In June 2012, I had the distinct privilege of participating in the Australian Council for Computers in Education’s (ACCE) annual study tour. The tour had three main components: school visits in the US and Canada, corporate visits to companies that are key players in educational computing and finally culminating in the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) annual conference of 17,000+ delegates. A fourth component, networking with the 24 Australian Educators participating on the tour proved critical in synthesizing our experiences.
While the context of the government schools we visited in Canada and the US varied significantly from my school context at Immanuel Primary School in South Australia, there were pearls of wisdom to be gathered from each site. The schools in the low-socio economic Surrey District in Vancouver, Canada each took different approaches to their iPad trials. Of particular interest to me were Cindrich Elementary’s extensive use of Apple TV for instant sharing of student work on iPads, Hillcrest Elementary, led by Yrsa Jensen and her passion for “Assessment for Learning” strategies exemplified student-led inquiry leading to authentic action. Their access to technology included a variety of platforms (Apple, PC, iPad…) and open Internet policies allowed students to create, collaborate and communicate their ideas using a vast array of Web 2.0 tools.
Throughout our Surrey District visits we were able to access unrestricted Guest Wifi allowing Internet access, including social media sites. Participants Tweeted prolifically using #acce12. The District offices provides all wireless networking and other IT Support and have supported the iPad trials in this way.
In Seattle, Washington (in Microsoft’s backyard), we visited Inglewood Junior High school where host principal, Tim Patterson shared Inglewood’s experiences of a shared use laptop program and their transition to their first year of a 1:1 laptop program. Once again key educational leaders made all the difference as to how the technology is used and to what extent learning is impacted.
Often the schools in most need received targeted government funding for technology. Of note was PRIDE Academy where students we met students from Kindergarten (Reception or Foundation) through to Year5 who used technology ubiquitously throughout the school day. Students were so well versed and willing to share their learning using the technology. Technology ranged from iPod touches for the youngest students to a variety of desktops and laptops throughout the classrooms. The school decided to take whatever technology they could get and make the most of it. The learning platform consists of a set of tools that work across the platforms (Tech4Learning Suite).Limiting the toolset certainly made for each of access for all students, although I couldn’t help but wonder if limiting the choice and access to tools might limit potential in the future.
Lastly, we visited San Diego State University, part of the university system where I received my first degree from San Francisco State University. Here we met professor Bernie Dodge and convened in the original “Web Quest” lab where Bernie Dodge and Tom March invented the concept of accessing Internet resources in collaborative, creative and meaningful ways. Bernie shared his insights on the future of education.
Our corporate visits and sponsors hosted us generously (yes, they even fed us and with 6 AM “Wheels up” times several mornings a hot breakfast or lunch was MOST appreciated). Corporate tours and briefings included:
- Microsoft and their Partners in Learning Program
- Promethean Excursion and Hosted Dinner
- Google Workshop for Online Educators led by “Lead Learners” Brian Van Dyck and Wendy Gorton and a fabulous tour of the Google Campus (oh how I’d love to be a ‘Googler’ as employees are called).
- Apple Store (no educational briefing this time much to my disappointment)
- CISCO systems Interactive Video Conferencing demonstration and briefing with larger than life Dr Lance Ford.
- Oracle Academy briefing on Oracle Academy programs Alice and Greenfoot. These new initiatives foster student understanding of logic and control in 3D animated environments. Free training online and coming to Australia face-to-face later this year. Alice could be a next step for our older students and is particularly engaging due to the animated storytelling environment.
By the time we got to ISTEI was swimming with ideas, possibilities and projects. ISTE provided a chance to consolidate these ideas and meet professionals further down the journey than me. Initially daunted as we received VIP treatment (front row seats at keynote sessions and private sessions with the “best of the best at ISTE), my confidence grew as I realised Australian educators, and in my opinion, particularly IB educators are extraordinarily well positioned to foster the current climate of innovation and technological possibility. Open curriculum frameworks, solid approaches to inquiry learning and reflective practice allow us to move forward without the many restrictions faced by other jurisdictions and policies around the globe. Highlights of my ISTE experience include:
- George Couros who inspired me to start my own Continuous Learning blog and also create a showcase a work in progress of my achievement of professional standards.
- Kathy Schrock, ISTE Board member, digital literacy expert and professional learning advocate who shares a passion for multimodal literacy and learning through creating.
- Alan November sparked ideas to get students learning and authentically sharing their ideas and resources online.
- Dr Yong Zhao referenced Australia, New Zealand as world leaders in education. Advocates that national goals to be the “ceiling not the floor” and that creativity and entrepreneurship are key.
- Marc Prensky illuminated his thoughts on enabling students to pursue their own passions. Read “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom” for his latest thinking.
- Michael Fullan who succinctly articulates the relationships between pedagogy, technology and change in his new book Stratosphere (a must read for school leaders).
- From Gary Stager, for wisdom and a good laugh “When students own the technology, they own the learning within. No one washes a rental car.”
- I’m also looking forward to reading the book I received at the Leadership Symposium authored by Ken Kay and Valerie Greenhill “The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education – 7 Steps for Schools and District”.
The pre-conference Affiliates Daywas a wonderful opportunity to share the trends and challenges amongst our professional associations. Representing CEGSA, Steve Knipe and I ran a “poster session” on our approaches to using technology to run our professional association.
The Study Tour delegates were also invited to many special functions including the Leadership Symposium, President’s Reception, “Best of the Best” sessions and more.
In summary, the most valuable aspect of the Study Tour were the many relationships formed around the world, the bonding with other Australian Educators with whom the conversations continue and an affirmation of the possibilities for truly innovating education with the power of emerging technologies. I return with increased enthusiasm and passion as well as concrete ideas and action plans.
Thank you to all those who have supported me attending this tour. To my husband, John who held down the fort, to the CEGSA team for their support and most importantly to the Immanuel Primary school leadership team who enabled me to undertake this wonderful professional learning experience.