Combating teacher’s stress in a classroom

Students-postitMy general rule for stress relief is to orchestrate classrooms that rely more on the students than the teacher to lead the learning and contribute. Short-term, quick fix solutions will only work so many times with a class. I would recommend developing long term strategies that relate to overall classroom environment and relationships. When discussing stress with my colleagues, I start by suggesting moves to slow down and dedicate more time to see what the students can bring to the table in classroom activities. Here in New Zealand, our future focused national curriculum states 5 key competencies for young people to be focused on. These are aimed at reducing the demand on the teacher to ‘deliver’ education and at building habits amongst the students to manage and take the lead over their own learning. Here they are summarised that every learner should:

  1. set and monitor personal goals, manage time frames, arrange activities;
  2. interact, share ideas, and negotiate with a range of people;
  3. call on a range of communities for information;
  4. analyse and consider a variety of possible approaches;
  5. create texts to record and communicate ideas, using language and symbols.

Given these prompts, teachers must consider a pedagogical approach that will allow students to practice and develop these competencies. In most cases, designing the sort of environment that encourages this behaviour will reduce demand for teacher attention and thus reduce stress in general. Personal thinking space leads the better outcomes and happier teachers I have been doing a lot of work recently with Design Thinking. Beyond being an excellent framework for projects, it has an important and obvious first step that few classrooms utilise: personal thinking time. During my teaching career, many high school teachers have complained about the stress caused by students who just don’t engage or the supposed inability of students to discuss topics meaningfully. In both cases, the lack of time given to allow each student to think, process and prepare thoughts for the class inhibits successful contribution. Here’s my post on Design Thinking.

Typical scenario: A teacher asks the class to form groups of 4 and discuss topic X. After 5 minutes, the teacher expresses disappointment in the results of the discussions. When activities launch immediately into group or class discussion, more confident individuals dominate or if little is known about the topic, they disengage and wait for input from the teacher due to having had no real time to think about what they might contribute.

 stress Three to five minutes of silent thinking time for every student on a topic to consider their own existing knowledge or questions they have, before embarking on a discussion or project means each individual will bring more to the activity. Then comparing thoughts and lists of ideas they’ve had time to compile leads to more engagement from every student and less need for prompting from the teacher. It took me many years to realise this but I now enjoy working with classes of active students who display more confidence to contribute. Rather than worrying about small quick-fix tools and activities to reduce stress, teachers need to have a long-term view and look at developing a learning environment that encourages confidence in students to take charge of the learning and rely less on teacher input. This way, teachers will discover they can focus more on facilitating conversations and dynamics in the room and less on the fear of content delivery failure.

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edubloggers.

Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

Are your kids always staring at screens?

IMG_0651I’m a father of two girls (7 & 10)  and like many fathers in developed world in 2015, school holiday time has become “constant screen time” for my kids. Unless I painstakingly structure every minute of their day, given the choice, they pick screen time before considering other activities. They are kids after all and it may have been 1987 and it may have been an Atari ST, but I was just the same.

The 70s gave us screen time, the 80s brought it home, the 90s expanded the choice and the 21st century has now given many young people the power to download further screen time options when they feel like it.

What’s good for kids?

If most parents are allowing it, is it ok to deny your own kids (as a parent or teacher) the access other’s enjoy? What long-term effects will show themselves in 20 years? Will they be positive or negative? You can find news stories and studies to prove any case you’d like to.

So, what do we parents and teachers do with a generation who have increasingly higher expectations for how much screen time is considered normal? I have written before on categorising screen time to give more value to creative pursuits and this has helped family time in my house considerably. But here’s other ideas I’ve had that help in this increasingly challenging debate about what is good or not good for children.

Children generally think of the games first but are also naturally curious and creative and often just need reminders of the more productive activities available. Here are some ideas for how to structure these reminders.

