Friday, 27 March 2015

The Why and How of Projecting

I was just reading a few posts on the VLN that mentioned projectors / Interactive Whiteboards. I felt this is an opportune time to have a look at projecting in general, not just at the tools that make it happen. I have talked about some of the options in previous posts (Apple TV and reflector app, Chromebooks (cont.)) but I felt it was time to look at why and how we can utilise projecting.

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In the 'traditional' classroom, teachers used to write content on the board which students copied into their books. Along came the OHP (for those of us who are old enough to remember them - I still have a box of transparencies in my basement!) and rather than writing on the board and wiping it off after (remember the mess students could make with the dusters? lol) the teacher could just handwrite - or later type / print - their transparencies to reuse for later. When I trained as teacher (about 500 years ago as I like to tell students), this was a recommended strategy to prevent off-task behaviour as you wouldn't turn your back to the class.

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Fast forward to projectors, and teachers' digital documents can be displayed on the projector with ease!

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However, in the end this is still using technology at a Substitution level: You are replacing hand writing on the board with projecting digital content:

Let us examine what we are actually trying to achieve. The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008) sets out as Goal 2 for "all young Australians (to) become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens".  To my mind, creative and active are two keywords in there. Using projectors in the way we used the chalk boards is not allowing our students enough opportunity to develop their creativity and be actively involved. What I want to see is for students' to share their learning, their progress, their finished result with the class by being able to show it on a sizeable screen for some or all of their peers to see and give feedback on.

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In a time where we are encouraging students to be active creators of knowledge and want them to create digital content to share with others, it is important that for them to show their work to others (and not always make them stand at the front of the room for that). It can be a real hassle though if you have to access this content on the one device connected to the projector / screen. Similarly in classes where we have BYOD how many times do we not have the right connector / dongle for the particular device?

How would I make use of it:
  • Project my screen from anywhere around the room to share content / model activity / enable discussion (maybe with one student documenting our discussion by taking notes for all to see on the screen)
  • Gather feedback / administer quiz and have all students view questions and / or results as they come in
  • Students project what they are working on to ask for support and / or feedback
  • Students share their finished product to the class
  • A collaborative task, between learners in the room and / or including learners outside the room, gets displayed on the screen to allow for monitoring and / or support etc.

Here are some of the options you might want to consider:

Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) allow, as the name implies, more interactivity for the person(s) at the board. Here students and teachers can interact with content,create new content - and we are moving in our application higher up in the SAMR model, depending on how the IWB is used in the particular situation. However, a number of schools have now moved away from these devices as they find the price and the limits on the number of people who can use them at any one time them less cost-effective than other solutions.

Some schools use TV screens instead of traditional projectors or IWBs. As with all projection solutions, it is important to consider location, size, quality. Can you see the screen from different places in the room? How does the light affect how well you can see at different times of the day and year? Does the screen need to be moveable? How easy can you connect to it? What size screen do you need for the size room you have?

Wireless projecting is becoming more common, but you require reliable wifi on the same network as the wireless device to project a device. In my opinion this is the best tool for students to share their learning with others in a flexible, non-threatening way. If you are thinking about upgrading your existing projector / screen to give it wireless capabilities without replacing it with a wireless projector you might consider:
  • Apple TV: Mini-computer that mirrors content on Apple devices to your screen as well as play some content from YouTube etc. directly. Advantages: You are not tying up a device to project / mirror or play YouTube. Cost: around $110 plus cost of HDMI cable.
  • Reflector App (or similar): Software installed on your device (laptop) connected to the screen / projector which allows you to mirror iOS devices to the laptop and from there to the screen. Advantages: Cost around $13 per licence
  • Chromecast: Mirrors content on Android devices and content from your Chrome browser, also streams some iOS apps. Advantages: You are not tying up a device to project / mirror or play YouTube. Cost: around $50.
  • Actiontec Screenbeam: Mirrors your laptop to your screen (I have only tried it with my Windows 8 devices so far). Cost around $60.

