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Learning is tiring!

Just finished a busy second last week of term, and some good learning in various sessions outside the College.

It began with an ISV breakfast network meeting, with presentations from David Perkins et. al from Project Zero. I’m pretty well acquainted with the Visible Thinking work that Professor Ron Ritchhart has been developing here, and he’s worked with teams of teachers in Victorian schools for some time. The announcement this week was a new network opportunity for ISV member schools to connect up with Project Zero for some (mainly) online learning opportunities, interestingly intending to use Twitter and Google Hangouts in that mix. David Perkins talked about the big picture ‘through-lines’ that connected up learning in our schools and gave us 2 new thinking routines to work on that addressed a direction they’re really interested in: global competence. As our school is working pretty hard at Council of International Schools (CIS) certification this year, it was interesting to hear Project Zero’s take on internationalism. I liked his definition of global competence for its simplicity: ‘the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance’.

Later in the week I attended a new network of Curriculum leaders that we established last year. It’s always good to have a conversation with the person in another school who is doing the role you are; it’s great to bounce ideas off each other and share experiences. In this case we talked a lot about assessment and reporting and how we were responding to the demands of government as well as the learning imperatives in our own places. One take-away is that we all want to be able to measure and report on growth, not just achievement, and that’s hard. Our network is called LearningNet and we’ve been using MightyBell as the connecting online tool there, rather than FB etc. It’s worked well for our purposes.

Finally, I was lucky enough to be able to take a team of some of our best tech-teachers to hear Professor Stephen Heppell talk at the Lauriston Institute.  I’ve heard him present before, and his strength is a real connection with the students and what they can bring to the conception of learning spaces. I was interested in  his thinking about libraries and his answers to questions about students using mobile phones: ‘all screen time is not equal’. I liked the CloudLearn site he’s developed, subtitled ‘an end to blocking and locking’, which aggregates good practice in digital policy in schools and I intend to share his final report with the School Management Team later on. Heppell is witty, interesting, makes sense and comes from a rich experience in creating learning spaces driven by student passions. I also like the way he presents; moving (apparently) loosely around the Mac finder, bringing up web pages, videos, images and now a PowerPoint slide in sight.

It makes me remember how tiring learning is; gotta keep that in mind more as the term come to a close and try to build in a variety of energy levels appropriate to where the students are in that term’s journey. I also spent the week trying to re-acquaint myself with note-taking apps on the iPad, moving between Paper, Noteshelf, Notability and Penultimate. But that’s another post!

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Above: Stephen Heppell writing on walls

 

OneNote Unchained

I’ve always said in recent years that the only thing keeping me interested in the Windows platform was OneNote.

Over the past five years or so I’ve gradually re-invested in the Apple platform after abandoning it for the Windows machines of various 1-1 notebooks programs over the years including Toshibas, ACER, Fujitsu, IBMs and others. I bought an iPod, then an iPhone and an iPad and then a Mac Mini. Back to the Mac; since my first computer at work was an Apple 2, and the first computer I bought was an Apple 2C, so sleek and modern at the time. I had a Mac Classic all those years ago.

So I was pretty interested to see Microsoft finally release a Mac version of OneNote this week. At last! And free! OneNote has been my favourite Microsoft Office component on Windows for a long time, (it’s my central teaching tool) and now it’s on the Mac, syncing via OneDrive.

The Mac version isn’t quite as full-featured; is pretty light on features: it lacks tight integration with Outlook, for example and I can’t see sub-sections or a way to move stuff around.  But it’s finally there and a worthy developing competitor of Evernote at last. It’s on the Mac App Store and went to No. 1 straight away.

Makes me want to go out and buy a Macbook, which I’m sure isn’t exactly what Microsoft intended!

If you haven’t heard about OneNote, check out some of the links below:

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External links:

5 Ways to make use of OneNote for Students

4 Tips for Students using OneNote

OneNote is a note-taking Power Tool (Lifehacker)

Teaching and Learning with OneNote

Top 100 Tools for Learning

Still on the Cool Tools theme, I liked this list of the Top 100 Tools for Learning from the 7th Annual Learning Tools Suvey

Lots to think about and explore here, including thinking about how is YOUR  school responding to the use of these tools by teachers, many of which involved social networking or the Cloud?

