Melbourne Ska Orchestra tour dates

It’s not often I refer to my musical work in this blog but today I will. Melbourne Ska Orchestra is a band I have been playing with for many years now which has had great success internationally. We are just about to release our second album  and have a number of tour dates announced to promote the launch.


If you haven’t seen this band you really should – 35 madmen onstage playing non-stop SKA dance floor fillers.Tour dates can be found

We are coming to the

  • Gold Coast
  • Sunshine Coast
  • Sydney
  • Brisbane
  • Blue Mountains
  • Adelaide
  • Albury
  • Melbourne
  • Coffs Harbour and
  • Mullumbimbi – before heading over to Europe

Tour dates can be found at the website

 

Hope to see you on the dance floor

How to pull a rabbit out of the Internet – Kalani Robinson’s views on education

Yesterday at the #digicon15 education conference in Melbourne I had the pleasure of presenting a couple of sessions with my son Kalani.

Kalani is 15. For the last 5 years when ever I have spoken at conferences I have used him, and stories from his life, as examples to support the points I have been making. About two months ago I wondered why I was speaking on his behalf rather than just inviting him onto the stage with me to speak his own mind.

The first time he choose to get on stage and be a part of the presentation we were keynoting a large education conference in Eastern Melbourne.

I spoke for about twenty minutes, then introduced him and off he went. It was remarkable to watch him speaking so articulately and passionately about a subject that obviously meant a lot to him – his education.

Yesterday we presented again at DLTV’s conference #digicon15 and then had the opportunity to do an interview with Roland and Amanda of ACCELN fame. Roland and Amanda asked the questions and Kalani spoke entirely off the cuff. My job was to try and shut up. This interview helped remind me of how often we speak on children’s behalf, believing we have their best interests at heart because we have put so much thought into the topic we are speaking on. Kalani, and I imagine most other kids would probably like to be part of the conversation. If your interested in hearing a child’s perspective on how schools should work, what is really important to them when it comes to learning and what potentially needs to change please watch the video below and feel free to share.

IOI Weekend Melbourne

Just letting you know about a new event I’m running with Louise Bowe and Richard Olsen.

IOI Weekend is an intensive hands on workshop over an entire weekend where educators learn how to design innovative learning and teaching models that maximise pedagogical capacity, effectiveness, and quality. The idea for the weekend is something Richard and I and Lou have been discussing for some time and really has arisen out of work we have  done at schools over the last few years. Through a processes of trial and error, mixed in with theory we both believe in, we think we have got a model that will be exciting for educators as well as provide some simple tools that can use to assist as they seek to innovate effectively within their learning environments.

You can find more information at the website http://melbourne.ioiweekend.com

Richard Olsen has written a great blog post that outlines what attendees can expect which can be found by clicking on the link below:

In that post he gives a good overview of potential reasons why educators might attend:

“Experienced teachers should participate if they’re dissatisfied with their ability to adequately communicate why innovation in learning and teaching matters. The IOI Weekend provides a process to identify, justify, and measure the impact of their learning and teaching approach. As such, teachers who attend will be equipped to communicate more clearly the quality and impact of their innovative learning and teaching practice.

New teachers should participate if they lack confidence to adequately communicate why and how learning and teaching innovation is part of their role as a teacher. The IOI Weekend provides a process for developing, language for communicating, and a means for measuring the impact the impact of learning and teaching innovation. It will also equip you with some ideas of where to start, and connect you to a great group of similarly passionate educators.

School leaders should participate if they’re dissatisfied with their ability to adequately communicate the impact that learning and teaching innovation is making in their school. The IOI Weekend provides a process to identify, justify, and measure the impact of learning and teaching over time. School leaders seeking who attend will be better equipped to communicate, measure and report more clearly the impact that learning and teaching innovation is resulting in across their school, and make better decisions about future learning and teaching innovation opportunities.”

http://melbourne.ioiweekend.com/2015/04/what-should-i-expect-from-the-ioi-weekend-experience/

Also please download the flyer and share it with any educators who may be interested. You can find the flyer at: ioiweekend flyer

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Hope to see some of you there.

Using Digital Gaming with Special Needs Learning

Recently I met Adam Scanlon. Adam is a gamer, designer and father amongst many other things. What peaked my interest in what he was talking to me about was the way Adam was using gaming to assist his sons learning.

His son has autism. As Adam explained to me that brings its own series of unique challenges. Children with autism often don’t learn in the same methods as we would associate traditional learners and therefore new ways of teaching and learning need to be investigated.

