I am a Teacher-Librarian at a small regional cooeducational college. I am keen to develop information literacy across the curriculum from early learning through to year 12. It is critical in my position to keep tabs on new technology and its educational application. I am lucky to work in a school where technology is supported.
The Microsoft E2 Educator Exchange Conference is an exclusive three-day event that brings together 350 of the most innovative educators from around the world for the opportunity to collaborate, create, and share their experiences on how to integrate technology and pedagogy to advance learning, achieve student outcomes, and transform education. This year the event was held in Paris.
To be selected, educators must be active participants in the Microsoft Expert Educator Program, have qualified as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and have lodged an application with the relevant person in their country. For Australians, this is Travis Smith, the K-12 Industry Lead at Microsoft Australia. The application had to be created using Sway; this is mine.
For 2019 Travis chose 4 Australians: Laura Bain, and Mark Savery from Queensland, Jodi Gordon from South Australia and me, Margaret Simkin, from Victoria. A fifth, Stephen Crapnell, also from Queensland, presented one of the whole conference sessions, as well as participated in the challenges.
In my case I was told that my selection was due to my engagement in programs, including presenting at TeachMeets in the school holidays, participating on online conferences outside school hours, and my social media involvement.
were required to participate in the following tasks:
Educator Learning Marketplace – sharing a learning activity and learning from peers who are using Microsoft technologies in innovative and creative ways. The lessons shared were varied, targeted all age groups from 5 – 18 Years and were in languages other than English in many cases. Many focussed on Minecraft, Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, for example Mark’s, which combined all three. Mine focussed on Collaboration, which is the nature of my role at The Hamilton and Alexandra College.
Professional development and certification opportunities – we could all participate in workshops and training opportunities run by peer educators, and product development teams.
Global Educator Challenge – Teams of 6 educators from a variety for countries, many of whom did not speak English, were tasked with completing the Class Hack educator group challenge. This involved a quick tour of the Eiffel Tower precinct and the forecourt of the Louvre, followed by the development of a learning activity using some of the designated Microsoft products to achieve a learning goal. The Translate tool was working overtime!
Awards Ceremony: held at the Les Pavillions de Bercy. The Musée des Arts Forains – Collection Jean-Paul Favand a private museum of funfair objects located within the Pavillons de Bercy in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. This was an amazing venue with wooden games that could be played (a type of bowls which led to some mechanical horses racing across a space, a point scoring type of pool, fortune telling activities, and lots of life-size mannequins et cetera).
The first week of April 2019 was spent in Paris attending the amazing Microsoft E2 Educator Exchange. I was honoured to be one of 5 Australian teachers to be selected, and the only one from Victoria.
Most of the team met for the first time at Dubai airport, and by Monday afternoon we were all together at the Marriott Hotel, our home for the week and the conference venue.
The plane landed a little later than scheduled and we were met at the airport door by a driver holding a sign bearing our names.
After a rest, and working on instructions NOT to sleep (Travis!) we headed out for a quick tour around the area and then tea.
The first full day that we were there was one for acclimatising – so we got outside and wandered the streets. Unfortunately for Laura, Mark and I, our first choice for exploring, the catacombs, was closed on Mondays. We found our way to the Pantheon, taking taking photos along the way. Signs of the revolution were everywhere!
On our way to dinner, we stopped to take a photo outside Notre Dame.
We then took breath while three of us rode a carousel!
In the evening we had a team meal at Georges, in an interesting building called the Georges Pompidou Centre . Here we had a rooftop table with a view of the Eiffel tower.
Having conquered the application process, developed the required materials for the exchange, and found our way via various routes to the beautiful city of Paris, were were ready to commence the exchange.
A more advanced level of collaborating between schools is enabled by Office 365. It is aided by classes where students have 1:1 device access. This is an example currently being employed in 2019 with VCE Year 11 and 12 students studying History Revolutions using PowerPoint online. I am waiting for the other two schools to act – watch this space!
I have an experienced and enthusiastic teacher who is currently teaching Russia, which I teach in the second half of the year who wants to be involved.
The restrictions on this task were enormous: I visited the class for 50 minutes per week on Friday mornings. Many things were commenced and then by the time we met again a new topic was being introduced. Most students, however, were able to produce something useful in the first lesson. I can’t share the links with you because they all did what was requested and only shared with people within our organisation.
The student 1:1 devices were not quite ready to be used and my timetable allocated me to one of the Year 6 classes to assist with an Inquiry Topic into World War 1. Hmm – how best to meet the brief?
