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Episode eight

The Virtual Staffroom Podcast

Episode 8: Taking the Leap into 2021

 

Joachim Cohen:

Welcome to the Virtual Staff Room, a podcast made for teachers by teachers and all with a dash of educational technology thrown in. My name is Joachim Cohen, your host and the school's technology innovation lead, with the Technology 4 Learning Team, here at the New South Wales Department of Education, and that means I have the best job in the world. And today I'm joined by two rather awesome members of the Technology 4 Learning Team, Yvette and Linda. Yvette Poshoglian is an English teacher and a writer of children's books. But did you know she's also always on the hunt for some amazing edtech stories for magazine.T4L?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I am always on the hunt, very lucky to put together the magazine.T4L magazine, which is what we call it these days.

 

Joachim Cohen:

It's amazing, such a go-to source of info. Yeah.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

But you know, it's coming to the end of the year, and there are just so many things I wish we'd covered, but we're going to get stuck into in 2021. Just keep hearing amazing things from the hustings. So keep an eye peeled, we've got a new issue coming out.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Fantastic, and we're also lucky enough to have Linda Lazenby in the Virtual Staff Room. Linda is Waitara Public School alumni, and also the ideas person behind the game-changing student publication T4L Kids, an awesome independent learning resource for students across the state. Linda, do have a sneak peek for this term's issue?

 

Linda Lazenby:

I do, but I'm not going to say I'm the ideas person behind it entirely, Joe, because there's a whole team of people working on it from the STEM leaders. But yes, the sneak peek is that it's coming out in a few weeks, fingers crossed, and it's got a scientific inquiry focus, which is a great wrap up for the end of the term.

 

Joachim Cohen:

That's fantastic, some great independent learning tasks to get students all the way through to the end of term. I like it. So let's jump in. What do we have in store? Well if you listened to the podcast before, you know we've tried to divide it up like your school day. We start the day with assembly, where we talk all things edtech news, make our way to roll call, where we power boost your day with the best edtech resources, and PL to keep you leading and learning. Next, we catch up with our special guest, Mark Greentree, Director, Technology 4 Learning... yes, he is our boss... over lunch, as we find out a little about his journey, what motivates him. Plus, we might unpack some of the latest policy announcements that will impact schools in New South Wales in 2021.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Then, it's out to playground duty, where we answer your questions. And finally, we wrap it up with something from left field, in car park chat. But before we get started, our last two episodes were EduTECH specials. Yvette and Linda, having time to reflect, what was your biggest takeaway, and what are you heading back in to watch again on demand?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I think the biggest thing, now having had a couple of weeks out from the live version of edtech, EduTECH, is you can revisit, and I can look at all the things that I've missed, even though on the days we were monitoring and watching all the different sessions, there are a couple that have sparked my interest, in particular the one on the digital learning selector. I want to go back and listen to that, and just look at how I can utilize those incredible resources on there. So, yeah, with a bit of reflection time and the fact that we've still got it available, and that it's going to be available into next year for schools. I think, I really recommend you check it out everyone.

 

Linda Lazenby:

I felt a bit the same on the two days. I had a lot of people saying this was great. Make sure you go and watch it. This was great, and I don't have that list anywhere now, so I need to go back and see what I missed, and what I want to watch.

 

Joachim Cohen:

It's great isn't it. It's one of the benefits of actually having a virtual conference is that we can go back and watch it on demand, and share it also with our colleagues, and they can watch it too. So you can-

 

Linda Lazenby:

highlight?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh, look it's so hard to choose just one of those sessions, but I think one of the ones that I found translated really well, in this virtual medium, was the one on virtual reality, which is run by the stem.T4L team, and I just was blown away by how they actually managed to do that, and help me to experience and understand all these various parameters. If you're new to VR, I really recommend going and taking a look at that, and exploring, and they really take you through the whole process, and help to unpack it for you.

 

Joachim Cohen:

But look, we could be here all day doing another EduTECH special. We have got to get on. I think it's time to get on with the show. Here we are, the sun is shining, the bitumen of the quadrangle is heating up. But most importantly, we are about to share the best edtech news of the week, Linda.

 

Linda Lazenby:

I love a good news story, that's why I like this part of our story so much. A story from the AI for Good Challenge by Microsoft. Christine is a Year 10 student at Seven Hills High, in Western Sydney, who won the competition for her product called Sensory 4 Sight. It was a design concept that she has created as a visually impaired student herself, where virtual reality and sensory gloves enable gamers to be involved in those online worlds, without the use of their vision as well. Really, really clever, she talked about the fact that for her the pandemic had highlighted the digital exclusion for some of those impaired students, particularly with vision, and how important that online communication was.

