#FlipConAdl Day Two Part Five

“Our kids have digital thumbs, we shouldn’t cut them off when they enter the door.”
-Stephanie Kriewaldt

FlipCon Adelaide had thus far been a success for me on a personal and professional level. I was feeling reinvigorated for the remainder of the year with new ideas, new contacts and friends, and a revitalised drive for flipped learning and research, which I hope has come through in my previous articles from the conference. My final session at FlipCon Adelaide was with Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie) who was presenting under the title Flipping the Primary Classroom. I spoke briefly with Stephanie during the Primary discussion panel and was happy to have met another Kindergarten-Year Two (Infants) teacher who was also a flipper as I only know one other Infants flipped educators; Alfina Jackson (@GeekyAusTeacher).

I feel bad for anyone presenting in the last timeslot at any conference or event, many people will have left the event already or will leave partway through in order to catch their plane/train. Stephanie’s session in the last timeslot of the day was similarly impacted with only three delegates in total in attendance, despite their having been eight registered to attend. Stephanie introduced herself and spoke about her background, including that she has only ever worked in 1:1 contexts, which seems rather amazing to me and is currently working as an innovation and learning leader.

Stephanie showed us a short video of a Year Two classroom where flipped pedagogies were utilised as part of the rotational groupings during literacy sessions. Given that I am going to be teaching in a Stage One context next year, this gives me some hope that what I was thinking might work, does work in practice. Utilising either computers or tablets with pre-loaded videos to play a short (sixty to ninety seconds long maximum) video modeling how to form letters and numbers, how to spell words and a range of other simple yet foundational skills that need to be repeated multiple times was what I was thinking of doing next year.

video2band2bsamr
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h3m54kx on 11 December 2016

Stephanie spoke next about the SAMR model and its application in flipped learning. It would be very easy to stay with substitution and augmentation, however, we need to strive to also reach the modification and redefinition levels. Stephanie spoke about how she utilised QR code posters on the wall that linked to short videos that explained basics such as what a noun is or how to construct a paragraph as that was something that could be done once and made available via video when students needed the refresher. This process frees the teacher up to continue to be available for students who have more complex questions or needs that need her immediate focus and also gives the student some ownership of their learning. Whilst they are still using the teacher as the source of the information, they are able to access the information whenever they need without disrupting anyone else’s learning.

Stephanie also spoke about how to utilise flipped learning to engage with Parents. Sometimes a student will go home and ask the caregiver (you cannot assume it is a parent anymore) for help with some task for school and the caregiver will do their best to help. Sometimes this help is actually hindering the student because the caregiver does not have the knowledge needed or uses incorrect terminology. This happens for various reasons and Stephanie said that a simple way to combat this is to create videos that are ostensibly for the student but also show the caregiver how the concept or skill is being taught. It is not about diminishing the knowledge or skill of the caregiver, but about ensuring that they are aware of how the particular concept is taught now as it is likely to have changed since the caregiver was at school.

Stephanie spoke about using a short hook-video to capture student interest in a new topic or unit of learning. The idea of a hook to capture student interest is not a new one, however, being reminded of old ideas that work is often useful as it is easy to forget about them with the ongoing plethora of new ideas and practices that are thrown en masse at teachers. Knowing how to create and use QR codes and link shorteners is a very useful skill to have as it opens up a range of possibilities, such as the use of QR codes for refresher videos as mentioned earlier in this article. If you are not sure about either, you can find a video showing how to create QR codes here and a video for URL shorteners here.

Stephanie spoke about how she uses Explain Everything to make short videos on the fly and how it is also simple enough to use that Infants students are able to create videos using it. A flipped worksheet is still a worksheet we were told and accordingly, the homework that Stephanie sets is designed to be something that is likely going to occur anyway to reduce the stress around homework; do a chore, read a story, do something to help a friend or a family member etc. This kind of homework I could feel comfortable issuing to students, rather than the traditional style of homework, which I have written about recently. Homework needs to be achievable for the student and for us, the teacher.

Given that we were such a small group, we spent some time sharing about our specific teaching and learning contexts and sharing some ideas about moving forward with flipped learning. It was a useful time, though short, however, I think everyone in the room was happy to move on to the end of conference drinks as it had been a cognitively-draining (and refreshing at the same time) two days. Stephanie’s session was interesting and I did gain some ideas and a fresh perspective for moving into 2017 in a new context.

