Reflections from the AIS NSW ICT Leadership & Management Conference 2015

AISI have been fortunate to attend the AIS NSW (Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales) ICT Management and Leadership Conference over the last few days and I thought I would share a few reflections on it here. As this post will be quite long, you can see the various sections I’ll touch on here as an index and you can skip to what you may find relevant:

  • Keynote from Dr Jane Hunter: High Possibility Classrooms
  • Jeff Utecht – The Continuum of Digital Citizenship
  • Matt McCormack – ICT Security – Making the most of what you have
  • Various Presenters – 7minute Tell Sessions
  • Rose Elsom – Continuous Online Reporting with Moodle and Sharepoint
  • Northern Beaches Christian School – Student Media TV Crew

Introduction:

Hosted in the Canberra National Conference Centre, the organisation of the event was top notch, co-ordinated by the very useful app from GuideBook.com. This app (available free on iOS, Android, or the web – click here) provided all the necessary information at the touch of a button, including any last minute changes to sessions or venues – all updated automatically for conference delegates:

Screenshots of the GuideBook App

I can see plenty of potential uses for an app such as this, where the co-ordination of complex events (conferences, Centenary celebrations etc) can be easily achieved and all delegates or visitors can be confident of having the latest information to hand.

UPDATE: The GuideBook app is only free for the first 200 downloads. If you need more than 200 downloads then the cost is around US$1700.

Keynote from Dr Jane Hunter: High Possibility Classrooms

high possibility classroomsDr Jane Hunter is an educational researcher who presented on her research into High Possibility Classrooms. This was a very interesting session to start the conference with and it was encouraging to see very recent academic research into the impact of technology in education. It is worth noting that this research looked at “exemplary” teachers, those that were already very proficient with technology and used it daily within their classrooms. You can read in detail about Dr Hunter’s research here:

One of the exemplary teachers that was used in the research used an interesting inquiry model based on the acronym QUEST:

  • Question;
  • Uncover
  • Explain
  • Share
  • Together

It’s a simple idea that could be very useful in a range of classroom contexts. Another concept that she introduced was the TPACK model in eLearning. It’s similar to the SAMR model that we have explored previously on this blog and put simply, TPACK is:

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology

TPACK-new

Jeff Utecht – The Continuum of Digital Citizenship

Jeff Utecht presented on Digital Citizenship in an engaging and interactive session that was broken up by his encouragement for us to quickly discuss our own experiences with the people around us. He started by posing the question “What is the biggest challenge with Digital Citizenship?” before suggesting:

Many schools are simply paying lip service to Digital Citizenship, but are not actually integrating it effectively into their curriculum.

Throughout his presentation he presented information from this section of his website and provided a few interesting statements such as:

  • The average age a child touches a device in a classroom in the USA is 6yrs old – why then are we waiting another 3-5yrs before we start teaching Digital Citizenship?
  • Peer to peer cyber-bullying is a far greater threat than encountering an anonymous online cyber predator.
    • He suggested a new study found that a child has the same level of risk at being picked up at a public park than being approached online by an anonymous cyber predator
  • The current school age generation is living “public first, private second” – in other words, they are sharing their lives online with others immediately.
  • In the USA, most children by the age of 5yrs old have had around 3000 photos of them shared online – by the parents and wider family.
  • 85% of universities in the USA google prospective students before offering them a position.

His session was interesting and in places quite challenging, particularly around how he sees the need for schools to engage with social media (for example, he proposes all schools should have an online community / social media manage position – he even wrote a job description for it). The basis of his argument is that with the vast majority of parents on Facebook already, schools should be taking their content and notices to where the parents already are, rather than making them come to an official school website or intranet. This has some merit, but I am not sure it is the perfect fit for St Andrew’s College.

Some other ideas he shared for creating stronger student engagement in responsible online behaviour included:

  • Making captains of sports teams responsible for the posting of content on their official team Twitter or Instagram profile. The idea of mixing “offline” responsibilities and expectations around behaviour and accountability as a team captain with “online” ones is certainly a positive initiative.
  • Using common school hashtags to promote positive engagement with the wider school community – he shared the example of #BettPride where one school has monitors around the campus showing this hashtag streaming live and unfiltered. Interestingly, he commented that students are “self-moderating” this by reporting inappropriate tweets, primarily because they don’t want to lose the service because of a student’s silly behaviour.
  • Promoted public blogging for students from as young as Year 3, with his desire for all his senior students to be graduating from high school with a “body of work” online that prospective universities or employers could review.

