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  1. NY8: The Last Day

    20 July 2014 by shartley

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    I awoke to my last morning in New York frazzled about what little time was left and what to do with it.  It then felt like I moved in slow motion as I began the packing process and readied myself for the day.  At breakfast I had my map and guide book out, my brain flicking through ideas of what to do out of the great list of options and time kept ticking away.  In the end I decided to go with my original plan from days earlier, to visit the art galleries in Chelsea and walk a bit of the High Line.  I went by subway (Grand Central to Union Square and then across to 8th Avenue on the 14th Street L Line).

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    The High Line used to be a railway for trains transporting freight to and from Manhattan’s industrial centre but due to the increasing use of trucks for such matters, the High Line ceased being used in 1980.  After much campaigning, it became a public open space, including gardens and scenic viewpoints (further history).  What they have done here is superb.  My photos do not do it justice.  As my guide book recommended, I bought gelato at the market stalls but then had trouble juggling money and ice cream to buy a T-shirt. 

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    Once I had walked from 14th Street to 23rd of the High Line I descended to the Chelsea art gallery district.  Some of my favourites were:


    I became rather melancholic as I wandered through the galleries.  I think it started with viewing Napalm by Banksy and then every piece of art that depicted sadness resonated with me.  The sadness became more intense as I ran out of time, even after deciding a cab back to the hotel instead of the subway would buy me more time.  I didn’t want to leave New York quite yet.

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    I checked out of the hotel with 5 minutes to spare and met Melissa for lunch at Pera, another gourmet delight, and soon after I headed to JFK as President Obama was arriving.  The trip home was uneventful with QANTAS failing to live up to the standard it set on the trip over.  I mean, someone occupied the seat next to me the whole way, the trip was mostly in darkness (but flying across Sydney early in the morning was good) and even the food wasn’t as palatable.  I’m glad to be home but I hope to return to New York one day to finish what I started.

  2. NY7: The Reason

    18 July 2014 by shartley

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    The day finally arrived.  I woke at 2.30am local time and worked another couple of hours on the presentation.  I was nervous until I sat in the session before ours.  The presenters were quite interesting and distracted me from what was coming up.  In the end, we were both cool, calm and collected, even with our Principal in the audience.  Apparently he took photos.  I haven’t seen them yet.  There were four presentations in our session and after we had all spoken there was a Q&A time which we dominated because people were really interested in what we were doing.  I was approached at the end by someone for James Cook University who would be happy to act as a guide for our future research.

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    Our Principal had told us we should visit St Patrick’s Cathedral and see St John Baptist De La Salle.  So when we finished at the conference of the day, we did.  And we lit a couple of candles for him.

    Thanks to Yelp, we located a Japanese Restaurant for our celebrations.  We were on 43rd Street, looking across the road to where the restaurant should be but could only see a Japanese restaurant with a different name.  We crossed the road and at the front of a stark white corporate foyer there was a small sign with Sakagura written on it but the decor and the sign didn’t seem to match-up.  There was a man at a concierge desk in the foyer so we entered, surprised the doors were unlocked, and asked the concierge.  Oh yes, he said, just go in further, turn left and take the stairs to the basement.  I asked him if he would recommend the restaurant.  You’ll love it, he replied.  As we descended the stairs and passed piles of rubbish, like descending to some drama out of Law & Order,  we came upon the restaurant.  We had to wait 20 minutes for a table but it was worth it.  Wonderful food, plum flavoured sake and great service.  For the first time, on the last of eight nights in New York, I slept through the night.

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  3. NY4-6: Work and Play

    16 July 2014 by shartley


    Central Park

    Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were a big mixture of work and play.  Melissa joined me on the Sunday and we worked for several hours on the paper and presentation.

    But of course we had to play too.  We walked through Central Park when it was so muggy I was red-faced, dripping in sweat and my clothes sticking to me when we arrived at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or ‘The Met’.  We started in the Greek and Roman section and I immediately felt sorry that my daughter wasn’t with me.  I enjoyed The Met much more than MoMA.  The amount of art and artefacts on display became overwhelming, particularly in comparison to Australian museums and galleries, and we left after four hours (including lunch).

