Future Proof your Learning Environment

BlogBut-app14“Did you know, there’s an app for that?” In fact, there’s 100s of new apps everyday and many teachers are put off technology because of it’s rapidly changing landscape. “How can I possibly keep up with what I should be asking the kids to use?” is a common question. The secret is to not worry about which app is the right one. Let the kids collectively do the ground work and worry about keeping abreast of the generic technologies and capabilities that numerous apps are making available.

But before you even worry about overall technologies, worry about what skills your teaching (regardless of content) might be developing. It is becoming a much talked about subject that any particular content schools might have “delivered” in the past is diminishing in value as A) it all becomes available on-demand on the internet in both written and video format and B) the world changes at an increasingly faster rate and priorities change year-on-year.

Universal Skills – prepare for a changing world

kids ipadMy planning starts with analysing universal skills I think are lacking amongst the students.

  • Do my students need more practice at collaborating?
  • Do they need more time on reflecting on previous work or experiences?
  • Should they be working on successfully communicating in writing or visually?
  • How about project planning or connecting with the community?
  • … and so on.

I also then ensure I have answers for the kids regarding why this is a skill worth practicing. Much of how I operate is around student devised projects but I work with the students on what they might focus on if I feel they or their team are not proving strong at a particular skill, like those I listed above. In a rapidly changing world, these are the skills that help develop what for me is the key skill: learning to learn. Why? For example, recent research is showing that unto a 3rd of jobs that exist in western countries will be replaced by automated robots or computers in the next 2 decades!    Picture Credit

Universal Content – add purpose to education

ocKids-iPadWhat information is most important these days? That’s a hard question. Given the uncertainty over even the next 5 years, how does any teacher know what they are teaching will be both paramount or relevant in five years. In New Zealand, I’m lucky that the National Curriculum took account of this uncertainty over where the future might lead and in 2007 removed nearly all content to focus on universal skills relevant to improving communities and the economy in the 21st century.

Universal technologies not apps

The freedom the iPad brings to each student’s learning experience is key when the skills and content being dealt with can be so varied within a class. Let the students find relevant apps whilst teachers focus on knowing the available technology types that they might be expect to see or encourage as options for dealing with material, even if it’s just occasionally. Here is my list of technologies that iPads now offer to a student:

  1. Movie making (Telling stories) – see here for movie making skills
    Narrative is so important in learning and allowing students to tell a story whilst combining multiple media types (film/photo/audio/voiceover) can be one of the most powerful and enjoyable learning experiences. The importance I have placed in any one-to-one device having a camera that can be used for this activity never fails to prove itself every week in my school.
  2. Animation – A challenge in planning and patience
    The opportunity to plan and produce animation, either in 2D or 3D is a real challenge at any age. It’s also fun and allows students to recreate any situation for any topic of story they might want to present.
  3. Collaborative cloud documents / presentations / planning
    This is very much how the world will operate for the next few decades and so building these skills and also their new forms of “netiquette” become paramount. The power in crowdsourcing ideas and skills when producing learning outcomes and the way in which live collaboration speeds up the process whilst developing social / team skills is crucial to all industries from the arts to business to sports.
  4. Web publishing – Blogs / wikis / iBooks / video / apps
    The fact that young people can now publish instantly for free is still not fully understood as the world-changing situation that it is by many educators. The world audience that many people under the age of 16 already have and the self-made learning network the children build for themselves through feedback and professional advice can not be underestimated in how it will change the landscape in schools over the next 10 years.
  5. Green Screening
    This technology is a powerful and fun addition to the world of mobile device learning. It is powerful for telling stories, reporting on events already filmed, school work produced in class or acting out impossible scenarios never before imagined in the classroom. My students were able to stand inside their iPad work whilst they talked us through in a video.
  6. Modelling – Allow students to play with that that would normally be impossible or difficult
    Many apps now model or simulate objects and scenarios for the students to play with but there’s also numerous opportunities to build models with on-screen clay, lego, paint, metal, or electronics. This is not ideal as the real thing is often better but if arranging or funding the real thing is difficult logistically, these virtual technologies are brilliant, especially in the way they can be instantly reset for numerous attempts.
  7. Augmented Reality
    This is the new frontier becoming increasingly mainstream. AR, as it’s referred to, is the idea of adding a layer of on-screen information, written, colour or 3D, on-top of what you can see through the camera in real life (think Robocop). Google has just completed it’s first trial with “Google Glass” and what DAQRI are doing for industry is amazing. Here’s my intro to the Augmented Reality for schools
  8. Coding
    Code.org and “Hour of Code” are part of an international push to have young people all coding. Whether you knew that or not or are already onto debating its merits or not, it can’t be argued that the results of coding now rule our lives and children should have at least some exposure to what it looks like and is about. There are now many teach-yourself systems and apps on the market and most are entertaining and successful at introducing young people to how coding works. Here’s one of my post on iPad coding.
  9. Building Networks
    This has become natural and normal practice for many children. Kids start networking online as early as age five with sites like MoshiMonsters.com and even coding apps like Hopscotch build on this with uploading, commenting and peer support through what they call “Branching”. Tumblr, Facebook and even Snapchat can be seen by parents and teachers as worrying signs but a positive view is to see them as practice for what some business experts have already predicted will be the most crucial skill of all over the next 30 years – networking & connecting. Many of my senior students will setup support Facebook groups or pages regardless of it being mentioned or not by the teacher. It’s just how they operate.
  10. Bookmarking
    Being able to not only save web discoveries but also collate, organise, collaborate and share collections of bookmarked material is an essential skill from the “to-do list” to more serious research. Systems like Evernote and others are great at helping people manage the vast array of stuff on offer. Modern bookmarking apps are also great when teams are collaborating on one project.

