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Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

  • Education

    Reasons to blog - I blog to learn


    I’ve had such a hectic week that I’ve not really had the time to sit down and write a detailed blog post about an education initiative today.

    So I thought I would share a little bit about what’s going on in my head, and it’s a thought that came out of a meeting with a partner in Sydney this morning. I was thinking about the reasons to blog, and came to a realisation that at the moment:

    I blog to learn

    What does ‘I blog to learn’ mean?

    Mike Phillips wrote an excellent article - 8 reasons you should blog - on his EatSleepSocial blog last year. And as I was preparing to deliver a blogging workshop, I was looking at the list again:

    1. Learn something new about your industry
    2. Learn something new about yourself
    3. Learn from being criticised
    4. Demonstrate thought leadership – don’t just be a sheep
    5. Be part of the community
    6. Be transparent and authentic
    7. Use your free time constructively
    8. Create a movement

    I first read it last year, and at the time my reasons to blog were mainly down the lower end of his list. But since moving to Australia in January and starting this new blog I’ve realised that’s changed. I’ve been plunged into a completely new continent, market, job and community of people, and so I am now blogging more often as a process of self-learning - because in order to write a blog post that makes sense, I have to be sure I know what I’m talking about (most of the time Smile)

    It means that it takes me longer to write a blog post than it used to, because I have to do more research to get the context right. But every single blog process forces me to learn more. In Mike’s list, here’s what his top 3 reasons mean to me:

    Learn something new about your industry

    For yesterday’s blog post about the looming teacher shortage in Australia, I had to go and do a bunch of research on Australian statistics to understand the story behind the headline, and to write something that added depth to the headline story).

    Learn something new about yourself

    I try and write a blog post every weekday. If you don’t blog yourself, that may not sound tricky, but I can assure you it is - especially as I try very hard to make sure that everything is in the context of readers who work in or with Australian education institutions, and have an interest in ICT. My typical blog posts are 600+ words, so that’s 3,000+ words a week on top of everything else I’m doing.

    Learn from being criticised

    I’ve been blogging for six years now, so I’ve learnt to develop a thick skin, because it’s much easier to criticise on the web - especially if (like this blog) you allow people to comment freely. And I always look at it as feedback and try not to take it to heart if somebody tells me I’m an idiot for expressing a point of view.

    And writing this blog post was a learning process for me, and made me reflect on my reasons to blog yet again.

  • Education

    The looming teacher shortage in Australia - what does it mean for ICT?


    If you’re looking for long-term trends in education in Australia, that will strongly influence decisions that schools, TAFEs and universities take on their future strategy, then one strong driver of behaviour for leaders (at an institution and state level) is going to be the availability of teaching staff.

    According to the Clarius Skills Index:

      Three major employment sectors will face substantial skills gaps as Australia’s ageing workforce heads for retirement, according to the latest Clarius Skills Index…for every 107 teachers who retire, there will only be 73 to replace them if the wider population’s qualifications remain unchanged over the next decade-and-a-half.  

    So as the average age of the teacher profession increases (with a large group who are now close to retirement), there aren’t going to be enough young teachers coming into the classroom to replace them. According to the ABS, there were 286,000 teaching staff in Australian schools in 2010*, and other research suggests up to a third are close to retirement*.

    Australian teaching staff:student ratios

    Over the last decade, the number of students per teacher has declined, leading the potential for smaller class sizes, and more specialist teaching in smaller groups. The chart below, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, shows the trend for 'Student to Teaching Staff’ ratios since 2000.

    Graph: Full-time Equivalent (FTE) STUDENT TO TEACHING STAFF RATIOS, by affiliation - 2000 to 2010

    At the same time, the number of students in private schools has increased by 21% compared with an only 1% increase in students attending government schools. The proportion of students in private schools is now 34%, or more than 1 in 3, up 4% since 2000*.

    What happens next?

    In other countries facing this problem, there have been two key focus strategies.

    • Increase the number of people entering teaching (which has turned out to be quite tricky in many cases)
    • Develop new models of learning that rely less on low student:teacher ratios

    Australia is no different to these countries. But the critical difference is that over the next few years we are going to see an increase in the devolution of power to school Principals - including more responsibility for hiring their own staff. That’s going to be quite a challenge to take on at a time when there’s going to be more competition for teachers due to a shortage.

    Enter the role of ICT in the classroom?

    If you are considering developing an education technology for the future, this trend probably means that there will be much more demand for learner-centric support, rather than teacher-centric (eg with less teachers, are we going to see less demand for teaching led from the front of the class with interactive whiteboards, and more demand for interactive study resources for learners to use individually?).

  • Education

    Homework is all about learning - yours and theirs


    I think I’m a pretty dab hand at PowerPoint, but that hasn’t stopped my kids showing me some pretty impressive things I’ve learnt from. So, whilst the video below is an advert, I reckon it’s happening in real life in households all around Australia on a regular basis.

    Next time you’re preparing a presentation, maybe ask your kids for help - I bet you’ll both learn something.

    • You’ll learn something about PowerPoint
    • They’ll learn something about what you’re planning to talk about


    And in related news…I can’t use Publisher. My 11 year-old uses it all the time (party invites last night). But fortunately she still needs my high-tech skills - because she can’t turn the wireless printer on - it’s on top of a cupboard Smile

  • Education

    Video conferencing in the classroom - Generation-e and Polycom events


    Generation-e Event invite header

    Generation-e, one of our education partners, is running three events on video conferencing in education, on 22-24th November. They have a long history of working with education customers across Australia, as providers of unified communications systems using Microsoft’s Lync (phone, instant messaging, video conferencing, live remote teaching etc). They’ve worked with schools who have switched off their old telephone system, and increased collaboration by replacing the phone system with a voice, video and IM system. They’ve also done a similar project with Vicdeaf, where the instant nature of the video connections means that they have introduced new accessible messaging options between staff (as you can see on this Vicdeaf case study video)

    Here’s the information from the Generation-e team on the events:


    Use Video Conferencing to Enrich Learning
    You know the technology... but how can it be applied in the classroom?

    Many schools have started to understand the value video conferencing can add for students and staff alike and are looking to acquire this technology. In addition, recent Government Funding has made Video Conferencing even more obtainable for schools. The reality, however, is that once these schools gain access to this amazing technology, many educators find themselves at a loss as to what they can truly do with it.

    To show educators exactly how video conferencing can help achieve learning outcomes, Generation-e and Polycom would like to invite you to attend one of our FREE interactive events scheduled throughout the month of November.

    Each of these events will allow you to experience exactly how interactive knowledge sharing and cross-cultural understanding can be incorporated into your school's blended learning approach. Every event will include:
    - virtual field trips
    - virtual classroom experiences
    - a variety of live cultural, scientific and musical video conferences
    - an introduction to a wide range of education technology resources

    Come along  to take part in this great exercise and see how you can enrich your students’ learning experiences, make curriculum more powerful and provide opportunities for professional development any time, from anywhere, over any network.


    Learn More

    There are three events - one at the Polycom offices in Melbourne, and two webinars. But, let’s be honest, the one on the 22nd at the offices would get my vote, as you’ll get to meet with colleagues from other schools, and it includes wine & cheese. The two webinar options would definitely be BYO - but much more convenient if you’re not in Victoria!

    • 22nd November, 4 to 6pm, at the Polycom offices at 20/8 Exhibition Street, Melbourne - Register here
    • 23rd November, 1 to 2pm - online webinar - Register here
    • 24rd November, 3:30 to 4:30pm - online webinar - Register here
  • Education

    This week’s webcasts for education customers and partners 7-11 November 2011


    There are three webcasts to know about this week - the one specifically for schools is the Tech Tuesday webcast on office, and then there are two general ones for technical teams. The teams running the two more geeky sessions have provided me with quite a technical description of what they are going to cover - and I’ve not opted to translate it into plain English (mainly because it’s an indicator of the technical level of the webinar - if you can understand the description, then you’ll stand a chance of understanding the session!)

    All of the timings for the webcasts are AEST (Australia East Coast time).
    See ** below for more details on how the webcasts work

    This week’s webcasts

    Tech Tuesday - The Microsoft Office Suite in Education

    We’ll take a look at the latest version of Microsoft Office, and how it supports teaching and learning across the curriculum

    Tuesday 8th November 11AM-12PM AEST - Register here for the webinar

    Upgrading to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2012: A Comprehensive Look

    This session provides an in-depth look at how to upgrade to SQL Server 2008 R2 or how to upgrade to the next major release of SQL Server 2012. The session covers the essential phases and steps involved in upgrading from SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005, SQL Server 2008 to SQL Server 2008 R2 or SQL Server 2012 by using best practices and available resources. We cover the complete upgrade cycle, including the preparation tasks, upgrade tasks and post-upgrade tasks. This session covers upgrading a stand-alone instance, upgrading a clustered instance, upgrading instances involved in mirroring, log shipping, and replication, feature-specific considerations and recommended tools for a successful upgrade. Several demos are given covering the process and the available tools.