Cool Tools

 

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There’s something about the right tool for the right job. Fit and function. Function and form as one. This week, one of my favourite teacher-bloggers, Andrew Douch, wrote a great post about the perfect tool for screen casting.

I happen to think that screen casting is going to be the next big thing for teachers. The research says that feedback is pretty much everything and personalised, audio/video feedback via screencast seems to be pretty compelling.

So, I was interested in Andrew’s post, where he compares some of the many tools available in this space. I haven’t tried that many but have settled on Snagit from Techsmith, mostly because I use both Macs and PCs and the licence (about $30) gave me access to the software on both platforms.

But I want to find the right tool, the perfect tool for the job for me, so I will go exploring again and try some of Andrew’s suggestions.

That’s what it’s about; keeping open to new possibilities and new ways of doing things. Being a learner and looking for the right tools. There is no end point. Kaizen.

Which reminds me of a great book that I ordered that just arrived, called Cool Tools by Kevin Kelly. It’s a collection of the best tool for every job. He says:

“Cool tools really work. A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful.”

It reminds me of the ye ole Whole Earth Catalog from the 1970s which, along with Tracks Magazine, the surfing magazine, symbolises something of that counter-culture for me. It’s lovingly, gorgeously detailed. Like Andrew Douch, Kelly really cares about this stuff. And that’s why it works.

 

First look at Schoology

So, it’s one week into using Schoology and pretty impressed so far. It has all the essentials you’d want to see in an LMS including flexible resources and management, assignments, discussion forums, file submission, even badges.

I’d like to see a better looking update system that’s not so teacher-centric, like when a student posts a discussion post or not so m manual. Students shouldn’t have to dig down through the folder list to see if there’s something new, and I shouldn’t have to manually tell them either.

This is how the resources are organised;  there’s folders that can contain a range of resources.

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In this folder there’s some PDFs, a JPG and a homework assignment. Assignments get reminders on the front and I get an email when a student has submitted some work.

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Early days but the rubric section looks pretty powerful. I set up a homework assignment with four criteria and a simple rubric and you can see here that one student has already submitted it. It was easy to mark, but the in-house editing and annotating tools were pretty clunky. It wouldn’t highlight where I pointed, and a comment spread over the whole document . In the end I chose the option of downloading the file, annotating in in Word, saving it, then uploading it again. A bit of a disappointment as far as work-flow goes.

Also, I haven’t found yet whether I’m able to just tick that something has been submitted (like a bit of homework) without assigning a grade.  It wants a number of letter. I’ve tinkered around with a simple rubric that says Done/Not Done, but even that wants to assign some points or grades.

 

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I did have a quick go at a class quiz and that does seem to have some pretty powerful features with a range of question types available like multiple choice, true/false, short answer and match-up the answers like here:

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In the end, whether Schoology works will be in the workflow for me and my students.  It’s got to be better than email, or a shared Dropbox folder. So far, it’s promising, but the fact that new resources don’t automatically create an  update, and that the in-house annotating tools are so bad, it might not last for me or my students as a tool beyond our initial semester trial.

 

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It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been teaching, you can’t help but feel a frisson of nerves, or tension, or anticipation at the start of each year.

Maybe you’re in a new role, or teaching some new content, but more likely, and most often, it’s the thinking about meeting your new class and planning to get that beginning going well and those interactions commencing on the right foot.

The advice I got in my first year of teaching, from a grizzled old salt from the History Department? ‘Don’t smile until Easter’. Talk tough. Start firm and relax later if you can.

But I’m not talking to discipline and behaviour. I’m talking about the anticipation around this particular group of students and how you’re going to create that learning culture that works. The students: Who are they? What do they hope for? How are you going to get to know them at the same time as you know you’ve got some key content and skills that they need to develop. I sometimes wonder if we over-estimate out importance; that maybe we think too much about it, or try too hard, plan too much for what will come. But, I don’t like to think like that. And I’m not getting all blasé about ‘just another year’ and all that. This year matters, for them, and me.

And I plan to smile before Easter.

Above: Flowering gum (symbol of hope!)  Photo: Warrick

2013 in review

WordPress users just received data on the progress of their blogs this year. In 2013 I wrote 35 posts and and the blog was visited 5200 times, with visitors from 95 countries! Pretty amazing. Thanks everyone. I look forward to keeping on connecting in 2014!

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