Schools are organisms

The people are the ‘school’. Schools are living organisms with interplaying dynamics. Sir Ken Robinson encourages us to to “Think of institutions as organisms. Schools are a living place full of people with hopes and aspirations.” Our job is to encourage growth.  He emphasises that the point of education is to help people grow from the inside out. “The real result is quality of life, a future we’d all like to live in” says Sugata Mitra

Be encouraged by this story of imagination and life changing innovation.

Making Learning Mobile – Its not just the tech!

Mobile devices, whether laptops or tablets have clearly made their way into many of today’s classrooms. But what about the learning spaces? Have we just brought  computer labs into classrooms, or are we making learning personalised and mobile by shifting the context and culture?

Moving the lab to the classroom?

Are we merely moving computer labs to classrooms?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abdul Chohan, of Essa Academy in the UK caught my attention at a recent visit to Adelaide by saying “We can’t change behaviour, but we can change beliefs” and encourages educators and innovators to focus on changes in beliefs and attitudes. He continues “When beliefs changes, then behaviour automatically changes”.  Essa Academy have made significant transformations to their learning community and the learning taking place. This is profoundly logical, but while I agree that beliefs need to change first, I’m not quite convinced that behavior will automatically change. Essa Academy have embraced deliberate cultural changes to backup their beliefs.  Learn more about Essa Academy’s story.

In contrast, Stephen Harris, known for the innovative work around learning space design, at Northern Beaches Christian School in New South Wales challenges educators at the SCIL “Making it Mobile” sessions to reflect on whether their beliefs align with their practice.   Like many, I began to question whether students need individual “sitting spaces”, how classroom routines can empower students, where “wait time” can be reduced, and how flexible spaces can be found and created with limited budgets.

Looking purposefully at the other aspects which influence learning culture, like timetables, learning spaces, seating arrangements and even when learning begins (because the class is quiet and the teachers starts the lesson?) affect our abilities to act upon beliefs.

Why not make classrooms mobile too? 

“If you don’t change the spaces how will teachers change the paradigm?” asks Harris.

If the learning kit is personalised, does the need for the individual sitting space lessen? Do we need desks?  As students have more tools to direct their learning (eg. Virtual Learning Environments) can they be more responsible for it?

Are we changing the learning spaces and taking the tech with us?

So what changes are we making in my school? After only a few weeks with tablets, we started to see students taking their “toolkit” (iPad mini) around the school, on excursions and home. In our “Support Centre” we brought in a moveable “standing desk” (bookcase on casters from IKEA).  I find myself looking at spaces with fresh eyes and asking “what if” questions about the least used spaces in the school.

With other large projects, like this one from Immanuel College, there are changes in education on a massive scale to put these beliefs into practice. With the new Margaret Aames centre looking much more like an ultra-modern museum,  public library or university hub than a traditional high school

What do you believe about learning? About the role of technology? Learning Spaces?  How are your beliefs translated into your practice?  I say its time to say goodbye to personal sitting spaces and use the spaces we have in new, more flexible ways.

Feel free to share your ideas here!

 

 

Beyond Apps: iPad Workflow to Transform Learning

Workflow is the process of your learning environment. When working with iPads there are several challenges and complexities. Here are a few of the notes and resources from my EdTechSa 2013 session. The three main elements of workflow could be considered:

    • Resourcing
    • Collecting
    • Communicating

Resourcing includes gathering all the links, books, documents, and instructions students need to undertake a given learning engagement. These are generated by both teachers and students and need to be shared with others. Traditionally these have been stored on school servers in shared areas like “Shared Files”, “School Common” or “Common Resources” and also on school learning management systems.

Collecting involves the “handup” process of collecting the various artefacts created by students. In paper this is the teachers’ “in- tray”. Electronically students typically put their assignments in an electronic type of  “in-tray” for teachers to review.

Communicating: I used communication rather than “Review” as ideally there is dialogue that isn’t just one way. Here students reflect on their learning and teachers provide annotations, comments, feedback and summative assessments are all forms of communication.

The complexities that come into play using iPads include imitations of personalising shared use iPads (an oxymoron?)  and the challenges of designing transformational learning engagements.

Personalised Learning

Barbara Bray’s Personalized Learning site.

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 10.09.21 AM

Barbara Bray On Personalised Learning

Transformational Learning is about using technology in ways not possible without it. Its about extending or amplifying the pedagogy for purpose.

iPad Workflow.021

Traditional Classroom workflows are paper based. Computers required us to look differently at the processes in our learning environment. Even these “electronic” models don’t fit the way we work with iPads. Trying to force a traditional model doesn’t make sense. Would you “hand up” your iPad for the teacher to make comments on it?   iPads require us to rethink workflows  to personalise and transform learning using iPads to work with new publishable formats and architecture.