An open ended challenge

There are thousands of apps that offer entertaining and even interactive experiences with specific content. The issue for schools is becoming too reliant on a specific app’s existence. It is hard more most app developers to maintain the business and compete in such a difficult market and they often disappear after 2 or 3 years. Allow students to discover and use content apps but don;t centre your teaching on them. Focus your energy on universal skills and technologies and allow the students to practice and showcase their innate curiosity and talents for mastering specific apps collaboratively. in short, future proof your learning environment.

Please let me know if you have ideas for other technology types and I’ll add them to the list. Thanks.

Digital and Collaborative Learning

A three minute video highlighting a journey from 20th to 21st Century learning. Video transcript below.

An incorrect start…

At the beginning of 2014, we started a new computer programming module with all our Year 8 students. This was part of their technology curriculum and offered them 2 hours a week to look at coding and how applications were made. My colleague and I went though a relatively standard planning period for this and as experts in code, we broke the subject and potential problems down into sections and prepared resources and videos for the students to access.The students were using iPads and an coding app called Hopscotch.

student teams01During the first term, we noticed that although the work was self-paced, the diversity in both ability and interest for coding was causing problems for real understanding and engagement. Students were attempting to learn the separate coding elements by running through our tasks as individuals, asking a friend if they got stuck but the classroom had only small numbers of students showing a genuine love for learning this knowledge. At the end of Term 1 we reviewed the course and i highlighted that the students’ level of communication was very shallow, limited to short moments where one would help another over a small coding hurdle.

A new beginning…

student teams02The start of the second term meant a rotation in the timetable and a new group of students for our programme. I proposed that to gain more engagement from a wider pool of the students we focus not on coding elements, i.e. the content, but develop the programme so that collaboration and engagement become the primary goal. If we focus on team-based activity, there will be more sharing of knowledge, collective responsibility and knowledge creation. We were also in luck, Hopscotch added built in tutorials and most importantly an online sharing and feedback community for students to upload their products to. A shared learning journey would make it more enjoyable for all and the Hopscotch online community will allow the teams to share their products and offer feedback and advice to others.

A change in leadership…

student teams03So the course transformed from a teacher led, heavily structured acquisition of knowledge and skills into a more inclusive and active programme that all could be enjoyed by all. The teams of students set about developing a computer game without teacher-led instruction. The focus was shifted away from the content and more towards the experience of collaboratively learning. We even got a mention by Hopscotch when I published evidence of a the new level of engagement. Another development that arose from this new more open approach was that I would often learn from the students and the traditional teacher-student hierarchical relationships started to change.

As covered in the ITL research on 21st century learning design, we were now focused on skills such as collaboration, learning with ICT, self-regulation, and knowledge construction, whilst also being more successful in students developing coding and problem solving skills.

This post is a quick assignment for the Mindlab.

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Games to Ignite Brains

7439512656_04f88d7461_zHow about this for an idea? Your learners can game when they want at any moment during class. I know it sounds a bit crazy, so let’s put some structure and reasoning around it.

I’ve outlined in a previous post, my findings that quite obviously, the moment that any individual learner is ready to listen, read, watch or even learn will vary. To expect any class to turn up at a scheduled hour and fully engage in the same learning activity is literally treating them like products on a factory line and not the humans they enjoy being. Photo Credit.

