Reflections on the NSW Deputy Principals' Annual Conference '09

I have been critical of the last couple of DP conferences but found this year’s event in the Hunter Valley a much more satisfying experience.  The venue and facilities were spacious, salubrious and the wireless connectivity good. The mood was very positive in all respects.

The keynotes were mostly excellent but what made a difference, for me, was the quality of the opening keynote by Mark Treadwell. He framed the conference with an intellectually stimulating presentation. His central thesis, that the internet is a paradigm shift sparking a renaisance in learning, is obviously not particularly new or difficult to understand but the significance of the DPs commencing the conference with his challenges to our conventional notions of schooling, had me standing to applaud.

Smart Ask, a parent portal in New Zealand that Mark discussed, interests me greatly. The semester routine of writing, what are badly out of date by the time they get home school reports, could be updated with this kind of portal for families. Feedback that is up to date  and  pedagogically sound, who would not prefer this to what we have at the moment, an outmoded, anachronistic  reporting habit that dates back generations?

Mark was generous with his time and I enjoyed his workshop and impromptu ‘masterclass’ on ‘the brain’.  I certainly will read his new, about to be released book exploring how the brain learns, Whatever! Were we Thinking?

The future

Collaboration and cooperation between conferences needs to develop significantly and the challenge of face-to-face meetings is too great for most of us. The association has made a grant available to me for investigating and improving online communications between us DPs.  Mostly, it is not about ‘the tools’ but the community and how we understand what can be achieved to grow professionally, collaborate and support each other in our efforts to improve the quality of what our schools offer.

Understanding of Web 2.0 tools needs to develop significantl in the coming year. A few of us made a fledgling attempt at having a back channel in operation using twitter and the hashtag #DPconf09Denise Lofts, Rob Lyttle, Pip Howell, Stu Hasic, Roger Pryor and Brendan Jones are some of the DET people who participated.

The association’s twitter account is now operational.

There will be some more info and changes at the DP website in coming months.

Stay tuned!

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11 Comments

  1. Mark Treadwell is a great motivator and speaker, and it was a great opportunity for the country DP’s to hear him. It is only when people in such executive positions are inspired personally to change, will significant change in schools start to happen.

    I also agree with you regarding the progressive report through the year, the twice a year report not only is inadequate, but causes an immense period of stress for teachers, who have to find the time in their already busy schedule to write, check and cross check reports. Anything that improves and simplifies this process has got to be a step forward.

  2. Troy:

    Progressive connection between the partners in learning can not occur in the current structures, particularly in regards to DET and individual school policy and procedure. The two a year reporting leaves some schools where groups of teachers don’t ‘assess’ learning that doesn’t feedback to parents, that assessment only occurs to please report structures. Web 2.0 allows to (almost) individual feedback during a task (not just at the end).
    We are currently undertaking a renovation in my faculty- assessment that reflects program, learning that leads to feedback, not assessment leading the learning, assessment with criteria, Web 2.0 and progressive- on going learning- tasks are central to this renovation.

  3. tracey breese:

    It was really important to us that we framed up the conference with a 21st century feel.
    thanks for noticing and giving us some terrific feedback.
    next year- with the theme of ‘catalysts’ should hopefully add more to the shift in paradigm.
    cheers.
    tracey

  4. kia ora

    Thank you for the feedback and I thorougly enjoyed my time at the conference. The paradigm shift I discussed is the nexus around which we must now work as educators referencing all that we do to whether we are meeting this challenge through what we are doing as education-learning managers.

    The national Curriculum is still a moving target with some early signs of a very traditional approach but that is cast alongside the excellent set of National Goals set for the national curriculum. There seems to be a considerable disconnect between these National Goals and the emerging curriculum docs so far but we will not know that for sure until the the currciulm documents come out in draft form.

    Our focus now is emphasising that the centricity of schooling is now about how the learners learn to become lifelong learners rather than about how the teachers teach content. The focus of teachers teaching practices is now about developing understanding of core concepts based on the essential knowledge bases.