No matter what tool you go for, what you do with it will make the biggest  difference to your learners! Would love to hear if you are using projecting in your learning environment and how!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Applying 21CLD in Teacher Professional Learning

Yesterday I went to the GEG Gold Coast Meet-up - loved being amongst a small group of like-minded people! +Greg O'Connor presented to supporting Literacy with Chrome - ultimately UDL though he didn't use the term - and while I knew a lot of the tools he mentioned, I learnt quite a bit, too. +Michael Mathews talked about how he using using Google Sites at his school as a way for teachers and students to be involved in sharing what is going on which was very cool, too. I got talking with Greg briefly, about how I have been thinking about applying what we tell teachers to do in their classrooms in our working with them. He made a good point when he mentioned how he was trying to incorporate the UDL approaches into his work with teachers, and I was mulling this over on the way back.

I think I have incorporated more UDL approaches in my work with teachers than I used to but still I have the niggling feeling that I could improve my facilitation. I keep on thinking, too often we do to teachers what we don't want them to do in class ("sit down, be quiet, eyes to the front" etc.). Does this help or hinder our teachers from applying their learning in their classrooms? Also, is it really UDL I'm thinking about, or is it something else?

Through taking up my ELH role I am in the fortunate position to facilitate workshops on 21CLD. While I had often talked about collaboration, about creating new knowledge, real-world problem solving etc., what that exactly looks like in practise and how to develop these skills to a high degree had sometimes remained a bit vague. Through the ITL research and the 21CLD programme I have gained much greater clarity of what the skills are that we belief our learners need to be successful in the future. Whatever you might call it, 21C or Future Focussed Learning, many of us share the believe that education has to change to prepare young people for their future. At the same time I believe that we learn a lot by modelling, so if I want my teachers to support the development of 21C skills in their students, it would be helpful for me to model this and support them to develop these skills themselves.

All of the above has led to my decision to inquire into my practise: How can I support teachers to develop 21C skills and apply these in their classrooms by utilising the 21CLD approach in my own practise?

I am using this model for my professional inquiry, if you would like to follow and inquire into your practise, I will describe the steps I intend on taking below:
Inquiry learning and action spiral for networks (Timperley, Kaser and Halbert, 2012)
I have been informally scanning for a little while: What's going on for the teachers I am working with?

  • They are busy professionals.
  • Some though not all teachers agree with the need to change the way we teach our students.
  • There are many sometimes seemingly conflicting ideas, initiatives, tools they get bombarded with.
  • Student achievement is often seen as a measurement of their effectiveness as teachers.
  • Some teachers feel overwhelmed by technology, struggle with it themselves; other teachers are more confident users of technology but are yet to figure out how technology use fits into the bigger picture. There are some teachers who have got it all 'sussed' and integrate technology effectively into their 21C classrooms -> there is obviously huge variability!
(Looks awfully familiar to a regular classroom and no, I did not write it intentionally that way! However, different to a regular classroom, I do not get to see them every day, every week or even every month, sometimes I meet them once only.)

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My focus will be on applying 21CLD: How can we design our learning activities so learner are required to develop and apply 21C skills?
I chose to focus on this because I believe this is really vital to set our young people up for success. As I am relatively new to this particular programme, this will also help me understand it better.
While it would be tempting to just apply this in 21CLD sessions, I want to make sure I consider this for sessions outside this course, also. I would prefer not to narrow this down to just a particular group; however, the need to use some sort of data to understand if I have made a difference will require me to select 1-3 groups of teachers who will be invited to complete a survey before and after. While I endeavour to not limit my use of 21CLD approaches to these teachers, I will measure the effect for working with them.

My hunch is that teachers would benefit from having the 21CLD approach modelled in the way I work with them. If I set it up well, they should be required to develop and apply 21C skills themselves. At the same time I could make this process very transparent so that they can see by my modelling how they could apply this in their own context.

My learning will start with going back through my course resources and background information so I feel confident I clearly understand what the individual capabilities are and how tasks need to be designed to require development of these skills to a high level. I am sure there will be much more learning to come over this year.