I have 2 daughters, both brought up by the same parents who approach everything in life very differently. Why would we expect 30 young people form different life situations to behave and have the same needs for an hour?

e1yeaWhen I regularly divide my classes into groups, I often notice that a number of the groups have a member who seems distant or unengaged and I wonder how I can energise these kids to engage with the group or task during the short time that I’ve got them? (I teach in a high school still restricted by segregated, hourly subject lessons) Most of my class activities involve an element of problem solving. Examples might be, How are we going to reduce cyber-bullying in the school? What do the students need in a school app? Or even, How can I start my music career in New Zealand? It is the problem-solving part of the brain I want to activate in my students who are not in that frame of mind when I need it.

The other day, I noticed one of my daughters playing a puzzle type game on my iPad. It was obviously challenging and often frustrating but she kept at it regardless. The game was direct problem solving and my girl was deeply engaged. It was then I had an idea. If any learner who found themselves disengaged from a school task had permission to select from a list of problem-solving, “brain igniting” games, it might mean they return to the task more energised to tackle it or suggest other solutions.

Initial Trial.

e1ybfTo carry out an initial trial, I projected a problem-solving game on my board and invited individuals to have a single turn to complete the puzzle/level. After 2 minutes, pairs were coming up to have a shared turn. This turned into small groups and after 10 minutes had 8 people competing to make suggestions for the next move. What I noticed was that these 8 were not a normal grouping within the class but had selected themselves to share an experience. This had an immediate effect on the dynamics in the class. I have found that after this exercise, new pairings started appearing in the class and it definitely made it easier for me to suggest new groupings without any backlash.

Class gaming rules

  1. Time Limit: A set amount of game play per hour or per week might be allowed but there would be freedom to select when that time was used.
  2. The games would be form the endorsed “Brain-igniting” list.
  3. All games would be Problem-solving
  4. Gaming progress (levels) could be reported to class to encourage collaboration between students that might not otherwise connect.
  5. New Game teams are organised around individual’s favourite games

Class management

  1. e1yl0Ads: “The Games have too many Adverts!” Airplane mode (in the control centre) will remove most, if not all the ads that pop up.
  2. 2. Student suggestions – Students should be free to make suggestions for adding to the approved list. I think keeping it to about 10 will encourage more discussion in the class about solving certain levels. With too many games, the classes attention can become fragmented. Suggesting games for the list will give them ownership over their problem solving world.
  3. Students are allowed to connect over a game to discuss strategies to beat levels. This builds strong relationships which spill over into class tasks.

Brain igniting Games

So I set about searching and inquiring after entertaining puzzle games I could issue as an endorsed game list. These are just suggestions but will give you a starting point.

  1. VERY BAD CUBE
    VeryBadCubeiconThis game builds in complexity from the most basic of starts. Join all the cubes of the same colour. Sounds easy but had my classes connecting into larger and larger groups trying desperately to beat a level.
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  2. 2048
    T
    2048iconhis game is challenging and demands a little math. Same number blocks collide and merge into a single doubled number block. Trick is to not fill the board. Even my senior students play this by choice.
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  3. DUOLINGO
    Lduolingiconearn another language in a personalised, fun and accessible way. With an account, each student is automatically tracked and reminded to return to their 10 minutes a day if they forget. I’m learning Spanish along with the rest of my family!
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  4. 2 DOTS
    2dotsicon
    This game does not have a single solution for each level. This means it is less likely to bring students together but does quickly get an individual’s brain working. This too nicely grows in complexity and is good for the quieter students to work on alone.
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  5. THINKROLLS
    TThinkRollsiconhis is good for younger students but fun for all. A constant rolling screen of quick problems to solve before the character can continue on. My7 year-old daughter  played this game for much more than 10 minutes!
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  6. MOVE THE TURTLE
    moveTheTurtleicon
    This challenges with simple puzzles whilst teaching the fundamentals of programming. There are programming iPad apps but most allow kids to play games already made and Move the Turtle is the game itself and so is on my list.
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  7. POP WORDS
    popwordsiconThis is a great twist on the game Boggle. It has a individual time-pressure game where you try to find words on the grid before your timer runs out. It also has a great puzzle mode where the letter tiles disappear when used to see how many tiles you can score with just one grid. This is great for building literacy skills and again naturally draws students together to find new words.
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  8. MEMNEON
    memneonIconThis is a bit different. At first you think it’s just a very simple memory game where you only have to remember which neon lights lit up for 5 seconds on a grid to complete a circuit. It seems quite tricky so you find yourself developing your own strategies for remembering which lit up. I even started remembering shape names to jog my memory. This really gets the brain working hard.

