#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

About these ads

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 !

 

 

 

i4S - APPSMASHING.005

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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIiaCMjXmnE

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

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.

SAMR success is NOT about Tech

Quick refresh

If you aren’t aware of the S.A.M.R. model (devised by Ruben R. Puentedura – @rubenrp) then in simple form it explains the common journey teachers go through when introducing technology. It’s popular for introducing iPads in schools. More info here.

Quick version:
Substitution: Do old paper task on device
Augmentation: Do old paper task digitally but now using an extra app feature
Modification: Students benefit from the versatility and combine new digital tools for new outcomes
Redefinition: Students are collaborating and learning in ways previously not imagined

Slow Progress

Even in my school, the speed at which the staff as a whole move through the SAMR model from substituting tasks for their digital equivalent to redefining how they help students learn is slow, sometimes seeming to stall completely. My school is good at providing professional development but after 4 years the conversations by tech leaders contain the same frustrations.

i4S SAMR Mindset

New Focus

I was thinking today that I had to make it clear that competency with technology is not the first issue you should worry about if you want to make SAMR progress. The issue to tackle first is the teaching conventions and mindsets amongst the staff, and for this you need some pretty simple and effective arguments.

So here are some I’ve used to move staff on a little:

1. Question the effectiveness of “Teaching/lecturing”

The aim of lecturing is that all leave the room with identical understanding. All teachers, secretly or not, know this has never been true but you are guaranteed to have to repeat information to the “bad listeners” and simultaneously waste the time of the “top” students who already know the material. Students listen at different levels and understand at different levels, something quietly ignored by many teachers.

2. What’s your strategy to ensure your students can cope & learn without a teacher?

Many teachers who moan about students’ inability to “think” are often expecting them to arrive at the same conclusion as themselves and thus attempt to painstakingly guide them to that very same point. This teaches kids to rely on well-rehersed guidance and not seek their own understandings. Employers and universities then complain that too many applicants seem to lack independence and drive to solve their own problems.

3. Can you tell me your course content is more important than other courses?

No matter what exists or is important in 10 years (the world seems to be changing quickly for some), students are guaranteed to need independence, willingness to help, imagination, teamwork, digital skills for staying connected, problem solving strategies and confidence. I believe that any course content is only a tool to achieving these far more overarching skills and mindsets. If students develop these, any content or learning becomes more enjoyable and thus seems more manageable and they will connect with what is appropriate at the time.

4. If you deliver your course, they’ll only ever check the mailbox to learn something.

Be less definite & ambiguous with your questioning. This makes it harder but kids are resilient and allowed freedom in how they tackle problems independently or in teams will develop the skills that so many feel school fails to encourage, and in some cases kills.

Learning the tech side of things comes quickly when teachers can see a reason for doing so. This is achieved when old habits are shown to be less effective in the modern context and that change is a must and not an option. Keep your teaching colleagues questioning their own habits and connecting with each other to collaboratively design active, student-centered learning spaces.

iPad teaching is NOT about iPads

Priority no.1 ? 

apple-on-the-desk-1428611-m

I’ve covered technical and workflow ideas on this blog a lot but it’s time to properly summarise a teacher’s first priority when the kids have iPads. Now here is where I have an issue with terminology…

Maybe not an issue of “Pedagogy” (As many know it)

Until a few years ago, I would have used the word pedagogy in this post but this now has the wrong connotations for me as it is linked more strongly to ‘teaching’ and not ‘learning’. To many I’ve worked with, the word pedagogy still implies “the way in which I deliver the content to the students”

The tiers collapse

The one-way ‘dumping’ of teacher knowledge into students has never inspired and is just not the way the world operates anymore. Traditional hierarchies of age, resource ownership and societal prejudice are being eroded and we need new generations to be adapting and not waiting for information from the tier above.

city-people-at-sunset-1209081-m

What really matters?

In numerous surveys and studies, employers and universities say they desire the following qualities, which many of them say often seem quite absent in young people:

  1. Creative thinking
  2. Independence / self-drive
  3. Teamwork
  4. Problem solving strategies
  5. Confidence to try new things

These are all skills and traits that are not evident in many school leavers either because they were never given the opportunity to develop them or that they existed in elementary school but the classroom routines lacked a need for them and they were lost over time.

