Fail with a Smile

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

600px-Stop_signTHE EFFECTS OF FAIL FEAR

Fear of getting it ‘wrong’ makes students:

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

Fear of things going wrong makes teachers:

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

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

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

 

Fail-n-Smile

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

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

Learning and Adapting

Why failing must become the norm.

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

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

shanghai 1990 2010

Image: io9

 

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

Why iPad 4 Schools [Poster]

Decision Making?

If you need something short and sharp to convince decision makers on why it should be iPad and not an alternative, this poster might help. Laptops and Chromebooks make excellent business tools for those writing documents, sending emails and using Skype (not available for Chromebook) but for creative options in schools, it still has to be iPad.

iPad 4 Schools Poster

iPad Responsible Use

POLICY FOR THE VISUAL LEARNER

My school had a list of responsibilities in regards to using iPads in school.  So I set about producing a visual version and recently tweeted it to a Tweep friend. The Tweet was popular and got a number of RTs. So I’ve re-titled the slides for general use and here’s the full PDF version you might want to use in your school.

Click image for separate slides PDF file.

iPadWells Responsible Use

Teaching Math on an iPad

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mathiPad

1. HIGH SCHOOLS

AS IT WAS…

In my High school, one of the last departments to realise a use for iPads was the Math department. Note: As a UK born New Zealander, writing Math and not Maths is difficult but as most my readers are american, I’ll persist!  Also…. I’m not a Math teacher, so sorry if I upset anyone.

Their thinking was that Math had to be hand written and there was no digital functionality beyond a calculator that suited the learning of Mathematical problem solving.

Certainly things like movie making, animation and group work did little in the genuine learning of Math reasoning. Plus the age-old excuse that the exam was hand written and so experience was needed and the iPad was only a distraction from this vital practice.

THE CHANGE BEGINS…

ExplainEverythingThe first change came with using the app Explain Everything. This is often a comfortable first step into new pedagogy as it mimics the whiteboard but offers new functionality and workflow. This allows Math teachers to hand write their mathematical working whilst recording the lesson, including their voice. Uploading these skills videos to Youtube saves hours of time in the classroom repeating oneself and allows students to come preprepared or review after a lesson. Either way moving some or all of the standard Math teaching online saves time.

LET THE FUN BEGIN!

Now what can a Math teacher do with more time and a little more imagination? Here’s another popular starting point in the shape of a TED talk by Dan Meyer (Math teacher). He explains how challenging the students more and using multimedia to do this can hook the students into a genuine interest in Math, as apposed to the compulsory one they currently have to show:

After watching Dan’s talk, I realised that Math teaching could be more about students finding their own problems to solve in rather creative ways. Students could be freed from the classroom to challenge each other with videoed problems and limit the information provided. Remember the iPad’s app store can provide apps that just about take any type of measurement and mostly for free (See below).

“Best Math App” lists like this one focus on that Math Dan talks about that kids have to learn in school without worrying about why they might need to know it. In my mind, it now becomes less about finding the best Math teaching / learning app and more about building a set of measurement tools for life. These tools can then be used to make Math learning come to life and seem relevant.

MEASUREMENT APPS

MathApp1 MathApp2 MathApp3
Easy MeasureThere’s math to be learnt in the way this app works alone! iHandy LevelGreat general carpenter’s tool Measures HDLots a measurement tools in one including Seismic!
MathApp4 iphone-camera-icon MathApp5
Sprint TimerFilm moving objects / people with time stretched image Film with CameraJust video things happening and students find the maths! Home Design HD – Free
Lots of Math possibilities in planning and developing building models

For most students, this applied Math approach is far more meaningful and fun and can highlight the subjects significant place in their lives. Something that is not always apparent in traditional Math teaching.

2. ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS (PRIMARY)

The ‘real-world’ approach mentioned above could certainly apply to any student from about the age of 8. Before that, the library of basic Math and Number apps in the store comes into it’s own! Apps make Math fun from an early age and remove the fear factor whilst giving the all important instant feedback.

