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

 

Why recommend the iPad for schools?

ocKids-iPadThis blog is nearly 2 years old and I thought it was time to revisit the reason for its existence. I am still teaching 11 to 18 year-olds everyday in BYOD classrooms (not iPad only) and can claim a significant experience in the various pros and cons of all types and brands of devices. When I’m considering which students are supported the most in their learning by their device, I still conclude the iPad and its eco-system is my recommendation for handling the full breadth of activities and opportunities undertaken in 21st century schools.

I do appreciate that during the last 4 and a half years it has become fashionable in education to proclaim “the device doesn’t matter” but each week I experience a at least one moment where it does.

10 Reasons why I still recommend iPad

Issues 1 – 5  – Tablet format over Laptop

  1. Filming
    filming-iPadThe first one is easy and takes into account that an individual learner’s ability to film and edit, either to learn or reflect on learning is such a important tool these days that the device must be able to be used as such. Young people live their lives through instant access and ability to take photos and videos on the move. This is where my students on laptops and Chromebooks are left stranded at their desk. Photo Credit
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  2. Active learning
    outsideIt’s not only the resulting photos and films that come from tablet devices but that the learners can be on the move so easily during the process of learning. This extra flexibility that the tablet format offers my students allows them to move from inside to outside as they need, often on the spur of the moment . My students work outside for both the sake of the project requirements and/or that of just comfort. It’s often highlighted that if a learner’s not comfortable, they wont learn.  Photo Credit
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  3. Touch
    drum machineWho said you can’t teach both programming and digital citizenship with drum machines? I do. Be it a sliding control, a drum pad or an paint effect, the learning opportunities that touch offers far outweigh any outdated argument that young people can’t comfortably type vast amounts of text by tapping the screen. After all, they tap 30,000 words per year into Facebook alone, mostly on the phone! Touch offers a much more connected, real & enjoyable experience during activities. It often removes from the mind the fact that tech is even involved in the process.
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  4. Tilt & Flexibility
    spiritThe iPads ability to physically replicate so many tools in the hand, such as a spirit level, microphone, test tube, moving paint, bouncing ball and any number of physics experiments, never mind the wow factor of green screening on the move also means the laptop student is left to imagine and not experiencewhat physical effect one thing might have on another.
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  5. Augmented Reality (AR)
    iPad-ARAR is already becoming a major feature in education and iPads have made a great start with a a number of great apps and systems like Aurasma and Layar. To make the most of these systems and also create your own, you need a device that can be held on the move. This has become a major part of my arguments for iPads over laptops. Photo Credit
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Issues 6 – 10 – iOS, Apps, eco-system  & learning opportunities

  1. Technology for all.
    6228914346_a84141e62d_qApple has always maintained the same philosophy. “We want you to be you, whilst we worry about the tech.” You may have read my many posts on kids’ programming and think I’m one of those extra-techie types but I have a strong argument for the fact that most people are ‘normal’ and not interested in how it all works. They want to get on being the artist, author or scientist they’d like to be. I have found my non-iPadding students having to do far too much research into if an equivalent app is available or which plugin they require to carry out a task. This slows down to learning process, causes frustration and has many of my students leaving their device in their bag and pairing up with an iPadder. Yes, Apple’s walled garden of a system frustrates geek types, but for the huge majority it means immediate productivity. Photo Credit
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  2. Advanced App store with education focus
    app store edThe average teacher and student needs as much support as can be made available when introducing or keeping up-to-date with using their devices to learn. Apple has always led the way with providing this support for education, highlighted by their organised, categorised educational app store. iTunesU has also become a major educational system for many schools and allows for the easy management of content whilst developing student driven programmes. iPads have the advantage of being the primary educational choice and in-turn have the educational app developers investing more time and money into serving schools on iOS.
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  3. Kid friendly code learning
    hopscotch screenYou may already know me as a supporter for kids learning to code. There is an international push to have all students learning this craft that forms such a central part of everyone’s lives these days. You can code on both Android and Windows 8 but only in it’s full advanced code form. If elementary / primary school kids want to learn how computers think and how code works, the iPad is still the only tablet offering apps, such as Hopscotch to learn how code works and has many on offer.
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  4. Teachers supporting teachers support Students supporting students.
    ipad-helpUnfortunately for the other companies, most teachers I’ve met and know have an iPad (except the really geeky ones). When it comes to professional development, teachers prefer to receive ideas and recommendations from other teachers. This has led to a much stronger knowledge base in how to get things done on iPads than that of other devices. In Education websites, blogs and in professional social-media chats, the dialogue around tablet use will be centred on what’s available for iPad and someone venturing out on this road will find the transition far more easy if holding an iOS device. Photo credit
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  5. Technical Management for Schools
    iphone_configuration_utilityNot my favourite topic, but for elementary / primary schools, non-BYOD and any school wanting more control over devices, apps and multi-seat licensing, Apple has now produced a suite of management tools that make this easy. I wont go into too much detail but check out the MDM and iOS8 pages for more info. The competition is far behind in this area, especially in offering educational multi-seat licensing for those apps you want every student to have.