Some possible workflow solutions:

SAMR Resources

As always, I look forward to hearing about the learning journeys of other educators grappling with these same challenges.

Building Learning Communities

Connecting to LearnBuilding Communities

Here are the resources I’ll be sharing in the Building Learning Communities talk for CEGSA 2013.  Please feel free to comment about your own experiences building your Professional Learning Network, Learning Communities in your educational context, creating a Connected Culture in your learning environment and tapping into or initiating purposeful Communities of Practice.

We need each other! People connect with like-minded professionals in purposeful ways. With modern technology, there are more ways than ever to connect in the “in-between” times of face to face gatherings. New opportunities to connect with people around the globe broaden our networks for our own learning, our students and for specific purposes and causes.

My Version of Alvin Toffler’s famous quote

“The literate of the 21st century will be able to learn, unlearn, relearn and co-learn.” C. Haynes

A Must Watch Video

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrgieoTvDE8]
Adam Bellow, ISTE Young Educator of the Year and Keynote Speaker,  EduTecher,  EduClipper  @adambellow

Ways to Connect 

Worth Reading

Essential for ICT School Leaders

Parent Community Examples

Email Lists and Newsletters

Professional Learning – Face to Face

    • ISTE: become a member and join your PLN at ISTE in Atlanta, GA June 2014.
    • EduTech: Exciting new Australian conference. Over 3000 delegates + a new library conference.
    • ACEC2014: National conference in Adelaide October 2014.

Other Tips:

Twitter. Follow conference keynotes and other leaders. See who they follow and connect with them. See the results in Storify of our Mini Twitter Chat conducted during the session.

ShowBie – The iPad Workflow Solution?

When our Year 1 and 2 teachers embarked on our 1:1 Mobile Learning program last term, they immediately saw the challenges of workflow. While embracing the multimodal capabilities of the iPad, we quickly realised the obstacles with our traditional thinking about the processes of handing up and giving feedback on new media including eBooks, video and the multitude of creations possible on the iPad.

We then asked:

    • Do teachers need to review every video during classtime?
    • What about large file sizes and email?
    • How can we give timely feedback?
    • How can we keep up with all that students are doing?
    • What needs to have peer feedback or be shared with the class via AirPlay?

Collecting, organising and giving feedback on digital media produced by students is a challenge! Until now.

Enter Showbie

Showbie is a workflow app and cloud solution to assign, collect and review “assignments”. It’s clever use of the “Open In” feature allows students to “hand-up” just about anything they create on an iPad using the Showbie app.  What’s more, its simple interface makes this a workable solution even for our 6 and 7 year olds.  From a teacher’s perspective, they can assign tasks, share resources for the tasks and easily see who has handed up their work and comment on it using annotations, audio notes or text comments.

The support team are very responsive to support requests and have made it easy to answer your own questions including useful tutorials on how to use ShowBie with dozens of apps including my favourites: iMovie, Explain Everything, BookCreator, Comic Life and anything in the Camera Roll.

Showbie address the workspace part of an ePortfolio – but does not currently serve as a “showcase” environment or collaborative space.

What’s next?

From a technical perspective, I’d like to see some risk reduction (back-up, versioning, …). I’d also love to see a way for students to communicate not just with their teacher, but with one another.  And.. I’d like to interface (easily) with a blogging platform like EduBlogs so students can publish their ideas and finished products to both gain feedback from broader audiences and maintain a collection of artfefacts of their learning journey beyond a single classroom environment.

Overall, Showbie shows much promise! I’ve just subscribed to a Pro version for our school  and our Year 2 teachers are excited about the potential.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on iPad Workflow and Showbie in particular. Why not download the free version and see for yourself?

Why Workflow is Key to Student Success with iPads

IMG_0016With a plethora of engaging educational apps and innovative ways to put the these bite-sized learning tools together its easy to get started with iPads. However, publishing student creations takes some experimentation, planning and collaboration with technical teams.

Simply the camera, a video camera and voice recorder offer tried and true ways to capture student thinking and understanding. Add on apps that can put it all together, annotate and share and we really have some new opportunities not previously possible.

