What now, what next?

For some educators who have long advocated for the power of technology to augment, if not transform teaching and learning, this almost feels like a ‘gotcha’ moment.

If it wasn’t so tragic, and so destructive, this might be a moment to point to the teachers who suddenly feel compelled to work out an alternative way and say ‘education wouldn’t be even possible now if it wasn’t for the same technologies that you have been resisting for the last ten  years’.

In Australia the school closure debate has divided experts. Unlike most countries the schools have remained open and teachers ‘cannon fodder’ to the good of the economy. As it is holiday time now that debate has quietened, but it will be interesting to see what Term 2 looks like, whether schools will open at all, and what education will look like? Will schools attempt synchronous replications of the old school day, keep the existing 1 teacher – 1 class paradigm, or look freshly at the challenges and possibilities?

As we energetically run PD on Microsoft Teams, OneNote, Zoom and ‘Screencasting 101’ and VCAA scrambles to keep exam-based structures in place Term 2 beckons.

And, beyond that, what will school look like a year out from now? Business as usual? Or are we likely to have seen new models emerge?  Everything seems broken currently. All seems possible.  The future is unwritten.


So, what have I learned?

I’ve certainly been in a number of sessions over the last three days, many of which I’ve blogged about here, but what have I learned?

It’s been refreshing to immerse myself again in the IB world and its vast labyrinthe infrastructure which only becomes (frighteningly) apparent at times like these. It’s been good to catch up with some familiar colleagues, spend some intensive time with a colleague from my own school and meet some interesting new people. I’ve had an invitation to a primary school in Bangalore, seen a new and interesting looking anti-LMS called ‘teamie’ and have had the new iPad Shakespeare app demo’d for me by a super-keen Cambridge University Press man. I’ve taken the subway to Chinatown (*like every other system in the world the ticketing system is better than Melbournes) gone to the top of the tallest (twin) towers in the world and enjoyed performances from a range of talented students who’ve been featured every morning.
And that’s without mentioning any of the sessions at all, including some great keynotes and a session on leadership lessons from Shakespeare’s Henry V that was entertaining and moving and had some good lessons from the leader’s experience of the ‘dark night’. (Interestingly, the sessions I took notes with the stylus using Penultimate haven’t really featured in the blog; I have to type them up again afresh and that seems an effort at the moment.)
I’ve been to some great workshops and some infuriating ones, have put my hand up to contribute only to be ignored for the keener student with the straighter hand at the front (oh yeah, that’s how that feels), have listened to some teachers and leaders who talk about themselves and their school but never their students and seen others who have made it their life work to change the world one conversation at a time.
Taking up my pet topic of technology I’ve been heartened to see more conversations that ‘get it’, and less that talk about how kids ‘only play games and muck-around with computers’ and only a few outright annoying ‘Google is making us all stupid (except me)’ presentations, warm, nostalgic and comforting to much of the audience as they are, like a nice cup of Ovaltime in your pyjamas in front of the fire.
There are problems with the IB; it’s huge Gormenghastian indifference, the transitional moments, the elitism, the dotpointing and the bureaucracy it serves, creates and fosters.  But, at the heart of it, there’s also some compelling learning that’s possible within the structure, and some passionate people working in it.
I fly home tomorrow, with only four days of the term left until Easter, and then back up this way to Vietnam for a holiday. I’ve been there before and was entranced. I hope to have some new learning there too.
Above and below: some images from a short time in Kuala Lumpur. Photos: Warrick. Below: Green view from the 22nd Floor
Below: Dr Paula Barrett talking about the importance of preventative work in mental health.
Below: Cooling down in Chinatown.
Below: View from the Two Towers
Below: Conference essentials.

Boston and the Gonski Report

The second keynote I saw was from Dr Ken Boston, one of the authors of the Gonski Report into education funding that the government has been making significant announcements about lately.

Boston’s speech was really an explanation and defence of the Gonski Report, grounded mostly in economic terms, with disadvantaged students as a waste of human capital which the country could benefit from.

