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Distinguished Educators

The ‘BIG’ Year In Review, 2016

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2016 was big…

ipad art room

Yep, that’s more than 10 full days spent up in the air! Those long trips included two fantastic tours to the USA, a sprint over to Europe, and lots of adventures in Asia including four trips in and out of Hong Kong (which seems to be a vibrant second home for me at the moment). I told you it was big!

Highlights? Well, there were so many. While I was writing this post it was pretty special to look at the year as a whole – what an adventure. How I actually fit all this into 366 days I’ll never know, although I am fairly sure the leap year came in handy, and my significant coffee addiction helped out too!
Processed with MOLDIV

Crunching The Numbers

Let’s start with the workshops. I am really passionate about opportunities to work closely with educators and students, and I put a significant amount of time and effort into crafting these ‘hands-on’ creative experiences (please don’t ask me to add them up!).

This year I facilitated 31 workshops designed for 15-150 participants, and I was so pleased to see that they resonated so strongly with participants, and received such great feedback. I’ve worked with three dual-language contexts, and a host of really interesting settings from P-12, remote locations to inner city sites, galleries, and more.

I delivered 16 interactive keynotes, speeches and Ignite talks, and these are some harder numbers to crunch due to estimating audience numbers, but I’m thinking I’ve been live in front of 19,000 people in those presentations this year. ISTE and iPadpalooza in Texas were the biggies.

Working with teachers and students has presented me with some exciting challenges in some very special places this year. I’ve been to six International Schools in Asia, working for a week or more on site writing curriculum and supporting their creative practices and pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning with art-making and mobile devices. Sometimes the days are six or seven sessions back to back, so when I added up the numbers I was surprised at the big grand total – I have had the privilege of working with more than 4200 children this year, some as young as three years old.

Best. Job. Ever.


Terrific Travels

I have wanted to attend the National Arts Education Association (NAEA) Annual Conference in the USA for many years. It’s a massive event, and so many member of my professional learning network attend. I was so fortunate to be awarded the Athena Scholarship from my school this year, and this support from St Hilda’s to attend meant that I was able to contribute to the important dialogue on site in Chicago, learn alongside inspiring arts educators and build lasting relationships with colleagues across the globe. I was so warmly welcomed – I really hope I am able to come on over for another year sometime soon.

My second time invitation to Texas for iPadpalooza was unforgettable. I just love this gig, and it was my first opportunity to create and deliver a ‘personal’ keynote. I’ve had so much support from Carl Hooker and the organisers of this event, and the educators who attend are always ready for action and adventure, just like their students, so I was really touched by the overwhelming warmth and positive feedback from participants after I came off stage. One very emotional participant really struck a chord, as he told me about some very deep connections to my ideas and experiences. For me, that moment was a profound reminder of the power of sharing, and the potential for both The Arts, and our children, to effect change.
The massive International Society of Technology in Education Annual Conference was held in Colorado this year, and it was as epic as the surrounding landscape. Kicking off the closing keynote at with my ignite talk before Michelle Cordy took to the stage with a cracking presentation was just awesome. The support from the ISTE team was sensational, and seeing so many friends and colleagues in the audience was really special. Thank you to all the Aussie educators who took the time to send me messages of support from all across the country. I have a feeling that this moment will be on my career highlights reel!

I’ve had some opportunities to work with great teams, but these guys in Denver…just wow.

All my workshops at ISTE were busting at the seams – full with 150 people and waiting lines out the door. Very humbling.
stop motion denver
Travelling to China is always rewarding, and on this trip I presented a creative showcase to educators and influencers from across the city of Beijing, as well as a dual language workshop.

Conferences & More

This year I’ve supported some really great events. The National Gallery of Australia’s National Visual Art Education Conference, 21st Century Learning International’s Annual Conference in Hong Kong, Slide2Learn in Cairns, NDC in Sydney, Brisbane Catholic Education Arts Education Annual Conference, the list goes on…

I know that every minute of work I put into a presentation, a resource or a reply online, every idea I share, I get back in spades from the teachers and students I hope to support.

Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute

Over the week we shared in the historic city of Berlin for the 2016 ADE Institute, the learning just never stopped. Each day a series of showcase presentations from talented educators inspired us all, and workshops, presentations and opportunities challenged us all. So many of these teachers are trying to make a real difference in the lives of our children, and I feel so fortunate to be able to tap into their knowledge that the give so graciously, reach out for their support when I need it most, and call so many of them true friends.