But how do we share these creations and snapshots of a child’s learning? This is where many of the educators I’ve spoken to get stuck.  Of course we need to come back to the question every writer asks of “What is my purpose” and “Who is my audience”?    If the creations are temporary in nature, simply sharing with a peer may be enough. But what do you do when you want to share with a greater audience and over time?

Sharing from iPads

Our local hub group recently pondered this question and we came up with several ways we could share from an iPad, with different levels of success depending on the options enabled or disabled by the school’s IT department and whether the iPad is personal or shared:

  1. share directly on the iPad (student led conferences, peer feedback)
  2. show via AirPlay
  3. printing (with concerns we would limit ourselves to the “flat” version of print only media)
  4. Moving from the iPad to the teacher for collection (Email, connect to computer, Mover+, WebDAV, DropBox, DropCopy..) to burn to disk or post elsewhere
  5. student post to a platform that enables sharing (eg. EduBlogs, KidBlogs, ScribblePress, ShowMe, EdModo,…)

Discussions with the school IT department are needed to enable WebDAV, set email size limits, set internal only email for young students and even enable various ports or sites.

Putting it all Together

Multitouch books offer multimedia functionality and interactivity, but are not the easiest to share. Apps like Book Creator make it easy to capture student learning journeys that include photos, movies, annotations, screen captures and text, but sharing of these larger artefacts becomes even more challenging (but worthwhile!) as the ePub format is specifically designed for iOS devices and the files can be larger than email systems allow.

So how can we represent young student learning using iPads over time?  Personally, my current thinking is that we need a student blogging/ePortfolio platform where students are responsible for sharing their work as they go. Going this way means teachers have a way to comment on multimodal work and check the status, students can re-publish and capture their learning along the way.  Students can also give one another feedback on their work. If parents and the larger community are also offered access we can raise the bar through authentic purpose and audience.  Kathy Cassidy offers some great advice sharing her experiences as a year 1 teacher in Canada in her new book “Connected from the Start, Global Learning in the Primary Grades”.

I haven’t yet found a simple way for young students to share larger artefacts easily, like multitouch books.  As apps offer better integration and bandwidth improves I’m sure there will be more options. For now teachers just may need to to put together mini ‘book stores” for sharing. Here’s a great example shared with me by Sheldon Bradshaw  on the Write Now Bookstore.

ePortolfios, iPads and Openness

After a whirlwind tour with George Couros and CEGSA, South Australia has been a-buzz on the social media scene (check out #cegsa and @CEGSAustralia).  Twitter eggs have hatched and the anonymous are becoming faces to follow.  Its not just about Twitter though, the blogs are happening and ideas are formulating and evolving through an interactive community.

So what?

A few new questions are emerging for me.

If Google is the new business card, what is the new ePortfolio? 


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by San Sharma

As a professional, I’m now blogging, evidencing the National Professional Standards for teachers, tweeting, created an about.me page, discovered storify and more.

But what about students? 

The power of blogging is two fold:

  1. Writing for and interacting with authentic audiences (continual learning)
  2. As a showcase of learning

In a web format, for older students I can see this can work well as students can take action, and with authentic audiences for meaningful purposes. Like Allysa (one of George’s favourites and shared over many of his sessions).

There are many opportunities to control the level of publicness and moderation through tools like EduBlogs, Weebly and Edmodo as our communities begin to value openness and input from experts while balancing moderation of outsiders access to contact young people. Being web-based content in any publishable format can be shared easily (PDF, JPG, MP3, MOV…)

Where do iPads Fit?

iPads allow us to create bite-sized snapshots of learning and put them together within apps, and within larger publications like eBooks. I see tremendous potential of ePubs (books published in an ePub format and read by an eBook/iBook reader like iBooks) to capture student learning in a variety of mulitmodal formats.  But what about sharing? There are options: ePubs can be shared in iBooks on the device they are created on, published to iTunes and shared through a school iTunesU channel, or published through a gallery connected to an app (eg. Scribble Press or ShowMe).   Each of these options still raise more questions for me:

  • will the eBook be available in the future?
  • will parents, grandparents and those in the broader community have the necessary  evice, app or reader  to view these student created collections?

How Public?

I’m an advocate of openness, yet still have a keen sense of responsibility toward child safety.  Finding the right balance as we create new policies on how Social Media is used in schools, by individual teachers and with students will challenge some of our previous ideas.  How do children build an identity and maintain privacy? Are restrictions on last names enough? Just as in traditional publishing it seems to me there needs to be an approval cycle before works go public.

