Posts from the ‘digital technologies’ Category

Professional Learning Day

A guest post by Margaret McLelland*
On Friday 25th March 2011 the NSW Secondary Deputy Principals Association is holding its second Professional Learning Day. This follows on from the first well-received PL day this year which had a focus on the digital revolution. The theme of the day in 2011 will be “What a change in education! What a chance for deputy principals!”. 
In response to our evaluations, there will be a suite of workshops so that there will be more interactive content and we’ll reduce the number of keynote speakers. The venue will be Citigate Sydney Central Hotel, which is close to Central Station and convenient for DPs coming in from country areas.
We’re in the process of designing the program and booking presenters and so it would be greatly appreciated if DPs could let me know of specific areas of interest they’d like covered. At present, suggestions have been more on ICT developments and progress with ACARA and news about the national curriculum.
We also like to provide practical, operational support for the DPs and school finances, O H & S developments and changes to staffing procedures are popular choices. Linking the digital revolution is schools to real change of quality teaching delivery in the classroom is also high on the agenda. Effective use of data to inform school improvement is another big area and one that DPs are often expected to manage.
Anyway, if there are any other suggestions for workshops and presenters, I would love to hear about them – sooner rather than later – as we must begin to form the basis of the program in the next few weeks and begin to book our presenters.
On a final note, a number of DPs mentioned how much they valued the time to reflect and discuss issues with their colleagues and so we’ll endeavour to provide for this on the day too.
If you are interested in working with a small band of DPs who will organise this Professional Day – it’s great professional development and experience – please let me know via email.
*Margaret is Deputy Principal At Georges River College Penshurst Girls Campus with special resonsibility for managing the professional learning delivery at the school. She is one of two Vice-Presidents of the NSW SDPA, again with responsibility for the Association’s professional learning delivery. With Miriam Wride, she won a scholarship from the Association in 2009 to write a paper on professional learning and school improvement and prior to that I represented DET at an international conference in Utrecht where Margaret presented a paper on using case studies to gain insight into what students understand about teacher professional learning. Margaret has also assisted with projects managed by DET Leadership and Professional Learning units.

Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education

If you missed watching Sugata Mitra‘s famous TED talk, about his “Hole in the Wall” experiments showing children motivated by their own curiosity teaching themselves and each other, you can see it here.

His new talk is equally engaging:

Dapto High is now an Authorised Certiport Centre

I do not usually write specifically about the school where I work, at our blog, but thought this may be of interest to DPs keen to improve student and staff skills, with Adobe and Microsoft tools, in a very concrete way.

Dapto High School is now an officially Authorised Certiport Centre, offering students and our wider community the opportunity to further develop skills using Adobe and Microsoft software.

The certification offered includes the following qualifications:

Click on the above links to find out more about each.

How does it work?

Staff and students are able to run software in ‘tutorial mode’ for selected Microsoft products and Adobe Flash, Photoshop and Dreamweaver. This provides candidates with feedback about areas for development. When the students feels they are ready to ‘sit the test’ they have approximately 50 minutes to attempt to gain the official certification.


Certiport are correct when they say, “in an increasingly competitive work world, employers need more than familiar users of digital communications technology — they need proficient users.”

Students and staff have a good opportunity to develop skills using this system to gain further qualifications.

Maybe your school should consider it?

Student Administration According to DPs


I am certain you will enjoy Stu Hasic‘s insightful guest post at our blog.


The year was 1993 and I had only recently joined the NSW Department of School Education as Manager of the Regional Information Technology Unit in Metropolitan East Region. OASIS was a major responsibility for our unit with our small team directly assisting school assistants and teacher librarians to come to grips with computer-based school administration software.

Now while these lovely (mostly) ladies were our main “clients”, the other group of individuals we commonly worked with were the Deputy Principals. In the front office and in the library, staff had to use OASIS and computers for their day-to-day work. But as the DPs quickly highlighted to me, they wished they could use computers for their day-to-day work.  Sadly, for them, OASIS was lacking.

There were key student administration functions totally missing from OASIS – Timetabling, Markbook, Discipline, Welfare and Parent Communication tracking, Attendance, Assessment and Reporting. As professional organisers in their schools, DPs wanted solutions to these problems. Just about every high school I walked into, the deputy would bail me up to complain about these missing “essential components” for schools. Then out of total frustration that OASIS v2 was released in 1994 without useable versions of the very things they’d been crying out for, DPs decided to take matters in their own hands.