As always, thank you for reading. I think there will be one more article to come from FlipCon Adelaide, which will be a more general reflection on some issues as a result of various conversations I had with people outside of workshops which have significantly impacted my

#FlipConAdl Review Day One Part Four

“This is going to be really stats heavy and so I won’t be offended if you want to leave.”
– Peter Whiting

Welcome back for part four in my review of FlipCon Adelaide. If you missed the previous article, you can find it by clicking here. For whatever reason, I had not registered for a session after Amiee Shattock’s and I decided to drop in on Peter Whiting’s (@mr_van_w) session where would be exploring the results from an action research project which was recently peer reviewed and published (you can find it here). Statistics and research is not a flavour that everyone enjoys and it was a small group in the room, however, it was, for me, an incredibly interesting session and I got a real kick out of hearing about the methodologies and the statistical results; it reignited a desire to engage in education research. It was a good session even before Peter spoke, however, as I saw this on the wall, encouraging a growth mindset and a persistent attitude to learning

Peter spoke about his background, that he was a scientist before entering the teaching profession and so his research was driven by a science mindset, looking at the story told by the data. He also indicated that his working environment is hostile in many ways to flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy, but that the school has moved to action research as a basis for professional development, which sounds strategically sensible, depending on what guidelines are provided for topics of research and the structure. I had some conversations around this topic during the social event which I was intrigued by and will discuss further in a later article.

The action research was driven by two focus questions, what was the impact on student engagement and student learning outcomes when flipped content is made either by their own teacher, a team teacher or an external provider. It is an interesting question as the general feedback that highly experienced flipped educators give is that creation is better than curation for flipped content. Peter spoke about the relationship that he and his team teacher have which other as being very productive and safe vis-a-vis their ability to provide open and frank feedback to each other and that this was essential to the quality of their flipped content and also to the action research project.

This also provided the first departure point from standard flipped learning discourse as Peter noted that they do not necessarily have students engaging with video content in the individual learning space and therefore refer to the flipped content as learning objects or LOs.This allows for a discussion about the flipped content without limiting the discussion to video content.

The research was structured to allow for a number of data points. Peter explained that in a typical action research project, for each query, three data points are required. To this end, the research was structured to allow for a number of data collection points, with two sets of two parallel classes being utilised (an A and B class in each of Stage Four and Stage Five science) to allow for comparisons in different learning contexts. This enabled a comparison of the effect on engagement and outcome as a result of teacher-created, team-teach created or externally created LOs. The overall sample size was fifty-five students and Peter said that he would have liked to have had a larger sample size, however, that was what he had to work with. If you are not familiar with what team teaching is and why that is a topic of potential interest for research, you can find a good overview here.

Peter then did what he promised and went into statistics-mode. The first results that we were shown were the overall results around the engagement levels in the individual space (what would traditionally be referred to as homework). These showed markedly different results between teacher-created LOs and team teacher-created LOs; 91% completion in comparison to 85%. This trend continued when examined in the same way with the data clustered by the unit of study or topic.

The above photo is not the greatest, however, the darker column is Class A and the lighter column is Class B. The results demonstrated that students engaged with the LOs much more frequently and with greater interest when they were created by the class teacher, irrespective of the topic of study. The Class A teacher developed the LOs for the second unit, whilst the Class B teacher prepared the LOs for the first and third units and you can see the interaction patterns quite clearly in the results. It is interesting to note that the subject or topic of the unit (appears) not to have had any impact on the average results and I would be curious to hear about any inferences or conclusions that were made around that.

Following on from that, bookwork results were examined, and student effort was recorded using predetermined success criteria, with the results being clustered together by alternate and classroom teacher. It was reported that there was a significant different between the two sets of results; when students’ book-work marks were clustered together according to the book-work marks from their own and the alternate teacher. Peter reported that this indicated to them that students were taking detailed notes beyond the bare minimum when the learning object being used was created by their own teacher rather than the alternate teacher. Interestingly, it was also reported that as the end of the year drew closer the disparity between the two columns (book work marks for own vs alternate teacher) lessened. I am not sure what results you could infer from this other than potentially an impact of studying for impending exams or major in-class assessment tasks/tests. I do not recall what Peter said, if anything, about this, but he noted it as interesting.

Students were asked directly about whether they had a preference for the LOs that their teacher created in comparison to an alternate teacher and it is telling that although 70% of students thought the LOs were equivalent vis-a-vis quality, that 47% preferred the LOs developed by their own teacher. Peter did acknowledge that 49% of students were neutral on that question; that they did not mind either way. I found it very interesting that such a large proportion of students indicated they did not mind either way. A question along these lines was asked during the primary discussion panel (read the article here) and Matthew Burns (@burnsmatthew) responded that he asks his students about whether they prefer flipped pedagogies or traditional pedagogies. It is a slightly different question with a different focus, however, as far as I am aware, Matt creates the vast majority of his content and he indicated a roughly 70% / 10% / 20% split between preference of flipped/blended/traditional pedagogies. I do not know if Matt has done any similar research into the impacts of third-party created flipped content/LOs.

The above graph was shown to us next and it is a very intriguing set of results. It demonstrates that although there is a preference for teacher-created LOs, that the measured summative metrics revealed no statistically significant variance in the achievement of learning outcomes. This has significance for teachers interested in flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy. Engagement in the classroom or group learning time is an important factor in classroom management and the perception of whether you are a good teacher. John Hattie (@john_hattie)has written extensively around effect sizes, and engagement has an effect size of 0.45 which is not insignificant.