    Bruno Mars

    Bruno Mars

    On Monday night we saw Pharrell Williams and Bruno Mars at Madison Square Garden.  It was a lot of fun.  A lady from Connecticut sat next to me.  She and her 18yo daughter had come in by train.  The daughter was going to college in California but was on Summer break auditioning for all sorts of shows in New York.  They’re encouraged by a cousin who wrote a production that is about to appear off-Broadway, Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical.  I was asked what I’d seen of New York already and included the 9/11 Memorial in my list.  Another cousin had died in the 9/11 attack but they hadn’t been to the memorial yet to find his name.  Sitting in Madison Square Garden waiting for a concert wasn’t the time or place to delve for a deeper story.


    As for the whole purpose for being in New York, that has started.  There is a wide range of international academics at this conference, like ICERI2013, but it is not as professionally organised.  For instance, the WiFi is awfully slow.



    I’m a big nerdy fan of Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis who come from Australia but now work in Chicago at the University of Illinois.  They have fabulous ideas for modern pedagogy (see their website, New Learning) and I believe they are the people behind The Learner conference and its publications.  They opened proceedings with some really good information that supports what we are doing at my school.

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    Other sessions we have been to have been less than dynamic and contain lots of, ‘well duh’ moments.  For example, it has been discovered that university students who are late to class or often absent, don’t do so well when they are out on practical placement in schools.  Hopefully when it’s our turn we don’t have the same effect on our audience.

  4. NY3: The Aussies

    14 July 2014 by shartley

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    I started Saturday with a quick stroll around the local shops, mainly shoe shops, along Madison and 5th Avenue but didn’t buy anything.  I then grabbed my laptop and set up office in the Rooftop Lounge, choosing the leather couch in the middle picture above.  I was alone on the 14th floor, which sounds like a movie title, particularly when you realise it is actually the 13th floor (the emergency evacuation plan told me).  After a couple of hours of successful work I returned to my room for my now daily nap but scoffed some mini-bar snacks as a lunch substitute.

    It has been an unusual Winter holiday in that it seemed everyone I knew on Instagram and beyond were travelling in foreign lands and it turns out some were in New York the same time as me.  I had a day’s overlap with @townesy77 but we were in different areas of Manhattan and failed to connect.  On this occasion, however, I met with @biancaH80, @waginski and @johnqgoh for pizza.  Bianca and Lee have been travelling across the USA with their two boys for a few weeks now, with another week to go.  As they told their stories it was a strange experience because I knew most of their stories already, since I’ve been following their trip on Twitter, Instagram and in Bianca’s blog.  The travelling they’re doing is an amazing learning experience for them but also their children.  Early on when we had children we weighed up travelling versus private schooling and went with the private schooling.  Generally I have no regrets but sometimes when I see and hear what the Hewes family are doing, I wonder.

    I’ve also been following John’s journey.  He has been on a week long course at Harvard and a blog is never going to cover the depth of what he has learned and is still processing.  I enjoyed listening as he continued to explore his thoughts and reflections of his experience.  Much of the conversation was about how what we do in our schools reflects our values, particularly for principals.  So if a Principal is participating in classes, professional development of staff and generally being involved in the learning processes of a school you can see how much he or she values learning.  I know John does all these things.

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    Pizza at Luigi’s on 8th Avenue

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    Walking down Broadway – (1) Empire State Building (2) Our Point of Departure

    We had met at the SE corner of Central Park, walked the Southern edge, stopped for pizza, made for Times Square and then followed Broadway until we reached the street of Bianca and Lee’s hotel.  Similarly, John and I walked (and talked) until we reached the street of his accommodation and then I completed the loop back to mine.  It was a very pleasant evening for it too.  I have done a lot of walking since I’ve been here and enjoyed it immensely, except for the blisters!

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    Saturday may not have been as jammed pack as the previous two days but connecting with other passionate educators is of deep value and the life experiences we are all experiencing here will add to who we are as people in general but particularly as teachers.

  5. NY2: Respect

    12 July 2014 by shartley

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    Today’s touring started with Grand Central Station which is indeed grand but not as large and cavernous as I thought it would be, damn Hollywood.  I then braved the Subway to Downtown.  Actually, the happiest, most helpful and friendliest people were on the Subway.  For instance, there was a man who wasn’t certain he was on the right train but a couple of different locals generously helped him.  He was wearing a navy pinstriped suit with expensive brown leather shoes and a ‘messenger’ manbag.  He had short sideburns and a decent layer of stubble.  He was going to Wall Street.  I think he was going for a job interview.