Idea 1: Make rules & reasons clear

Folders screentimeRealistically, most families I know would allow a couple of hours in any day for iPadding. Organise apps into folders based on family rules about screen time. As examples: 20 minutes playing games; 40 minutes playing ‘thinking’ games; 1 hour of these creative apps. Using the Control Centre (swipe up from bottom of screen) you can quickly access the timer to ensure the kids get an alarm to say ‘time’s-up’. I also use Emoji characters to help the kids remember why they’re categorised (see pic). It seems sometimes that screen time becomes the issue more than worrying about exactly what’s on the screen. and my kids will move onto more productive activities, if it means more screen time. (Sad, I know)

Idea 2: Make them earn this precious resource

Yes, they will do almost anything for screen time and so use this to your advantage and make them earn it. The parenting advice on this also changes week to week, depending on which book, expert or website you follow but generally, publishing a list of ‘good citizen’ tasks that all earn screen time works well. It puts the onus on the child to carry out good deeds before the earn device time. My daughters have very tidy bedrooms, we have an automatic filling dishwasher and the fire wood was transferred to it’s winter location all because of the desire for the screen. I’ve had no arguments about work around the house if it’s weighed up against iPad time.

Idea 3: Become master of the games you want your kids playing

Here are some games I’ve recently become very good at, so as to spark discussion and competition within the family.

land of vennMath: The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense This is a great game where young kids learn and draw geometric shapes as weapons against monsters. It quickly had my 7-year-old daughter using math vocabulary she might never have used at home. Lots of extras to win and spells to purchase with your winnings. Cleverly designed to award more power to the more complicated shapes. Great fun and sparks good conversation.

 

English : Sentopiary

sentopiaryThis was a great distraction that both my daughters enjoyed as it reinforced things they’d studied at school and was interactive enough that even I learnt a few things regarding grammar. As the app states: “Guided by Common Core standards, it is intended to be used both at home and in classrooms and works well in environments where iPads are shared.” This is true as it also sparks conversation between 2 people looking at it.

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Languages: Duo Lingo

duo lingoWe’ve made it a family challenge to learn Spanish using this app. My elder daughter has now decided that after Spanish, she’s ‘gonna learn Russian’ :-). Make it a weekly challenge to work through a particular number of lessons. The app is very carefully crafted to make sure you build your knowledge and skills in successfully in written, reading and spoken forms. There is discussion about the teaching of languages dying out in schools but this app and gasified online system could be the saviour for language learning.

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Art: Sketchbook Express

Sketchbook ExpressThis free app gives you advanced tools presented in a straight-forward fashion. Even I could reignite my liking for art with some nice first steps tracing a photo using the layers available (see pic). This immediacy and extra safety (kids don’t like to mess up their pictures) of this layering made it an instant hit with my 10-year-old daughter.

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Movie making: iMovie

iMovieUsing siblings, pets or classmates to put together a story introduction using iMovie’s Trailer option is a popular activity that I find with some theme prompting from me always gets my kids outside and ‘acting’. The other day, all I had to say was “what about using our chickens for a trailer?” and they were off!

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Logic & Coding: Kodable & Thinkrolls 2

IMG_0642Both these apps challenge the brain for logical thinking. They present themselves as games but in such a way that the kids have to pause and think rather than just react on instinct like typical gaming.

Kodable is a great introduction into coding that both my daughters will play for the full 30 minutes overtime they’re reminded of its existence.

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screen322x572Thinkrolls 2 looks easy to start with but quickly gets very challenging and is cleverly designed to deliver challenges in quick succession that my kids will choose to play this without reminding.

This means WAR!

Yes, as a parent or teacher you might feel you are in a constant fight and you may win some and loose some battles but if we are careful, I believe we will win the war. With some thought and a positively mindset, this screen time might create a generation of thinking, creative and collaborative people. By setting up structures to help the children self-manage their screen time, I am hoping that I can already see the benefits of what these apps have to offer transferred to ‘real-life’ with two girls who are happy to help, keen to solve problems and create projects of their own design. Make sure you make some time to showcase the results of their more productive device use and it will encourage more.

Good luck everyone !!!

Mistakes when integrating Technology into classrooms

Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

What’s the biggest mistake teachers make when integrating technology into the classroom?

