09. September 2013 · Comments Off on #dlda Reflections on George Siemen’s Adelaide Masterclass · Categories: e-learning design, Events
Melanie, Me, Alli and George Siements

Melanie Worrall of Klevar, Me, Allison Miller of Vanguard Visions and George Siemens (Klevar is co-directed by Melanie and my husband Paul Johnson)

George Siemens is one of those names in education that just keep popping up for me. I first heard of him in 2006, at Education.au’s Global Summit on Education in Sydney and came away thinking what a thoughtful, humorous, passionate man he was and I’ve followed his work with interest.

When MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) came about in 2008, I was too involved with other things to take part but followed their progress with interest as I very much subscribe to the notion that knowledge should be free – curation, assessment and feedback is the value-add that institutions can and should provide.

Last week I got to attend a Master Class from George, who together with other Canadian educators I follow (they punch above their weight in that cold country of theirs) pioneered the use and study of MOOCs.

He talked Complexity in Education and Participatory Pedagogy.

First up – complexity.

He stressed it was important to understand complexity and networks as underpinning attributes of society, science and education and used charts graphing the history of philosophy and the nodes/influencers and connections. He showed another with the connections between different branches of research and study. All to stress the fact that complexity is about interconnectedness and variables. If one variable changes – everything is affected. A system with multiple interactive systems and nodes will influence each other and the system as a whole.

Complicated systems are about every piece having a place and there being one right way to put things together.

Along the way he threw it out there that making things simple for students to understand was a lousy goal in educational design and facilitation. The goal should be to help learners see complexity and relationships between ideas, systems, people.

He later mentioned that experts work in patterns whereas novices think sequentially – which for me ties into this a bit, but more on that later…

He then discussed that higher education has historically responded to the technology of an era. He mentioned the book “Reinventing Knowledge” that explores how key learning institutions from monasteries to libraries to universities to laboratories have shaped and channelled knowledge for Western societies.

He gave an example: apparently Plato disliked reading and writing because he felt that the lack of dialogic interaction would lead to a lack of understanding of the knowledge being imparted.

The structure of information today gives us insight to structure of knowledge institutions going forward – because of the impact of tech on knowledge institutions.

An interesting point was about trends being reflections of what is happening. For instance, Facebook is a reflection of change- not a trend or change in and of itself. MOOCs are another example of this. George stressed that we need to look at the substantive stuff underneath – not the reflection or outcome. Don’t chase the pretty shiny outcropping!

MOOCs can have tens of thousands of students in them – Coursera has 260 thousand students who have registered. George has overseen a class with 3,500 students. But of course he doesn’t teach and mark them all and Dunbars law is that groups tend to break down into subgroupings until you get about 150 people in each subgroup.

He then shared a great quote from the Australia-New Zealand 2010 Horizon Report: “In today’s networked world, learners are placing greater value on knowing where to find information than on knowing the information themselves.”

As you learn, you develop a digital identity and gravitate to the tools you like

Learners, because of the fact they’ve been taught to learn Pavlovian style, will have few issues you want to pay attention to when designing online spaces:

  • Be aware of wayfinding activities when log into course. Students are visually disrupted when students log into course. Students don’t have physical, visual clues online. Students don’t have a set way when engaging with digital spaces. Design of the entry space is very important and should be simple and uncluttered. Use language that makes sense.

However, then you have two types of learners to design for if you want to build digital literacy and online learning skills:

  • Self-regulated learners (competent/skilled) – learn more when there are loose structures. 
  • Unconfident learners – learn less with unsettled/disoriented structure.

One possible solution in Moodle came from the very clever Natalie Denmeade who explains she uses conditional activities (you must do something before you can see something else) in Moodle to solve this. She has set up a course so that by default there are few instructions and tutorials – so as to keep it uncluttered and allow more advanced students to have a reasonable challenge. She then invites those who may be less confident to click in a tick box – which then reveals instructions and links to tutorials.

You need to consider the balance between structure and control when trying to build digital literacy skills. If you present a highly structured environment with little student control, students will not build digital literacy skills to the same extent as if you give them control.