 

Extra thought – Google Account is a must.

I thought I’d just add that in addition to the iPad, I do still recommend a Google account. The cloud-based document sharing eco-system that Google provide, along with Youtube makes it a must for handling the bulk of traditional documentation, whilst adding the sharing and collaboration tools. The Youtube is also a must of offloading the iPad video content. It’s just a shame that Google went with the business model when designing their Chromebook device, meaning people would require a 2nd camera device to carryout truly active 21st Century education.

 ocKids2-ipad

Conclusion

I write this from years of personal experience and yes, I know that there will be thousands out there who know one of the other systems inside out and will argue that it’s just as easy and flexible on the other platforms. My experiences tell me that the key difference is the amount of technical information required to setup quickly to learn on the other platforms. This takes time that many teachers & students are not willing to invest.

One issue I’ve noticed is that where elementary / primary schools are more likely to be flexible, innovative learning environments, as students enter high school, teachers, concerned with what seems like a long list of content to get through, are more likely to be demanding lengthy written work after hours of lectures. This drives them away from considering the iPad as the appropriate device. I would ask those teachers to take a real look at how the world and especially the young people in their classroom go about their lives. Look at how collaborative, active & flexible we all are these days and consider how your content could be accessed and processed rather than delivered and simple duplicated by the students.

For me, the iPad is still the device to get. It’s not just about business tools and apps, it’s about learning and this is still the are where Apple leads in tech. Education needs it easy and the iPad just works!

 

 

 

 

 

#Edchatnz – NZ leads Education

21c positives#EdchatNZ – How one ‘lone nut’ can change education.

I’ve just had the pleasure of doing two presentations at the first #EdchatNZ conference at the splendid Hobsonville Point secondary School  (@hpsschool). If nothing else, it made me glad to be a Kiwi and celebrate not only a world-leading education system but the people who make it.
The conference was lead by Danielle Myburgh (@MissDTheTeacher), the original instigator of the Twitter chat #EdChatNZ. Her positive energy is infectious and her opening keynote focused on her status as a ‘lone nut’ in NZ education.

What followed was two days of inspiring workshops and talks from forward-thinking NZ educators who all showed passion in ensuring young kiwis would experience a 21st century relevant, collaborative and challenging education.

Some of the many points that were discussed

  1. Students should be involved in ALL aspects of education including planning.
  2. Community should be directly engaged to find knowledge and resources relevant to the students
  3. Learning spaces should be flexible and used to encourage different types of learning behaviours from social to reflective.
  4. Schools should be dismantling the traditional hierarchies and ensuring that all are seen as both teachers and learners.
  5. Challenges should be arranged around real-world situations and problem-solving.
  6. Technology is just one of many tools. Relationships are key.
  7. SOLO Hexagons help develop thinking
  8. Connected teachers are a powerful force for change.
  9. Messy play & hard fun are inclusive terms that encourage engagement.
  10. MOST IMPORTANT: A Grelfie is a group Selfie !

It’s exciting that a little country like New Zealand can have such a fast moving and inspiring educational community and I look forward to the next #edChatNZ (No pressure, Danielle :-)

Here’s a little poster I made about it:

 

5 thoughts at EdChatNZ-sml

The Myth of Device fatigue

6660040845_df16b08be8_mMy wife came home the other day and started describing a new problem arising in her school, where students were claiming to be tired of using devices for everything. The students were apparently saying “Can’t we just do a lesson on paper today or you just teach us.” As she told me this, my wife didn’t notice that she was simultaneously picking up her iPad to check Facebook and that made me think.