One potential reason for the preference for teacher-created LOs is that students are used to you; your vocal rhythms, patterns, tonal quality, and lilts, however, it is key that we remember that the LOs are not everything. Flipped learning is about videos, primarily, but that is not the goal of flipped learning. The goal of flipped learning to reclaim time for deeper learning and engagement with higher level thinking as envisioned on the reimagined Bloom’s Taxonomy.

screen2bshot2b2015-07-132bat2b19-59-06
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/zh44r2v on 30 November 2016

Peter related that Derek Muller (@Veritasium) completed a study for a PhD, which he (Peter) summarised as can we learn stuff from videos – the short answer from Derek is no. The learning happens in the class.” He pointed out that a video provides background and foundational information, but that it does not necessarily provide a context, an application or a synthesis of the skill or concept; that is what the classroom time needs to be used and as Jon Bergmann pointed out in his keynote address earlier that morning, the biggest mistake in implementing flipped pedagogies is not using the reclaimed group space time well.

The video does not teach students how to think critically around a topic or provide them with strategies for synthesising new information or evaluating the impacts of something, that is our role as teachers, to provide the opportunity for students to take that information and apply, analyse, evaluate and create with it. It provides the opportunity for teachers to build and strengthen the relationships with students which has a sizable effect size (0.52) on student learning outcomes according to Hattie.

We moved onto discussions around the human research ethics approval (HRECs), requirements around which varies depending on the jurisdiction. Essentially though, if the research is in-house for reflection and improvement of practice, ethical approval is not strictly necessary (unless otherwise indicated in your State or Territory), though it is still a good idea. If you intend to publish or share the results externally, then it becomes necessary. Even if it was not necessary, the process of completing a HRECs application is very useful. I found that it helped me to crystallise exactly what my guiding question was and how  was going to go about researching that and understanding the results. Peter also said that there is money available via grants for research assistants and that we simply need to go through the processes. This was not something I was aware of, however, it would be very useful to have someone who can collect, collate and assist in data analysis.

We were told that the most basic interpretation of action research methodology is to ask a question, enact a plan to gather data, reflect and reiterate. The complication or the challenge comes from the need to continually ask so what and where to from here when the data is collected and conclusions have been drawn at each iterative step.

The question was asked how far away from your own institution do you go before content becomes external? Is it external content if it by anyone outside of your own Stage or Faculty? Your own school? your Local Learning Community or Dioecese? That, Peter indicated, is the next step for the research.

I personally found the session with Peter to be exciting and reinvigorating. My current long-term career goal is to end up in the education research space. I feel like this will be ongoing or multiple over a period of time, action research projects where specific questions are researched and iterations made to pedagogical practice and strategy with the end goal being to share results at each step for feedback and peer review (whether this is formalised for publication or merely social peer review through trusted colleagues I do not know). I am a teacher first and a researcher second, however, I genuinely enjoyed the process of reviewing the literature, synthesising it, researching, analysing the data and then writing the thesis. I would like to take it to the next step and be able to make iterative changes to my practice and to be able to share those results with peers. That is largely why I maintain this blog and also try to maintain the formal-ish academic style of writing, so that I do not lose the ability to write in that style when ( am determined it will be when not if) I get the opportunity to dig into some research again.

Thank you as always for reading this rather long article. I know that research and statistics is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally really enjoyed Peter’s session. We enjoyed a long conversation around it later on over dinner and drinks, and I daresay that when I read his article that I will have further questions for him. I would like to hear your thoughts on the research described and what direction you think it could go in next and what questions you feel would be valuable for research.

 

FlipConAdl Review Day One Part Three

“Assessment in a flipped classroom must inform what you then do in the class.”
-Aimee Shattock

The Primary Discussion Panel which I wrote about in the previous article was followed by a morning tea break, after which, the breakout sessions were scheduled to begin. In the first session, I attended a workshop with Aimee Shattock (@MSShattock) entitled How Do I Know If They Got It? Embedding Fun, Fast and Effective Formative Assessment Into Your Flipped Program. I originally made me breakout session choices when I booked my attendance in June and I perhaps should have reviewed my session choices closer to the event. Aimee opened her session by having delegates take part in a Kahoot quiz, something which is always fun. She spent some time explaining how to create and use Kahoots in the classroom. Although I am quite familiar with the Kahoot platform, it was still useful as I had not used them for some time and was not realised the Kahoot creation interface had changed.

Following the Kahoot discussion, Aimee introduced the delegates to Socrative, an app that I was aware of but had never used. It seems quite straightforward to use and serves slightly different purposes to Kahoot. It is a free app that is compatible with any PC or device, however, it requires an internet connection and Aimee indicated that the iPad app can be quite glitchy at times. The most useful function of Socrative, in my opinion, is its exit ticket component. It defaults to three questions.

