Interview for John Larkin’s Friday Follow

1-Please share a little about yourself with the readers.

I grew up in Dublin, Ireland. I have always had a very strong interest in sport and was lucky enough to represent Dublin in hurling at underage levels. I studied Geography and Ancient Civilisations for my major and Politics and the Irish language for my minor subjects at UCD. I taught English as a second language in Greece for a year after graduating and after a couple of years of part-time teaching in Dublin, decided to return to College to study Computing Studies.

I switched career and worked in IT for the Airline and Travel industries for about 13-14 years. I worked as an analyst programmer, systems analyst and project manager for a number of airlines and travel companies. It also gave me the opportunity to travel and work my way around the world which was a wonderful experience. When I returned to Australia in 2001, we decided as a family to make Australia our permanent home. While working on an eTicketing project for Qantas, the combination of the September-11 terror attacks and the collapse of Ansett Australia meant that my niche in IT and travel in Australia was almost wiped out.

After a number of months without work, I decided to return to teaching. The timing was perfect as my daughter, Elli, was just starting school and I am very thankful for the lifestyle change and opportunity to spend quality time with my family that teaching allows, especially during school holidays. I returned to teaching at Brigidine College, St Ives where I taught the Information Technology subjects, IST and IPT as well as Geography. In 2007, I switched to St Augustine’s College – Sydney in Brookvale on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I took up an ICT integrator role, now titled “Teaching and Learning Technologies Coordinator”. I am also the Faculty Coordinator of the Information Technology Subjects and regularly mark the HSC in IPT.

I have also kept my love for sports alive and have completed City-to-Surf runs and other similar events while also playing soccer regularly.

 I am a qualified FFA soccer coach and have coached the St Augustine’s U18 teams for the past 5 years. This year my team won the MWFA U18 Div 1 comp and are about to embark on the NSW Champion of Champions competition.

2 – Describe the role played by social media in education.

We are in a very exciting time in Education due to the possibilities and opportunities provided by Social Media. Our students can now be given the opportunity to learn with whoever, whenever, however and publish their creativity for the world to see. In a project-based learning environment, students can now save their work “in the cloud” to share with other members of their project teams. Gone are the days when students are prevented from continuing work because a member of their team is away from school for whatever reason. Projects can be started by collaborating in an online mindmapping app such as mindMeister, mindomo or bubbl.us. They can project manage online via tomsplanner. They can create surveys to gather information or collect feedback via surveyMonkey or GoogleForms. By blogging, students can use social media for powerful reflection and can use this media to get further feedback via comments.

I have used wikis with my students for a number of years as a way for the students to own the content and to constantly moderate and update the content so as to have the ‘latest’ information available to them at all times.

I explored concepts related to social media in Education in a pecha kucha that I presented at the Teach Meet Sydney North a few weeks ago. The presentation and slide notes can be found in one of my blogs at:  https://ldunphy.wordpress.com/professional-development/pd-delivered/teachmeet/

I had great fun putting this presentation together as I used Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” to explore the concept of a wall being either a barrier to collaboration or a means to creating building blocks for collaboration. In one slide “We don’t need no thought control”, I wonder why we create so many barriers via Proxies that prevent natural collaboration. All we’re doing is putting our students in cocoons while at school at preparing them for the online world that they experience outside school. I then proceed to suggest that we should allow our students to make mistakes and to learn from them but that teachers should be collaborating with their students in a way that they can be seen as role model digital citizens for their students.

 3 – Tell me about your relationship with social media. How do you feel about social media?

I have embraced social media in many forms for a number of years. I’m on Facebook, Twitter @LiamDunphy, Google Plus, LinkedIn, FourSquare and Klout to name a few. I have a few blogs and wikis and use cloud storage in preference to USB keys. I use a Ning (http://ccGlobal.ning.com) to collaborate with other educators in my Connected Classrooms (http://connectedClassrooms.wordpress.com/ #ccGlobal) initiative. Google Plus hangouts are also a fantastic way to catch up with these fantastic educators. I have hosted hangouts that have up to 8 educators in a video conference discussing great ideas for connected projects.

I love using Social Media to connect with educators around the world. I usually start my day at 6am by engaging with my Twitter PLN. I curate an online newspaper “Liam’s Learning Log” (http://paper.li/LiamDunphy/1309919551) that is published about this time every morning using paper.li to gather resources mainly about learning from my extended PLN on twitter. It seems to have a steady readership following. Its steady influence has seen my Klout score stay above 60 for a while which is interesting, I think. I usually re-engage with my Twitter PLN in the evening. Morning and evenings are the most productive times on Twitter as it seems to be when most of the world is awake and engaged on Twitter. I sometimes use Twitter with my students to source answers to queries arising in the classroom. I had a great Facebook experience with students last year. My Year 11 Software Design and Development students were trying to complete the NCSS Python Programming Challenge late on a Sunday evening. They invited me to join them in a group with a chat discussion brainstorming possible solutions. They collaborated wonderfully to complete the challenge in the time available. The students (and their parents) reckoned that Facebook allowed them to have one of the most engaging learning experiences in their quest to beat the challenge in a high pressure timeframe.