Team building

Sometimes we consider the term team-building as only something employers organise. I’ve found this to be powerful in my classes, especially with boys, who are often less social and likely to work well in new teams. You may have heard of Google 20% time, well this is an endorsed form of team-building / brain ignition time. Give it a try!

EXTRA LINK: Games are good for you

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An End to “21st Century” Learning Tools

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Digital Learning Tools and Modern learning technologies

Digital learning tools are seen by many people as those tools that are in some way different to other learning tools and need to be treated and discussed as such. “Let’s go to the digital learning zone” or “Now it’s time for class to use their iPads” are common announcements in many schools. Maybe we should stop saying digital, 21st Century and modern. I wonder if this mindset might be damaging to learning.

What are the issues?

baby on iPadIn the developed world, Digital technologies are embedded in all life experiences and ‘embedded’ is the key term here. Many schools set themselves apart from this life by making these latest learning tools somewhat mystical or special. Schools purchase class sets of iPads or Chromebooks and then allocate time slots for their use. Lengthy deliberations take place before Youtube or other social-media is permitted into school sites. Draconian blocking policies are written regarding the specific apps learners are or are not allowed to use in school (here’s an app kids use to get past the blocks). Punishments are organised for those learners found “off-task,” a judgement of “bad choice” applied to the student that is never applied to the teacher who designed the task being avoiding. Teachers do have a tendency to design tasks that they would enjoy or that work for their own way of thinking. On this matter, I would advise teachers check out Universal Design for Learning and the work of Katie Novak, Ed.D.

Photo Credit

The development of computer labs or “iPad hours” is something that whiteboards, pens, books and other learning tools never experienced. Many schools are still isolating digital experiences as something special and separate to the ‘norm’. This appears strange to the so called “digital natives.” They are “natives” not because they are naturally expert but because they have not experienced a world without regular contact with digital technologies, such as digital TV. What takes place in the digital lives of these ‘natives’ is routinely unspectacular and only commands the same level of interest as any non-digital thing they might do. This does not stop schools and institutions reacting to those more extreme stories that hit the headlines or become staffroom gossip when deigning policies and procedures.

Individual teachers too use their personal fears or lack of confidence with devices and technologies, such as cloud computing, to restrict the opportunities of the learners in their charge. The format for learning that is most comfortable to the teacher can reduce the depth some students might reach and standardisation is still seen by many teachers as the only manageable way to assess the learners.

How did “digital is separate” develop?

Perspective

old-computerI think this derives from the experiences the teachers had when schools made the transition to using digital tools, a transition young people today never experienced. They never had to wait 10 minutes for dial-up or a ZX Spectrum game to load! I try not to be amazed when some of my students are sketchy about what exactly a CD is. The students so often seem surprised by viewpoints (often hostile) that schools develop towards digital tools. Although there are many individual exceptions (I know many personally), it might be that the generations that did not enjoy playing with digital technologies as young people, don’t have as friendly or playful a relationship with them and thus take much more cautious and smaller steps. Photo Credit

Costs

The cost of these tools is also a complicated issue. I have heard many discussions about how buying an iPad is not like buying a pencil.  There are many examples, such as this one, where schools prioritising the need to make access to digital tools as ubiquitous as pencils and paper, find ways to fund them, even when serving the poorest communities. Cost is often used as an excuse to bolster the preexisting reservations held by the adult school community rather than be an absolute obstacle itself.

Primary vs. Secondary

The primary / elementary sector are doing better at making a more life-reflecting adoption than secondary / high schools. It showed recently when it was reported at Ulearn, the biggest New Zealand education conference, that only 15% of delegates discussing current best practice were from the secondary sector. Why is this? I have much experience in training secondary school teachers to say that the power base they wish to retain as masters of their own subject silos, encourages them to shy away from any tool or pedagogy that might readdress the balance of control over the learning in the room. It doesn’t help that the universities are often as silo’d and traditional and demand more traditional preparation and evidence of learning.

Managing mindsets

window BrainstormAlthough the pace to adopt digital devices is relatively rapid and there seems to be various understandings that they are either necessary or seemingly ‘ the ‘thing to do’, I wonder how schools will manage the mindsets of teachers and parents to not treat them as the only tool required or a special set of tools to release at particular hours of the day.

If schools continue to treat these tools differently they risk operating a school environment that becomes alien to the students and thus harder to learn in. Young people have expectations regarding the ubiquitous nature of these tools and do not view them as special but just part of doing anything. A recent example of this was when my BYOD class showed far more excitement that they could write on the windows to plan their project than the fact that a video documentary was an option for the outcome.