He suggests that just as with LLN, you defined the digital literacy skills you wish to build in learners and break it down into competencies, then introduce them gradually to scaffold ala Vygotsky, Zone of Proximal Development, etc.

The idea occurs to me that pre and post course benchmarking of knowledge and skills would be useful and that I should take some of the questions from the pre-course survey and put them in the post-course survey.

He then moved on to networked learning and getting students to create artefacts. Rather than give them information and then an assignment where they create something – give them something to create first. If you create a course and provide resources and assessments – you are in charge. When students are asked to create and share artefacts – they are in charge and in the process of becoming a “transparent learner” they become teachers.

In order to develop competence, learners need to think in patterns. Experts think in patterns, novices think sequentially. That is why sometimes novices who have just mastered something are better at teaching other novices.

It is also why games and simulations are more powerful for learning than the pattern of knowledge transfer-assignment, read this-assignment, watch this-assignment. Games and simulations teach people to think in patterns. Getting students to create artefacts also helps them to think in patterns.

Immersive, complex learning environments form broader connections in our thinking. Most courses are not designed to facilitate the sharing of sense-making artefacts with others.

What do you build into your courses for students to share their understanding and teach each other?

We had a great conversation around our table on this and about the importance of not focusing on the product, but on the process. Content is a by-product of learning.

Can you get more insight from how well students are learning from what they create than from tests or surveys at the end?

Competorial creativity – about developing your skills as a student to combine ideas and skills in new ways.

Technology is an aid to greater proficiency, however you have to destabilise their worlds. Tell them to follow a tag, follow a group in Diigo – teach them how to find and curate information. They need to see the patterns, learn how to find knowledge and how concepts connect and relate.

You cannot just play to student comfort levels.

Top 10 lists and “best practice” go against the theory of complexity. There are multiple ways of thinking to bring to bear on complex challenges.

We want learners to think, be creative, generate new ideas and information – not jump through hoops. In the video “The Private Universe”, Annenberg media interviews Harvard graduates and asks them “Why do we have seasons?” Hardly any of these bright people got it right. Why?

Consider that our teaching methods surface things that aren’t necessarily valued or made relevant.

Current generation learning tools mirror a priori content. The Next generation tools will mirror the info, power relationships and fluid social structure of networks.

Reeds Law – utility of a network scales exponentially with the overall size of a network. If you have a larger group, can form more sub networks and individual-controlled formations.

When MOOCS are done well – students teach each other. One teacher doesn’t teach the 100k students, you change the format.

What are the principles that influence education in open settings and social networks?

  • · Learner autonomy
  • · Self-organization
  • · Transparent learning= teaching
  • · Participatory pedagogy
  • · Sense-making artefacts
  • · Shareable learning paths

What are students doing in their heads?

It’s about context and intended impact – lectures aren’t evil!

Profiles of Mooc learners? 30 plus, educated. MOOCs are not a competitive, shadow system. It’s where people go to learn things they can’t other places – for instance social network analysis. MOOCs respond to demand more quickly and represent the de-centralisation of knowledge that has been occurring for years.

George then challenged us to consider this:

You’re hearing lots of buzz about big data and analytics in education. How do you learn about it?

How would you do so in 1995?  How would you do it today?

While some of us would research on our own and tap into our existing networks, more and more people are turning to MOOCs.

Students pay for the curation of resources that are vetted regarding a specific domain of information.

Is it more efficient to take a MOOC and get curated resources and feedback versus searching yourself? Curatorial teaching and learning. Bundling what the internet has unbundled.

What about people sharing what they studied to learn a specific skill or to master a particular body of knowledge? Sharing of learning paths will give you curated resources. George’s learning management system platform is based on this.

George’s employer Athabasca University – has an ELGG site called Welcome to the Landing.

This allows them to basically creates a walled garden version of FB as not everyone wants to or has the confidence to interact with social media and social networks. It gives learners control over managing and filtering information.

If structure doesn’t exist a priori, learners need tools to create and share structure.

Question for you: How do you create virtual equivalent of student café online?


  • · Importance of learners creating artefacts that reflect how they view a concept/discipline
  • · Assisting learners to think in networks – relationships between concepts
  • · Teaching and learning in networks
  • · Opening up the classroom- global learner
  • · Exporting not only importing education – where do we find out what is happening in our country?