Matt McCormack – ICT Security – Making the most of what you have

dell-secureworksMatt works for Secure Works (a unit of Dell Computing) and gave a vendor-neutral overview of some of the challenges schools face in protecting their network, starting with the assumption that most schools have limited budgets, limited staffing, and a wide variety of challenges presented by BYOD initiatives.

A range of useful network security tools recommended by Matt McCormick from SecureWorks

A range of useful network security tools recommended by Matt McCormick from SecureWorks

He suggested that the threats faced by schools are largely in three broad categories:

  1. Commodity Malware type attacks: the school, staff and students are not targeted, but are impacted by generic attacks such as Crypto-locker 
  2. Targeted attacks: less likely in schools, because these attacks are generally financially driven, however they could come about in education through a disgruntled employee situation, or perhaps even an ICT-savvy student that is is not “ethically developed” yet!
  3. Internal: attacks caused by people who legitimately are inside your network (students, teachers) who perhaps are doing things they should not be in their day to day work.

After providing more information on the three scenarios above, he went on to suggest ideas to improve the readiness of an ICT team to respond to these threats.

  1. Logging: In short, if there was anything that schools should immediately start to do is to centralise and index all logs from all servers in verbose mode. Matt suggested the Elk Stack as a good starting point for free tools to help with this.
  2. Manage: Ensure that usual server / desktop devices are fully patched and that AV definitions are up to date. He also recommended that two factor authentication be used on as much as possible.
  3. Choke Points: Create areas in your network that will prevent further access to potential intruders unless they are operating legitimately through the use of firewalls, proxies, VLANs, DNS. He suggested all users must use your internal DNS (which is of course going to be fully logged as above) allowing you to then examine any nefarious behaviour.
    1. Matt set “homework” for those present to all use Shadow Server (an organisation that tracks botnets and malware) and have them scan your public IP address range to see what threats are coming out from your network.
  4. Plan for failure: ensure there is robust backups, redundancy where possible and remote control to systems. Effectively planning can reduce attacks like Crypto-Locker to nuisance value only, since you can simply restore the affected machine from backup.
  5. Segment Privileges: This focused on making it harder for any attacker to escalate to administrator or superuser from a compromised machine, with one suggestion to ensure that all school issued devices to staff/students never operate as administrator users. Other mentions were using separate Domains for students / staff / network servers and, of course, VLANs. He also mentioned that “seniority in schools does not automatically infer privileged access to the ICT network”.
  6. Educate: possibly the hardest of the lot since it involves “the human factor” rather than must machines.

Various Presenters – 7minute Tell Sessions

This was the first session of day two and was intended to be short, sharp and highly engaging. It definitely achieved this with the following topics covered:

  • YouTube tips and tricks – a handy overview of some useful tools that make teaching easier:
    • TubeChop – trim any YouTube clip to the start/finish points you want
    • ViewPure – show any YouTube clip without advertising, comments or recommended videos – a great way to sanitise the content.
    • Zaption – insert questions into any point within a YouTube clip, requiring students to answer it – basic analytics showing results are available (this is also available with ETV, something our very own Tom Adams is going to be running professional development on with our staff this week).
    • LiveStreaming – using Google Hangouts to livestream on YouTube.
  • How to create and run a student media team – an excellent overview that I’ll cover in more detail below.
  • Wireless Projection – an overview from the ICT Manager from PLC Sydney. This was one of particular interest to us given our adventures with Miracast and the overall conclusion was – wireless projection is still very much a work in progress.
  • Running a Computer Boot Camp – a very useful, detailed overview on how to run a mini-conference for students on how to use their devices in a BYOD school

Rose Elsom – Continuous Online Reporting with Moodle and Sharepoint

Rose is the ICT Manager at Westbourne Grammar and also sits on their Executive Team to help with ICT strategy at the school. She provided a fascinating overview of their transition to continuous online reporting, an initiative introduced by their new Principal around 3 years ago. In many respects the school is similar to St Andrew’s College in terms of it’s size, devices and platforms in use including Synergetic, Office365, Moodle and Sharepoint.