The mid-90s was a period of major growth for the 3rd-party software developer. Due to direct and loud demands from deputy principals in schools across the state, multiple add-on solutions for OASIS started to appear. Timechart, SM-Marks, RISC, Denbigh, SAMS, SWAT, Motorised Markbook. Some DPs even developed their own custom solutions for their schools because they couldn’t find exactly what they wanted elsewhere.

They probably didn’t know it at the time, but DPs were showing clear leadership in promoting office automation across their schools. While OASIS was out-of-bounds for almost all teaching staff in the school, these add-on applications became essential tools for all staff. While it was the computer coordinator who was responsible for getting computers into staffrooms, it was the DP who was responsible for getting teachers to use them at least for student administration purposes.

Fast-forward a few years and DPs continued to push the boundaries as they adopted absence and lateness SMS and email alerts for parents, further reinforcing their place as pioneers and key ICT-stakeholders in every high school. But as the first decade of the 21st century fades into history, a new set of challenges face our schools.

Student administration systems in schools have been a little like the Wild, Wild West – but the new decade will bring an air of standardisation as education authorities across the country try to wrestle back control. While the plethora of 3rd-party add-ons have been effective in individual high schools, the growing need for statewide reporting and transparency of data means that it is now time to develop and supply a single, all-encompassing, integrated student administration system for all of our schools.

Student Administration and Learning Management, or SALM, is hoped to be that system. SALM is a major part of NSW DET’s Learning Management Business Reforms project which was recently bestowed $243M in the State Budget. If SALM is going to replace all of those different applications that DPs and schools continue to use to this day, then SALM will need to be at least as good as them because no DP will want their school to go backwards. That is why the DP’s involvement in the user requirements stage for SALM is going to be critical.

– What tools are you currently using that work really well?
– What tools do 21st Century DPs need to better manage their students?
– What data is required, who should be able to access it and how?
– What gaps still exist? Are there problems that still need digital solutions?

If DPs don’t contribute in this important early stage, it’s likely that SALM version 1.0 will not be everything that schools will need it to be. Trust me. We don’t want to relive the birth of OASIS with SALM. Your experience and knowledge of effective office and school automation are key inputs for this brave new world system. Get involved and lead the development of the solution you would like to see and use.

Fortunately, the SALM project team is being led by former DP and Principal, Garry Raftery and current DP, Tony James. To find out more about what’s happening with SALM, visit this DET Intranet website (not available externally).

What student admin tools do you find indispensible at your school? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Top 100 Tools for Learning

Looking for tools to assist teachers to stay up to date and connect online?

Jane Hart, using the input of learning professionals from around the globe, compiles a list of the top tools for learning each year. Jane is the CEO of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies based in the UK. I suggest you organise an RSS feed from her Pick of the Day blog to keep up to date with new online tools. There’s also a guide to social media at her site.

Here’s the 2009 list:

The emerging list for 2010 has twitter way out in front.

You can follow Jane on twitter and there is a Facebook page too. Finally, here’s her list of 100 featured learning professionals you can connect with online.


What follows is a ‘Guest Post’ by Mark Treadwell, a keynote speaker at our last annual conference.

Test scores in maths, science reading and writing have remained largely unchanged for almost 50 years despite billions, if not trillions of additional dollars being poured into education. Why is that? Robert Branson suggests that we have reached an upper limit of efficiency and effectiveness within our book based, text centric, learning system we have been journeying on since the Renaissance period.

We need to briefly reach back into our past to the Renaissance period to learn from that experience and then leverage this knowledge to reach into our future to fashion a world that can not only sustain itself but also one that can offer everyone the chance to apply their gifts and talents and play their very necessary role in the creation of solutions to the numerous challenges that we face every day.

The setting:

“Historians have long speculated why it was Europe, and not Asia, that launched the industrial revolution in the 18th century.  How could China, India in the near east – all homelands of great ancient empires – be so outclassed, technologically and economically, during the second half of the last millennium?  [1] Steven Carden

The invention of the printing press, coupled with the reformation and a raft of other societal changes initiated a tumultuous change which then spawned the Renaissance period. The pivot point for these changes was the invention of the printing press and the popularity of the printed book.  This was a big deal because fundamentally the printed book made learning dramatically more efficient and more effective.  Da Vinci no longer had to make house calls!