As a commitment to finding these new innovative ways Adam has been using the game Disney Infinity.

Let me give you a little background on Disney Infinity. It is essentially a sandbox game. To me sandbox games are of great interest to education. Sandbox games are extremely open in nature and their lack of narrative is what set them apart from most other digital games. Most digital games operate in a linear fashion with a predetermined narrative, which the player must follow, and a set of ever more complicated tasks that the player must successfully complete in order to progress in the game. In contrast to this, sandbox games have no sense of progression, linear narrative or completion. Game play is entirely up to the creativity and imagination of the player/players. These games are providing a framework for the player to enter and then leaving it up to the individual’s creativity to do whatever they want.

The genre include games like Minecraft and Gary’s Mod and to a certain extent Disney’s Infinity.

When recently watching a collection of students playing Gary’s Mod they were collectively interacting and communicating with each other, they were building their own characters, they were inventing their own games within the game and more so they were inventing their own narrative within the games they were playing – that is narrative within narrative.  This is an example of the game makers understanding this generation of learners and providing them with autonomy, the ability to be self-directed and beyond that providing them the ability to be highly web connected. These three concepts are important to our current western education system especially as it grapples with relevancy and what place technology plays.

So back to Adam, why is he attracted to Disney Infinity and how does it help him teach his son? disney infinity

Firstly, as Adam explained, to work with children with autism you need to find the space they are interested in. It is highly unlikely they will come to the space you think they should be in. Adam’s son loves this game and will play it for hours. So rather than pull his son away from this environment, Adam went the other way and embraced it. How could he use the environment his son loves being in to help his son learn? Isn’t this a great lesson for all educators not just those working with special needs, where can you position yourself within the child’s life to give that child the best opportunity to hear you in the first place. As Disney Infinity is a sandbox game, Adam and his son can build there own universe in there, a universe of their collective imaginations that might replicate their current one or develop new ways of seeing the world.

Children with autism need a lot of repetition to grasp certain concepts. Adam explained that to teach a certain task he would have to say it over and over. They require and demand routines and so to teach them a new one, potentially means a changing of an old one. This can be difficult and require a lot of repetition. Again, as Disney Infinity is a sandbox game Adam can now build games inside the game allowing his son to play them, enjoy them and potentially learn from them. garys mod

A couple of very simple examples of the huge range that Adam provided me with might help give context for those unfamiliar with this type of game. To help “potty train” his son Adam built a puzzle game. The task of the game was to get the “brown object” to the toilet, at the end of the game. By playing the game over and over his son also was able to make the real life connections. This demonstrates a great way to instructionally teach something that is going to require a lot of repetition.

Adam provided me with another example of how he uses the game to teach new routines;

The current process for going to a shopping center or supermarket requires Adam and his son to go up and down every single aisle every time they visit a supermarket even if they only need to quickly go in and buy one product. This is a routine Adam’s son knows and is comfortable with and to change this routine causes particular anxiety for Adam’s son, leading to a seemingly uncontrollable outburst of emotion. Adam’s solution, using the game, was to build a supermarket within his Disney Infinity universe, and once again build a task into the game that allowed for his son to enter the supermarket find the object and leave immediately. He is helping form a pattern or predisposition into his son teaching him new ways of doing things.

Communication.

For a long time there was the common misunderstanding that because children with autism weren’t communicating with you in the traditional sense they also were not listening. This is not necessarily so and technology has provided ways for this group to have a voice. Early discoveries came with typing; children who would not necessarily speak out their thoughts when taught to type found this medium an easier way to communicate in.

Adam is interested in taking this concept further. If Disney Infinity is a space where his son feels comfortable and enjoys inhabiting potentially it can be  a means for the two of them to also communicate in. One of Adams concerns for his son is a simple problem that most of us without this experience would not even consider. If his son has  a toothache potentially he will never express this to Adam so how as a father will he handle this situation if he doesn’t even know it exists. While he is still only at early stages Adam is exploring ways through the game that his son might express these every day issues with him and others around him that see.

This might be something that Adam agendas within the Disney Infinity game space or potentially, his son might find the means of using it to communicate in the way he wants to.

While this piece talks specifically to children with autism the same principles apply to all classroom teaching or education in general. How can we turn the paradigm around from reductionist notions such as “teacher as expert” to “teacher as facilitator”? And if we are truly talking teacher as facilitator what do we want them to facilitate? All children exist as learners nested within their own constructions of identity. They bring their own experiences and mindsets into the classroom.

