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Distinguished Educators

The Year in Review – 2018!

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Once again I’m sitting here writing an end of year post in 30 degree heat with my sunglasses on, and once again it’s lovely to be relaxing with family after a busy year. Where does the time go?

Working with teachers and students has presented me with some exciting challenges in some very special places throughout 2018. These annual Year In Review posts have become a really valuable place for me to reflect on the year, make plans for the future, and they explain why I am tired!

This year I’ve been on site for four International Schools in Asia, writing curriculum, developing creative technology scope and sequences, and supporting 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 adding up the numbers I’m thinking I have had the privilege of working with more than 8200 children this year, some as young as three years old.

This year I also facilitated 56 workshops designed for 15-150 participants. 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 each of these ‘hands-on’ creative experiences. I’ve worked with two dual-language contexts, and a host of really interesting settings from K-12, remote locations to inner city sites, galleries and more. It’s harder to estimate the numbers in keynote presentations, but I’m thinking I’ve been live in front of about 24,000 people throughout the year, and it’s also my 17th year of classroom teaching.

In every setting I have learned so many valuable lessons that I’ve shared with others, from the smallest chat with a young learner, a classroom observation or a strategic conversation with a principal, ideas grow that are useful in my own classroom, in my wider school context to a colleague in Canada, a university student looking for data, etc. This kind of shared experience, collaboration and community is how we will move education forward.

Terrific Travels

As usual, I spent a crazy amount of time in the air; Australia is just SO far away from many other places! Those long flights included two journeys over to the USA, fabulous voyages across Asia, and a number of adventures interstate (29 domestic flights). 45 days away from home total. There have been some great trips over the past few years…

As I reflected on 2017 at this time last year, I mentioned that I find it profoundly affirming to see the work of arts educators acknowledged on the ‘main stage’ at big events, and more ‘real teachers’ presenting keynotes at conferences. So, it was so great to see creative colleagues Micheal Cohen, Christine Klynen and Luis Perez close out ISTE this year.

I’m finding myself increasingly supported to deliver opportunities to facilitate important conversations about the value of creativity, the arts, and desperately needed plans for an educational experience for all children that responds to the needs of the whole person in diverse settings. These are really positive steps forward.

Exceptional Events

This year I’ve been happy to support some really great conferences and events.

In July there was an amazing journey to Little Rock, Arkansas to work with Dr Michael Mills and The University of Central Arkansas. It is such a beautiful campus, and I had a great time working with their energetic edu-community and students. This team is really making a dent. I was able to share my passion for creativity with the participants of their summer writing camp, Bearswrite, led by Dr Donna Wake and Dr Jeff Whittingham. There were students from elementary to junior high producing some amazing work, and we ran a professional development workshop with in-service and pre-service teachers on technology-rich arts learning as well. Dr Mills was a wonderful host, kindly fitting in a tour of some of the regions truly significant sights including the Little Rock Central High School, which was very moving. With a drive-thru donut breakfast experience complete, tamale tasted, and lemon pie procured, it was quite a trip!

I couldn’t get over to uLearn in New Zealand this year, but they livestreamed a STEAM session for me, which is becoming a more common occurence as I have to say no to some of the events I just can’t fit in to the year. There was Teach Tech Play in Melbourne, the Ignite, Innovate, Integrate STEAM Conference at Kingswood Primary once again, and what a well-run, authentic learning opportunity it always is. CurricIT ran their first conference in Perth, and one of my favourite keynote moments of the year was captured pretty well in this image from EdTechSA’s event in Adelaide…

I am always pleased to be able to support teachers and students in regional areas – Australia is such a big place that there are many very under-resourced schools and communities. There were some great trips out west and up north, and the fabulous weekend programs for the libraries and Regional Galleries at Bundaberg and Burdekin were particularly rewarding.

It was my fourth time flying over to the biggest edtech event in the world, ISTE’s National Conference in Chicago, and all my creative workshops were full (actually, bursting at the seams) with 150 people and waiting lines out the door. The organisers put on a re-run for one capacity session, which really speaks to the popularity of hands-on arts learning in the classroom. It’s always so humbling when this community votes with their feet, especially after travelling so far to connect and share.

