I mentioned in a previous post that I had attended this conference. For my University studies I needed to write a more detailed report, so I thought I would share that with you here as well...
The Microsoft Innovative Schools Conference was held at the University of the Sunshine Coast on 4-7 May. Educators from Australia and the Asia/Pacific were in attendance. Given that it was a Microsoft Conference, we were able to connect to the Wireless Network during the Forums, and many people brought along their laptops. I’ve been wanting to try backchanneling for myself prior to trying it with my students, so I got a few other people on board and we had chats going in Skype and Twitter throughout the sessions. I also tried using Webspiration to record my notes to reflect on later.
In his keynote “The Compelling Case” Bruce Dixon outlined three phases of globalisation, and described the current phase as being about people collaborating – “Communication as a leveller, collaboration as the glue”. He spoke about sharing our planes, humanity and rulebook, and using creative problem solving as collaborators communicating across the world. Bruce then went on to explain how technology has led to rapid knowledge growth, which has increased too rapidly for the current model of learning. He stated that innovation in a technology-rich learning environment can: provide greater opportunity for meeting the diverse needs of learners; promote new dimensions for pedagogical innovation; give us a platform to better understand teaching effectiveness and leverage what personalisation offers learners; challenge us to look for more appropriate and effective means of assessment; and allow us to re-imagine the curriculum.
Professor Sohail Inayatullah spoke about Transformational Learning and the role of visioning and design. He helped us to consider the various options for the future including the default future – were nothing to change, and our preferred future. He led us through a meditative process to visualise the future. I found this process really helpful as prior to this session I hadn’t really pinned down my vision for education in the future. I had been heading along my own little path in a general direction rather than making purposeful strides toward a goal.
Laurie Campbell then took us through the components of Transformational Learning and how this model can be used to implement change in school environments. The components are: strategic plan, workforce capacity, innovation/entrepreneurship, curriculum, pedagogy, enabling learning environments and networks and partnerships. He shared a mapping tool that schools can use to determine their current position and consider future direction.
Sean Tierney and Bruce Dixon ran us through the steps to using a 1-to-1 laptop program to personalise learning. They explained the reasons for adopting such a program and the factors required for successful implementation. As my school is on the brink of purchasing laptops for classroom use, this session was particularly helpful. I will be guiding staff through the process using the 21 Steps to 21st Century 1-to-1 Success. You can also see the presentation here.
In the afternoon Kristine Kopelke spoke on the topic Addicted to Learning. Kristine dedicated time to doing what we all know we should, but don’t often get around to – she found out what children were already using ICT for. Her list of 21 Tools for the 21st Century was the conglomeration of her findings. You can see her presentation here.
On the second day we learnt about Enabling Environments. Sean Tierney described some new designs for learning spaces that are being trialled in schools around Australia. He provided further guidance on how to create a library space that functions effectively to meet the needs of learners in the 21st Century. Laurie Campbell spoke about Virtual Environments and the use of The Learning Place in Queensland. Through the backchannel, our regional director gave us some insight into what we hope to be able to achieve with the new Virtual Learning Environment that has been put to tender for our Department of Education.
We then visited Chancellor State College, a P-Graduation school. They have been recognised by Microsoft for their innovative approaches to teaching and learning. They are a young school and have focused a lot of their resource budget on computer technologies, however they don’t appear to be using much more than other schools I've seen. One of the things that Chancellor State College does well is communicate what they do. They have a great logo that encapsulates their vision and values and their promotional video is very appealing.
After lunch we had a series of ‘unconferences’ – these are presentations given by the attendees that people can select and leave if they discover it isn’t helping them. I presented about connecting with parents through the use of email, blogging, podcasting and My Classes. I visited two other sessions: one about a 1-to1 laptop program being used in a Queensland school; and the other about a primary school that uses recording equipment for media studies.
To finish up on the second day, Adrian Greig presented about new and emerging technologies. This was a lot of fun and gave us some insight into where the technology is headed. You can see his presentation here.
On the final day they ran us through the Microsoft Innovative Schools projects and explained how we can apply to move to the next level to receive additional support from Microsoft. The regional representatives attended meetings to find out how much money Microsoft will be providing to schools this year through its new budget. We had some planning time to consider how we will use all the things that we learnt over the conference.
I’d also like to mention that a significant part of the conference for me was networking with other educators and hearing what they are doing and how they have made it successful. It was a very valuable learning experience that gave me a lot of information to digest about the future of our schools. I’m looking forward to going back over the video presentations to learn from them again.