A Big Change for Tom

What a glorious new beginning!

Back in 2014 I wrote a similar post at a time of transition. Today opens a new chapter in the unfolding story of how a high school English teacher from California morphs into a Web-based educator and contributor to the next era of education.  To re-cap, earlier parts of the journey included a fellowship at San Diego State University where we developed the WebQuest model, then a move to Australia and time as a Web developer and Ed Tech consultant with plenty of writing, software design and keynoting…  until I “got my first real job” since teaching when I joined Hobsons in 2014.  Although I explored positions in school leadership and returning to consulting, it was clear that the exact job didn’t matter so long as I was:

  • using all my skills
  • working on a great team
  • making a difference in education

Things clicked when I met the leadership team at Hobsons Edumate:

From Edumate …

For the past 2 + years I’ve really loved working with the great team at Hobsons’ Edumate.  As much as I’ve enjoyed this shift from the sometimes lonely life of an independent consultant, that fact that the Edumate suite also includes modules for attendance, enrolment, finance, and calendaring means that my passion for improving teaching and learning must be balanced with the overall needs of Edumate’s clients. I got and fully supported this. Those times I was able to harness the development team to work on the curriculum aspects of the software, I felt as though I was contributing – yet while other development needs rightly took precedence, I sometimes felt I wasn’t having the impact I hoped for. Recently the name “Literatu” began popping up with both current and prospective schools, so we decided to meet up…

To Literatu!

What I saw so impressed me that my curiosity was piqued and before long we’d kicked around ideas and found that my obsession with richer teaching and learning matched nicely with the powerful analytical insights provided within a very slick and user-friendly platform.  However, more than the software, I was very impressed with the Literatu leadership – Mark Stanley and Lidija Loridon. They definitely understand assessment, analytics, user interface and what schools need to turn data into insights.  Because this is only the first day on the job, of course there is a lot I don’t know (yet look forward to learning — which is a big part of the excitement!).  In the coming months (and years) I will share more about the power of this technology to humanise teaching and learning as I dig into it and we evolve it.  In particular I am (delightfully) tasked with helping schools and their teachers get early wins analysing their data and then build a plan where they nurture a culture of continuous improvement informed by their own unique goals and processes coupled with powerful data analytics. Look for more posts, Webinars and professional learning and consulting to support this journey into the future.  

ECAWA 2015

ecawa-logoIt’s with a real sense of pleasure, enthusiasm and anticipation that I return to Perth to present at the ECAWA conference this year.  Special thanks to Lynley McKernan and the whole conference committee for welcoming me in my new role with Hobsons Edumate.  I will do three sessions, a keynote on Thursday and two sessions on Friday.  The keynote and one session will be on Next Era Ed and how to get there while one session will highlight how Hobsons Edumate facilitates the journey.  I’m also looking forward to catching up with the other conference keynoters: long-time colleague Dr Tim Kitchen and Dr. Michael Henderson.  If you are in WA, I encourage you to join us all at Scotch College in Swanbourne for what is always a stimulating experience.

Visiting Northern Beaches Christian School

Died and Gone to Heaven NBCS

Yesterday I finally got around to something I’ve been meaning to do for over a year.  Ages ago, I began hearing through the grapevine of a school in northern Sydney that was really taking on integration of Moodle.  As few schools were getting beyond the install/die-on-the-vine phase, I filed the name Northern Beaches Christian School away as one to look into.  Then last year, many of the participants at the CEFPI conference I keynoted came back from day visits to NBCS raving about what they had seen.

Finally, when the team I’ve been working with at Launceston Church Grammar School came back from touring several Sydney area schools, they said one that really impressed them was Northern Beaches. Because I’m looking forward to an on-going partnership with Launceston Grammar, this prompted me to make the drive up. So I contacted Anne Knock, director of development, and she generously set up a time when we could chat and she could take me around the school. That was yesterday.

I’m guessing that this a the first of what might be several-to-many posts celebrating the great things going on at NBCS. So I’ll be brief and simply bullet out a few of the things that most impressed me.