 

Linda Lazenby:

I just love that idea that she's part of the problem, or wants to solve a problem that's going to help not only herself but others, and was rewarded for her great work as well. A good story around for Department schools, again.

 

Joachim Cohen:

What an innovator, and I think that when I was reading through that article, I was blown away by how I would actually think I'd really enjoy this experience as well, and it's taking gaming to a whole new level in a different way, and re-emphasizes the fact that sometimes we do things to make products more accessible, we're actually making better products in the end for everyone.

 

Joachim Cohen:

And I think she's just invented a whole new genre. It's so exciting. Congratulations to Christine is all I can say.

 

Linda Lazenby:

There was another winner from junior high school, not a public school, but they created an app that helps body scan match fashion for people as well, which I thought would be interesting to see over the next few years what might happen in that space.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I need that. I would use that. I would buy that. You're in. Sounds great. God, kids are cool, aren't they? The stuff they're thinking about man, it's incredible.

 

Linda Lazenby:

What's caught your eye?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Look, when I'm not recording a podcast, I am listening to stuff all over the place. I was having this conversation with a friend who's just moved house the other day about the transistor radio that I actually have been carrying around my house. It's my favorite piece of tech, and it's just one of those boxy things. I don't have a nest or anything that, but I have so many devices, so there's a device everywhere, just ready to listen to something.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

However, I did hear a very cool story actually, just recently, on Life Matters on the ABC, and it was about reflecting on what they called the Big 20. It was looking back at the last 20 years. Look, 2020 for us is going to always give us triggering emotions because 2020 has been a really big year. But actually thinking about the biggest changes, challenges, innovations of the past 20 years, in a global context, and it got me thinking about how tech has changed. Gosh, we were even just saying Linda, how much tech changed in the past 15 years for us and that sounds a long time. But if you had to nominate one tech change for you that's happened in the past 20 years, what would you nominate as being the biggest development?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Well, it sounds very low level, but for me I would think it would have to be the use of a smartphone. We were talking before this, I lived in London for four or five years, and the ability to FaceTime or Skype anyone, because I'm so old, wasn't a thing yet. I think those kind of technologies, as a parent, and as a person, it helps me no end that I can literally track my children. They can track me, which is terrible. It has pros and cons, but I think for me the smartphone is got to be it.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Look, I want to comment on Linda's first. I agree that with that, it's probably all those game changing things, especially for all those people in countries where, perhaps, they haven't had internet access, they don't have devices. Suddenly, a really reasonably priced piece of equipment can keep them connected, get them online, help democratise the access to information and to learning. I think that was a really huge thing that came out of the pandemic as well is the increased use of smart phones by people in countries where they don't have access, or even in developed countries, sometimes students were accessing this content via their smart phones.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I think that's a really huge development, and kinda piggybacking on that is the idea of this democratisation of being able to publish and produce, which I think is come round in the last 20 years. Also, things like Airbnb, Uber, everything's become a lot more possible for everyone to have an idea and make it into a reality as a result of technology. So that's not a real time 20 there, but maybe it's a concept.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

It is, and look, as I've been cleaning out my house while I've been on various conference calls, no judgement please, but I have DVD box sets coming out of my ears. I mean, what are the resource rooms of schools going to look like in the future? Please tell me they're not going to just dusty videos, which is what they had when I was there. But really, the multimedia access we now have to libraries of music, and information, and news, and films, and TV, I mean this is a game changer for us, obviously, in the Western world, anyway.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

So for me, it's that ease of access to resources which has been a huge thing, goodness knows where we're going to be in a few years.

 

Linda Lazenby:

I think when you look at it, I responded with a very personal thing initially, but then you put something like an education lens on it, and think about all the important things that have happened in education over 20 years that technology has supported. Big 20, it seems a lot, but there has been a lot that's happened.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah. It's a very cool little program. We've got the link to it, if you want to explore that idea further.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Thanks for making us think, Yvette. I really enjoyed that one. What's caught my eye is something called the Aussie Student Inventor Competition. Aussie Student Inventions that Changed the World competition, so that I get it right, being run by ClickView. All those NSW public schools out there, you've more than likely got access to ClickView because it was enabled throughout 2020, so make sure you use that well because this competition comes with lots and lots of resources.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Apart from actually getting kids to think of an idea, to actually pitch it, written pitch, a video pitch, as well as the idea, and how they got there, but they also can go and access resources that connect them with inventions that have come out of Australia over the last few years, and how those inventors came up with the idea. There are some great resources to help them in the process of developing an invention, and then also inspiration to actually share their big idea with a bigger audience.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Just like we were talking about media, Yvette, there's some great media to go consume, but then students are going to produce their own, to actually sell their idea back to this amazing group of judges.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

This is incredible. I was talking to a friend who's whose husband is an entrepreneur, and he had to go to entrepreneur camp, so that he could talk to other entrepreneurs about feeling good about being an entrepreneur. After the giggles, I actually started to think about that and Joe it with this. This is like real world application skills for students. And goodness knows what these students... like with your student success story, Linda, of the app designers from that particular competition, like these students are getting... They're actually business people already in a way, where there already prototyping their businesses and building them. I'll be interested to see some of those stories that come out of that, Joe.