This quick and easy way of getting immediate feedback on the session learning that you can digest at a later time as part of your assessment of learning and assessment for learning reflection process  is useful as you are able to process the students’ understandings at a time and pace more conducive to critical reflection that will inform future practice and what comes next.

I realise that I have not written much for Aimee’s session and I do feel bad as she is an excellent presenter with some excellent ideas who engaged the delegates well. If I had not been as familiar with Kahoot and as comfortable using it as I am, Aimee’s session would have been an excellent place to learn about it.I did enjoy learning about Socrative and I do plan to explore using it in my class at some point as I think it can serve a very useful purpose.

I discovered after Aimee’s session concluded that I had not registered for anything in the next session and decided to sit in on Peter Whiting’s (@Mr_van_W) session, which I did write extensively for and will do so in the next article, which I hope to have ready to be published tomorrow afternoon.

FTPL – Accessing Office365

In this FTPL video, I demonstrate how to access Microsoft Office 365 through the Department of Education portal and through the login.microsoft website.

Visit C21Teaching for more FTPL videos, teaching resources and pedagogical reflections.

2015 NMC Horizon Report: K-12 Edition

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important. ”
-Attributed to Bill Gates

The NMC Horizon report has been around since 2004, published by the New Media Consortium (NMC) which is a community of hundreds of leading universities, colleges, museums, and research centers. The NMC stimulates and furthers the exploration and use of new media and technologies for learning and creative expression. Its purpose is to provide an overview as to what is on the near, medium and far horizon in regards to trends in the education sector, and is broken into three sections; they key trends, significant challenges and important developments in educational technology. Each year, the report is prefaced by something similar to the below (which has been pulled from this years Report.

What is on the five-year horizon for K-12 schools worldwide? Which trends and technologies will drive educational change? What are the challenges that we consider as solvable or difficult to overcome, and how can we strategise effective solutions? These questions and similar inquiries regarding technology adoption and transforming teaching and learning steered the collaborative research and discussions of a body of 56 experts to produce the NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition, in partnership with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). The NMC also gratefully acknowledges ISTE as a dissemination partner. The three key sections of this report — key trends, significant challenges, and important developments in educational technology — constitute a reference and straightforward technology planning guide for educators, school leaders, administrators, policymakers, and technologists. It is our hope that this research will help to inform the choices that institutions are making about technology to improve, support, or extend teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in K-12 education across the globe. View the wiki where the work was produced.

The  2015 NMC Horizon Report K-12 is now out, and as always provides for some interesting reading. To download the full report (free), please click here. If you are disinclined to read the full report, I have included below the summary video that has been released to provide an overview f the findings in this years edition of the K-12 NMC Horizon Report.

I would encourage you to at least watch the summary video, if not read the report, and I would very much like to hear your thoughts on it. This is not just for those working within the education sector. I believe that awareness of these issues will be important for parents as they think about where they want to send their children to school over the next decade as each of the areas identified in the report come to fruition.

An interesting and relatively easy to understand graphic is included on page two of the report, which I have included below.

Retrieved from page two of http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015-nmc-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf on 18/08/2015
Retrieved from page two of http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015-nmc-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf on 18/08/2015

In regards to the developments in technology, I can easily see the predicted timelines playing out, as many schools have already joined the vast number of early BYOD adopters, with my own school in the process of adopting it. Makerspaces are also something that has seen a large number of early adopters both within Australia and internationally, .

3D printing, which is shown in the mid-term adoption frame is on the cusp, with a small number of schools already on board (including one which I wrote about here as part of my review of the FutureSchools Conference back in March) while Adaptive Learning Technologies is something that I have heard discussed, but not in any detail. The two far term developments are thing that I would expect to be seeing in a few classrooms dotted around the world in the next two years, with widespread adoption over the next two years.

The challenges that are listed up the left hand side are thing that will play a large role in determining the success or not of the implementation of the various technologies in the classroom and those issues will play out across the next few elections at State and Federal levels, with the politicians blithely promising the world and providing crumbs. They will also play out in the conversations that are held in school staff rooms around the world, as the culture of the school will play a part in whether or not various technologies are picked up and tried out, or fully implemented.

I would very much like to hear what my readers think on this topic, as the use of technology in the classroom is something that I strongly believe is not going to go away, as technology becomes ubiquitous in our daily lives both at home and at work, and we need to ensure that our children are equipped to be responsible and respectful digital citizens as much as we work to ensure they are the same in the non-digital world.

FutureSchools ClassTech Conference Wrap Up – Day 1 Session 2

“Moving to BYOD as a financial choice, is a financial choice for the school, not the parents.”
-Simon Crook

At the end of session one, I was genuinely excited to go back home and test out some of the ideas that had been discussed, so knowing that Simon Crook was the first speaker for session two, with the presentation title BYOD, mobile devices and apps in K-12 schools had me champing at the bit to get back into the venue.