During a recent conversation I had regarding a new tech tool, a colleague told me, “it would probably go wrong and mess his lesson up.” The root of much fear around integrating technology derives from teachers wondering, “what do I do if it goes wrong?” In working with teachers in multiple schools, I have found this is due to a traditional mindset that the teacher must be the master of content and activity in the room. Fear of losing that control and sense of respectability is what still leads many teachers to avoid introducing technology and limiting the scope of what might be achieved with it.

Classroom Design Thinking

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edubloggers.

Teachers often prescribe which apps, websites and gadgets are allowed in “their classroom” to ensure nothing goes wrong. Notice here that the priority is on teacher comfort over that of the students. This can lead to learner frustration, scope limitations and restrictions to creativity and many learners not realizing their potential. Creating an environment like this, can foster disconnect between teacher and learner, and for me is the most common mistake I come across when working with schools introducing technologies. Young people live in a world where technology offers them much personal control over when, where, and, how they do things. If school does not reflect this world, it will seem to become ever more irrelevant.

In all my teaching, writing, research and presenting, the central theme in education at the moment is the empowerment of students over their own learning. As this becomes more understood by teachers, it redefines the classroom as a space of shared ownership, relaxing the need for absolute control and freeing them up to work with the students, whilst learning alongside them. Most technology these days has to be designed to be user friendly or it doesn’t survive in the marketplace and young people have become accustomed to quickly mastering gadgets, apps and other technologies. If the classroom is a flexible and collaborative space, my students help each other apply their own choice of technology to the task at hand. The focus is on the learning goals and/or problems, not the technology itself.

Operating a more democratic classroom environment has led to my own use of technology being enhanced by student suggestion. The Iinternet has increased the speed at which young people discover new tools and examples of them being used. Allowing them to experiment with their new discoveries gives them ownership over how they learn and in my experience and observations of others, it increases engagement in the tasks and content in nearly all casesclassroom.

The issue is not about faith in technology but more faith in the students to showcase their own mastery and adoption of a rapidly advancing world. The trick is to harness this potential and use the keenness shown by young people to enrich the learning experience for themselves the students.

Read the other excellent posts here: Top 12 Bloggers

Can iPads help achieve a state of Flow?

Lev VygotskyI’ve just had the pleasure of being inspired by Keryn Davis at Core Education, New Zealand. Keryn was speaking to a selected group of talented NZ teachers and the not quiet as talented me, who are all carrying out research projects on teaching and learning in 2015. Keryn spoke to us about the power of play in schools and used research and her own data to convince all of us that this was a significant issue for educators to explore.

Starting with the work of Lev Vygotsky, Keryn highlighted that people naturally stretch themselves during play. Vygotsky said: “In play, a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” This idea struck me as quite profound and had me hooked the rest of the way.

Next we were taken through some inspiring examples from her own research where play had been first introduced as a special hour at the beginning of the day, for “proper” school to commence afterwards. She explained how the positive results from this specially timetabled hour of play had led the schools to extend it and use elements of play throughout the day, making the most of opportunities that arose. Learners naturally started to organise, lead others and collaborate. I highly recommend you read more about her work here.

Play, Involvement & experiencing Flow

What I liked most was how she linked play to considering the level of true involvement a child displays in any school activity and finally onto the idea of flow, being a state of intense concentration on the present moment. As a tool for measuring activity and flow, we were introduced to the Leuven Scale for Involvement. Originally designed by Ferre Laevers.  This is used by elementary school educators to grade students during observations regarding how involved they are in various activities during the school day. Normally data is gathered by recording the observed involvement in activities of one child at a time as they carry out the different types of tasks in one day. I can’t see why these wouldn’t apply in principal to a learner of any age.

Here’s my infographic version:

The Leuven Scale for Involvement-@iPadWells

 

We were looking at her data that recorded both involvement and well-being at 5 minute intervals for a child during a school day. We started discussing the idea of flow as being the state that people attain when these 2 measures are at their peak. Karyn had actually discovered that flow was achieved when involvement was “Extremely High” but Well-being only had to be “Moderate.”

Here’s the Leuven scale for Well-being:

The Leuven Scale for Well-being-@iPadWells

Flow

Nakamura and Csikszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing the experience of flow.

