On Wednesday (15 May 2013) I had the honour of introducing a documentary film ‘Words of Witness’ as it premiered as part of the Human Right Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF). The documentary was made during the Egyptian uprising, by ﬁlmmaker Mai Iskander and follows Heba Aﬁfy, an online journalist reporting from the frontline of the revolution. I was asked by the Festival organisers to introduce the film and provide the audience with some updated reflections on the current political situation in Egypt and across the Arab Spring countries.
Young people have been the focal point in recent debates about immigration, multiculturalism, cultural diversity, and the notion of living with difference. We have seen recently (March 2013) the release of the Federal government inquiry into 'Multiculturalism in Australia' with a sharper emphasis on social cohesion and successful integration for migrant youth. But within the broader multicltural debate, cultural identity and articulations of belonging and attachment remain central issues for migrant youth, regardless of how much time has elapsed since leaving their country of origin. Cultural identity is particularly salient for migrant youth who negotiate identity space comfortably alongside, in opposition to, or more commonly, somewhere in between their immigrant parents’ conceptions and understanding of culture and the receiving culture within which they live.
Clever marketing strategies, well designed t-shirts, coloured cars, and a social media campaign have increasingly asked members of the Australian public to position themselves as "Giving a Gonski" (see http://igiveagonski.com.au/what-s-gonski/). To badge oneself with this term, is to demonstrate visible support to proposed changes to the funding of Australian schools. I want to give a Gonski, as an educator who works closely across the schooling sector, but I can't because it is a complex discussion which is inaccessible to the average person.
It is easy to feel confused, disillusioned and a little disheartened by current critiques and critics of school education as it is portrayed in the media. There are many competing agendas, and a series of conflated issues raised by policy makers, politicians, media commentators and many graduates of the school sector. There is a lack of clarity in the language we use, and feelings we have about education as a society. in some respects, we may have lost sight of the significance and power of a strong, vibrant and robust schooling system, as an asset of our country.
I love education. I am committed to contributing solid, innovative and rigorous education for pre-service teachers. I have rich partnerships with many amazing schools across public and private schooling sectors. I have a deep commitment to social justice, and believe that for every success we experience in life, we should contribute something back for a "greater good" in/for society.
Undertaking numeracy and literacy tests at all schools around Australia (NAPLAN), and then publishing the results on the My School website, continues to rouse both defenders and critics because the proverbial report card on My School is mixed.
The bureaucrats responsible for organising NAPLAN and the groups of sixty like schools continue to use the diagnosis defence. They praise the way publication of NAPLAN results can inform diagnosis of educational problems at particular schools compared to their like schools. Poorly performing teachers can no longer hide behind the social background of their disadvantaged students to explain their poor results when they are poorer than other students from the same background.
The current Minister of Education, Peter Garret, is keen on the diagnosis defence for My School. No doubt, Christopher Pyne or any future Minister will use it too.
My research and thinking, and even my identity with regard to social networking has evolved, but not in a way I have anticipated. Over the past three years, I have offered a number of conference addresses and keynote presentations focussed on the use of social media and networking in education. I have co-authored chapters in books about the challenges, potentials and pitfalls, and often humorously reflected upon myself as s stalker-mum or stalker-teacher.
The steady measured progress of innovation in higher education has been replaced with an explosion of new ideas. The change is both exhilarating and frightening. Each day there are new innovations, as more and more experts explain where these changes might take us.
New ideas are flourishing around Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, badging, portfolios, assessment, and other ways of extracting value and efficiency from the digital learning experience. Just six months ago most of us had never heard of MOOCs, but if you search for this very odd acronym now you get a flood of results.
Much of the digital innovation so far has come from the United States, but what about Australia? There are some urgent questions around whether we, too, are able to nurture innovation.