Simon started out by saying something that I’ve observed, that many implementations of BYOD, bring your own device, are in actual fact, implementations of BYODD, or bring your own designated device. Schools either give a list of acceptable devices, sometimes with one device listed, sometimes with multiple devices listed, or they give a list of minimum specifications that need to be met for the device to be acceptable. This came about due to the end of funding for the DER (Digital Education Revolution) program, and saw schools wanting to continue with the use of devices, but without the funds to do so. The choice to move to a BYO program is therefore a financial choice. A financial choice for the schools, that is, not the parents as Simon pointed out. Simon also discussed that the move to a BYO program as a drive for pedagogical change is a contentious factor for some people.

Simon posed the question to the audience “is BYOD for everyone?” Of course the answer is not quite as simple or straightforward as a yes or a no, but is a combination thereof. BYO programs are not for everyone if the teachers within a school are not ready for it. Teachers need significant professional development and support to move to a BYO program to facilitate high quality teaching in a different pedagogical framework and utilising a different infrastructure. It’s not enough to simply move everyone to devices, they need to be used appropriately. I’ve written previously about the SAMR model and its application for BYO programs and believe that it plays a significant factor in genuine use of devices in classrooms.

At the very least, Simon pointed out, teachers need to have devices of their own to utilise. I’ve known a school who rolled out a device to each teacher for twelve months to use as they were able to, with support, in the classroom before opening up the door to BYO programs. Only one class went ahead with a BYO program, and that teacher was highly engaged with using the provided device and worked to learn how to gain best results from the BYO program.

Three other questions were listed that need to be asked, to determine if a school is ready for a BYO program: Are the students ready (do they respect devices, will they have access to devices, do they know how to use the devices); Are families ready (has there been an ongoing dialogue with the community about the how, why and when BYO will be implemented, are parents supportive, are all or most parents able to provide a device) and finally is the infrastructure ready (sufficient coverage, sufficient density, cloud or physical storage, power/charging options, secure storage for devices when not in use etc). If you are wanting to know more about the coverage vs density/capacity distinction, I recommend reading pages two and three of this article on the Aerohive website.

“Using technology in school should be about using it to complement the already excellent pedagogy going on, not about the ‘keeper of the kingdom’ saying no to ‘protect’ the school systems. The pedagogical needs should inform the IT decisions, not the other way around.”
-Simon Crook

Buy in from the school leadership is critical, as those schools where the leadership is on board and directs the IT team to find the solution often see more success than those schools where the leadership are ambivalent and simply ask the IT team if it is doable. There are factors to be considered, such as coverage v capacity as previously mentioned, and a genuine need to consider the security and protection of the students from undesirable content on the internet, but it needs to be considered intelligently, rather than simply whitewashing the internet en masse. Additionally, part of the conversation should be about teaching digital citizenship, which may form part of the conversation around Communicating and interacting for health and well being  and  Contributing to healthy and active communities both of which are part of the Australian PDHPE curriculum, and which a variety of age targeted resources are available on the Cybersmart website.

Following on from this was the discussion of ‘equity’ which can often be a cause for consternation around BYO programs. Simon made his position clear – equity is not about the lowest common denominator, it is not about making one software suite dominant and that cloud computing is the way to go. Simon indicated that decisions about hardware and software are going to vary from family to family and that where possible, utilising cloud-based storage would facilitate engagement as it would remove the problems of “I forgot my flash drive” or the issues of “I don’t think that’s the right version, there’s a newer one on my computer at home” that teachers often hear, from both students and colleagues.

Ultimately, BYO programs are for everyone. Prices on the hardware continue to drop, and there are more and more options for those families who are price-point sensitive. The critical thing to remember, however, is that a dialogue needs to be opened up, early in the thinking about BYO programs to address concerns from parents, students and teachers, and that the dialogue needs to be ongoing.

If you are curious about implementing BYOD, there are a growing number of schools who have implemented it, and many of these schools are open to visitors to find out more about what it looks like in practice. Some online resources that Simon provided include the NSW DEC website BYOD Sandpit and the Sydney Boys High BYOD page.

We had a few minutes after Simon finished speaking to stand and stretch, while the second speaker for session two, Matt Richards, set himself up to present Makerspaces.

Matt Richards spoke about the phenomenon known as “Makerspaces” which are student centered spaces where students are able to utilise technology in various forms to create objects. Matt talked about how he took a disused space in his school and transformed it into a student-owned space through allowing groups of students to paint the walls with differing images, and the leveraging of the tech-savvy students who ordinarily hide away as mentors for others wanting to learn more about technology. His aim, he said, was “…to create a space where kids learn how stuff works.”

Makerspaces doe not require large amounts of cash to get started, and Matt related how he started simply with a number of old defunct computers, and the students were dismantling them and attempting to repair them and get them to work again. These achievements generated confidence and a buzz of accomplishment in the room which led to an increase in student self-efficacy as they experienced success, even if it was in the creation of ‘useless devices’ such as the one shown below.