 

Joachim Cohen:

So will I, and as a great end of term activity. You can really start to get involved in this competition opens at the end of November. You can start to get involved, get your students engaging in those last few weeks when they might be disengaged, and you can actually say, "This is something you could take further." The most exciting thing is the prize is all about connecting with these entrepreneurs, and actually looking at how you can maybe progress your idea a bit further.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Is this a high school competition or is it lower stages?

 

Joachim Cohen:

That's a really great question. I'm going to put the link in the show notes, and you're going to go and find out.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah, sounds good.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I think it probably applies to both. Yeah.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Great.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Absolutely. All right, are we ready to go?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Linda Lazenby?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Yes.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yvette Poshoglian?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yes.

 

Linda Lazenby:

We normally get that roll.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Ahhh yes, And my co-presenters are wide awake to my ruse this episode. Now it is time to give you our cheat sheet on the most awesome resources and professional learning that we've found. Yvette, have you found something for our listeners to engage with this week?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I do. I've got a whole list but I'll keep it brief. We've got a new issue of magazine.T4L, which is just out. And gosh, we're into the alliteration, this year, it's top tech of 2020. I don't know how many more times I can say 2020 in this podcast. It's a look back at some of our best articles of the year, our most well read articles, and we're just reproducing some of that content for you.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

We've also got some updates on some incredible Hour of Code stuff that's coming up at the end of this term, and a whole bunch of incursions that we've got that we encourage you to check out. There is just another one thing that I want to touch on as well, and I mentioned the digital learning selector before, but there is actually a very cool book creator product on there, which I know schools are maybe pulling together anthologies or things at the end of this year, is really great, and there's also a certification you can undertake as well, so we'll chuck that in the notes as well. That's me. Yeah, there's a lot happening.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Fantastic. I really love the digital learning selector because if you're trying to figure out a tool that you can use to accomplish something, be it presentations, be it a podcast, be it video, you can go on there and find some tools, or the how-to guides, and they actually have downloadable templates. They must have a downloadable template. Is that right?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yes, very, very cool, and I just like the fact that you can undertake some certification now as well to really build your skills and put towards PL.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Time saver, I really like it. What I found is another on-demand conference. We were talking about EduTECH. I also noticed that Adobe MAX was on-demand this year. For those of you don't know about Adobe MAX, Adobe have those great creativity tools, and Adobe MAX is all about building skills with those tools, but also connecting with loads of industry experts in that creative area. Most of the sessions are available on-demand, and they're all free. It's really exciting. So I'll put a link to it in the show notes.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I had about three things that I thought were really exciting, that I pulled out of it. One of them was the business of designing an icon, and it was all about how they actually redesigned the Land Rover Defender. A lot of you might know-

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Funny how that's a car invention, Joe, transport.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I know, here we go, I've managed to just weave it back in again. It's fantastic. You might have all encountered that really old Land Rover style car that has been around forever.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Covet it, covet it, what's new?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yeah. It looks similar, but the same, and the fellow that goes through it is actually an Australian. I think it's Gerry McGovern, who goes through the process of how they redesigned it. It's really interesting to follow the students to see the process that they went through, and then they can go and gain the skills using the Adobe Tools, and another part of Adobe MAX to actually have a go at maybe reinventing something themselves. I really like those ones. They were amazing.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Well, many of those sessions that you could maybe using your classroom as well, for maybe some secondary kids and then it's PL for you at the same time maybe?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yeah, I absolutely think so, especially the ones that are on the tools, but also the ones that are with industry experts. I think there was someone with a tattoo artist, which is really interesting.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah. There was some good ones on book design and graphic design, and how people are taking their own ideas and motifs and actually expanding them out to have an empire. Yeah, there's some really good sessions with some local flavor, lots of Australians in there too.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Wow, we're getting so many... this episode, I'm just feeling so much about entrepreneurial ideas and things like that today.

 

Linda Lazenby:

And empires, I was just going to say, I have neither of those things.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh, dear, but that's what I found. Linda, did you find anything?

