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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Archive for the ‘Conferences Attended’ Category

HTAV Primary Teachers Conference 2010

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 4, 2010

The HTAV Primary Teachers conference was a disappointment.  This is a real pity because it was great to see this secondary subject association offer its expertise to primary teachers for the first time.  That the conference didn’t live up to its promise is probably nobody’s fault: the timing was premature…

I booked myself in (paying the registration myself) because it was advertised as an opportunity to identify the differences between the new national curriculum and the Victorian VELS.  As Director of Curriculum, I wanted to explore these implications in detail so that we could make an informed start on implementing the new curriculum in 2011.  Partly because of the political hiatus in Canberra and Tony Abbott’s threats to jettison the history curriculum if he forms government, and partly because our local Powers- That-Be have by their own startling admission made no plans to provide practical support for its implementation, the conference floundered around in a bit of a vacuum. 

David Boon, the keynote presenter was wonderful.  I had heard him do a presentation at the History Summer School in Canberra and once again he was able to focus in on (probable) key themes in the draft curriculum with examples of how it could be brought to life for young children.  I would dearly love to be able to access his ideas and resources online but I suspect that there’s not going to be any funding for anything as useful and practical as that!

I also went to a really good session about using ICT in the history curriculum.  Louise O’Doughery had some great practical ideas, all focussed on the premise that an interactive whiteboard is best used by the students so that it generates discussion.  Alas for the profession, this talented teacher is leaving teaching to work for a whiteboard company – for all the hot air talked by politicians state and federal about improving teaching standards there still seems to be no way to retain our best and brightest.  Would a teacher like Louise be lured into staying for a vague promise of a possible occasional bonus if her class results are better than the rest?  Of course not.  It’s a stupid idea, Julia Gillard.  (Who is this twerp who has the PM’s ear about education, importing the most stupid of stupid ideas from the US??  It is this ‘faceless’ man or woman I’d like to see lose influence in Canberra!)

The publishers’ stands were a bit of a disappointment too.  The same old cultural institutions (Arts Centre, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, etc) promoted their wares, but there was only one very limited display of books that could be used to bring history to life.  Perhaps because I teach history in my library classes I have a better idea than most about how a well-chosen picture book or serial can transport kids back to the past, and I would have liked to have  seen a collection of diverse titles from a major supplier (e.g. Scholastic or Link).  Perhaps they were approached and couldn’t/wouldn’t do it?  I don’t know.

What this conference revealed to all of us there on the day was that primary teachers are, as usual, on their own, with no support from our employer, for the implementation of curriculum.  We will be expected to develop our own units of work, in our own time, and – no doubt – encouraged to share them on the Ultranet.  We will have to spend hours researching websites and local history sources to customise the curriculum for our own schools, and while teams of secondary history teachers will have text books galore and time away from face-to-face teaching to design their curriculum, we’ll have to find the time to do it within our paltry two-and-a-half hours per week time release and implement the new English, Science and Maths curriculum as well. 

The Usual Suspects will develop units of work for ‘years five to eight’ which will inevitably be pitched at years seven and eight, and primary teachers will (a) get to spend their time ‘adapting them’ and (b) get criticised (with some justification) by secondary teachers for pillaging the best bits out of these units so that year seven and eight students complain that they’ve done it before.

Not only that, we’re told yet again that the solution to finding the time for the inclusion of history in the curriculum is to integrate it into the literacy block.  Do these people who suggest this have any idea how to teach literacy?  A literacy lesson is planned to provide for individual literacy needs.  It’s about teaching reading and writing.  Children are grouped together and taught specific skills that they have not mastered.  Four or five groups have different texts and different tasks because they have different learning needs.  Are they seriously suggesting that teachers can come up with resources and tasks for four or five groups with different needs for history topics????  No, of course they’re not.  They’re suggesting that kids read something or other about the history topic and that can be called a literacy lesson just because some of the kids – though certainly not the ones with low reading ability – are going to be reading it.   Is it any wonder that there were cross mutterings in the auditorium?