A Useless Device. Image from geek.com

Beyond utilising defunct computers, Matt spoke about a range of low-priced resources including Goldieblox,Osmo, Littlebits, Raspberry Pi and Unity amongst a range of small kit computers. Matt said that the Makerspace movement changes teachers roles from content leaders, to relationship facilitators.

Matt’s final point was significant, and I believe ties his, Simon Crook’s and Richard Byrne’s talks together. “We need to evolve learning spaces from teacher-centric to student-centric, and getting there is going to see different paths taken for different schools.” This sentiment can be applied to BYO programs, as well as game inspired learning.

That is the end of day one, session two from my FutureSchools ClassTech wrap up. The next article will include the brief lunchtime session with Richard Byrne and Sue Waters which took place in the expo hall, as well as session three of the ClassTech conference Stream, covering 3D printing and the Connected Classroom

FutureSchools Expo – ClassTech conference review. Day One, Session One continued

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
– George Bernard Shaw

My key takeaway from Richard Byrne’s talk was that EduTech is not as scary as it seems, but that you need to dive in and test it out for yourself, and this sentiment flowed nicely into the next speakers presentation. Michael Beilharz, of Knox Grammar School, spoke under the presentation title Games for a creative curriculum, which was a presentation about how he has utilised Minecraft effectively in classrooms and the outcomes from this in regards to learning and engagement as well as the change in the organisation structures of group assignment tasks. This was a talk that I was excited about, having utilised Minecraft whilst on my internship, admittedly in a rather superficial way, to test out the impacts it would have on student engagement.

Michael related how he utilised Minecraft to teach his students about the Australian gold rush as part of a history course. Through the creation of an epoch-accurate replica of Bendigo within the Minecraft world, students were challenged to explore the world and build a goldmine. This required research about the tools available, and incorporated mathematics, geography, science and literacy skills.

Michael showed us two videos. The first video was the teaser video that was shown to the students prior to the learning to whet their appetite and generate some interest, and is available on Michael’s YouTube channel here. The second video that we were shown was a video of some of the student’s products, also available on Michael’s YouTube channel, Whilst showing us a video of what the Minecraft goldrush world looked like, Michael pointed out that we need to be willing to take risks, as teachers. We need to be able to ground our risks in pedagogical value, to justify their value to the learning process, and to the supervisory personnel that invariably want to know why we’re trying ‘that crazy new tech stuff.’

Michael pointed out, via a quote from Sir Ken Robinson that “Technology is not technology is it was invented before you were born,” a sentiment which seems to be often forgotten when teachers lay down methods of completing presentations – speeches, written compositions, posters etc. We need to encourage our students to be creative and take risks when they present the evidence of their learning, because just because speeches, written compositions etc work as methods of evidence of learning, does not mean that they are the best options, or are providing students with a skill that they will need. Encourage them to make a video as part of their evidence of learning, it could be a news report, a documentary-style video, or a skit, but it utilises other skillsets and will challenge them to create something that puts their understanding of the concept into a new application, which will help deepen their understanding and apply it to other disciplines.

Michael went on to talk about a range of functions available to create a safe environment within Minecraft, including the use of Bucket Servers which allow you to set up whitelists of approved users within a server to monitor conversations and deal with griefing more effectively, and how to set up zones within a world that allow students to view other and interact with other group’s zones, but not to be destructive. This allows groups to collaborate and share ideas, but forces groups to do their own work to put ideas into action, and prevents sabotaging of other groups efforts.

It is highly important, when looking to implement Minecraft as a teaching tool, to provide professional development opportunities to staff members, to allow them to explore the Minecraft world for themselves so that they are able to help their students, and this can be rather amusing to watch and listen to, as is demonstrated in this video, where a group of teachers are let loose inside the goldrush Minecraft world for the first time, with many of them never having played minecraft at all. If we weren’t told that it was a group of teacher, I would have assumed it was some students sharing the world with some friends.

Minecraft as a learning tool also provides opportunities for interscholastic collaboration. A group of students within Michael’s class were actually completing a different learning task within Minecraft, collaborating with students based in the US, which then brought about a different learning curve, inculding dealing with time differences, cultural differences such as language (e.g. year 5 as opposed to 5th grade), and units of measurement.

Michael found that Minecraft as learning tool promoted a lot of core life skills, including communication, conflict resolution, critical thinking, problem solving processes and collaborative skills. All of these are skill sets that will assist students across a multitude of disciplines as they grow.

Returning to professional development for a moment, MIchael snuck in a Star Trek reference (whether it was deliberate or not, I don’t know), when he said that designing learning experiences through Minecraft should based on the PRIME Directive: Problem, Research, Investigate, Make, Evaluate. The problem that students are to approach needs to be genuine and real, it should encourage research skills to determine what is known, what isn’t known etc, encourage investigation of the phenomenon to fill in knowledge and skill set gaps, provide an opportunity to make something that provides an authentic opportunity to demonstrate their new knowledge and understanding in a creative way, and then an opportunity to evaluate their production.

