It is fairly difficult to ignore the importance of technology in education these days. As well as enhancing the learning experience, the development of technology related skills and knowledge is now essential for learners. In Australia, the importance placed on developing these skills resulted in the Digital Technologies subject being added to our national curriculum.
But how do schools deliver technology enriched learning to students? Trolleys of shared devices can only get the quality of the experience so far and are a nightmare to manage. A fully immersive experience ideally requires students to work with their own device. 1:1 student to device ratios are the dream but hard to achieve for many schools.
Enter the BYOD solution....Bring Your Own Device! Seems ideal....right? And it does have the potential to be - but there is a reason I jokingly refer to it as Bring Your Own Disaster.....
Change doesn't happen overnight.....and change with technology takes more time than most things. While I look back at how far the school has come, it has taken a number of years to get there.
A bit of history...
2018 is my fourth year in a technology leadership role at my school. In that time I have overseen the expansion of the BYOD program from Year 6 down to Year 3. Up until this year, iPads were the required device in our BYOD classrooms. In 2018, as the program expanded down into Year 3, the decision was made to switch to a full Windows device with the aim of eventually phasing out our student iPads. There were several reasons behind the switch and this is certainly not a blog comparing the pros and cons of different devices. Despite the migration to Windows devices for student use, iPads will continue to have a presence on the Primary Campus and in our Maker Space.
Weighing it up
So, having just this year launched BYOD in Year 3 and after my experiences with it over the last few years, what are my thoughts?
The BYOD solution to school 1:1 technology implementation is a totally viable option, but it comes with a cost to all involved. Families have to shoulder the cost. This can be a very big ask, especially for families with more than 1 student at a school. Schools need to amp up their training and tech support to keep it afloat. It takes a lot of time and manpower (or in my case, womanpower) to get everything running smoothly. Teachers also have the added pressures of troubleshooting technology and integrating it effectively into their practice.
Can it be done? Yes, it can. I don't think I have it perfect by a long shot, but compared to a couple years ago, I am actually pretty proud of our progress. For those thinking of taking steps towards BYOD:
The 2017 Skype-a-thon event was my first dip into the world of Skype in the classroom and what fun it was! I worked with Year 6 students, who spoke with the services lead of Microsoft Australia and a Year 4 Class, who participated in our first Mystery Skype. Nothing like diving right into the deep end!
Organising and running a Mystery Skype
In a larger class, there are certainly more roles that could be assigned, but this seemed to work once we go rolling. Also, extremely useful where printed signs to back up communication within the classroom and over the Skype call. Just a simple Yes, No and Please Wait, were very useful as we researched and responded to questions.
Learning to Ask Questions
A great tip I also learnt from Jonathon was to get the children thinking of questions that halved the search area. This really gets them using directional language, scale and landmarks. Students should always start large and work their way down to localised, more specific questions based on the responses on their opponent. For example:
Depending on how the local population is distributed, students acting as researchers may need to be finding out about states, suburbs, boroughs or councils. It's such a fun and authentic way for students to engage with Geography.
Find Out More
To learn more about Mystery Skype and get started, visit the Microsoft Educator Community. As well as online courses to introduce you to who it all works, you can set your availability times and connect with other educators or experts from around the world to Skype with. You are not limited to setting up Mystery Skype calls, but can also arrange virtual field trips and Skype calls with subject experts.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next Skype-a-thon event in 2018. It is sure to be a lot of fun!
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!
I am very excited to have a piece of writing published on the Microsoft Education Blog. In this post I discuss some of the ways teachers can assess in OneNote Class Notebooks.
I am very appreciative of the opportunities Microsoft have granted me and am continually impressed with the professional development content they have available on the Microsoft Educator Community for free. I encourage all teachers to check out this space.
Please also check out my article on the Microsoft Education Blog here and share. Thanks for the support!
The digital natives filling our classrooms are not as native as some think and teachers need to remember this when introducing new technology tools.
Students born during or after the digital age are considered a "Digital Native". This title seems to carry certain assumptions:
Rather than being simply a new generation of learners, we consider them a whole new species.