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    I alighted at Bowling Green, the stop after Wall Street, at the very southern tip of Manhattan.  It was then a short walk to Staten Island Ferry.  Thanks to Lonely Planet for this tip because it is FREE.  The trip takes half an hour each way and passes by the Statue of Liberty so I didn’t need to accept any of the many hawkers’ offers for a cruise to pay my respects to liberty, particularly since I didn’t have a desire to be up close and personal with the lady.

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    Of course I then had to walk through the financial district to satisfy my young yuppy heart.  However, the New York Stock Exchange was barricaded off with only very-well dressed people entering, so I don’t know if the barricades are permanent or if there was a special occasion.  I suspect the former.  The tragedy was that there were so many tourists, particularly of the guided tour variety, I didn’t even see the bull (I forgot to look for it too)!

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    ReflectingAbsence (click for 5s video)

    I then made my way to the true site of tragedy, the World Trade Centre Site, also known as the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  The two memorial water features, called ‘Reflecting Absence’, occupy the spaces where the two towers once stood and are an acre in size each.  They are truly moving and fitting for the homage they pay to the people lost, whose names are imprinted around the edges.  It was a bit odd to see a number of people throw the memorial a glance, pose for a smiling photo, and leave, probably to tick-off the next tourist destination for the album.  One young couple I saw from a distance were in an emotional embrace, I think he was comforting her, but they stood out for their sadness.

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    I had a couple of hours to fill before my appointed tour time so I hopped benches in the Memorial Plaza to follow the shifting shade.  I also chatted to anyone who sat next me for a while.  I started conversations with “Where are you from?” and soon followed up with “Did you know anyone?”.  These are their stories.

    1. An older couple visiting from Florida.  He was wearing a baseball cap that said ‘Cold War Veteran’ (apparently it’s quite a thing – soldiers who weren’t in a physical war during the Cold War want greater recognition – see this WSJ article) and she had a problematic sciatic nerve so needed to rest regularly.  They lived in New York City many years ago.  When the 9/11 attacks occurred she was visiting friends on 86th street.  The night before had been quite a party so they were all sleeping-in when her husband called from Florida.  She couldn’t leave due to the airport and other transportation being shut-down.  Eventually she took a 27 hour bus journey from the East to West Coast with so many others desperate to leave.  The couple didn’t know anyone directly who had died but their daughter-in-law did and a friend in Florida had a son who died.  They said it would be hard to find anyone who had ever lived in New York to not be connected to a death from 9/11.  She didn’t want to come to the site but he did.  On a happier note, they had visited Sydney about 10 years ago.  Loved it.  One highlight was dining at Doyles.  Another was attending a Sydney Theatre production – loved the location, walked out on the play though.  They also went to New Zealand and claim the South Island is the prettiest place on Earth.
    2. Family of five (three generations). A woman in her late 50s or so sat next to me having lost the remainder of her family in the crowds.  She was tired and frustrated as she tried to contact them.  When her daughter and grandsons (aged 12 and 14yo) arrived they were tired and cranky too.  They had all travelled from Long Island that morning, a long bus trip of 1.5 hours in good traffic.  They had encountered bad traffic on the 6.30am ride.  The daughter and her sons were visiting from Phoenix, Arizona.  They hated crowds, and the city in general, not really wanting to go into the 9/11 Museum at all.  According to their grandmother, all the boys wanted to do was play arcade games and eat pizza.  Sounds like my 14 year old, I said.  They knew a few people who died in the 9/11 attacks.  The elder woman knew a first responder who had died.  The daughter had gone to school with a man who was in the second tower, above the impact line.  She was also friends with his wife.  He had also been there during the 1993 Bombing and figured he had been fine during that incident, so assured his wife he was going to be fine this time too.  The wife was pregnant with their fourth child and the daughter to whom I was speaking was pregnant with her second so they had been travelling that path together.  They are no longer on the same life journey.  There have been campaigns to raise money for the family left behind and apparently they are financially quite well off as a result…  The daughter just shook her head to explain the rest.  She is also friends with a first responder, aged in his late 40s, who is now suffering from cancer in the brain, lungs and bones, probably due to the dust and carcinogens of 9/11, and is struggling to meet the financial costs of fighting the cancer.  She kept saying, it’s sad, and letting her voice drift off.  The Long Island lady said that immediately after 9/11 many families just packed up and left New York City, moving to the Hamptons (a wealthy area of Long Island) with the intention to never return.  School numbers swelled as a result.  After they left me for their entry time to the museum I wondered how much it was the crowds that made them tense, tired and irritable, and how much it was the memories and connections.
    3. Homeland Security Woman. My last encounter was with a woman who says she owes her job to 9/11 because Homeland Security only existed after 9/11.  Everything I know about Homeland Security I learned from Claire Danes and Damian Lewis in the TV Show Homeland.  I didn’t mention that.  She lives in Corpus Christi, Texas and was in New York for a wedding the next day.  She said she just had to visit the memorial, partly because of her job, partly because she knew people who had been at the Pentagon that day.

