I started thinking about the amount of time I was spending on dealing with files, their types and their availability online. I was being sent Microsoft Word Docs, converting them to Pages, exporting a PDFs and uploading them to websites and the school Learning Management System (LMS).
Problem 1: Managing the availability of your documents and worksheets online can be time consuming and difficult when allowing for iPad access.
Problem 2: Teachers emailing files to each other for checking and updating and then collating the result is also time consuming.
Problem 3: Re-printing or uploading revisions to worksheets and docs and deleting old copies is annoying too.
Solution? Using a central department or school Google account, I can operate and organise permanent, online dynamic Docs as the standard for the school / department files. From my Google ‘Drive’, Students can download PDF versions for working on in any of the iPad PDF apps. Multiple Teachers can access and update the single copy of any file knowing the existing links to these will access the latest version. No more work is required in updating and uploading new files as the links point to the same live document in Google Drive.
My staff have seen many benefits in the first month and started working much more collaboratively. Here’s a diagram to explain the features and setup.
“Teacher, I’ve finished your work”
It can be easier for a teacher managing a class of iPadding students to design projects where students own their own learning and thus care about the quality of their outcomes. For me, ensuring students care is my primary goal when designing tasks and programs. If they are doing ‘the teacher’s work’ then any motivation to produce the best result will probably have to come from external sources, like material rewards from the teacher or even as simple as making the teacher happy (Teacher’s pet). The teacher’s work is always seen as ‘work’ and genuine engagement is difficult.
Here is a list of ideas for adding incentives to tasks to help the kids intrinsically care about the outcomes.
- The success criteria should be devised by the students themselves before commencing any task. These should be discussed and agreed upon by the class or group. Design a success criteria template that’s always filled in by the group.
- The teacher only asks questions. Give no answers. Students should find their own answers and be taught to confirm them with more than one source including each other’s research.
e.g. Try to always prompt for output with ‘Why’ questions and never start a lesson with “today class we will…” because who knows what the kids will do in todays lesson!
- Choose a creative & fun task for all and / or allow freedom of expression (choice of app) but remind students of the success criteria.
e.g. You must record a TV news story containing an interview but it must explain how X affected Y. This will be shown on the class TV channel.
- Focus on the students producing ‘products’ that could actually be used to benefit others, be they classmates or the community. Even if it’s not used in the end, work should seem purposeful and be seen as usable in the real world.
e.g. If you are writing stories then ensure they look into how one self-publishes online. This opens the possibly of a real audience with real feedback. student blogs are an obvious starting point but why shouldn’t a child consider starting their writing career now, earning real cash? (There are examples online of this happening)
- I think the world is getting to a point where evidence of all student work should be stored / published online. My students always react with amazement when they first realise the videos / animations are going onto Youtube on my dept. channel. This creates an environment where students can easily peer review and encourage but also parents too, which I find has the biggest impact on motivation.
I have started to have a go at this with my year 7s and 8s and am now considering how future senior classes who have iPads will also own their learning whilst still working towards the national qualifications. I am lucky as the New Zealand assessment system if very flexible and I look forward to the challenge!
PRIORITY NO.1 : LEADERSHIP FROM THE TOP.
The initial goal is to ready a school for the quick iPadding of all daily school tasks carried out by Teachers, Admin and students. The first emphasis must be to get staff and students to move their daily routines onto the iPad and not look back. This realignment will only be quick & successful if staff and particularly members of the leadership team understand iPad best practice.
BIG DECIDER: ONE COMPETENT SENIOR LEADER (AT LEAST)
In the beginning, at least one senior leader must become fully fluent in how the iPad deals with the daily school tasks. My experience to date tells me that this will be the key decider on iPad success. I find that most school technicians charged with readying school systems for iPads only ‘fully respond’ to senior leaders. Here’s a check list of good iPad practice the senior leaders must understand:
5 EVERYDAY iPAD ESSENTIALS THAT LEADERS MUST UNDERSTAND AND PROMOTE:
A) DOCUMENTS: How to convert and ensure all documents (forms/worksheets) are shared in PDF format. This includes on the Website, LMS and in shared folders on the servers. We all use apps like Word to create documents but once finished, Word/Pages/Powerpoint should not be the file formats that are shared publicly or internally. Don’t continue to think that because a form or worksheet must be filled in, it needs to be shared in Microsoft Word format. Most PDF apps (both Free and Bought) will allow the staff and students to view, complete, sign or annotate the forms & worksheets and will really start to make the school paperless (a serious ‘Green’ issue). One problem area will be uploading PDFs to the existing school websites / LMS directly from iPad. Some of the LMSs are creating iPad apps and this can help but without clever design, the website might need to continue with desktop updates.
