australian Curriculum suggest that it may be time to revisit that topic and I have been reworking our technology education course to include work on digital technologies, including programming in Scratch. In that respect the wheel appears to have turned.

Is there any escape or must teacher educators continue with the seemingly Sisyphean task of teaching ICTs to PSTs? I suspect that, for as long as ICTs continue to evolve, offering new opportunities for work in various fields and for learning and teaching, it will be necessary to include them in teacher preparation. The more pertinent questions might include what and how we teach about ICTs to PSTs. If the rate of change in ICTs is sufficient to require teaching PSTs about them then it will also be necessary for teachers in classrooms to learn about ICTs. That was at the heart of the quotation in David’s initial tweet, expressing the hope that new teachers with IT expertise would solve the “problem of getting teachers aware of IT”. If that will not work, what should we do?

It seems that, for the foreseeable future, teachers at all stages will need to be continuously learning about ICTs. In that case, the best that teacher educators can do is to prepare PSTs to be expert learners. That’s not an original thought (see, for example, Teacher as Expert Learner and Teachers as Master Learners) but I think it is at the core of what we need to be doing in teacher preparation, with ICTs and otherwise. There will be some principles and core skills (such as for design as noted above) that should be included in our programs but mostly we need to be graduating teachers who are excited about learning and equipped to support and encourage other learners. Exploring ways to use ICTs to support their own and others’ learning is important and will be supported by initiatives like working with personal learning networks and contributing to professional communities through activities like content curation as David and I are proposing to do in our respective courses.


Becker, H. J. (2000). Findings from the teaching, learning, and computing survey: Is Larry Cuban right?  Retrieved from

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Content curation as assessment for learning

I’ve had a long pause for travel and then, once I returned in mid-October, catching up with comments on drafts for doctoral students and getting a conference submission away. Sometime last week I managed to get my head back into this space and begin thinking again about course design. I’d previously thought through feedback and experience of recent offers and come to the conclusion that ab initio development of curriculum materials should be replaced by an activity that would be closer to curation than creation, encouraging students to engage with a  personal learning network to locate and curate resources to support teaching of technology education. The challenge now is to develop that idea into an assessment task that will help to engage our students in appropriate learning.

As always, there are some constraints imposed by bureaucratic processes. There are limits on the number and timing of assessment items that make it more difficult than it need be to arrange for an optimal flow of activity with checkpoints at the most appropriate places. It seems undesirable, and risky, to trust the outcome of an untried assessment process to a single submission at the end of semester. Ideally there might be multiple checkpoints that would provide for corrective feedback along the way so that students who initially misinterpret the requirements can be helped back on track. If I’m serious that this is about assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning then it seems sensible to try to arrange that students do not spend the semester learning the wrong thing.

Given the administrative restrictions, I decided a little while ago that the best I could do would be to arrange a checkpoint by placing a requirement for a plan/report about 3 weeks into the semester. That would require students to make an early start on the curation process and would deliver them feedback early enough to allow for adjustments where those might be necessary. The final piece of assessment would include the curated collection and whatever report might be needed around that.

With that basic structure in mind for the content curation task I needed to think about how that might be described and specified in a way that would both allow a degree of choice for students about content and tools and ensure some defensible basis for assessment of the products (and process). Rather than risk reinvention from scratch I spent time last week searching for material to support my assessment design, ideally by way of a ready made rubric. I’d been collating links to material on curation in Diigo for a while and some concentrated search turned up a variety of resources related to content curation but no ready made solution to my assessment challenge. About the closest I came was the curation project in a class offered by Corinne Weisgerber. Using some ideas gleaned from that course syllabus and other sources I found in my search last week I’ve been working toward setting up at least the skeleton of the curation task for EDP4130. I’m focusing first on envisaging what students might produce at the planning stage and by end of semester and writing some marking guides around those. Once I have that in place I can think about preparing a fuller description of the task with links to relevant resources. That will almost inevitably result in another iteration through the marking guides to align and refine those. As usual, I expect the first steps will be the most difficult because they involve a blank page. Once I have a draft, the refinement might be easier.

My current thinking about criteria for the final collection and a short associated report is:

Criteria Notes
Publication Curated collection published on a professionally presented public site
Content A number of properly attributed items linked to the collection theme
Value added Evidence of selection, editorial comment, contextualisation and critique
Audience engagement Evidence of efforts to promote the collection and of responses and further dissemination
Curation process Explanation of the curation process, role of PLN, etc.
Professional learning What was learned in the process and what is the continuing value of curation for professional growth?

