Archive for the ‘technology’ Category
I have begun to come together for the ‘New Thinking and Learning Opportunities’ Conference, coming up in Sydney in May. Organised by Oxford Education I’m excited to be presenting on using new technologies in the teaching of English in the Australian Curriculum.
Of course Edward Do Bono is the main attraction! I joked with someone at school that I was presenting with De Bono and he said, ‘What, are you one of the hats?’. I said, ‘Yes, the yellow one.’
The conference details say:
The Australian Curriculum is a profound educational reform. It represents a singular opportunity to improve teaching and learning outcomes, and Oxford University Press is delighted to host this event, designed to support the New South Wales educational community in realising implementation from 2014.
My session says:
The Australian Curriculum: English offers both challenges and opportunities for teachers. In this session, Warrick will explore approaches and tools to support English teachers in implementing the Australian Curriculum in the secondary classroom, including iPad and iPhone resources to support critical thinking, reflection and collaboration, as well as supporting teachers in giving students targeted feedback.
As the summer holidays draw to their inevitable end (the last swim, the last barbeque) a teacher’s thoughts (should) return to how this year is going to work and the kind of technology approaches you’re going to take this year. I’ve had a great break (note the pictures at the top of this post) but it’s time to think ahead.
So, I thought I’d share my thinking about how to approach the year with my Literature students this year. I should say, at the outset, that my thinking here is predicated on the knowledge that all the students will have a notebook computer in every class and that the infrastructure (wireless connectivity, computer repair facilities etc) just work. Now read on.
So, what are the technology essentials and frameworks that you might consider in that context?
First, I believe that every course should have an ‘online presence’. For me, that most often means a web page (usually a blog structure) that contains all the essential course information and news. I’ve used our own internal blog engine to create a central ‘Lit News’ site where all the class news, due dates, even homework, is posted. I usually include links to other sites, embed relevant Youtube videos and post pictures of critical class activities (like ‘Cake Day’!) This page is updated by me at least once a week, is available to all students, is on my email signature to them, and is the ‘go to’ place for information about SACS (school assessed coursework) and exams.
I also usually have a separate ‘reference’ site, a web page of the course details, and the assessment as a reference. This is really important if there is more than one class and one teacher (as is the case next year). It’s really important for all classes to have access to the same material, and the same information. This could be part of the blog I suppose, but in the past I’ve set up a wiki for this information, as it’s not ‘news-y’ like the blog.
I’ve often set up a separate wiki for each of the set texts. These wikis are usually read-write, with each student having full access (other than admin rights). These become collaborative spaces for students to co-create in. Teaching ‘Hamlet’, for example, I assigned groups to explore key scenes and key characters and got them to share their findings on the appropriate page in the wiki. The other teacher did the same and the cross-fertilisation, sense of authentic audience and purpose, and shared understanding, was impressive. It’s worth saying at this point that, in any team-teaching environment you’ve got to get a shared intention between the teachers. My problem is that I tend to jump ahead too much; I’ve learned to involve the other teachers more in the decision making around the course delivery and every time I do that I’m thankful for the great people I work with.
An important decision: how am I going to ask the students to take their class notes? For the last few years my choice for them has been OneNote and, when you take some time to explain the structure of the tool, students generally really like the way it helps organise notes and is able to accommodate almost any format with the ‘print to OneNote’ functionality. I use OneNote, projected on a screen via the data projector, as my class notes tool too, rather than the whiteboard. I then have a record of all the notes for every lesson, and can email the notes around to students too if someone’s been away. This year I’m also considering Evernote as the note-taking tool. Since Evernote’s got it’s ‘notebooks’ it’s become a real possibility for note-taking. I’ll probably stick to OneNote because it’s so tightly integrated with the Microsoft tools that the students all have but it’s a close call. And, both are a long way from the bazillions of Word docs that characterised student note-taking when the computers first got into the classroom.
I’ll probably use Class Dojo again this year, even though it’s got some bad press from US educators who question its reward and punishment premise. (badges and all that) I probably wouldn’t use it with junior students who might take it too seriously. I use it ironically, as a fun way to focus the class and for the great conversation we might have about what positive and negative learning behaviours should we look for? I’ll use some audio again this year; not quite ‘podcasts’ but short audio lecturettes on key poems or key ideas. Some students have told me they got a lot out of those, and came back to them again and again. I’ll also keep using Adobe Connect for online collaboration and revision, in and out of hours. For the first time last year, students were generally happy to participate via webcam, rather than just type and chat, and I’d like to build on that interaction this year too.