Not special but expected

I can tell you one fact and that is that learning does not happen just because you’re holding a device or connected to the internet. In fact the reasons why successful deeper learning takes place have never changed, regardless of our rush to be excited about the web, social media and iPads. Young people don’t want to do everything on devices but do have experiences or witness examples daily of their effectiveness for communication, active learning and creativity output. Young people understand digital tools as a constant option on a Smörgåsbord of numerous tools to carry out all sorts of tasks both in life and for learning. All tools offer potential, the trick is to keep an open mind and not treat one tool differently based on one’s own skill set or experience.

This post is part of a #ebookNZ project organised by Sonya Vanschaijik and being co-authored by a great set of New Zealand based educators for Connected Educator Month – Click here for details

Big thank you to Beth Holland (@brholland) for giving me feedback and advice on this post before publishing. Checkout her work at edtechteacher.org.

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Safer Schools with Creative Commons

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Teachers and their students are moving more and more online. Kids are blogging their learning as an excellent way to build confidence, reflect and gather feedback. Schools are showcasing the best of their students’ work on their websites.and the educational world is benefiting from a collaborative worldwide connections.

That’s all exciting and positive but we have one important question:
Who owns the material and it’s components when it’s published?

This is where we must all be careful. A quick Google search will find a growing number of cases where people have sought damages for even single images republished on both blogs and social media like Twitter. This link tells the story of a bad photo taken on a phone that was found on Google and used In a blog Post resulting in an $8000 out of court settlement. Every photo is owned by the photographer automatically and if you choose the wrong image you can loose out substantially.

So let’s look at how we should manage this and what schools can to to encourage staff and students to understand and use licensing.

Creative Commons is an organisation that manages and promotes a set of globally recognised licences for original creative works, such as any photo taken. It helps you set up licences for material but also helps you find and use the correct material that is truly ok to use in school work.

When teachers and students produce new material that they will be publishing online they will normally be happy for people to share it but need to be specific about what is and isn’t ok. For example, all my material on my blog is free to use but I I have embedded the license on my home page that notifies people they have to credit me, not make money and repeat my licence on their copy.

Here’s a quick summary of the options for school work.

Creative Commons by @iPadWells

Finding free images and giving credit

field for CCOn the Creative Commons Search Page you can choose from a number of known sites including Google and Flickr and it will automatically apply the sites’ filters to locate related images that are nominated by the owner as ok to use. One permanent rule is that you will always be expected to credit the owner by name and in the case of publishing online, this will imply a link to their profile. I got this image of a wheat field from Flickr (The Youtube for Photos). Flickr is a great site for safe image searching as it has built Creative Commons into the upload process for all photographers.

Here is the Photo Credit to Kevin Lallier

Practice what you preach.

How can schools not only inform but encourage the school community to start using licensing and working safely to avoid being prosecuted?

In New Zealand a number of schools have officially signed up as Creative Commons schools and have Written policies that inform teachers that their classroom material, although owned by the school is free to share with the agreed Creative commons license badges attached. This is a much more relevant and 21st century approach to copyright and sharing. It also helps any school teaching digital citizenship practice what they preach.

CC policy

The teachers are then applying Creative Commons, discussing copyright and students can see the licenses on a daily basis. This helps prepare the whole school community for a rapidly changing online world where the legal ramifications are being automated by companies and people need to be prepared.

Understanding what is and isn;t ok is a crucial skill for all to learn and I hope this information helps schools get more confident with publishing material online.

Here’s a Slideshow I used when talking through this on TeachTechPlay in October 2014.

… and here’s me presenting (in a hurried fashion) the first half of it:

TeachMeetNZ for #CE14 – Live Blogger

This is aTeachMeetNZ live blog of this TeachMeetNZ discussion.

We have a special session for Connected Educators Month.

This year a collaborative calendar for October will connect thousands of educators who will be able to engage in free (and freely given) professional learning events, communities and resources.

Check out the TeachMeetNZ page for more info here.

Here’s the feed / recording.