Photo Credit

In my observations around my school, it’s those same students claiming device fatigue in the classroom that are not hesitating to turn to their device for ‘life updates’ as they leave that very same room. I would propose that it’s not fatigue caused by device use but that caused by the pain of trying to carry out conventional, 20th century classroom tasks on devices that are designed for a world that conducts itself very differently.

20BD (Before devices)

When I was a student and my teachers were handing out the standardised task to every student, I too remember asking, “please sir, can we do something different today?” I wasn’t asking that we not do something on paper, I understood that in those days paper was always going to be the prefered option, but that the challenge was different and looking back, any task that had me working with my peers was always more engaging but a rare occurrence.

Some classrooms don’t suffer

6660083573_140106428b_mI have evidence from my current workplace that two teachers teaching the same subject will share very opposite quotes from students on this topic. Whilst one shared with me that the students were tired of devices, the other shared that students were asking how the subject was ever interesting before devices. What makes the difference?

Photo Credit

Device fatigue would mean life fatigue

Touch screen devices of all shapes and sizes have become a part of our existence and the way we now conduct our lives is partly shaped by them. Why should education be separate from this. To focus on the positives, the combination of mobile device and social media has made young people experts in:

  • Sharing ideas and discoveries
  • Debating those ideas
  • Communicating in groups
  • Organising events and resources
  • Working on the move.

14183121963_78c1c34ffe_mSchools and teachers need to embrace this and design learning around these strengths rather than fight against them. They need to look at how the world now operates and not attempt to rein-in these developments as bad things and attempt to shape educational activities with outdated moulds. The world is moving on and learning has to do likewise.

Photo Credit

Many classrooms still use numerous approaches which do not reflect the practices the creative industries, businesses, universities or even individual professionals expect to see in their new recruits and don’t do much to prepare young people for the rapidly changing reality of life after school.

5 tips for avoiding claims of Device fatigue:

  1. Keep the learning Active. Ensure that at least part of the task involves moving around.
  2. Keep it Social. Kids must discuss their learning as it happens. Only through reflection will true learning take place. 
  3. Keep it flexible. Don’t prescribe the app they must use. Lay out your expectations but allow for individual expression.
  4. Keep demanding. Have high expectations and be clear about the depth of evidence required.
  5. Make it personal. Ensure the task allows the kids to personalise the result. Have them link topics to their own experiences.

Final Thought.

The western world is no longer paper-based, factory-based or slow-moving. please ensure your classroom reflects this.

 

Hopscotch 2 – Lesson 3

gameBGGame Backgrounds

When kids are learning to code, it’s better to get on with things as quickly as possible. In lesson 3 of my Hopscotch course, I get straight into making it look like a game. This involves adding sky, ground and moving objects. My students are keen to get the project looking good but in doing so, they learn the basics behind achieving what they want with logical thinking.

Life is Random

They key feature introduced is the Random option when adding numbers. Without the Random number option Games wouldn’t seem very realistic as background objects always appeared in the same places every time they repeated their animation.

Hopscotch-RandomHelp Sheet

In this help sheet, I colour in the background and add floating objects moving both right and left. Objects move 1000 or -1000 across the screen but have a slightly random Y value to change their height on the screen for each repeat.

HopScotch2-Lesson3-i4S

 

Adding Emoji Keyboard to your iPad

Here’s the step by step on adding the Emoji keyboard (Sorry that’s it’s in iOS6 format)

NUTSHELL_EMOJI

Analyzing iPad Myths in Education

iPad MythsAre you still trying to fight for iPads in your school?

Many obstacles that iPad cynics attempt to put in place when discussing a roll-out are based on untruths, poorly research and/or out-of-date information. I was delighted when my Canadian Twitter friend and fellow iPad blogger, Steve Lai decided to join forces, as we’ve done before, to combat this dis-information that floats around the education profession worldwide.

This Post explains how to argue a Case for iPads in the Classroom.

A collaboration between iPad Educators:

Steve Lai (@sly111, Canada) and
Richard Wells (@ipadwells, New Zealand)

Preamble: This article is to support iPads in teaching. However, it is not to devalue the benefits of a great teacher. The execution of iPads in class is only going to go as far as the passions and mindset of the teacher allows it to. In other words, the iPad will never replace quality teaching.

MYTHS vs. TRUTHS ???

