chromebooks

What’s in the backpack?

Next time: I’m taking a robot

 

Whats in the backpack?

I thought I’d do just a little on the changing technology landscape, this time in terms of what I use personally.

For three days at EduTech this time I just took my 64GB iPad, installed with Telstra 4G and a Brydge Bluetooth keyboard, an IPhone and one charger. This worked well, except for the one charger business; a full day out at a conference note-taking, twittering and occasionally checking on Outlook as to what’s happening back at school, takes its toll and both devices were seriously depleted by day’s end. It would have been better to charge both overnight but I certainly enjoyed the lightness of the iPad, especially on conference seating with no desk or table.

For the writing, I began by using OneNote to take my notes, but I decided I wanted to blog the sessions on the spot and found a great blogging tool for the iPad called BlogPad Pro. So, I switched to doing the note taking in Ulysses (my all-time favourite distraction-free text editor) and then exporting HTML directly into BlogPad via the clipboard. That worked pretty much flawlessly and I was also able to insert some images I’d taken along the way at some of the sessions.

They were just about the only apps I used over the three days: Ulysses, BlogPad Pro, Safari and Outlook, and I found that, more than ever at this conference, that unholy mix of Apple, Microsoft, Google and independent apps is more and more common. The Firbank session I attended (see blog notes) wasn’t the only school that was happily using a real mix of technologies, albeit mostly tying to find a dashboard for them all, usually via an LMS.

It was funny, looking around at all the fancy technology and heavy-duty laptops on display, that I found the iPad worked well (despite the naysayers and the prophets of doom from various quarters) but it only works well for me with the keyboard attached.

I did spend a long time at one morning tea looking over the various Chromebooks at the Google stand and they are appealing. For less than $400 you can get a light, long-powered, keyboard driven computer; for around $100 a Chrome dongle that contains a computer – just add screen and keyboard. I’m tempted to say that’s a better option than a haphazard BYOD program, but I’m still thinking about that.

 

 

New morning, new directions

Morning, day 2, #3

I’m excited to be moving into a new school, and new areas of responsibility this year. After eleven very fulfilling and rewarding years at my previous school as Director of Learning and Curriculum my new role is Deputy Principal (Secondary) in a very different school and context. There’ll be lots to learn, and and lots of changes.

One constant I’m grateful for, is that I’ll continue to be teaching a class. I’ll have a Year 9 English class this year and am looking forward to working with Middle School students again. I’m sure I’m going to miss some of the interactions and conversations I’ve had with my Literature students in recent times. Working with able, motivated, articulate students on texts I’ve loved like Mrs Dalloway, Antony and Cleopatra, and Adrienne Rich last year, has been a real privilege I’ll cherish forever.

But, having the opportunity to work with students who are at that critical time in their lives, grappling with who they are, who they want to be, and what their place is to be in the world, is exciting. And, having the opportunity to try to ‘light that fire’ in students about English is something I’ve always liked about working with students in Years 9 and 10.

Another thing that wont change is that I’ll be intensely interested in the education technology, and how that supports the learning journey. My new school is a mixed environment, an Outlook teaching platform, with OneDrive for students and iPads as well. In the senior years there’s a BYOD program. It’s a hybrid kind of approach that I think will be interesting to work in, after a long time working with the (increasingly improving) MS Office, Exchange, and Windows notebook approach. I’ve really liked the change in direction Microsoft has taken in recent years, opening up the tools in multiple platforms and, of course, the continuing development of OneNote with the shared notebooks for teachers and students: still be the best learning tool I’ve seen. One tool I’ve never really worked with is the Chromebooks, even though I’ve been a gmail user, and Google Drive user personally for a long time. I also like their new approach to Photos. I want to keep my eye on how that educational technology is developing as I take on the new role and new tools for 2016.

I’m certainly looking forward to it, and will continue to post here periodically about the successes, failures, challenges and achievements of it all. For all those teachers starting to set up for the year ahead, I hope it’s a great one for you and your students.

Monitoring Learner Progress

This post was written at the #idea13 Conference – MCG – 12/11/2013

DSUSDtempHdr
George Araya, from the Desert Sands Unified Schools District in California, talked about supporting student progress with assessment data, but he started by talking about culture. He talked about changing culture by changing tools (for teachers) in this order:

  • first they were given email
  • then to an online gradebook
  • thenk smart slates (linked to electronic whiteboards)
  • then (clicker type) responders
  • then online testing and online assessment

He was very big on standardisation, of moving teachers from basic tools to more advanced tools. Students have Chromebooks and the District had developed a ‘private cloud’. They developed a learning platform focused on measurement and assessment, and gives teachers instant feedback, mostly with teachers preparing assessments and students responding (using clickers called ‘Renaissance Responders’) and getting immediate feedback which is published for parents. Tests are easy to do, efficient, and weekly. Yes. Weekly. The principle is constant assessment and instant, live data.

He talked about using ‘intelligent forms’ to observe teacher performance, and some arguments he had with unions about this. I bet.

He also argued for Chromebooks (they’d just ordered 7000, standardised and cloud based for the whole district) He said that they could run 15000 Chromebooks with one person. It seemed that the Chromebooks stayed in the classroom and students logged into it when they came into the classroom and logged out when they left.

He concluded with a big table of test scores and the great improvements in the test scores.

I was a bit critical. Thinking something like ‘typical American over-testing’ fuelled by by my respect for educators like Will Richardson (https://twitter.com/willrich45) who have pointed out the great divide between what American school systems say (we want great education like Finland) and what they do (test, test, test..) I even tweeted:

2013-11-12_20-45-37

 

They had the tweets on the big screen, and all around the room the twitter stream with the conference hastag #idea13 kept rolling on through. When mine popped up, I saw George looking up at the screen for a long time, reading it, and I felt bad. I mean, he had come all the way from California to tell us about what they were doing, how they were changing culture and raising test scores and I was sceptical and a bit dismissive. And me, from a well resourced school with 99% of students achieving at or above national or state literacy and numeracy benchmarks, and him from a district with huge issues of poverty and second language. Maybe testing was the right thing for them. It sounded like a deadening experience for teachers and students (and he admitted issues with some teacher unions) but maybe I shouldn’t have been so smug and quick to judge.