    It was finally my turn to enter the museum.  I went on an hour long tour led by the wonderful Stephanie, who spoke with knowledge, poise and dignity, the entire time.  It was mainly a tour of artefacts.

    LastColumn (694x800)This is called the Last Column.  It was so well secured that the rescuers couldn’t remove it so they shifted through the debris all around it and as the debris was removed it became increasingly a makeshift memorial.  To the left of  the column is a slurry wall that is the original wall holding back the Hudson River.  This wall was originally below the point that anyone would see of the tower.  The points ‘hammered’ in strengthen the wall (sorry, lack of engineering knowledge being exposed here).  There was a concern in the aftermath of the collapse that these walls had also been weakened and not only would the underground of the towers be flooded but also the Subway system.  The walls are now reinforced.  The main section you see in the photo is a new concrete wall, strengthening the one behind it, but you can also see a small part of a section that has had more points inserted but without a whole new wall built in front of it.

    Ladder3 (800x512)This is the fire engine of Ladder 3.  It had 11 firefighters travelling on it the morning of 9/11. All of them died.  The truck was later found under the rubble.  The left side of the photo shows the remains of the driving cabin.  The captain of this crew had a helmet called his lucky helmet because it had saved him from so many dangers.  He wasn’t wearing that helmet that day because it was being repaired.  His family donated it to the museum.

    Other artefacts included the Survivors Stairs and Steel Beams from the impact zone:

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    The final part of the memorial I’m going to share with you is an art work in front of the Remains Repository.  The NY Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is working through the unidentified remains from 9/11 in the hope of identifying them for the 40% who have yet to be satisfied in this way.  The art work is called  Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning and (supposedly) consists of 2983 different shades of blue to represent each individual who died at the World Trade Centre, including the six who died in 1993.

    Sky (800x516)Overall, I thought the Museum was very tasteful and respectful.  But then I’m an outsider.  Here’s the BBC’s perspective, another outsider really.  I was very glad to find the shop was to the side and there was no forcing your way through it in order to exit.  I did buy a few gifts but then I have a son who a few years ago was obsessed by 9/11 and researched it extensively.  I promised I’d bring him back something from the site.  

    I travelled back on the Subway, stopped in opposite the hotel to have my nails done and paid the extra for a shoulder massage.  It felt quite a facile activity after the experiences of the day.  I then slept for 4 hours in the evening, ate a late dinner and it is now 2.30am local time.  Oops.  But I had to write all this down while it was fresh.  I hope it isn’t too much of a downer.



  6. NY1: The Arts

    11 July 2014 by shartley


    It was hard to believe I was actually in New York this morning but the newspaper on offer at breakfast and my coffee mug told me I was.

    A walk down the iconic stores of 5th Avenue took me to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).  I picked up the free audio which kept a record of the pieces of art for which I listened to the audio and a few photos I took of what I liked.  The link doesn’t work on my phone and has been fickle on my laptop but it’s a good concept.  It makes me think about how Gallery Walks for PBLs could be enhanced.  I covered the whole of MoMA in just over 2 hours since I actually don’t like much modern art.  I love Monet, Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse and as of today, Robert Heinecken.  I kept thinking about how much more my Dad would have enjoyed being there than I.


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    Since I bought a joint ticket at MoMA with Top of the Rock (to save $10) I tolerated queues to ascend to the 67th level of the Rockefeller Centre.  Magnificent views but the queueing to enter and exit were tedious.

