An End to “21st Century” Learning Tools

21C Learning Tools-ipadwells

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

Safer Schools with Creative Commons

cc.logo.large

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:

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.

students2

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.

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
    .
  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
    .
  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.
    .
  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.
    .
  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
    .

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
    .
  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.
    .
  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.
    .
  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
    .
  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.

 

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 !

 

 

 

Why App Smash?

i4S - APPSMASHING.001

Inspired by the last #1to1iPadChat , I thought it was time to post on the world craze that is App Smashing. The term App Smash was coined by the great Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) from EdTech Teacher fame. It is a hot topic in EdTech and obviously has its own Hashtag – #AppSmash.

What is an App Smash?

Content created in one app transferred to and enhanced by a second app and sometimes third. Preferably the final product is then published to the web – remember, digital presence is the new résumé (CV).

Reasons to App Smash:

  1. It demands creative thinking
  2. It demands more from the technology (value for money)
  3. It turns the issue of not having a ‘wonder app’ into a positive
  4. It removes any restrictions to take a topic as far as it can be taken.
  5. It often results in more engaging learning products
  6. It’s a fun challenge for ‘digital natives’

Key rules for successful App Smashing:

  1. Use the Camera Roll as your main conduit between apps
  2. Leave the app choice to the students
  3. Have a list of apps capable of smashing content together (See below)

Key Apps when App Smashing:

i4S - APPSMASHING.005

 

Examples I’ve used:

SMASH 1:

Comics Head + Explain Everything + Youtube = Thinglink
This creates an online interactive poster that launches extra content using hotspots.

i4S - APPSMASHING.002

 

SMASH 2:

Garageband + Soundcloud + iTunes = Student radio show
Give your students a voice and experience great digital citizenship with running a radio show.

i4S - APPSMASHING.003

 

SMASH 3:

Camera or iMovie or iMotionHD + Pages or Pic Collage = Aurasma Posters
Make video creations more accessible to other students using Aurasma posters that come to life on the classroom wall !

i4S - APPSMASHING.004

For more examples check out Greg’s excellent presentation from last year’s EdTechTeacher Summit.

Watch me here chatting about App Smashing

I had the amazing privilege of being the first guest on Courtney Pepe’s show “The App Smashing Chronicles”. It was a great chat full of ideas.

Final thought

The challenge of app smashing keeps students on their toes and can increase collaboration between them. It adds a layer of creative problem-solving and also can lead to competition around out-smashing each other. The key when encouraging App Smashing is to make very clear the assessment criteria and ensure the students know that the final products will be judged on their effectiveness to prove their level of understanding and not just in their technical wizardry.

Keep an eye on Twitter using the Hashtag #AppSmash for other ideas and apps too.

Other links:

http://www.edudemic.com/app-smashing-education/

http://edtechteacher.org/blog/?p=2191

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!

How PD can make real change

scared_UserWriting blogs like this one and interacting with teachers on Twitter and the like can make edtech teacher types, like me,  forget that it is still the case that the majority of teachers are not confident or regular users of modern technologies (social, mobile & student-centred) and need effective introduction and explanation of their benefits. I would estimate this majority of the non-confident to still be around 80%.

I have been Head of Department in my current school for just one year and a number of my teachers have highlighted recently how far they’ve come in just one year. I thought I’d share my approach to providing PD and why it might be that it seems to work (well, some of it)

THREE QUESTIONS:

  1. Why does so much Professional Development NOT work?
  2. Why do schools make such slow progress with modern workflows compared with business?
  3. Why do some teachers refuse to budge from their tried and trusted methods?

FIVE COMPLAINTS

  1. “PD’s never to do with how I teach”
  2. “I always forget PD because I don’t use it immediately”
  3. “PD’s a waste of my time”
  4. “It’s always too much to take in”
  5. “I’m not confident with using technology in my teaching”

COMPLAINTS CAN BECOME SOLUTIONS

Choose an Tech-coach Teacher to work one-to-one with others and give them time to do it
Make PD to do with an individual’s current teaching – Don’t introduce an unrelated “new-way”
Give them a reason to use it immediately
Provide the PD at a time that suits the individual
Provide PD in small but frequent sessions
Confidence grows slowly, so only take small steps from current practice

SOLUTION ?

Every student is an individual and so is every teacher.

Providing standardised Professional Development to groups larger than 10 is just as effective as trying to teach a standardised curriculum to classes larger than 10, that is to say, not effective at all. The biggest missing piece in so many PD jigsaws is a reason for each individual to ‘develop’ in that way. As well as a professional reason, each individual will be looking for a personal benefit too. Some non-edtech teachers will need small conveniences added to their current practice.

