Wednesday, 9 July 2014

nethui from other peoples views

I am unable to goto nethui this year. so I am taking some other peoples blogs to see what was talked about at the youth forum.

What does a teacher do on their school holidays? Apart from enjoying the less-scheduled day and autonomy over when to eat, we tend to spend the time thinking about school. And discussing school. This is particularly evident if you follow the amazing #edchatnz tag on Twitter - incredible people having inspiring discussions.

What did I decide to do? Go to #NetHui. This is an annual conference held in Auckland, where people from a range of backgrounds and industries get together to discuss the internet. All things internet and technology. There are a variety of "strands" and there is a large focus on conference attendants driving the content.

The focus for #NetHui 2014 is commemorating the anniversary of 25 years of internet access in New Zealand, and, looking forward to the next 25 years.

After an awesome introduction from Michele A'Court, we spread out into the four key plenary sessions. Based on my total-newbie status, I decided to stay in JumpStart, which from the overview looked like a safe jumping off point. Very, very quickly I zoned out. A lot of the discussion early on centred around internet governance (which I do have an interest in) and the Q&A tended to be a particular demographic one-upping each other with super technical questions. After morning tea, I decided to jump ship.

I found my "home" for the day in the Youth Forum. What a vibrant room! Loads of discussion. You can see the notes and the declaration from the day here. In the second session, we looked at the internet as a source of entertainment and the concept of clickbait. I found this particularly interesting, as I often have discussions with students around the differences between fact, beliefs and opinion. One of our key areas of focus in the English curriculum is "making meaning" and understanding a range of texts and text types. How then, does this filter through to "infotainment"? What is the difference between clicking on a Buzzfeed list of 25 Things Only 90s Kids Will Remember and accepting as fact that email with the subject line fwdFWDFwdRE: NEVER use your laptop WHNE its plugged IN!!!!!11 ? How do we, as teachers, facilitate the development of those skills? Should they be modelled? Explicitly taught? All of the above?

My table had a really stirring discussion and ended up, probably, with more questions than answers. We all agreed that its important not to regulate the type of media kids consume simply because we, as adults don't see the value. This is different, of course, to regulating the type of media that we as a society actively causes harm. Just because I don't think One Direction fanfiction has literary merit doesn't mean I should actively prevent students from reading it. I should, however, encourage them to read it as purely fiction (and a critical eye towards proper grammar...)!

We then dove into the concepts of accessibility, health and safety online. I was fortunate enough to be at a table with some young women who work for Youthline. We had a great discussion around the idea that students should have the access to anonymous, safe spaces online to work out their issues and their problems. As Youthline pointed out, 64% of young people will Google their problem before asking somebody face to face. Is there value in carving out anonymous spaces for these young people? How do we go about teaching digital citizenship? So many of us were allowed to "make those mistakes" without long term negative consequences. How far does the responsibility of schools extend? How much ownership should families and parents take for this education?

In the afternoon session the table was all mixed up with a new range of participants which was great for the topic at hand. We discussed digital literacy - what it looks like and what we want it to look like. We had a fantastic discussion around what some of the roadblocks are to digital literacy (time in schools, stakeholder expectations) and what society can do to better prepare our students for the future (use the innovative NZC and NZQA in the "free range" ways they can be used: stop accounting via grades and focus on recording learning journeys). Also some really timely and valuable reminders that there are huge divides between the privileged and not around the literacy standards that exist already: we need to be careful about the further burdens and expectations we pile on to these groups.

We then had a super lively discussion around whether Digital Technologies should be a compulsory subject and whether we should require students to learn programming. There was a lot of contribution from students in the room that it should be something that derives out of passion and organic interest. Our table came to a conclusion that, whilst programming isn't a human-human language such as Te Reo or French, perhaps aligning programming with the languages options in a school might be more beneficial. To our minds, situating it alongside art, fabric technology etc seems to situate it as something that you have a talent for, whilst putting it in the languages arena seems to create the idea of "no prior talent" needed. Thoughts?'

I then jumped back into JumpStart with some great, brief discussions on different projects people are working on. Also a lot of echo-chamber stuff. To be honest, I kind of tuned out and wrote this post.