Each year, a Teaching Model is created that identifies the main focuses for the school and this model complements the Teacher Toolkit – what teachers are expected to be using at a classroom level:

At Westbourne Grammar a decision was made to stop writing end of semester reports and to instead provide regular feedback to students through their online platforms of Moodle (for students) and Sharepoint (for parents). The idea behind this was that a summary comment at the end of a semester does not help the student necessarily improve – it’s often too late for that. However, detailed, timely and regular feedback to each assignment or activity will help them understand what is required. An immediate result of this implementation was that teachers were no longer furiously writing reports after marking end of semester assessments, but were instead carrying out data analysis of their students’ results during this time.

Example of a teacher's comments in Moodle for student work.

Example of a teacher’s comments in Moodle for student work.

The system used was relatively straightforward. Teachers created an assignment in Moodle, irrespective of whether the assessment was an online one or not, and used the comments and grading features to provide the detailed feedback to students.

These comments are synchronised nightly into a Sharepoint Portal where parents can log in and see the grades and read the comments at any time. No traditional school reports are printed anymore, nor are comments proof read for accuracy or spelling mistakes before parents can see them. According to Rose, parents have all welcomed this initiative and students have easily transitioned into reading their comments on a regular basis from teachers.

The ICT team has also grown to support this, adding another Information Specialist who uses Microsoft SSRS to create custom “dashboards” for teachers and the pastoral care team to see how students are tracking in real time.

These dashboards show a range of information, from academic progress through to quickly highlighting names of students who may have missed 2 or 3 consecutive days of school. This information is all pulled in real time from the Synergetic database, making great use of recycling existing information and presenting it to the staff who need to know it. I found this session particularly interesting given the school uses all the same technologies as St Andrew’s College, just in quite different ways through a greater focus on delivering online reporting.

Northern Beaches Christian School – Student Media TV Crew

Throughout the entirety of the conference, a team of students from Northern Beaches Christian School were recording the sessions and activities and live editing the footage. Their teacher, Mr Chris Woldhuis introduced them during the Tell Talks and also explained how he got the team running from nothing.

Given we have our own terrific media team that produce the majority of the videos on our YouTube Channel, I was keen to see what they did differently. One of the most useful things I picked up was how Mr Woldhuis had created an “Executive Team” within the wider Media Team to manage some of the smaller groups that existed. These positions included roles such as:

  • Head of Logistics (responsible for getting the necessary equipment to/from events they were filming)
  • Head of Media Storage (responsible for making sure that footage that had been captured was stored securely)
  • Head of Editing (responsible for producing the final versions of content recorded)

There were other roles as well within this Exec Team, but the key point was they were then responsible for managing and co-ordinating other students within their teams to complete the projects.

To assist with the co-ordination of these events, they started to use the online project management tool Podio. When a teacher or staff member requested the team to video a school event, a new event was created in Podio and each team member was assigned tasks for them to manage through to completion. In terms of “real world learning” this type of activity reflects much of the Key Competencies from the NZ Curriculum and throughout the conference, the team worked effectively together.

A standard shipping container converted to hold the BlackMagic switcher and patch panel

A standard freight box converted to hold the BlackMagic switcher and patch panel

During the final lunch break I caught up with Dane (The Head of Logistics) and he walked me through some of their setup. They had converted an old freight box to be a container for their BlackMagic ATEM Television Studio and it also contained a patch panel and small monitor to show the live camera. The robustness of this design meant it was easy to take it “into the field” and record the action. They used Adobe Premiere Pro to edit the footage, and a range of different cameras to record. They also used a range of BlackMagic HDMI to SDI Convertors to allow their HDMI-only cameras to roam further (HDMI has shorter maximum range in cable lengths, whereas SDI can go hundreds of meters).

The enthusiasm and efficiency of the team was great to see and numerous delegates commented how terrific it was to see such a visible student presence at an educational ICT conference. The final videos will likely end up on the AIS NSW Vimeo page.

Conclusion:

Overall, this was an excellent conference and one that I would likely look to return to if possible. The delegates were all friendly and more than happy to share their experiences and what equipment and setups they had found to be successful. The trade hall with numerous vendors was very helpful as well, allowing me to find out more detailed information on a range of topics I am reviewing at the moment, including LMS options, wireless network solutions, and wireless classroom projection.

A final thank you to the AIS NSW ICT Leadership conference committee for putting on a tremendous conference.

One thought on “Reflections from the AIS NSW ICT Leadership & Management Conference 2015

  1. Thanks Sam, really appreciate your insightful comments and feedback. Glad the conference was such a positive professional experience and hope to see you again. Cheers, Darryl

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