Presenters:

(I’ll add details as they present and update post every 3 minutes)

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Sam Hocking : @SamHocking1 : DP and Yr 7/8 Teacher in Hawke’s Bay
Topic: SOLE – Self Organised Learning Environment:
He uses it with his students and finds it engages them with rich questioning and student collaboration to find answers. Started in India, it’s now going worldwide. Uses Cloud services and focuses on students sharing devices and resources available. It also encourages problem-solving and demands that the teacher stands back and allows the students to explore. Sam shared some resources that you will see on the video above. Here’s a link to the TED resources:

Bridget Casse : @BridgetCasse : Assistant Principal at an Auckland primary school
Topic: Making Learning Visible in the Early Years:
Uses SOLO in the school. Learners know how to meet their goals by clarifying their learning vocabulary. SOLO enables the students to tackle their learning and face complex problems by understanding the journey. SOLO visualises the steps to deeper understanding of any topic. Conversations with students are deeper because they know why and how to learn. Learning to learn is a sustainable skill and Bridget says teachers must get to know SOLO, particularly from those who are already doing it. Sonya supported this theme with her positive experiences with SOLO.

Reubina Irshad : @Reubinai : Junior Teacher in Auckland
Topic: Mutukaroa Project:
Reubina teaches with Sonya. Mutukaroa is a partnership between home and school. It takes the learning into the home and parents are invited into talk about the learning goals that have been set. 2 specific goals involve literacy and numeracy. Reubina is the coordinator of Mutukaroa and is responsible for building strong relationships with the families. She has also found it positive for making connections between teachers and working more collaboratively. “We are together in this journey”

Tim Kong : @Timoslimo : Teacher in Wellington, NZ
Topic: The Future May or May not be Finnish:
Future focused education. Finland has a very successful education programme. It has small class sizes and teachers must have a Masters degree but they don’t use much technology, in fact they are one of the lowest users of tech in Europe. Critical thinking is often lost amongst the glossy talk of new tech and exciting gadgets. It is the way Finland pushes critical thinking and not their use of tech that makes them leaders in education. Bridget thanked Tim for challenging the audience to look at their own priorities. Karen pointed out that the focus on tech often only “tinkers around the edge” of what’s really important.

Lewis Bostock : @LewisBostock : Media Studies Teacher in Auckland
Topic: Safe and effective use of social media in the classroom:
Lewis is a passionate social media user and feels it is crucial for future focused education and learning. Lewis first used Facebook for questioning other adults and then had his students review the responses. He found engagement was immediate, particularly as the format being used was so familiar to the students. He also uses Twitter to connect with students and teachers. Lewis finds that social media will often Redefine (see SAMR) any traditional tasks and create authentic experiences. He encourages us to use the power of the crowd and judge on connections and people rather than likes and Retweets. Lewis suggested that teachers are DJs and social media is the music and our job is to create the best mix-tape! 

Kassey Downard : @kasseylee11 : Year 8 Digital Teacher at Mokoia Intermediate
Topic: What’s the big deal about Minecraft?
It is simplistic and appropriate for all ages. There is no end point and it acts as a huge sandbox that challenges students to be creative and work collaboratively. Students can manage their own timeframes. Creations can be published and shared between students. Committees of students plan how to construct things and leaders naturally become apparent in this process. Videos are created that allow students to reflect and showcase their work.  Kassey had her students create scenes from novels. This challenged the students to show their understanding of their reading and discuss the difference in their visions of how the descriptions worked or not. “Excellent stuff” said Sonya and Bridget highlighted that the students are keen for more teachers to use it.

Karen Melhuish Spencer : @virtuallykaren : Senior eLearning Consultant w/ @CoreEducation
Topic: Connected Educator Month:
This is a global initiative that’s live in New Zealand for the month of October. Here’s the link: http://connectededucator.org.nz/
Core are organising it and it’s aims are to organise new ways to collaborate and communicate what’s happening in education. It will offer free professional development opportunities online throughout the month. It invites people to suggest what they could offer others. Check the website out and get involved!!! The tags are #CE14 and #CENZ14 (for the New Zealand stuff).

Thanks Sonya for organising! (@vanschaijik)

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The Connected Classrooms Challenge

i4S-The Connected Class Challenge

EXISTING SKILLS

How might we develop young people’s obsession and engagement with social media and texting into a deep desire to learn and create together?

My first thought is to ask why people become so obsessed. In my digital citizenship programme, we cover social media addiction and why it effects people of all ages. One key issue is that when a post or message is sent into the system to people who can’t be physically seen, the unknown amount of time it might take for a reply keeps people watching. We all want to be appreciated and of course “Liked!”

HOOKED ON CONNECTIONS

People get locked into a “have I had a reply or a like yet?” universe and they develop habits for needing connection & recognition. Rather than worry and scorn, this might be a situation teachers can use to their advantage. I’m always keen on students working in teams for everything they do – Yes, an author might write a novel alone but they still need an editor and publisher to finalise it.