And for me, these were also big themes:

  • The big emphasis – lens of thought that is more consequential than anything else. If learning treated as opening a door to a corridor, then learners can search for themselves.
  • MOOCS – students validating and challenging ideas, creating learning artefacts, networked teaching models.
20. November 2011 · Comments Off on Your Brain At Work · Categories: 2008 Edublog awards

I’m currently listening to David Rock’s ‘Your Brain at Work’ in which he uses the metaphor of a stage and actors against a narrative of a typical day in the lives of two protagonists to explain neuroscience and how our brains function.

In doing so, Rock explores what we can do to maximise our finite energy and be more mindful of how we are using our brains.

This is a compelling book that has already spawned several AHA moments for me – and the two characters are still only half way through their work days!

So far, the biggest take-aways for me include:

  • our mental ‘stage’ only has room for a few actors at a time
  • there are times of day that are better for complex tasks than others
  • by paying attention to your mental processes, you can control the factors that impact the way your brain functions
  • being ‘mindful’ and paying attention to your physical surrounds can give you a much-needed break from the narrative processes that would have you dwell on planning and scenarios.

Am enjoying this journey immensely and will be sad when it’s over. Am looking forward to learning more about how to get the most out of my 1.3 kilos or so of grey matter at my disposal.

tags: brain neuroscience thought thinking 

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

12. November 2011 · Comments Off on FRSA 2011 conference day two · Categories: Events, My personal learning journey · Tags:

The Family Relationships Services Australia Conference was my first in this sector. As an educator, I found it a valuable opportunity to learn more about the courses I’m supporting our trainers and practitioners to develop.


Day two of the conference started off with Dr. Fiona Arney of the Menzies School of Health Research discussing Innovation and Planful Implementation of programs to combat Child Abuse and Neglect.

The question to answer is: Why is it that programs that prove successful in trials don’t seem to work or make it into practice?

Now obviously there are a lot of answers to that. But as in the education sector – see my blog post “Why is the VET sector disillusioned with e-learning” from April this year -implementation has a lot to do with it.

Some organisations attempt to adapt a program without careful thought around what the key ingredients are that make it successful.

Others try to skip stages of implementation to save time or money, neglect to get buy-in from key influencers in the organisation, and others still don’t have a clear picture of what the program is specifically all about and why they are implementing it in the first place.

When it comes to training, I was unsurprised to learn that a coaching approach that gets people hands on applying the knowledge, skills and attitudes that underpin the program is the most successful. Constructive vs. Instructive learning activities yielded a success rate ratio of 95% to 5%. In fact when it comes to behaviour (read practice change) , the researchers Dr. Arney was quoting – Joyce & Showers –  are quoted as saying they felt training and coaching to be “one continuous set of operations designed to produce actual changes in the classroom behavior (sic).” Newly learned behaviors take practice – in a learning setting and on the job – and coaching is vital to the process of new practitioners embedding these behaviours.

Second keynote

The next speaker was Jonathon Nichols, the CEO of Inspire Foundation. He started off with a few minutes of one of the videos from the powerful Shift Happens video project series – which is always an eye-opener and shakes the cobwebs out for a new audience. Especially one where some had a late night at the conference dinner and dance. Here is a link to the most recent one – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZjRJeWfVtY

Inspire works a lot with youth suicide prevention and the statistics on youth suicide shocked me.

As Fiona McDonald of Relationships Australia WA remarked in a conversation we had later that day, for a lucky country with all of the abundance we have, we also have an amazing amount of unhappy people.

Jonathon Nichols from Inspire presents Youth Suicide statistics

That 70% of people who need help don’t seek it is equally shocking. Reaching these kids is vital. Because they are avid and ind-depth users of technology, their norms in terms of communication are very different from ours.  They use a combination of texting, phone calls, IMs, Facebook postings and other tools depending on context. So using technology to reach them makes sense.

Of course, face to face is the ideal – but as Clayton Christensen et. al write in the book “Disrupting Class” – disruptive innovations start out as not fully evolved, bug-free alternatives – but they start off as being useful and better than nothing.

