A Vision Splendid
Each year, Curriculum Corporation invites teachers, principals, policymakers and other education professionals to its annual conference, to participate in discussion with peers and high-profile, expert speakers around a key education issue. This year’s conference, titled A Vision Splendid, focuses on the potential of ICT to transform school education, a vision that has now existed for more than two decades. The conference will examine ICT in schools in terms of research, pedagogy and implementation issues. Presenters will explore recent trends and the vital factors needed to make this vision a reality, together with thoughtful research and sometimes controversial findings in this field.
Conference themes include the use of ICT to provide personalised learning to accommodate student diversity; professional development opportunities and resources; and effective ways to integrate ICT into teaching practice and curriculum delivery. Five keynote speakers will present papers on core themes, and conference-goers will have the opportunity to choose from 15 workshops, facilitated by leaders in ICT education organisations, to explore issues in more depth. These keynote addresses and workshop options are outlined below.
Jeremy Roschelle, Director of the Centre for Technology in Learning at SRI International USA, opens the conference narrative with the observation that few models of ICT in schools have achieved measurable impact at scale. Given the massive failure rate, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to innovations that are achieving significant impact. The keynote address will focus on two such technologies: graphing tools, and simple 'clickers' or handheld collaboration tools.
Two key factors underlie the success of both technologies. Both are relatively simple, robust and cheap. More importantly, each is underpinned by deep scientific linkage between the capabilities of the technology and how people learn. Two less obvious factors have also contributed to their success. First, in both cases, the adoption of these innovations has been championed by practising teachers. Second, both innovations begin with little or no expectation of a changed classroom, but provide a context that can support a long, steady trajectory of continuous improvement.
Peter Freebody, Professor of Education at the University of Queensland and Academic Advisor to the Queensland Department of Education and the Arts, continues the discussion with a presentation of data from a field trial of The Le@rning Federation’s online curriculum content. The trial involved extensive surveying of teachers, students, parents and other stakeholders. Detailed case studies were also conducted.
The trial identified a number of specific strengths in the materials as well as challenges for future content development. Overall, survey respondents gave positive reactions to the materials. Case studies showed the range of ways in which the materials were put to work in schools and classrooms. The presentation concludes with discussion of ‘new technologies’ being put to work as part of ‘old pedagogies’, and the ways in which the special promises of online curriculum might be fulfilled in classrooms.
Professor James Paul Gee of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a prominent author on the New Literacies, focuses on a video games as an opportunity to address the paradox and crisis presented by ICT in schools. The paradox is that children today often engage with more complex learning in their popular culture than they do in their schools. In many cases, seven-year-olds see more complex language on a Yu-Gi-Oh card than they do in their school books. Furthermore, video games and related technologies are serving as an initial gateway for many students into tech-savvy identities and skills, while many schools still languish behind in technology.
The crisis is related to the paradox: in our global world, developed countries won’t be able to survive on standard skills, high or low, radiologist or call-centre operator. These skills, Professor Gee argues, will be outsourced. Countries will need a populace that is able to innovate, and is comfortable with technical learning. Yet we face a wave of standardisation and basic skills pedagogies in our schools. Video game technologies hold great promise here, as they already incorporate cutting-edge learning principles and have the potential to reform how we teach and learn in and out of school.
Professor John Hedberg, Director of the Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre at Macquarie University, examines some of the ways in which e-learning has failed to live up to its early promise, and explores how this situation might be remedied. Two of the main challenges for the future of e-learning are explored: the ever shifting nature of the e-landscape characterised by its rapidly changing technologies, software and marketing mechanisms; and the difficulty of helping teachers find ways to exploit the capacities offered by these ‘disruptive technologies’.
If our investment in e-learning is to be recouped, then a paradigm shift is needed to the employment of ‘disruptive pedagogies’. This would involve the use of teaching strategies that exploit the currently underused capacities of technology options. These capacities must be used in such a way as to enable student engagement, motivation and higher order thinking.
Jillian Dellit, Director of The Le@rning Federation Secretariat SA, adds the final chapter to the narrative. She explores the role of the schooling process in linking the future and the past, and in both conserving and transforming society. This paradox puts particular strains on all who work in the sector, including officials and teachers.
Over the last decade, Ministers of Education have collaborated to ensure schooling in Australia and New Zealand can, like industry and other public sectors, take advantage of the capacity of ICTs to drive change, including customised rather than mass education. Are we making progress? Do we have too much change or too little? Are we caught in ‘the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal’ at the expense of ‘the vision splendid’?
Workshops provide conference participants with the opportunity to delve more deeply into theoretical concepts with experts in the field. Alternatively, participants may choose to become better acquainted with specific ICT resources or classroom strategies. Workshop facilitators are drawn from leading schools, education departments, and tertiary and industry partners, offering a range of perspectives to enhance understanding and stimulate debate.
ICT resources to be workshopped include Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative, Charles Sturt University’s Remote Telescope Project, ThinkQuest, Education Queensland’s The Learning Place, The Teaching and Learning Exchange created by the Department of Education and Training, New South Wales, and education.au limited’s EdNA and myQuiz resources.
Classroom strategies to utilise ICT resources include making screen texts, video games and short films, enriching story-telling using multimedia software, and exploring history using MOO open source software. One workshop also addresses the use of ICT in authentic ‘round table’ assessment, whereby students prepare presentations on subjects relevant to their individual passions, skills and knowledge.
Conceptual workshops include reflection on what works and doesn’t work in digital learning environments. Participants can look into the key questions that need to be addressed if we are to realise the potential of ICT as an enabler of transformation in our schools. The nature of the new knowledge society, and its implications for schools, will also be unpacked and debated.
For more details and registration, visit the conference website.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)