Sharing the wonderful creative work happening globally and in my own classroom at St Hilda’s with this audience was an honour.

I’m also looking forward to another year serving on the Apple Distinguished Educator Asia-Pacific Advisory Board. Hooray!
Apple Distinguished Educators Advisory Board

Articles and Interviews and Podcasts!

There’s only so many hours in the day, even when you sacrifice a lot of potential sleeping time to fit more in. I’m always trying to get the balance right when it comes to creative output. Workshops take a long time to shape and hone, keynotes are beautiful when bespoke, and it’s always hard to know where I should invest my energy. This year I have spent more writing for broader audiences, and trying to extend the audience for the ideas I think are important. Some of the highlights in this capacity have been articles in MindShift, SchoolArts, Arts Queensland, and there are plenty of other pieces I’m proud of here. I’ve jumped into Dubai live from my studio, podcast-ed with Kelly Croy and contributed to online events all around the place.

I try to say yes to great initiatives and ideas from the #edtech and #artsed communities wherever I can, but it is getting to the stage where I have more that I’d like to do than I possibly can do. It is a good problem to have I guess.

If you’re interested…
The most shared idea on my twitter was the laser-cut mandala lightbox project
Most accessed blog post was last year’s write up on Sphero Light Painting
And, the most ‘remixed’ idea you all shared back through my channels was the Assembly app logos and emojis

Super Stuff!

This year in my own school I have been so fortunate to work with an incredible community of educators. Our Visual Arts department is a very special place, and we have a strong team of ADEs in our Primary and Secondary campuses. This year a big highlight was the successful launch of our own conference, iPadpaloozaGC, and we’re still buzzing.

I have enjoyed some very precious time with friends and colleagues in my travels, sharing ideas across continents and contexts with so many inspirational people. The image below is full of extraordinary #artsed peeps – a powerhouse PLN!

In 2016 some cyber-friends have become real-life mates. Sylvia Duckworth running over to the stage to hug me after my Ignite at ISTE is now a special memory, and being named Amy Burvall’s spirit animal was wonderfully surreal!

I also connected with some truly great people for the first time, including Austin Kleon (I know!) in Texas.


Great Galleries!

One of the perks of all this trans-continental teaching and learning is definitely the gallery-going. In 2016 I was fortunate to see works across Australia, New York, Washington, Denver, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Berlin. Some of my favourite moments included seeing Kathe Kollwitz’s emotional charcoal drawings on paper in Germany, walking with Theo Jansen’s ‘Strandbeests’, comparing all three of Van Gogh’s bedrooms in one exhibition, gazing at the vibrant illumination of the Vivid Festival in Sydney, viewing Ai Wei Wei and Andy Warhol together at the NGV, and the spectacle of The Met’s Manus X Machina. I may also have re-enacted the gallery scenes in Ferris Bueller’s day off with some help from my friends and fellow art teachers, but that’s another story!

As I discovered this year, one of the best things about Chicago is their public arts program. The city is a treasure-trove of extraordinary works, and I loved watching both locals and tourist interacting with the pieces on the sides of streets, in parks, hanging off building…everywhere. In particular, I found myself slightly obsessed with the (freezing) sunrises alone with the magical ‘Bean’.

It was also my first time in Washington, and I was completely overwhelmed by the museums in this city. The Renwick would top my list of gallery experiences in 2016, with their delivery of an interactive and immersive space to engage with thought-provoking and stunning contemporary work.


And Finally…Your Support

This year I’ve been so grateful to be the recipient of some special awards such as the ISTE Innovation in Mobile Learning Award, an iBooks Author Award and The Women In Business Awards. While this kind of recognition is not the motivating force behind the late nights, these kind affirmations are special, and do make you feel like you’re making a difference – so thank you very much.

Thank YOU (yes, you!).

Because together, by sharing our knowledge and experiences, we can create change. In connecting with each other, whether it is online or in person, we are working to improve the quality teaching and learning we can offer our students.

Here’s to a great, creative, 2017.

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  1. Carl Hooker Reply

    Great recap and what a year! Can’t wait to see what you do in 2017 to top it!

  2. Nic Hahn Reply

    You are amazing and I completely enjoyed celebrating with you by reading this post. You are so inspiring and your creative flow has touched so many classrooms in person and via the educators reading everything that you are sharing! Thank you for giving so much of yourself. The world is better because of it.

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