CONTINUOUS REFLECTION WHILE WORKING

connected-ClassesMy observation of teamwork in many classrooms, including my own is the lack of space and time for each member to contemplate what another has said or done. There’s often a rushed atmosphere of trying to get the work done quickly. More ongoing reflection from each member can result in higher quality outcomes. It is often the case that someone shy in public is confident online and this has a lot to do with the extra time they have to reflect and consider their responses. Social media creates a more level playing field where the more outgoing and confident are less obvious and the quiet can contribute fully.

THE CHALLENGE (C.C.C)

One idea to combine the positives of remote connection in social media and productivity at school is to physically separate team members and organise projects over 2 or more classrooms. Students from different rooms or even schools come together online to use their well honed social media and texting skills to build a more professional 21st Century view of workflow. It’s important to highlight to young people that these tools and systems are being used by adults to carry out projects around the world and that in many occasions this connects people in several countries.

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Yes, this is an iPad photographing an iPad filming an iPad – normal in my existence!

At first, you may have to allow a little more time for a project you normally carry out in one room but the students will develop these skills in a productive sense and experience the need to allocate roles and work efficiently. The students love feeling connected to the world outside the classroom, even if it’s people next door!! I also find they read and ‘listen’ to each other more intently due to the nature of these communications.

I can highly recommend it for some projects. It helps keep things fresh and connects both students and teachers. I suggest the teams ensure they are putting together a ‘package’ of all media types they can publish or present to both classrooms online. Another reason for trying this is that a teacher confident with technology can join their classroom to a less EdTechie teacher and help with the learning process. The irony is that social media removes much of the social distractions evident in face-to-face interactions. After some initial excitement, the communications eventually become more considered and task focused.

OTHER THOUGHTS & IDEAS

Don’t necessarily subscribe how they produce output or communicate. If they’re obsessed with Snapchat then have them sketch ideas with it. It will educate them into seeing anything as possibly productive and not just frivolous.

How about 4 teachers specialising in each of 4 rooms as mentors for Leadership, Research, Technology & Presentation. Each student team members are also divided into classes along the same lines. The teams can then rely on their team’s specialist knowing they have a mentor in their specific role.

Have one room speak a different language and use either Apple or Google’s translation tools. It’s good preparation for world collaboration. (I personally have sent several tweets recently in French without speaking a work myself!)

Evernote is also good at sharing all media types and having shared work spaces. It’s also cross platform too.

Google might be my preference but if you understand iCloud well and the devices are logged in. Then sharing video, photos and docs is already build into iPads and Macs.

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The First 5s with iPads

This is just a quick nod to my EdTechTeacher friend Beth Holland, who has written another excellent post updating ideas around what teachers might do in the first 5 hours, days and weeks with iPads in their class. The original post can be found here on Edutopia.org.

Beth and the EdtechTeacher team are an excellent source of ideas and inspiration. Beth asked me to update my infographic for the post and so here it is:

i4S iPad First 5 v2

i4s-The-Lectured-Class-iPadWells

Stop Teaching – Start Learning

lecture

Do you ever teach a class?

By ‘teach’ I mean talk to the whole class to share instruction or discuss content. If the answer is yes, then I would like to examine your aims in doing so. The three common reasons for talking to a whole class are:

  • Task instruction;
  • Delivery of content/concept/facts;
  • Class discussion.

I believe that only the first of these 3 can be said to succeed in it’s aims and even then fails often. All forms of learning should offer equal opportunity to all, not only to be involved but succeed in the learning intentions. Every learner deserves to maximise their time available to ensure they definitely learn and grow. People are different and so any one-size-fits-all mechanism is guaranteed to fail to be fair to all. I have spoken to people of all ages who agree that teacher verbal + visuals delivery of content to a large audience (more than 5) only suits a small minority who can focus, retain and process the information as it is shared. Photo Credit

Let’s examine each one in turn.

A. Task instruction

A task instruction should be 5 minutes at most. Even if a list of instructions are verbally delivered to the class, at least they are static, surface level information that can hopefully be easily repeated and spread through the class by the learners themselves. I’ve seen many teachers upset that tasks were not carried out as per instruction but this is solved by ensuring their is a mechanism or practice designed to receive and record the instructions. This is the least of our worries.

B. Delivery of content (big topic!)

Question: Why is traditional class teaching / lecturing still so popular?

Answer: It’s the easiest option available to any teacher. They know their topics, they know their script, they did the same lecture last year (most of the time) and thus it requires no preparation, no planning of student activity, no thought as to the current relevance of the content and in most schools, nobody will complain as students will be blamed for not ‘studying’ if they fail. Easy!