HOOK THEM IN FIRST

hookMy trick is to always emphasise the personal benefits or conveniences such as time-saving, less admin or increased popularity with students to the teacher before explaining any professional or pedagogical benefit. In addition to this, by mostly working with individuals, I can also add an immediate use for the ‘development’ by looking at the specific teacher’s current teaching programme. This gets them using it for a number of days after the session. If they feel there’s a personal benefit, they’re more likely to give it a proper go. The professional and educational benefits will be truly realised in time and the teacher will be proudly trumpeting those, whilst possibly keeping the personal liking for it more quiet.

Photo Credit Link

KEEP IT SIMPLE – SMALL BUT FREQUENT. STEPS MAKE BETTER PROGRESS

When I’m working with a teacher, I only work with something they are currently doing and try to reduce the development to 3 points or even 3 clicks if I can. I also ensure I only ever cover one task that they are currently doing but show how it can be developed to be easier, quicker or more popular with the kids.

LINK THE STEPS

chainI try not to jump around topics and tools between sessions. Try to link all the small steps together. For example, moving to Google Drive is good for this as steps are taken within one account and the format is similar throughout the Google eco-system. Google Drive is also enough like an old PC but introduces the use of Cloud storage and can then link to increased iPad use through the Drive app and thus mobile workflows.

If you jump from one topic to another, teachers can’t picture how all the ideas and tools link in different ways to their current practice. This is particularly evident with training that focuses on app after app. Most apps are isolated tools that might be great but when piled upon each other with all their various features, can overwhelm and produce little progress. This happens even if an app is covered each week or so. In the first 3 years, build a plan for how a limited number of apps will work together in the long term.

Photo Credit Link

HAVE A BACKBONE

Any school or edtech team should have a planned set of apps or eco-system that together get all the basics done. This plan can be ignored or added to by the more confident teachers but acts as a core safety net for the less tech-minded. These basics are:

  • Sharing
  • Collaborating
  • Photos
  • Video
  • Text
  • Project organisation
  • Filing
  • Animation
  • Drawing
  • (I’m sure you might have others)

Many teachers I work with have often wished they’d just been told one way of doing things whilst other colleagues have enjoyed playing with a variety of apps. So providing a core eco-system is important to get everyone onboard.

Building basic confidence in tech use is the first hurdle for many teachers.

AN EXAMPLE

My Step 1: “Don’t worry, the new way is like the old way”
helpCreate a department Google Account to log all the non-technical people into on both iPads and laptops. Demonstrate the easy dragging of Word and Powerpoint files into the Drive and how it acts like an “old” computer.
Then show how the docs appear immediately on the iPad App. This worked well for our Apple TVs as I needed a wireless way to present all their normal files. The apps and browsers log in permanently, so no password remembering and They only had to remember that dragging worked.

Photo Credit Link

Step 2. “I have a great reason to start using this”
“I’ve canceled the next meeting!” When I said this, they loved that I had freed up their time but you can trade that off against having to comment inside a Google document where all the questions, topics and discussion takes place over a week, when they each find time. Their browsers and iPads will already be logged in so emailing the doc link gets them all straight in.

Step 3: “We need to reduce the workload for all”
Indicate that sharing the same Google file structure means they can all use the same files and replication and movement of copies between teachers comes to and end. Groups of teachers can then add to the same files. This also works well for school or department policy or admin files that can be completed by the whole team, reducing workload further.

Step 4: “Explain Everything but just with photos and a laser”
The only standalone app I introduced was Explain Everything. Non-technical, traditional teachers could see it’s worth as again it only recorded what they’ d always done. The trick was reducing the app to just 2 features:

  1. This is how you add a photo/screenshot to a slide,
  2. This laser lets you point at stuff.

The videos will go to the same google/YouTube Account so no further passwords.
Don’t mention Flipped teaching yet as it scares/annoys many teachers. In fact stay away for edtech vocabulary all together. :-)

Step 5: “Stop! That will do for year 1″
Let teachers master 3 things each year and the school will have far more overall success. If all teachers in any school were using Google services and Explain Everything, it would be a real leap forward for most schools.

THREE ANSWERS

  1. Professional development often fails by forcing too much too quickly, not giving personal/human reasons for shifting and not personalising it to individuals’ current needs.
  2. Schools move slower than business because they lack the financial / survival incentives to change. Schools should work with personal incentives to encourage change. Educational incentives are a worthier cause but in reality, teachers are human before they are idealists.
  3. Some teachers have habits developed over decades, so don’t try to change them but show how what they do can be done more efficiently and save them time. This will start the long road to change.