Like all major conferences, there was a lot to see and take in. With many concurrent sessions you can never be sure that you haven't missed something really vital.
My talk on Computational Thinking that the organising committee had invited me to present went very well. While I only had some 20+ enrolled, a lot rocked up at the last minute and for the first 10-15 minutes after I had started. I later found out that a Twitter feed from one of the 'movers and shakers' in the room had been seen in real time and acted upon by a few that meant the session ended up being well oversubscribed.
My talk is available as a Slidecast - a slideshow with audio (podcast)for each slide. See this link: http://www.slideshare.net/StrategicITbyPFH/computational-thinking-1...
The Keynotes were all very good. The first from Sasha Barab on 3D learning environments was most informative. Sasha has been involved in '3D worlds' for many years. He helped set up Quest Atlantis many years ago - we were involved in the early trials of this 3D world.
"In this talk, I will discuss a design methodology that we have used to support powerful learning and engagement as we foster a sense of dramatic agency as part of the learning experience. More than a theoretical discussion, I will ground these ideas in our work on the Quest Atlantis project where we have designed numerous curricular designs to support transformational play in which players take on the role of scientists, reporters, accountants, etc. who use academic content to resolve problematic fictional storylines that unfold in virtual worlds."
He stressed that:
For example, in health, check out website
He argued that these 3D video games are entire worlds in which learners are central and are places where the actions one takes have a significant impact on the world. They are a place where what you know is directly related to your world. The student can become an architect of the future. There is a real sense of agency and consequential actions. The 'game' can transform both the 'world' and the student.
In these 'games', these 3D worlds; the student can have an impact on the world whereas on a science field trip they can't.
One of the best Keynotes from my perspective was Dr Christine Stephenson, Executive Director, CSTA, who spoke on the rise of 'Computational Thinking' (CT) in the USA. Her talk was titled: ‘Computational thinking what it is and why we should care.’
She argued that the teaching of CT should be a motivating factor for schools of the future, rather than teaching skills of the past. She spoke of the power of ‘big data’ such as Bio-Infomatics.
She spoke about core competencies such as:
She argued that ‘Computational Thinking’ is:
She showed and discussed statistics that indicate the great rise in jobs that require such skills vs the real paucity of jobs for those with Social Science degrees – see a copy of some of her stats in my presentation.
Research indicates that If students don't do a Computer Science type course at high school they will not do it at University, despite the fact that this is now the best pathway fro many toward gainful employment.
From an educational perspective she said that governments are opting out of their role in Professional Development (PD) and yet PD is the key.
I attended a session by the Head of IT at Kings in Sydney. He spoke on Strategic Planning, on the fact that today’s 21st century student often leaves his/her 21stcentury IT skills behind when they come to school. He said that schools in Australia have generally struggled with the DER (Digital Education Revolution). He spoke of the move to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device or BYOT – Technology) and a much more open approach to the Internet and Learning. That is he spoke about Risk Management techniques being utilised at his school rather than being Risk Averse.
A number of sessions addressed the value of mobile technologies, of BYOD and of the need for teachers to change their mindset and see themselves as learners is this area. Teachers need to know pedagogy, content and technology, but we need to emphasize the pedagogy and also give teachers plenty of lead time and PD.
Dr Stephenson indicated that research was demonstrating that the best PD was from ‘near peer coaching’. That is, being helped by other teachers only a little further ahead in their learning.
The approach is not to use the best experts to teach how to use a mobile device or app, but to partner with another teacher who has only just learned the specific tool or app or approach. With this approach the beginners learn from the ‘advanced beginners’, the competent from the proficient and the proficient from the experts. – see the Dreyfus ‘Skill Acquisition Model’.
Research also indicates that while a shared and collaborative use of mobile technologies works well in the Junior School years, individual ownership works better at the Middle and Senior levels of schooling.
The Keynote speaker Dr Milton Chen, who works at the George Lucas Education Foundation (see http://www.edutopia.org/) spoke on the ‘6 leading edges of innovation’.
He talked about how simple daily Meditation could help with academic success; and how authentic projects and assessment were proving to be very effective.
One example he gave was of Year 7 students learning to fly in commercial and very realistic flight simulators.
He spoke about the move towards learning:
Of individual and personalized learning which is passion based (check out the Ted talk by Clay Shirky on ‘How social media can make history’.
He introduced some new research of the importance of the Growth mindset vs the common fixed mindsets often used in education. This paradigm helps explain why brains and talent don’t necessarily bring success and how they can actually stand in the way of it. It helps explain why praising brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but can jeopardize them; and how teaching a simple idea about the brain raises grades and productivity.
Check out Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s decades of research on achievement and success.
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view and approach is much more likely to create a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It also enhances relationships.
Dr Milton Chen’s definition of a great school:
“Where authentic learning and assessment take place. Where kids run in as fast as they run out.”
Generally, many speakers including a number of the Keynotes, spoke of the great move to teaching IT, but not to teaching how to use Office Apps, but teaching programming and computational thinking from Year 1 to 12 and making it core and compulsory to the end of Year 10
A number of sessions also spoke on topics like Personalized Learning where they spoke of the five core competencies being:
They also spoke about the need for IT and Computational Thinking to be central to the development of these competencies. A number of sessions focussed on both ‘blended learning’ and ‘flipped classrooms’. Adobe’s new Presenter 8 looks like a promising tool for use with the flipped classroom model.
Here are a few recommendations, from the totality of all the sessions I attended and discussions I was involved in: