ulearn10 Christchurch Day 2

I started the day ready to go to the pre-conference workshop about Learnz – virtual field trips.  However, met Leslie for breakfast to find out that she had just had a call from Suzie to say that the plane from Hamilton was in the air – unfortunately she was not on it!  So instead of the virtual field trip I went on a real one to Rangi Ruru to look at how they organised their IT there.  Beware of Christchurch taxi drivers – our tip out there cost us just over $20 but the trip back was $10.80 – a bit of a discrepancy!  Interesting to talk to Barry and see what their set up is and what their teachers use.  They have opted for desk tops in all the class rooms so if the teachers want to use a lap top they have to buy their own, although they, as well as the students, can bring their own devices into school and hook them up to the system.   Nor do they have interactive whiteboards – all classrooms have data projectors and the maths department are trialling the use of tablets and a networking system (Netprog) which incorporates a PDF annotator.  It would be interesting to do a survey at Dio and find out just how many teachers actually use the Whiteboards on a daily basis and just what they use them for.  Are they or were they a worthwhile investment and are they enhancing the teaching and learning in school?  It is always difficult to compare what two schools do and decide what is best as schools are all very different, with a different set of students and teachers as well as leaders.  Financially there is also a gulf between Rangi Ruru  (a private school) and Dio (State Integrated).  We are tied into decisions that were made some time ago for better or for worse and I think it is important that we look at how we can utilise those systems to make them work most effectively for us.  Plenty of food for thought….

This afternoon we decided to have a trip out to the Antarctica Centre mainly to see the Blue Penguins, it has to be said!  They were fascinating and very cute! The displays were interesting but the entry fee for the centre was pretty exorbitant.  On balance I guess it is still worth a visit but give yourself plenty of time as there is a lot of information that we didn’t get to see.  Mind you, that was partly because we didn’t look at the map and so didn’t realise until too late that there was a whole other section that we nearly missed!

We went to pick up our conference packs this afternoon – hardly what you could call a pack – a conference handbook, a copy of Interface and a dinner ticket, hopefully there’ll be some freebies in the Trade hall during the conference!   Then it was off to the first conference session – Pecha Kucha – apparently it is Japanese for chit chat or shared information. The idea is that speakers have 12 slides and 20 seconds per slide to talk – sounded promising – snapshots of concepts and philosophies to whet your appetite.  There were eight speakers but unfortunately only 2 or 3 of them actually gained  our attention with their presentations.  The others were lacklustre and  pretty mundane.  Chris Betcher was engaging and provoked us to look at how our education system stifled creativity and difference.  He also challenged the view that we can only be good at one discipline – that people are either talented artists or musicians or scientists or mathematicians or engineers but can’t be good across disciplines.  Damien Allen from Knowsley in the UK made an interesting  and well rehearsed presentation about the seven new schools developed and constructed in Knowsley for 21st century learners. He postulates that the learning environment they have created will enable students to learn more effectively – open spaces for collaborative and cross-curricular learning.  Each school has a different specialism and the buildings incorporate themes which match those specialisms whilst still providing a balance for all subjects.  Thought provoking ideas but as yet not really tested as the schools only opened in 2009.  It would have been interesting to know whether the same depth of thought went in to selecting the teachers to work in those schools and how the ethos of the principles for learning will be or have been embraced from the outset.  We look forward to hearing from Knowsley in the future.   Tony Ryan was entertaining as usual as he led us on a light-hearted pictorial journey through Europe.

Finished off the evening with a delicious meal in a great Japanese restaurant , my first taste of Sake – I’ll definitely have more of that !  We decided to pass on the Wasabi ice-cream for dessert and instead headed to Sepia for crême brûlée, lemon and lime tarts and a coffee trio.  Looking forward to tomorrow and the start proper of the conference.

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