What I will do differently: At this point I'm thinking I will focus on one of the skills at a time, starting with Collaboration, and examine my activities / sessions / workshops to what degree they require collaboration. I will set up some kind of document to monitor this. Given we are talking about 6 skills (Collaboration, Knowledge Construction, Self-regulation, Real-world Problem-solving and Innovation, ICT for Learning, Skilful Communication), of which some require more or less time, and some will combine more easily, I will aim at a very rough 6 weeks for each.

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If this will make a difference is the big question; for this I need pre- and post-data. In most cases I don't have the opportunity to visit classrooms and have discussions with teachers about their practise before I meet them in a workshop. Therefore I will look at developing a questionnaire that I will share with selected groups of teachers and follow it up with a questionnaire some time later this year to compare results. I'm still thinking about what exactly I will be looking for; a greater understanding? a shift in confidence? application in the classroom? All of these seem relevant.

Is there anything I'm missing? Do I approach this logically? Any comments and ideas would be much appreciated!

Are you inquiring into your practise? Would you mind sharing some of it? If not, why don't you join me and share your inquiry?

Monday, 9 March 2015

TeachMeet Sunny Coast

On Saturday we drove up to the Sunshine Coast for my first TeachMeet in Australia. +Rebecca Davies had organised the event with the support from the fabulous crew at +Engage Research Lab at the University of the Sunshine Coast. It was great to see the turnout, especially this being the first TM there. Approx. 20-30 dedicated educators attended, travelling quite some distance from all directions.

As usual I'm trying to make sense of new things by comparing them to what I know. I have been involved with +TeachMeetNZ, and similar to there, mini-presentations were held and recorded, with the choice of 2 or 7 min in length. Like #educampnz the event was f2f and a wide range of people attended and interacted before, between and after the presentations, plenty of food to share, but there was no workshop aspect to the TM. Probably the most similar event in NZ I have been involved with is #eduignite sessions, but my experience is limited to last year's #eduigniterotovegas where I presented via GHO.

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations, but even more so, I enjoyed the f2f interaction with other passionate educators. I have worked geographically isolated from colleagues and team members for many years, and I don't mind it, but it is so nice to be in a room of like-minded people! ( +Annemarie Hyde, I didn't allow my inner tigger to come out yet as it was my first time meeting them, but watch out in the future:D).

Here are my reflections on the presentations:

+Rebecca Davies presented about #SAMR in the Classroom. I talk about this topic a lot myself, it was really good to hear someone else present on it. The main points I took away were that SAMR is a continuum with a space for all of us on it (there would be few teachers who would not at least type up their lesson plan, using technology at substitution level in their own work). Rebecca mentioned that students could be given the choice to what level they were completing a task after being introduced to the SAMR model. She stressed the importance of engaging teachers, of making the concept relevant to them and their classrooms, and how student learning gets enhanced when we use technology at the modification and redefinition level.

Kev McVay shared a project with us he led at St. Paul's School. He worked with a group of at-risk senior students on a project involving creating and racing go-carts. I really enjoyed listening to this, he spoke with great enthusiasm about the way the students engaged and succeeded where in other areas of schooling they might have been far less successful.

It was great that +Mark Yeates presentation followed this, he spoke about the learning he had taken out of many years in education and what his view of 21C pedagogy was. Relationships come first! While there is a lot of research out there that confirms this, it is great to hear passionate educators talk about how they have come to a particular approach in their practise.

Mic Black is not a teacher, he comes from a technical background which took nothing away form the education gained from his work and from his presentation! He ran a project with young people at the Sunshine Coast - check out PixelMosaic on Facebook. "If you describe yourself as a colour, what colour sequence would you use?" was the starting point, and the result can be seen at the Caloundra Regional Gallery until the end of this week. What absolutely fascinated me was the insights the children shared about why they chose particular colours (yellow and blue featured often as to be expected for children growing up at the Sunshine Coast). Mic also talked about engagement and about the way students with challenges successfully took part in the project.