Nichols’ presentation was interrupted with a live cross to Prime Minister Gillard’s announcement about the pay equity decision for social and community workers. It’s not going to happen overnight – this pay rise will be phased in over 6 years, starting December 2012 and the Government is promising to increase funding to current Commonwealth-funded programs.

Panel on Workforce Development

After a break, I chose the Workforce & Quality Changes for FSP (Family Services Programs) panel to get insights into the issues in terms of training that the sector is facing.

Jenni Hannan, GM of Services for Anglicare, Western Australia did a great job in presenting the sort of complex scenarios people in the sector are likely to face and highlighting the range of skills – from working with children, to financial counselling to working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse people – that those working with families are likely to require.

The first panellist to present was Professor Bill Martin of the University of Queensland. He shared statistics about the Family Relationship Services sector as a small niche in the Family Support sector. Compared to Aged care with an estimated workforce of some 207,000 direct care workers, Martin estimated that the number of Family Relationship Service Practitioners is likely around 7,000.

Martin says that his research shows that the sector as a whole is an ageing one and cited statistics that would suggest at least a third of the workforce in FRSP is over the age of 50. As recruitment is largely from outside the sector with the result that 42% of FRSPs have less than 5 years experience in ANY Community-Services related field, it seems self-evident that, as Martin claims,  half of the people in this sector feel they should have additional skills.

Retention strategies, Martin feels, should tap into the altruism that attracts people to the field in the first place. It is instrinsic motivators, combined with a supportive, nurturing culture that will help organisations hang onto their staff.

Next up was Penny Crofts, from the Family Action Centre of the University of Newcastle. Having taken part in a Glabal Consortium for Education in Family Studies, Penny offered up the question of whether or not Family Studies should be an academic discipline – and, in so doing, allow for interdisciplinary linkages across health, education and other sectors yet remain conceptually unique. (she quoted Hollinger, 2002 for this last but I am unable to provide a link to the research as there are several Hollingers out there).

Crofts feels there is quite a lot of difference that a discipline would make. Amongst them are:

  • Elevate status of family scholarship and practice
  • Match national research and policy focus with education
  • Foster a community of scholars to enhance teaching and research
  • Foster partnerships across policy, practice and research
  • Contribute to development of public policy

For the full list, I’d suggest you seek out her presentation and research.

Professor Morag McArthur of Australian Catholic University was up next to discuss issues around working with children. She discussed a “New Sociology of Childhood” where it is acknowledged that children experience the world differently from adults and have the ability to shape their own childhoods and should have the right to have a voice and be engaged in the processes that affect their lives.

She then shared a picture of the complexity and depth of issues around families and children. One aspect of dealing with families that is incredibly complicated IMHO is that 1) while Emotional harm is now the most common form of reported harm to children in Australia – and 2) is increasingly recognised as occurring in the context of family violence and high conflict – 3) the large majority of it does not meet the threshold for state intervention by Child Protection Services. I do not have the full bibliography of her sources for this information but the citations for the the first statement is AIHW 2009 and for the second she cited (Brown & Alexander 2007; Grimes & McIntosh 2004; McIntosh 2002, 2005). The third had no citation.

McArthur went on to reinforce the points made by Jenni Hannan – that there are a huge range of skills and nuances of skills necessary to dealing with children. Organisations must determine basline skills necessary, provide ongoing professional development and mentoring and collaborate & communicate effectively across sectors.  

The need for a shared language across sectors is one I’ve heard from professionals recorded as part of the AVERT Family Violence Induction training videos  produced by Relationships Australia SA and from other speakers throughout this conference. I would also suggest they develop a taxonomy of key terms so that research and knowledge sharing could be better facilitated.

Dr. Jonathan Touissant, the Director of Innovation and Business Development at Interrelate Family Centres was the final panellist to present. He introduced himself as the only non-academic on the panel and after quoting Lady Gaga on the power of being different, gave a presentation on tapping into intrinsic motivators in order to build worker satisfaction.