On the plus side, the venue was NGV at Federation Square so I was able to duck in for a quick look at some of the exhibitions, and when it was all over I was able to meet up with The Spouse for a couple of evening Melbourne Writers Festival sessions as well!

PS While hunting around for a site about interactive whiteboards, I came across this one – check it out!

Posted in Australian History, Conferences Attended, Professional Development | Tagged: | Comments Off on HTAV Primary Teachers Conference 2010

Seeing Things Differently: SLAV conference Keynote address by Dr Mark Norman

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 13, 2009

Dr Mark Norman is the author of a number of books in my school library: Birds in Suits, The Octopus’s Garden, The Great Barrier Reef, Sharks with Attitude, and Living in the Freezer and we love them all.  He’s passionate about the idea of encouraging children to escape into reality, and while he acknowledges that kids are fascinated by the Lord of the Rings monsters and fantasy creatures, he thinks the natural world is intriguing for kids.  He showed us some wonderful slides of deep sea animals that are ugly grotesque and gross, but they’re beautiful too.

So Dr Norman wants us to see things differently – to look around us more than we do.  He’s a very entertaining speaker, and a great role model for kids becoming interested in science.  He says we have to get our eye in – because sometimes we can’t see things because we’re not looking in the right way.  He himself thought he had failed in his first research project on the Great Barrier Reef because he failed to see movement of camouflaged octopi.

Dr Normans’ books for kids are all based on his research but they’re not dumbed down.  They’re predicated on the idea that the visual is critical to not only engaging interest but also providing information that is critical to  understanding.  There’s a narrative behind the photos too: he told us about one photo that took ages and ages to get because the octopus kept squititng ink to avoid the photographer.  The creepy details of these creatures behaviour is of course very appealing to kids and these real stories can compete the silly stuff kids see in the popular media: the important thing is to have this information in kid friendly language.

At Black Dog books, Dr Norman learned to

  • play with stereotypes
  • space and place
  • time

The Shark Book, Fish with Attitude: challenges the stuff about sharks being a terrible threat to humans: gentle giants like the whale shark and tiny little sharks in the deep that never get near humans.  We are much more of the threat than they are to us.  Koala the Real Story challenges the lack of detail about some that we think we know a lot about. Koalas have huge noses because they need to sniff out which of the leaves they eat are the least toxic.  (This book is due for release soon).  He adds jazzy facts to his text comparing the scale of the koala embryo and its mother to a human child and multi storey buildings.  Let’s call creatures silky instead of slimy; let’s recognise the engineering feats of the house fly.  (Hmm, not too sure about that one!) There are many stories to tell about these creatures…

Place and scale can be explored and you’ll find living creatures anywhere, even places that seem like sterile concrete deserts.  In the inner city, planting a few native plants and the creatures will come.  Get to know your local creatures and then build on that. Another new books is about the Deep, down through the different layers of our oceans, exploring the most common creatures on our planet that most people don’t know about because we can’t go deeper than 6km into the deep.  These books involve complex visual literacy, including scales to show how deep the creatures are, graphics, text and striking background.  Another forthcoming book explodes the myth than penguins and polar bears live together: these will be vertical books, not horizontal…

Loved his suggestion that an ovenight sleepover or a twilight activity at school can introduce children to their local creatures that only come out at night!

Interesting aso to compare the local area: the time scale at your own place during the indigenous period, and during pre human history.

Design and accessibility for weak readers incudes non linera narrative, side bars, storng graphics and making information available in mutliple ways.  The Octopus’s Garden even includes DVDs showing film without a narration, which draws kids back to the book including the fact files in the back of the book which can be read by adults interpreting the books for children.

Kids and Climate Change: inevitable that it will affect us but Al Gore’s book was focussed on the problem and not enough on the solution.  We need to give kids the idea that they are part of the solution.  The narrative that’s needed will empower children so that they do what they can…

This entire presentation was given in a darkened Cleminger Theatre: it was a rivetting slideshow featuring the amazing creatures that Dr Norman talked about.  This post can’t p ossiblyconvey the power of the visual images that he stressed were so important – you had to be here!