  1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2. marking action and awareness
  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subject’s experience of time is altered
  6. Experience of the activity is intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

Reference: Nakamura, J.; Csikszentmihalyi, M. (20 December 2001). “Flow Theory and Research”. In C. R. Snyder Erik Wright, and Shane J. Lopez. Handbook of Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press. pp. 195–206. ISBN 978-0-19-803094-2

All teachers have the opportunity to design school structures and activities with an aim that children will experience states of flow during their day. These two scales are also useful for a teacher to use in judging their own activity design and classroom structures.

What does this mean for iPads?

i4S - APPSMASHING.001Combining the ideas behind play, involvement and flow, I believe teachers need to be open-minded when deciding how and/or when iPads will be used by learners. Allow learners to play and express themselves. Let them build their own learning experience and in doing so become more focused and absorbed in the moment.

App Smashing is a great example of this, as long as it’s not the teacher prescribing the exact apps to be smashed. Learners should develop their own workflows and styles of output. Having to conform to any generic structure for learning is always going to lessen the chance that moments of true flow might develop.

The flexibility and massive possibilities for expressing, creating and publishing from iPads means they can enable a learning environment that caters for every individual. Personal agency can lower self-consciousness and this might in-turn lead to deeper learning and students lost in moments of their own creation.

 

What will be the most significant classroom innovation in the next 10 years?

The devaluing of content demands innovation

In my recent work, both in the classroom and in research, the most common recurring question is “what should we be teaching?” This question is valid in a world of Google, Wikipedia and instant access to information from the device in your pocket. This educational challenge is also expanded by the thousands of young people already pushing beyond the conventional system due to success in personally instigated start-ups and projects they have organised themselves. The personal empowerment and opportunities that the internet and technology offer will challenge nearly every aspect of traditional education.

robots

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edubloggers.

The most significant innovation in the classroom during the next 10 years will not be some magical technology or even students staying at home. It will be a shift towards student-led education, which focuses on the development of key competencies for success in this century.    Photo credit

I’m lucky. I live in New Zealand where we have a future-focused assessment system that allows teachers to develop a relevant educational system for the 21st century. To give you an indication as to how different it is, the national curriculum has less than one page dedicated to Math! Our focus is on five key competencies:

  • Thinking;
  • Using language, symbols, and texts
  • Managing self
  • Relating to others
  • Participating and contributing

This means teachers are free and trusted to tailor their classroom activities to suit the exact children in the room and also allow them to inquire into content of their own choosing. That said, the change to this less structured approach has been a challenge for many long-standing educators and only in its eighth year is it starting to bear real fruit.

The need for this pedagogical innovation in teaching philosophy involves technology but is also, in part, driven by technological advancement. The speed at which technology is altering the opportunities within the job market is increasing each year. Recent studies indicate that large percentages of jobs will disappear altogether. This increasingly flexible world requires flexible but also collaborative learning environments. Students are being encouraged to create their future career rather than find one.

My conversations with educators around the world indicates that we are seeing a worldwide shift towards student-driven learning, where the content studied, and challenged, is also selected by the learners. Teachers will learn to stand back and be amazed at what students are capable of when given this freedom.

The innovation will come from the dismantling of traditional classroom hierarchies and the empowerment of young people to use any technology and skills, which they can more successfully develop in a learning environment that they control.

A Teacher’s Target

I had a fantastic brainstorm meeting with an extremely talented educator and colleague Maya Foster (@MayaFoster4) where we decided to summarise our vision for a teacher’s daily priorities, the order they should be placed into and how we could get teachers to reflect on their own practice in regard to them.

We developed an idea that Maya had sketched out on paper which placed the student at the heart of successful teaching and highlighted assessment as the last thing an effective teacher should be considering. We both agreed that many teachers start with the assessment and work backwards towards considering the students as individuals. This leads to very uninspiring and often un-motivating classrooms. I’ll break our discussion into its four components but here’s the graphic:

2015 WLS & FTR TEACHING

 PDF version here

Priority One: KNOW YOUR STUDENTS

students targetSpending time to build a strong understanding of exactly who each student is can save time in the long run. Students who feel genuinely appreciated will perform better throughout the school year and just knowing their name isn’t enough. The more you can connect with a student around a personal interest, the more a student will work with you and respect your ideas. This will make everything else much easier. Using the school’s data to find out which areas or school they are strong in can also help build a more useful understanding of how to design activities for the class.

