Most importantly, design thinkers keep the people they are designing for at the centre of the process. This human-centred approach helps you arrive at an optimal solution that meets needs. Implementing and managing change with a well-designed product will be easier in the long run.
In my spare time (*laughs*), I like to potter about in the garden. While I consider myself a little bit of a green thumb, there are some plants I just cannot make grow. The conditions in my area are just not right. This week I watched a TED Talk by Emily Pilloton on Teaching Design for Change. In the video, Emily spoke about the great need in Bertie County, North Carolina and how changes to conditions was a catalyst for transformation.
I started thinking about the conditions for creating change or the conditions where change becomes possible. There is no doubt that there is a great need for change in education at the moment, just as there was a need in Bertie County. Rapid technological advances are changing what is possible in classrooms by providing opportunities for how and what is being taught. Alongside this, as the world is also transforming, the needs of our students change too. The system of education our schools are modelled upon was born from a need to educate the factory workers of the industrial revolution. This one size fits all, cookie-cutter system just doesn’t cut it anymore.
There is no doubt that redesigning education is complex. Those sitting at the top are pushing down policies, approaches and new curriculum priorities in efforts to cause this change. So why isn’t education changing at a fundamental level? I think it has to do with the conditions in which we are trying to grow this plant. Trying to promote change in the current system of education is like trying to grow roses in the desert. Forcing new approaches into traditional structures resembles the old square peg, round hole metaphor. The current efforts to influence are simply resulting in more pressure on teachers to make it all happen in the classroom leaving little wonder why they are fleeing the profession at an alarming rate. In addition to this, teachers trying to transform their practice are constrained or consumed by continually increasing expectations or even frowned upon for approaching things differently.
So how do we create the conditions that are going to make change possible? Maybe it is looking at education the way a designer might, taking time to consider who the design is for and what it hopes to achieve. It may be time to let go of some of the things we have always done and realising that it is okay to do so. It is absolutely about building the right conditions to make change possible. Even the hardiest plant is not going to grow if the conditions are not right and if we are to achieve the type of change in education that we are seeking, this is where we need to start. If you want teachers to lead innovation, give them the space and freedom to do so. Give them the time and resources to achieve it and trust them to get there. Finally, understand that there is a bigger end game than a grade on a page or result on a standardised test. I am talking about skills and types of thinking that cannot be measured. I am talking about growing something new.
Building file management into your technology pedagogy is important in ensuring these skills stick. If you start something new in the classroom, spend the last 5 minutes ensuring students save their work to the correct place. I suggest even setting a the name for the file. You can check out this past blog, which covers this topic a little more deeply.
It is important to model these expectations in your own emails to students. Good email etiquette is a valuable skill to develop in students and one that will continue to serve them into the future. It is worth spending a little time on it at the start of the school year.
This week, I am sharing some tips to help teachers start the year well with classroom technology. In this Blog, I share some advice about student passwords.
Single sign on (SSO) allows students to log into multiple platforms with the one set of credentials. This is usually a Microsoft or Google account and although it is becoming increasingly used, many schools will find they are not quite there yet. This usually means that students have a collection of passwords for the many different platforms they log into. Especially in the years of primary schooling, students will have a tough time remembering all their different passwords.
Letting the browser do the work
Google Chrome, Safari and Edge browsers both have the capability to remember passwords. Teaching your students how to create and edit the passwords their computers remember is a good skill to develop. While you are at it, teaching students to create internet favourites or bookmarks to the websites you will be using frequently during the school year is also a great time-saving idea. You could even create a splash page of links to your most frequently used websites yourself and have your students browers set to open that page whenever they open a new internet browser window.
Taking the time to teach students about managing their passwords, will save you headaches during the school year. You are also teaching students to be responsible for a lifetime of password management.
Do you have some other suggestions? Please leave a comment below!
There is so much to get organised at the start of a school year. This week many teachers are creating resources, labelling, cleaning, organising furniture, planning units and making their classroom generally spectacular for their new classes this year. Amidst the tornado of activity, the management of classroom technology is easy to overlook. With so many schools adopting BYOD models or laptop schemes, teachers are increasingly required to manage 1:1 classrooms. For many teachers, this is not something they are used to considering. However, a little bit of prep and time spent at the start of the year will make 1:1 classroom life a lot easier as the year progresses.
