Technology Integration: tips and tricks for BYOD a few weeks in

We have started off the year by throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into the BYOD ocean.   It has been a positive start to our BYOD journey.  It was interesting, too, to hear the enthusiasm of most of our parents at our Meet the Teacher Evening & Showcase last week around the benefits that technology is bringing to their daughters’ learning. However, it has not all been plain sailing and I know that some students and teachers have encountered some choppy water.  Some parents too, expressed some concern to me about the steep learning curve that they were on in terms of getting to grips with technology.  So I put together these thoughts for my semi-regular IT Update for teachers yesterday.

Tips and tricks for successful technology integration.

Keep it balanced – remember that the aim is to blend technology with your already excellent teaching strategies.  You don’t have to use technology every lesson. Students welcome breaks from their screens and it is good for them.

Provide time – time to work things out like uploading work to Google Classroom, or to learning portfolios.  It may be frustrating at first to not be able to get through your programmes but laying down the foundations of digital literacy will be worth it in the long run.  Time is also needed for homework.  Some students may not have internet at home, or they may be on a limited bandwidth or data limit.  So give them a few days to complete work that necessitates online access and encourage them to manage their time and prioritise effectively.

Lay the foundations of Digital Literacy – Our students are not all “digital natives” and they don’t all know how their devices work let alone the tools we are asking them to use. To start off with give them some choice of the tools (software) they want to use but limit it to what you and the majority of the students know.  That way they can build their competency and then spread their wings.

And talking of wings – why encourage those students who do know how things work to be “Digital Angels” in your classes and ask them to support the others.

Differentiation & Learning Readiness – just as you do when using traditional approaches to Teaching & Learning, think about differentiating when using technology.  Let the students choose what they are comfortable with whilst encouraging some risk-taking and exploration but give them the choice not to submit digitally if they prefer to write on paper. When they are ready they will go for it.

Provide some hard copies of google docs or other online resources so that students who are having trouble getting online, or those that prefer, can still access the work.  I usually photocopy about 10 copies and share them around.

Work in pairs or threes – encourage sharing of devices.  Not everyone needs to be on a device all the time. Group work that allows for mixed tasks is still seen to be the most effective use of devices in a classroom.

High stakes – start small – avoid stress.  Try to do some small tasks to start off with using the technology that you want to use for assessments in the future so that you and the students build competency and confidence.  When the important assessment comes you and they then don’t spend time stressing about how the technology works and you can focus on the task.

Distraction – off task behaviour. One of the issues many teachers encounter is  “off task” use of devices in class.  This is something that will not go away completely.  How many of you played noughts and crosses or other games, or wrote notes to friends in the back of the class when you were at school?  Or maybe I am the only naughty one here! And how many of you check your phones in staff meetings?  Are you engaged? Are you focussed on the task?  We can employ similar classroom management strategies to those we use to minimise traditional off-task behaviour for off-task digital behaviour.  It comes down to expectations and each teacher will have slightly different expectations for their classroom and they may also vary according to the activity.  Here are some of the ideas that have been discussed in our staffroom over the last few weeks;

  • Make it clear to students what you expect as they come into the classroom and ready themselves for the lesson.  Some teachers are happy for the girls to log on immediately and be working on online activities, others prefer to start the lesson off without a device.  It is up to you.
  • Ask students to close the lids of the laptops and fold covers over smaller devices when you are talking to them or when you are having class discussions. Or, you could ask them to turn their computers around so they are facing away from them and the keyboard is not a magnet for those itchy little fingers!
  • Suggest that phones, which are secondary devices are kept in pockets unless specifically needed to supplement a task.  Often the girls prefer to use their phones for quick research but they are perceived to be the biggest source of distraction. Personally, I am happy for them to have them at their fingertips as they are such a powerful tool for learning.  Trust is a huge factor here and everyone “focusses’ in different ways.
  • Listening to music as they work, has always been a contentious topic.  Again, make your expectations clear.  For some tasks it doesn’t cause a problem and will help focus concentration.  I find, though, that unless they have a playlist set up, they spend more time choosing songs than working.
  • Use situations where digital behaviour is not what you expect as an opportunity to have a class discussion about citizenship (both digital and non-digital) and our responsibilities as global citizens.
  • Knowing how to “drive” their own device  is important.  If students want to use a particular tool to complete a task you have set, it is their responsibility to know how it works before they have to submit.  As above, provide time to explore and learn in a preparation task so that you and your students can develop your skills.
  • Plagiarism, referencing, use of digital media and software. Please insist that everything is referenced and as far as is possible they have used images, music, videos that are licensed to re-use.
  • But the most important strategy for minimising off task-behaviour is engagement.  If your students are engaged in their learning, they won’t engage in off-task activities!
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Celebration of Learning: Brave, Resilient teachers

prizegivingLast week during our Professional Learning session some of our teachers shared what they have been doing with their classes this year.  I probably need to give some background for this.  2014 was supposed to have been our year of consolidation after exploration and experimentation in 2013.  The idea being that teachers would choose an element of their learning from 2013, work within their departments and look at how they could embed it into their programmes of learning.  We were thrown a curve ball when, late in 2013, our BOT agreed to us adopting Google Apps for Education (GAFE).  That meant that in Term 1 of this year we focussed solely on training for GAFE.  It also meant a fair degree of stress and anxiety for some of our teachers as they had to adapt to a completely new way of doing many of their admin tasks.  Nevertheless, we think the process went relatively smoothly (more on that later) and so over the last two terms we have concentrated on blending pedagogy and “e-tools” to enhance the learning of our students.