Priority Two: PEDAGOGY AND ACTIVE LEARNING

ped targetYou might know your students but you won’t get every student to engage with your content unless you have a variety of sound pedagogy at your disposal. Successful pedagogy leads to student engagement in the content without constant teacher oversight. The careful design of activities and tasks tailored for the specific students in the room can reduce the energy required by the teacher in the classroom. I have covered in previous posts my belief and findings that any lecturing does not attain the the assumed outcome of all students engaging in or listening to the content. Make sure your students are active and working together to challenge the content with deeper thinking.

Priority Three: KNOW YOUR CONTENT

content targetSuccessful teachers bring any content to life. This is done by knowing the students, using appropriate pedagogy and the linking the content to current affairs, the students’ culture, other subjects being studied or its relevance to the future. All topics can be made relevant. Throughout history, humans have showed a wonderful talent for sticking to about 5 core themes, such as, greed, love, war, innovation and charity. If your subject is not directly linked to modern developments like the sciences might be, then it will always parallel something going on in the students’ lives or the world at large. Make sure you are reading-up on the developments and stories relevant to your subjects. Make connections and place the content in some kind of real context. Disconnected content leads to disconnected students.

Priority Fore: Know your assessment.

assess targetYes, the assessment should be the last consideration, but sadly is often a teacher’s first. Worrying about tests and marking guides can suck the joy from both teaching and learning. That said, it should not be completely ignored either. Make sure the requirements of the assessment are known early in the course and ensure the classroom activity allows the students to explore and challenge the content whilst being able to relate it to the demands of any future assessment. One trick is to use Flipped Teaching to relieve the pressure from worrying about whether you’ve mentioned every detail. The students can then access that detail in their own time.

Priorities for success

Too many teachers worry about assessment and grades and in doing so actually do damage to the success of many students. Many, if not most high school teachers are still subject first, teacher second. This devotion to content can lead to a devaluing of pedagogical ideas and a reduction in genuine engagement from all the children. I say genuine because ‘good’ kids will always play the game but if you get your teaching priorities straight, more students will love learning.

2 Teachers have 9 thoughts as iPad turns 5

I am very excited to be collaborating with the great Steve Lai again (@sly111). We decided to celebrate the iPad’s 5th birthday with a quick brainstorm of our key lessons from 5 years of iPad teaching. Education across the world continues to evolve in its understanding of how 1-to-1 student device learning can and will revolutionise the industry. Photo Credit

5 Years pic

We started predominantly with our 20th century mindset: “The teacher must be master.” This approach led many educators and schools to hold students back whilst they themselves struggled to master it first or feared the technology altogether. My recent evidence shows that a gradual development of this mindset has taken place and students are more often offered greater freedom to control how their learning might involve and benefit from an iPad. 

Teachers are now accepting that the very definite hierarchy that existed in the classroom has been dismantled somewhat and students are now able to access information on demand then create and collaborate in ways that many teachers struggle to keep up with. The secret is to challenge students to prove just how talented they can be, but this requires certain freedoms.

Here are our 9 thoughts:

  1. BlogBut-app14Richard: “Never prescribe an app for a task. Let the students surprise you.”
    I was introduced to Green screening and stop-frame animation by my own students. Students continuously discover apps and will be keen to apply them to class tasks. In a flexible learning environment the teacher spends less time hunting out apps for students to use and more time devising learning intentions.