Minecraft as a learning tool is not just about building or making objects. Students should be required to justify decisions and this can be done through a portfolio approach instead of the traditional written report. There is nothing stopping students from screencasting a tour of their production, as these students have done, which affords them the opportunity to explain their thinking and reasoning behind their design decisions.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve attempted to use Minecraft as a learning tool in the past, once. It was excellent as far as the engagement side of things went, but it was done rather superficially, as a homework task, where students had to build a rocket ship. I feel much more confident in being able to utilise Minecraft in a learning situation now, than I did before, other than my own ability to actually build the environment in which my students would be learning, however, that is nothing that a lot of practice would not fix, or engagement of students with sufficient Minecraft skills.

That is all for session one, on day one of the ClassTech stream of the FutureSchools expo. Session two will be covered in the next post, and I will be endeavouring to make it a little shorter.

FutureSchools Expo – ClassTech conference review. Day One, Session One

I arrived at Australian Technology Park on the Wednesday morning, bright eyed and excited to get a taste of my first conference experience, the networking opportunities and the chance to hear some excellent speakers and, hopefully, learn a lot that I would be able to put into practice in the classroom.

The day began with a brief talk from Sue Waters, an editor and author on theedublogger.com who exhorted the ClassTech delegates to take the opportunity to interact and engage with the various speakers that day and the next and to make contact with them after the conference finished.

The first speaker was Richard Byrne, from Maine, USA, owner of Free Technology for Teachers, and as I was to find out, an invigorating speaker. The first point that I noted down, and that really stuck with me was the fact that we and our students will be Googled, and that we will be Googled for the rest of our lives. As educators, we hold a position within our various communities of respect and responsibility and it is therefore incumbent on us to remember that when we post to social media accounts, whether it be texts, images or videos, irrespective of whether it is a sharing of someone else’s content, or something that we are posting as ourselves, that it can and probably will be seen by someone within our educational community (parent, student, colleague). In this age of ‘Googleability’ our reputation is ever present on the internet, and easily besmirched by our own careless social media postings, especially given that kids will never know not being able to Google something, and that Facebook likes to hide away the privacy settings to make them somewhat difficult to get to.

Richard went on to talk about the challenges of teaching students who are always connected in the classroom and at home, but that it is so often the case that “two places in the world that cell phones aren’t allowed are schools and Al Qaeda caves.”  Richard indicated he felt the need to question the banning of cell phones in school, and related that he would rather they be leveraged as engagement devices. If students are engaged with conversations on their phones, why not leverage that engagement purposefully? It can lead to engagement of not only the student, but also the parent/s.

In the same vein, Richard spoke about how he felt that BYOD/1:1 programs and web-filtering were counter-intuitive, and that web-filters limited the content potentiality of the internet, as well as the dialogue that should be engaged with, around the themes of digital citizenship and internet responsibility. He pointed out something that I imagine every teacher is aware of, in that if students are not accessing it at school, through the school’s infrastructure, then they are probably accessing it at school through their own ever increasing and commonplace, access to 3G and 4G devices, or at home, or somewhere in between.

Moving along, there was as discussion about what are we, as educators, actually preparing our students for? Are we training students to do jobs that won’t exist in ten to fifteen years? Or are we teaching them to be flexible, to be able to evolve and to be ongoing and independent learners with the resilience and skills to retrain and move on as needed? Jobs that exist now, such as Web Content Manager, and Social Media Manager were not even ideas at the turn of the century, and yet, now, they are big money earners for those who are high on the ladder within that industry. Richard then flipped the thinking around and asked “What would Shakespeare or Twain have achieved if they had had access to the internet? What kind of website or blog would they have run?” which saw no small amount of laughter ring throughout the conference attendees. But it goes to show that, as Richard subsequently commented, that “the thinking economy is preparing students for jobs that don’t exist.” I found this to be quite the sobering thought, as I thought about the kinds of jobs that exist now that didn’t exist when I completed my secondary schooling in 2001, and the kinds of websites and social media tools that we now take for granted.

This lead to the topic of responsibility, or digital citizenship, also infringing upon the realms of understanding validity and credibility of information sources. We need to move our students beyond wikipedia, and the first few pages of wikipedia when they are doing their searching, and teach them ways of more efficient and effective searches. Richard related an activity he utilises, wherein he provides a stimulus image, and students are required to come up with questions they can ask about the subject of the image, which invariably pushes students to write down what they know about the topic, or as Eliezer S. Yudkowsky puts it “what do I know and why do I think I know it?” (I should  acknowledge that I can’t recall where I read it, so I may be wrong in attributing the quote to him.. If anyone can help me be a bit more accurate about where it came from, I would like to hear from you)

Google’s Inside Search lists lesson plans for teaching about searching, as well as how the search engines work. Richard pointed out that we need to challenge our students to collaborate more effectively on research projects. I worked with a year five and six class last year who were researching our solar system for a class project, and one of the students asked if it was okay to airdrop the weblink to a useful resource he had found to a friend working on the same topic When asked why, the students said that it would help his friend who was struggling to find information, indicating that students can collaborate when given the freedom and encouragement to do so.

