We want to always think the best of our students and trust them to be carrying on with their assigned task on the class iPads. The reality is that they are often flicking between apps and browsing the internet the moment our backs are turned. As our students become more skilled with their devices, parents and teachers need to stay a step ahead....or at least keep up.
A short story....
I was walking past a classroom this year. The class was spread out around the room working on devices from the school trolley. Three students were sitting with their backs to the window. I slowed to have a look at what the class was doing and I noticed that as the teacher approached, the students quickly flicked apps and continued to do the work they were supposed to do. The teacher looked at the screens and continued on. The second she was out of earshot, the students had flicked back and were continuing their off task behaviour.
The potential for trouble
A often underappreciated tool with parents and educators is the Guided Access feature that is built into iPad. Often used by retailers and vendors, this mode prevents users from leaving the selected app.
To enable Guided Access head to your device settings. Go to the Accessibility options and then select Guided Access. Slide the button to enable the feature. You will note that in the explanation underneath you will then have to triple click the home button to switch it on and off once you are in the app you want students to remain in.
Guided Access requires a passcode to disable it. In the passcode settings, you can also enable touch ID. Alternatively you can also set the time limit options so that Guided Access will automatically disable by the end of the lesson. Enable the Accessibility Shortcut so that you have greater control of the features.
Once you are in the app, triple tap the home button. Guided access is now enabled. Triple tap again to view the options. You will be prompted for the passcode. From the options menu (pictured below), you can set the timer, decide which buttons can be used and even disable certain parts of the screen. To do this you can draw a circle around the sections of the screen you want to be dead. This can be handy for stopping students leaving set activities or the app in other ways. From this screen you can also end Guided Access.
Not the only solution
While Guided Access is handy, it isn't the only way teachers should be ensuring students are on task. It can be timely to manage on a class set of devices. Establishing clear expectations and monitoring the students as they work is essential. Having students work in pairs or teams can deter poor choices if the groups are selected mindfully. Positioning yourself in a location that allows you to see student screens or not allowing students to sit against walls can also be helpful. While there are also screen monitoring software applications available, the danger in using them is that it can lock a teacher to their desk and prevents them from moving about the class and conferencing with the students.
What are some of the strategies you use to monitor student device use and keep students on task in the classroom? Share in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
This article was originally written for ACARA's Primary Matter's publication in October of 2017. The original post can be found here.
The Springfield Anglican College has been changing the way they are delivering the curriculum on the Primary Campus by developing problem-based STEAM units. This approach has engaged the students, fostered the development of 21st century skills and allowed students to see themselves as young entrepreneurs and agents of change.
In 2016, teachers at The Springfield Anglican College were considering ways to implement the new Digital and Design Technologies curriculum. One priority was to focus on the 21st century skills addressed in the general capabilities. Year 6 teachers Vanessa O’Shaughnessy and Sheryl Prins worked with eLearning Coordinator Laura Bain to find connections between existing objectives and revise a unit of work that included Digital and Design Technologies, and general capabilities. Initiatives such as STEAM and Problem-based Learning (PBL) provided a vehicle not only to deliver new priorities, but also to identify and combine existing curriculum into more connected learning opportunities for students.
An Inspiring Organisation
A Simple Idea
Simon Doble, CEO of Solar Buddy, visited the college and spoke with the students, describing the design features of the product and explaining the positive impact of a single solar light on the lives of children and families living in energy poverty. This event prompted teachers to encourage students to consider ways in which solar energy might be harnessed to address other needs and purposes. The unit then took a new direction: students stepped into the role of investigators, designers, engineers and entrepreneurs. Students formed teams, tasked with the design and development of a solar powered product that addressed a particular need or purpose.
A Learning Journey
Over the course of the term, integrating lessons across subjects played a part in the learning journey. For example, Science investigations explored electrical energy, simple circuits and energy sources. This learning formed a basis for student inquiry tasks into the impact of non-renewable energy sources and energy poverty. Geography lessons explored energy consumption and production in Australia and Asia. Students soon became experts on renewable energy and their individual inquiry topics. Technology lessons allowed teams time to work on their product designs. Students sketched design ideas, experimented with resources, and then created a prototype using littleBits and solar panels. Teams maintained a website of their design journey and documented their progress.
An Involved Community
The unit motivated students to boost community awareness of energy poverty and raise money to fund their involvement in the Solar Buddy initiative. They approached local businesses for donations and invited them to attend their Energy Expo. Students developed confidence in communicating an important message and inspiring support in their community. They were empowered by their learning to think about themselves as global citizens, agents of change, designers, engineers and young entrepreneurs.
A Special Event
A Story of Success
Teachers were impressed with the unit outcomes. The unit combined curriculum objectives in a way that solicited a high level of student engagement and motivation. Students developed skills articulated in the general capabilities. Students engaged in content covering Science, Mathematics, Design Technologies, Geography, English and The Arts, while making connections with cross-curricula priorities of the Australian Curriculum, including concepts of Sustainability and Australia’s Engagement with Asia.