Our Professional Learning programme is structured thus;

School finishes at 2.30pm every Wednesday afternoon. PL sessions are set in three week blocks.  In the first week we have a whole school “formal” PL session, the second week is set for Learning areas to work together.  These are sometimes “guided” by the “formal” session the previous week and discussion documents are shared.  In the third week, teachers can work independently or with their buddies on their own inquiry.  Some weeks there is no PL if, for example, there is a Parent Teacher consultation evening.

So in our last “Learning Area” PL session we asked departments to volunteer somebody to share an element of their pedagogy in a five minute presentation, and gave them these guiding questions;

  • A strategy – digital or otherwise – so that could be an app, an online tool, a pedagogical philosophy, an activity – that you have used with your class(es) this year.
  • Why you chose it
  • How you used it
  • How might it have transformed – or started to transform – your practice or thoughts about your teaching practice
  • What the impacts were on the learning outcomes for your students
  • What the benefits and challenges were
  • Your recommendations for its wider use

Just as we were last year, we were blown away by the passion, the pride and the learning of the teachers who presented.

In maths, one of the teachers has introduced the idea of “Guest Lectureres” in her class this term.  The girls volunteer to be experts on a topic and prepare a “lecture” for the rest of the group.  She said “the girls already know the concepts, so why should I teach it?”  They sourced their own notes and used a variety of media to present. She said that they loved being able to direct their own learning. And the girls who didn’t volunteer were responsive, they asked hard questions and they challenged themselves. Putting themselves outside their comfort zones meant that they thought more critically, were adaptive and collaborative.

In English, one of the senior classes has explored different media for creating Visual Stories.  This was a challenge for the teachers as they didn’t have any expertise in creating or editing videos or any other tools apart from Powerpoint. But they knew that the some of the students did, especially those who were studying Media Studies or Photography and they encouraged them to share their knowledge and transfer their skills across disciplines.  The results are outstanding but they say that the engagement of the students and the learning process was fascinating to observe. Lots of things didn’t work, they had to find solutions to problems, and there were frustrations as well as jubilations! More importantly, as teacher learners, they have role modelled the idea that we don’t have to know everything, that we can “learn as we go” and that it is ok to fail.

The Phys Ed and Health department have been wholehearted pioneers of Google Apps.  They were using them before we became a GAFE school and have used Google Forms for formative and summative assessments.  They showed us how they have used Add-Ons such as Flubaroo,  Doctopus and Goobric.  They reported that students have been more motivated to do online tests rather than paper ones.  They have found that the biggest impact has been on achievement through the use of marking rubrics and the ability to give feedback on specific elements of the assessments and areas to work on.  We noted that now that Google has introduced Google Classroom, it is possible that Add Ons like Goobric will not be needed in the same way.  Of course, giving feedback using rubrics can be done in other ways, but using Goobric has proved effective for the Phys Ed way of working and made it easier for large classes doing the same assessment.

The Music Department took the opportunity to show us how their students are using Sibelius to compose for different parts of an orchestra.  This software really makes the process of composing much more real and immediate – the sound of the music can be heard note by note as the student adds the notation. The finished product is a “real” score, and the students have the evidence of their efforts in their hands.  Seeing one student’s process of creating a composition and then her conducting the orchestra as they played her composition was fascinating and certainly made me excited!

In social studies, the Year 9 students do a unit on sustainability in which they choose a topic and follow an inquiry project.  Over the last two years the Social Studies Department have developed these as digital portfolios but with GAFE this has gone to a new level.  The girls are using Google docs to collaborate both in and outside of the classroom and as well as written logs some girls have chosen to make video diaries of their progress.  Progress is much more continuous as work on the inquiries can happen anytime and anywhere, and the students don’t have to work in allocated blocks of time as they used to.  This has the added bonus of helping maintain momentum and interest and it means that when someone is absent the group can still get on and even work with her whilst she is at home sick!

Kahoot has been a big hit in the classics classroom.  It is easy to make quick quizzes to test terminology and language and the students love the competitive element and the challenge of time limits.  Kahoot is device agnostic so the students can access it on any device they have, but even if all students don’t have a device, working in a team collaboratively leads to great conversations and learning.