    Tuesday 8th November 2-4PM AEST - Register here for the webinar

    Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012: What’s in It, and How It Enables the Building of Private Clouds and Federation to the Public Cloud

    System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2012 is designed to deliver industry-leading virtual machine management, deployment and configuration for services in private cloud environments. It features deep investments in server application virtualization, service design, and service modelling -- all of which can be used to build an on-premises private cloud. This session includes an overview of key VMM 2012 capabilities like Image Based Management, Host Role Deployment, Service Design, Image Composability, Application Elasticity, and Fabric Management. This session also covers VMM 2012 features that can be used to create a unified management experience for public and private clouds, including migrating workloads between these clouds. Gain an understanding of VMM 2012 supported scenarios, along with an understanding of how to use these capabilities to build an on-premise private cloud with federation to the public cloud.

    Friday 11th November 2-4PM AEST - Register here for the webinar

    Future webcasts

    Register Here

    15 November

    Tech Tuesday - Learning Management Systems in Education
    Tech Tuesday’s are education-specific webinars, hosted by the Australian education team at Microsoft.

    Find out more, and register

    15 November

    Taking Office to the Cloud: Integrating Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows Azure

    Find out more, and register

    22 November

    Tech Tuesday - Microsoft Partner story - nSynergy
    Tech Tuesday’s are education-specific webinars, hosted by the Australian education team at Microsoft.

    Find out more, and register

    22 November

    Managing Windows Azure Applications

    Find out more, and register

    22 November

    Integrating Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

    Find out more, and register

    25 November

    Integrating the Microsoft System Center Stack for Process Compliance and Automation

    Find out more, and register

    29 November

    What’s New in Microsoft SQL Server Code-Named “Denali” for SQL Server Integration Services

    Find out more, and register

    6 December

    Microsoft Lync 2010: Audio, Video and Web Conferencing Architecture and Experience

    Find out more, and register

    ** You’ll need to register in advance, and you’ll then receive a Calendar note, as well as info on how to join the Live Meeting online. All of the timings given are for Australia East Coast time.

  • Education

    Common and critical mistakes in using data to monitor student performance


    imageAfter writing about the new UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers yesterday, I spent time reading through the model, and thinking about how the information could be applied. I found some sections which were really useful in the context of Business Intelligence in education - how schools use their own data to improve students’ learning. In Appendix 2 of the document, there’s an example syllabus for Technology Literacy, and there are two specific sections which deal with using data to manage and monitor student performance. As well as scoping out what they mean, there’s a really useful list of best practices and obstacles, as well as common and critical mistakes. If you’re thinking of developing a business intelligence (BI) project in education, bringing together a varied mix of learning and assessment data to create a comprehensive picture, it’s worth reading the list of common and critical mistakes to learn from the experiences of others.

    Published case studies rarely focus on the mistakes made during a project - but the broad base of contributors to the UNESCO framework means that it captures lessons from many projects, from many countries.

    What I’ve done is to pull out the key sections on data use for monitoring student performance from two different sections of the document - Curriculum & Assessment (2.4) and ICT (4.6) - and summarise them together to help to get the full picture. The sections cover the selection of a tool to monitor and share student performance data, and using software to manage student and classroom data (from pages 49 and 57 of the Competency Framework document)

    Scope of what’s covered

    Using the UNESCO framework, I’ve combined the two scope elements into :

      Using ICT to record, manage and report on student performance data (grades, portfolios of student work, recognition of student achievement, reports to students, parents and administration). Includes use of standalone and networked software; use of spreadsheets; use of school management system (for the purposes of attendance, record keeping, grades, student enrolment, time tables etc.)  

    So if that’s the challenge, what are the key nuggets that the document contains? And how can we apply it into a project rolling out a system for business intelligence in education? Well, there’s some key issues - advice, obstacles and mistakes - that it identifies from the projects that have been looked at. If you look at your projects (or your plans for future projects), how many of these areas can you feel confident about - and are there extra things that you can do to reinforce the good practice, and minimise the risk of mistakes?

