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Ulearn 2013

It’s been 3 years since I was last at Ulearn so I was really looking forward to it this year. It didn’t disappoint! In my view, Ulearn is THE education conference to attend in New Zealand. So if you can get to one, make sure it’s ulearn!


Ulearn kicked off for me at the Showcase on Tuesday night. 10 presenters for 10 minutes each, giving a look into what they would be talking about during the conference.

They were all very good, however the one that stood out for me was Megan Iemma (@megsamanda) who talked about her experiences around the Tasmanian bush fires and how social media helped to stay connected to what was going on and help those in need.



I only got to hear two of the three keynotes as I had to head to the airport early on the Friday. Ken Shelton (@k_shelton) was the first keynote and he shared about the importance of publishing. From the twitter backchannel stream and conversations later it was clear that not everyone agreed with him. Some were wondering about creating and others said that what he was suggesting was several years old. I think though that publishing is the next step from creating. You need to have created something before you are able to publish it. It also aligns with what the second keynote speaker, Mark Pesce (@mpesce), was saying. He talked about the importance of sharing. In many ways sharing is just a part of publishing. Perhaps it comes after publishing. Create-Publish-Share. It gets you the audience. In my mind, they all go together. Mark Pesce also suggested that we are past the ‘digital natives’ time, and now have sharing natives. It’s an interesting thought, and while I agree that our teenagers in particular are big sharers, I’m not convinced myself that it is a native thing for them.


Although I disagree with the digital natives/digital immigrants idea, I have seen my children, at very young ages (under 1 year old) pick up a device and stay using it adequately. I don’t see the same sorts of things happening in terms of sharing. I think the act of sharing is great, but to be effective it needs to be taught. It is also important that sharing is done responsibly and therefore discussion around digital citizenship is important. I’m not denying that as children/teens get their hands on devices they will begin to share as they see what their peers are doing but I’m not yet convinced that it is intrinsic to them.

One other thing that Mark Pesce said was,

assessment is intrinsic to the act of sharing

This was the message he wanted us all to take from the session. It was interesting because I for one did not understand exactly what he meant by this, and still don’t really understand. So why am I sharing it here? Simply because I’m hoping someone else out there might be able to explain it to me!

I wondered a little whether he was suggesting that if you share something it is going to be assessed/judged by others. Certainly if others want to use what you share they are going to need to assess it in terms of validity and reliability. So what we share will be assessed in some way by others, but it might not necessarily be assessed in the educational sense of the word which generally links to grading/feedback/learning.


Without going into detail of all the breakouts, I’m just going to list some of the things that stood out to me in no apparent order. Some of the key messages are listed as tweets:

    • Mark Osborne asked the question, “Why should students come to school?” It’s an interesting question as there is so much informal learning that can be done. Derek Wenmoth in one of his sessions also highlighted that we all (including out students) do a lot of informal learning. This learning should not be discounted by schools/teachers.



  • Derek Wenmoth made the comparison between hospitals being patient-centric and schools being learner-centric. Hospitals/doctors do not put everything back on to the patient to make decisions etc, but often in schools, teachers tend to do this by giving students the choice or promoting ‘personalised learning’. Derek suggested that schools need to ensure they are learnING centered. The teacher is still the professional and knows what is best, just like the doctor knows what is best for the patient.

  • David Kinane (@dakinane) and Megan Iemma (@megsamanda) presented a workshop together even though David was not there in person (he Skyped in). It was a great, fast-paced workshop sharing a range of fantastic tools for teaching and learning. Check out the the tweets from the session here on storify.
  • Another breakout with Derek Wenmoth looked at schools as networked learning places. It was great to see the power of making connections and bringing different networks together through a simple exercise with a roll of string.

    See more about this on Derek’s blog.


I know there is so much more that I could share and I could go into more detail, but I’ve got other things I need to do (finishing a thesis!). The last highlight I want to share though is meeting so many fellow tweeters. It was really great to put faces to names at last. Some of you I have been talking with for three or more years. It was great to meet you all and I look forward to further conversations and connections being made!

4 thoughts on “Ulearn 2013

  1. Thank you for posting your comments here. I do believe the whole “publishing” in and of itself is old, yet why are the vast majority of students and educators not doing it? Creation without publication is no different than doing work for an audience of one. Perhaps those that were in disagreement with me are already, and have already been doing this. Major kudos to them and I hope they get at least one of their colleagues to do the same thing. Good luck with your thesis and glad you made it to uLearn 13.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ken. I agree with you that the vast majority are not doing it. I’ve had mixed results in my efforts to encourage other teachers to share, but will keep encouraging it.

  2. Hi Nathaniel

    Thanks for sharing your reflection. It’s made me think about the teaching involved in scaffolding kids into sharing. Mark Pesce certainly promoted the importance of peer assessment in his keynote. I do understand that with older kids such as year 7/8, these may be the only opinions that they want to take on board. So then, are they the most valuable? Food for thought. I know that my juniors need modelling of quality peer assessment and reflection so that assessment becomes true ‘feedback’ and ‘feed forward.’

    Have added your blog to my Feedly! Look forward to hearing more musings. Best of luck with the Thesis.


  3. Great comments here and wonderful blog, thanks Nathaniel for sharing and reminding us of some of the highlights… and there is that word again, sharing. To me this type of sharing is also publishing and isn’t it great that we all get to keep on gaining from the experience of uLearn13? I also agree that publishing is something that gives value and credence to the creativity that has come before it therefore giving the student (young or old) purpose, audience and hopefully some feeling of worth for their work. I think you are right Juliet, the comments of peers are often far more meaningful to students, they seem to carry weight and have impact..therefore we need as teachers to carefully guide our students to be able to give, shape and construct useful, positive and constructive feedback. (Just realise how many adjectives in that sentence!!) Great lessons and reminders of good teaching practice for me to take back to the new term.
    Sandy (colleague of Nathaniel and yes he does work to try and get us sharing, I can vouch for that! Which reminds me of that blog post you keep patiently reminding me to do Nathaniel….)

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