  • Who needs an iPad? My laptop can do everything I need in class.

    • Steve: “While it is true that the iPad cannot run programs like Photoshop, laptops can’t be used as cameras or while standing. A modern, active learning environment can be hindered in options by laptops. However, the large majority of common daily tasks (web browsing/word processing/email) can easily be achieved with the iPad. If you don’t need to perform high-end projects, you might find it possible to rely solely on an iPad. However, most of us will still need the performance of a PC some time or another.”lap-ipad
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    • Richard: ” The camera is the new pen. People of all ages have started using photos and video to do many tasks they used to do with pens, such as: photographing signs, posters, & whiteboards instead of taking notes. Taking selfies instead of writing postcards; making & editing video instead of writing essays. Laptops can not be used as cameras and so will find their usefulness in general education decrease over the next decade.”

      filming.

 

  • Teachers will no longer be teaching, students will just be playing

    • gamingSteve: “On the contrary, teachers will both be learning on the go and teaching what they learn. Professional development is paramount in keeping up with the latest trends in teaching, and that is no different when it comes to technology. While there can be review “games” students do on the iPad, they must have an appropriate reason to be utilized in the class. Most students will undoubtedly play plenty of games at home on their own time; they are not meant to be played in class. Instead, the successful iPad teacher is free to work with students one-to-one on the tasks after lesson delivery, and will facilitate the learning much more carefully, negating the need for the students to just ‘play’.”

      .
    • Richard: “The 21st Century has given the young person tools and services that offer a power to drive one’s own learning. Teachers nowadays need to consider their role and how much they are developing young people to either rely on them for each step or achieve a deeper learning from discovery, experimentation, collaboration and reflection. I try to design programmes that ensure students are not asking “what do I do next’ or ‘can you tell me how to do this’”
      .
  • iPads cannot play Flash
    • flashSteve: “In truth, there actually are apps that allow Flash to be played on an iPad, but the real question is why are certain people making this “issue” their argument against iPads? This may have been a strong argument back in 2010-2011, but these days, websites have adapted to suit the iPad. I rarely encounter websites that require Flash, and when I do, I just move on to a more updated one. HTML5, which plays just fine on iPads,  has more or less replaced Flash in the modern Internet, and is a very suitable alternative.”
      .
    • Richard: “Most computing & business these days is mobile & personalised. Adobe themselves have stopped developing Flash for all mobile devices to focus on HTML5. It is important to future proof your courses and reliance on Flashis risky. More importantly, it should be the students who are offered the freedom to experience learning in a more personal way. My students often show me newer tools, sites and apps that do the same job better.”
  • Students interaction will decrease; they will rarely communicate effectively with each other.
    • class ipadSteve: ” In groups of two or three, students have shown tremendous ability to work together on iPad projects. In my experiences, they have no qualms about sharing the actual iPad use, and, in fact, teach one another very successfully. Even in a one-to-one setting, students are willing to help each other when needed. When projects are completed, they are very excited to share them with the rest of their classes.”
      .
    • Richard: “Active learning increases the need for teamwork. The iPad offers opportunity for student driven learning and thus increases the amount of communication between peers as they create material and connect to learning outside the classroom too.”
  • There is no USB connection on an iPad: How do I save and import my files?
    • usb ipad Steve: “USB drives came in very handy a few years ago. They replaced the disk, and could fit much more storage. Students would hand in their assignments via USB. It was, needless to say, tedious to keep track of all of them! Nowadays, Cloud storage of files replaces USB drives. Using Google Drive, saves are instantly made, so students don’t need to worry about using (and losing) their USB keys. Another cloud storage solution that have become very popular is Dropbox. In fact, most productivity apps will already have Dropbox integration. With online storage, you never need to worry about losing that USB key. Need to transfer a file from one device to another? AirDrop is also a relatively new and easy way to do so.”
      Further reading:
      Dropbox for Dummies – Why you shouldn’t need your USB again
      AirDrop: iOS 7’s most important new feature for teachers
      .
  • You can’t easily print with an iPad
    • print ipadSteve: “Almost all new printers have wireless (Airprint and WiFi) printing. Most printers are affordable, some costing as little as $30. No, your laserjet printer from 2005 won’t be able to print off your iPad, but the next printer that you (or your school) purchase(s) will. Having said this, printing has become less of a necessity, as intelligent educators would rather have electronic copies instead of piles of paper.”
      .
    • Richard “There are many free tools and services that allow students to publish their digital work online. Thousands of schools are asking students to blog their school work and reflections. This publishing is important for a number a reasons and can negate the need to print. Teachers, parents and peers can comment on the work and I have my students offering praise and assistance. This more personal approach to feedback can also increase engagement. Paper still has an important role to play in education for a number of creative reasons but the one of them is not to duplicate the work from an iPad.”
  • Apps are expensive!
    • ipad costSteve: “Apps cost a fraction of what we used to pay for computer software. We understand that teachers don’t particularly like to spend their own money on apps since they do purchase a lot for their classrooms already. However, with proper research through online networking and word of mouth, teachers can purchase only the apps that are deem worthwhile. Most apps will cost less than your average latte at Starbucks. Before purchasing, say, a $10 app, talk to people who have used it, or read several reviews of that app in the App Store.”
      .
    • Richard: “All the essentials for a modern learning environment can be found for free. Students can film, edit, draw, write, publish, record, and share for free. Let the students do the work of discovering the best free tools and make that an important part of their learning – they’ll need it for the rest of their life!” 
  • The iPad is only a consumption device.
    • Steve: “While the common use for the public for iPads is definitely for consumption purposes, there is an ever-increasing amount of creation-type apps for iPad. The possibilities are literally endless using apps such as Garageband, iMovie, Sock Puppets and Explain Everything.  It is amazing to see students use their imagination to create projects beyond our expectations. The large majority of iPad owners will use their devices almost solely for consumption, but with proper professional development and encouragement, educators can unleash a sky’s-the-limit approach to what can be created with the iPad.”
      .
    • Richard: “Adults are often happy just consuming information but young people soon get bored. From Minecraft to Green-Screen filming, my students much prefer making things to express what they’ve understood from the teacher, research and each other.”
      Further Reading:
      Creation vs. Consumption: Which iPad user are you?
      Content Creation Apps