Striking the Balance

When I recently attended the National CyberSafety Summit in Melbourne I had the privilege of listening to leading child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg on preparing students for a world which is constantly connected and being offline is not an option.  His key strategy? Build digital resilience! Dr Carr-Gregg emphasized the importance of being flexible, optimistic and resilient.  Great advice for teachers too as we realise learning is no longer within school hours, within classroom walls or is within our complete control (if it ever was!).

Thanks George Couros @gcouros for giving me new strategies to be vulnerable, make connections and learn with and from each other,  Luke Schoff @schoffl for breaking new ground with me and the @CEGSAustralia community for learning and growing with me.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these emerging challenge.

Top 5 Strategies for Enabling Learners with Technology

In my role as ICT Coordinator I “help” other educators with technology. Although sometimes the cry is quite literally “help me!” often the most effective ways of ‘helping” involve approaches that are proactive, planned and resourced. Here are my top 5 strategies s at this point in time.

1) Enable don’t rescue

“If you teach a man to fish…” Working side by side and sharing strategies for learning enables problem-solving and self help. Rescuing people gets the job done quickly but leaves them helpless and perpetuates the problem.  I’d rather spend an hour helping someone learn a new skill than 10 minutes doing it for them.

2) Open Up

It’s tempting to simplify and standardize learning environments to make things “easy” by dictating the look, feel and software available. However, the more ownership a learner has of their technology, the more stake they have in their own development.   Why not open up? What’s the worst that can happen? Backups are wonderful. Sometimes starting over is a lesson worth learning too. Teachers and students need administrative access to their computers so they can make the changes needed to personalise their learning environments.

3) Proactive Help

Rather than waiting to re-act when problems occur, why not work with teachers when they are planning and imagining possibilities? Novices may not always see ways to transform learning (SAMR Model) using technology. Helping one another when planning learning is where some of the biggest transformations can occur.  I love to do the background work to set teachers up for success and being supported reduces their perception of risk.

4) Build, buy and share tools to Enable Self Help

Whether its a database of FAQs, a collection of “Tech Help” tips, a library of resources, an ePub with tips, or a collection of socially book marked weblinks there are unlimited resources for helping learners help themselves. Sometimes people just need to be pointed in the right direction (see #1). Alan November talks about the idea of Learning Farms where students create and share tutorials to help themselves, their peers AND their teachers.

5) BIte-sized tips

At our staff meetings we share a 2-3 minute “SnipIT” or short segment of how to use technology. Sometimes, its a nuts and bolts item like “how to calibrate a projector” or “lodging a help desk ticket”. More often than not SnipITs involves a teacher sharing something innovative they have tried with their students (creating an eBook, filming students, creating QR codes or trying out a new online resource).  This fosters a culture of sharing and risk-taking and gives people ‘put it into practice tomorrow’ ideas.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by exfordy

Blog as Professional Portfolio

I am attending a workshop with George Couros discussing the National Professional Standards for Teachers and using a Blog as a showcase of evidence against the standards. In this blog I will be exploring the following seven standards:

  1. Know Your Students
  2. Know the Content
  3. Plan Teaching and Learning
  4. Safe and Supportive Learning
  5. Assess, Feedback and Report
  6. Professional Learning
  7. Engage Professionally

Watch this short video about the National Professional Standards for teachers.

http://youtu.be/S2NILPXmjws

 

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by followtheseinstructions

Student Blogging


cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by hgjohn

Should student blogs be open to the public? Social Media in and out of the classroom can transform learning and bridge gaps between home and school. Blogging helps me to work through my ideas, to reflect on learning and gain perspectives from others. What makes this work is that there is an authentic audience. When we work in front of an audience we raise the bar and want to do our best.  If we close the community to just student’s classmates are we really giving purpose to what they are saying?

What does the new DECD policy on Social Media  say? There seem to be some contradictions.

What does your school policy say?  What does it need to address to promote safety and give guidelines? I’m thinking we need guidelines as a school, for teachers and for students  that include your roles and a focus on personal responsibility (including legal, ethical obligations).

In the PYP we aim to foster international-mindedness in people who are digitally responsible citizens.  It seems to me open student blogs have tremendous potential for learning.

Thank you to George Couros for challenging my thinking in this area and getting me started in reflecting in this way.  George’s blog is an excellent example of both a learning profile and showcase portfolio.

Actions for me 

Set aside time in the work day to blog. To reflect. Only need 20 minutes or so. This IS part of the learning process and part of an educator’s work.

Look at creating student blogs that can be private, public, or private to the community. Have a look at EduBlogs and multiuser accounts so that comments on blogs can be moderated.  Think about opening up!