    The data from the UNESCO report is in blue - with my additional comments in italics below each section

    Best practice advice

    • Creating a culture of data-quality
    • Keeping up-to-date with data-entry
    • Using data from a wide variety of sources to monitor performance: use different types of assessment, comparisons with other students, teachers or schools
    • Using ICT-based systems to improve parent involvement through better information flow to them
    • Making use of the improved information which ICT-based systems can provide, for example early indicators of a failing student or teacher revealed by timely and detailed ICT records of grades

    Using data effectively is a journey, not a single final destination. As good practice will evolve, it’s okay to start with something that isn’t yet ideal - for example, using just a single source of data to monitor performance initially, as you move to make more of your data usable, and extend the way it’s used. Similarly, if you want to improve parental communication, but don’t have much in your existing systems that you can share, start with a little information and increase it as you go along. Don’t wait for everything to be collated, databased and analysed before starting to use the data. Use the best practice advice to set your direction, and then tackle the task in steps. eg you might aspire to get your teachers to enter all of their markbook data online, but your first steps might involve creating the culture of data-quality and data-entry, rather than mandating everything’s in your system.

    Common obstacles

    • Lack of hardware, software resources and financial resources
    • Lack of culture of accountability

    In Australian schools, the first obstacle is probably not a serious impediment - there will be enough resources available. The culture of accountability will vary between individual educational institutions, and you’ll need to ensure that any change plan allows sufficient time and focus to ensure that there’s a complete buy-in from staff - leaders, admin and teachers - to achieve your (and their) end goals

    Common mistakes

    • Incorrect data entry (including incomplete data)
    • Poor data management skills
    • Not keeping passwords secure
    • Incorrect formulae to calculate results
    • “Garbage in garbage out”
    • Not verifying the captured data
    • Incorrect formulae or analysis (for example, selecting the wrong type of graph for a report)

    So let’s be positive - these are common mistakes, which means that you’re likely to make one or more of them. The good news is that you’ve got the list - based on other people’s projects - to use as a sanity check when your education BI project turns up some bizarre data quirks. When you’re surprised to find that all of class 6W are mini-Einsteins, don’t be surprised to find out that their teacher was using a 1-5 scale, when the rest of the teachers were using a 5-1 scale.
    If you treat the early stages of a project as a learning journey, then all the staff can learn together, and iron out the wrinkles before it does any harm!

    Critical Mistakes

    • Not keeping confidential information secure
    • Allowing vulnerability to hackers
    • Incorrect conclusions from inaccurate data
    • Inaction in the face of available data (failing to use the information provided by ICT-based system because such information did not previously exist)
    • Not having backups of the data

    These mistakes are important because they could derail your project. Making a ‘common mistake’ eg having a report that throws up wrong answers might demotivate the team, and cause people to question what’s going on. But making a ‘critical mistake’, like a lack of data security, may well derail the project on it’s first day, and cause the whole thing to be stopped. Again, the benefit of having the list is that you can use it as a project tick list:

    • Is the data secure? Tick.
    • Is the data backed-up? Tick.
    • Will we cross-check critical data before it impacts on decision that affects student’s learning? Tick.

    In some ways these are the hygiene factors which have to be right and will hit you immediately if they are wrong. The hidden one is number 4 - will you do something with the data? For example, if you find out that one teacher has a significant impact on exam results, will you find a way to use that info to benefit all students? And if you find that one course module that you’re all attached to produces poor results, will you simply live with it, or will you improve or drop it?

    How will you use this information?

    Now you’ve got the info, how does it help you? Is it something to go into your project plan? Or if you’re buying a BI system, is it the question list you use to test all of the suppliers? Or if you’re already using data well, does it help you to define your next step?

    If it helps, I’ve quickly dropped the bullet points above into a series of PowerPoint slides that might help when talking with colleagues. I’ve called it “Common Mistakes in BI projects in Education

    Learn MoreSee other articles on this blog about BI in Education

  • Education

    Did you know that there’s an international ICT competency framework for teachers?


    UNESCO have captured a great understatement with their introduction to the new framework for ICT in education:

      Two decades after the first mainstream rollout of computers in schools we have learned many significant lessons about ICT in Education and their potential transforming impact on national education systems. Yet, countries around the world face urgent challenges in harnessing the power of ICT in the classroom and beyond.  

