Friday, December 04, 2009

Australia: Not upside-down, but certainly forward

When I was a kid growing up in the midwest, I was sure the people in Australia had a constant head rush, what with all that blood flowing to their brains from being upside down all the time
As I grew up, I still didn't understand how neither of us were upside down but blindly accepted my teacher's explanation and focused my down under attention on kangaroos, koalas (not koala bears), and around that time, Crocodile Dundee. Australia had always been a romantic, faraway, and exotic place, (a visit to which has been on my bucket list for years), but, I'm embarrassed to say, somewhat removed from my global understanding and perspective. Until now.

Julie Rayhorn (International Account Manager) and I are fortunate to spend some time here working with some of AL's Australian customers and have been learning every day. We were surprised to hear of schools that encourage their students to bring their cell phones to class and use them as learning devices, and that both private and state schools receive government funding to initiate 1:1 realities (through the Digital Education Revolution, after 4 years every year 9 through 12 student in Australia will have their own laptop). In addition, the sheer number of computers available to teachers and students is impressive.

It is interesting to see how schools are structured and governed - state schools (what we call "public" in the States), private schools organized under a large umbrella (there are 130 Catholic schools in the Brisbane diocese, with centralized staffing, service, and governance), and independent private schools (all of which receive some level of government support) - as well as the physical school building, which doesn't look anything like what we see in Minnesota. :)

The people we are working with are delightful and keen (I'm picking up some Aussie lingo!) to learn about Atomic Learning's new platform and features. For most participants, this has been their last week of school before summer break, yet we have met with more than 50 people from 30 different schools.

As we've learned about their system and culture and shared with them about ours, it is clear that we are not so different from each other. Their accent is a bit more obvious than ours :) and the coffee is a lot stronger, but we are equally committed to quality learning for teachers and students, desirous of finding effective methods of reaching all students, and passionate about 21st Century concepts and bringing them full-force into the classroom.

Since Australia recognizes the weekend like we do in the States, we will be forced to do a bit of sight-seeing for a few days but look forward to meeting with more teachers and school administrators on Monday. Then it's back across the Pacific on Tuesday to return to the friends and family who have been picking up the slack while we have been away. Our thanks to you for that - you have come up often in our conversations.

If a trip to Australia isn't on your bucket list, add it. Whether you visit for work or personal reasons, you will not be disappointed by the landscape, people or culture. G'day.


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