I enjoyed what he shared about the SCARF model of what taps into intrinsic motivators. SCARF -: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others was  created by David Rock (Your Brain at Work). Download a PDF overview (95.4 KB).  Rooted in social neuroscience, SCARF explores 5 domains of human social experience:

  • Status – relative importance to others
  • Certainty – ability to predict future
  • Autonomy – sense of control
  • Relatedness – sense of safety with others
  • Fairness – fair exchanges with others
I found this model very similar to John Keller’s ARCS model of adult learner motivation, where ARCS stands for:
  • Attention
  • Relevance
  • Confidence
  • Satisfaction

 Building Capacity – Standards stream

After a break for lunch, my two colleagues and I headed into the afternoon stream of which we were a part.

Competency standards

CSHISC Competency Matrix buttons
CSHISC Competency Matrix buttons

The first speaker in the Building Capacity – Standards stream was with Rebecca Tidey of the Community Services & Health Industry Skills council. She discussed what I thought were innovative ways of using competency standards.

She discussed how by using the Common Units tool on the CSHISC web site, you could look at units of competency common to both the CHC08 Community Services and HLT07 Health Training Packages and use these units of competency to inform any Training Needs Analysis you’re doing in-house.

The Common Unit tool on the site groups units of competency by Competency Groups, which made browsing a snap.

I’m going to be working with our online facilitators to improve their skills in using Moodle and online tools, so I was delighted to find that under the Training competency of group there is a formal unit of competency dealing with proficiency in the use of electronic materials.  I’ll be reviewing my training plans for our trainers and consulting with the manager of the RTO to find out what I could do to map my plans to this unit of competency and provide some benefit to others in the organisation.

The units of competency are also browsable to Functional Groups (occupationally similar), Skill Sets and Job Roles.  You must be logged into the CSHISC web site to use the tools available, but registration is free and instant. You’ll find it at:  https://www.cshisc.com.au

Working with diverse groups in relationship education

The second speaker was Fiona McDonald from Relationships Australia WA and she was WONDERFUL.  Pardon the blurriness of the shot – I didn’t want to show faces so turned off the flash on my phone.

Exclusion - a physical demonstration
Working with diverse cultures can be a dance

Her session on Building capacity in diverse communities through Cert IV in Relationship Education got us up and moving as she handed out roles for us to react within and led us out into the hallway.

She then read out common descriptions of service provision – after hours, central location v. suburban or rual, various permutations of requirements for communications between genders, attitudes of the presenter to equality, English only, etc – and asked people to step forward or backward depending on whether the description included or excluded them.

She very quickly made the p0int that what might seem standard sort of procedure for some ends up excluding quite a lot of others.

She then shared the story of a learner who grew up in a country with a lack of educators, so his experience of classroom learning consisted of an instructor delivering information to some 100 students at a time.

As a result, his instructivist approach was challenged and needed to be overcome.  

She starts her facilitators with a 5 minute session – which he was able to easily do – then has them lead a 30 minute session and videotapes them.

The learner in question saw his approach in action and realised he needed to create more opportunities for interaction and participation from his clients.


Relationships Australia SA were the final presenters in this stream and we presented on e-learning.

Iain Henderson, the manager of the Australian Institute of Social Relations was keen for us to share our journey thus far and emphasize that we support our training practice by working closely with practitioners, supported by solid research and learning theory/pedagogy/andragogy and that we favour a blended learning approach.

Naomi Ebert-Smith, our video guress extraordinaire, presented on the use of video to create realistic and impactful scenarios – and how to achieve professional results.  I presented on the research underpinning e-learning.

I used Prezi for the first time and have to say I was pretty impressed with it as a way of showing the relationships between sections of a presentation.  Here is the end result:

Conference close

The day finished with the Honourable Diana Bryant – Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and I have to say as a veteran of a few dozen conferences that I have NEVER seen so many people stick around for the final address.

She encouraged the sector to use the challenges ahead in terms of funding as opportunities to explore innovation and new ways of working.

She also stressed the need for cooperation and collaboration across the sectors – especially in tight budget times.  

Her Honour finished by saying that in tough times remember there was always black humour, dark chocolate and red wine to lift our spirits.

My take-aways

I came away from the conference amazed at the paralells between the two sectors I work across – education and community services.  I feel an urgent need to learn all that I can to improve online educational experiences in the sector as well as to provide opportunities for the ongoing coaching and mentoring that result in embedding innovative practice.