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Seeing Things Differently, SLAV Conference 2009

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 13, 2009

Blogged live at the conference, so typos and errors will be tidied up later at home!

The focus of this conference is to explore multiliteracies and visual learning, and so the NGV as venue is ideal.  The opening address reminded us of the interdisciplinary aspects of learning in the 21st century.  Learning through the visual arts is championed by not only educational  experts, but is also recognised by political leaders such as Barack Obama.  The arts teaches children that there are multiple solutions to probelms, and make vivid that neither words nor numbers exhaust everything we can know, especially when considering feelings and emotions.

The growth of technology saturates everyday life, and children are swamped by it.  42% of children prefer to learn visually, and this is a statistic we can’t ignore.  Linking learning with the arts, at the NGV or any other gallery is therefore a valuable learning experience that is intellectually challenging outside of the school walls.  It enriches children by teaching tolerance, flexibility and originality.

Michelle Stockley from the NGV talked about narrative and story-telling.  Her first example was the wonderful painting of The banquet of Cleopatra, and she reminded us that while most people can correctly interpret the status of the painting’s participants and other visual cues, but the story behind it – Cleopatra’s bet with markl Anthony needs to be told – or they can read the labels on the wall at the gallery, or the touch screens but these involved not just the ability to read but also the knowledge about where to find it.   Basic museum literacy involves reading objects and full competence means being able to draw on all the resources of the gallery to make sense of the experience.  A museum literate visitor can not only make sense of the pciture but also its place in the gallery – the 18th century gallery that it’s sited in.  It means being able to compare it with other paintings around it including works by the same and other artists.

Michelle referred to Gombirch’s The Story of Art, which was enduringly popular because it was a narrative about art that people found easy to enjoy and understand,  But there were voices missing: indigenous artists, women, photographers and other forms of new media.  The narrative view of the development has been challenged in recent years, and is now more inclusive.  

Sometimes the story behind an acquisition is fascinating.  How did we come to have Tiepolo’s painting here at the NGV?  It came on the market because the USSR thought its subject matter degenerate, and sold it to fund its Stalinist programs.  Negotiating its purchase was therefore politically incorrect, but we bought it anyway.

Critical literacy is important too.  Some of the nationalistic paintings that are so popular omitted women’s experience and the indigenous experience.  Diana Jones, shearing the Rams 2001 appropriates Tom Robert’s pitcture and puts in indigenous shearers in the picture.  Some recent exhibitions place side by side with iconic paintings that we know, different topical views of the same issue.

Stories from behind the scenes are fascinating too.  The restoration of  Arthur Streeton’s Spring involved removing stripping off Estapol over many months (and you can read about this online if you Google “The fine Art of Stripping” though it may be safer to use Arthur Streeton’s Spring as a search term!)  Michelle also explained that the way an exhibition is set up – the colour of the gallery walls, the sounds and lighting used all contribute to the narrative of the art works.

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Shaun Tan at the Melbourne Writers Festival

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 30, 2009

Blogged live at the Melbourne Writers Festival – and tidied up later at home…

Tales from Outer SuburbiaThe ArrivalShaun Tan is the celebrated author/artist of the graphic novel The Arrival (which won the CBCA Book of the Year in 2007) and The Red Tree (which was an Honour book in 2002).The Red Tree  His latest book, Tales from Outer Suburbia is an anthology of 15 very short stories superbly illustrated in his own unique style.

The session was accompanied by a slide show of his artwork, starting with an enchanting picture of a dinosaur that he did on his 2nd day at school.  It was remarkably good with a degree of maturity not often seen in young children.  Other pictures in the slide show included early signs of rocket fantasies and the strange creatures that we have come to identify with his work.

Jessica Crispin, who’s from the USA – which she said is not very good at recognising talent from beyond the US – told us that Tan’s work has become enormously successful there.  She asked him if the new market in the US changed things for him, but apart from a couple of nice trips, he thought not.  He doesn’t collaborate much even with his editor, and is mostly alone in his room working on his art.  He wasn’t expecting much from the US market and was resigned to international obscurity.  He was happy enough with the Australian reaction and everything else seems to have been a bonus.   He was a bit shocked by the number of people who turned up to author events there, but the big moment for him was when his art gave him an income that he could rely on, and no longer needed to illustrate other people’s books, which he didn’t enjoy very much. 