 

  • “iPads will be perfect for note-taking whilst I deliver my teaching”
    • Learning is not something that gets delivered. iPads, particularly in a 1-to-1 environment, allow a teacher to work with the students whilst they create their own approach to learning content and skills for life.
  •  “There’s no Microsoft Office on there, so why would I bother?
    • Steve: “Well, actually, yes there is, as of March 2014. The caveat is that you need a Microsoft 365 subscription to be able to edit documents. Some schools may offer their teachers subscriptions, while other teachers will need to decide whether or not the $99 annual fee is worth it. If they are already current 365 subscribers for their PCs at home, then using Office on the iPad will not cost anything extra. There are also apps of MS Office “suites” that you can edit all your MS Office files, such as Quickoffice and Polaris Office. Finally, Apple’s own iWork suite is now free for all new devices, and is a viable and more affordable alternative.”
  • iPads are too complicated to use with elementary age students
    • imovSteve: “Right: Grade 4 students created this green screen movie:
      My students are a prime example of how the above statement is not true. I teach students in an elementary school with a set of 16 iPads, and I have been impressed at the work that has been done with them. With proper instruction, students are eager to not only master the basics of what is taught, but also to go ahead and strive to exceed teachers’ expectations. This could be from the fact that the large majority of my students will have at least one iPad in the family already. But with the intuitiveness of age-appropriate apps, most students do not have difficulty with doing at least what is expected of them.”
    • Richard: “Adults often think some apps are not intuitive because they approach all new adventures with a lot of hesitation and fear of ‘getting it wrong’. Kids don;t suffer this hesitation and learn apps amongst themselves very quickly and are always willing to share their experience with other. Classes of any age students soon sort themselves out.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far then thanks for reading all our information and I hope it helps. In my experience, the central theme to any negative viewpoint on iPads is a lack of awareness of:

  1. Young people’s habits and practices since the birth of devices & social media
  2. 21st century priorities and that IT has become integrated in all life and not a separate school subject
  3. 90% of people don’t want a technical relationship with the device and want the simplicity that so many school technicians realise would remove much of their workload.

I would hope most schools and teachers have moved beyond fighting these myths but I know it’s not the case.  It’s worth noting that I work in  a BYOD school using all devices and can report that the teachers, students & technicians agree in our daily comparisons, iPads do just work more often and with more ease that all the others. They are also capable of achieving 100% of most students educational needs.