The frustration arrives in the classroom when the teacher decides to integrate a new technology tool and simply throws it at the children. It is a disastrous failure. The objective of the lesson is not achieved and the teacher is completely stressed out by the end of the lesson. Even a substitutional use of technology requires a little more preparation than some teachers think it does.
In a recent article on EdSurge, students pushed back on some of the assumptions about digital natives, stating that they are not as tech savvy as educators assume. In my experience, I would completely agree. Children do not just pick up a device or open a piece of software and just know how to use it. Children are more fearless in their exploration and willingness to try new things in general, but this doesn't mean they are savvy by default. I would argue that using technology, like a great many other things in life, doesn't come naturally to anyone. We all have to learn how to use it...and as technology evolves, continue to work at it!
It takes time to save time
The old saying goes "you have to spend money to make money". A similar principle applies with the use of technology. You need to spend some time educating the children to use it before you can reap the benefits of its application in the classroom. Technology is a tool and like any tool, a little "how to" can go a long way.
An example might be as simple as a teacher wanting to get students to word process a narrative they have written. You could consider:
One of the common arguments I hear, is that there simply isn't time to teach all that to students while trying to also cover an increasingly demanding curriculum. I find that easy to understand, but will argue that an investment in these few lessons can continue to pay off for the remainder of the school year. Consider also the options of modelling during teaching, setting up older buddies or teaching a couple of student champions, who can the tutor their peers.
Another argument is that there is no point teaching devices and software that will be obsolete in a few years time. While technology is evolving rapidly, learning the ropes within a certain interface or on a certain device is not a waste of time. Many concepts are transferrable between interfaces. Icons and symbols, even simple processes remain consistent - even in augmented reality platforms! These experiences gradually build digital literacy, understanding about computational processes and develop knowledge of digital symbolism.
It's always pedagodgy first, technology second
Integrating technology into learning is something I encourage all teachers to be doing, but I must stress that teachers need to be mindful of how it is being implemented and if they are setting students up to succeed. Technology can bring the "wow" factor into lessons and can be the key to engaging our 21st Century learners. It can also be incredibly time consuming and cause a lot of teacher distress.
Keep the following questions in mind when thinking about introducing a new technology tool in the classroom:
To avoid some of the most common pitfalls when using new technology tools:
Technology is not always easy to implement in the classroom, but it is worth the effort. Things don’t always go to plan and that's okay. Reflect, adjust and persist. It's part of the journey and it's an exciting one to be on.
The purpose of report cards
Communication about a student's development between schools and parents is essential. This is why we have report cards. Tracking student ability against a set of common developmental standards is equally important. The reality is that many report cards, particularly A-E grading styles, fall short of meeting their objective for a couple of reasons. The first is misconceptions about what those letters mean. Parents often base their understanding on their own school experience. Anything less than an A is not good enough.
In the Australian curriculum, the achievement standard is a C level, so getting a C means they are meeting the expectation. In my experience, this is not always an easy feat - it's an ambitious curriculum. The second hurdle is the educational jargon used in reporting descriptors. Often pulled straight from the curriculum content descriptor, which educators themselves struggle to apprehend at times, these words are often like another language to parents.
Could badges be the answer?
The question running through my mind is if there is actually a need to be ranking how well students are achieving something with a grade that can be highly subjective and carries understanding of a bygone era in education. Or should we instead be acknowledging each step forward as an achievement and as part of a continuous learning journey. Would a parent like to be told that little Sally can count in two to twenty or told Sally achieved a C in Number Concepts for the school semester? Similarly, would it even be that meaningful if a parent was told that Sally got a C in counting in two to twenty? What does she have to do to get a B? Stand on her head while doing it?
While there are some skills and knowledge sets that lend themselves to a black and white achievement, I can see an argument that this approach creates a finish line or would not allow for more complex application of skills. Instead, if you look at it more like a stepping stone leading to the next achievement, the potential for open ended achievement could be almost limitless.