This week, I will be sharing some tips to help teachers start the year well with classroom technology. In this Blog, I share some advice about storage.
"....as the children started arriving, I realised I had no place for their computers. They ended up in a pile on my reading table. Later that day, a child went to pull his laptop out of the pile and several computers slid off onto the floor. Two broken screens later, I wish I had given it some more thought..."
How do you invite children to go and get their computers? Sending the whole class at once will result in chaos and perhaps even end in broken devices. Send children in small groups to retrieve their device or designate classroom tech assistants to hand them out.
Consider creating a classroom charging station. No matter how much you remind students to bring a fully charged device to school, someone always forgets. Aging devices also don’t hold charge like they did when they were new. "Well, I guess you just cannot do this activity then" is not an acceptable way to handle this. As frustrating as it can be for a classroom teacher, punishments should never be at the expense of a student's learning. Technology is no longer an added extra in the classroom and is a legitimate learning tool. For continually forgetful students consider motivating them in other ways or allowing so many free charges per term. One fun idea I saw was a fuel card that the teacher punched. Students who didn’t go over their limit were rewarded at the end of the term.
"Punishments should never be at the expense of a student's learning."
Do you have any great ideas for technology storage in your classroom? Share in the comments below!
Crowned App of the Year in 2017, the Calm app boasts an impressive catalogue of resources to help you meditate, sleep, focus and relax. I am a personal fan of the music libraries when I am studying and at bedtime. I pop on my headphones and I am out like a light! The app also includes sleep stories, guided meditation and masterclasses on a variety of topics. With wellness and mental health becoming an increasingly prominent topic in schools for students and teachers alike, wouldn’t it be fabulous for teachers to make use of these tools in and out of the classroom? Well, now they can...
"If every 8 year old is taught meditation, we will eliminate
I was thrilled to discover an amazing initiative underway called the Calm Schools Initiative. The team at Calm are offering every teacher in the world access to the Calm app...for FREE...forever! To put this into a little perspective a Calm lifetime subscription is priced at $599 on the Australian Apple App Store. As a past subscription paying user, it was worth the money in my opinion. Any investment in your health and wellness is a good investment.
Numerous studies have shown the many benefits of teaching mindfulness to children. Through mindfulness education, kids can develop a lifelong capacity for greater self-awareness, concentration, patience, and resilience. Our aim is to empower teachers with mindfulness tools and resources they can use to help kids learn this new skill.
Calm in the Classroom
New and planned to expand on the app are the guided meditation sessions for kids. These are broken into age ranges and vary in length, from 3 to 13 minutes (for older children). This makes it easy to run a quick session at the start/end of the school day or as a break between lessons. I think teachers will get plenty of use out of the music library, particularly if you are like me and enjoying music in your classroom. Try music focus songs during work time, relaxing music during art or to wind down after playtime.
Calm is for Teachers too!
Teaching is a stressful gig. I have blogged about it before. Teacher mental health and wellness needs greater attention. After all, we are the individuals in the classroom with the children each day. We cannot look after them if we cannot look after ourselves. Happy, healthy and calm teachers are going to also benefit their students' classroom experiences. Teachers may find the mindfulness training valuable too. There are some great collections targeting stress, anxiety, self-care and inner peace. If you are anything like me, a good sleep fixes a multitude of issues. I recommend the sleep stories, which include readings by Matthew McConaughey and Stephen Fry.
How to get Calm for Free
Hopefully you would like to be a part of the Calm Schools initiative and bring mindfulness to your students and school.
To get your special teacher access, follow this link and complete the form found on the page. Look out for an email from the Calm team which will contain a special code for you to redeem online. That’s it! Calmer, happier times are ahead!
Be sure to share this post and spread the word among fellow educators. It is a fantastic initiative and I am super impressed by the Calm team - a big thank you from teachers and students everywhere!
With the digital world constantly changing, it can be hard to keep up with it, and that means you need to be wary of keeping your own kids safe online too. Here are some ways of looking after their safety, so that they can continue to roam happily online.
Block Certain Websites With Parental Safety Feature
There’s no denying that there are plenty of websites that children can stumble across if they’re not careful and therefore it’s good to block these websites from appearing in the first place. Thankfully, most of our internet providers and browsers will have safety options available to block these websites from being accessed. These cyber security, network security systems are very useful so that you can at least have peace of mind that the sites they’re visiting are somewhat safe to use.