However, it wasn’t long before we were into PISA tests again, this time with an emphasis on the ‘social gradients’ of various countries (Australia has a high-achieving, but low equity result scale) but also that Australia’s results are falling (relative to other countries/competitors).

No doubt, everyone benefits from a world class education system, but to call Australia’s results ‘chronic underachievement’ seemed an exaggeration for a system that (by Pisa’s own scale) is performing in the top half ten systems in the world)

And, while Boston gave an interesting report into the history of school funding in Australia, and some of the politics around that, there was not a moment when the worth of the PISA tests themselves came open to any analysis; not in terms of what it measures, nor of the differences in contexts and cultures of the countries involved in the testing.

Waleed Aly on National Curriculum

I said in the previous post that I was having trouble figuring out Aly’s take on National Curriculum in the latest issue of The Monthly.

Some of the key points seem to be:

“(Curriculum) … is a form of political activism.”  [National Curriculum, like Texas curriculum on evolution, is political]


“…Perhaps I never got a decent education in Australian history – but it is abundantly clear that the failures of our education system have occupied a significant place in this country’s culture wars in the past decade or so” –

DISAGREE –  The ‘failures’ of our education system are ‘alleged’ and also political.

“Is this the Rudd government finally putting its stamp on the country, Education Revolution and all? Well, sort of. Certainly, the idea of a national curriculum, displacing the various state-determined curricula that currently prevail, sounds suitably muscular and revolutionary. It has the resonance of ‘getting serious’, of ‘raising standards’ – of whipping our kids into shape. But only very modest changes have been made to the maths and science curriculum we presently have, and these changes will actually make the materials less dense, with an increased focus on statistics and probability. The biggest change is history – which will now actually be taught in its own right – but even here, the revolution is incomplete. And who, exactly, is going to teach it? “

UNSURE. Most experts I’ve talked to who’ve looked closely at the drafts so far have seen them as regressive. Aly seems to be arguing for DENSE curriculum (think stand-alone history rather than soft and fluffy SOSE) but the curriculum drafts seem content heavy and old-fashioned.

“You could be forgiven for assuming Australian students have become an embarrassment when it comes to literacy and numeracy. Nobody seemed to listen when Peter Freebody, the lead writer of the English syllabus, said that “Australians are more literate now than they were when grammar was taught intensively, but in isolation from language use and literary studies.” Freebody’s point was that “the basics” are no panacea, and have to be combined with a study of literature. But Gillard chose to stand before the media scrum, spelling – “c-a-t, cat” “

AGREE – See previous post.

Aly  goes on to argue that Rudd seems intent on being both Asian-centred and progressive, as well as tougher on teachers and asylum seekers than Howard.

However, I was surprised to find that the whole piece is online and you can try to figure it out yourself HERE.

The trouble with VIT (continued)

I haven’t railed mercilessly against the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) for a while. Only a couple of times, in fact, in the last couple of years, including my original ‘Whats the matter with VIT?’ post ages ago.

But, boy was I encouraged again to consider the value of our professional voice when I opened up the current issue of Professional Practice, which arrived this week. Printed back to back on a bit of folded A3, VIT isn’t even trying any more. The lead story was a puff piece for Apple loosely based around ‘World Teacher’s Day’, followed up by a couple of pieces talking up VIT’s own professional guidelines around teacher induction and professional ethics. It’s not even glossy any more!   Read my original post linked above about what we thought VIT might have been (a real voice for the profession) and consider what it’s become (a regulatory tax on the profession) and sigh.

Oh, and I forgot the big news. A new portal is coming which will contain ‘many forms and applications’ relating to fee waiver, application for renewal of registration and application to move from provisional to full registration!! (gasps).

Education Revolution: Australia Talks

Radio National’s Australia Talks program had an interesting discussion on the ‘education revolution’, national curriculum and assorted responses to educational issues including the crowded curriculum.

The thing  liked was the refreshing lack of politics to the discussion, thg good sense and, from a couple of speakers, the emphasis on hearing student voices in the debate. Would it were so.

Listen HERE