Nearly all basic Math apps are free and it’s just a matter of trying them out, Start by typing “Math” into the App store but sorting by popularity. Here’s a selection of the most popular. I personally liked the simplicity of “Summed Up” ($0.99) and the animation & game concept in “Hungry Fish”. I included Hopscotch, which is a kids drag and drop programming app as it allows kids to experiment with algorithms in a fun way and try out a lot of Math on the way.

mathapps3

SPECIAL KIWI SHOUT-OUT

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 9.50.48 AM100s Board ($2.99) is  ‘simple as’ (as us Aucklanders would say) but in it’s simplicity comes flexibility and a nurturing of children’s natural talent to invent their own games. It presents a simple 100s board and will highlight numbers to help young people count in 2s, 3s, 4s etc. It also has coloured & monster counters that you can place on numbers to invent games with. It hides numbers as well as highlights on touch. My 8 year-old immediately started inventing games for my 6 year-old including  “Higher-Lower” where in 7 goes, the youngest had to find the chosen number, whilst all prior guesses were highlighted. The face that it’s not a game in itself is actually a bonus as it extends kids’ imagination. Check it out!

100s Board is made by fellow Kiwi @MattJamesThomas.

mzl.ccaroyky.480x480-75

SUMMARY

The age and ability of the individual student will decide the best approach, be it applied discovery of Math or more rudimentary game play. Regardless, the iPad has much to offer in Math learning and I hope this helps those Math teachers who weren’t sure where to start.

Making iPad Kids think big

I teach a unit to Years 7s and 8s on digital citizenship that centres on the theme of respecting yourself and others when online and using mobile devices. The opening lesson of this focusses on respecting themselves as people who can make a difference, especially with devices like the iPad and the new services online. I run through a series of examples where teenagers have made themselves successful primarily by having an “I can” approach to life.

I don’t like to focus on money making but it certainly grabs their attention.
Here’s a summary of the sort of things I discuss: (The icons are links)

NUTSHELL_IPAD_CAREER

1. WRITE A BLOG
All a kid needs to take over the world is an email! This is a simple idea but when you explain that blogging (WordPress or Blogger)on their favourite topic (Even if it’s Clash of Clans!), dividing up the topic into areas, such as tools, skills, strategies, training. Then writing for 1/2 an hour, twice a week on a new idea or lesson for your readers can make you a world name in your chosen area. I even use myself as an example!

You can spark their interest by explaining that A) Millions of kids around the world will be looking for a Kid’s perspective on the topic and B) Once they have readers, Google Adsense will bring home the money!

2. RUN A YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Making videos on the iPad is easy and uploading them to Youtube is a single button click! Again best on a single topic, kids can video their own information or lessons and build a following. Children always prefer watching their peers more than adults and learning is more effective and fun. This gives any student a potential audience of subscribers for their chosen topic. One girl in my class started a child’s channel on horse riding! Popular channels will be approached by Youtube to add adverts and the money might start rolling in!
Example (50,000 views a video!):

3. eBOOK YOUR STORY OR KNOWLEDGE 

Free publishing is the new thing and opens new opportunities to young people to make money from their writing and imagination. Amazon are now publishing free plus many others like Lulu.com. I find kids are happy to write on the iPad and should not be encouraged to think that their works wouldn’t be published or enjoyed by a large audience. Here’s 2 case studies: 1. Teenage Author 2. Young Author. If you make an informative non-fiction iBook then Apple will publish it but you’ll need to make it on a Mac computer with iBooks Author.
Example:

4. SHOWCASE YOUR FILMS

In a previous post I covered the idea that students should learn the 3 or 4 basic film production techniques including multiple angled camera work and foley sound production. With a little film making knowledge, the iPad really is the only thing you need and there are more and more film festivals mentioning the use of iPhone and iPad film makers, including famous directors. Obviously the films can be uploaded to Youtube or even better Vimeo (The thinking person’s Youtube) for more exposure.

5. GET ON AND MAKE THAT ALBUM

I have singers, rappers, guitarists, pianists and drummers throughout my classes and they hold their iPads often without seriously considering that recording with Garageband could lead to big things. There are now crowd-funding sites and Justin Bieber was discovered singing into a Youtube camera.

INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION

Another issue I cover in this lesson and in general is appreciating the number of people on the internet. I like to point out that if 0.0001% of the internet buy your product for $1, that’s $5 Million! International promotion used to cost millions and was certainly only available through agencies. Now, social media makes promoting your products easy and even finding your target audience is easy.  I recommend new accounts for communicating with the world as a professional separate to their personal accounts.

SUMMARY

It really is just a mindset I feel I must instil in my students to appreciate that the age barriers that once existed no longer do. The iPad is all they need to conquer the world and why not start today!

Kid thinking big Example 3: (Programmer)

‘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.
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  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!
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  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.
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  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)
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  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!

New Flipped vs Old Flipped

IPads in classrooms offer such a new learning environment that they demand a shift from the idea of students being passive receivers of learning and demand real engagement and learning ownership by the students themselves. However, even the original 90s design of the Flipped Classroom designed by pioneers like Eric Mazur is still teacher centred. Although students are individually watching the video lessons in their own time and at their own pace and then arrive in class with more specific questions, the approach is still driven by the teacher and focused on the linear course of study that the teacher designs to start at point A, travel through to point Z and then sit an exam in that specific content. This is the Flipped Classroom that receives attacks from teachers as just “lecturing in disguise.”

This original version of Flipped Classroom is an improvement on the one-size-fits-all traditional lecturing but does not encourage students to take full responsibility for their learning. It still demands that every student follow exactly the same linear path through fixed content and pushes the idea that to learn, you must follow your teacher.

This is not how I have Flipped or why I have Flipped.

I have all my teaching of both concepts and skills videoed so the students are free from a linear, fixed path and can get on with exploring larger projects of their own design, knowing everything is there when they might need it. The students work on at least month-long projects, which demand real-world focus and problem-solving. The students design their own projects within criteria that I design that keep expectations high. These projects, for example must be managed in a professional sense.

Quick Example:

If I was an English teacher (from the quality of my writing, you can guess I’m not), I would video my teaching of writing techniques, themes, composition and writing narrative using examples etc. The students would then start writing and publishing online as quickly as possible. They receive informed feedback from their fellow students comparing elements with the examples in my videos. I could then just monitor the discussion both in the classroom and online. I would then point individual students to specific videos based on either their work or feedback, if I felt they didn’t understand an idea or skill. The students could then develop quality literature, poetry and articles and collate the work together in digital books, blogs or even publish to Amazon. This personalised approach makes writing seem more real and meaningful. Teamwork’s also made much more significant when students are in the driving seat.

Removing the traditional class teaching from the process is still important as it frees up time for both teacher and student, allowing everyone to get on with in-depth, creative projects that are driven by personal interests. Any exam or test material is covered by the videos and students can request one-to-one tutorials on lesser-understood topics if needed. My exam results are much improved whilst the students’ class time is much more engaging. I even allow the students to manage their own time and do not demand that they use their Computer Science 50 minute period to work on Computer Science. If they’ve got important physics work to do, they do it. They know when my project deadlines are and stick to them.

Flipped teaching is crucial in giving time back to the students to get on with more creative work but should not be seen as just simply a twist on the traditional teaching model. The student output should be of a high standard and should only reflect an understanding of the videos’ topics, not mirror them exactly. Specifically, no two students should ever produce the same output!

My version of Flipped is not a 20th Century teacher replacement but an opportunity for real 21st Century practice.

True learning is creative! … iPad, please!

The iPad empowers students to create products within any subject context, physical space and even on the move. This is why the iPad is so important in transforming education into a genuine learning experience, not a knowledge absorption space. This well known Ken Robinson video has, for a while, indicated the importance of creative process in learning. Creating is important because during the process of creating something new, a student is:

  1. the owner of that process
  2. fully immersed in the experience
  3. genuinely engaged
  4. driven by and personally connected to the learning objectives

Under these four circumstances, you create truly life-long learners, who are intrinsically motivated by their own demands and ideas.