  • Young people have some amazing ideas about the way in which they need access to technology. We, as their teachers, need to spend more of our time listening to them.
  • There are many discussions to be had around the changes we can make to our education system to better prepare our students for the lives they will face in the future. As Tanya put it, we are using a system founded in the industrial era to prepare students for the digital revolution.
  • Literacy is going to look very, very different in 25 years time.
  • I need to learn how to code. Volunteer teachers?

Apologies that this has been a really text-heavy post! Are you at #NetHui? What have been some of your takeaways? 
Copied from:

Nethui Day One: The Youth Forum

For the rest of the week I'll be at Nethui 2014, a huge conference addressing the internet and pretty much everything to do with it that isn't cat GIFs (OK, there are some of those as well). I'm here because twitter told me to and I was curious about meeting some of the authors behind the 140-character snippets that keep me from doing more productive things with my time.

The first day had a forum around young people and the internet and I wound up spending my entire time there. It's been a fascinating experience, sharing my ideas as an educator with people who come from an absolute galaxy of backgrounds and sectors. I've spent most of the day with some other teachers who are keen enough that they also gave up their holidays and money to attend, Youthline, and the IT sector (only teachers call it ICT. For shame)
The key ideas that have fallen out of the tree for me to take away and reflect on aren't anything new, but it's been fascinating and sometimes challenging to bounce them off others who've not been a classroom since they were 16.

Anonymity Vs digital presence: There's a real drive to keep things anonymous on the internet. I don't use my real surname on facebook or twitter, I mention no locations or dates. But in doing so, are we creating an artificial division between our offline and online presence? Why this need to hide our names from what for many people are an integral part of their everyday lives? In creating this division are we giving people licence to be abusive, to troll, because it divorces the online from the offline? I've often thought about "outing" myself on twitter and on here, but I'm not quite ready to make that step. It's an interesting idea.
21st Century learning and the "real world": A lot of the discussion was around improving digital literacy in schools and giving young people the skills to navigate social media, as well as "futureproofing" education. This was where I got all hand-wavy and noisy because if there's one thing I struggle with, it's the idea of teaching in a 21st century learning environment, where I'm expected to grow young people into critical thinkers who learn in an authentic and relevant context, and yet these kids will stand or fall based on their results in an exam that wouldn't sound out of place in a Dickens novel.
This got very interesting in the afternoon as the discussion of "futureproofing" young people to be prepared for jobs we can't even think of came up. Myself and other teachers in the room made a strong case that we need to move away from content-based learning towards skills/thinking based learning and giving young people the tools to learn whatever they need or want to. Then came a discussion about "core subjects" and asking if programming should be compulsory.
 This gave rise to a bit of an interesting discussion at our table as there was a strong argument put forward that programming absolutely needs to be included, with the counter-argument that we need less standardised subjects, not more. It was an interesting discussion and then this tweet from someone in the room pinged up:

 Now I appreciate that a tweet is a tweet but this bothered me. I'm not an IT professional. I know my way around a laptop, I know how to use the internet and I like to think I'm a reasonable person online. But I would never claim to know the ins and out of the IT industry, not even close. There seems to be a misconception that teachers are expected to be experts in every field that they move in, even though we as educators teach our students that it's OK to not know things if you're willing to learn. In fact, that's why I'm spending my holidays here! It made me reflect on how teachers are viewed and what we can do to change that view. It's easy as a teacher to forget that the real world/chalkface gap works both ways.

Lots to take away from today, tomorrow I am speaking at the morning hui to the entire conference about what we discussed at the youth forum. Bring it.