The Science Department has been trialling the use of Education Perfect.  This started out as Language Perfect but the developers have been adding subjects to it as its popularity and success has exploded.  This is the platform that will be used for online examinations as they are introduced over the next 5 years so it is worthwhile students learning their way around it.  It is a fairly traditional way of learning terminology – the premise is based on flashcards for key words and concepts – but like Kahoot, the competitive element is what hooks kids in.  There certainly looks to have been some work on building its capabilities to cope with longer text answers and there is a range of past papers for practice.  One of the key elements is that teachers can track a student’s progress, set homework and monitor the rate of their learning. The more questions the students attempt the more points they earn.  If they challenge themselves to try new sections they learn more whereas if they only do the sections they know they can do, their learning level doesn’t increase.

Another teacher in science talked about how Solo Taxonomy has revolutionised the way that she teaches and manages her classes.  She is enjoying being a “guide on the side” rather than the more traditional, and for her, more natural “sage on the stage”.  She has observed the benefits to her students’ learning as they select and identify the level they are working at and can also see what they need to do to access the higher levels.  She admits that she has “bastardised” the philosophy to suit her classroom, her kids and her own teaching and learning style but also acknowledges that she has challenged herself as well as the students which has to be great for her professional learning and development.  She says that she needed something to prompt change, had been searching for the right thing, heard about Solo and realised that it could work for her.

Our Te Reo teacher showed us how she has developed a Google Site for her multi level classes where they can choose the level that is appropriate for them and select the resources they need to further their learning.  It is a great example of self-directed learning and provides support for her face to face activities in the classroom.  She reflected that she had attended another colleagues PL sessions a couple of years ago where he showed people how to build websites for learning.  She wondered if she should have started earlier and if that was a waste of his and her time.  But I think that, although she could see the benefits then, she wasn’t ready herself to start to create.  Two years down the road, she is ready and has taken the learning from then, added it to her new knowledge and is excited about the possibilities.

These last two teachers are evidence that we understand concepts when we are ready, seeds need to be planted but only when we see a purposeful application for an idea will we adopt it, develop it in our own way and embed it in our practice.  Just like our students really!

A mad few days of PD

I have been lucky enough to enjoy a rich seam of excellent discussion and professional and personal learning over the last few days.  Here are my round ups of the days before I forget everything!

Thursday 14th November
ILEP Meeting the Challenge – Building on TPDL

https://storify.com/robeanne/meeting-the-challenge-language-learning-in-nz

Friday 15th November
ConnectED Kura Hakari13 – celebrating 2013

https://storify.com/robeanne/connected-kura-hakari-2014

Friday / Saturday 15th & 16th November

Curso de Cine en la clase de espanol

advert for Spanish cinema course
More on the Spanish cinema course after I complete the course next week.  Now down to some catch up work for school after I have cheered my boy on as he races Round the Bridges in Hamilton.

A learning and sharing celebration

tee-shirt showing words I'll stop learning when I'm dead...maybe

This afternoon we celebrated the learning we have done throughout the year. Our Professional Development focus for 2013 has been on blending technology and effective pedagogy into classroom practice. The main aim was to encourage our teachers to explore and develop their personal competency and skills and, when they are ready, to incorporate them into their teaching programmes. We hoped to provide a non-threatening, encouraging backdrop whilst also setting expectations that this was the way we wanted our teachers to go.

As you might expect we are all at different stages both as far as technology goes as well as pedagogy.  It was interesting to note from discussions in our final module workshops that younger teachers are keen to learn more about traditional teaching strategies, such as story telling and role-play that are used by the older generation of teachers, as they have not learned these at Teachers ‘ College.  How powerful is the opportunity to talk, share and learn from each other? It gives us food for thought for the future – how can we take advantage of the experience and expertise of our older teachers to pass on their knowledge to the new generation?  Interestingly, it is not always the young that grasp the technology in both hands, many of our older teachers are proponents of embedding technology into their teaching.  Developing an effective two way flow of ideas and strategies has to be a focus for next year.   All this makes me think how lucky we are that we have the luxury as a State Integrated school to provide the time for Professional Development that other schools may not be able to.

For the final session of PD we wanted to be able to celebrate the work that we knew teachers were doing, the journeys they had been on in developing their expertise and exploring the possibilities that technology could offer to enhance the excellent teaching and learning that already goes on in our classrooms.  We didn’t want it to be onerous at this busy end of the year (though which part if the school year isn’t busy?) so we asked for volunteers to do no more than a five minute presentation.  We followed up the email with some shoulder taps and then arm twisting!  It isn’t that our teachers aren’t happy to share; they are just reluctant to “show off”! Lots of lights hiding under bushels!  We were also keen that it wasn’t the “early adopters” that stood up, but those who the rest of the teachers would see as “one of them”.

I have to confess to being a little nervous that the “sharefest” that I had planned would fizzle but I should have had more faith in my colleagues and with a bit of cajoling and gentle encouragement (that may not be quite how they saw it!) I had 6 willing volunteers from a range of departments.

I am not going to go on here as I have created a Storify of the session.  The conversations were rich, the sharers were amazing and we clearly have lots of ideas for the future.