    I then walked back to the hotel for a quick nap before going out, only I found it really hard to wake up.  At the last minute I changed out of my heels into flats, thank goodness, because I walked in the wrong direction for a few blocks and had to step on the speed to be on time.

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    So today’s highlight is definitely Of Mice and Men on Broadway.  The whole theatre gave a standing ovation at the end.  Chris O’Dowd as Lenny was brilliant.  I cried.  I cried so much that I didn’t do a selfie in Times Square because I had a puffy face and smeared mascara.  Oh, and the cup in the Of Mice and Men photo, it’s a sippy-cup that all drinks at the theatre bar are served in.  Not the most elegant way to drink wine.  It has been a day of interesting meals.  It started just fine with continental breakfast (cereal and pastries) at the hotel, then for a late lunch I had fruit bought at a street stall (3 bananas, punnet of raspberries and a huge punnet of blueberries for $5) and then I just had red wine and a super large Kit-Kat at the theatre.  It’s nearly midnight and I’m super tired so I”ll hold out for breakfast in the morning for my next blast of calories.  Good night!

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  7. The journey to New York

    10 July 2014 by shartley

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    I suppose the journey to New York started a year ago.  A group of us at school were writing an extensive report for the Principal about ‘ICT and Active Learning’ and we thought, why do all this work just for the eyes of the Principal, let’s leverage our research into other fields.  So we did.  We applied for two academic conferences by submitting abstracts of work we hadn’t written yet and managed to secure both of them.  One was in Seville last November, which was the subject of my last post, and the other is next week, The Learner’s 21st International Conference on Learning, in New York.

    As my flight out of Sydney took off I had an exhilarating view of Sydney Harbour, like I’ve never experienced before.  The plane tipped and arced the rim of the harbour on the inner side of the bridge, my right hand side window seat providing the perfect view.  I felt like it was a good omen and it turned my nervousness into a positive vibe.  A few hours later I pulled my laptop out of the overhead locker and worked on the paper and structured the presentation.  It was the first time I had felt good about the writing and confident that it would be a success.  I was smiling inside and out.  It also helped that there was a spare seat between me and a man on the aisle.  Appropriately, I was reading Quiet by Susan Cain, because for the entire journey to Los Angeles we didn’t speak.  When he went to the bathroom, I also went, so to not disturb his sleep or movie.  However, when we landed we started a conversation, and lo and behold, we have a mutual friend who works in the office next to him at Sydney University.  Small world.  As for the book, there are some elements that really resonate with me but other parts irritate because it is quite against collaboration in schools.  It isn’t extreme but  it isn’t balanced either, which is understandable given the nature of the book but I’m all about balancing approaches to teaching and learning in schools.  Perhaps the book will be a topic of another post.  Nah, who am I kidding, I won’t have time to do that!

    My luck continued.  We were the first flight to land for the day at LA so moving through customs was a breeze.  There was also a spare seat between my window seat and the passenger on the aisle for the next leg of the trip.  I was determined to mark a set of assessment tasks on this leg and though I struggled to stay awake until I finished, I did, probably thanks to a revolting Ice Coffee from Starbucks at LAX, and managed a 40 minute nap towards the end of the trip.  Again I was in luck when we flew over the spectacular Grand Canyon.  It was definitely worth the $25 I paid to ensure I had a window seat for the flight.  My luck dissipated slightly upon landing at JFK with an hour wait for luggage.

    I’m staying at the Library Hotel which is gorgeous.  I’m in room 603, themed Management (600.003 in the Dewey system).  It is small but full of Management books, one of which I used in my last uni course.  See the photo above for an idea of the room.  I was too diligent at turning off my phone for the flight so sorry, no photos of the great natural wonders of the world.  Unpack, shower, room service and six hours sleep brings me to the next morning and looking forward to an eventful day.  I’ll fill you in on the other end.

  8. ICERI 2013

    2 December 2013 by shartley

    ICERI A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to attend, present and chair at the International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI) in Seville, Spain (18-20 November 2013).  This came about due to the comprehensive research completed by a group of us at school, upon the request of our principal, into ‘ICT and Active Learning’.  The investigation involved visiting a variety of innovative schools, surveying our own community and secondary research.  The report ended up being 60 pages long and has resulted in the implementation of REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning), a concentrated effort for a paradigm shift to more student-centred learning in a Year 7 pilot program for 2014.  Since we had already completed the research we wrote a couple of different abstracts to apply to present at international conferences and were surprised to be accepted by both.  The school is paying for the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) to attend the International Conference on Learning in New York, July 2014, so couldn’t send us to the ICERI one too.  I therefore asked for leave and attended under my own steam (except for accommodation).  I also gained permission to add a couple of days in Paris to visit my 16 year old daughter on school exchange there.  From lift-off to landing I was gone for a total of 9 days, only absent (in body) from school for 5 of them.

