What brings you to EduTECH this year Lee?
EduTECH is a really unique opportunity, it’s a great conference that offers a unique format that really allows me to present to many quality educators in a very short period of time so, I’m really pleased to be a part of EduTECH.
Can you tell us a bit about your work with the Global Digital Citizen Foundation?
I started the Global Digital Citizen Foundation because I’m very passionate about creating a bright future for everyone by changing education at a classroom level, and I saw the best way we can do that was to assign my intellectual property to a non-profit to allow it to grow and make as much of a difference as possible.
What are some of the key aims of the foundation?
We really wanted to focus on making a shift in classroom practise to cultivate responsible, ethical citizens for a digital world, that work together to solve problems that matter. And for us to make a shift in what we assess and what we value, in that assessment, away from teaching content to skills that are relevant to life in the 21st Century…
How closely do you work with schools and educators?
I work at several different levels, I have many clients that are schools and I love working in schools, and through that I have the opportunity to work directly with educators. But I work at the district, state and national level, and with post-secondary education as well, to try and shift our focus and our pedagogy.
How did your Solution Fluency Activity Planner come about? Why are social connections so crucial if we want to advance education globally?
The Solution Fluency Activity Planner was something that I came up with as a way to allow the different schools that I work with around the world to connect to each other.
There’s so much great practice happening in different places in different ways. And a common question I get asked is ‘do you know anybody in another country that we can connect our school with?’
Or, ‘are there examples of great work you’ve seen, based on your works in other places?’ And so I developed the planner for people to be able to connect and to share excellence in teaching.
It’s a forum, a place for conversations, and since that it’s just kind of grown into a social network where it’s a forum for teaching and learning where people can source and share unit plans and collaborate together.
They’ve also been using it as a platform for digital communication for just having great conversations about [driving change].
You’re also an author, what compels you to share your insights across so many different mediums?
For me, books are kind of a snapshot of a point in time; what you’re thinking, where your work is at, and I’ve written six books and there’s actually three more that people don’t know about that are in the queue right now … there’s two more that I’m actively writing.
There’s a lot going on in my brain and I have to get it out.
But I think it’s important to put forward a solution, because there’s so many offers [out there that say] ‘I really want to do an eloquent job talking about what’s wrong with education’.
I’m not really interested in having that conversation, what I’m really interested in is talking about the possibilities, things we can do together to make education exceptional.
And that’s really what my focus is. Kids are 15 per cent of our population, but they are 100 per cent of our future, and I think it’s really important that we honour the profession of education and support it in whatever way we can, and that’s really what pushes me to break forward so much more, is to really help educators to do the excellent work they do, and to make it exceptional.
Has education always been an area of interest for you?
It’s more come along with my exposure to it, I guess. My educational experiences were not great, I wouldn’t want kids to go through the experiences that I went through. So, certainly some of that drives my thinking for sure.
But more, it’s just seeing the possibilities for creating a bright future, I just see those possibilities more and more and I’m more drawn to share that thinking with educators.
You’ve lived in Japan and studied painting in Florence, how have these experiences shaped your approach to digital learning and innovation?
I can think of no better education in life than travel. Once you experience other cultures, religions and ways of doing things it alters permanently your perception of your own country and your very existence.
We have never been more connected than we are today and technology has enabled that. I have conversations across three continents most days, and that’s just the new normal.
Yet even though we have never been more connected, we have never felt more alone.
We all wish for authentic relationships, and I’m seeing a shift in schools and in our cultures where the fascination with technology is waning, and we are now using more as a transparent tool to connect with others in meaningful ways.
What can delegates expect to take away from your presentation at EduTECH?
I’m really excited about my presentation at EduTECH, I’m going to be focussing on some brand new work that no one’s seen yet ... and that has to do with futurefocused learning. And we are finding the shift in practice that goes into what future-focused learning is. So if we compare STEM, PBL and Inquiry, all these great pedagogies, what’s similar amongst them? What does future-focused teaching look like? So I’m going to be very explicit about what that is.
How can teachers transform their approach to ed tech right now?
I’m often asked ‘if I can do one thing in my practice that would shift what I’m doing, what is that?’ And it’s tough to say one thing, but there’s a few things. We should be asking more questions than we answer, that’s probably the most important thing that educators can be working on. We should be making sure that what we’re talking about has relevance and connection to the world. If there is no connection the learning is not going to happen. We have to find a way to bring relevance and connection to every conversation. You do it by asking questions and not answering questions; that’s a simple prospect to reflect on, ‘am I talking more than students? And am I asking more questions than I’m answering?’ It’s really a very simple transition, but when it comes to the digital aspect, teachers are really missing out by not being curious about what kids are doing. I’d really recommend [that you] sit down with the kids and let them show you what they’re doing. I meet so many adults that have [smartphones] and tablets but don’t have a single game on them. These are the most powerful gaming devices on the planet, so do some gaming and do what the kids are doing, and start to experience how they’re using these technologies and it’ll become really obvious very quickly how we can use these devices to transform teaching.