Last Thursday and Friday were big days on the edu conference calendar – Future Schools 2016 took over Australian Technology Park, and in the process took over the minds of a few hundred educators. I was lucky enough to be a part of the conference this year, after being invited to share Jane Hunter’s Friday morning keynote, along with Debbie Evans.
I elected to teach on Thursday instead of attend the day’s sessions – a true shame as I missed the keynote of Larry Rosenstock, principal of High Tech High (only the most amazing Project Based Learning school in the world!). I managed to make it out to ATP for the last two sessions – an energetic presentation by Claire Amos about her school’s unique learning environment, and the stunning closing keynote by Ayesha Khanna on why partnerships between corporations and schools is the best way to teach STEM. My intention for attending the final part of the day was to ‘bump into’ Larry Rosenstock at the networking drinks, and beg him to give me a one year contract to work at High Tech High. Unfortunately he’d already left the building, but I did manage to catch up with my great mate and English teacher hero, Paula Madigan, as well as Jane Hunter (who is brilliant but I’ll go into that in the next paragraph) and even got to say a quick hello to the ever awesome Peggy Sheehy.
Attending Thursday, even if briefly, really got me thinking more broadly about education – not confined simply to the institution of school – thanks to the keynote of Ayesha Khanna. Her presentation really captured the changing world of ‘work’ with a specific emphasis on the role that automation (especially robots) are having on jobs and the economy. She spoke passionately about the need to foster creative confidence in our young people, to ensure that they are prepared for the dynamism of the new workforce they will be entering. Her company’s mission to support young people (specifically university aged) to get a sense of the workforce/vocations in an authentic way – through what she calls ‘externships’ – is pure genius. It really got me thinking about the role of employers as educators, and the need for them to develop the skills needed to mentor and support a generation of new employees very different to those they’ve worked with before. I couldn’t stop thinking about how outdated our current model of ‘work experience’ is that we offer to students in year 10. I also imagined Ayesha’s company as essentially running work-based PBL – they really focused on problem-solving at the contextual level, and it was cool to hear that they’re now expanding into high school and primary school too. Let’s hope her company starts working here in Australia soon! You can read more about them here: http://www.thekeys.global
Friday brought with it a 4am wake-up, a stomach full of desperate butterflies, and a big first for me – keynoting in a team at Future Schools! I made it to ATP at 7am, and that just compounded my nerves – luckily I got to hang out with Jane and Debbie which made me relax (a bit!) before we hit the stage. It was quite intimidating seeing the lights dim, and the crowd filing into the big room. I took the time to read back through my notes, write out some hasty palm cards, and try to tweet like a normal person. I was particularly nervous for this talk because it was about someone else’ work – not only that, but it was work that I greatly admire and value, so I wanted to do it justice. Jane’s opening was fantastic – she’s a wonderful speaker, with such wealth of knowledge into current research that it was hard not to turn every sentence into tweet. You can read a summary of her talk on Claire Amos’ blog: http://www.teachingandelearning.com/2016/03/dr-jane-hunter-turning-high-possibility.html?m=1
Debbie Evans did a wonderful job discussing the huge impact that Jane’s HPC framework had on the staff at her school – it’s really quite amazing how many teachers she supported during the project. She’s showed the most adorable videos of student work – one of a kindy student proudly showing of his triangle literally brought a tear to my eye! And then I was up… I had my palm cards in my hand, but found that all my diligent preparation paid off, and after a shaky start (my voice was actually shaking), I got into the rhythm thanks to a sly dig at Debbie for being my ICT pusher way back in 2006 at MacICT, lol. Once I had sat back down it was so lovely to scroll through my tweets and see people sharing kind words about what I had to say – I even got my first ever LOTR GIF tweet, pretty rad!
Almost straight after our keynote we began a pretty gruelling hour and a half round table session – three cycles of groups coming to chat to Debbie and mr about ICT integration. It was hot, and loud, and I almost lost my voice… but it was completely awesome! I met so many engaged, interesting and thoughtful educators, and hope that we will somehow keep in contact. It was great to be able to share my own journey as a new HT of T&L with others in a similar role, and I was reminded again of how powerful it is to record that journey via this blog to help me share my experiences and resources with them.
After such an early start, I decided to leave Future Schools early… I was exhausted mentally and physically, and felt that staying any longer would have hindered rather than helped my immersion in the ideas shared throughout my time at the conference. I know that next year I’ll be keen to return – as a presenter or just as a participant, I don’t mind. I’m also keen to bring along other teachers from my school as well, and I think that’s the mark of a great conference.