  • Every student I saw was engaged. Some were working in groups, others in pairs, some alone.
  • If they weren’t in the industry-standard design & tech work space, art studio or a playing field, students were using their BYO device without any dramas.
  • Teachers were relaxed, respectful and focused on individual or small group learning (meaning – supporting differentiated student learning).
  • Students were relaxed, respectful and focused on individual or small group learning (meaning – pursuing personal growth).
  • Of course the architecture, learning spaces and furniture all announce a game-changing from “playing school” to something different.  It’s refreshing to get out of the school boxes.
  • All of this to say what everyone knows when they spend even a short time at a great school – this is the real thing: the joy of learning’s happening here.

2010 Workshops so far….

“Cutting Edge-ucators: By Invitation Only”

What have we learned so far about Learning in the 21st Century?
Over the past three years very talented and innovative teachers have participated in workshops at the AISV.  They have gone on to use blogs, videos, podcasts and wikis as regular platforms for their students’ learning.  Unfortunately, much of education still happens in clusters isolated from a broader audience.  The purpose of this series is to reunite exemplary technology-using teachers and to share case studies of what they have found effective.  A loose but formal structure will enable the participants to codify parameters for best practice that can then be shared more widely through publications and conferences.

This series will be a combination of online sessions and two face-to-face workshops.

Real, Rich and Relevant

Integrating Pedagogy and Web 2.0 Technologies
Five day Workshop

Web 2.0 technologies facilitate new and exciting ways to teach and learn. Beginning with what we know about how students learn best, participating teachers use Web 2 technologies to create real, rich and relevant learning activities for our students. This 5 day program is offered to small teams (2-4) of teachers who are confident in their use of technology and who are interested in working collaboratively on either discipline based or special learning area projects within their schools.  Participants must also be willing to work collaboratively with other teachers in the program in both face-to-face and online settings to build knowledge around ICT skills and implementation strategies and their impacts on effective classroom practice.

WebQuests 2.0

A Richer Web Improves a Good Idea

Two day Workshop

WebQuests were pretty cool when we invented them more than a decade ago, but see what happens when you unfold today’s WebQuest using Web 2 tools and rich resources.  In the old days people used templates and html to create a WebQuest page.  Now we have more intuitive software that enables students to “crowd source” with social bookmarks, learn from experts on TEDTalks and develop their concepts with a wide range of thinking tools. The tricky part is still facilitating student transformation of new information to understanding but even this gets a boost from collaboration tools like wikis, blogs and decision-ware. Finally, when it comes to publishing newly constructed knowledge, choices might include YouTube, Dipity or Google Maps.

The fact that WebQuests have been around since 1995 doesn’t actually mean they are “old hat” because those who know schools and students are well aware that challenging critical thinking and nurturing intrinsic motivation never go out of style.

Look to Learn

Developing a Culture of Inquiry in Early Years’ Classrooms
1 Day Workshop

Experienced teachers know that positive routines form a foundation to classroom learning.  We often use them to manage classroom behaviours and basic skills. However, routines can also be used to engage students in critical thinking and knowledge building, activities often considered beyond the abilities of early years learners.  Participants in this one day session experience what it’s like to “Look to Learn” from the inside and then use and create such activities for their own students.  See how rich digital media like blogs, videos, podcasts and images stimulate interest that is then developed through routines that prompt critical and creative thinking.  This hands-on workshop provides the theory and practice to enhance the spirit of inquiry and appetite for learning that are already alive in your classroom.*

Pass the Pen

Empowering Primary Learners through IWBs
1 Day Workshop

In a world where rich resources have never been so freely available, our students must get “hands-on” experience making learning choices.  Thus, once teachers have learned the basic tools of the Interactive Whiteboard, the challenge is to use IWBs as a shared learning space with students. Employed as a window to the world, an IWB connects classroom learning with engaging Web 2.0 resources and applications that can enliven classroom practices and “flatten the learning hierarchy.” This session prepares teachers to empower their students to move beyond “technology as entertainment” and to apply the riches of the Web to achieve deep learning and positive habits of mind.