Reflections on ACEL2012

At the start of October I had the privilege of attending and presenting (about Experiential Narrative Learning) at the Australian Council of Educational Leaders annual conference (ACEL2012). I am not sure what I was expecting, but I came away thinking that it was better than expected. In fact I came away with my concepts about my role as a teacher and educational leader challenged and in some ways transformed.

Some thoughts on the conference as a whole.

I really appreciated the attempts at interactivity, including feedback from the twitter stream.  There were times I had thought ‘if not for twitter I would be bored out of my brain.’ Hearing the thoughts questions and feedback of collages brings an interactive dimension to a conference that deepens thinking and learning. The conference rooms themselves were a barrier to better interaction. Rows and rows of chairs is so ‘industrial age’ and does not promote the collaborative learning we are attempting to demonstrate and implement.  There is a place for rows in a keynote, but a workshop should be set up with some kind of natural grouping structure.  How do you get conference presenters to be better at interaction, well it’s probably the same as for in the classroom, model it.  Finding good workshops was hit and miss, but finding the best ones was heavily influenced by the tweets of others.

So what did I learn?

The first two keynote speakers did not tell me anything I had not heard or read before.  Education needs to change from an industrial model to something more engaging. Unfortunately I did not hear what that was from the keynotes. One message I did take away from Dan Pink was we don’t need to be looking overseas for best practice “The best examples of change in schools (for the conceptual/creative age) is happening right here in Australia and NZ.”  We need to look at connecting and collaborating with schools within our own context and culture. The answers we seek are probable happening in the school down the road. This was observable in many of the workshops I attended. The best of the workshops were from practising teachers that are seeking to implement student focused learning that strives to get their students motivated and thinking deeply about their learning.

The message that transformed my thinking as a teacher/leader was from the third keynote by Tim Costello.   I have been teaching globalisation to year 8 students in an integrated science/ geography unit called Quest, for the last three years.  But I now know I did not fully understand the concept or its implications until it was unpack by Tim Costello in his skilful use of telling stories. We are preparing students for a global community, but must help them to develop and nurture their own local communities. Thinking globally but acting locally has taken on new meaning for me. I will strive to get kids to think about their actions on a global scale but ensure they learn to act and connect within their own communities/ families.  I will be striving to get my students to connect and collaborate in classroom activities in a more meaningful way, encouraging all connections within local communities and the wider world. And finally Tim Costello reinforced for me the power of teaching/leading with the use of story. I will be striving to use thick and not thin stories from now on.

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2 Comments »

  1. …And by working in that manner with your students you’re not forgetting ‘to water the geraniums’ either 🙂
    Also thank you for your presentation – you make a good point about much of the best coming from classroom practitioners, one being yourself! What was reinforced for me from your’s was the value of whole group learning occurring through story – ‘at the waterhole’, small group collaborative recount of learning – ‘at the campfire’ and providing time and opportunity for individual reflection on and recording of learning – ‘in the cave’. Nice balance of strategies and learning configurations caters for all learners; the introverts as well as the extroverts (Susan Cain – ‘Quiet’ Do we use too much group work now, to the detriment of allowing time for individual reflection?)
    I was inspired too and energised by keynote 4 though, Erica McWilliam, William Walker Oration probably something to do with being of a certain gender and having attained a certain age… 🙂

    • Thanks for the encouraging comments Sandra. I also enjoyed Erica McWilliam’s keynote. I’m afraid at the time my mind was still digesting Tim Costello’s stories and readjusting me world-view of my role as a teacher/leader.

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