Glenn Amezdroz shared some very valuable approaches from Visible Thinking Project Zero (I hope I got that right!), inspired from Art teaching, applied in his Senior H.P.E. context, but easily applicable in many more situations:
  • Using a powerful image, ask your 'audience' to describe what they "SEE, THINK, WONDER".
  • "What is going on? What do you see that makes you say that?"
  • At the end of a lesson, workshop, unit etc. ask for "I used to think..., but now I think..."
  • You can also use the newspaper headline approach to sum up the lesson / workshop / unit.
+Jacques du Toit shared with us the experience with the #TweetingAztecs. Within a senior history unit he integrated a tweeting aspect which led to greater student engagement and deeper understanding amidst lots of fun :) - and resulted in improved grades. It sounded like a fabulous experience and I hope more students get to experience approaches similar to this.

Jon Andrews spoke about educational research; there is lots of research out there, how do we know what is applicable to our context? Jon spoke about the need to engage with research as well as the need to undertake research, and how some schools are running their own research. This was very interesting for me as I had not come in contact with schools undertaking formal research yet (most NZ schools would be applying the teaching as inquiry approach in their classrooms, but what Jon talked about sounded more like publishable research if this makes sense). He also talked about the innovator's dilemma, describing the the journey of innovation like an s-curve, with the dilemma occurring at the end of the one innovation / the start of the next. Lots of food for thought I will have to follow up on.

I felt this was a hard act for me to follow. Many of you know how I dislike questions like "Is there an app for this?" because I am convinced pedagogy needs to come before the tool. I tried to make this point in my presentation about Three simple Web2.0 tools to support Collaboration.

+Katryna Starks is writing her PhD thesis on girls and gaming - Game Change (H)er - my ears pricked up straight away when I heard that! It was fascinating listening to her about how girls struggle to find suitable role models within gaming. As a mother of boys with one of them a (too) serious gamer now, this was particularly relevant, and I'm already looking forward to finding out more.
When I was teaching in the classroom, I often observed how around the age of 12 or so girls would shy away from the games boys were playing and their choices indeed were very limited - I remember my girls either playing dress up / make up type games, alternatively they went for preparing fast food orders or racing through space trying not to fall off the platforms (can't remember what the games were called). Interestingly, I only just realised this weekend when I read an essay my oldest boy wrote for Multimedia Studies, that Mirror's Edge. a game he spends too many hours on, has a female protagonist. I'm not sure though how suitable a role model that injures and kills enemies really is to our young woman! (It is not my favourite game as I can't see much creativity required by the player; however, in my son's defence, he is showing no interest in the fighting part, he just wants to speed run it and beat the times of other players).

The facilities at +Engage Research Lab were fantastic, and Ben Rolfe, Jason Riddell and others were wonderful hosts, sharing with us the work they do here. I can see young people like my Master14 move in there permanently in a heartbeat! Very cool, will definitely have to come back.

Overall it was a fabulous day, I learnt lots and met fabulous people, many more than I mentioned here. I would like to encourage everyone to take the opportunity to attend such an event, we learn heaps from and with each other. Next stop for me is GEG Gold Coast Meetup #2 - might see you there?

Monday, 2 March 2015

Does it have to be an either or? Some ponderings about platforms

It's been an interesting few months in the BeLchick's world - not only having in regards to having moved the family 'across the ditch' to Australia, also in regards to work itself. Quite a bit is the same, and quite a bit is different in this new role - or is it?

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In New Zealand most of our paper work and administration was hosted in Google, our team meetings went through Google Hangouts etc. I know Google apps quite well, have completed various exams and qualifications and I have worked a lot with schools to meaningfully use Google apps in their teaching in learning. Here at Expanding Learning Horizons our parent company is a Microsoft partner, we conduct training on behalf of Microsoft at times. We use Lync for our online team meetings, share OneNote notebooks etc.