The capacity to transition to this new paradigm provided those countries that did so the ability to dominate the knowledge and creative economies of their time. For the very same reasons the current paradigm shift in learning from a text centric system to an internet (multimedia+ collaboration), based system offers the same rewards in the 21st century to those that will take the risk and change an education system that has remained primarily unchanged for the last 150+ years.  

This may seem an overstatement but consider the lesson from history that took place during the “tumultuous time” around the first paradigm shift in learning (where the centricity of learning shifted from oral language to become book based) resulting in the Renaissance.

In 1435 (the Ming Dynasty), China had a navy of over 1680 ships and was the dominant global technological giant. China had developed sophisticated writing, the application of stirrups to horses (it took Europe another 300 years to import what seems a very obvious idea), the invention of gunpowder, sophisticated pottery, complex social systems, spinning machines, banking systems and they even introduced flying money (and early innovation of the cashless society which we are presently reinventing).  They had no contemporary in the world at this point in time (see or the book/video 1421 by Gavin Menzies)

But China made a series of political decisions that would see their status as the global power evaporate in less than 50 years. They believed that they were above the need for goods, services or knowledge from other countries.  In fact China developed a tributary system where they gave away more than they received.

“The voyages became institution in themselves, designed to display the splendour and power of the new Ming dynasty. . . . .  The Chinese would not establish their own permanent base is within the tributary states, but instead had to make “the whole world” into voluntary admirers of the one and only centre of civilisation. . . .  The lopsided logic of the tributary system required China to pay out more than China had received. . . . . Daniel Boorstin

By the middle of the Ming dynasty China was experiencing difficult economic times[2] (Bosworth) and political tensions erupted and there was a change in power with a new emperor coming to the helm and suddenly the Chinese retreated from their ocean going ventures.  The new emperor saw commerce and trading as a political anachronism and promptly started banning sailing and by 1500 it was a capital offence to set to sea without permission. 

“The end of China’s treasure fleets gives us a clue.  Seven of those fleets sailed from China between A.D. 1405 and 1433.  They were then suspended as a result of a typical aberration of local politics that could happen anywhere in the world: a power struggle between two factions at the Chinese court (the eunuchs and their opponents) . . .  The latter faction gained the upper hand in a power struggle, it stopped sending fleets, eventually dismantled the shipyards, and forbade ocean going shipping.”[3] Jared Diamond

By 1525 the entire ocean going fleet had been destroyed and their owners arrested.  China had begun their 500 year period of introspection, based on the mistaken belief that they did not need to learn from anyone else; an intellectual arrogance that was to be their undoing.

In contrast to China, Europeans had struggled through the 10th -14th centuries but just as China was retreating from their technological supremacy Europe, borrowing heavily from the Chinese technology storehouse, was beginning its ascendancy.  A small group of Portuguese explorers entered into Bombay Harbour after rounding the southern tip of Africa in 1498.  The attitude of the Portuguese to learning couldn’t have been more different to that of the new Chinese emperor.  Portugal realized that they had to borrow new technologies from the East in order to learn, firstly through imitation and then by innovation.  The Portuguese returned to Europe after five years of learning from the Chinese and the traders from the east.

From here Portugal went on to become one of the great European superpowers of the next two centuries leveraging the technologies they brought back from China but also adding to that mix the catalytic power of the newly invented printing press.  The printing press was the technology that would underpin the first paradigm shift in learning through its dramatic capacity to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of learning by making knowledge dramatically more portable and reducing the cost of access to that knowledge.

By leveraging this new paradigm in learning, Portugal became a superpower and by shunning learning from others China lost its capacity to learn from others and iterate their knowledge and understanding. In just 50 years the world’s powerbase shifted from East to West. Once again, 500 years later the world is standing on a second pivot point in history. The internet is seeing the centricity of learning on the move again from being text based to becoming multimedia within a collaborative and open learning environment. The centricity of learning is shifting and no longer is the capacity to be able to manipulate and interpret complex text essential to further learning. Using YouTube and the numerous multimedia tool sets within the internet learning can take place via video, podcasting, Skype, chat . . .  at minimal costs. What we are witnessing in 2010 is a complex set of changes that are underpinned by a similar, single reconceptualisation; a second paradigm shift in learning that is being propelled by the communication tools and the collaborative, multimedia format of the Internet.

The last paradigm shift and the ability to grasp its significance saw a small country become a global leader and a vastly technologically superior country, disappear from view. Where does Australia stand within this vast landscape of opportunity?