 

Linda Lazenby:

I did. Just last week, our friends over at SLEC, the School Learning Environments and Change Team have launched a co-teaching handbook, and I thought a very good time of year to do it as people are moving into what's 2021 going to look in my school? Or as a classroom teacher, what do I want to do differently next year? And the Handbook, I spent some time going through it, it is just such a simple, yet fantastic guide. It works through the four parts of the cycle to make co-teaching work well. And that's co-planning, co-teaching, co-debriefing, and co-reflecting.

 

Linda Lazenby:

They work through the benefits, the challenges, and gives really good tips to establish how it can work well, but to also make sure you're making sure all four of those parts of the cycle are met. You're just not co-teaching and then walking away, that co-reflection happens, and the co-planning happens before, in order to set it up for success. It's a really great handbook. It's not too heavy. It's a very simple thing you could work through with some colleagues.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

It looks like they've chatted to lots of teachers already engaging in this as well.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Absolutely, there's a lot of teachers' quotes in there as well about what their experience of co-teaching has been. I know I've had an exceptional co-teaching experience with a colleague a few years ago, and I know some people that haven't had quite such success, but maybe starting off the year being on the same page with this Handbook could be helpful.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah, that's a great resource.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yeah, look co-teaching for me, if that's when you might have actually have a new learning space, where the walls mightn't be as rigid as they were, might have two or three classes in the one area. Is that the kind of concept that it's going down? How you might actually learn to teach effectively in that kind of space?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Yeah. It definitely talks a lot to those kind of environments, but also there's nothing in this that you couldn't put in a very traditional school that has very separate learning spaces. You can still be very creative, so no one is out of this co-teaching leap at all.

 

Joachim Cohen:

What a great little resource, specially for new teachers coming in the start of next year, so that reduces their fear right away. Ah, good find, Linda.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Joachim Cohen:

Alright, I think we're ready. My tummy's grumbling. Now, you might have been reading in the news that there have been some big announcements about digital education in New South Wales public schools for 2021, over the last few weeks. Today we're lucky enough to be joined by someone who can help us unpack these ideas, and that's Director, Technology 4 Learning Mark Greentree. But we don't just want to talk the future and talk policy. Mark is not only Director T4L, but is also a former teacher, a school leader, and someone with an unstoppable passion for driving technology for learning.

 

Joachim Cohen:

And yes, he is also our boss, and a concocter of all things awesome here at T4L, and probably the best storyteller I have ever encountered. So get ready to be inspired and to be taken on a journey. Welcome Mark.

 

Mark Greentree:

Thank you Joe. It's a pleasure to be here with you all today.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Mark, it's Yvette, here. Many of us know you as the Director of Technology 4 Learning, but we'd love to hear a little bit about how you started out. Tell us about your teaching career, and how did your passion for technology develop alongside that?

 

Mark Greentree:

Well, my journey with technology probably starts all the way back in 1994. My first appointment, I was at Edensor Park Public School, teaching a year one class at the time. We had some Apple IIEs at the back of the class, which didn't work, and at the time, trying to get them to work, and get someone out there to fix them would have been an issue. So I figured, look, I can't break them anymore than what they are. So I actually opened up the case, got into the thing, pulled out the drive, shook it, and realised it rattled, opened that up, and found a nice green counter that one of the kids had deposited nicely into the disc drive. I put it all back together again like a jigsaw. It started up, It worked.

 

Mark Greentree:

I told the principal and she said, "Great, you're the new computer coordinator." From that point forward, my fate was sealed. And then I became, at the time, the Advanced Skills teacher, with technology as a focus. They had a position like that, and then as I just move through, it became a process of look, these tools are becoming more important and crucial to learning. I was there when they delivered our one computer in the school that could connect to the Internet via a 28K modem, with Netscape Navigator 7 on it.

 

Mark Greentree:

And they're showing the staff how to use a CD-ROM called 'Grandma and Me', which had these amazing little clickable options in the software, which kids thought was fantastic. Really, that's when I started to also see the fact that technology was a great trigger for student engagement. And if we empowered teachers to make good decisions on how to use that technology, we really could tap into the wonderful opportunities available in enhancing teaching and learning.

 

Joachim Cohen:

And this journey with technology to enhance teaching and learning, you've been really at the center of it since 2017, across the Department when you became Director of Technology for Learning. And I'm just wondering, what are some of the big differences that you've seen between 2017 and now, that have really made your heart sing?

 

Mark Greentree:

Well, I tell you what, I'm a glass half full, sort of guy. So COVID-19, whilst it has had its challenges, has also presented some wonderful rewards in its wake. Our usage of technology, and our maturity as an education system in using technology effectively has gone gangbusters, ever since we had to go remote learning back in April. Prior to that, a lot of the processes that we had to do with the T4L team and with the STEM team was about going out there and engaging with schools, and trying to promote the use of technology, and trying to raise the awareness of schools on, "This is a really cool thing. You should trust us."