E-learning shouldn’t only bring face to face learning online -but should also harness the affordances of technology to offer new – and sometimes better – learning experiences than in face to face.

E-learning is NOT a poor cousin of face to face learning – it is a valuable new environment we MUST explore to reach out to groups that increasingly use technology for so much of their communication and social interactions.

My questions to ponder

How can I beter address the needs of people who need to be able to put complex psychological and legal concepts into practice? And how can I infuse online learning with the warmth and SCARF this altruistic, feelingful yet professional group of people need to feel supported?

EduGeeks montageAre you an educator with a passion for teaching , learning and technology? Are you in Adelaide on 23 September?

Then you’re invited to dine out with other EduGeeks at Good Life Organic Pizza on Hutt Street on Friday, 23 September from 6pm.

Please fill in the Google Docs form below to RSVP. If you can’t see the iFrame below, here is the link to the form.


It’s just before 7am on a Sunday morning when most sane childless people are snoozing away comfortably in bed.

But I’ve been awake for an hour, mulling over various things I learned yesterday and how they are going to fit into my brain and what, if anything, I’m going to do about them.

I’m going to share the concepts I took away from the talks rather than a summary of their content. I’ve already done that in the live blogging I did on the day.

I arrived at the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus) just after 9am and was directed up to the mezzanine and to the back where those of us who stay connected via tech could tap and swipe away without fear of the blue glow of our screens and tapping of our fingers disturbing those around us.

TedxAdelaide starting soon

I am not sure how I feel about this. I’ve been to so many education conferences where the use of these devices is encouraged and celebrated. But I probably would have ended up near the side or back anyway as that is where the power outlets usually are, so I’m not going to dwell on it overly much.

I got to meet Kristin Alford finally after corresponding via Twitter and email. She is a techie, professional and mother of three children and the beating heart of this event. In setting up my gear, I heard Kristin briefing the speakers. She emphasized how important it was for them to be approachable – to even instigate conversations with the audience after their presentations as learning and sharing were all part of the day.

The first session of the day was on Augmented Reality research was presented by Dr. Christian Sandor, Director of the Magic Vision lab at the University of South Australia.

He started off by telling us the major take-away of his session was that it’s much easier to manipulate perception than to manipulate reality.

Sight accounts for ¾ of how we perceive the world and touch is ¾ of the rest – so if you’re going to manipulate perception, these are the two senses to go for when altering the perceptions of sighted people who can use their arms, hands and fingers.

I got to play with the demonstration model they brought in and got to “colour” a virtual sneaker. The little pen dragged along the laces, I could feel the grooves in the rubber and see it before me. It was amazing!,/p>

I couldn’t wait to tell my husband that night about it. His reaction (and he loves this stuff) was – they’ve been talking about this stuff for 45 years – when is it going to get out of the lab? And what will it do for humanity?

I focused too much on the tech obviously and need to explore further what it will do. I know intuitively that it could be used for design, for looking at nano particles in full detail, for practice on activities that might be more expensive to provide materials for. Chances are that it will end up being used for something my brain can’t begin to guess at now.

Augmented reality

The next speaker – Byron Sharp, also from Uni SA, promised to dispel some marketing myths around brand loyalty – using science.

He shared his view of science as repeated observations of the real world and looking for patterns that explain how things work, then developing theories based on those patterns. But theories without laws always turn out wrong – sometimes fatal, as in the Hippocratic theory of bodily humours.

He lampooned marketing experts talking about brand loyalty – one saying that if they could figure out why people join cults, they could apply that to brands. They talked about tribes and used examples like Saturn’s big get together of Saturn owners in the states. Yet, Saturn as a brand died out.
Byron then turned his gaze toward two major brands – Harley and Apple, and showed that the repeat buy rates on Apples was just over half and that the most fanatically loyal Harley riders account for only about 3% of revenue.

Look, I’m not sure that this was a TED talk, it felt more like just a really great uni lecture on marketing – but I will be looking out for Byron’s book “How brands grow”.

Wend Lear, a photographer who has self-funded projects to developing and war torn nature and teaches photojournalism to kids and photographers was the next speaker.