    So why would I go to so much expense, effort and jet lag to be at ICERI 2013?  Put simply, the experience.

    For the first time I’ve had an academic conference paper published (with my two colleagues, Melissa Carson and Nick Cook).  Although it’s not the level of a peer-reviewed journal, it’s still something.  It had to be submitted back in October; I wrote it during the school holidays, heavily based on our report for the principal.

    For the first time I’ve presented at an international conference.  I was the first to present during my session, forgot to mention a couple of key points, but generally thought it went well.  We were asked to use either Adobe Acrobat (pdf) or PowerPoint for our presentations.  I was quite pleased with my slides, prepared the day before I left and I wrote what I said during the flight over.  I was asked which I thought should come first, the pedagogy or the technology, and I replied quite definitely, the pedagogy, but what I’ve read since has made me question my decisiveness a little.

    For the first time ever (beyond the classroom) I’ve chaired a session of presentations.  This meant I had to introduce each of the presenters with a supplied biography, pronounce their names as correctly as I could, and ensure they adhered to the tight time regulations.  The duo that followed me were speaking for a couple of minutes before I remembered I had to time them but I recovered and nobody knew.  The next presenter was so nervous that I concentrated too much on calming and preparing her that I forgot to introduce her.  She ran out of time so I concluded with a comment about how fast the time slips away when up front that I also forgot to introduce her and did it then, at the end of her talk.  From then on I was much better and even managed to gain a laugh with my comments about the last speaker’s presentation.

    Of course there is the added benefit of the credibility it provides to me and my school.

    Unlike the various school conferences I’ve attended, this conference was wholly based on academic research.  Each presentation went for 15 minutes and I attended approximately 50 of them on a wide range of topics.  Some were highly technical analysis of statistics that bored me but then I was often surprised by the interest some audience members displayed in the following Q&A.  Most presentations had something that fascinated me.

    By theme the sessions I attended were:


    The highlights for me were Morten Fahlvik (@Fahlvik) speaking about blended learning, Ruth Bridgstock (@RuthBridgstock) speaking about educating for digital futures, Alex Tyman presenting on perceptions of leadership and the presenters in my session who had researched teachers’ responses to the introduction of or increase in ICT usage in classrooms.

    Some of the issues that had me thinking include:

    • technology increasing the income gap and the lack of ICT adding to the poverty cycle
    • pedagogy being taken hostage by the tools
    • ‘massification’ resulting in the requirement of large halls; personalisation resulting in the requirement of smaller learning spaces; and ‘interactive classes’ requiring convertible settings
    • parallels between digital media professionals and teachers networking through PLNs on Twitter and TeachMeets
    • how we keep judging leaders against our prototypes (men, tall, suits, aggressive, etc) instead of what we say leadership should be about (consultative, caring, diplomatic, etc)
    • a study of US songs have had a recent exponential rise in use of the words ‘me’, ‘myself’ and ‘I’ in lyrics
    • how students condemn cheating but justify their own cheating but also how this has been researched with many underlying assumptions (eg what actually constitutes ‘cheating’)
    • how to assess social and ethical behaviour/attitudes
    • the language used in relation to shifting teaching styles should not be “make them”
    • focusing more on students’ competencies than knowledge


    The other important aspect of the conference was simply talking with other earnest educators, the vast majority being from universities around the world.

    Before the conference, I had already connected with @davidwebster (David Webster – University of Gloucestershire) via Twitter through the hash-tag #iceri2013 and found each other in person during the first break.

    At the first day’s lunch I sat next to Tony Scafide of SUNY Oneonta (USA) and we talked intensely all lunch and throughout the cocktail party the following night about life, the universe and everything.

    On the second day I lunched with Ruth Bridgstock (QUT) and Margaret Mackay (University of Portsmouth) and we discussed how people learn and how to motivate students and teachers to want to learn (without finding definitive answers).

