Dylan Wiliam – Day One (of Two)

Up at 6am – (This is 11 mins before my alarm usually goes off and 30 mins before I would normally get out of bed. I do love my ‘snooze’ button). Drive to Mentone Station. Park car. Get on platform. Check Myki (good to go). Forget to swipe on (more on that later). Check PTV planner app for next train. All good. Station announcement. “The Frankston Line is currently experiencing delays of between 4 and 9 minutes, due to signal problems at Cheltenham.” By my calculations, the train I wanted to catch is already 12 minutes late, so you can imagine what the platform looks like. Train arrives. Get on. Squish my suitcase into a corner and stand. And stand. And stand. And get squished. Because the further up the line you go, the more people try to squish on. The train is stopping all stations. So it’s slow. And it’s packed. And there’s a backlog. So it’s more than usually slow. In my head I know there’s nothing to be done but wait out the journey and hope I’m not too late. Annoyingly loud girls have annoyingly inane conversation. They get off and two city workers get on. And have the same inane conversation. I retreat into my audiobook – City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. I’d rather spend my time hanging out with Clary and Jase and Simon than listen to their hoohah.

Eventually I get to Parliament, and not late at all. But the Myki won’t touch off. Remember back at Mentone? Yeah, that. Lovely train man releases the gate with a warning to be careful touching on. Bless! Carry suitcase up the stairs, and onto Spring Street, then around the corner of Little Collins to the Sheraton. Up in the lift and into the conference. It’s not even 9am – and I’m pooped.

Luckily, we are here to listen and work with Dylan Wiliam, Formative Assessment guru and, as we discover during the day, a pretty nice guy.

You can see my complete tweet journey over at Storify (embed below) but I thought that I would tease out a few of the a-ha moments I had today.

AH1 – Within the first few minutes I had my first AH regarding Teacher Appraisal…a scoring model doesn’t work, but a FEEDBACK model does work. We’re supposed to be working on a feedback model, but it’s not always used that way.

AH2 – There’s only one 21C skill. Paraphrasing a quote from Papert (1998) – success in the 21C looks like this…knowing how to act and react to a situation that you have NEVER SEEN BEFORE.
That’s from 17 years ago, and we’re still teaching in a 20C way.
How about this one?

“The test of success in education is not the amount of knowledge that a pupil takes away from school, but [his/her] appetite to know and [his/her] capacity to learn. If the school sends out children with the desire for knowledge and some idea how to acquire and use it, it will have done its work.”

This is from Livingstone…in 1941!!!!! That’s 74 years ago, peeps!

AH3 – I already had a handle on this one, but it bears repeating. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? Learning Intentions and Success Criteria are critical for students to know where they are going and what it looks like when they get there.

AH4 – Planning your questions is a necessary part of your lesson planning. It’s not a question of Closed v Open – sometimes Closed questions get useful responses. Questions need to give the teacher feedback on understanding and thinking, not just ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

That’s enough for today. See you after Day Two.


Hipsters of Melbourne – student film

OMG. This is one of the best student toobs ever. Absolute gold. And, oh, the irony.

Melbourne High School Library

Some of the most enjoyable experiences at school happen when students are actually out of school – don’t you think? At the end of the year we release our year 9s into the city to research an aspect of urban life of their choice. The final result is a presentation of videos created by the student groups. These are seriously informative and entertaining. Here is one of them created by Lachlan Scanlon and his team members. I’m afraid there are some in-jokes here but I think you’ll still enjoy the video.    

Currently I’m working with Lachie to create library tutorial videos. If anyone can make a dry subject entertaining I think it will be Lachie.

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7 Things Only Kids Who Practically Grew Up in a Library Can Understand | Bustle

7 Things Only Kids Who Practically Grew Up in a Library Can Understand | Bustle.

This is me. We hang out at the local library at least once a week. Mum would drop us there and then go and do some ‘mum’ stuff. Soon enough she’d be back, we’d borrow our books and head home.

We used the library because we had no money. Books were precious commodities, new ones were only given at Christmas and for birthdays – and usually from my grandparents.

I remember very little about how the library looked – but I remember exactly how I felt while I was in there – and it was good.

Day Three – Bendigo Writers Festival

Today was the final day of the Bendigo Writers Festival – and it was another ripper day.

First session, Access All Ages, was Sonya Hartnett in conversation with Christie Nieman. Sonya has sometimes been considered to be ‘prickly’ over the years, but she showed none of that today. She is always entertainingly frank about the craft of writing, treating it as a job and a skilled profession. My favourite quote from her today was a response to a query on how she reads for pleasure and criticism – her reply? 30 years of doing it! Practice, practice, practice. [I created the wrong hashtag for this session and didn’t notice for the whole hour. It’s #accessallareas instead of ‘ages’.]

After that I had 15 mins to get to another venue to see the Memories of Our Place panel. Hosted by Sarah Mayor Cox, the panel comprised of Anne Manne, Bill Garner, and Di Dempsey, who were talking about the impact of place in our memories and histories.