One of the things I appreciate about this conference is the feedback from participants that comes to you afterwards. I work enormously hard to craft presentations, so it’s important to me to understand what is really resonating with the educators who are choosing to jump into my room, especially when they have literally hundreds of choice at an event of this epic size. I was so please to see full marks for all my sessions.

This year, art teachers had an even greater presence at ISTE. I organised a meet-up with help from Tim Needles, and it was great to connect with art teacher from the area in person. Remember, there are some great resources out there, and the artsed/edtech learning on twitter at #artsed and #k12artchat are excellent places to develop a personal learning network. I think we’re going to see an even bigger group represented at ISTE next year. Watch this space.

I had a great time presenting an iTools set with ‘The Dream Team’ – Christine Klynen, Kurt Klynen, Micheal Hernandez, Chris Penny, Bea Leiderman, William Rankin and Casey Cohen. Christine and Kurt have worked hard to design a comprehensive program for teachers using iPads in classrooms through this workshop at ISTE over the past few years, and it has become better and better. They have made all our resources available online through a hugely popular iTunes U Course you can download and share here.

I jumped into so many events including a great PLN photo walk on the morning on our final day at ISTE. We met at “The Bean” and had a great time with about 70 members. It was a huge program.



TECHpalooza was the big one. Our conference was been two years in the making, and the largest ‘energy spend’ for me this year. But, as I look back over countless hours of work, I am filled with pride for the team behind this incredible event, and a goal achieved – to produce a learning festival, focused on creativity, innovative pedagogies and inclusivity.

This was the second time we’ve hosted a sold out event in this format, an event run by teachers, for teachers, at St Hilda’s School. All our decisions were focused on the idea that we work in support of our students and that educators come to this profession out of a desire to make a difference. We even went to space in an awesome interactive AR keynote.

Importantly, we also created a program that represented gender equity. This is the first conference I’ve ever attended in the edtech world with this balance on every level – organising team, keynoters, presenters and attendees. In doing so, I think we’ve proved to other conference organisers that IT CAN BE DONE. I can tell you, I was so proud of this one.

Articles, Interviews, Podcasts and Publications

There are only so many hours in the day, even when you sacrifice a lot of potential sleeping time to fit in as much as you can! Somehow I am still (just) managing to answer every email I receive, and I’m always trying to get the balance right when it comes to creative output. Workshops and keynotes take days and days to shape and hone, so I have to admit, it’s getting harder to know where I should invest my energy.

This year I have spent less time blogging and more time exploring broader audiences and trying to extend the ideas I think are important. Some of the highlights in this capacity have been hosting the #AussieED and #whatisschool twitter chat with great teams, writing articles for Arts Queensland, guest lecturing for universities, consulting with a number of library creative labs and makerspaces, running workshops in galleries, judging a film festival in South Africa, time working on a position with the Gold Coast City Art Gallery Education Reference Committee, amongst other things.

I contributed to the report on Australian Educational Technologies Trends, led by Dr Jason Zagami for the Australian Council of Computers in Education – download a copy, I hope it’s useful for you.

I’ve also been podcasting all over the place this year! In particular, I had a great extended chat with ‘Team Grundler’ on their podcast for Education Closet, and I think they’ve managed to draw out a pretty good overview of the arts learning concepts I’ve been passionate about for the last ten years – thanks guys! I also enjoyed the interview with The Staffroom Team for the first episode of their new podcast. It’s one of the more comprehensive discussions I’ve recorded about my teaching and learning philosophy, how my website came to be iPad Art Room, and the value of amplifying student voice through images as we try to move education forward.

Some of my most popular new blog posts included…
Learning with light
Crazy collaborative selfies
iPhoneography ‘hunting’
Animating images and Making Moving Montages
Combining videos
I’ve been sharing variations on the kaleidoscope work for almost 10 years now, but people are still loving those ideas. The courses here have been shared hundreds of thousands of times. The holograms projects were also popular this year, so if you’d like to find out how to create a Pepper’s Ghost Pyramid yourself, and the easy way to create animations to view in 3D, check out these posts.