My new things this year might be around more iPad and iPhone integration. I’m going to try to use PlanBook as my lesson planning tool and Flashcards+ as a revision tool for students to use on their phones. Planbook is a bit labor intensive but with its six customisable fields I figure I can get better at integrating some of the recent thinking about explicit instruction that I’ve seen from Hattie and others in the USA. Each lesson plan will be organised under these headings:
Beginning of lesson (learning intention, activate, review, the HOOK)
Presentation (teach the concept, teach the skill, check for understanding)
Guided practice (development and engagement, feedback and individual support)
Independent practice (applying the concept or skill)
Review, clarify, conclude
Homework, assignments, next actions.
I’m going to try to organise each lesson that way; should be interesting! And, at the same time, keep my head around the best ideas coming out of the ‘flipped classroom’ movement.
Should be a fun year! I’ll keep you informed about how it goes.
Well, I spoke at the futureEducation Conference this week, which was pretty interesting, and enjoyable too. The conference describes itself this way:
The symposium is an excellent opportunity to hear from leading international specialists about high quality education resources and their outcomes. This conference is feature packed and focusses on the pedagogical, economic and strategic value of Australian education and how it will shape the future of Australia as a highly skilled, globalised knowledge economy.
I think I was pretty much the only one from a school perspective so I was keen to strike a balance between the ‘big-picture’ needs, aspirations and work of teachers as a collective as well as the daily life of the digital resourcing in schools. Which was a challenge.
Anyway, it went quickly, the panel session was interesting afterwards and comments on the twitter stream were generally favourable (thankfully). Below, I’ve embedded my slides, which probably don’t make a lot of sense without the talk itself, which I don’t think was recorded. The ‘abstract’ of my talk was:
While schools and publishers are coming to grips with a changed paradigm and new possibilities for everything from libraries to textbooks, teachers are working with their students in the classrooms to create quality learning resources together.
I basically argued that teachers influence educational resourcing by ignoring offerings, by collaborating on what they find so that good resources ‘tweet their way to the top’ and by making their own resources, through a rang of (mostly) web tools. I was keen to emphasise the idea of the ‘classroom community’ or the Will Richardson idea that ‘networks are the new classrooms’.
Then, it was back to school to sit in on the planner meeting making sure the rooms for the parent-teacher-student conferences next year don’t clash and that reports can be uploaded in time. Such it is for anyone who works in schools.
I’m always a little envious of those kids with piles of flip cards. Bundled up in big wads, encircled with rubber bands. ‘This is what I need to know’, they seem to say. Here is the contained knowledge. They sit at their desks and spread them before them, almost smugly.
So, I wanted to have some for my students … Just like they had in Psych. And, who knows, maybe some students actually learn like that? Like the question and answer, the certainty, the ability to review and revise.
Doing *some* research for flash card apps (of course I wasn’t going to go down the ‘paper’ pathway, I found Flashcards+ which works quite well (actually it took me quite a while to work out how the cards could be viewed) and works well with Quizlet, a kind of online community of Flashcard makers. I was very surprised to find several sets already made for Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, which isn’t’ that widely taught.
Still, I made a set of cards for our literature study of *Wide Sargasso Sea*, mainly terms, concepts, characters, factual stuff, which connected more to the things I wanted the students to know and work on, rather than the standard vocab. style ones already there. You can look it up on Quizlet.
Then I told the students about it in class and via the class blog where I could EMBED the cards so you could actually play them from the web site.
And, a couple of the students really liked it. Said it was useful. Said I should do it again.
Posted in assessment & reporting, learning environments, students, teaching strategies, technology, thinking, web 2.0 learning, tagged assessment, behaviour, class_dojo, formative_assessment, note-taking, twitter on April 15, 2012 | 2 Comments »
A little while ago I was lamenting with my Literature class that it wasn’t always easy to document how that class went and establish what to do next, both of which are critical for effective planning, reflection, and formative assessment practice.
I take notes on student progress (formerly in OneNote, latterly in Evernote) but it takes discipline (and time) to do that after every lesson, let alone in that lesson itself. I might do that once a week, so I often don’t even have a record of who I’d had a good learning conversation with each lesson and, importantly, who I hadn’t spoken to 1-1 for a while in class.
