On my last leg

Bless me father for I have sinned. It's been one long week since my last blogpost. I've been busy, is my excuse. I'm having a wonderful time here in New Zealand. It's an awesome, heartbreakingly beautiful country, rich in culture and with plenty to see and do. I have been pretty busy touring around the North island speaking at various events, but over the last two days I have had some down-time to spend with my family in Auckland (City Centre pictured left). I have seen some breath taking sights and some spectacular views of the city from atop Mount Eden. I also took a short trip across by ferry to see the namesake of my own birthplace - Devonport - and I was impressed by how similar the two towns are. I have now arrived in Christchurch, on the South island, on the last leg of my tour, and I have to admit that I am a little weary of travel. I'm staying just across the road from the Convention Centre where Ulearn 2010 will kick off on Tuesday.

We are expecting quite a crowd of tech-savvy teachers for Ulearn - around 1800 have registered according to one of the organisers I spoke to. Stephen Heppell is flying in tonight to join us, and we also have Lee Crockett and Lane Clark to make up the foursome of keynotes for the event. All of the keynote abstracts and the entire programme can be found on the conference website. I'm going to be speaking on transformational change in education, and will touch on social media, new teacher roles and a host of other related topics in my own keynote on Wednesday afternoon. It seems, from talking to teachers here in New Zealand, that their local education problems are just the same as anywhere else the world over. Whilst this is reassuring in one way, it is also distrurbing to think that governments across the globe all treat education the same way. They throw some money at it (usually in the wrong places) and then expect the issues to go away. Teachers are hard pressed enough to do their jobs, without having to worry about issues of behaviour management, standardised assessment processes, and all the attendant paperwork that comes with the job. It's often a thankless task, and when it all goes wrong, guess who gets the blame - the teacher, of course.
Look, I don't want to start on a rant, but I am increasingly frustrated about the lack of resources most schools suffer from. Schools with technology that is dated so much, children would rather use the kit they have at home - which is often more up to date. There are practitioner issues too of course. Why the majority of teachers in schools I visit across the world use interactive whiteboards as presentational tools is beyond me. Let's get the kids up and using them too shall we? And when it comes to new and emerging technologies, there are still many barriers up against using social software - YouTube is filtered out, yet contains some incredible learning opportunities for language, music, history, science and sport. And Mobile phones are still banned by most schools and limited to a few isolated activities under strict supervision. All of these issues will be touched upon in my keynote on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to engaging with the audience and hope we can have some useful dialogue.

More pictures like the one above are online.... here's a link to all the photos people have taken of the events during my New Zealand tour.

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On my last leg by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Flexie said…
Looking forward to hearing your keynote on Wednesday.
"Schools with technology that is dated so much, children would rather use the kit they have at home - which is often more up to date." - reminds of the first time our servers crashed at school. Our kids are so accustomed to having access to the internet, assignments are online, resources are online, all their work is available via remote access that the kids actually asked if they could go home and work from there as they would be more productive. Was the day we realised we were engaging our kids in the way our vision wanted us to. It has also lead us to thinking beyond the boundaries of the classroom and how to harness our kids enthusiasm to learn regardless of where they are.
Mel said…
I am glad you are enjoying our beautiful country. I am looking forward to hearing you speak at Ulearn, hopefully meeting you and being apart of your 'last leg'. Education systems across the world should be operated by the very people who work in them, not politicans! Thats my rant!
2 sleeps and I will be in Christchurch :-)
William said…
I think a large part of the "old technology" problem lies not as much with budgetary constraints (though undoubtedly that complicates things) but rather with an inability to understand the benefits the technology can bring to teaching.

In a nutshell, many schools are doing the tech equivalent of burying their heads in the sand. They defend their actions with "we have projectors, IAW's & MS Office, so we're OK".

Personally I hate IAW's. They are stupidly expensive and often restrictive. I much prefer the add-on's that can be mounted on normal dry-wipe boards as they are FAR cheaper and still allows people to write on the image to be projected, either in real or digital ink.

I work with a number of schools and so often the IAW's may as well just be normal white boards as none of the technical features are used!

If at all possible, when you're back in Plymouth (I'm also based here) I'd very much like to buy you a coffee and discuss some strategies for using especially mobile devices as a teaching tool?
serendipitynz said…
As usual Steve you are right on the button, governments the world over are totally ignorant of the changing scene in education, and the fact that students (from primary to tertiary) are way ahead of the play and expect education to be available "any place & any time".
PS Though I didn't get the chance to formally say goodbye, I will treasure the time I had to finally meet and briefly get to know you. I hope you enjoy the time with your NZ family and I thank Dawn and your children for sharing you with New Zealand.
Love Robyn.
Steve Wheeler said…
Wow, Robyn, it was a real pleasure meeting you f2f and spending some time with you in Napier. I'm not going to forget my excellent time in Hawke's Bay and look forward to the next time we meet.


Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comments William. My take is that many teachers have either not been shown the amazing features of IAWs or are just too tired, and busy to spend time learning their capabilities to transform classroom practice. I will take you up on your offer of coffee - lets's talk when I'm back - drop me a line with some times/dates. I look forward to it.

All the best

Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Mel and Flexie for your insightful comments, which have added to this excellent discussion. I hope to meet up with you both soon. :-)
Mrs A said…
Loved your uLearn presentation, I could have listened to you for hours! I'm back home and exhaused (think I might have 'infowhelm') but I'm too excited by what I have heard and seen over the last few days to sleep. Interesting comment about IAW's - I got an activboard 2 terms ago (so 20 teaching weeks in NZ), had no projector prior to that, and it resulted in a massive shift in my teaching and student engagement. But I was determined to find ways to incorporate it fully into every possible lesson. Did cause a dramatic increase in my working hours though....

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