Thanks Steve for another fun collaboration and for all your work on the theme & images etc.

 

 

Photo 1: Creative Commons

Moving the ‘un-moveable’ teacher

i4S GAFESUMMIT

Google Inspired

I’ve just had the pleasure of presenting at the EdTechTeam’s Google For Education Summit and it was an excellent event. NZ Educators came away inspired and full to bursting with new Google tricks and tips that will change the way students across New Zealand learn. I had a great time meeting EdTechTeam and must give a big thanks to Mark Wagner & Kim Randall for their generosity in letting me present (especially given my Twitter name & blog :-)

I picked up many great new tips and tricks which I will implement  in my classroom immediately. I pointed out to many people I spoke to that although the device I use and help people with is the iPad, the main eco-system I use is Google. It is only Google apps and services that will effortlessly deal with all media types and integrate and publish them as single products.

The presenters were excellent and covered the wide range of Google apps and services at all skill levels. I particularly enjoyed Ken Shelton’s Google Sites workshop as he got really arty about colour schemes and layout and personalising the sites as e-portfolios. I also thought Jim Sill was entertaining, no matter what he presented. Even his 3 minute ‘Slam’ on undoing email sends got the most laughs.

Why Google carefully?

The benefit Google has over Apple is its more open-source style setup. Developers around the world are free to design and launch add-ons and improvements to Google products which makes the eco-system as a whole much more flexible and talented at solving people’s problems quickly. It was these 1000s of features, tools and add-ons that we were wowed with over the 2 day summit.

Knowing that  the Google environment can inspire the geeky EdTech’er that much more than the closed, walled-garden approach of Apple is evident at an event like this but this is why I decided to present a word of caution amongst this show of tech brilliance & enthusiasm. The question every edTech fan should be asking themselves is “How many of my colleagues would choose to attend a Google for Education summit, especially during school holidays?” During my 12 years experience, the answer would always be a small number and edTech teachers around the world need to consider why this is the case when trying to affect change in their school.

The special minority

Here is my recreation of a fantastic and popular metaphor that has done the rounds on Twitter for a few years. It explains the types of teachers you all know when discussing tech in schools. I think it also applies to discussion of pedagogies and new learning techniques too. Unfortunately, I am not able to track down the original creator, so if you know please let me know. I’ve tidied up the presentation a bit but stuck to the original teacher types.

i4s Pencil Metaphor

The main point this diagram illustrates for me is not so much the types of teachers in a school but the percentages of those types in existence. The sharp end of the pencil represents the teachers who choose to regularly update their knowledge and practice in teaching approach and use of technology and yes, it’s only 10-15%. Educations biggest influencers are the majority of teachers who either expect & wait for professional development to be delivered to them (wood), feel they require no PD at all (Ferrules) or try to reverse any example of progression from that which worked 20 years ago (Erasers). My own school has been BYOD for 4 years and can still claim the same percentages displayed in the pencil above (I’ve only been there a year). The first question that every teacher/leader at the summit should have been asking themselves is “How do I affect genuine change in the majority of those I work with?” This was the heart of my presentation.

Moving the “un-moveable” teacher


My main points were as follows:

  1. Just because 15% of teachers have a self-drive to improve their own practice including technical skills & knowledge doesn’t mean the rest do.
  2. The history of western education has not produced a world body of teachers that view themselves as part of a world-wide connected and well-researched profession. Teachers around the world have always had an opt-out option and are rarely held genuinely accountable for the success of their students, as doctors and lawyers generally are.
  3. EdTech leaders in schools will not impress and inspire with tech alone. Most people don’t have the intrinsic interest in tech to find the abilities of technology engaging.
  4. Incentives to use technology must be non-technical and focus on the personal gain achieved from making the switch if real change is to be achieved – teachers are only human after all.
  5. Although not advised by Google, I used a single account for 16 teachers. The benefit of this was that all new material appeared in one place meaning they often stumbled across each others practice and inspired progress and new uses.
  6. Focusing first on the time-saving and workload reducing benefits, I was able to make technology and particularly the use of Google apps the saviour for my teachers and have achieved almost 100% uptake in regular use.