B) COMMUNICATION: Email is dead! Students certainly don’t regularly check emails. New communication tools must be considered. Internally, it’s best using messaging tools like iMessage, your LMS’s messaging service, if its iPad app runs such a service or even Twitter. I find adults like ‘texting’ messages as much as the kids do, you only have to look at Facebook to know that. Externally, the school should also run a Facebook Page for people to follow for community announcements and this too can be run by the senior leader directly from the iPad. It might be with the best intentions that every school aims to run a good website, but for communication, parents rarely check school websites and it’s not the way 21st Century communication takes place. This is one reason iPads have never needed the facility to update website HTML.
C) IMAGES: The leadership must decide on how staff iPads will upload, store and organise photos. This is good for teachers as they can share pictures with students directly from the iPad and good for all staff to share images of student work and activity. Using online services like Flickr or Google’s Picasa, there are ways to ensure images can be uploaded and organised by staff iPads to appear embedded on the school websites etc, without the need for separate login. (See my previous posts)
D) VIDEO: This is quickly becoming the new ‘paper’. Young people are experiencing online video as a first step to understanding anything. They also create multiple videos using devices like phones on a weekly basis. If harnessed, this can make any school a lively exciting place where students really show-off their understanding and even start to learn and leach each other through video. The school must have an official system for staff to organise the videos for the courses and where the school can showcase student video work. The one system that the iPad and all the available apps work seamlessly with is a Youtube account. The school should setup a Google account from which it can organise its Youtube channel with playlists for different courses, classes or general school activities. Students and staff can now login or be logged-in to upload video content to the channel. This channel can be embedded in school websites etc, and will automatically update as the content arrives.
E) LEADERSHIP BLOG & ADVICE: This is a great idea to ensure genuine engagement from all staff and students. A senior leader blogs the schools experiences and advice on using iPads from day 1. This blog is linked to on the school website and can be used by the whole community to find out the latest news in how the school is operating with iPads, including any problems that have arisen. A school “How-to” page is also setup to cover all the basics.
If you can get your school performing the daily basics on iPads, the creative stuff will follow naturally. The more they stick to their old ways, the harder the transition will be. Success and collaboration between members of the iPadding community rely on full understanding and engagement from all parties. And this starts with the basics and from the top!
[Update] Other Considerations:
1. Don’t waste time looking through the App Store. Focus on tasks. Start with only considering all the daily tasks within the school for students, teachers and admin and focus on collaborative systems like Google Accounts and Twitter to bring the new iPadders together.
2. Ensure that all the departments have the basics mentioned above working before you worry about adding extras. The first issue is about building confidence and when staff & students see they can at least do all that they did before but better, the project will really take-off.
3. Get the whole senior leadership team fully immersed by the end of the first year. This will build respect for both the individuals and the project. The school will really come alive if the community see the leaders themselves start moving forward.
4. Build an open approach to web filtering. Like all major businesses, 1000s of schools are now using Social Media and Youtube in the classroom. Other than blocking the ‘obvious’ negative material, it is important that schools are able to teach digital citizenship within school and this requires positive role-modeling in how the internet can be used.
The most common question I get on Twitter is “How do you create your graphics?”
The answer is: lots of practice with Pages / Keynote, both having the same tools. These tools are much more useful and intuitive than those in either Microsoft Word or Powerpoint. I’ve recorded this 20 minute video (did it quickly for a colleague, so sorry if I don’t perform particularly well!)
Kids have higher expectations these days and now that they can view my worksheets and docs electronically, full colour and design is not the issue it was when considering photocopying.
The video runs through the usual key tools I use to gloss up school worksheets etc, which are also the tools I use for the graphics.
- Image Cropping / Colourising / rotating / transparency / wrapping
- Text columns / styles / sizing / wrapping
- Table styling / sizing / settings
- Graphs styles / setting / data
Please contact me with any further questions:
I recently became head of a large enough department that centrally organising media and resources as a department has become more important. It’s also nice as the manager to see this organised media to get an overview of what’s being taught. The starting point is to setup a department Google (gmail) account. This account then operates many systems for sharing files, videos and pictures. All the staff can then permanently log in to several apps and systems and load, share and view the department files at the touch of a button.
Flickr allows the Google login and offers brilliant editing and organising tools for photos. The album sets can be used for either courses or topics. They can then be embeded in your school LMS systems or any website as a slideshow. I run a weekly update on a class’s project work by simply taking the photos of work with my iPad and uploading them into the existing course album, knowing they will appear in the schools Website/LMS. This is a great solution of your school systems don’t do iPad uploading particularly successfully. Because the uploading is easy, staff are more willing to do it and:
A) The HOD gets a regular update of activity.
