Monday, November 20, 2006

VITTA Conference

Today I presented at the VITTA conference in Melbourne at the beautiful Flemington Racecourse. It's an amazing venue and certainly adds to the ambiance of the conference.
Over lunch, I had a lovely chat with Renee Hoareau, Executive Officer of VITTA. I have known Renee since her myinternet days (now Editure). She shared some visions that she has for VITTA and also mentioned that VITTA aims to continue to lead the way in Australia as a very active organisation for teachers of Information Technology. Renee is certainly one of the leaders of ICT in Australia and I think VITTA is in very good hands. If the conference is any guide this conference is certainly a leader in Australia and I venture to say the world.

I wonder though if we are hopefully seeing more and more of the 'ordinary' teacher who is interested in integrating ICT into their curriculum rather than the IT specialist at these sort of conferences. I hope that is the case but then I'm a little biased towards the all round teacher who has a passion for learning all sorts of things including using internet technology.

After my session Teaching Thinking with Technology, in which I addressed the Intel thinking with technology tools and cool and geeky things that teachers can use from the web, I also met with Jim from Editure who very excitedly mentioned that they are investigating the use of Web 2.0 applications and have received a government grant that will allow them to research across Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Asia.
I think it's great to hear that companies such a Editure and Intel are recognising that many of these Web 2.0 tools make teaching and learning via the internet much more accessible to the 'ordinary' teacher who is not necessarily skilled in all things to do with information technology.
By the way by 'ordinary', I mean extraordinary. I mean the teacher who is not necessarily a specialist but a generalist, who is a seeker of new learning, not one who stays in the same groove year after year; who recognises that the world of teaching and learning is changing. And that we better be there or be square. :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Solving Problems of access

On Friday I got to school and went through the usual routine of setting up my laptop and logging on, connecting to my Pageflakes page and decided that I would quickly blog some thinking that I had done on my way to work that morning. But to my surprise I discovered that my login access to blogger was blocked.
After trying a few problem solving strategies and loath to spend too much time on it I resorted to phoning a couple of contacts at the Victorian Education Department to see if I could get to the bottom of the problem.
Long story short- I finally caught up with Sandy Phillips Manager of the Victorian Education Channel, Office of Learning & Teaching, Department of Education & Training. It seems that there are some concerns about blogger and it's suitability for use in schools and so it is going to be blocked at most Victorian Government schools. I am okay with that as I have had some concerns myself about the 'danger' of the Next Blog button which simply means that you never know what is going to turn up at the next click of a button.
With this in mind we switched to learner blogs very early in the year for our students. This is an environment set up by James Farmer, a Melbourne teacher and consultant who saw the need for an educational environment for teachers and students , in fact educators of all kinds to have an online space that would be suitable and protected , but also open and freely available to others on the web.
It 's a balance between recognising the importance and value of an online environment which is accessible to all and protecting to some extent the hearts and minds of our students as they learn to navigate their way around the web.
I had a really productive discussion with Sandy about some of the plans she has for developing just such an environment for Victorian teachers and schools where we could use the expertise and support of James and the Wordpress opensource software to create our own online collborative space.
With this in mind I have joined up with the Global teachers project which is a growing group of Victorian teachers interested in exploring the use of blogs and other Web 2.0 applications.
But while there is this 'cutting of teeth' so to speak I still intend to maintain this blog and will simply post the same material to my other blogs until I am brave enough to bite the bullet and go to just one again.