    Richard: “Green Screening was introduced to me by my students. It revolutionised my classroom!”
    Check out this slideshow describing how to use Green Screen Movie FX Studio
    Check out this post describing DoInk’s Green Screen app
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  2. iOS7TechnicalSteve: “Know the ins and outs of how to troubleshoot potential roadblocks”
    If you are the “go-to” iPad person at your school, your students (and some coworkers) will regularly ask you how to do even the simplest tasks. Try to predict potentials roadblocks by practicing on your own before any iPad lesson. Try giving some of your new and exciting lessons with your family and colleagues and see if they have any questions to stump you.Another consideration is to develop a small network of students that will help people in your class or even school with these common roadblocks.Here are examples of student-run tech support teams:
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  3. ocKids-iPadSteve: “Always continue to learn and its okay to sometimes admit you don’t know how to do something.”
    We should strive to be lifelong-learners. That’s why you’re reading this article! While you should be the best at your teachable subject, your students need to realize that we aren’t infallible. When tough questions arise, learn the solution as a class. The learning of that topic, on your part, is professional development in itself. Keep up to date with the latest teaching tools. Attend iPad pro-d’s if available.The views on iPad teaching have evolved over the 5 years and teachers are realising that the traditional view that they must be the master of the classroom content does not have to apply to the use of technology. Consider what you’d like the students to be doing but let them discover the best way iPads might help.
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  4. Thinking Digital Citizenship-iPadWellsSteve: “Be wise in what you share online”
    Teachers are hopefully willing to share great creations made by students to other teachers, both within their schools/districts and also to a broader community. Take special care in how you share. Don’t publish full names, and make sure to get full parental consent if you want to post your students’ photos. As a professional, be careful and what you post about your personal lives as well, as it is an open book for all to read.
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    Read: How Teachers Should Stay Safe Online & Safe Facebook use in schools
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  5. NUTSHELL_iCloudSteve: “Make the cloud an essential tool. Know how to use it efficiently, ie. back up student work”The cloud is a relatively new tool. Learn how to maximize its potential. Cloud storage is becoming more affordable, and free storage options still offer a lot of great sharing features. Discover sharing and collaborative features and learn about the different forms it comes in. Make sure what you upload is secure and safe. Educate your students, as cloud computing is here to stay. The iPads will operate with all main cloud platforms by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Dropbox.Read: Dropbox for Dummies, Why You Shouldn’t Need your USB again.
  6. NUTSHELL_21C_Learning.001Richard: “Understand that while the iPad is an incredible teaching and learning tool, it doesn’t change what works and doesn’t work in effective learning”
    iPads don’t always change students’ engagement or desire to learn. True success in the classroom still requires a teacher to create the right atmosphere for deep learning. More success is realised by teachers who create flexible learning spaces and set student-driven challenges that demand deep thinking whilst allowing the iPad to help student collaboration and present this thinking.Read : iPad teaching is NOT about iPads
  7. i4S SAMR MindsetSteve: “Don’t teach with an iPad just for the sake of it”
    Teachers need to have (or develop) a certain passion for integrating technology (not just iPads) into their everyday teaching. If it’s not really your cup of tea, don’t feel like you have to do it. Find your niche and go forward with it!
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  8. Richard: “Worry less about “Wonder” apps and more about Collaboration and Teamwork”
    Why hunt for an app that can do everything, when tasks conducted in teams can demand each team member use the simplest of apps just to fulfil their team role.

    •  Student A: Camera for photo evidence
    •  Student B: Notes or Pages for text
    •  Student C: Simplemind for mind-map
    •  Student D: Blog setup & management for collating material and publishing

      iPads also allow for collaboration between students in different classrooms or even schools. Here’s a “Connected Classroom Challenge” to test students’ ability to run projects whilst working remotely. This is great practice for 21st Century workflow.
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  9. iPad 4 Schools PosterRichard: “iPads are still the most popular, flexible and successful device in education.”Whether it is the USA buying iPads in their millions or reports showing 86% of New Zealand schools have students using iPads, there is still a worldwide understanding that they are the easiest to integrate into classrooms. Educators around the world are often found discussing the benefits of active learning which the iPad continues to allow for in  a way that laptops / Chromebooks don’t, keeping students rooted to one spot.Read: Why I still recommend the iPad for schools

ipad kid drawingEducation’s landscape has changed greatly in 5 years and many aspects of teaching and learning that once were concrete are now being questioned. The iPad has played a big part in starting this questioning and challenging of old norms. Students are also challenging the system and their teachers as they take control of their learning. Education is no longer just about information and as the value of knowledge tumbles and access becomes more fair and democratic, the flexible talents of the iPad for creating, learning, collaborating and problem solving continue to shape this new world of connected learning.