 (picture via @gcouros)

Common misconception 1:
“My subject’s not creative”

Many teachers do not see creative process as part of their subject. The factory based education system used throughout the 20th century, isolated subjects as disconnected silos of information and creativity was removed from most of these study areas and confined specifically to the arts subjects only. This is not how the real world operates and creative thoughts and processes are demanded in most, if not all industries. All subject areas within schools (while those areas still exist), must harness both the students’ genuine will to create and the iPads power to enable this in so many forms and under so many circumstances.

Common misconception 2:
“I can’t grade & compare different creative output styles”

What exactly does grading do for a student? It gives them a record of how they compare with their classmates or even national year-group. What does this positioning mean? … nothing! The minute you leave school you will be working and competing with different groups of people of various ages and your grade comparison becomes meaningless immediately. Yes, you looked amazing in your school when up against your fellow students  performing standardised tests, but now you’re suddenly struggling against people from different backgrounds and may even look quiet incompetent.

Students also become distracted from their learning when focusing purely on their grade comparison with their friends. This removes any interest in learning for the sake of bettering oneself and even engagement with the objective of the tasks. Students take shortcuts and do anything that would increase the grade regardless of the impact it might have on truly understanding concepts or not. Students also find it very difficult, if they can do it at all, to articulate what an A or a B means. The grades themselves are arbitrary and mean nothing in terms of personal achievement and only make the lower grade achievers give up on learning anything.

This UK BBC documentary, The Classroom Experiment, covered many common traditional teaching habits that actually do harm rather than good in education, including grades:

A shifting agenda

An increasing number of educators are agreeing that:

  1. Personal creative processes should replace fixed content delivery and
  2. meaningful comments from both peers and teachers should replace meaningless grades

The iPad is both a personal creative device and a great tool for collaboration and documenting discussion. This is the basis on why and roughly how schools should push forward with 1-to-1 iPad integration.

USA Education vs. iPad

It is common for outsiders (like me) to picture America as:

  1. conservative (traditional and proud of their American way);
  2. security conscious (all ‘foes’ must be known and controlled);
  3. having a poor standardized public education system (Something the US is currently debating publicly – “Waiting for Superman

If true, all 3 ‘generalizations’ would have an extremely detrimental effect on introducing iPads in schools. Below is a personal view of how these 3 factors will impact on the success of iPads in transforming American education.

  1. The new mobile world needs new thinking (not conservative)
    I found a blog post, glowingly discussing the iPads potential to transform education and you might think I’d agree with it. But for me, most the writing and attached picture sum up all the obstacles facing iPad integration in the US. The article does mention collaboration and iMovie (specifically only in regards to FIlm courses), but essentially describes the iPad as a great note-taker, textbook and consumption device. That consumption is of the teacher’s education. In particular, the image advocates standardized education where one-size-fits-all and a teacher is the only source of learning. Here’s an indication of what I’m getting at in two images:

    As a simple starting point, american schools must dismantle the traditional classroom layout which isolates the students as mere educational factory products and places the teacher at the centre of all learning. This is simply not the way the world operates anymore.

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  2. The world no longer recognizes the carrot & stick external control.
    One of the driving theories behind 20th century education was the idea that given a choice, students would not want to be at school. This thinking led to the traditional carrot and stick approach, where rewards were offered for conforming to the teacher’s demands and punishments issued for breaking from the “norm.” The article mentioned above, also positively refers to how “schools can be in control of what applications are on the device as well as what students do with it.” This desire for control is only needed within the out-dated education model that expects students to conform to an education put upon them rather than expecting them to enjoy exploring and understanding the world they live in. If it’s the school’s education, a student might not feel a connection and avoid it. This is where external control is required. If the education is student-centred and demands the student prove themselves within an open-ended model, then the student can genuinely connect as best suits them and the control measures will be detrimental to the freedom and thus are not required. The iPad is a personal device and pushes a personal education agenda. The iPad is not a school device, ready to deliver an externally controlled experience of the world. Read this book for more info.
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  3. Poor education?
    Until the US reduces its devotion to 1 & 2, and stops trying to press a pre-written education into every american, then iPads will never be allowed to transform learning. As I’ve mentioned before, The professional and personal worlds we now live in are both personally curated and social. Young people now have these factors as normal life expectations and school systems that isolate individuals physically & academically will not seem relevant and will cause disconnect and continue to fail.