Learning occurs within a complex interplay of biological, cultural and experiential histories. Learning always occurs within the complex systems of the individual, the social surrounds and the culture within which the individual exists. Knowledge is never isolated within that or separated from it. Rather it is deeply part of the web of interactions – it arises out of it, it is an emergent, evolving phenomenon.

We can never teach the same content to each one in the same manner and expect it to have the same impact. Rather we should be getting to know our students, what are they interested in, what do they love and how do they best communicate. Then we need to adapt our methodologies to come to their worlds, not the other way around. Adam demonstrates wonderfully the powerful learning and connections that can take place when the paradigm is reversed using a technology that his child loves – a digital game.

I would love to hear any of your stories, if you are willing to share them of experiences you might have had or seen in this area.

 

 

 

Teacher as co-learner and other arguments about knowledge

“There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks and perceive differently than one sees is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all” M Foucault

In my line of work (my day job) i am involved with education and it’s relationship with technology. This work sees me in schools, universities and other places of institutionalised learning operating as a consultant, assisting them to come to grips with the challenges technology is posing to existing structures and it’s potential to change the way we teach and learn. The core of my work is centred in epistemology – the study of knowledge – and its relationship with the internet. When I present I often speak of what knowledge is, where it resides, and what are the implications for teacher practice.  I often get some very strong reactions from teachers. My opening statement generally goes along the lines of, “knowledge never reside in the individual, it resides in the network.”

By this I mean that knowledge is not a tangible thing that can be transfered from one individual to another, in fact knowledge resides in the relationships, it is built up within the  discourse (language or practice). While objects might physically exists outside of these discourses any attempt to make sense of them is through discourse which is socially developed. Yet our education system with its practices related to curriculum and assessment of the individual, amongst other things, so often reflects a lack of understanding of this thinking. Many of you are familiar with the phrase ‘teacher as facilitator rather than teacher as expert’. When we talk of ‘teachers as facilitators’ (or even co-learners) not as experts we are talking in this area, we are demonstrating an understanding and belief of learning that is framed within a participatory culture. By enabling that we are acknowledging that it is only through participation in the networks that any connection with knowledge is able to happen. While the term and concept of “teacher as facilitator rather than expert”  is a concept that is familiar to many of us, it is still something extremely difficult to do and I see very little evidence of it being enacted  within many of classrooms. I often think that it is to hard to make this change because of the predetermined sense of identity built up by the discourse of the institutions that govern the concept of a “teacher/student” Below is a very typical argument a teacher will throw at me at conferences, or online, or during PD sessions when I start to talk about such matters. I am making no judgement of the argument because it took me a long time to understand this fairly abstract concept, and argument is a form of active participation in the discourse. This discussion took place on a friend of mines Google + account and I have added the screen shots.

A teachers response to a bog post I had written
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My reply

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 9.09.41 am

His reply to meScreen Shot 2014-07-28 at 9.10.02 am My replyScreen Shot 2014-07-28 at 9.10.17 am Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 9.10.30 amUnfortunately he never responded. As educators I think It is paramount that we talk about these ideas, isn’t the concept of knowledge development central to our role? Furthermore the conclusions we collectively reach will have huge implications for how we do this thing called “teaching”.

What do you think?

Education Conferences – some thoughts and ideas

This Friday and Saturday the DLTV Education Conference takes place. I have been fortunate enough to have played a role in its organisation and direction. logo@2x

I am a believer that the traditional conference format needs to update to actually reflect contemporary thinking regarding how we best learn.

Self directed learning, network learning, self managed learning are all terms I have spoken of many times and they are all key to my work in attempting to bring transformation to our education system and assist in the natural evolutionary process of our system. These terms represent significant developments in understanding on the nature of knowledge and how we as humans best learn. They are also terms that have increased in generally usage within western education as the metaphor of the internet makes concepts such as “networked learning” something that is more tangible and readily understandable.

Knowledge never resides in the individual it resides in relationships. Those relationships are what build up networks. That is where knowledge resides. It is a key point to understand that dramatically shines a light on many of the outdated practices we continue with in current schooling, practices such as lesson plans, teaching that is based in content or information transferal, learning that supposes an idea of linearity, adherence to top down developed curriculums, and almost all the hierarchical structures our entire system is built on, including teacher as expert, but also many other power structures seen within traditional schools and in our departments as a whole.

Interestingly enough almost all education conferences also adhere to these traditional, somewhat tired structures.

I am organising the Gaming in Education Stream at the DLTV conference and I thought I would try something different with this stream, something that actually represented my thinking about learning.

Let me state again, knowledge does not reside in individuals, it resides in networks.