Try, fail and develop

Many teachers need to try something that I will admit is scary to think about. Namely, handing over the control of the classroom to the kids! All young people need to experience the pressure & excitement of sorting themselves out, especially within a team. The iPads add a further layer of possibilities and individual power for discovery and presentation and teachers will always be surprised by the quality of student output as long as some freedom is offered in what a team focuses on within a topic and how they demonstrate their findings.

They will fail some of the time but as far as what matters is concerned, these moments become the most important learning opportunities. Developing keen learners who see failure as opportunity must be our first target. This requires freedom and support from the teacher.

visible-learning-infographic-john-hattie-studie-460x400

Let the kids decide

I have an apps page and make a point of talking about my list’s theme of general purpose and it not being content specific. But it should be the kids who make this decision. There are many apps that my students are excellent on that produce fantastic output in a format I’d never imagine but of course their peers respond to much more genuinely.

Also, in a major meta-data study by John Hattie, the number one driver in student performance was self-reported grades / expectations. (See Info-graphic – the full version can be found with a google search)

.

AppSmash_icon_iPadWells

What I often do now…

  • Divide my topics into important sub topics
  • Get the kids into groups (3s works best for me but 4 if I have to)
  • Pose a ‘driving question’ to the class that doesn’t have a specific ‘correct answer’ E.g. “Should everyone contribute to the web?”
  • Offer supportive questions to spark the groups conversations and give them areas to look at.
  • Get the groups into the habit of recording their discussions and discoveries in their favourite format. (Some group message, some audio record, some mind-map)
  • Have a shared class “success matrix” for every group to add to which outlines what would make a successful group product in general when covering the topic, answering the questions plus also product quality.
  • Challenge them to “AppSmash” their learning as a way of sharing with the class. “App-Smashing” is where content created in one app is used in a 2nd app. This forces a little more creative thinking in how to present their learning.
  • Most of the time we then upload, share & comment on other groups’ creations.

Time consuming ?

My time is now spent crafting better and better questions for my class to deal with in ways that suit them best and give them a genuine experience of crafting their own learning and enjoying the process. If we continue to push the idea that you need a teacher to learn then we’ll maintain the same small percentage that develop a real passion for learning right through high school and beyond.

The iPad Effect.

It’s the iPad’s versatility, portability, camera, app selection and user-friendliness that keeps it ahead of the others for education but it’s the approach taken by the teacher to learning within the classroom that realises these benefits, not the iPad alone. Worry first about what you are asking of your students and how much they are reliant on the teacher.

Project Based Learning with iPads

projectKidsBringing learning to life – Bringing Life to learning!

To start with, I think Project-based learning is the future of education. It puts students into real situations where they have to:

  1. Act professionally
  2. be a team player
  3. understand their assigned role
  4. Stick to deadlines as a team
  5. Problem solve
  6. Project manage
  7. Communicate ideas

… I could go on for a while here!

Photo by USdagov

These are the skills the world,  employers, charities and universities are crying out for, far more than any specific content schools might have traditionally taught. The world is changing too quickly to be concerned with static content and these general skills that enhance one’s ability to learn new things quickly will be key to success in this century.

Fortunately, I don’t have to cover PBL in much detail as there are a number of sites and Youtube channels that do it brilliantly, especially EDUTOPIA and BIE.

Here’s Edutopia’s introduction:

Just one Important distinction!

Project-based learning is not ‘doing projects’. PBL is student-driven and specifically open to interpretation to ensure students learn through carrying out a project and not doing a project pre-designed by the teacher. They are driven to answer a ‘big’ question and carry out their inquiry and design in teams. They are also under pressure to present their results to a third party of some kind. The students decide on how to achieve the goals and are not carrying out teacher-designed tasks.

PBL APPS (version 1)

Here’s my quick representation of PBL by iPad App. The process is not necessary linear but the apps might help you start various stages and help students and teachers understand the task at hand.

i4S PBL Apps

‘The task’ vs. ‘My task’

“Teacher, I’ve finished your work” 

3217146810_4c2c547354_o

It can be easier for a teacher managing a class of iPadding students to design projects where students own their own learning and thus care about the quality of their outcomes. For me, ensuring students care is my primary goal when designing tasks and programs. If they are doing ‘the teacher’s work’ then any motivation to produce the best result will probably have to come from external sources, like material rewards from the teacher or even as simple as making the teacher happy (Teacher’s pet). The teacher’s work is always seen as ‘work’ and genuine engagement is difficult.