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In New Zealand many of my schools used iPads and had or were investigating Chromebooks; here, the majority of the schools I have come in contact with so far have Windows 8 devices.

In New Zealand I worked in a MoE funded role as Learning with Digital Technologies Facilitator solely with state schools and state integrated schools. In Australia most our work is funded directly by the schools, and the majority of our schools are not state schools.

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These seem to be glaring differences, and I have been asked questions about it, many of them along the lines of 'how do you cope with all the changes', and 'how could these schools choose platform X/Y/Z'?

Firstly, I cope just fine thanks for asking - being a tutu (derived from te rēo Māori, meaning someone who likes to play around and try out / figure out new things) I enjoy working out new things. And by being thrown into the deep end, with the support of my lovely team leader I have learnt lots in a short while.

The second question is very interesting, and I have been thinking about this for quite a while now: Why and how do schools make the decisions they make? There can be quite an outrage by some innovative educators that have adopted the one or the other platform as theirs when someone else chooses a different platform. I can't help but once again come back to the Golden Circle (see Simon Sinek e.g. here):

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WHY - What is the vision for the learning at our school?
HOW - How will we put this vision into action?
WHAT - What actions are we taking?

Office365 or GAFE or iPads or BYOD are NOT A WHY or VISION, they are not even a HOW really but simply a tool to support the HOW.

Regardless, within the progression of changing teaching and learning at a school, permitting 'open slaughter' in regards to platforms and type of devices used can create havoc and be detrimental to the quality of learning we are trying to improve. So if you are looking at making changes in your school / classroom, you might want to ponder the following questions:

  1. What is your (e-)learning vision?
  2. How will you put this into action?
  3. What tools are you most familiar with / confident about? Are they supporting your vision?
  4. Have you got support within your setting with expertise beyond your own, and what is their expertise?
See, I believe we should always start with something we are familiar with, and make small changes from there, one step at a time. Sometimes the decision is made for us, and we have to make the best of a situation. For some schools this might be prescribing one platform for all to use, or one device for all students because this might be the one change they are ready to make at that time. If they have gone through WHY and HOW, and this was the decision they have come to from there, let's support them that they are ready for their next step, and then the next step, and the step after that.

I include the teachers with the learners and with being considerate of their needs. Yes, they are professionals, and as that we expect that they continually up-skill, but that, too, has to be one step at a time. I also emphasised their above because I truly believe that there is no one solution that is right for all schools, they need to make their decisions based on their vision and their needs. 

So after all this, do I personally think one platform is better than the other?
I move between many different platforms to suit my needs at particular times. I have access to a MacBook Air, a Samsung and an Acer Chromebook, a Toshiba Ultrabook, a Surface Pro3, an iPad Mini, a Nexus 3 tablet, and you would see me pull out one or the other at different times. I have not found one device that suits all my needs at all times, and I'm not even looking for that any more. I have access to Google Drive, to OneDrive, Office365, Dropbox etc. and I swap between them as I need to. I love aspects of the different platforms, and no platform does meet all my needs at all times
Can you see the common theme? It is about meeting different needs, at different times. 

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Some of the the tools that I currently find especially valuable include:
  • Google Drive for the ease of collaborating synchronously and asynchronously on documents etc.
  • OneNote2013, esp. on Windows 8 devices, for collaboration and fabulous integrated UDL features
  • Google+ incl. Communities and Hangouts for connecting beyond my organisation
  • Office Mix add-on which allows the creation of flipped learning opportunities and monitoring of learners accessing this content

My blog post is not influenced by who pays my wages; I'm of the opinion that if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all, so if I didn't like the one or the other platform, I wouldn't have written this post. I believe that I get the best of all worlds if I learn to navigate between them, but I do not expect everyone I come in contact with to be doing this, or to be aiming for this. My role is not to tell you what to do, it is to support you to make the right decision for your situation and then support you to take the little steps you need to take. For me personally I don't think I need to settle on one platform or the other, and I can make use of what supports my needs best at different times. How about you?