Badges are nothing new
Recognising achievement with badges is not a new concept. Scouts, military and police utilise them. The concept of "leveling up" is not one wasted on anyone born from the 80's onwards. It's motivating. Imagine being a student getting awarded for what you can do instead of being told you cant do something well enough to get a certain grade. Imagine seeing the list of things you can do grow and grow, instead of lurching through your school years always feeling like you're not good enough. Naturally this may not be felt by those at the top of the academic ladder, but imagine the impact it could have on the lower or even mid-range achievers!
Minus the subjectivity
No matter how well your rubrics are generated or how consistent your moderation process is, there is always going to be a level of subjectivity in grading achievement. The good news in breaking down standards to mico-credentials can make it more black and white - you either got it, or you don't.....yet! The concept of not having something yet is popular among Growth Mindset advocates and Carol Dweck, leading researcher in the field of motivation and how to foster success. If badges were designed in a linear way, traversing grades, students wouldn't have just a year to achieve a badge, but could have continuous opportunities to achieve them. Similarly, students working beyond the achievement standard could be earning future badges.
Time saving and continuous
The need to report at certain times of the year dictates the timing of assessment, regardless of whether the students are actually ready for it. Most teachers will agree that generating assessment items, marking and collating data for reports takes weeks of a school term. Would this not be better used for learning? In a system where badges can be awarded as students demonstrate knowledge or skills, time spent conducting formal assessment could be given back to learning. A report could be generated at any time by producing a list of the student achieved credentials to date.
Our present reporting structures make it very difficult to report on the skills that are considered valuable to 21st Century learners. How do we put a grade against innovation? Creativity? Collaboration? Critical thinking? Instead, teachers could award a badge when they see evidence of it. An accumulation of badges could result in gold, silver or bronze badges in these areas. The potential in this space is exciting. Consider the other non-curriculum skills that could be awarded badges. Parents would be pleased to know when their child receives a badge in citizenship, resilience or self-regulation.
Our hands are tied...
Unfortunately, me getting up on my soapbox is not going to then cause a lot of schools to look at report cards and start reporting on student achievement using micro-credentials and badges. In Australia, our hands are tied. The National Education Agreement states that we must report against a five point scale.
Despite this roadblock, teachers can still try out badges in the classroom. Many LMS platforms allow teachers to generate and award their own badges. Making them specific to curriculum objectives may help students connect with their learning and see the road ahead.
After years of being #notatISTE and staying up through the night to watch the live broadcasts in the middle of the Aussie winter (which does get pretty cold), I finally got my chance to attend the world renowned conference. It was as if Christmas had come early when my school handed me my ticket to Texas.
What's it like for a first time ISTE attendee? Did I think it is worth the almost 20 hours of travel there and back - not to mention the jet lag! What did I find interesting? Most importantly, would I go again?
Posters, Playgrounds and Panels - oh my!
Rapid Fire Learning
...and don't forget the Expo hall!
The expo hall is where companies come to showcase their latest and greatest. It's a dazzling display of everything that is exciting and there is plenty to see. Some make their ISTE mission about collecting swag, which there is plenty of. For those with luggage restrictions it wasn't a high priority - but I did get my fair share! In my three conference days, I cannot say that I saw everything. On the final day, I found myself dashing madly around the maze of displays looking for specific vendors. Entering the expo hall is similar to getting sucked into a time warp. A lot of the larger vendors offer their own sessions, so you can take a seat and very quickly loose track of time.
ISTE knows how to run a conference! They are organised and I cannot fault their communication about the event. For a first time ISTE attendee I felt like I was provided with enough information to enjoy the conference and find my way around. Downloading the app is high on my list of essentials, followed closely by wearing comfy shoes!
The really satisfying thing about this conference was that is was powered by teachers. The most engaging speakers and people who made this event worth coming to, were the people who are walking the walk out there in the real world. The real value of this conference comes from the connections you make and the conversations you have with others.
I think the important thing to remember is that you can't do it all. Plan ahead and build an experience based on your interests and needs. There is something for everyone and the conference makes an effort to provide a variety of ways to engage.
Do I want to go to Chicago next year? You bet! Fingers crossed.
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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