Statement from the NetHui Youth Forum

The members of the NetHui Youth Forum make the following statements following a discussion of what young people would like to see from the internet in the next 25 years..
Preamble (ie: quick summary – relationship of youth to the internet – why others should listen)
We are a generation that have been raised in the digital era – and we know our futures are inextricably linked with the Internet and digital technology. We’ve always used the Internet as a source of information and education, and now it’s where we live our lives: the line between “online” and “offline”, already hard to distinguish, will only blur further as we carry out our careers and relationships online.
The recommendations we make are made with that in mind. We seek a Internet that provides the maximum opportunity for us in our educational, professional and personal lives.
There is a range of information online. We recognise the new power of crowdsourcing (eg wikipedia) and education (digital citizenship) to generate accuracy rather than traditional regulatory structures. We want to know the places to access trustworthy information.
We recognise that most interventions to improve the digital environment have a positive and negative impact.
We recognise that when we consider internet regulation – most things need to be balanced, such as freedom and protection. We have no interest in supporting business models that are no longer valid in the digital age. When we are talking about the internet, we have more questions than answers.
Net Neutrality: The internet should be open and accessible. We recognise the benefits of traffic prioritisation – but want it (prioritisation) to be transparent. We recommend regulatory oversight – rather than regulation – of Net Neutrality to protect small innovative organisations. We want to be free to share our views and opinions.
Education: We recommend increased investment in digital citizenship education to prepare New Zealanders for the challenges of the digital age. Teachers need the support to be able to teach digital literacy, but parents play a really important role too. Encourage employers and educators to understand the free and open relationship we have with the internet, and in particular social media.
Media literacy is a critical skill for Digital Citizens and should be delivered through the compulsory schooling system. It should be the fourth national standard. News and information should be freely available, but we are interested in a better way to process and consume the masses of online content at our leisure
Safety: We need to be creating resilient young people who understand the causes of and reactions to trolling – not creating artificial boundaries between online and offline life. Safety should be taught in all areas – not just crossing the road from an early age.
Accessibility: Everybody should be able to access all tools equally, especially in education. Providers and developers should be thinking about accessibility from the beginning – not tacking it on at the end.
The future: Education can come from the bottom up. We are already living our lives online and creating content – we need to continue exploring the tools that allow us to do that well. We need to be flexible in order to adapt to the challenges that will come our way.

I dove into #NetHui Day 2 with a bit more of an idea of what to expect. I was really excited about some of the sessions listed and eager to hear more from a range of voices.

Early on in the morning I got asked to speak on a panel presenting back from the Youth Forum on Day 1. I was part of a pair with Dan Dooley - a very articulate young man studied Computer Science in Otago - and we shared the recommendations the forum had come to. You can read these here. Alongside us on the panel was a woman named Mia representing Facebook, Geoff Huston, Joy LiddicoatKevin Prince speaking to the JumpStart workshop, and a woman from the Maori Meetup whose name I regret not noting down. We initially went through and shared our perspectives and then faced questions from the crowd. Joy and Geoff were particularly vocal and I really enjoyed Joy sharing some strong, perhaps provocative ideas. I tried to articulate some of the challenges facing creating safe spaces for young people online, and delineating the importance between allowing them to be safely anonymous and also experiencing authenticity. It was a really positive experience and I'm very grateful to have been asked.

We jumped next into the Youth Wellbeing Online forum, really ably facilitated by Gina from Lifehack and Rohan MacMahon. I tried to keep my mouth shut and listen - always easier said than done! - but I did try to raise the question of how we can pre-empt young people learning resilience online without having to experience a negative consequence first. Too often, I have students that only learn their behaviour affects others - that they have a really broad audience - when faced with real world consequences. There were some great points made and I was so excited to hear a range of input from various stakeholders. There were some interesting points raised by Vaughn Davis and Rohan about how we can use data that is already being collected online and, instead of simply using it to predict when we're going to buy a cheeseburger, use it to provide more targeted care for those whose online behaviour suggests they might be in need of support. This is, of course, fraught with concerns about privacy and protection. However, I do think it has some interesting possibilities.

Gina also brought up the concept of how we cater to a particular audience online - we don't complain that we got fired, we brag that we're moving onto a new opportunity, for example. I think this resonates a lot with young people and the image they might feel the need to portray. We also discussed whether, as young people "grow up" online - from sonograms to graduation - will the internet need to be less concerned with remembering everything and more concerned with forgiveness? I understand this was also discussed during Privacy Commissioner John Edwards' address during Day 3. As I experienced at most #NetHui sessions, we ended with more questions than answers. I have to say, I was heartened by how invested the participants were. I agreed with Mike Forbes who pointed out that young people are actually engaging positively with a lot of these challenges in their own way and should be given credit for doing so. I think its also really important to clarify which demographics of 'youth' (ugh!) we are discussing. To my mind, I think of those ages 10-13, often coming into contact in an independent way with technology and the internet for the first time. Perhaps that is a perception coloured by my experience in the classroom. I'd be really interested in the thoughts of educators on this issue. Who should take responsibility for educating young people? Which demographic needs the most targeted education? As one of the last speakers pointed out - there is a gap between being digitally competent and digitally literate.