It’s something that concerned me again recently when, at the end of term, I asked the students to complete a short online survey of how the course was going for them. Most of the results were positive; the students felt they could learn, were challenged to think and participate and enjoyed the range of activities, though one wag suggested that I could improve my tech skills
However, the lowest response came from the question: ‘Do you have a good sense of how you’re going in this class?’. It’s something that is difficult for Year 12 students sometimes, especially early in the year when they haven’t done much School Assessed Coursework (SACs) and it’s one place where a short 1-1 conversation can have much more impact than any general or group activity you set up.
But, who have I spoken to recently? Is the problem I began with.
So, I was very interested in the possibilities of the unlikely tool named Class Dojo which promises real-time behaviour monitoring. I saw the program from Roger Zuidema on Twitter and recorded that I was about to invent this!
I was surprised to get a pretty quick reply from the people who make Class Dojo too, proposing a Skype chat sometime about how it could be improved, which I’d like to do sometime.
How it works is you set up your class, who get zany colourful avatars, and you record good behaviour or bad in the class very easily via web page, iPad or iPhone. They get +/s or -/s against their name and the tally adds up. Over the lesson, or the week, or the term or whatever period you decide.
I’m lucky to work in a school where disruptive behaviour is rarely a problem but I was very interested in how this tool might be used to record learning behaviours. Our school’s reports, for example, include a set of ‘Positive learning behaviours’ from ‘Participates in class discussions’ to ‘Is organised and up to date with set work’ that teachers are asked to record in terms of how often they’ve seen their students exhibit those behaviours? Always, often, sometimes, rarely? But how do teachers record those behaviours and could Class Dojo help?
One of the first things I did was enter my students names and then showed them how the class looked via the data projector in class. They’re Year 12 students but they loved the quirky little pictures, immediately wanted to customise theirs (you can’t) or swap with someone else (you can’t).
We then looked at the behaviours section, which is at the heart of the program. We looked at the default behaviours (out of chair!) and talked about what + or – behaviours might look like in our Literature class, and then added them. One of the nice things is that you can set the positive and negative behaviours yourself and can even vary them from class to class. So, I can set up a series of learning behaviours that suit my senior Literature class, which are different to the ones I want to establish with my tutorial group in the wellbeing program. Here’s the behaviours we agreed on.
We agreed on these positive and negative behaviours and I was ticking off some of the things in Class Dojo through the class. This year I’ve started using a student as ‘class blogger’, who records the class discussions, rather than doing that myself all the time in OneNote, (they’re put up on the class wiki) and that’s helped free me up more to direct discussions or take records like this. So you click on the student names and assign ‘points’ as you go and it even pops up on the screen with a cool sound if you want.
At the end of the class, you get a report something like this
or you can get a report for each individual student, from any duration (whole year so far, this lesson etc) and you have the option to email that report card to a parent or student or email all the cards (it remembers the email addresses once you’ve put them in once)
I don’t think our school would approve of zany colourful non-letterheaded reports being emailed to parents, but I was happy to send them to students, always in a positive way to celebrate some ‘points’ they’d gained during the class. I wouldn’t want this to be a negative thing, and I wouldn’t be showing negative scores a lot, or giving them I hope. But, ‘not doing the homework’ is a pretty clear – in a Year 12 year.
Is it perfect? No. Is it a fun, simple and useful way to clearly document and share the good things that are going on in class? Yes. You need to have internet access and more importantly, your students on board; to involve them in the discussion about criteria and be clear and objective about how you’re using it: it’s not an assessment, it’s a tool for improving learning.
I plan to keep using it with my Literature class and wellbeing class this term and see how it goes.
Will the classroom notebook computer go the way of the Dodo! (I know, lame link!)
One of the things I been pondering over likely is whether the iPad can really be a replacement for the notebook computer as the default classroom device. I’ve taught in a one-to-one laptop program for over 15 years now and I that I can’t imagine teaching any other way. And perhaps that’s my problem, that I can’t imagine what a different model might look like. A model without a keyboard.
But when I really think about, how often are my students, even the senior students, writing long pieces in class? Mostly, they are note taking in OneNote and writing their longer pieces at home. And the iPad will handle that just fine.
Yesterday, I joined a colleague to do some writing and I didn’t take my laptop. One, my laptop is clunky, heavy, overheats, has a battery life of about an hour and is just so far removed from being an enjoyable experience that it’s not funny. Secondly, I wanted to see whether I could do some decent writing on the iPad.