    With these changes in practice we should see a far better degree of engagement of learners. An immediate challenge to your readers is to download MIRO http://www.getmiro.com and use this free software to save video clips from youtube and http://www.ted.com among many to you laptop hard-drive and use these to inspire, add humour and motivate young learners to see that the world they live in is amazing. Education via their schooling expereinces should incite a life long learning capability in students and open up a fascination with their world and rather than boring them to death with trivia.

    ka kite ano: Mark Treadwell

  5. dskmag:

    It’s well documented that in eLearning (well before Web2.0), that senior executive buy-out is the biggest threat to sustainable practice. Using success stories, educating execs, coaching (peer models), overcoming prior perceptions and developing a sound business case are all key factors in organisational success. I think that ‘networks’ are not just ‘online’ and similarly to higher ed instances, meetings like this are extremely important to getting momentum. It sounds like the meeting had the right ingredients and all power to you.

  6. darcymoore:

    I appreciate your comments, Dianne, Tracey, Troy, Mark and Dean.

    I also feel that leaders must lead this DER!

    I am no longer prepared to ‘go with the goers’ alone and expect all to engage with professional development that demonstrates we are ‘walking the walk’, especially school leaders, including Regional Directors and SEDs. The time has come for us to be life long learners and insist that to be a luddite is pretty much like saying ‘i don’t like books and reading’.

    The DPs are crucial. I suggest that some reorganisation of executive and SASS roles could relieve DPs of administrivia and allow them to take a more active role in leading strategic, professional learning.

    Still hoping that some other conference delagates might post here.

    Colleagues?

  7. Hi Darcy,
    Could not have summed up the ‘chasm’ of debate around teaching, learning and in particular assessment that needs to take place. It is not until teachers begin, individually, to engage in intellectual debate about change will we not get to the grassroots of a trully engaged group of teachers. Most see leaders (in schools, DPS HTs Princ.) as the ‘catalysts’ that send out the structure and tools to make this happen. This, as you said is imperative to active change. ‘Champions’ in schools leading learning on the platform of emerging technologies are no longer the ‘nerds’ but the teachers who love learning. The machine is just the paintbrush of picture.
    Absolutely agree, in regards to emerging technologies, they alone are not the answer, rather, the technology is the platform (boat) for the community of learners. It is the connections, collaborations and the creation of new knowledge which is important not the technologies. While the ship is in the port it is safe, but boats were not meant for staying in the port.
    Online eLearning communities are really upon us (twitter, ning etc) and the way in which learners access learning to meet their needs is the biggest challenge for classroom teachers. Teachers are no longer the controllers of knowledge, but the moderators of learning. Scarrrrry thought for a long serving very good teacher who spends countless hours in front of the photocopier!
    Remember ‘smooth seas’ do not make good sailors! So.. Darcy the seas may just start to get a bit rough! I think you are ready, with the spinnaker set for the exciting journey!
    Seeya
    Denise

  8. & forgot to add
    http://edutweet.wikispaces.com/

    a model for an elearning community.
    Worth a look for those… who may be interested.
    Denise

  9. darcymoore:

    ‘While the ship is in the port it is safe, but boats were not meant for staying in the port.’

    That’s great, Denise! I appreciate your comment and look forward to ‘all hands on deck’ over the next few years.

  10. Jenny Parrett:

    Hi Darcy
    Thank you for your contact through Steve Ramsay. I will be interested in seeing how your fellowship goes. In terms of communication, it will change, as the face of the NSWDP is also changing. The challenge will be as Mark Treadwell illuminates – exponential, and the trick will be to ensure that whatever tool of communication we have, we have the skills to use wisely. Protocols, as well as tools perhaps? Enjoy your work. I would appreciate the occasional chat about your journey in your fellowship – I will be working on mine next term.
    Cheers
    Jenny

  11. Darcy,
    yes i too enjoyed this conference. It seemed more relevant and thought provoking. The ‘vibe’ was good and i left feeling like it was worthwhile. I’m keen to see the changes on the website and be part of the community.

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