 

Mark Greentree:

Now, it's kind of like, "You want to hear more about this technology? Wow, come on, let's show." That was really, I guess, escalated that moment we went into remote learning, and suddenly we had many webinars. I think it was 105 webinars that were run in that short space of time, with so many people connecting to the internet, and connecting to our teaching and learning resources there, because suddenly, it became 'the thing' for teachers to connect to students, and now that they've got that, we don't want him to fall back into old habits again.

 

Mark Greentree:

We really want to take the great positives that came out of the teaching and learning, and really dial them up. Give them, in your words, Joe, a "T4L Power Up and uplift", and truly tap the potential of what we've got with technology.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Love it. There's been some pretty big policy releases of late, that have fairly significant potential to supercharge digital in schools. What are you excited about for 2021 in regards to those?

 

Mark Greentree:

Huge, huge announcements, so in the last two weeks alone, we've announced nearly a billion dollars worth of investment in public education going forward. We've got the tutoring program to support the learning of students. Now, whilst not technically a technology focused thing, it's really technology that's going to assist in driving and advancing that particular program and strategy. I'm working with a number of key stakeholders across the Department on how we're going to roll that out at the beginning of next year. That alone is around 300 million dollars investment.

 

Mark Greentree:

Then you move into... a couple weeks ago we had the Telstra contract announcement, where we're providing unprecedented levels of bandwidth access for students. We're taking basically giving every student about 5 Meg access in their school environment and really dialing it up in terms of their access to technology. That was another 320 million. And then of course, the jewel in the crown, which was about a week ago, 366 million dollars as part of the Rural Access Gap strategy, which is a key initiative under the Schools Digital Strategy moving forward.

 

Mark Greentree:

And it's all about delivering greater access to our students in rural and remote areas, and effectively uplifting the capacity of 1002 schools across our rural and remote areas across New South Wales. Now, that includes the delivery of more devices for the students to reduce that student to device ratio. It's about delivering devices to teachers in those schools, to really dial up their ability to plan, prepare, and execute highly effective teaching and learning programs, and really gain the best benefits out of the technology.

 

Mark Greentree:

And that rides off the back of a teacher device pilot that we put in play from last November, but that is come back with some amazing stats, in terms of what teachers have really gained from having a device for their own use in their teaching, and learning, and their administration processes. And also, one of the really great parts of this Rural Access Gap, is the one I'm most, I guess, excited about is the provision of time for those teachers in some of those schools to access and participate in professional learning, which will be led by a wonderful team of leaders we call the Digital Support Team, which will have members of our STEM program and also out T4L Foundations team, and we'll be broadening that team.

 

Mark Greentree:

And I believe, one of the people on the panel is helping to lead that and drive that Digital Skills Team. I think you will be just as excited as I am about what sort of potential this program has for those schools, and those students, and the communities that they serve.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Mark, with such huge announcements, and massive funding, and the changes in resourcing, you've touched on a couple of the challenges. What are going to be some of the top of mind challenges for you with these massive implementations coming up? I'm sure they're things you think about every minute of the day.

 

Mark Greentree:

Look, we've got to keep focusing on the fact that this is all about improving student outcomes. We need to avoid and make sure that we don't turn this into a Dumbo Drop of technology, that we sort of look for the cheap wins into public announcements and look great.

 

Mark Greentree:

"Here's a device for you, and here's device for you, and we've upgraded these schools and these classrooms with new technology." We need to make sure that there's actually long-term sustainable benefit there, and in conjunction with the actual devices that were putting in there, we need to really drive home the opportunity for high-quality, impactful, professional learning for the teachers, so that we can see that replicated in the student performance.

 

Mark Greentree:

Now, it's something I'm super passionate about. I guess you might be able to tell from my voice, and the way in which I'm describing it. When I first took on this role in 2017, I was really passionate about transforming our computer equipment roll-out because 20 odd million dollars a year is spent on putting devices into schools. I really wanted to try and drive a professional learning element there, to make sure that we got the best bang for our buck with that investment, and make sure that we were able to use that $20 million worth of investment in a real, tangible way that drove student outcomes.

 

Mark Greentree:

Now, with the opportunities ahead of us, for this significant investment with the RAG, the Rural Access Gap initiative, it's important that we drive that PL, that teacher professional learning, and enhance the way in which our students use it, and we need to balance it out with a mixture of online, face-to-face, on-demand, all of those different types of learning modes, so that we can actually meet the needs of the various different teachers and communities, with the different experience levels, so we have a sustainable program long after the funding cycle runs out.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Wow, and I think your passion certainly does just come out in everything you say, and the way you say it. I think we are lucky in NSW to have someone leading technology for learning with your focus on students, your focus on developing teachers, and no long-term bigger picture. But, if I can ask you, what does get you out of bed every day? What is success going to look for you in 2021?