Tan’s books defy classification and sometimes booksellers don’t know where to shelve them.  Some topics are dark e.g. depression, but he has never seen himself as a children’s book illustrator – he doesn’t think about children when he’s working and his interest is science fiction and fantasy.  He originally saw himself primarily as a writer, and was influenced by Ray Bradbury – not so much his novels but his short stories.  He had got the impression from secondary school that illustration was a lesser form of the arts – and in fact had only added a picture to the front cover of his first book to attract the attention of editors wading through the slush pile.  (The short story was rejected but they liked the illustrations.)

These days he’s not writing, he’s become an illustrator.  He didn’t have formal art training, but (at what must have been a very good secondary school) had practising artists at tutorial workshops on Saturday mornings.  He never thought he could make a career out of art and did an arts degree to avoid having to make a decision – did history and philosophy – and even toyed with a fine arts academic career.  His start, however, was with fantasy book covers and then illustrations for magazines and then children’s books – and these offered more regular opportunities as an artist.  He learned how to do dragons and SF paintings from browsing at newsagents (because he couldn’t afford to buy magazines) and was eventually able to survive as a freelance illustrator. 

Moving from reproducing other people’s styles to his own involved doing some painting that he hopes no one will ever see but he needed to do it to develop his skills. These are in his parents garage!  He’s doing more of this private personal work as time goes by.

He finds it hard to answer some questions: when did you start drawing?  When does anyone draw?  About four years of age?  It’s an inherent instinctive thing, he thinks.  All artists long to return to that simple childhood unselfconscious stage when they don’t know or care if their work is any good.

It seemed to me that Tan is quite diffident about his talent and his hard work.  He seems over-modest and a bit taken aback by his success.  He calls himself a hoarder – and so is his wife  – so his place is like an antique shop full of stuff.  It’s probably a treasure trove! He admits to being a bit possessive about some of his paintings and doesn’t want to exhbit or sell them in a gallery and never see them again.  He’s also wary of selling them prematurely – he sold some too early and now they’re worth a lot more.

He likes collage because it’s a  way of including random elements and ‘getting himself out of the picture’.  He also talked about the tension between the excitement of the initial idea and the tediousness of doing the work on it.  He was a bit evasive about what he’s currently  working on, but that’s because he’s not too sure  what it’s going to be, except it’s something about relationships.  He’s also doing a short animated film – something for us to look forward to!   He’s not doing the animation, but has done the story-boarding and the design and is liaising with the modelmakers and the computer guys.  He’s learned a lot about working both solo on the artwork and in a team for the animation – but he thinks he’d rather be working on books. The stills of the animation on the slide show look great, so I suspect that there will be some disappointment if he sticks to that preference…but an artist must follow his art.

It will be very interesting to see what he does next…

Posted in Authors & Illustrators, Conferences Attended | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Assistive technology in the classroom: ICT for students with literacy problems

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 31, 2009

I went to two sessions at the ICTEV Conference that explored software that enhances learning for kids with literacy problems, and was impressed.  More than that, I think that any education system that is serious about making provision for all students (and has jazzy little slogans like ‘every child, every opportunity’ ) ought to provide funding for every school to have access to this type of software.  It ought to be installed on every computer used by students, including in secondary schools.  Make it cheap, and make it mandatory.

These sessions were presented by Yvonne Lynch, Jo Evans, and Pat Minton from SPELD, and Mary Delahunty from St James PS,  (not the journalist Mary Delahunty!)

Of the programs I saw, I was most impressed by

TextHelp is an interface which works across many programs, with its own toolbar at the top of the monitor screen.