She asked us all to pull out a small card included in our conference packs and to write down something we were naturally good at – our gift. She said people tend to reject their gifts because 1) they come easily and 2) they are not using their gifts in any meaningful way.

She then shared her story and the stories of teenage kids in the Jenin refugeee camp in Palestine, a ‘camp’ that has existed for 40 years and looked like a poverty-stricken town. She taught the kids to take photo stories rather than just one photo and the results meant I was scrambling for tissues.

She wound up her talk by saying giving her time gave other people opportunities. Now back to the wallet – next time you’re fishing around in your wallet to give to charities – think about your gift and giving that.

James DeBoar, a year 12 student who is passionate about using social media for social justice issues, talked about why he thought it could and should be harnessed. I would have loved it if he’d had time to talk about his web site http://www.y-mad.com to provide “information, resources, networking and encouragement to Australian High School Students”.

Jonathan Brown, a broadcaster and community radio advocate, spoke about the reasons for communicating and the raison d’etre of tools like community radio and communication in general.
Community radio exists on basis that everyone in our society deserves to be heard and share their stories – it has touched lives, shared stories that wouldn’t have been heard otherwise.

He started off with the concept that “My Voice Matters” and made the point that with the opportunity to make yourself heard comes empowerment – but also responsibility. I liked that last. It seems to me that people don’t always take seriously that sense of responsibility for what and how they communicate. I don’t know if it’s because we can do so very easily and in so many ways – but it seems to me that the lack of sensitivity I see online and the waning instances of courtesy and respect I see offline stem from this. You can’t say something personally vicious or untrue and expect that it is defensible.

He then talked about the concept that “Your Voice Matters” and that we should actively encourage those who normally don’t speak up to have a say. We might not like what they say – but unless we hear things we might not like, the status quo will reign. If we need change, we need different voices.

On the collective voice “Our Voice Matters”, Jonathan said “one of most powerful things we can do is put our differences aside and come together and stand together with common human kindness – it’s about respecting community.”

A video about a the Adelaide Street Dreams Festival – a celebration of graffiti art. I’ve seen the graffiti art in Melbourne and apparently the City Council is considering bringing that here too. I’m not a huge fan of this art form but I can appreciate the talent of the artists and think it would work in the East Rundle area – and possibly some spaces near Hindley Street really well.

Kristin sent us out to network with the take-away “I had an idea, I made it happen, I changed opinions.” It’s been a while since I could say that and is something I am going to print out and stick to a few flat surfaces within eye space.

An incredible display of drumming and dance from a local group of Burrundi drummers kept us from after lunch drowsiness and we dove into the sex chromosomes of monotremes (they have 5 matched pairs, humans online have 1 matched pair).

Frank Grutzner from the University of Adelaide was passionate and energetic about his topic. For me, there wasn’t enough time spent explaining the significance of the overall genome research. In 30 years, 23 genes had been discovered – over the course of this project more than 18,500 have been. But poor, unscientific me didn’t come away with an understanding of what species’ genes we were talking about and where too from here.

Caroline Miller, deputy vice chancellor and VP of Research and Innovation at UniSA shared interesting research on how the pre-natal environment affects obesity in later life. Research done with sheep would seem to indicate that if a female is overweight at the time of conception, the resulting baby will battle weight problems for life. Our obesity epidemic is self-perpetuating in terms of nature as well as nurture!

Jodie Benveniste – a psychologist who works with parents and a parent herself – shared her manifesto for parents in five declarations to raise confidence, value the role they play and to celebrate what family life has to offer.

What I as a childless by choice person who has kids she cares about came away with was that it’s about being confident, not living through your kids, not comparing yourself to other care givers, enjoying the journey and feeling a sense of pride and awe in being the guardian of the next generation.

This didn’t feel like a world-changing TED talk to me, but my friend Will sitting a chair or so away who is a dad of a 2-year-old and another on the way got really excited about this one and sought out Jodie in a break to talk to her about it.

Next up was Carla Litchfield, VP of ZoosSA and a lecturer at UniSA. She’s travelled to countries that would scare the hell out of most people to spend time with and learn about endangered animals. She also organised and participated in the Human Zoo project where she and volunteers spent time in the large ape enclosure at Adelaide Zoo.