Steve’s blog here: TeachingwithiPad.org

How to make an @iPadwells Poster #01

I blog about many educational things but by far the most common question I get is:

“What do you use to create your infographics?”

So here’s lesson 1 from a series I’m recording about what I consider when breaking down a topic into a structured graphic that people might choose to digest. This lesson is about layout, order and balance. There will be more videos to come and each one will be accompanied by it’s own summary infographic. #Funny

Although they can be made with an iPad, the level of design details I consider make it quicker to do on my Mac.

Music by Kaitain:

Other Uses:

These videos might also help students to improve the quality of presentation for many document types and not just posters. I use all the same rules and tools when designing documents, flyers, websites and even resumes. Teachers might find it useful when putting together Keynotes or resources for students too.

Here’s the summary slide:Posters-lesson01-by-@iPadWells

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.

Edchat – A Measure of School Quality

What are the teachers discussing in your school?

teacher chatMy 15 years of working in schools tells me that high school teachers talk firstly about non school issues, secondly about problems with the school administration and thirdly about current progress on the course calendars. Talking about non-school matters is fine as we are only human after all . The other 2 common topics for teacher discourse not only trouble me but also worry education supremo, John Hattie. Here you can hear him discuss a number of issues central to improving education but mainly that quality teacher collaboration within schools is what really drives change for the better.

Troublesome assumptions 

teachers talkingWhen it comes to talking about education and learning, most teachers still focus on content and one’s progress through it. A focus on content means that many teachers see themselves as subject first and teacher second. For example, Math teachers will discuss students’ handling of Math topics far more than their own teaching of it. Teachers often assume that their colleagues teaching practice is either something they’re not to concern themselves with or something they can do little about.

Many schools have little in the way of successful systems for encouraging professional dialogue amongst staff and this leaves leaders frequently assuming that tolerating whatever practice is in place is probably safer that tackling it. This is so because most senior leaders feel it should be their job to instigate improvements directly and doing this without treading on toes is difficult.  This leaves many elementary school teachers isolated to do their own thing in their room and most high school teachers to only worry about the delivery of their subject content. Photo Credit

Teacher Conversation-iPadWells

Quality Reflection

The problem that arises when staff become isolated inside what they assume is their only relevant grouping is that the teachers fail to understand themselves as a profession with shared objectives and similar problems to solve. When I talk to teachers in other schools, or other departments, the issues we face are essentially identical and having these discussions always makes me reflect on my teaching practice and pedagogy and less about the content I might be dealing with.

Schools must look to increase the quantity and quality of cross-school teacher discussion. There must be encouragement for challenging one’s own assumptions. Most humans are selective when focusing on evidence that backs up their preconceived ideas and schools must start a dialogue that takes this into account. Only when school leaders and teachers (as classroom leaders) present their ideas as possibilities instead of absolutes can real progress be made in learning.

Filling a void

Twitter SandThere is a growing number of teachers finding professional growth and dialogue outside their own school environment and with what seems like a faster pace of life, use the various online networks like Twitter as a more convenient way to continue professional discussion, many claiming it greatly re-energises their work life. This is often because they are not experiencing this within their school. These teachers then evaluate their own practice against the ideas presented by their network. This can only lead to better teaching and learning and this self-evaluation is what’s lacking in more fragmented schools where departments or individuals are left to work things out alone. Photo Credit

The Challenge

kidsChallenging one’s own beliefs and practices is what many teachers still struggle with. Opening up to dialogue around these issues is difficult for some as it presents the possibility of being wrong or in many cases openly accepting the failures one secretly knows already exist. An encouraging and supportive school environment can change this. Teachers can start to see the benefit of general professional debate about how to move forward and both cope with a rapidly changing world and make direct improvements in their own classrooms. Please start talking about teaching and do it with teachers who are not in your normal discussion circles. Set up systems within the school that are centred around general teaching issues such as boys education, differentiation, technology integration and the like. Photo Credit

School practices should encourage the behaviour in teachers that we hope for in children. Good luck!