Complexity thinking says that a highly functioning network, or system, will have a number of key properties. These include:

  1. There will be non hierarchical structure (no centralising controller),
  2. The network will self organise,
  3. There will be a mix of order and disorder, to much of either is disastrous, to much order leads to stasis and death, to much disorder leads to chaos and death,
  4. There will be strong internal communication built into the system,
  5. The system will communicate based on prior memories and new understanding developed through the communication,
  6. The network will be open.

When these are in place emergence arises. Emergence is a phenomenon that cannot be predicted by looking at any of the data that makes up the individual agents within the system. Emergence, in my mind, is another word for pure creativity – it arises from the system, NEVER from individuals. Emergence is new knowledge.

Complexity thinking is the theory that has given rise to such terms as “self directed learning” and the phrase, “teacher as facilitator not teacher as expert”.

So…how do you apply this to a conference. Well, we asked for people to submit expressions of ideas they were interested in presenting about and everyone who spoke somewhere in the region of Gaming in Education, we grouped together. That is an example of forming the initial network.

Self organisation – I then decided to throw out the idea of structured session/timetables as that is an example of top down limiting hierarchy, I tried to put in into place as much openness as possible, I facilitated a number of potential internal communication devices with the group (video conferences, email, Google + etc) but while I facilitated, I never imposed any structures on the group. Furthermore, we were conscious and comfortable with the rule of order and disorder (the network must be sitting on the edge of chaos but never slip in) and then I watched what happen.  I think this group has “self organised” in an amazing way.

We have a number of participants that, in the normal conference style, would just have shown up and delivered there powerpoint presentation on the great work they had been doing at their schools. That is because the “normal conference”  reflects a form of top down hierarchy – it has been predetermined and it almost forces the style of presentation. By removing this the participants in the Gaming in Education stream have now all met each other, discussed their ideas, changed, teamed up, evolved thinking, reorganised their presentations and are now are collectively presenting with others. They are aware that they are part of a system, not just individuals. They have actively participated and the system is creating new things – Emergence.

There has been a general commitment to making our stream experiential so now every one is bringing things to ensure that all participates in our stream are immersed in an experience.

In regards to the variety of games and learning about games, there is cross collaboration within the group. There will be games happening in the assigned rooms there will be immersive games happening throughout other stream spaces and infact there will be one large overarching game happening throughout the entire conference. If you are at this conference you will be involved whether you’re aware of it or not. There will be formal and informal talks, presentations and who knows maybe we might even get spontaneous and impromptu presentations by audience audience members (for use of a better term).

This is also an example of the group wanting to allow the further participants in this new network – the conference audience  – to also now be able to actively participate in the system, and enhance their learning and the learning of the group. We are all co-learners.

Emergence – it is already in evidence through the way the collective presenters of this stream have come together and it will continue to evidence itself throughout the entirety of the conference as more and more participants actively get involved. Emergence is new knowledge.

This is how we learn and develop. It is what I always speak of when talking about what learning actually is, it is key to the work I do assisting schools as they attempt to change themselves to better represent contemporary thinking and hopefully it will be represented in this small attempt to evolve the conference format. It will emerge because we have allowed for the above mentioned things including; self organisation, no hierarchical dominance, and an encouragement for active participation in knowledge construction.

If nothing else its great fun!!

A big thank you needs to go to all the amazing presenters/co-learners in this stream including Dan Donahoo, Jess McCulloch, Roxanne Ciddor, Michael Ha, John Pearce, Nathan Connors, Vincent Trundle, Sayraphim Lothian, Robert Reid form Popupplagrounds and  Kalani Robinson. They have done all the collective learning so far. I just tried to allow for it to happen. Now it’s over to you, hope to see you there on Friday and Saturday.

 

See you at DLTV 2014

NGV with Mick Turners band

I hardly ever blog about my music or the music Im involved in any more, just endless education pieces – not sure why that is. So here is a change.

Last Friday I played a show as part of Mick Turner’s band. Mick is probably best known as part of the iconic Australian band Dirty Three. As a band We have performed a number of times this year alongside Cat Power, when she was in Australia. mick_turner_ngv_0714_justintapp_0004.40f71fb3b94ecaae4459cd568a736632

Photo by Justin Tapp

There is something about Mick’s music that is absolutely incredible to be a part of from an onstage perspective. It has a freedom in  it which is entirely original. I thoroughly advise you to have a listen to it and maybe even go out and buy it.

Here is a review of the show

http://themusic.com.au/music/livereviews/2014/07/13/mick-turner-national-gallery-of-victoria-guido-farnell/