After lunch it was time for two of the targeted 'education' sessions. First up was "Tertiary Education and Lifelong Learning". There was an interesting discussion around where tertiary education is going and what current roadblocks are faced. There seemed to be general agreement in the room that there is currently very little flexibility in the tertiary education system and that it devalues innovation and values like creativity and collaboration by attempting to assess them. I got quite heated during this part of the discussion and frustrated that so much of it seemed to focus on assessment. Not guiding, helpful formative assessment but summative, outcome-based assessment. Grades, so often, equate to fees, which of course keep the tertiary sector afloat. As one contributor noted, grades are the opium of education. Hear hear! There was one cringeworthy moment when somebody suggested that they didn't want their children "experimented on" in a classroom. Education should just stay the same as "one way of learning works for almost everyone." This gentleman was sitting opposite me and I have to say I failed miserably at keeping my appalled expression off my face. There is a difference, of course, between experimentation and change for the sake of it and being responsive to the students in front of you. The gentleman clearly sensed he was not going to convince anyone with this position and left. I was pleased overall with the discussion around promoting and including the NZC key competencies and the shift from learning to content to learning skills. Skills can be transferred from position to position, rather than simply training for a job - this has to be the real transition in the attitudes of tertiary education.

Next was the session I most looked forward to - "Digitally Blended Learning" facilitated by Claire Amos and Stephen Lethbridge (Principal at Taupaki School). These are two educators I have immense respect for and find myself eagerly wanting to hear more from both of them. They truly practice what they preach and are so invested in positively transforming education in New Zealand for the betterment of students and teachers. The session was awesomely interactive and started off by establishing what it means to blend learning. For my understanding, blended learning is the utilisation of established pedagogy and teaching methods in combination with the possibilities that emerging technologies offer to create authentic learning outcomes for students. It is about shifting the expectation of the teacher to be the "sage on the stage" and more of a facilitator and guide, allowing students to discover the learning for themselves whilst being encouraged toward the right outcome. Most valuable in this session, for me, was hearing from a student of Albany Senior High School, William. He spoke about their 20% Time program, for which he chose learning to make bronze or as one his teachers calls it, "alchemy". He was articulate and spoke positively and convincingly of how he feels this program works for their school and the students. I asked him how he would describe what he learned. He basically summed it up for me - he never actually made bronze. But he learned which questions to ask, what rabbitholes to explore, how to keep going when something didn't work. He learned how to learn. The fact that he is aware of that and can articulate it to a room full of adults, speaks volumes to me about the inherent value of blending learning.

Afternoon tea came and went, along with a great discussion with MC Michele A'Court about the ratio of male to female voices. I deliberately hadn't gone to the Empowering Women's Voices session as I felt it would probably depress me and from the feedback on Twitter, that was a good call.

The afternoon panel was on Digital Rights and featured a range of politicians. To be honest, I mostly tuned out during their speeches as all basically turned it to electioneering. Gareth Hughes impressed me again when he mentioned that he hoped they could continue to work across party lines to keep improving accessibility to the parlimentary and legislative processes. I also tweeted during the questions that it was disappointing that, yet again, a man was given the first opportunity to ask a question and that I hoped the session on women's voices wasn't just going to be a token effort. Predictably, women favourited my tweet whilst two men immediately responded - suggesting that a) there wasn't a problem, it was "random" and b) that it was up to me to speak "nobody was stopping me". Not the most positive end to the day! It does speak to the challenges women face in situations like these to be heard and to carve out space. My kudos and respect to those women that took active roles in challenging these expectations during #NetHui, and to the men that demonstrated what being an ally looks like.

Overall, I found #NetHui a valuable experience. At times I felt a little out of my depth but it afforded me some great opportunities to connect with others and I hope to continue those discussions.

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