TextHelp toolbarThis program will

  • convert text to speech, reading aloud, for example, from a web search on Wikipedia;
  • check spelling, offering not only alternative spellings but also dictionary meanings of each alternative so that students choose the right one;
  • sort out homophone confusion;
  • predict words from even the most bizarre invented spelling;
  • and more.

The reason I think this program should be standard equipment in schools is not just because research shows that 20% of students anywhere everywhere have learning difficulties.  It’s also because here in Victoria we have a large Non English Speaking Background student population, for whom this program has huge potential.  When the student is using any MS Office program, TextHELP can intercede to help them with pronunciation, grammar, idiom and spelling.  It can help with study skills like summarising – and solve the plagiarism problem with the click of a mouse.  You have to see it at work to see the possibilities – it really is amazing.

I was lucky enough to win the door prize, which was a demo copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking. This is speech recognition software which is ideal for people with dyslexia and is a million times better than the version that comes with MS Word.  It has perfect spelling, and once it ‘learns’ your voice you can dictate email, spreadsheets and documents.  Although it doesn’t work for everyone with a speech disability, it can in some cases also learn to recognise their speech so it is sometimes a brilliant tool for people with physical disabilities.   What I really liked about it was that you can dictate a sentence, and then tell the computer to ‘scratch that’ – and it does!

This software also has possibilities for mainstream students (or adults).  Speech can be recorded on a digital voice recorder and then when you connect it to the PC, it automatically downloads and transcribes the recording.  I could take a DVR with me when I walk the dogs in the morning, dictate a chapter of The Great Australian Novel as I go round the block, and Dragon would transcribe it straight to text for me!  (I wonder what Dragon would make of the barking when we go past the big shaggy dog on the corner LOL).

I really do admire the software developers who create these wonderful tools that support kids with special needs!  Contact Jo at EdSoft for more information – and when you’ve checked out the programs, then contact

if you agree that these programs should be in every school.

Posted in Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Opinion | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

More than Blogs

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 30, 2009

There’s More to Blogs than Blogging was a great presentation, all about moving on from simple blogging to more sophisticated use, and you can check out the presentation through this Wiki link.

Oh no, I’m running out of netbook battery!

(I must remember to bring the charger next time…)

PS From home, on Sunday.

This really was an inspirational session – and I nearly didn’t go to it because I was tired and had already been to a session on blogging!

John Pierce from Salty Solutions Educational Consultancy and Rick Kayler-Thomson from Bellaire PS had so many wonderful ideas, it’s hard to know where to begin.  I loved the Passion Projects which have led to students continuing to blog on their area of interest even after leaving the school and going on to secondary college. Pete and Byro Films shows an extraordinary level of competence with animation and game-making – (and the Basketball game is horribly addictive till you figure out how to score a goal)!  The Goss is a repository of student short talks on all kinds of jazzy subjects from dust storms to the Roswell Incident, all downloadable as podcasts.  You can tell that the kids love doing this….could I get my act together to do something similar with the talks my Y5&6 students are doing for their Fame (Biography) projects?  I shall have a play around on my practice blog to see if I can learn how to do it in time.  (Having a practice blog is another idea recommended at the conference – I’ve had one since I did the Web 2.o course last year, and I’ve kept it to use whenever there’s something I want to try without mucking up my real blogs).  The Puzzler Blog is another clever idea that is worth a try as well.

A talented and enthusiastic teacher combined with consultancy expertise = fantastic opportunities for kids.  I am so impressed by this team!

Check out John’s blog as well.

Posted in Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Blogging as a Thinking Apparatus (ICTEV conference)

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 30, 2009

Check out these class blogs for beaut ways to enrich the blogging experience.

Students have posted some very impressive work, but it’s the quality of the thinking processes embedded into the activities that’s innovative.  Have a look at Brodie’s blog, for example, to see the quality of the writing and the depth of his thinking.  I’ll be exploring this site in greater depth when I get home from the conference!

The content includes text, video (internet, DigiLearn), websites, and specific units of work.