    UNESCO have just updated their ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, which is an international model for use by education systems around the world to support teachers’ use of ICT in teaching and learning. It aims to help countries to develop comprehensive national teacher ICT competency policies and standards, and they position it as an overall component of national education strategy.

    I also think it’s a valuable framework for individual schools, or school systems, thinking about the development needs of existing teachers. It can be used as a self-diagnosis tool by individual teachers, or as a professional development framework for a curriculum department or whole school.

    What the ICT Competency Framework for Teachers contains

    Front cover of the ICT Competency Framework for Teachers from UNESCOThe framework addresses:

    • Understanding ICT in education - policy awareness, understanding and innovation
    • Curriculum and Assessment - basic knowledge, how to apply it, and skills for a knowledge society
    • Pedagogy - integrating pedagogy, complex problem solving and self management
    • ICT - the tools
    • Organisation and Administration - from the standard classroom, to collaborative groups, to complex learning organisations
    • Teacher Professional Learning - from digital literacy, to the teacher as a model learner



    UNESCO’s framework emphasises that it is not enough for teachers to have ICT competencies to be able to teach them to their students. Teachers need to be able to help students become collaborative, problem solving creative learners through using ICT so they will be effective global citizens.

    The current version of the ICT Competency Framework for Teachers is a 2011 update of the original version published in 2008, and is the result of the successful continued partnership between UNESCO and CISCO, INTEL, ISTE and Microsoft.


    Sometimes these types of documents can be quite theoretical and dry, but a lot of work appears to have been put into this to make it accessible to readers - for example, there are three tables which clearly illustrate the three levels of competency discussed, with examples from a teacher’s everyday life (on pages 10, 12 and 14). On their own, they’d make a great discussion resource for a professional development day or training course.

    Common mistakes when developing teacher competency with ICT

    In many sections, the ICT Competency Framework for Teachers also lists a set of common mistakes. For example, when exploring the use ICT to enhance teacher productivity, it lists three common mistakes as:

    • Trying to use all the available tools
    • Using ICT for a critical task when beginning to learn how to use ICT
    • Not persevering despite initial mistakes

    Download the ICT Competency Framework for Teachers

    Learn MoreDownload the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (PDF)

  • Education

    Gaining the Microsoft Business Intelligence partner competency


    Over on the Australian Microsoft Australian Partner blog, Sarah Arnold has announced that there are special offers available to partners to support their application for Silver Competency in Business Intelligence

    Gee, I wish I could find a better BI icon than a magnifying glass!Customers are becoming more interested in business intelligence in education because of the potential it holds in helping improve student performance. Whether that means analysis of data for a single institution, or system-wide analysis, there are lots of projects starting up to look at learning, pastoral, assessment, engagement or financial data (or a mix of all of these) in schools, TAFEs and universities. And over the next few years, as increasing power is devolved to schools, TAFEs and universities by legal changes, this will accelerate.

    From a Microsoft perspective, now’s a key time for us to focus on Business Intelligence too, with the launch the new version of SQL Server, code name “Denali”, and regular product releases for SQL Azure around the corner.


    In big-picture terms, the opportunities are unprecedented. Microsoft research shows that BI continues to be a top spending priority for chief information officers (CIOs) globally and nationally. In addition, Microsoft is prioritising its Business Intelligence partners by adding additional resources and benefits for these partners in the coming year. (Bookmark the Business Intelligence competency page for more information as it becomes available.)

    To earn the Business Intelligence competency, visit the Partner Membership Centre where you can view your competency assets, associate MCP(s) to your organisation, submit customer references, and track your overall competency status.


    For the months of November and December we are helping Australian Microsoft partners meet the requirements for this competency by running Exam Preparation training sessions at no charge and providing exam vouchers. If you are interested in achieving this competency by 31 December 2011, please email Sarah Arnold and she’ll send you a Competency Development Funds Application form. This will need to be returned to Sarah by 20 November 2011 to participate.

  • Education

    21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020


    It’s nearly two years since Shelly Blake-Plock wrote “21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020” on his TeachPaperless blog. I’d highly recommend it for a mid-week read - and perhaps use it to stimulate some thinking on where you can help your own organisation as you move into the future - whether you work in an education institution, or you’re a Microsoft partner working with education customers.