 

Mark Greentree:

Look, I really... I know this sounds a little bit cliched, a little bit sort of like hokey, but I really want to make a difference with what I do. It's never been about me or my career, but about what sort of impact and what sort of sustainable impact, so that once my career does finish somewhere down the track, I can look back and actually appreciate the fact that while I was here, I did something that was important, that made a difference, and that impacted students.

 

Mark Greentree:

When I was a teacher and a principal in schools, I knew that I had the responsibility of positively impacting the lives of several hundred students that were in my care. Now, I feel that I have that same responsibility to 800,000 students, and 80,000 staff, and corporate staff. Whilst it might be daunting, when you look at the numbers, I follow this simple, reliable and effective motto. Basically, it doesn't matter whether it's eight students, or 800,000, if your strategy is simple in how you roll it out, i.e., it's on the back of good communication, clear execution, and in a way that is respectful and understands the true needs of each school and each individual school environment.

 

Mark Greentree:

I think that's going to drive success, and that's what gets me up in the morning, knowing that I have the opportunity in an exciting time to be supported with such a great initiative ahead of us, to really make an impactful difference now and into the future.

 

Linda Lazenby:

No pressure, you've only got 800,000 students waiting. You've led change at school level, and now it's state level. What advice do you have for school leaders going into 2021 to improve the digital capacity of their community?

 

Mark Greentree:

Well, again, it's that simple, reliable, effective message. The simple thing is to just take a stop, have a look, and ask people questions. There's a saying, and it's one of my favorites, it's, "If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room." I'm happy to say I've never been in the wrong room. Asking questions of people who may know more about technology, and might be able to provide advice is that first key. Principals are charged with an incredible responsibility to drive school improvement, but they should never be afraid to ask questions. We always talk about the stupid questions, and there is no stupid question.

 

Mark Greentree:

That's exactly right because the next question you ask will actually inform you even further on what the best decision is going forward. We have some great people around in ITD and out in schools that should be consulted and asked about ideas or approaches. Certainly collaborate with the community, and finding out what the school community wishes because they need to believe in the vision, and that's probably the crux right there, the vision.

 

Mark Greentree:

You need to be very clear about what your vision is. It's not about putting more technology in school. It's not about trying to make kids better at using computers. It's about making them effective in learning, and teaching, and engaging with others. Because technology is just a tool, and if we just realised that it is a tool, and that we use it as pretty much any other tool, it will actually enable us to focus on the important things, which is improving student outcomes, and tailoring learning and teaching to their needs.

 

Mark Greentree:

So that would be my advice. Don't worry about keeping up with the Joneses, and the schools next door. Some schools are moving at different rates, and different speeds. But certainly feel free to put up your hand, and let us know how we can support you because that's exactly what we're here to do.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Wow, sage advice. Thank you Mark, there's so much to unpack there for all of our different listeners, so really appreciate that. However, you'll be pleased to know the hard questions are over. Now, we're onto asking you about our rocket ship robots, and it's what we ask every guest. What piece of tech would you take with you into outer space, should the opportunity present itself?

 

Mark Greentree:

Look, I would probably take my Apple Watch because I'm particular about making sure that I closed up the rings in my fitness app. So getting up there and making sure that I hit my standup goals, making sure that I've got my exercise goals, and my movement goals sorted.

 

Mark Greentree:

I think if I'd left it behind, I would be constantly worried about not closing the rings on my device. It's become an obsession almost, but it certainly does keep me fit and mentally hinged, so to speak.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

It's alright as long as our listeners can't see where you recording in from on the road, and in a tiny room. We hope you hit those rings today as well, Mark.

 

Mark Greentree:

Thank you.

 

Joachim Cohen:

And what a signal about the determination and drive that goes behind your personality that, I think, is absolutely fantastic to have, leading and guiding the technology for learning teams. I think yes, on behalf of all of us, you've given us much to think about. Thank you so much, for joining us from way up on the far North Coast, for your inspiration, for the magic you oversee, and for the opportunities that you create. And I can tell you, I think we're all feeling a little bit more optimistic about what 2021 has to offer. It might be time for another digital technology revolution. Thanks Mark.

 

Mark Greentree:

No worries, thanks a lot, it's been a pleasure.

 

Joachim Cohen:

It's now time for my favorite part of the day. It's playground duty, and we have a question a little from left field today. Linda and Yvette, I hope you've done your homework for this one. It comes to us from a teacher in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, and it's all about accessibility tools. Wow, we're having a bit of a theme today. The question is, are accessibility tools only for students with special learning needs, or could they assist everyone, and how could you implement them? Linda, I'm going to throw to you first.