I selected a number of texts from the Senior School Library, loaded them into a crate with wheels and headed north.
What did I choose? A range of texts about the “Great War” – including titles relating to Chinese soldiers, the Australian Imperial Forces (great language to discuss) and several volumes of the wonderful but underutilised Official history of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 by Charles Bean.
By taking these somewhat ancient tomes I was able to discuss the role of an official historian, censorship, and the age of our school (which is why we have these in our collection).
Students were invited to enter the book gallery and complete a table in any way that they felt appropriate.
The collaboration, obvious interest in content and active discussions around the room were wonderful to behold. The images below were taken with my staff laptop (Toshiba Z20) screen and they worked better than I thought they might.
This post covers the focus of my Marketplace stand at Microsoft E2 Education Exchange, held in Paris 1 2nd-4th April 2019. You can see the summary of what will be displayed here.
There are many methods available for collaboration. These are demonstrated here and increase in complexity as you move down the page.
Within a class:
The most basic form of collaborating is within a class. It can be technology free, for example, this Year 6 activity about the Great War, or this example of collecting data and developing ways of using it at senior level. Work can be shared by the teacher taking photographs and embedding into OneNote ClassNotebook, or, if mobile devices are permitted, by the students themselves.
Within our school.
Blogging by Grade 4 students in 2018, who were involved in collaborating with our regional Rural Industries Skill Training centre (usually training farmers and senior level agricultural students). Their experience can be seen here. This work was presented at a Microsoft Edumeet in Melbourne by the Grade 4 teacher, Stephen Mirtschin, and me in the middle of 2018.
A more advanced level of collaborating between schools is enabled by Office 365. It is aided by classes where students have 1:1 device access. This is an example being employed in 2019 with VCE Year 11 and 12 students studying History Revolutions using PowerPoint online.
This type of collaboration enables understanding of how people live and work differently from others.
When working through a subject, such as History: Revolutions, it is difficult to get the base knowledge mastered, yet the course requires students to consider different ways of looking at the same events in order to more deeply understand the range of perspectives from the time and the multitude of ways that historians have interpreted them.
The situation is exacerbated when the class is very small. In my class, we spend about 1/3 of our lesson time each week working together to collect and then analyse what we have found. I explain to the students that we can work more effectively together to maximise data collection, then give feedback to the collectors in terms of content and coverage of the topic.
It is a number of years ago since I first tried this with a class of 7 with the intention of getting my students thinking. That attempt is detailed here.
This worked brilliantly with the class concerned, but the next time I tried was unsuccessful as a number of students wanted to be silly.
Yesterday, I tried again and it was wonderful. here’s how the lesson unfolded
First I set a potential essay topic (selected to target the earliest part of the course): “How significant were preexisting tensions as a cause of the French Revolution of 1789?” Students were asked to work out the key topic words for each paragraph – could be four or five. Results looked like this once they were stacked in order of discussion.
Once the main concepts were stacked in paragraph order, I asked them to choose one main topic and use 3 small blocks to indicate the content of the sentences within the paragraph for that keyword.
Mind map in the same pairs as before what the essay will cover overall, using all class ideas to this point.
Providing feedback to the other teams on their mind map.
Students went home to write their planned essay over the weekend. The results were very pleasing – the longest first essays I have seen in many years of teaching this subject. Well done to all of them!
I confess – my views differ from some of the strategic Information Technology directions some schools are currently promoting, but in terms of providing valuable education, I really believe we should be embracing smartphones rather than banning them.
That would mean this:
Instead of this:
I am collating data on use and gain, which I hope to have in a state worthy of sharing shortly. I do not think the future will be easy, whichever way schools proceed but from my perspective, the key points are:
Ubiquitous tech such as smartphones and watches are part of today’s world.
No child’s parent has grown up with appropriate use of tech being modelled (first smart type phone 1992 – first iPhone 2007) so who teaches usage, advantages, dangers, and protocols if we don’t?
We are dealing with rapidly evolving products which we can’t hope to keep up with in terms of banning and have far greater chance of impact if we respond in an educational manner.
These devices augment computers (and in some ways surpass them) and should be harnessed appropriately for the enabling of learning as appropriate.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), is home to a passionate community of global educators who believe in the power of technology to transform teaching and learning, accelerate innovation and solve tough problems in education.
ISTE inspires the creation of solutions and connections that improve opportunities for all learners by delivering: practical guidance, evidence-based professional learning, virtual networks, thought-provoking events, and the ISTE Standards.