Self-appreciation club

It’s easy for conference goers & Twitter teachers (like me) to look around them and imagine an exciting industry-wide progressive movement into 21st century learning. I literally saw teachers at the Google Summit patting each other on the back, which, figuratively speaking, I see daily  on Twitter and Google plus too. This isn’t a bad thing but does lead many of the back-patters to assume that when they return to school the ‘others’ will naturally be excited about the new tricks, tools and devices and then get angry that “they just don’t do anything about it.”

I love technology (have you noticed?) but I appreciate that most people don’t and we have to approach moving to 21st century learning from the point of why it makes sense as humans and not tech-enthusiasts. This is the only way schools will see true change in what the majority of teachers ask for in their classrooms. After all, we’ve had decades of PD and the pencil still says it all !

 

 

 

Fail with a Smile

Scared to try? It’s difficult to pin down the exact origin of the ‘do not fail’ culture in schools. Did schools simply replicate the industrial model where the wrong result would mean lost profits? Was it the growth in competitive school structures and league tables that encouraged teachers to only point students directly to the ‘right’ answer? It doesn’t really matter, we just need to remove the fear culture asap!

600px-Stop_signTHE EFFECTS OF FAIL FEAR

Fear of getting it ‘wrong’ makes students:

  1. Not engage
  2. rely too much on teacher input
  3. not experiment or challenge ideas
  4. not value their own thoughts (correct thoughts will be provided)
    .

image: Wikimedia

Fear of things going wrong makes teachers:

  1. Never challenge their own practice with something new.
  2. Not enhance practice with digital tools.
  3. Not encourage peer observation.
  4. focus students only on the ‘right’ answers and not on the purpose behind learning.
  5. restrict students to only the activities and technologies that their teacher is confident in.
  6. not learn from the kids !

Moving beyond the fear is a cultural shift that needs to be explicitly explained to both students and teachers. I am fortunate that I work in a school that encourages individuals to experiment and fail. Even within this environment, many of my colleagues still tread carefully and worry about any new initiatives having adverse effects. This fear of things going wrong is dangerous because it always reduces what a teacher will accept as learning activity in their classroom and thus restricts students from personalising their approach, feeling they own their own learning and thus kills intrinsic engagement.

Here’s a slide I start many of my units with:

 

Fail-n-Smile

“Let go of the fact you don’t know what you’re doing, ‘cos you’ll have to hack it all along the way” – Alexis Ohanian

Here’s the Reddit creator explaining that he’s always worked on-the-fly and and made it up as he goes along. This should be seen as a positive way to work and will be needed more as the speed of development around the world increases.

Learning and Adapting

Why failing must become the norm.

The world is changing fast. Technology is changing quickly too and the speed of change will increase (See Shanghai below!). Over the next 50 years, occupations will come and go and learning and adapting will become the key skills for everyone trying to survive and develop a career that will last.

Please make failing a good thing in your classroom and allow your students to fully engage with your programme without fear holding them back. For example, when it comes to using iPads, set clear criteria and demands but benefit from the true potential of the devices by allowing students to present their learning in the format that suits them best. Ensure they are presenting their work to an audience other than just the teacher and have an explicit dialogue about the probable failures in this freedom and that the class will all learn from each other’s failures.

shanghai 1990 2010

Image: io9

 

Kids must code on iPads

hopscotch flappy

An important 21st Century skill

This post is about a topic and app close to my heart. Computer programming is the engine of modern life and dream maker for tens of thousands. More and more countries are introducing the subject as compulsory schooling at surprisingly young ages. The UK is introducing a national school programme in september this year whilst also funding yearofcode.org to increase momentum. Code.org is pushing an international message with big-name endorsement. Even small countries like Estonia have their 5-year-olds taking their first steps into logical problem solving. A site I’ve used for years is codecademy.com

estonia codeWhat learning to code offers young people.