    Having moved from the UK to Australia at the beginning of this year, I’ve found that there are lots of differences between the two education systems, and the way that they are moving forwards organisationally. Re-reading Shelly’s ‘21 Things’ list has prompted me to think & write about a few of those - hopefully in a way that’s useful to supplement Shelly’s list. So here’s my take on the 21 list, and some comparisons between the UK and Australian schools in their progress on Shelly’s journey:

    21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020

    1. Desks
    In both the UK and Australia, there are plenty of experimental learning spaces being built. I don’t feel we’re there yet in terms of finding a best practice model for learning spaces, but the journey’s definitely happening. Will it get rid of desks? Perhaps, or perhaps we’ll actually see the end of regimented learning spaces and fixed desks. (The first thing both of my children asked for when we arrived in Australia was to have a desk in their own bedrooms - to give them a space to spread their learning out in front of them)

    2. Language Labs
    In two years we’ve made a huge leap, and now it’s any place/any device that can become a language learning tool. My 'deeply-unimpressed-by-anything-her-Dad-says' 16-year old was actually impressed when she saw the translation capabilities built into the latest Windows phones, when we took a photo of her French textbook, turned it into text, and then translated it into English without needing any other software/web tricks.

    3. Computers
    We’re not going to see ‘computers’ replaced by phones in everybody’s pocket. In fact, the trend I see with new devices is that we’re adding more devices in the classroom and in learner’s hands, and they all complement each other. Some are great for consumption, but less than ideal for creating information. That may change sometime, but at the moment we’re still heading towards ‘more’ rather than less devices in learners’ and teachers’ hands.

    4. Homework
    There’s certainly plenty of enthusiasm for ideas like the flipped classroom, but there’s also a very traditional belief that students need to be given homework - and that’s as strong, or even stronger, here in Australia as in England, so this is probably one of the last things that’s going to change, because we’re going to need changes to some deeply embedded behaviours and beliefs to see this come about (and the research-driven jury appears to still be out on this).

    5. The Role of Standardised Tests in College Admissions
    In Australia, as in other countries, there’s a continuing focus, and debate, on standardised testing - and the use of the data that it produces. I’m not qualified to really dive down into this debate, but the comment I’d add here is that I think the move to online assessment will help us with the purpose of testing - understanding what a student has learnt, where they need more support, how to help them on their next journey step. This is because we can improve the speed of feedback and make it more usable for current and future learning. It removes the long gap between the test and the feedback (and it adds massively to the ability for a teacher to analyse and act upon results)

    6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
    One of those things that I don’t know enough about to comment!

    7. Fear of Wikipedia
    One in six Australian schools still block Wikipedia. ‘Nuff said.

    8. Paperbacks
    Shelly said “Books were nice. In ten years' time, all reading will be via digital means”. I actually think that what we’re going to see is the appropriate content published in the appropriate way. When my children are doing their homework I see them having multiple books open, jumping between them and comparing information in them to digital information. That’s why they need a desk! (And see ‘lockers’ below). So we’re going to see a change in the mix of digital and paper media, not the end of one caused by another.

    9. Attendance Offices
    This is an area where we may go further by 2020 - we may see a complete redefinition of ‘attendance’, based on when and where you’re learning, rather than assuming that being in a physical place for prescribed hours means you’re learning.

    10. Lockers
    On current experience, we’re going to need bigger lockers! One of the huge changes that I’ve noticed between England and Australia is that kids here go to school with massive backpacks - my daughters sometime leave home with 8 kilo backpacks. This is because they are expected to carry around a big pile of text books, plus folders plus their laptop. And then they get their homework assignments printed on paper. So what’s happened is that technology has been added on top, and there hasn’t been a systematic approach to change existing practice. The result - heavier backpacks, not lighter ones.

    11. IT Departments
    I agree with Shelly that this is really about the change in the role of IT Departments, not their disappearance. They are going to undergo a series of changes that will drag the most recalcitrant ones kicking and screaming into providing a user service, rather than looking for reasons not to do things. Ultimately this will hugely empower IT departments, and hopefully the same thing will happen in education as is happening in business - they are being seen as the powerhouse of transformation, because of what they can enable. (And in the corporate world, there are increasing examples of large organisations where it’s the CIO that’s being promoted to CEO. Wonder if we’ll see that soon in an education institution?)

    12. Centralised Institutions
    Australia is in a different place politically to the UK in the journey of de-centralising education - which is one of the key factors which enables the creation of less-centralised learning institutions. There are political, financial and organisational barriers to overcome before this change can happen systemically in education in Australia.