Anne Manne has written a memoir about moving to Bendigo as a result of the violent break-up of her parents’ marriage, and the subsequent freedom for her, and virtual imprisonment of her mother. Bill Garner’s book, Born in a Tent, celebrates the long history of Australian living under canvas, from the convicts who were obliged to live in tents, and the upper-middle class who embraced it as a cheap family holiday, to present day camping style. Di Dempsey is a long-time resident of Bendigo, moving here permanently after spending many family holidays in the Whipstick. Sarah’s own experience of both living in Bendigo and being an enthusiastic camper enlivened and informed this panel, and her recall of  the characters, stories and events in each of the works was remarkable.

The last session I attended for the day, but by no means the last session of the festival, was Talk Right, Write Better: a debate on the need, or not, for grammar in every day life. Ably and amusingly hosted by Jonathan Ridnell from ABC Central Victoria, Nicole Hayes opened the speeches, arguing stridently and hilariously that grammar was absolutely necessary, comparing examples such as “Let’s eat grandpa” v “Let’s eat, Grandpa”. A world of difference in meaning!

David Astle followed Nicole, and convinced us that all grammar rules are merely fashion, citing examples from Latin, ancient champions of the rules, and their downfall, and many current ways of speaking and writing.

Fiona Scott-Norman was equally funny, and held to the notion that grammar rules were necessary but that we should should show sympathy rather than derision for those who don’t understand the rules. Her many hilarious examples of spelling mistakes on tattoos, “I’m awsome”, and “No regets”, had the audience laughing out loud.

Finally, Matt Blackwood spoke about street art and the fluidity of spelling and grammar. He told us about an artwork that involved placing Scrabble letters in sentences. When a number of tiles were stolen from the artwork Matt left it like that, but at some point someone came along with a black marker and wrote the letters on the wall, to correct it.

In the end, the panel decided two things: that meaning was paramount and grammar secondary, and that you had to know the rules to be able to break the rules.

My day was topped off with a late lunch with a terrific bunch of ‘birds’ at The Rifle Hotel, and then a 2.5 hour drive home.

This is a terrific conference, in its third year. Well organised, friendly, and fun. Heaps of choice, some really engaged and engaging guests, and lots of cafes, restaurants and cultural attractions to give your brain breathing space.

I learned a lot at this conference. Perhaps you will next year too.


Day Two – Bendigo Writers Festival

Three FABULOUS sessions today.

The first panel was called “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”, and consisted of Nicole Hayes (The Whole of My World), Kirsten Krauth (just_a_girl), and Jennifer Valentish (Cherry Bomb) in conversation with Julie Proudfoot (The Neighbour).

This panel had a great feel – it was obvious from the start that the four women had a great rapport, and had read each other’s works and enjoyed them. Julie Proudfoot had some fantastic questions for the panelists, ranging from the amount of autobiographical material they had drawn on, their thoughts on teenage readers, their inspirations for their protagonist’s voice, through to favourite teenage reads (The Catcher in the Rye, Paul Zindel and Judy Blume, and Bret Easton Ellis). Unfortunately I was not in a position to tweet during this session – and it appears that no-one else did either, which is sad because many fine words were said, including a discussion around the ‘positioning’ of both Krauth’s and Valentish’s books as YA, when both were and are intended for an adult audience.

After a quick cuppa back at the motel I headed back down to the Arts Precinct and the LaTrobe Uni Visual Arts Centre to sit in on “Unhappy Marriage”. Wow! I mean, just, Wow!

Mandy Sayer, memoirist, spoke heroically about the story behind her publication, The Poet’s Wife. The poet in question was Sayer’s first husband, a writer himself and a total psychopath. Sayer was honest – heartbreakingly, gaspingly so – and articulated both her ambivalence and immersion in her memories of that time. Jane Sullivan was a wonderful partner for Sayer, drawing out the details of Sayer’s memories and exploring wider ideas of power, madness and writing. This was an emotional session, but ultimately rewarding. I was able to tweet during this session, so you can check out the whole story here.

My final panel of the day was ‘The Other Half’ – Historian Clare Wright in conversation with Charles Fahey. This was a fascinating session, and one in which the guest shone her very brightest. Wright’s knowledge and understanding of the events that led up to the 15 minutes of the Eureka Stockade, and the female inhibitants’ role in it, is encyclopaedic and articulate. She was clearly on top of her subject matter, as well as having a broad overview of the political, economic and social situation that gave birth to the depth of feeling in the mining community that erupted so explosively on that day in Dec 1854.

Wright’s recall of the particulars of every woman she had focused on was enlightening, and she gave them all a new life of sorts, recounting their triumphs and disasters in detail. One of the main points I took away from this session was that The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka is being billed as the ‘female’ history of the rebellion, when in fact it is just the history of Eureka, encompassing both the women and the men that took up arms to fight against what they saw as an oppressive and unequal system. Tweets from this session can be found here.

I rounded the day off by talking with Nicole Hayes and Anna Burkey over a glass of wine and a cup of tea, and then heading to the Indian with Anna, Sarah, Justine and a young man whose name I have, shamefully in my tiredness, forgotten already.

As I write this it appears that Les Murray is waxing lyrical down at the Capital Theatre, and I wish I had gone, but sometimes you’ve just got to stop, sit still, gather your thoughts, and breathe.