The question we must ask next is:

“Which governments are adapting their learning systems in order to adopt this dramatic efficiency in learning and using it to improve the capacity of their country via this internet based paradigm shift?”

This paradigm shift coupled with our new understanding of how the brain learns via its two distinct learning systems (rote and concept), prompts 5 key questions for governments, communities, schools, educators and learners (all of us).

  1. What is the purpose of school/learning?
  2. What competencies underpin effective learning?
  3. What virtues and dispositions do we collectively value in each other?
  4. How do we foster the desire for lifelong learning capacity in every citizen?
  5. What concepts do all learners need to understand and be able to apply creatively/innovatively?

The national goals for education in Australia are consistent with a country looking to leverage this second paradigm shift in learning and see Australia develop its people so that can enjoy a quality of life others countries can only dream of. The challenge then is whether the Australian national curriculum will be the vehicle to translate these goals into an architectural learning framework for schools to outwork those goals. The nature of that curriculum is probably the most significant education debate for the last 100 years and it needs to be debated by a well informed education community and an informed public using the collaborative tools that are powering this paradigm shift – the internet.

What is learnt and how that is learnt and applied in schools, businesses and communities throughout Australia will pave the way forward for Australia and define its future. If Australia’s future is be driven by an innovative and creative culture then than culture must be deeply embedded within its entire learning culture.

[1] Carden, Steven; New Zealand Unleashed; Random House; 2007 P136

[2] Bosworth, Michael; “The Rise and Fall of 15th Century Chinese Superpower” ; Accessed June 2009

[3]Diamond, Jared; Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies; W. W. Norton & Co 1997; P412

Are all your eggs in one basket?

A guest post by Ben Jones from the DERNSW team:

A tale of the same meeting in two schools:
School A:
About 8 people are presented representing all levels within the school and regional support. Whilst there was an agenda with names allocated the flow of discussion naturally moved between various members of the team. All knowledge, skills and leadership was openly shared under the vision of the principal. Anyone could have been absent and there spaced would be filled by natural diffusion.
School B:
1 member of executive represented the entire school; some admin staff where briefly introduced but had no impact on knowledge. I was clear this one person owned the vision, skills and knowledge. If they were absent there would be no way to replace them.

About this post

The aim of the following points is not to tell school leaders how to suck eggs, they have been doing succession management for leadership for a long time (in my view NSW schools do it exceptionally well). Rather this discussion is to consider how succession management could evolve in this digital age, the new succession issues that the digital age creates and how they can be managed in a digital way.


A quick survey of school accounts and passwords in an average school could be far more extensive than may appear on the surface have you considered all these:

  1. School moodle admin
  2. School shared drives server admin
  3. School Facebook account for Alumni
  4. School youtube account
  5. Teachers class blogs, wikis, web2.0 tools (this could be a very extensive list)
  6. Wireless access passwords
  7. School Zoomerang account
  8. School website
  9. The list goes on and on and on

Who holds the passwords, what happens if they are no longer around and access is required, what if it’s critical?

Solution: A password protected OneNote file could be created that all Senior Executive can edit. As part of school procedure when a new account in any online application or server is created the OneNote file is updated.


If a school has decided to set up their own network, servers or moodle installation how many people know how to manage the setup in your school? This can be off the radar for many leaders, if you not sure of the impact get a few quotes for a third party vendor to reconfigure your entire installation, it won’t be cheap.

Solution: A technicians (teachers, SASS or vendors) must document everything about their installation and configuration, this should be clear in there roll statement. A team should be responsible and they should all be equally skilled and knowledgeable about the installation and configuration.


Some questions about knowledge and information in your school:

  1. How well is the knowledge of technology (resources, links, professional learning events, frameworks, online tools, etc) shared across your school.
  2. Is information filtered?
  3. Is information only accessible from a gate keeper?
  4. Can all information be accessed anywhere anytime?
  5. Does your school have an internal communications strategy?
  6. Do all staff know where they can access school/community/district/region/state procedures and documents

The knowledge is what affects most teachers every day, not knowing where to access or knowing it has to be accessed from a specific person becomes a barrier to effective practice. Rather all knowledge can be stored in a wiki designed under the principles of ‘organic design‘. All teachers can contribute and refine, so as a resource is discovered it can be shared leading to shared engagement and ownership of knowledge which is when knowledge become very powerful. This article explains how a university library transformed is procedures by moving to a wiki.