    It was truly an international conference.  In my session alone the presenters were from Norway, Nigeria, Israel, Poland and Turkey.  But I must say, for a conference about innovation in learning, Twitter was rather quiet.

    Overall, despite the rotten cold I had the entire time I was away (and still), it was the conversations with intelligent and passionate people in education that will stay with me the longest.  It motivates me to continue with my study, my teaching and my interest in student-centred learning.  Somebody described me as a border collie, meaning I’m the one who rounds everyone up, gathering them in to try and face them in the right direction.  I think that is a pretty good summary and a conference like this will keep the wag in my tail a little bit longer.

  9. If only Education was like West Wing: what I learned by studying Advanced Pedagogy at uni (M.Arts)

    19 October 2013 by shartley

    I love the television show West Wing.  The fictional government was ethically sound and tried to unite the country by attending the needs of the marginalised, the poor and the society as a whole.  If only we had a government like that.

    Education has become inextricably linked to economic ideals and this has a large impact on curriculum and pedagogy.  One area where this is evident is in the “choice, competition and performance” promoted by politicians (Buchanan 2011, p.68) and I’m guilty of shopping for schools for my own son currently, as one of the financially advantaged who can do so.  Another example of economic prominence in education is how students are continually viewed as a labour resource with a desire for individual success rather than as participants in a community.  As Wyn (2009) claims, “Education must accommodate individual and social goals” (p.43).

    I am an advocate for the type of pedagogical change Kalantzis and Cope (2012) promote for schools with their concept of “learning design” that examines “the big questions” (p.84) in an environment of “energetic intellectual inquiry and practical solution development” (p.86).  Thooman et al (2011) found it is important to connect to students and create positive collaborative experiences, “education should provide students with opportunities to work on realistic and situated activities” (p.356) which supports my motto of ‘keeping it real’.  National curriculum and its General Capabilities (ACARA 2011) provide a strong prospect to shift teaching from an industrial learning model to a student-centred thinking model which is the position we’re taking at my school.  Next year as national curriculum is introduced, I am helping teachers to implement our REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning) Program to Year 7, a student-centred concept, as part of my role on the Innovative Learning Team.

    There is an extraordinary amount of political rhetoric surrounding ICT in schools as revealed by Jordan (2011), some of which I readily accept as universal truths, such as how ICT drives change, but the main point where I am in agreement with Jordan is her criticism of students as being described as “digitally savvy” (p.245).  The nature and implications of ICT in education are changing rapidly and nobody is able to keep abreast of it all.  Further pressure on teachers come in the form of charismatic speakers on the education circuit such as Sir Ken Robinson and Sugata Mitra criticising the current methods of teaching and promoting their own pedagogical agenda.

    This rhetoric and economic overdrive affects teachers immensely.  I thus have an ongoing concern about how a pedagogical paradigm shift is integrated into schools.  Too often structural change is forced onto teachers instead of in consultation and students are neglected altogether (McGregor 2011, p.15), making them both feel powerless.  O’Sullivan (2007) demonstrated how teachers are tied to their role emotionally, more than to their professional pride in intelligence and ability (p.9).  Thoonan et al (2011) acknowledged the role teacher self-efficacy had in motivating students. An analysis of teaching standards by Connell (2009) revealed the absence of recognition of the sheer energy required to teach, “Energy, movement, expression and fatigue all matter” (p.220).  Teachers need to be supported and be involved in the change process for it to be successful.

    Education needs to be like West Wing where idealism is implemented for the individuals who constitute the education community and the good of society as a whole.

    Reference List

    ACARA (2011). General capabilities. Retrieved from

    Buchanan, R. (2011). Paradox, Promise and Public Pedagogy: Implications of the Federal Government’s Digital Education Revolution. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 67-77. DOI: 10.14221/ajte2011v36n2.6

    Connell, R (2009) ‘Good teachers on dangerous ground: towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism’, Critical Studies in Education, 50.3, 213-229.

    Jordan, K. (2011). Framing ICT, teachers and learners in Australian school education ICT policy. Australian Educational Researcher, 38(4), 417-431.

    Kalantzis, M and Cope, B (2012) ‘New learning: A charter for change in education’, Critical Studies in Education, 53:1, 83-94.