  • Communicate with the school community: notes home to parents encourage them to make comments.
  • Students need to create web links to their friends’ blogs and the classroom blog.
  • Students need time after they have blogged to read other students’ blogs and leave comments.
  • Assessment opportunities are across a variety of VELS:
    • Writing – endless opportunities
    • Thinking processes – reasoning processes and inquiry; creativity; reflection evaluation and metacognition
    • ICT  – developing new thinking; students expressing themselves in contemporary and relevant ways; global and local communication; and reflecting on ethical responsibilities. 

Cyber safety

  • Watch out for student surnames (in blog addresses in any published work within student classroom work that is uploaded or photographed).
  • Be careful with photographs – school photos, photos inside classroom work displayed – parent permission is essential.
  • Links on student blogs – watch out for inappropriate themes, ads or template names.

A great session!

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ICTEV Conference, Keynote address

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 30, 2009

Here I am at the ICTEV Conference at Melbourne Grammar, hastily updating this blog because I forgot to bring my netbook charger!

Bruce Dixon (Director IdeasLab, Co-founder Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation) gave the keynote address, and he was fantastic.  He talked about so many issues I couldn’t keep up, but it was exciting.  His topic was ‘Emerging Trends that Redefine Education in the 21st Century and Imperatives that are Driving Transformation’.

He began by saying that our strength in OZ is our weakness – we take on innovation readily, but we don’t always consolidate.   There are huge expectations of schools with the major new focus on education, it’s front and centre with our government but also around the world. We are challenged by needing to meet needs of the future  because we’re not just being influenced by countries we’re comfortable with, now also the unfamiliar i.e. India and China (though Dixon didn’t name them).

 We all know the competencies we’re expected to develop:  21st century learners analytic thinkers problem solvers communicators globally aware civic engagement successful learners numerate articulate curious passionate literate collaborators, synthesisers, personalisers, localisers – and they’re just the ones I managed to jot down.  But as we all know, it’s hard enough to achieve traditional competencies and now we need to expand on that.

The Best Job in the World phenomenon is an example of this new kind of thinking that’s happening in the world.  The creation of this ad (because that’s what it was) was clever enough as a means of advertising Queensland to the world but everything else in the thinking behind it, was based on 21st century thinking. It had a huge impact internationally, and the job application  medium was video generating 36000 entries – how many of our students could have engaged in this process?  They should be able to = tThis is the way the corporate world is working – skills demand has now shifted dramatically. Routine cognitive or manual job opportunities have vanished. Anything easy to teach and test is easy to digitize or make a robot for. School has to be different.

But how? No school? Still subject based? Somewhere between these extremes? The frog is in rapidly rising hot water. Social and interactive aspects of schools are still very important. The Singapore classroom of the future (I need to find a link to this online somewhere)  offers every teacher time there because they know they have to change.


1. Globalisation, More than global projects – just a first step – young Oz people more than any other country need to be connected globally – we are the most isolated country are in the world, we do not have a modern network yet – embarrassing lack of languages – we don’t have cultural understanding, and it’s very obvious in Europe.

We need to make more use of phones, VOIP, SKYPE, time zones are a problem but not along our own time zone. More conference environments for young people should be facilitated. Open course ware project in the US – leading universities make available the lectures, PPTs, podcasts, videos etc. These should be used by students e.g. Prof Leewin(?)’s physics lectures. And these are available to kids in the 3rd world as well!

2. 21st century challenges environment, climate change etc – technology has to be a part of the solutions, connecting with other countries to solve them. Precedent of the Human Genome Project. Students connect at home,but not much at school: They used to come to school to use the computer, now they go home to use one. People think differently now about how we use it…

Intimidated by web 2.0? It’s just a ‘toenail’ in the water of what’s ahead. FaceBook is why the world has a different perspective on Obama.  There are new international ways of facilitating all kinds of things, including philanthropy through social networks.

Those schools not letting kids use Google???????????? web 2.0 is the architecture of participation!  ICTEV needs to lead the conversations, not Andrew Bolt!

3.  Content v context. Current model is out of date, informal learning is eclipsing formal learning. Success in the future is being able to do what you were NOT taught to do.  Kisa need to be able to do more complex things than before, things not previously accessible to children. Skilling people in low level word processing and excel is not what it’s about. It’s about how you can use the technology to improve mathematical understanding, Science and so on. 