    13. Organisation of Educational Services by Grade
    Probably linked to (12), this is also going to take longer to happen than Shelly predicted.

    14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology
    Yep, this is already happening, and there’s less fuss about it in Australia than in the UK. There are less scary newspaper headlines for Australian teachers, and more comfort in terms of organisational support and guidance. For example, teachers have an official NSW education Social Media Policy that supports their use of social media in learning.

    15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development
    In technology terms, I personally believe that in both Australia and the UK, there isn’t enough focus on Professional Development in IT projects. All too often over the last decade, education IT projects have focused on the ‘what’ - the hardware, software, services - at the expense of the ‘how’ - pedagogy, change management and professional support for teachers/users. It’s no different between the two countries, but wouldn’t it be great if we changed the way that technology is bought, and focused on the outcomes, and less on the widgets & gadgets?

    16. Current Curricular Norms
    I agree with Shelly’s original thought, which is firmly established here in Australia: “There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialised learning.”

    17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night
    Some schools do an excellent job of keeping in touch with their parents, and providing a ongoing narrative of their children’s learning progress. But the majority lag behind - there’s no shortage of general parental communication (paper newsletters, email udpates, special announcements) but little that is specific to their child. This is an area where Australia is definitely trailing the UK, and where the UK government policy directive of schools providing online parental gateways and regular online reports has forced a rethink for many schools - and improved the regular insight that parents have into their children’s progress.

    18. Typical Cafeteria Food
    There’s nothing I can add to this, as I've not yet been hosted to enough school lunches in Australia to compare to years of school lunches in the UK!

    19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering
    Shelly says ‘Let the kids do it’, and he’s spot on. Give them real-life projects. Your students are writing mobile phone apps for learning, designing websites, helping their parents create business presentations in PowerPoint and re-imagining the world with technology. Why shouldn’t they apply those skills to help you with your social media strategy for student engagement, website design or even curriculum material design?

    20. High School Algebra
    There’s nothing I can add to this thought either (mainly because my struggle to understand the subject was demonstrated when helping my 16-yo with her homework!)

    21. Paper
    6-7 million sheets of paper would be 8x the height of the Sydney Opera HouseShelly said “In ten years' time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%”. Sadly, I think we’re going the wrong way on the trend line in Australia - increasing the amount of paper usage. Despite the massive investment in technology that should reduce paper use - laptop 1:1 schemes, interactive whiteboard projects etc - Australian schools are even bigger users of paper than UK schools. The average UK high school uses around 1-2 million sheets of copier/printer paper a year. In Australia, I’ve come across schools that are using four times as much - 6+ million sheets a year. That’s a pile of paper that’s over 8x the height of the Sydney Opera House. This is one area that is definitely not going to happen on it’s own. In the UK, the public sector budget cuts, and the downward pressure on school budgets has led to projects like Alan Richards’ Paperless School.

    With pressure on education budgets in Australia, perhaps we’ll see similar projects here too? (Or are there some already?)


    There are lots of areas where Shelly’s predictions are happening, and two years on, the list looks like a good list to refer to and benchmark against. The question for me now is whether some of these things are happening fast enough? For example, could more effort be invested in reducing paper usage, to free up funding and resources for other teaching and learning needs? If there’s a new model of learning coming, then we’re going to need to find ways to fund the shift from today’s model - now matter how gradual the shift is. That’s where Shelly’s list might help aid the discussion.

    Learn MoreRead the original “21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020” on the TeachPaperless blog.

  • Education

    The Kinect Effect - it’s only just starting in education


    It’s amazing to think that Kinect is only a year old. It’s set the Guinness World Record for the fastest selling consumer device. And while it started its life as a device for games, it’s now being used by surgeons, teachers, musicians, data analysts for ideas the Kinect’s inventors hadn’t imagined.

    And here’s a one minute video summary of some of the things that it’s being used for. It’s the kind of advert you don’t see on TV. Perhaps it might inspire the next wave of innovation?

    (Can’t see the video - it’s on YouTube here)

    There’s a gallery of Kinect projects over on the Microsoft PressPass site, with a dozen other examples.

    Learn More

    If you want some more inspiring ideas of how Kinect can be used in education, then take a look at the (very) unofficial Kinect in Education site:

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