    McGregor, G. (2011). Engaging Gen Y in schooling: the need for an egalitarian ethos of education. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 19(1), 1-20.

    O’Sullivan, K (2007) ‘Unmasking the Professional Identities of English Teachers’, International Journal of Educational Practice and Theory, 29(1), 6–5.

    Thoonen, E, Sleegers, P, Peetsma, T and Oort, F. (2011). Can Teachers Motivate Students to Learn? Educational Studies, 37(3), 345-360

    Wyn, J. (2009). Touching the Future: Building Skills for Life and Work. Australian Education Review, 55, Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne.


  10. League Tables

    19 October 2013 by shartley


    Everything seems to evolve around the economy now. Education is no exception.

    On the home page of the federal government’s Department of Education Schooling website it repeatedly refers to being about access to schools.  It states the department is responsible for access to “quality and affordable” education that meets the needs of all children (Australian Government Department of Education 2013a).  The words access, quality, affordable and needs all relate to the field of economics and economics is about constant measurement and assessment.  Education is no exception: “The My School website contains school performance data and other information on Australian schools” (Australian Government Department of Education 2013b).  It is interesting that the judgement-laden word, performance, is used, as if the data displayed is a definitive evaluation of schools.  The media then further analyses these numbers to create the Australian version of league tables.

    There have been many criticisms of the use and display of league tables including that it humiliates low-ranking schools (Farrell 2009) and sends administrators into “damage control” (Joseph 2006), place teachers under pressure (Joseph 2006) which results in teaching to the test and frequent tests (Hawkes 2010) and is used for “wedge” politics (Clennell and Patty 2009).  The main issue, however, is that the data only covers a very narrow aspect of education.  League tables neglect the cultural, sporting, extracurricular, ICT and community aspects of schools (Joseph 2006, p.16).  Boston (2009) claims employers find young people with formal qualifications “unable to communicate simply and well, cannot work collaboratively, lack initiative and enterprise…lack a thirst for continued learning and personal growth…deficit in the soft skills that form an essential component of the human capital of each individual” (p.37).  This is an example of an argument against league tables, an economic driven measurement, also being stated in economic terms.

    The government argues that MySchool exists to provide transparency to parents but it is such a small window it “becomes a proxy for all the other information which is inferred” (Boston 2009, p.37).  It has created a stronger market situation for schools using economic rhetoric about choice and asset allocation to support its case (Cobbold 2009, Joseph 2006).  Choice may actually lead to social and racial segregation (Cobbold 2009, p.10) and is not readily available to many due to the financial restrictions of fees, transport and lost time (Reid 2010, p.13).  Tim Hawkes (2009), Principal of one of the most prestigious schools in Australia, The King’s School, recognised the negative issues of league tables but also argued that MySchool is good as an indicator of the value added by a school and how government is allocating taxpayers’ money. This constant economic language ties in with the government’s neo-liberal focus on individuals instead of community.

    Education should be much more than about creating a product called human labour, contributing to Australia’s role in the global economy.  Education is about community, friendships, nurturing, caring, the whole person, contributing to the world in more than the economic sense.  It is about understanding ourselves and each other.  The MySchool website is a tiny window into just a fraction of what school is about. Other information needs to be gathered if it is to be a realistic indicator of school performance.  Even so, the rhetoric about choice and asset allocation as justification for transparency needs to cease because it is a complete fallacy.



    Reference List

    Australian Government Department of Education. (2013a). Department of Education: Schooling. Retrieved from

    Australian Government Department of Education. (2013b). Department of Education: MySchool. Retrieved from

    Boston, K. (2009, October). League tables. Teacher, n.205, 36-42. Retrieved from

    Clennell, A. and Patty, A. (2009, November 12). Breaking the law: the exam results they don’t want you to see. smh.

    Cobbold, T. (2009, March). League tables. Professional Educator, 8(1), 8-11. Retrieved from

    Farrell, J. (2009, November 19). School league tables. Club Troppo. Retrieved from

    Hawkes, T. (2010, January 27). Ladder of opportunity rises above league tables. smh. Retrieved from

    Joseph, J. (2006, October). Report Cards: Reporting what matters. Professional Magazine, 21, 14-17. Retrieved from

    Reid, A. (2010, March). The My School Myths. AEU (SA Branch) Journal, 42(12), 12-13. Retrieved from