Even I was surprised at how much my students have enjoyed their first experience of coding this year. In a number of ways, coding offers a ideal learning experience. Students receive immediate feedback from any attempt and can see the results of their endeavours without the need for teacher feedback. If the challenge is set at the appropriate level, coding automatically becomes a perfect example of gameification. It naturally encourages students to ask “what can I do next?”

code club ukAccessible to anyone 

Coding is problem solving and like any puzzle, it seems to immediately engage kids as long as the puzzle pieces are easy to play with and move around. That’s where Hopscotch comes to the rescue! I have been teaching coding for 10 years and have never seen such an immediate impact on engagement than that of touch-screen draggable commands. Hopscotch is a free app that has an online community to share your coding projects with. It’s easy and intuitive to play with and is appropriate from about the age of 4 or 5. You do not have to know anything about coding to give this a go with your class and of course there are Youtube video lessons.

hopscotch screeen Quick & keen

My colleague and I had written a typical coding introduction for our 12 & 13 year olds using Hopscotch but very quickly realised that the app negated traditional approaches as it was so intuitive. The students were creating shapes, drawings and characters within 20 minutes. They just wanted to play, discover and create and our teaching unit was far to slow. Obviously, we let them go for it!

codecademy“Let’s make Flappy Birds!”

Within the first hour, a 12-year-old had already realised the the ‘world issue’ that was “the death of Flappy Birds” could be solved with Hopscotch. It was great to see the students all working together and keenly sharing their discoveries. One student realised the the Emoji keyboard allowed for 100s more characters, another worked out how to colour the background in as sky and grass. The only element I had to directly help with was keeping score.

We were also amazed to get recognised by the folks at Hopscotch!

20140323-222751.jpg

hopscotch appPersonalised learning

One benefit of coding your own apps and games is keeping it personal. Students started twisting the Flappy birds concept into fish games or car games and it was as if I’d completely disappeared from the room. When using Hopscotch, students are constantly problem solving, working collaboratively and thinking creatively.

What’s coming next?

I have watched the development of this app and can’t wait to see the next version. There are a couple of significant programming tools missing but I am sure they’re on their way in future releases.

Here is a help sheet I produced from from my classes coding and I hope it helps.

Flappy Birds and code for other games in Hopscotch

hopscotch flappy

“School work is no longer school work when it’s recognised outside school” – @iPadWells

@ipadwells & OC on Hopsctch Blog

The Power of Comics

Comic Heads10Comic apps are an important addition to any student’s learning armoury and I know that many classrooms are already engaged with them but I wanted to:

  1. study the various uses for them in general education and
  2. focus on a specific example app that takes things a little further than the others.

Alongside the obvious use in creative narrative writing, the comic format can be utilised by many areas of study. Anything we do in life can be seen as a narrative and the comic is a great way to both summarise and reflect on any experience.

Why do they work with kids?

It is tempting to think that whether you like it or not, a combination of the internet, TV, Computer games and mobile devices has made the current young people heavily rely on visual presentation and images in general. But this is not a new phenomenon. As Mr SAMR has highlighted, humans have always found the most success and progress when tools allowed for visual representation and story telling. They have also always had a desire and practical need for using visuals before text.

graphic novels

Only for young kids? … No.

If you haven’t noticed, graphic novels have hit the mainstream and are being discussed as having considerable positive effects on teenage engagement and ability in reading. This is also feeding onto them reading standard novels in greater numbers too. Here’s a nice panel discussion of that very topic:

Just for English and creative writing class? … No.

Here’s a list of ideas I’ve discussed with teachers in schools:

Students enjoy using the comic format for :

  1. Recording science experiments with photos and reflecting on processes within each comic frame;
  2. Storyboarding media studies projects from short films;
  3. Recording the process and decision-making during project-based-learning;
  4. Explaining Historical events with the thoughts of key characters as they took place;
  5. Recording the design process behind product, fabric, and food productions;
  6. A good way for teachers to move away from front-of-class presentation and have the students engage with content individually.

Taking it to the next level. Which app?

comics headI thought I’d mention one app as it works well with all ages and especially caters for the older kids looking at producing more professional graphic novel level material.

The app I like the most is Comics Head. It is the Explain Everything of comic apps. It has every option imaginable, whilst being easy to use and publish with.

You can:

  • Choose between blank layouts and completed templates
  • Add images from any source or draw from scratch
  • Move and rotate anything instantly
  • Choose from a massive library of characters and objects.
  • Full suite of editing tools.
  • Crop to various shapes
  • Save comics as templates for others;
  • Share to Social media and save directly to Google Drive;
  • Fine tune and refine elements to professional standard

comic2.001 comic2.002

For the students who get serious about comics or to give every option needed when recording/teaching a process or event, Comics Head is great fun to use and hasn’t the restrictions of other comic apps.

Many teachers would benefit from opening up to the use of comics as a format that definitely engages students in dealing with any kind of content.

Happy story telling!