So, I packed my iPad, a Bluetooth keyboard and left the laptop at home. I wrote in Evernote, not because that’s a particularly good experience, but I knew it was automatically syncing with a shared folder in dropbox. We were revising a textbook for the new edition so every revision became a new note. I used an app called Popplet to do some simple mind maps and annotate some news photographs. I wasn’t writing anything really long but I hardly missed the laptop, maybe just the full-size keyboard.
Could I write a whole new book on the iPad? I doubt it. And it wouldn’t be a very pleasant experience if I tried. But could the iPad be the device during the day, the lightweight device with 10 hour battery life, instant on and a highly personalised personal productivity tool? I think it could. I never want to be without a “real” computer. It’s not the post-PC age for me. But more and more I’m thinking that the real computer might be a powerful desktop computer at home and the travelling computer an iPad.
I’ve changed a bit in my thinking about this. About a year ago I blogged that I didn’t think the iPad was good enough for senior students. I still think that senior students deserve the best tool possible, it’s just that I’m finding that the iPad is a more powerful tool than I thought
(Dictated to Dragon express, Photo by Warrick, of new iPad case I got for my birthday)
I’ve been a bit interested in the Flipped Classroom lately; the idea of turning things on their head so that the predicatable, the ordinary and the mundane gets tackled with technology and the real learning takes place in the classroom.
I became interested in this a while ago, even bought a microphone to do more podcasting and audio with my own class and collected a list of resources and made a Diigo list of them, as you do. [http://www.diigo.com/list/warrickw/flipped-classroom]
But there’s another side to this too. A nagging concern that what might come out of this movement is not the freeing up of the classroom, but the intrusion of the bureaucracy, the big business backed educational resource sites such as the Khan Academy.
How many teachers, in reality, will have the energy, motivation or expertise to develop their own material? Our educational institutions really going to free up teacher time to develop new resources in new technologies?
And, if they don’t, aren’t we going to end up with mass-market resources that don’t fit my classroom and my students or my course?
I can imagine that a closely knit, organised and cohesive team of teachers working together on a course could collaborate closely enough and effectively enough to generate resources together. I can imagine that such a team, with perhaps two or three staff with expertise in new technologies feeding into the main team, could in fact create a course that was flipped. But I can’t see it happening often in the daily, stretched lives of the teachers.
Perhaps flipping the classroom makes more sense the universities with a lecture model still predominates. And where perhaps hundreds or thousands of students undertaking the same course. But I want personalised resources of my students doing my course at the right time, appropriate to the level of ability and the timing of the course. Which means I may have to create them myself.
And, if flipping the classroom means we all go home to watch YouTube, then I’m against it.
What do you do first lesson of the year? What do you do first in that lesson? With that group for the first time. Remember, this is the first class of the year after the long summer break, and after the long induction and prequel and all that thinking about how you’re going to do it better this year; how you’re going to do it different this year.
What do you do that first lesson?: talk about the summer break? roll out the PowerPoint about the course again (in case they missed it last year when you had that orientation session)?, ask them to talk about their reading over the summer? share some stories of first impressions of the text (Mrs Dalloway), mark the roll or get straight in to the book?
I must admit that, even after all these years of teaching, I still get slightly edgy about that first lesson of the year. I want to get it right. I want it to be a start, and not a talk-fest from me but an idea about how this class will be, and who we will be in this class together.
So I did all of the above, maybe not as purposefully and mindfully as I should have, and we made a start. I spent a little time getting OneNote organised (because it’s got to be from day 1 and organising it isn’t super-easy) and I asked a student to read from a passage (the skywriter scene) and we talked about that for a while. I told them how much I enjoyed reading Woolf again after a few years without having read her, and I got some nods, but also one or two half-looks of ‘I didn’t’. I should have followed up that look I think; what was troubling about Woolf? And what was difficult? And, I couldn’t help but think that a couple of students hadn’t quite finished it and didn’t want to talk about the text in too much detail, and didn’t want that conversation yet.
Afterwards, I felt vaguely disappointed that I hadn’t really grabbed them somehow. Not sure why, but it was that anti-climactic feeling that I could have done better. So, I emailed them all and clarified the lesson’s objectives, what I hoped they’d got out of it, and what the homework was, and a mindmap I’d done on the iPad and put into OneNote.
And, so we’ve started.