B) Student work is showcased more often
C) Marketing the courses becomes much easier.
Youtube is well known but with all my department’s iPads permanently logged into by all teaching staff, videos of student work, video lessons, and course playlists start to appear much more readily. The iPad’s camera, iMovie and most other video apps will stay logged in and upload immediately, including Explain Everything (Whiteboard App). See my Help Docs like this one or this one to get more setup information.
Many school servers are difficult to access from iPads and sharing files across the department without lots of emails is challenging. Dropbox is a solution that works well on iPads and shared folders are easy to setup and free. Using the Department Gmail account you can setup a free department Dropbox account and use it to share folders will all the department staff’s own dropboxes. This makes sharing any type of file between iPads much easier as the department folders appear in everyone’s dropbox and nearly all apps will send material and files to the Dropbox app to share with the department.
Shared documents for group editing. The creation of Department policy docs, for example, is often a shared duty for a number of department members. With the same Department Google account, you are offered Google Docs (Online Office apps). The new Google Drive app now edits Google Docs and Spreadsheets on the iPad. This is also good form recording Meeting minutes and agendas.
As a lover of the iPad, it is very difficult for me to admit that purchasing the iPad mini has made me think it’s the size the iPad should have been in the first place. I’ve now been using my iPad mini for a week and it simply makes so much more sense as a proper mobile device. The apps are the same and the feel is the same, it’s just half the weight and much more portable in your handbag, not that I have one!
In landscape view, the iPad’s keyboard feels pretty much the same size and with a condensed screen of the same resolution the pictures and various things are much crisper. The original full-sized iPads with a case around them were virtually the same weight as a small coffee table book. The new iPad mini really feels like a normal book in your hand and you look a lot more normal in public when reading.
As an upgrade from my iPad 2, the extra features in these new devices have been very useful already. For example, this entire blog post has been dictated to the new microphone dictation feature on the keyboard. This new feature makes very few mistakes and has been very useful in churning out large pieces of writing. It has also been very nice finally having a proper camera, with all 5 megapixels. I would say that not having the Retina screen is actually a benefit as it increases the relative power of the iPad with its new A5 processor not having to process all those extra pixels. To be honest, looking at photos and films seems the same to me.
I find that with creative apps the workspace or paper can be zoomed in on and so haven’t really noticed any difference having a smaller screen. You do have to be slightly more careful when making clicks on webpages but again you can zoom to solve this problem.
Everybody I have handed it to to have a play with has immediately said they want one and would swap it their full-sized iPad. I also feel that students, particularly at primary school, will prefer the size. I have always felt that primary school children would struggle long term, working continuously with a full sized iPad, due to its weight.
Just one negative
A smaller size means a slightly weaker wireless pickup and your school will need a good wireless coverage for it to receive full signal. Saying that, I’ve not had any problem in my school or in cafes. I’ve just noticed that I generally have two bars on my wireless icon rather than my usual three.
The iPad mini is still an iPad, just more portable, flexible and less intrusive in the classroom. I thought the iPad was the perfect student accessory but the iPad mini has proved me wrong.
- Feels more natural to hold
- Better cameras
- Even less intrusive in the classroom
- Better for reading
- Dictation and Siri
- Less weight means less RSI issues
One extra great experience was the complete iCloud backup transfer from one iPad to the other – Amazing! All apps, files, data and settings – all over wireless at school. I love Apple!
What can schools learn from why millions of people of all ages are turning to online gaming and online virtual environments? I’ve been reading this book by Jane Mcgonigal on the effect of and reasons why millions of people of all ages are turning to online gaming and online virtual environments. Here’s Jane at TED summarizing the book in 15 minutes. The basic premise is that the continuous feedback and desire for self-improvement becomes the drive to continue.
It goes as far as to say that games that have a definitive end and can be won are less appealing. A classic example is “Tetris” which became one of the most popular games in history regardless of not being able to win it! It never ends, you just continue to challenge yourself to last longer each time, whilst receiving continuous visual and sound feedback.
Gamers just want work and learn! The more work the better. World of Warcraft has clocked-up 6 million gamer hours in about a decade! (That’s as long as humans have been upright!) It takes 500 hours of play to reach the highest levels in the game and this is now seen by gamers as a small amount of work time!
The constant desire to get more work done within the world, whilst continuously “levelling-up,” and the fact that one’s levels are shared across the system is what drives the engagement. The other thing going on in these games is learning. the students only really score points if they show they have learnt something new. I’m wondering if we can bring that level of drive & dedication to work and learn into the school environment.
So I thought I’d have a go!