 

Linda Lazenby:

What a question. My answer to the first part of the question is no, it's not just for students with specific learning needs. They can definitely help everyone. How can we implement? Well, I think accessibility is a bit of an Aladdin's cave. There is so much out there, and sometimes, unless you stumble across the right thing, you're not really sure what's there. I think we have a good set of things to share with you.

 

Linda Lazenby:

One of the things I'll share is T4L Kids TV, and I think that visual, bite-size learning that kids can go back to and re-watch and... I think that just supports that self-paced nature of learning.

 

Joachim Cohen:

It does. It totally does support.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

So, T4L Kids TV is my recommendation around accessibility, and what a good one it is. I've been thinking as well about... it's been a year or maybe just over a year since we had our first Accessibility Conference at Phillip Street which was a huge thing. There were so many things that I still recall from that day, and things that we've now moved on. Accessibility is now part of every single conversation we have, which is really exciting. And I want to just point you all to some of the personalising learning from home information that is available on our site. And it's just really simple things. Things that I actually use because we are all time poor, and we're stretched.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

And when we're not driving somewhere, we're not walking the dog, when we're not looking after the kids, when we're not racing home from school, when is the time to get the stuff done? We were talking about do not disturb on our phone, or turning off our 4G just so that we had to have that time to think. I find one of the time-saving things for me is enabling dictation on my iPad, so that I can just say it and then it appears, and especially when I'm writing if I've got deadlines as well, it's just an incredible tool.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I think there are some really, really great... there's guided access on the iPad. There's making delivering digital stories. There's some really great things there from our Accessibility team, for you to go to, really easy to digest, and you can install it anyway you want to in your classroom or in your real life. I'll point you to there, and the link will be in the notes.

 

Joachim Cohen:

That's great that learning on demand, there's so much gold in there, and a great little resource for the end of term and start of term to go and explore again. I agree and I am going down the same route as both of you, except I'm saying experiment. Just go in, jump into whatever device it is, search for accessibility, and you'll find all these features that you can switch on. A lot of them aren't switched on, and you can go turn them on. Find out what they do, experiment, and see which ones might work for your student, or might work for you. It's almost worth saying to your students, "Just go and have a little bit of a look there, and see if there are some that might actually appeal."

 

Joachim Cohen:

A great place to begin, I think, as Linda said, was T4L Kids TV, for students to get them thinking, and then, of course, you can point parents to those as well because parents sometimes need to know how to use them when they're at home. And then yeah, to boost your own professional learning knowledge, go and jump onto, "Hey, take a look at those videos, they're phenomenal." Wow, the power of accessibility tools, I tell you, it blows me away. Consider yourself challenged out their listeners. Go and see what you can discover, and maybe share with us some of the tips and trips that you find. We'd like to hear about them.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yvette, Linda the sun is out. The heat is back. We're making our way to summer. The perfect time to sit back with an ice chocolate, some Iced VoVos, plus a little bit of something awesome. You're on the spot, Yvette. It's car back chat time, what have you been loving this week?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Look, a book for you to read over summer. It's actually a couple of years old, but I've only just found out about it, and it's called the Big Disruption, by Jessica Powell. Now, Jessica was an ex Google type from Silicon Valley herself, and she was a vice president of Communications, which I just love those titles they have in Silicon Valley. I think this is a great satire on the world of startups and big tech culture. If you liked the TV show Silicon Valley crossed with The Office, I think this is the book for you. You can actually read it on Medium, which is an app, or you can buy it. But, if you're looking for a techy fun read, this is it.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I really the sound of this, I guess. Linda and I are both subscribing, I think, as we speak, and I the look of Medium because I think that's a really great-

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

It's a curated digest because we don't have enough of those out there, but here's another one I'll find. Joe, what have you found?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Well, I found this thing called Skill Finder, so it's a free digital microskills marketplace, and this could sit in another part of our podcast, but it's also about developing skills that are not just about education, not just about the classroom. It's from some of the biggest names, so Adobe, I think, were the main driver behind it, but there's contributions from Canva, Atlassian, and Twitter, IBM, there's so many more. It's the vision of the minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Honorable Karen Andrews, with the idea to provide real and tangible assistance for people during these tough times.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Great for them to discover new skills, to build skills so that they're more employable. It's great for our students in the holidays. It's great for anyone to discover a new passion, so I'm really excited. I found a couple that I thought were really awesome. One's social media mastery from Canva, and there's this big 20-hour course from Adobe, called Adobe Spark Professional Learning Kit. I went wow, they're all free. They're all available. This is something I've totally gotten engaged with.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I know what you'll be doing over the holidays, Joe.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Skill Finder.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Skill Finder. Linda, what have you found?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Mine is a little bit rogue, which I announced to you both, this morning. I don't know if you know, but Gwyneth Paltrow has a website called Goop, and she also has a podcast called Goop. She's not on this episode, so that's my disclaimer.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I think it's slime. Is goop slime?