Richard said that he doesn’t like to share quotes attributed to businesspeople who meddle in education often, but nonetheless shared a quote attributed to Sir Richard Branson from June 19, 2013: “Education doesn’t just take place in stuffy classrooms and university buildings. It can happen everywhere, every day, to every person.”

Richard followed this up by discussing some websites, such as Connected Classrooms and Project Noah that provide opportunities to extend the learning outside the classroom, whether it be figuratively or literally, and that with the ever increasing levels of connectivity, and the freedom of the internet, that there are fewer gatekeepers of the knowledge than ever before, reducing the prohibitive nature of ‘the internet’ in learning. He followed this up with a quote from Napolean Hill, who said in 1937 that “Our only limitation lies in the development and use of our imagination.” Richard said that this still applies today, and that it is important to have students students solving real-world problems as often as possible, problems that they do, or will face, or that their parents face such, as this encourages the development and use of the imagination in determining various methods to solve the problems, as well as provides solid links to the real world, increasing the significance of the learning for students, and raising the likelihood of the skill or concept being not only remembered, but mastered and able to be applied to other disciplines.

Richard’s final point, was that if, in classrooms where allow students access to the internet, and our students are ‘wandering out’ in the ether, than it means our lessons need to be better as it indicates we are not engaging our students. It felt harsh at first, but the more I think on it, the more realistic an assessment it seems to be.

I will stop here, for now, and will post part two of session one later on, probably tomorrow.

As always, thank you for reading, and leave a comment.

The SAMR model part two

In the last post, I wrote about the SAMR model, and how I’ve understood it so far, having only just discovered it myself earlier this year. If it is the first time you’ve heard of it, I hope that it made sense, and that it has inspired you to go and research authentic technology integration.

By way of a brief recap, the SAMR model is a way of thinking about the use of technology in the classroom that breaks technology use into four categories; substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition. Previously, I wrote about the first two categories, and this post will complete the examination of the SAMR model.

The third category in the SAMR model is modification and it is the first of, continuing the Bloom’s Taxonomy analogy from the previous post, the higher order [technology uses], in the SAMR model. Modification allows for significant task redesign, such as recording a student’s presentation on a student’s iPad, and then using the playback of the recording to assist feedback delivery, providing the ability for the student to see themselves and see specific aspects that you are talking about. This use of technology, the iPad recording, modifies a typical teacher task, providing feedback, transforming the quality of the feedback and the way the students are able to process the feedback.

The use of technology in this way is the first where there is any real benefit to the students. Prior to modification, there has been, essentially, no change in pedagogy. All you have done is made things easier for the students. Modification can change your pedagogy, and can improve the students learning outcomes.
At the pinnacle of the transformation process, is redefinition, which is using technology to redefine the way a task is completed, in a new and previously not achievable method.

The example I would offer of redefinition is the way that my CT has been using iPads to redefine mathematics teaching. A traditional lesson involves some chalk-and-talk, some modelling, some independent work, and sessions of practicing with varying levels of achievement within a topic, followed by a summative assessment. It might be a week before you get a chance to mark it, identify that student x, though s/he seemed to get it, in fact, didn’t, but you’ve moved on to a new topic, and it’s too hard to go back.

The way that he/we are using the iPads redefines the task of maths teaching and learning. We utilise iTunes U to push out content to the students, including an overview of the topic, the learning goals and how the learning goals will be achieved. The content includes a video which contains the explicit teaching, which is made available for the students to watch back as often as they need. We either work through the video as a class, or deliver the explicit teaching through chalk and talk. The students then work through their Mathletics play list, and this is where we reap the real benefits, I believe.

The students complete two to four sets of ten-question activity, generated by Mathletics. As the students complete each set of activities, we are able to see their results populate, live, and then with a simple click, Mathletics provides us with groupings of <50%, 50-74%, 75-84% and 85%+. We demand mastery and Mathletics provides feedback to the students in terms of their results by way of showing not just the results at the end of the activity, but also allowing students to click on a question which will allow them to see the question, their answer and the correct answer. Students also see a bar next to the activity on the topic screen, which will either be red, blue, gold with “Good Work” or gold with “Perfect” on it, and the students want the Gold bar with perfect.

We use these live groupings to be able to identify those students who are struggling with the skills, and can straight away either work with them individually, or conduct small group sessions as needed to address the skill deficiencies and ensure deep understanding.

Technology is a great tool to have, but that is all that it is, a tool. Without an understanding of how to leverage its potential to change the pedagogy and redefine tasks to maximise student’s learning outcomes, the digital education revolution, whether its funded by governments or parents, will falter and stagnate, as a result of same old same old with more expensive tools.

Thank you for reading, and please leave some feedback and share amongst your PLN.