Here’s an idea for a mobile app system used by teachers and students that could work in many schools to drive student engagement but also provide individual student performance analytics to the school.
Allowing for my previous blog posts, I must add that this would only work in a student-centred environment where students were self-directed on large enough projects that the teacher is free to only offer 1-to-1 guidance and have time to truly assess how each student is developing.
Step 1 (Objectives)
The school decides on about 8 core requirements for life in the 21st century. Skills that it feels students must be assessed on across all their school-life and students can then “Level-Up” on each day/week.
These might be things like:
The school could outline a matrix of examples of how students might behave and think to Level-up in each requirement.
Step 2 (Technical)
Classes are set up on a database system accessible through mobile devices by everyone in the school. An app is created with both a student and teacher version. A website also collates the data for the school leadership team.
A Mobile app is used by all the teachers to simply issue points on-the-fly to each student. Any evidence at any moment, either in the classroom or when marking work in the evening can gain points in any of the identified core requirements.
The app design is key and is simple to use. The class list is shown and clicking on a name brings up 8 large buttons that allocate a point on each click to the student for any of the core requirements identified by the school.
TEACHER APP (MOCK-UP)
Step 4 (Feedback and Socialising)
Students download the student app and can login to view a live self-profile and see the levels increasing day-to-day. For fun they can design an avatar (maybe to illustrate a future career) and possibly even share their thoughts on their scores with other students in the school. Socialising about your levels using the app would also be key to the engagement. Students who have Levelled-Up in Creativity, for example, might share what they did to show creativity. Their peers might then attempt to model the same behaviour.
Students start to question at all times in the day how they might show evidence of creativity or leadership etc, knowing they’ll receive the feedback on the mobile app almost immediately. They also understand the core skills are cross-curricular and essential to life in general. It also pushes the idea that any moment of the day is an opportunity for self-improvement.
…anyway, it’s just an idea and please feel free to make the system and become a millionaire! However, I might spend some time next year developing it.
STUDENT APP (MOCK-UP)
IPads in classrooms offer such a new learning environment that they demand a shift from the idea of students being passive receivers of learning and demand real engagement and learning ownership by the students themselves. However, even the original 90s design of the Flipped Classroom designed by pioneers like Eric Mazur is still teacher centred. Although students are individually watching the video lessons in their own time and at their own pace and then arrive in class with more specific questions, the approach is still driven by the teacher and focused on the linear course of study that the teacher designs to start at point A, travel through to point Z and then sit an exam in that specific content. This is the Flipped Classroom that receives attacks from teachers as just “lecturing in disguise.”
This original version of Flipped Classroom is an improvement on the one-size-fits-all traditional lecturing but does not encourage students to take full responsibility for their learning. It still demands that every student follow exactly the same linear path through fixed content and pushes the idea that to learn, you must follow your teacher.
This is not how I have Flipped or why I have Flipped.
I have all my teaching of both concepts and skills videoed so the students are free from a linear, fixed path and can get on with exploring larger projects of their own design, knowing everything is there when they might need it. The students work on at least month-long projects, which demand real-world focus and problem-solving. The students design their own projects within criteria that I design that keep expectations high. These projects, for example must be managed in a professional sense.
If I was an English teacher (from the quality of my writing, you can guess I’m not), I would video my teaching of writing techniques, themes, composition and writing narrative using examples etc. The students would then start writing and publishing online as quickly as possible. They receive informed feedback from their fellow students comparing elements with the examples in my videos. I could then just monitor the discussion both in the classroom and online. I would then point individual students to specific videos based on either their work or feedback, if I felt they didn’t understand an idea or skill. The students could then develop quality literature, poetry and articles and collate the work together in digital books, blogs or even publish to Amazon. This personalised approach makes writing seem more real and meaningful. Teamwork’s also made much more significant when students are in the driving seat.
Removing the traditional class teaching from the process is still important as it frees up time for both teacher and student, allowing everyone to get on with in-depth, creative projects that are driven by personal interests. Any exam or test material is covered by the videos and students can request one-to-one tutorials on lesser-understood topics if needed. My exam results are much improved whilst the students’ class time is much more engaging. I even allow the students to manage their own time and do not demand that they use their Computer Science 50 minute period to work on Computer Science. If they’ve got important physics work to do, they do it. They know when my project deadlines are and stick to them.
Flipped teaching is crucial in giving time back to the students to get on with more creative work but should not be seen as just simply a twist on the traditional teaching model. The student output should be of a high standard and should only reflect an understanding of the videos’ topics, not mirror them exactly. Specifically, no two students should ever produce the same output!
My version of Flipped is not a 20th Century teacher replacement but an opportunity for real 21st Century practice.