Educate Them On Using Websites Safely
Your children may be at an age where they can access social media platforms and so it’s important to educate them on how to use these safely. For those who grow up around technology, it can be easy to just dismiss giving lessons on how to use them properly, but it’s crucial to in order to keep them safe from those online who have the wrong intentions. A few tips to give them would be never to give out any personal information and not to befriend anyone they don’t know offline. On no circumstances should they meet up with someone they’ve met online unless you go with them and trust the person at the other end of the conversation.
The Importance Of Trust
Having restrictions on websites may not always be the right port of call for some age groups of children. So it’s a good thing to discuss with your children, that you are trusting them to stay on mainstream sites and reiterate the perils of the internet. If you trust them, they are less likely to disobey, especially when you’ve given them your trust in the first place without asking for it.
If there comes the point where they’ve taken advantage of your trust, bring in the restrictions to show them that they’ve done wrong.
Teach Them From An Early Age
It’s hard to believe it, but many younger generations now are being given this technology from the moment they can talk and walk. So it’s very important to start teaching them about technology and online safety from an early age. It’s up to you when it comes to how much time you allow them to have, so if you need to, set a time limit on how long they can browse for. Stress the importance of family time and time away from the internet.
The online world is vast, and although it has, it’s dark elements, most of it can be very beneficial for learning and for socialising. Teach them about how to use the internet and be there to give advice if they feel like they’ve stumbled upon something that they shouldn’t have.
So this post touches on a sensitive topic for me and borders on a rant. It may also be a sensitive topic for others or just something that others can relate to. For me, it is a struggle that is starting to have some fairly negative effects on my life in general. It relates to the impact technology and my role in #edtech is having on my health.
Having been warned, read on at your own discretion...
It is school holidays and today I have spent most of my day working on an assignment for university. I am currently studying my Masters in Education and the reality is that holiday time is the only time you can really knuckle down. I am sure plenty of teachers can relate to the craziness of term time. Trying to fit Masters level study around that is straight up hard. Now it was completely my choice to do this and this is not the issue in discussion today really. Sitting in front of my computer all day today made me think about my screen time in general and the impact being in the field of #edtech is having on my general wellness.
I've been in the #edtech arena for the better part of 4 years now, starting as an ICT Coordinator, moving to eLearning Coordinator and now (as of 2019) Head of Digital Learning and Innovation. Technology in the education space has always excited me and so these have been roles I have really enjoyed and loved. This being said, it is a fast paced part of the industry. For me, this has been part of the allure but it also means that you work hard to keep up-to-date with things. Admittedly I spend countless hours keeping myself skilled with what is new, exploring and testing out new tools and connecting with my professional learning networks online. For anyone in the #edtech niche, this is all essential. The problem though is that is it very time consuming and leaves you sitting in front of screens for hours and hours - often munching on snacks to keep you going and consuming undisclosed amounts of caffeine.
In the last few years two things have changed considerably for me. Firstly, I have gone up almost 3 dress sizes. For a women, that is devastating and is causing my confidence to take a real slide. The second is a significant decrease in my visual acuity, resulting in myopia (short-sightedness). I can almost hear all the technology haters our there sneering a collective "see we told you so". Alongside them the people saying "it's all about balance" and "your wellness has to come first". I totally agree and SO want it to be the case. I often speak to students and parents about screen time and finding technology balance. The difficulty is that balance is hard to achieve when you are the champion of technology - when you are the person who has to live and breath it and be the best at it. Being good comes with a cost.
It is a challenge for sure and one that I wasn't really prepared for when I embarked on this love affair with all things #edtech. It is something that I would really like to work on - sooner rather than later. I am sure there are amazing individuals out there in roles similar to me who have overcome this. I would love to hear how you find your technology balance. Teacher wellness is not focused on often enough and is not limited to my examples. With increasing workloads and demands, teaching as a profession is one of the most stressful around. Take my word for it or read more about it here and here. In sharing my experiences on this topic, I hope to expose some of the realities of the profession and perhaps encourage dialogue with those struggling in the same way.
And now that is said.....time to put the screen away for another day.
I was very lucky to have the opportunity to play with the new Surface Go this weekend. I have been looking forward to testing out this new offering from Microsoft. It has been my hope that this device would present a good option for the education market, particularly for the Primary years of schooling.
