Reflections on the NSW Deputy Principals' Conference

The DP’s association annual conference was held at Star City this week and was the third consecutive I’ve attended. Considering last year it was at Rose Hill, I am starting to think the folk who choose the venues have gambling problems as the actual spaces are so inappropriate for an Education conference, on a number of different levels, that it is hard to draw any other conclusion (even if it is said in jest). It certainly was plagued with bad luck last year as the week of the conference an outbreak of equine flu closed racing in the state. This conference was not without irony either. One would assume that an event titled ‘[email protected] City’ would have wireless connection but alas, it is not that kind of connecting it would seem.

 

The opening keynote, Emerging Images of Schools and Teachers, promised to be interesting but Frank Crowther didn’t manage to engage my imagination at all. Here are my rough summary notes to give you an idea of how I was feeling at the time about the presentation:

·     What would your school be like if it was a musical performance? How can you modify to suit the kids?

·     Note: there are 9 different musical instruments all in tune with the band this morning. The band specialises in swing-jazz but does some funk ‘to keep the kids happy’ – funk? really? keeping who happy?

·     Frank’s point about collaboration and Terry, the Indigenous performer, needing the audience’s participation didn’t resound with me as there is no wireless connectivity at this conference (as I type away here) and I am yet to see another laptop. Remember, the conference is titled ‘Connect @ Star City’. I’d like to be ‘tweeting’ with others and networks could develop. I’d like to suggest and participate with some Web 2.0 ideas for 2009. Have that feeling I am at the wrong conference and should be at the ‘Digital Leadership’ one down the road but it is about 4 times as expensive.

·     Frank started his career in 1963. He claims that in the last two generations it has become difficult to teach/lead -‘you deserve medals’ – but the good news is things are getting better.

·     Note: can see another laptop now

 

 

Frank’s 4 IMAGES:

 

1. The new Federal leadership – Rudd and Gillard

 

2. Y Generation – Nokia Ad

 

3. Business Council of Australia – ‘outstanding teachers should be paid $130 000’

 

4. A black box – how does leadership improve outcomes?

 

1. The new Federal leadership – Rudd and Gillard

·     Gillard ‘inspired’ by the New York model’ but there are some disasters unmentioned. ‘Teacher excellence is the key’ and that simplistic league tables are a ‘no- brainer’

·     The Coleman Report (1966) in the US said: ‘Schools don’t affect children’s life chances’. Since then the morale of the teaching profession diminished as ‘the curriculum, ‘parents and principalship all gained in status’. ‘You get what you pay for’ became a slogan for many parents. ‘But I’m just a teacher’ has been heard

·     ‘That’s what has been done to us’ – image of donkey in air as the load is too heavy

·     Note: Frank’s ideology is really warn on his sleeve – it feels dated and tired. However, he has the audience in the palm of his hand. Do we really need to be told how hard we have it? Paradigms confirmed across the state.

·      ‘1995 Newmann and Wehlage said the Coleman Report was wrong – ‘schools with strong professional communities…’

·     The school community need to be ‘in tune’ and aligned with high connected responsibility

·     A SWP – A Schoolwide Pedagogy – is an agreed set of pedagogical approaches, especially collaboration. The DP is of fundamental approach

·     Note: using Presland’s values processes with a focus on digital technologies (including Web 2.0 tools for networking), collaboration and constructivist TPL is the answer ‘I’ am pursuing

2. Y Generation – Nokia Ad

·     The Y Generation is different. “Here is a generation with a penchant for social chit-chat, who think and act creatively and who have…”

·     Note: Frank doesn’t really understand (‘I am a PE teacher’)

·     Note: The briefest part of presentation

3. Business Council of Australia – ‘outstanding teachers should be paid $130 000’

·     ‘You need imagination…’

·     Need to rethink about what is meant by a 21st century teacher?

1.  What are your core values, hopes and aspirations?

2.  What is your special gift

3.  What do you enhance the quality of your whole-school workplace

4.  How do you enrich your school’s distinctive pedagogy through your professional sharing and learning

5.  What educational philosophy guides your professional work?

·     Charter for Australian Teaching Profession

·     DPs critical of change

 4. A black box – how does leadership improve outcomes?

·     3 processes – see PowerPoint

·     The DPs role is crucial as ‘connectivist’

·     La Trobe Secondary College – see PowerPoint

·     Distributed leadership engages school community

 Note – no discussion of impact of digital technologies

 

 

The most useful of the three workshops I attended was given by Brian Ralph. His overview of the ‘Middle Years’ theory followed by some practical examples of processes for DPs was great. The other workshops, a PowerPoint by CLI (pretty much about the website) and a look at NAPLAN (with the data embargoed) were not worth attending.

 

The notes from another keynote, Curriculum in the 21st Century, delivered by Rob Randall were as follows:

 

Q. What are 3-4 of the challenges facing us with the curriculum in the 21st century?

·         The challenge is to work with individuals

·         Quality of teaching

·         Appropriate and rich use of technology

·         Communities of schools with the school at the centre of the community

·         Balance between knowledge and skills needed

 

–          national curriculum

–          digital revolution

–          crowded curriculum – content that is irrelevant

–          pedagogy/delivery

 

Q. What are the ‘21st century skills’?

 

National Perspective

–          increasingly global perspective

–          increasingly complex environmental and social challenges

–          rapid and continuing advances in information and communication technologies

–          National curriculum K-12 for implementation from 2011 (only English, maths, the sciences and history). Maths much more universal than say, history

–          www.ncb.org.au

–          Rob feels that we ‘need to get over the need’ to reshape curriculum as it is more important that students learn and are engaged with learning

–          Rob is not certain how we realise the potential of laptops – what does the classroom look like? Email him.

