Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My reflections on Day 2 of the VITTA conference

This year, like the previous two years, three students and I ran a workshop on mobile APP development using Corona SDK at the annual conference of the Victorian IT Teachers Association. In this post, I will reflect on the workshop itself, the keynote given by Adam Eliot and other happenings at the conference.

I started the day early and was in front of the school by 7:10am. I was waiting to drive with three students to the Caulfield Racecourse, where we were to attend the annual VITTA conference. The girls were punctual and we left Avila at 7:30am.

Upon arrival, we parked and registered. There were tags and show bags for each of us. The girls loved the freebies. As soon as we checked out the room we were to present in, we went down to the expo and they moved around the exhibits, collecting highlighters, pens and stress balls!

We then moved on to the keynote which was given by Oscar-winning animator Adam Eliot. It was a very entertaining speech and we had time to ask questions. Here are some take aways from the keynote:

  • Adam won the Oscar despite being up against some big studios with big budgets. He had filmed "Harvey Krumpet" in his dad's storage unit, which was far from an ideal environment. He stated that "creativity comes from the person, not the technology".
  • Upon winning the Oscar, he was offered to direct animations for Hollywood studios. The offers were worth millions of dollars. He rejected them because he wanted to tell his own, Australian, stories. His risk did pay off eventually.
  • Adam gets his inspiration for scripts from his observations and from conversations he overhears on the streets and in trams. Script is king: He writes up to 16 drafts of each individual script.
  • The role of adults in a creative child's life is to support, nurture and "house" them! He said that even when adults steer an artistic child away from their passion and direct them towards a traditional profession, that child will find a way back to their artistic calling.
After that, we had our session. This year, the conference was BYOD so each teacher had their own laptop, some with Windows and others with Mac OS. We had to distribute some files and I had prepared 10 USB sticks and provided a Dropbox link to the material in the form of a shortened URL. The room contained only chairs and there was a lot of glare caused by the sunshine and the lack of curtains. This was not ideal but we managed.

A class of about 24 teachers tried their hand at some Lua programming and built a Pong APP using Corona SDK. Despite my earlier doubts about BYOD, the technology worked well. It was clear that some of the teachers were programmers while others were unfamiliar with coding. All seemed to get something out of the workshop.

The three girls did very well. I had been unsure of their preparation given that I am on leave this term and, while I did have some meetings to prepare, we hadn't had the usual preparation. They spoke confidently and were able to help teachers debug their programs. They referred a few things to me but I mostly felt I could leave things in their capable hands.


The feedback we received from the attendees was positive. A few teachers followed up on the workshop with me via email, which is a good sign.

One thing that distinguished this group of girls from the groups that came in the last two years was the fact that none of them wanted a hot chocolate from the free coffee stand! Usually, they get more excited about hot chocolate than about any other freebies.

After lunch, the girls were picked up by one of my colleagues and I attended a good keynote session given by three inspirational leaders Louise Duncan, Jenny Luca and Nathan Jones.
One other workshop I want to mention was one given by Bernadette Mercieca and three of her students from Xavier College. It was about her use of Games for Change (gamesforchange.org) in an RE class. This looks like an excellent resource not just for RE but also other studies that deal with social science.

All in all, I came back inspired and glad to have caught up with many people I usually correspond with on social media. I benefited immensely from some of these chats, especially my catch up with Donald Hew the extraordinary Kevork Krozian. Needless to say, I am proud of the three girls who were prepared to teach the teachers.

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