Part of my current role involves looking at age appropriate devices to recommend for the BYOD program. There is a need to find a good balance between price and performance when it comes to devices for school. For me, certain functions are very important such as a touch screen and the ability to digitally ink with a connected stylus. A keyboard or the ability to add a keyboard is essential. As much as I think touch screen keyboards are cool, they are a pain when you are getting down to some serious school-work and with NAPLAN writing tests going digital, just flat out necessary. Finally, size plays an important part. It is not good seeing little people hefting about giant laptops and school backpacks tend to be heavy enough without adding unnecessary tech weight.
Basic Tech Specs
For the spec curious out there, the Surface Go basic technical information is as follows:
The pictures below compare the size of the Surface Go to my Surface Pro and a 9.7 inch iPad Pro.
The Surface Go feels a little more rounded compared to the Surface Pro, but is pretty much a miniature version in appearance, which is reminiscent of the Surface 3. The keyboard is naturally a lot more condensed but still very satisfying to type on. The trackpad actually felt nicer than my Surface Pro - but this may be due to wear and tear on my current device. For anyone who is familiar with the Surface 3 from a few years back, this is a much more refined build. The kickstand could sit at any angle unlike the old Surface 3, which snapped into only certain positions. I pushed it right down flat and put some pressure on it - the hinges are strong and have enough give to allow this, which is good for kids who like to play rough. I would still argue protective case is 100% necessary despite the Corning Gorilla glass screen. This is not as rugged as some other devices pitched at education.
The Surface Pen experience was equal to that on my Surface Pro, which I generally find excellent. Surface Pen magnetises firmly to the side of the device unlike the Apple Pencil on an iPad. This is a small but impactful feature because, let's face it, kids lose things. I was a little sad to see that there was no USB port on the Surface Go. While I cannot say that I use it very much, it always offered a good alternative in an emergency. Admittedly, as we continue to work in more online environments and students become more skilled with cloud storage, this will be less of an issue.
I toyed with Office 365 on the Surface Go and everything performed beautifully. Even working in Paint 3D appeared on par with my Surface Pro. Nothing puts a machine through its paces like a bit of gaming, so I fired up Minecraft Education Edition. It performed well on the device but I would be curious to see how it handles being on a class server with 30 other students. The Pentel Gold chip has been a topic of much debate online, but I wasn't able to kill it during my weekend test.
At the end of the day...
When you compare Surface Go with an iPad (which was its intended competition), there are a few key differences. The first being price. I was a little disappointed when I heard the Australian pricing for the 128GB Surface Go model (I wouldn't even consider the 64GB model). I had high hopes it would be a real competitor against the iPad and offer a great first computer for my students. The new iPad is cheaper - by a lot. When comparing like devices in both iPad and Surface Go on the consumer websites, the 128GB iPad comes in at $599AUD, while the 128GB Surface Go comes in at $839AUD. When you then add stylus, keyboards and protective cases to these devices, it adds up. Naturally, education pricing is available for both through their respective stores, but it is a big investment for families either way you look at it. It comes down to bang for buck, which leads to my next point...
The second major consideration is operating system. Surface Go does run a full Windows 10 operating system which is loaded with some amazing tools that are great for learners, including Paint 3D, the deceptively capable Photos app and the Mixed Reality Viewer. The popular Microsoft Office suite is more feature heavy at home in Windows and offers more to students with learning needs. If your school or institution leverage and Office 365 environment, its a no brainer. It will just add up to a better experience.
Finally, the connected keyboard, Surface Pen and option of an additional mouse offer more to the user. If you wanted a Smart Keyboard for iPad, you would have to jump to an iPad Pro (which is $979 AUD) for a base model. Otherwise, a third party Bluetooth keyboard is required. The Surface Go keyboard is perfect for little hands and includes a trackpad. The Surface Pen sticks to the side of the machine, which offers some help in preventing loss but also makes the pen readily accessible and right there when you need it. The optional addition of a mouse also provides more opportunities for individual preferences.
All in all, I really like it. It is the perfect size for students and school - particularly primary and middle school students. It packs in all the features of a full PC in an easy to transport package. Battery life was up to a full day of use, with the Surface Go keeping up with my Surface Pro 4. The build is sleek and high quality - no student would be embarrassed to whip this out in the classroom. I would have liked for it to be a little cheaper, only to see the magic that is the Surface experience in the hands of more students.
This article is based on a personal opinion and was not sponsored.
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