I love seeing classroom videos that help our students to broadcast their experiences beyond the school walls… but I don’t love seeing heaps of time and effort going into the production of what should be a quick clip unnecessarily. So in my mind, this post with a few big ideas, awesome apps, and teacher-y time-saving tips to focus effort on the learning was one of the most important for me to share.

The post that had the most activity across platforms and generated the most interesting commentary was ‘Stop the CRAP-tivities!’ I’d had that one in the pipeline for a while and it felt like therapy to put it up! Thanks for reading and sharing it – it was intended to be a humourous entry into a very serious issue I see all too regularly in arts learning and elementary settings.

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 at St Hilda’s School is a very special place, and we have moved into a new teaching studio space with some new curriculum.

I have enjoyed some very precious time with friends and colleagues, old and new, in my travels this year, sharing ideas across continents and contexts with so many inspirational people.

The joys of travelling have really made for some classic moments this year. I melted the soles off my shoes visiting galleries in Western Australia during 45 degree heat and bushfires. I had a very ‘personal experience’ in security entering the USA with four kilos of PlayDoh and goggle eyes. I bumped into Brian Smith on the streets of Hong Kong during mid-autumn festival and was burned by inscense. I spent the Fourth of July in the USA for the fourth year in a row! I worked with Dr Kelly Grogan in three countries in three weeks…and accidently went to China with no VISA. I now realise Palm Springs is a long way away from LA. And, due to missed flights, I stayed awake for a record 62 hours this year (that one really hurt!).

I also decided this year I would use some of my time in planes to improve my digital drawing skills. The first one I posted was a (tired, as always!) self-portrait in flight, an exercise which took me approximately 1850km to complete in the air with Art Set app and my Apple Pencil on iPad Pro, with thanks to split view. I must have pressed ‘undo’ about a million times, but I got it there in the end.

And, filed under the heading of ‘risk taking’, I also said yes to my first on stage experience as a Poetry Slammer. That was a lot of fun, and it sure got the adrenaline going!

Great Galleries

One of the perks of all this trans-continental teaching and learning is definitely the gallery-going. Some of my favourite moments included seeing the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in Sydney Australia, 20 years after visiting them for the first time at the Musee du Cluny. I never expected to see them with my mum on home soil. What a wonderful world.

I was completely obsessed with Cloud Gate in Chicago, the Asia Pacific Triennial at GOMA is a great asset to the region, and second revealing trip to Shenzen to the artists’ village of Dafun.

But let’s skip straight to the top… Chicago Art Institute -we’re talking a full Ferris Bueller experience here! In case you were unware, Ferris Bueller contains one of the all-time great scenes for art teachers – the moment when Cameron has an existential crisis in response to a pointillist Seurat painting. Since I can’t resist a dare, I went to the gallery before opening wearing a ‘Save Ferris’ tee, prepared to scoot straight to the image to recreate the scene before the crowds got to the Impressionist wing. Yes, really. I did capture the footage I was after for the joke, but the best bit was unexpected…I was one of about 20 people there doing the same thing! We introduced ourselves, giggling, and took photos of each other with the image, and shared stories about why we were doing such a ridiculous pilgrimage! It was hilarious, but somehow genuinely special to be halfway around the world laughing with strangers and sharing a moment with art in our hearts.


Finally…Your Support

I’ve been so grateful to be asked to contribute to many initiatives and events, and to share my ideas and those from other educators across the globe with you continues to inspire me. I know how much work goes into getting a professional learning day off the ground, and how many hours are spent organising a conference, so thank you to all those people behind the scenes who are making it happen. It’s hard work, but it is so worth it, because together, I know we are making a difference. By sharing our knowledge and experiences, we can create change.

On a personal level, while I love what I do, there are always challenges for me being away from home and flying solo place to place. It makes all the difference to know you’re out there and I am never alone. One post joking about the insane quantities of PlayDoh in my suitcase I was lugging to Chicago for ISTE in June on excess luggage really highlighted the support I am grateful to have – many kind offers of help flowed on FB and twitter, and there were emails galore with people from near and far offering to bring supplies to my workshop. Humbling.

I am already well down the pathway for planning a very exciting 2019, and there are some big announcements coming early in the year. Really big.

If you are keen to connect with me, let’s do it soon!

Apart from that, I think all that’s left to do is to wish you a wonderful, creative new year.


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