Her passionate talk was quite moving. She writes for kids and when talking to kids – tries to debunk myth of the wild – there are 2 planet earths – the complex, morally challenging world threatened by econological collapse – the other is the one we see on the wildlife programmes. She also tries to undo the anthropomorphising of animals into good and ‘bad’ by Disney and others.

I enjoyed talking to her at the break but she must have thought me simple-minded as I was rendered inarticulate by the anger of discovering that rich Westerners are consuming endangered species due to boredom with more mundane animal flesh. Jeebus.

A video from Restless Dance Theatre – using dance and theatre as mode of expression for physically and mentally challenged as well as those who are not.

Edwin Kemp Attrill is a freelance theatre artist, producer and Artistic Director of Act Now Theatre for Social Change. He shared a theatre type called Forum wherein the actors act out a situation to the point where disaster sets in, then stop the play and invite audience members to interact with them by stepping in to intervene to see if the outcomes change. They then start from the top and the audience members can thrust out their arms and yell stop when they think it appropriate.

This sort of immersive role play could be quite powerful in learning – applying knowledge and challenging pre-conceived notions or even coming up with new methodologies and strategies in problem solving.

Mark Tester form Uni of Adelaide and the Centre for Plant Genomics did his best to present a case for some forms of genetic modification to crops. He built his case well – showing that we cannot sustain our current population growth with the agricultural methodologies and use of crops in place today. The point I took away at the end was that GM is a nuanced debate – blanket rejection is not an option.

Tim Jarvis – an environmental scientist and explorer who has travelled to polar regions, deserts, mountains and rainforests shared his big idea to improve the green energy market – harnessing human apathy through making a small percentage of green energy options the default for people’s contracts with power companies. In other words, people would have to opt out to stop it.

Apparently there is a green energy credit system in place called RECs – renewable energy certificates – that works like a form of currency. The more green energy you produce, the more of these credits you get. However, the government has devalued this credit system by giving out far more than they should have to incentivise home owners to install solar panels. This has so devalued RECs to the point that power companies have no business case to invest in green energy. Making green energy a default would build value back into this market. Climate change is real – 15% has to do with domestic energy consumption – this solution will help to create a market for green energy.

Nick Palousis, an engineer and entreprenuer, introduced the concept of Biomimicry (book by Janine Benyus) – looking at what nature does and incorporating that into what we build and how we interact with the environment.
Nature runs on sunlight
Nature only uses energy it needs
Nature fits form to function
Nature rewards cooperation
Nature banks on diversity
Nature curbs excesses from within

Replace the word ‘nature’ with economy and consider what we could achieve and how much better we’d fit in with the rest of the planet.
If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far – go together.

Ianto Ware of Format, an organisation that seeks out and gets approval to use unused spaces where people can come together and create their own cultural events. He describes Format as Format – an organisation designed around idea that culture is something you do not just sit around and watch and made the point that just because you don’t get it, doesn’t mean it isn’t important or culturally significant to the participants.

His influences were growing up in the suburbs where there really isn’t a centralised social space, the Internet which can be both divisive and community minded and Globalisation. He feels that governments have a consumer model of culture and what the infrastructure is that is needed for that sort of culture.

The day finished with Sarah Strong Law – a Roller Derby enthusiast from Texas – teaching us a thing or three about what it takes to build a strong community. I could so relate to her story of coming here and feeling alone. She had a friend who encouraged her in establishing her passion for roller derby here and as a result built a strong community where ‘it doesn’t matter what you look like and you don’t have to apologise for it’.

TedxAdelaide tag

Her initial struggles to cope after being a workaholic in the US to initially unemployed and alone here led her to think about time and leads to my major take-away of the day:

We talk about time like it’s a currency – but do we actually budget it – do you have an emotional equity in tied in with your time?

When you think about joining an organisation/group – you need to look at how you budget your time- are you happy – are you fulfilled – is there something you can do to rearrange your life to become involved in a participation-based community ?

I should be going back and linking to all their web sites. I should be peppering this with images. But it’s now 9:20am and I need to budget my time for other things today.

Visit the Tedx Adelaide web site – http://tedxadelaide.com/ for links to podcasts, vodcasts and other resources.