–          NSW in a good position compared to other states. Transparency

–          Leagues Tables – do they improve school quality?

–          Funding – important for following through on curriculum

–          Asian languages – Federal goal 12% of stage 6 students competent in these languages

–           

State Perspective

–          Maths really being revised

–          Adequacy of stage 6 English syllabus?

–          Sustainability

–          Voc Ed in stage 5

–          SC and

–          HSC exam process change

–          More meaning to standards for stage 6 maybe less emphasis on exams

–          Connected classrooms – bandwidth. How do we use it?

–          Internet usage; how do we use the internet

–          Networks of teachers one of the positives of CC/internet

–          Virtual schooling? Extension opportunity

–          School leaving age increasing

 

School Perspective

–          Communities of schools

–          retention

–          use of technology

–          curriculum challenge

–          which student? Do you know me?

–          Changing student population Gen Y – Gen X

–          Young people’s brains different from ours? (but do they work differently?)

 

Student Perspective

–          Should school be a mirror of ‘every day life’?

–          ‘powering down’ or secure space – depends on student

–          Only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction

–          The quality of the education system can not exceed the quality of the teachers

–          High performance – every child to succeed

–          Focus on individual students important within the context of the class

 

External Perspectives

–          QT makes a difference

 

 

The other keynotes were inspirational and delivered with passion by Paul Brock, The Challenge of Leadership for Public Educators and Chris Presland, who spoke abut ‘Heroes‘. They are both speakers and Educators I admire and no notes were taken – just sat back and listened.
This is the third year in a row that I left the conference feeling less than inspired by this annual event. It is easy to sit back and be critical but it all just feels tired and backward looking. Others feel the same way who are not at the end of their careers – as many of the delegates inevitably are – and perhaps it is time for some new directions.
Meeting Rob, from Distance Education and talking with him about our new iPhones was the highlight of the conference in many ways, especially as he was enthusiastic when I showed him Twitter and the Twinkle app – we ended up tweeting from our very dull workshops.

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks for your reflections and glad you love your iphone as much as me and a bit sad that that is a highlight from a conference. I am becoming very disillussioned with conferences as a means of professional learning as it reinforces the sit down shut up and hear why i am good philosophy in so many cases. I would love to see students enter the conference realm and be empowered to talk and make decisions and take action back at a school level.
    Julia Gillard and the NY model scares me and all I think of is the quote “weighing an elephant wont make it any heavier”

  2. darcymoore:

    Thanks for that, Lauren. Firstly, have been reading a book to my daughters about a unicorn called Twilight and keep calling Twinke iPhone app by the wrong name. Also, I have noticed that the further one goes up the greasy pole in a system the more removed one gets from the reality of students. I am fast coming to the conclusion that the bricks and mortar notion of a ‘school’ is not the answer for most teenagers. Why wear a uniform and march through the gates each day? Is that what an employer will want in the 21st century or is it educationally or economically desirable. The world turns or is that…spins.

  3. Thanks for the rundown Darcy, it sounds like “style over substance” (with substance stuck somewhere in the tired past, largely irrelevant and suffocating from the ‘managerese’).

    The crusty group mentality, ‘look at moi’ (thanks Lauren) and tinkering on the edges while the increasingly inadequate, irrational, even unethical core remains so short of the potential many people like you would like to reach is nothing new.

    Conferences like this are designed for heads to nod, the crowd effect is there for a reason. Good on you for having the face and guts to say the best part was playing with the iPhone 🙂

    If you are ever frustrated by unreflective, sheeplike behaviour of people I thoroughly recommend the following small and superbly eloquent work by Doris Lessing called Prisons We Choose To Live Inside (1986). For a quick review of the book done by Stephen Downes see this link.
    http://downes-review.blogspot.com/2006/07/prisons-we-choose-to-live-inside.html

    Regards

  4. Rob Lyttle:

    Hear hear! I would like to learn more at these things rather than be inspired and I certainly didn’t “connect” with the conference… I would be hard pressed to take much more than a few free pens and bags from Star City had I not sat down and engaged in conversation with a DP from Dapto.
    The analogy of the musical instruments and the school being an orchestra was a little too simple for me. What about the elephant in the room… a proportion of the population in our schools are tone deaf and this was not addressed.
    Oh and thank you for my latest tech addiction in twitter… I wonder if twinkle will tell me Carmel is the new education minister on monday 😉

  5. darcymoore:

    A very good tip, Tomaz. I’ll try to have find the Lessing book ASAP. Yes, a new particpatory and collaborative model of PD is needed but I was kind of hoping (in a masochistic fashion it would appear) that a DP colleague, who attended the conference would post here, and give me a working over by expressing what I could have got from the conference…I suspect no-one will post though.

  6. darcymoore:

    *Laughing* had to ditch my ‘showbag’ as it was just too heavy to take on the train…I am keen to check out that MOODLE stuff you mentioned Rob. I’ll send you an email. Cheers.

  7. So thats what you DP’s get up to in conference land when all around us back at the coalface is so sweet and dandy!

    Seriously Darcy, I really appreciate this insight.

    On reflection however it is rather sad if NSW DET leadership development for our critical leaders amounts to this. I wonder how this will change in the next 3 years?

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