The app I would recommend most highly is Office Lens and it is incredibly powerful when paired with OneNote with its amazing “immersive reader”. It works on laptops, iPads, and phones and is excellent for differentiation and assisted learning.
To my way of thinking the gains to education far outweigh the pain, particularly for older students who will soon be expected to function in the world of work.
Fortunately, I chose to attend a free webinar presented through Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) which was hosted by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The inspiring session ran for nearly 90 minutes starting before school and finishing part way into period 1 (luckily, it was on a day that I could stay till the end!).
Heidi had presented a session in person at our school in the past, and while I cannot recall the topic, I can recall the way that she was able to mesmerise our teaching staff! I wasn’t sure what she would focus on but I reasoned I could always drop out of the call if it wasn’t valuable to me.
The ideas and concepts they work with have strong connections to the work we have done this year with Thinking Strategies, and a small group of has done with No Tosh this year (Stephen Nelson, Nick Palmer and myself) and previously with Amy Andrews, Jody Ogle and Paul Churchill. In both cases, we were led through a process of Design Thinking For Learning #DT4L. This time the process is being guided by a team at ISV and takes place over three sessions so the potential for real and strategic change is strong.
Concepts from the webinar:
In an animated presentation, Heidi focussed on the ways in which we might apply a refreshed pedagogy for contemporary classrooms, comparing elements we have retained from the past and those we have ignored.
This was demonstrated with a classic image of a “school photo” taken outside the front of an old, wooden, one-roomed schoolhouse. We were challenged to consider what we had kept from this era, and what we have chosen to forget.
This image (Vernon, 2015) (shared with CC attribution – non-commercial- share alike) shows the inside of such a school:
While this was no surprise, the forgotten element of this, a challenging (and much more “Reggio Inspired”) example of use that has not continued as this image (James) displays:
Heidi postulated that teaching has been largely directed by others, an issue we must address by seizing control back for ourselves (webinar meets Revolutions – I was delighted!).
In thinking about the non-traditional schoolhouse image, she pointed out that responsive environments don’t run on habit. She asked us to consider education from an empty chair and suggested that we need to consider the needs of the learner.
Hippocratic Oath as starting point:
She compared us to doctors, saying that their focus always starts with the patient. They also pledge to do no harm – something that has occurred for some students exposed to ill-directed theories, or by us focussing on the wrong things.
We must come work from a position of respecting our students and their learning needs and listen to them with understanding as social contractors.
No more C21st skills or “future ready” excuses:
Heidi challenged us to stop talking about twentieth-century skills – we teachers and our students know we are in it. In fact, we are nearly ¼ of the way in, so none of our students have experienced life in the C20th!
So what then?
We should discuss 3 literacies only – digital, media and global. We need to consider these pedagogies and question how well we are meeting our students’ needs. We need to farewell our final year students knowing that they are mindful citizens, innovative designers and global ambassadors ready to take their place as adults in the contemporary world.
She tapped into my History self again by referring to Socrates and asking what we should keep from his time.
She challenged us to review pedagogies we are using to move forward, as summarised in this image based on (Jacobs & Alcock, 2017, pp. 12-17):
We need to move from a classical to a contemporary construction of space and programs.
Here are some highly simplified statements that summarise her question: “How can we be more creative with our canvas?”:
Learning spaces versus cells.
Learning times versus bells.
Fluid, flexible spaces.
Consider spilling into the outdoors.
Replace seat time with proficiency so that credentials are the focus not hours in a subject.
See time as currency (which is the way the No Tosh team worked with Stephen, Sophie and myself in September) – make every minute count.
Where to from here?
My immediate challenge is to plan for the end of the Senior School Library renovation. How might we reorganise the Senior Library to create a modern learning environment?
The Junior School faces the challenge of altering their current Lower-primary curriculum to a Reggio Inspired model; and the return of Year 6 to the site, which will alter the whole campus learning environment.
What are the conditions that enable learning?
Starting from this question indicates a real belief in the value of the learning process. Considering everything from the perspective of the empty chair soon to hold a student is a good place to begin.
We need to work with each other and our students with mutual respect and renovate our curriculums in ways that allow us to be ourselves. We do not want our students to travel back in time when they come into our Prep classroom.
It was the most amazing, uplifting, challenging and inspiring way to begin my day. I have so many ideas running around in my brain that I don’t know where to begin the follow up action, but I have been motivated apply some of the concepts, and completing phase 3 of our Senior School Library, and potentially dealing with a significant change at our Junior School, I have plenty of room to manoeuvre. I am enthused!