An important aim should be that every moment in the development of young people in schools is fully inclusive. Even the idea that a variety of teaching techniques is ok suggests that waisting the time of 50% of learners for 40 minutes is ok as we’ll cater for them later on. This is not good education.

Stop Teaching - @iPadwells

10 assumptions behind teaching a whole class (single-point delivery of content) are that:

  1. All listeners are listening. If they’re not, that’s their fault.
  2. If listening, all listeners can absorb information at the same pace.
  3. All students will be present for this once-a-year performance. If not, too bad.
  4. All listeners understand at the same level. (Your delivery caters for both slow and fast processors equally)
  5. All listeners only require the one delivery (or you’ll be repeating yourself any number of times)
  6. All learners hold the courage to stop you and ask questions publicly (Self esteem has no impact on learning)
  7. There’s not much that can be done as some learners are just better at ‘learning’.
  8. Delivery style can make teaching ‘entertaining’ and thus work for most. (after all, you can’t cater for all)
  9. Students ask for lectures, they like them and these requests have nothing to do with a desire to passively disengage during the teacher’s ‘performance’
  10. Some kids are just cut out for school more than others and can concentrate. That’s life!

Even if you accept that only some of the assumptions above are not true then you have to accept that by not catering for all, delivery of content to any audience larger than about 5 people, fails immediately in it’s aim to include all in the learning. Education must move on and take much more flexible, student-centred forms if it is to fulfil its aims for all learners.

First Step

The next question for most teachers is: how can I get through all this content whilst catering for all types of learners and offering flexibility?

Your first step into student-centred learning is to remove the one-size-fits-all delivery and “Flip” the content online. Flipped teaching is a few years old now and has been presented as a structured programme of: “watch the lesson for homework, then do activity in class.” I prefer to not structure it so much. Once I’ve said and shown what I need online, I can feel confident to handover the designing of activities to the student.

Some students share headphones to watch the teaching videos in class, some watch at home and some don’t need the lesson at all. Everyone goes at their own pace and I challenge the whole class to only prove certain understandings or solve certain problems. The time freed up by not teaching the whole class allows me to dedicate all my time to individuals or small groups requesting extra assistance. This also allows the students to involve more people outside the class in their projects.

First App – Teach the way you’ve always done but more efficiently.

Here’s a little intro into the Explain Everything App. My first Flipping tool 2 years ago. All teachers need to know their year long courses are actually only 3 hours of teaching, once you remove the pauses,  tangents, diagram-drawing time, mistakes etc. I’ve recorded 7 high school courses for ages 14 to 18 and they all came under 3 hours. 1st time Flipped teachers don’t know what to do with themselves.

i4S-Explain Everything-iPadWells

C: Class Discussion

This is a grey area and can depend on the skills of the teacher. Designing how the discussion will include all and then how to manage the discussion as it takes place is tricky.  Very few people have the skills to really have everyone in the room feeling confident they can be involved. Large group discussion can be heavily influenced by personalities, which can act as obstacles to the aim that all learn equally. Unless you divide the room into smaller discussion groups and help structure how each individual will feel included, discussion can rarely succeed in all its aims.

Conclusion

If your young or old learners have devices, they are free to access your teaching when and however it suits them. It is time to open up learning as something they do in life, tackle and enjoy together and not just something they receive from a single point at a single time. Learning is also something every teacher should be doing and it is most important that every teacher model good learning behaviour. Technology has quickly changed the educational landscape and it’s time for all teachers to learn to navigate and be part of this landscape.

I posted more ideas about why this is important here: iPad Teaching is NOT about iPads

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Teacher’s iPad 2015

iPadWells iPadDuring this coming academic year, the iPad will celebrate it’s 5th birthday. I decided to take a look at my own iPad and what systems, apps and activities fill up my school day as an iPad teacher 5 years on. I’ve produced a breakdown of my home screen and realised it can be summarised in 5 points.

  1. Being relevant as a professional
  2. Being relevant to my students
  3. Collaboration with students
  4. Collaboration with teachers
  5. Production of Interactive material.

My teaching emphasises the fact that I’m still a learner and still creative. I overtly discuss this with my students every week and showcase my own productions amongst their various presentations. I also showcase my collaborations with other teachers and the fact that reflecting on my professional life on my blog is important to personal growth.

I’m very proud that creative writing, Music, Art, Media and Coding all have a presence in my iPad teaching. You’ll also notice that each of the major social websites are utilised for different reasons.

I hope it helps some teachers new to professional iPadding. For more information about how I use the apps, use the search facility on the blog.

i4S 2015 iPad