 

Linda Lazenby:

No, it's her initials.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

It's an empire. Remember? We've been talking about empires and entrepreneurs.

 

Linda Lazenby:

This week, just last week's episode is called When Work becomes Personal, and they interviewed an associate professor of Organisational Behavior. I found it really fascinating because I thought at this time of the year, when you're being very reflective on what did 2020 look for my class, or me as a teacher, or whatever, it's interesting to go, "Well, what do I want to do better next year?" He talks a lot about that blurred line between professional life and personal life, which we know teachers do terribly, and really find it hard to turn off because you're never done as a teacher. In terms of leadership, he talks a lot about how leaders need to focus far more on care for their teams, and less on their vision and their strategy because, ultimately, if you focus on the caring connection, and the learning that your team is having, there'll be less of a worry about their actual performance, and because that will happen because they feel connected and cared for.

 

Linda Lazenby:

My takeaway quote was, he said, "Don't love your job. It'll never love you back."

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

What a time of year to reflect on that.

 

Linda Lazenby:

And I went, "Well, happy 2020. Take that into 2021, teachers everywhere.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Really salient.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Your kids will love you back.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Some great tips in there though, and I really like that way of managing a team, but also of managing students. I think that's what we almost do instinctively, anyway as, teachers.

 

Linda Lazenby:

But it's that whole known valued cared. We know in teaching if we value and care for our students, their learning will be showing and their engagement will as well. But it's from a leadership point of view, and from a teacher's point of view, and it was just a very interesting, easy listen. 40 minutes maybe. Goop does have some great podcasts though, so have a look around.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I'm going to check it out.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I think we've given many resources today, well done team.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah, well done, us.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Homework time, did you tune out? Well, we have secretly coded your player to keep on playing. Yes, we have mastered the algorithms. Well, no, not really. I was just kidding, but this does hint at what's your homework is going to be. Yvette, Linda, did you realize that Hour of Code or Computer Science Week is almost upon us? It is, so as a result, this week we want all of you out there to head out, and find an awesome Hour of Code resource you can use with your students or use yourself. Where would you start, Linda?

 

Linda Lazenby:

I would always start in the STEM Learning Library because that's where I start all good things. I will put the board number in our show notes because we have curated some Hour of Code resources ready for teachers to use.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Tell you what I would actually be starting with our T4L website because I know there's going to be some great webinars on there. How about you?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Look, we've just actually had the Minecraft Hack the Classroom Challenge, which ran over a few days, preparing educators and teachers around the world for the Global Challenge coming in the Hour of Code. It's preparing us. The Minecraft challenge this year is called Minecraft Tale of Two Villages, where students are going to be using real life skills. Again, there we go, real life skills of community collaboration, while dealing with themes of sustainability. One of our STEM leaders is undertaking the training and we've got a report up on the blog that's going up.

 

Joachim Cohen:

This is amazing, so we've got a little bit of contributions,T4L website, and Minecraft, but we want people to go and find more that might work for their class and share them with us, because I can tell you we're taking this challenge on too because our next episode is all about Computer Science Week and the Hour of Code, so we're going to have even more for teachers to explore. Exciting times ahead, that's for sure. Make sure you subscribe, so that you get it in your inbox as soon as it's released.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yvette, Linda, as always, it has been a complete blast. Thank you so much.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Thank you. It's so formal.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I was expecting a thank you there but that didn't happen. But nevertheless we'll just keep on rolling. This podcast has been produced by the masterful Jacob Druce, who might take a little bit of those comments out, you never know, with the assistance and supreme coordination of Heather Thompson, as well as many more awesome members of the T4L team.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Just a little note, please be aware that all views expressed by the podcast presenters, that's us, are our personal opinions and not representative of the New South Wales Department of Education. Discussions aren't endorsements of third party products, services or events. Please note that as much as we sound like it, we are not experts in legalese, tech speak, or anything in between. We're just passionate people, keen to boost technology for learning in the classroom, and to help build the skills in your students, and for you to solve the problems of tomorrow. Do your due diligence, read further, and if we've got something wrong, let us know. We too, are always learning, and always improving.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Before we go, please make sure you send us through your comments, your questions for playground duty, and your thoughts for new guests and segments. And if you like the podcast, give us a rating, so more and more educators find us, and be inspired to get a little techy in the classroom. Stay compassionate, everyone. Thanks for joining us.