Intrinsic Motivation

Here is a list of ideas for adding incentives to tasks to help the kids intrinsically care about the outcomes.

  1. Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 2.09.33 PMThe success criteria should be devised by the students themselves before commencing any task. These should be discussed and agreed upon by the class or group. Design a success criteria template that’s always filled in by the group.
    .
    .
    .
    .
  2. Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 2.11.44 PMThe teacher  only asks questions. Give no answers. Students should find their own answers and be taught to confirm them with more than one source including each other’s research.
    e.g. Try to always prompt for output with ‘Why’ questions and never start a lesson with “today class we will…” because who knows what the kids will do in todays lesson!
    .
    .
    .
    .
  3. head-37523_640Choose a creative & fun task for all and / or allow freedom of expression (choice of app) but remind students of the success criteria.
    e.g. You must record a TV news story containing an interview but it must explain how X affected Y. This will be shown on the class TV channel.
    .
    .
    .
  4. 6181049228_4dbbf2c9aeFocus on the students producing ‘products’ that could actually be used to benefit others, be they classmates or the community. Even if it’s not used in the end, work should seem purposeful and be seen as usable in the real world.
    e.g. If you are writing stories then ensure they look into how one self-publishes online. This opens the possibly of a real audience with real feedback. student blogs are an obvious starting point but why shouldn’t a child consider starting their writing career now, earning real cash? (There are examples online of this happening)
    .
  5. 1272px-Internet1I think the world is getting to a point where evidence of all student work should be stored / published online. My students always react with amazement when they first realise the videos / animations are going onto Youtube on my dept. channel. This creates an environment where students can easily peer review and encourage but also parents too, which I find has the biggest impact on motivation.

I have started to have a go at this with my year 7s and 8s and am now considering how future senior classes who have iPads will also own their learning whilst still working towards the national qualifications. I am lucky as the New Zealand assessment system if very flexible and I look forward to the challenge!

Gaming as School Assessment?

What can schools learn from why millions of people of all ages are turning to online gaming and online virtual environments? I’ve been reading this book by Jane Mcgonigal on the effect of and reasons why millions of people of all ages are turning to online gaming and online virtual environments. Here’s Jane at TED summarizing the book in 15 minutes. The basic premise is that the continuous feedback and desire for self-improvement becomes the drive to continue.

It goes as far as to say that games that have a definitive end and can be won are less appealing. A classic example is “Tetris” which became one of the most popular games in history regardless of not being able to win it! It never ends, you just continue to challenge yourself to last longer each time, whilst receiving continuous visual and sound feedback.

Gamers just want work and learn! The more work the better. World of Warcraft has clocked-up 6 million gamer hours in about a decade! (That’s as long as humans have been upright!) It takes 500 hours of play to reach the highest levels in the game and this is now seen by gamers as a small amount of work time!

The constant desire to get more work done within the world, whilst continuously “levelling-up,” and the fact that one’s levels are shared across the system is what drives the engagement. The other thing going on in these games is learning. the students only really score points if they show they have learnt something new. I’m wondering if we can bring that level of drive & dedication to work and learn into the school environment.

So I thought I’d have a go!

Here’s an idea for a mobile app system used by teachers and students that could work in many schools to drive student engagement but also provide individual student performance analytics to the school.

Allowing for my previous blog posts, I must add that this would only work in a student-centred environment where students were self-directed on large enough projects that the teacher is free to only offer 1-to-1 guidance and have time to truly assess how each student is developing.

Step 1 (Objectives)

The school decides on about 8 core requirements for life in the 21st century. Skills that it feels students must be assessed on across all their school-life and students can then “Level-Up” on each day/week.

These might be things like:

  1. Creative Thinking

  2. Independence

  3. Leadership

  4. Physical skills

  5. Collaboration

  6. Sharing

  7. Language depth

The school could outline a matrix of examples of how students might behave and think to Level-up in each requirement.

Step 2 (Technical)

Classes are set up on a database system accessible through mobile devices by everyone in the school. An app is created with both a student and teacher version. A website also collates the data for the school leadership team.