Possible areas to develop are countless, but here’s one: possibilities for personalisation can address learner diversity. Flexible approaches to learning different learning styles – everyone wants to do this but teachers often burn themselves out trying to do this in traditional ways. With technology it’s possible. Kids can express their ideas with sound, animation, video, images and not just words. Not just expressing ideas for the teacher, kids can publish to the world, to a new audience.

Digital portfolios, knowing prior learning – Ultranet may make this more possible. No one has done it yet, but the vision is good. Schools have been slow to change because the kids don’t have 1-1 computers – they have to have them! Victoria the first teacher in the world to give each teacher a laptop. We need to think differently.

(Dixon is exhausting, but he has an important message and he sees the message is urgent).

Technology is going to allow us to manage all this diversity, assess it formatively and so on. The PbyP learning cycle – web 20 and assessment through personalisation by pieces. Competencies – learners set the goals, submitted (like a PhD?) peer assessed at that level, and the level above.

Accountability: people fear it – No child left behind program in the US emerged because of accountability – but we need to define what we want it to be. First and foremost we should be accountable to Kids. What have we been spending on education and what do we get for it? US spends more than anyone, 13th in the world, Korea is ahead of them. PISA is a picture of the value your education system is delivering. Most people in the world who achieve at the same level of America are low paid workers – not a great future to US – their GDP would improve if they got a better result from their investment in education.

Jazzy new developments in Victoria? : e5, PDPs etc.

 Where and how learning takes place….’free’ time i.e. not at work or school, if we can engage kids to learn anywhere anytime – i.e. move them beyond print era to broadcast era to collaborative age = different environment. Publishing, social networks. Learning is not organised around a school – libraries are not a transformed space – whole new view of what they might be. 1.Technology increases pedagogical capacity. One hour a week access to computers is not enough! 2.What are we going to let go of? Not an add on, transformation. Spaces/ digital content/ digital pedagogies. 3. digital lifestyle 4. Paradox of universal education – media always telling us we’re not doing well, when in fact we are, though there are increasing numbers of disengaged students and these have to be able to do more. Technology can help us address this?

These notes are a mess!  Conference blogging is an art I need to learn!

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SLAV Conference: Concurrent sessions & Featured Address

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 16, 2008

chipper-cover-newThe first of the concurrent sessions I went to was a presentation by Jan Letta.  Jan is a wildlife photographer who has made it her life’s work to photograph endangered animals in their natural habitat and bring their stories to life for children.  She has produced some very fine little books about lions, cheetahs, tigers and so on, in a series called True to Life Books – each with simple text that makes them perfect for beginner readers.  The ABC persuaded her to document her adventures in Africa, India and China in a magnificent hardcover book, Diary of a Wildlife Photographer but what I found interesting was Jan’s explanation about the economics of publishing books like hers.  The cost of including full-colour photographs is prohibitive for the educational publishing market, but she is able to produce them at a reasonable price because she designs and publishes them herself, selling them at school visits and on the internet.  Another example of cottage industry thriving on the web!

garden-of-empressAfter lunch there was a most interesting presentation by Gabrielle Wang, author of The Garden of Empress Cassia, The Pearl of Tiger Bay, and the forthcoming A Ghost in My Suitcase.  Gabrielle is of Chinese descent, and her fiction explores belonging and shared cultures.  I liked what she had to say about imagination – our culture tends to disparage it, but everything man-made that we see was once imagination.  Reading is an act of imagination that should be cherished.

jane-godwinIn the second concurrent session, I heard Jane Godwin’s talk:  Publishing and Writing: How These Worlds Connect. There were lots of auditory distractions in the Function Space – the clinking of crockery in the cafe, and very noisy contruction work outside.  It seems odd that a space like this in an award winning design like Federation Square couldn’t be closed off properly to reduce the noise. Did the architects and designers really think that curtains would achieve this?