4 – What do you feel are you strengths?

I think my biggest strength is the passion I bring to any project that I undertake. I believe that we should always do our best at whatever we do and I certainly try to live by this and encourage my students to do the same. I have a passion for the use of ICT in education. Not so much that everyone needs to do it “my way or the highway” but rather to explore ways to allow the technology to enrich the learning experiences of the students and teachers. Good technology in bad hands can be awful but when used to great effect, it can provide sensational learning experiences.

I like to be a role model for learning and as a digital citizen (as much as I can) for my students. If they can see my passion for learning with them, hopefully it will inspire them to achieve at high quality standards. I hope to be able to understand what inspires them to push their standards to achieve at the highest levels. I like to challenge them to find out what their PB (Personal Best) is and in doing so, hope they’ll keep pushing the boundary for what that PB can be. This works for me in teaching and coaching football (soccer).

I am very personable and like to make other teachers feel comfortable when working with me whether it is exploring new technologies, trying to problem solve tech issues or implementing teaching programs.

I like to pursue the highest level of integrity with everything I do. Putting all these strengths together is hopefully a nice mix that works for me and the people that I come in contact with.


5 – What advice do you like to share with people?

There are so many new technologies appearing all the time that it can be intimidating to try to figure out what is happening and if we’re keeping up to date with it all. First of all, I think it would be insane to try to keep up with everything but

Allow your students to publish and connect with a global audience. This can lead to some very powerful authentic learning experiences. This will hopefully inspire a love for learning that will lead to a desire for life-long learning.rather that technology should be seen as a way to possibly do some things better. Secondly, my advice is to have a go. Follow folk on twitter that are talking about technology and have a go. Let your students have a go. Learn from your students. Let your students learn from mistakes that they may make and don’t be afraid to admit that we can make mistakes also. We become more human in their eyes when they see us in this light.

Don’t be focused on standardised results as an end. Sure they are important in the current educational paradigm that the majority of us find ourselves, but try to inspire resilience and the ability to know how to learn and explore ways to problem solve and even to find problems to solve. Have the courage not to spoon-feed students ever but rather provide them with the means to be able to support their own learning for whatever they need at any given time.

6 – Are there any questions you would like to ask?

I would like to know if there are any other educators that would like to join me in the journey of connecting classrooms around the world. If so, please contact me either via my blog http://connectedClassrooms.wordpress.com/ or my Ning http://ccGlobal.ning.com. We have some pretty exciting projects happening at the moment which are all highlighted in the Ning.

Another question I have is how to coax die-hard technophobes into seeing the benefit of embracing technology to provide alternative possibly enhanced methodologies for their teaching and learning. I can get most folk over the line but some are just very hard to convince, and don’t want to be told about methods using technology. The problem I have is the additional time that it takes to spend with these folk doesn’t always reap the benefit that I expect which I find at times to be a frustrating waste of my precious time. Any solutions would be greatly appreciated.

2 responses to “Interview for John Larkin’s Friday Follow

  1. Liam, excellent responses. You have applied so much effort towards your participation in to this Friday Follow project. Sincerely, thank you.

    Your story concerning your return to teaching and the application of technology in the classroom is inspirational. I love your take on the Another Brick In The Wall and the need to break down barriers and collaborate as educators and students with other teachers and pupils around the globe.

    Proxies are holding us back. It is not a reflection of the real world. I am presently unable to make full use of the iPad and a separate RFID “Internet of Things” project solely due to proxies.

    Yes, teachers should be the exemplars. We should be role models as digital citizens. Demonstrate to students the there is more to life and the Internet than faves, friends, posts and regrettable photographs on the web. educators can illustrate through deeds and words how the Internet can be a place for collaboration, action, sand the development of communities of practice that benefit the society. Too much of what happens on the net is a function of the individual as opposed to a product of the community for the community.

    I believe strongly in integrity as well yet experiences in the workplace have sadly taught that not all education professionals feel the same as I. Makes your under whether or not they are professionals or simply self-serving. I soldier on regardless and maintain my passion to explore the cutting edge of technologies and experiment with them at the appropriate juncture in the classroom or with other educators in workshops.

    And readers of this interview, please take the chance to connect with Liam’s Connected Classrooms project.

    Thank you Liam. Thank you. Cheers, John.

  2. Pingback: Ed Tech Crew » Ed Tech Crew 183 – An Interview with Liam Dunphy

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