Step 3 (Levelling-Up)

A Mobile app is used by all the teachers to simply issue points on-the-fly to each student. Any evidence at any moment, either in the classroom or when marking work in the evening can gain points in any of the identified core requirements.

The app design is key and is simple to use. The class list is shown and clicking on a name brings up 8 large buttons that allocate a point on each click to the student for any of the core requirements identified by the school.

TEACHER APP (MOCK-UP)

Step 4 (Feedback and Socialising)

Students download the student app and can login to view a live self-profile and see the levels increasing day-to-day. For fun they can design an avatar (maybe to illustrate a future career) and possibly even share their thoughts on their scores with other students in the school. Socialising about your levels using the app would also be key to the engagement. Students who have Levelled-Up in Creativity, for example, might share what they did to show creativity. Their peers might then attempt to model the same behaviour.

Step 5 (Student drive)

Students start to question at all times in the day how they might show evidence of creativity or leadership etc,  knowing they’ll receive the feedback on the mobile app almost immediately. They also understand the core skills are cross-curricular and essential to life in general. It also pushes the idea that any moment of the day is an opportunity for self-improvement.

…anyway, it’s just an idea and please feel free to make the system and become a millionaire! However, I might spend some time next year developing it.

STUDENT APP (MOCK-UP)

Learning with iPad? Use the News!

Can any day’s world events or featured articles be tied to all learning objectives and make learning more meaningful?

One good use of student iPads is to appreciate that all creative output that comes from the device can feed directly from real-world stories, delivered by the various news apps. There should be one of any day’s events, stories or features that connects to a learning objective in any subject area.

The iPad can be used to produce media products or documents that cover how the story connects with the learning objectives in question. Appropriate news apps for your country or even local area can be used by the students to make learning more real and tangible.

.

Connect the learning to the story. It’s just a matter of asking the right question. 

How does the story:

  1. relate to current immigration issues?
  2. prove or disprove the wave equation?
  3. parallel the mindset of Macbeth in act I Scene V?
  4. show that humans need to change their approach to politics?
  5. indicate that health problems are linked to religion in more than one country?

.

These are just some examples (from the top of my head) but given that the news apps divide stories and features into categories, teachers should always be able to find something appropriate and design decent projects from it. It doesn’t have to be that exact day. Anything from the last week will still feature in the apps and offer a range of opportunities.  Connecting topics to real-world stories often humanises the context and engages students through an emotive connection. Studying weather patterns is one thing but connecting it to the effects of 8 million people loosing power after hurricane Sandy is quite a lot more powerful, especially if you demand solutions to their problems!

.
Fixed content - irrelevant?This approach to learning does go hand-in-hand with project-based learning and does not fit well with the more common approach of one-size-fits-all topic by topic approach (fixed curriculum factory schooling – see right). This is precisely why I encourage it. 21st Century learning, if it is to be engaging and successful (long-term) must appear relevant in today’s world. Separate from what school offers, information is delivered to students too easily and quickly for schools not to connect it to bigger learning objectives and discuss it’s meaning and impact.

Getting Started

Technical issue 1: The news apps don’t often allow for the saving of images or the highlighting of text.

Solution: Use the 2-button (Home+off) screenshot to grab content from the screen and crop using the photos app. These can then be entered into any iMovie project / keynote or in fact any app.

Solution 2: Many allow sharing through email. This will give you the website link and you can grab content using Safari with the normal copy-paste.

Remember copyright and kids should attribute their sources when using the material.

Technical issue 2: Which apps?

To save me a lot of time, here’s a good list but I would add 4 things:

  1. The Guardian Eyewitness app
  2. The Boston Globe Big Picture app (now US only?)
  3. Summly app (quick story summarizing – great for kids)
  4. BBC News App (might be the best one)
  5. Look for your local TV news channel, it might have an app that covers more local stories.

Technical / teaching benefit: Safe surfing
Using the News Apps gives you a simple internet filter and is safer for younger students over general internet surfing

Conclusion

Make want to teach relevant to today’s world because it is and always will be. Humans will always be human and so everything you want to teach still has relevance even if it’s to discuss the stark difference between ‘then’ and now. Make the students think and make connections, hopefully while tackling problems that have a real purpose.