As a result of the Solar Buddy initiative, students considered ideas such as global citizenship as well as ethical and intercultural understanding. Students became critical and creative thinkers and developed their personal and social capabilities as they designed their own products to help others. They also felt they had ownership over their learning, the result being that students pushed the learning deeper and the objectives of the unit further.
The video below was shown at the Energy Expo:
While it is a popular topic of research and heated debates, it is too early to identify the long term effects technology is having on the development of children. Nevertheless, it's always a good idea to be proactive and make efforts to educate students on the topic. As it turns out, last week when discussing screen time with my Year 4 students, I was the one to get an education!
This was apparent to me only last week as I was teaching a Year 4 Technology Class. A central idea of their STEAM unit this term was that "not all fun is high tech". The students are looking at engineering low tech cures for boredom. As part of the hook for the unit, I (being the mindful educator that I am) thought I should address screen time with the class. The children were gobsmakingly knowledgeable on the topic. They were....SUPER aware. Which was great. Cut my lesson in half pretty much. Did it mean they had it perfect? No, they are still kids and moderation is not something they necessarily have nailed yet. Many admitted that they played on their iPads for extended periods in the evening at home on top of the time used in the classroom.
There's no doubt that parents are busier than they have ever been, often both working. Many adults seek their own down time on their devices and often also let their children do the same. Anyone walking around the local shopping centre can see the children in strollers watching devices. They are handed to children in restaurants and when they are in the car to keep them entertained. They are the babysitters of the 21st century. To be clear, I am not criticising this - just making the observation.
The Problem for Schools
Now here is the bigger concern for me and for schools in general:
School Screen Time + Home Screen Time = a LOT of Screen Time!
The question I would ask is.....what is the most valuable screen time? I would argue it is when it is used for learning...but of course I would....but I am not the only person that gets a say in this.
Striking a Balance
How can teachers help? While there is a crazy push to continue to use technology in bigger, better ways, it is also important to remember that is isn't the ONLY way. Teachers should always be focusing on pedagogy first and be mindful of the amount of time their students are spending on their devices in the classroom. Break it up, add in movement and make students focus on things across the room to help give their eyes a rest. Additionally, consider any digital tasks being set for homework.
Modeling Mindful Technology Use
The Hack was back on the weekend and it delivered exciting updates and inspiring stories. The theme was sparking creativity and curiosity, with some great ideas from Alan November and MIE Experts from around the world. Read on to see what my highlights were.
Anthony Salcito, got the party started by introducing Microsoft Translator, which includes an add in for PowerPoint that enables, live captioning, cross language understanding and multi-lingual casual conversation support. This type of assistive technology is powerful in diverse classrooms, language learning classrooms and even in school administration.
You can download the add in for PowerPoint here. Visit the official Microsoft Translator page to learn more.
The best teacher is .... a student!
The super inspiring Alan November, shared student created tutorial videos (from www.mathtrain.tv) and suggested that students can make the best teachers. He cited research by Harvard university explaining that teachers can have the "curse of knowledge" meaning they have too much content knowledge to connect with a first time learner on a subject. It is suggested than another first time learner, having just experienced a subject themselves, can make the best teacher at the introductory level.
A global audience motivates our students
Purpose is a great motivator. They joy of creating content to teach a peer can often more inspiring than working for a grade. Alan suggested that connecting with a global audience can make students feel that their wok is valued and making a difference. Using ClusterMaps, Alan was able to show students the people who were accessing their content from around the world. Suddenly the children were scrambling to create more content to "help others around the world".
Solve vs Involve
Twitter was also highlighted as a powerful tool to connect classrooms and teachers around the world. A final example shared by Alan November was a tweet posted by a maths teacher (Jessica Caviness) where she asks her students to design their own problem, prompted by a picture and the requirement to "involve" volume. The outcomes were wide and varied. It represented a breakthrough in creative thinking in a Mathematics classroom, with student questions pushing their peers to work beyond the standard.
Tammy Dunbar is the teacher we all want to be
If I could go back to school, I would want Tammy Dunbar as my teacher! She was such an animated and passionate professional. Tammy shared her top five ways to spark creativity and cultivate curiosity in her 5th grade classroom:
Lego Mindstorms Education Ev3 Integration
Lego Mindstorms now integrates into Windows 10 with a new EV3 app. Connecting via bluetooth makes the experience even better. You can download the app here.
A new courses for Lego EV3 is also now available via the Microsoft Educator Community here. Upon completion, you receive badges and points on your Educator Profile.
Remix in the Classroom: Digital Inking on Microsoft Photos
Copy, transform and combine. These are the elements of creativity. Taking existing media, transforming it and combining it with new materials for a new purpose underpin the process explored at Renton Prep. The students are using the new video features in the Photo App to creatively share their learning, combining digital ink on top of photos and videos. This has potential across subject areas and could be used in a variety of ways. I cannot wait to have a go!
You can download the Microsoft Photos app here.
For those would like to watch the recording of the Hack the Classroom event themselves, you can check it out here. Be sure to watch until the very end to see Toney Jackson perform his 10 commandments - wow!
Read all about my thoughts on teaching in the 21st Century, my experiences with technology in the classroom, running a Maker Space, launching STEAM and Design Thinking with students, coding, robotics and much more!
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