I think those criteria address the key aspects of curation as I’ve been reading about them but I’d be interested in comment about anything I may have missed or that seems not to belong.

The earlier piece of assessment needs to be pitched toward ensuring that students make an early start and are on track for success. For that I’m thinking about the following criteria applied to a short report about progress to that point:

Criteria Notes
Theme Identify and justify a theme for its professional relevance to technology education
PLN mechanics Explain the choice of 2 or more online services as sources of information for curation
PLN membership Explain the choice of 3 to 6 experts as sources of information
Curation tool Explain the selection of a curation system
Curation sample Provide a sample of a curated item with an explanation of the curation process

Again I’d be interested in comments about what I might have missed or anything that seems out of place.

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Scratching about with planning

Work on redevelopment of EDP4130 came to a halt over the past couple of weeks because there was other work that needed to be done immediately. That, and the fact that I spent a few days scratching around with some ideas about the revisions, resulted in silence here. Now that I have completed a couple of other jobs, both related to EDP4130 and the review and accreditation process, I can try to do some more work on the revisions before I head off on leave to travel for several weeks.

For as long as technology has been part of the general curriculum in Queensland (and across Australia) it has fitted the pattern of what is often referred to as Design and Technology. The mantra of the national curriculum statement that appeared in the late 1990s was “designing, making and appraising with materials, information and systems”. That was variously interpreted and linked with other curriculum areas in different states. In Queensland, the 3 verbs of “design, make, and appraise” became 4 nouns – “investigation, ideation, production and evaluation” – but there was a broad consistency. Information and ICT figured in the curriculum but was not central.

In 2012 the development of the Australian Curriculum has progressed to the point of releasing a document on The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies that proposes two subjects, Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies. The first of these will require some adjustment in our preparation of teachers but shares much with what is already in the technology curriculum. The second represents new ground, including concepts about computer hardware and software for which we are not currently preparing our graduates. It will require more substantial changes to enable graduates to approach teaching about concepts that many of them will not have been exposed to in their own schooling.

Because the proposed scope and sequence for Digital Technologies includes basic concepts of computer programming – linear, branching and looping instructions – which will be new to our teacher education students I wanted to introduce those concepts in a way that would quickly build the basic concepts they need but could also suggest how they might approach the teaching of the same ideas in schools. Thus I came to be literally scratching about with Scratch, which provides a visual programming experience that is simple enough to be accessible to children and sophisticated enough to support teaching the important programming concepts.

Having decided that Scratch is likely to be a suitable basis for developing the important programming concepts I need to devise a workable plan for that component of the course. We run a 13 week teaching semester but students are out for 3 weeks of professional experience placement, leaving 10 weeks of actual course time available in 2 blocks, each of 5 weeks. For students studying on campus there are 3 hours of class time each week, conventionally divided into an hour of lecture (whole group in a large space) and two hours of tutorial (groups of 20 to 30 in smaller spaces). If Digital Technologies is to have equal billing to Design and Technology in the future curriculum then allocating one tutorial hour to each (and some suitable balance in the ‘lecture’ hour) would seem reasonable. That would allow 10 hours of class time to introduce students to computational thinking and the essential programming concepts via Scratch or otherwise. That’s not a lot of time but it will have to do.

There are possibilities other than Scratch that may deserve exploration so it will be important to allow some time for that. Students are likely to come to these classes with different background experience and skills so some flexibility in that exploration would be appropriate. If there are students with prior coding experience or access to particular hardware and software they might be able to tackle more ambitious projects. Possibilities for exploration might include building games with GameSalad or Stencyl, making simple apps for smartphones using Infinite Monkeys, coding with Google blockly, learning a ‘real’ programming language with Codecademy, or one of many other rapidly evolving options.

My first thoughts about how to block out the time are along these lines:

Class weeks Activity
1 – 3 Introduction to Scratch using ideas from the Scratch site resources
4 – 5 Common project using Scratch – prescribed outcome
6 – 7 Individual project using Scratch – free rein
8 – 10 Exploration of alternatives – breadth and/or depth

That pattern should ensure that everybody develops fair familiarity with Scratch, including some ideas about how to structure learning with it. It should also provide opportunities for exploration of multiple alternatives (breadth) or selecting one alternative and completing a simple project (depth).

Because a proportion of the students take the course entirely online it will be necessary to develop any materials and activities to support that mode. Students on campus will have the opportunity to attend classes in a computer laboratory where they will be able to obtain support as and when they need it.

That’s the core of my plan for that part of the course. Materials will need to be developed and some form of assessment designed but that will take a little longer.

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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.

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