Anyway, Jane soldiered on, and I liked what she had to say.  She’s not a fan of what she called ‘heavy-handed social issue picture books’ and I certainly agree.  She says that even though they are well-intentioned,  such books are cruel to little children, because they’re a lesson not a story.  Good literature is not didactic.  If we want to explore these issues we should use fairy tales because they are removed from the child’s real world.  She believes that young people don’t understand hindsight, and therefore although horrors can be examined, they should usually be righted.  Happy endings are psychologically important for children – and why not?

little-catJane’s work includes Little Cat and the Big Red Bus; The True Story of Mary Who Wanted to Stand on her Head, Millie Starts School, and the young adult novel Falling From Grace.  There’s also the non-fiction title When Elephants Lived in the Sea which looks as if it could be useful for the Life on Earth unit that I am currently doing with Year 5 & 6 because it explores evolution.

Little Cat and the Big Red Bus is an interesting story, because it features a male bus driver caring for a little one who falls asleep on the school bus.  Jane told us that she was asked to change the gender of the driver, but she refused: she wanted to depict the kindness of strangers who care for us when we need it as children, and she wanted to show that men can be good and kind.  I think it is a beautiful book, and I think it is very sad that marketers are so paranoid about child abuse that they are spooked by an image of a man carrying a little child to safety.

Jane finished up by reminding us of something that Ian McEwan wrote after 9/11: Imagining yourself into the lives of another is the beginning of compassion and morality.  It was a most engaging session.

After that, I did something really foolish: I went to the wrong session.  Instead of going to E-Readers and E-texts which I was really looking forward to, I went by mistake to ACMI 2 and not ACMI 1.  It was all about changing the reading culture at a very challenging school in the northern suburbs, but it was not what I wanted to go to! By the time I realised what I’d done, it was too late to barge into the right session so I slithered out of my seat and took an early train home.

Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Authors & Illustrators, Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Opinion, Professional Development, School Library stuff | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

SLAV Conference: Tohby Riddle

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 16, 2008

This keynote address was brilliant. tohby-riddleTohby Riddle is a wonderful author-illustrator of quirky picture books that never fail to engage children’s interest.   He uses literature and art to break out of habitual thinking and enter the world of imagination – with humour, enchantment and surprise.

Fiction, he says, is a word that can be used perjoratively.  The world created must not seem false – it must feel authentic and real.  To create his worlds, he starts out with a real situation, then mixes in the imaginative elements in small steps.  While his animals are metaphors for humans, he says it’s important when anthromorphising animals not to overdo it – he tries to keep his animals as close to reality as possible, and he retains their essential natures: in The Great Escape from the City Zoo, for example, they don’t talk and their undoing happens because they are true to their natures.  (The elephant can’t resist playing in the fountain). 

irving-the-magicianTohby recognises that sometimes the ’emotional feel’ of a book is what stays with us, not the facts, and he gave the example of Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. I think this is certainly true of Irving the Magician. I read this just recently to Years 3 and 4, and what stays with me from the brilliant images and simple text is the powerful idea that a child who believes in himself can wreak magic on lonely, empty lives around him, but what is heart-achingly real is the sadness of their lives before Irving achieves his little miracle.

great-escapeTohby’s art work owes some of its technical brilliance to his studies in architecture. He pointed out that in architecture, every line that’s drawn is something to be built, in 3D. So there’s a discipline to his drawings and even when a situation is quite zany, the pictures seem very realistic. He talked at length about the influences on his art, and in the Great Escape from the City Zoo in particular. I loved the way he references 1930s New York architecture with the Empire State Building and the anteater, but he’s also included ideas from the Steve McQueen film, stills from B/W film noir, and the Beatles Abbey Rd image. There are Nighthawks and Homer Simpson memes, and when his animals set off in the truck there’s even a reference to the John Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath film scene .

There are other titles by this brilliant author that I must buy for our library when I have some more money next year: The Tip at the End of Our Street; The Singing Hat; and The Royal Guest.

Books, says Tohby, are old technology you can hold in your hand to go to another world, and return to this one better for it.

This was the best session of the conference.

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