Nethui 2017

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I had the privilege of participating in Nethui 2017 in Auckland last week. I haven’t been to a ‘full’ Nethui before although I went to the regional roadshow in Rotorua last year. I believe that this is the best value for money, most enriching conference I have been to for a long time. I think it is because, although I love teaching, teachers and the education world, we can sometimes become wrapped up in it and forget that there is a real world out there too. According to the conference website;
“NetHui brings everybody and anybody that wants to talk about the Internet together. We’re not a conference and speakers won’t talk at you all day. NetHui is a community event – made for the community, by the community.

Participation and collaboration are at the heart of NetHui. The programme isn’t decided by InternetNZ – it’s designed by the community. NetHui is about issues that actually matter to your community.”

Given the political climate at the moment the theme of “Trust and Freedom on the Internet” was entirely apposite.

I am not going to say anymore but have put together a Storify of the tweets interspersed with a few of my own comments.

//storify.com/robeanne/nethui-2017/embed?template=slideshow[<a href=”//storify.com/robeanne/nethui-2017″ target=”_blank”>View the story “Nethui 2017” on Storify</a>]
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‘We’re all doomed, I tell ye’. ‘We’re all doomed!’

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Just found this post from a while back which I started writing after the announcement about CoLs and CoOLs.  I never finished it as plenty of others responded in a similar vein to me and in a much more eloquent way.  See this post ‘Keeping our cool about CoOLs’ from Claire Amos.  There was a lot of ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’ and cries that ‘the sky is falling’ about online learning. Things have gone quiet since then and we have seen the introduction of the new Digital Technologies|Hangarau Matihiko Curriculum and, of course a new government. The reason that I have come back to this post is, partly because I found it in my drafts, and having found it, it resonated with me as I am currently reading “Different Schools for a Different World” by Dean Sharesku and Scott McLeod. Now I don’t think that, for many of us who are steeped in the NZ education system with our flexible and forward thinking curriculum, they say anything particularly groundbreaking. Much of their commentary is of US schools and school system. But despite seeing plenty of excellent contemporary, collaborative, student centred learning happening in schools, I also know that there is plenty of mediocre teaching and learning happening which is not meeting the needs of all our learners. 

In the book, the authors offer 6 arguments for why schools need to be different. As I read the book I am tweeting the thoughts and questions it is provoking in me. The first deals with information, where we get it from, how we get it, and what we do with it.

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We, and our students, can find all the information we need online; what our kids need is to ‘master the skills of information filtering and critical thinking’ so that they have the skills to thrive in their world. That is the role of the teacher.

The 2nd argument is that of economics. We’ve all heard it said – the jobs our kids will do haven’t even been invented yet, automation has taken our jobs, a job won’t be for life. Shareski and McLeod suggest that manufacturing jobs are being replaced by higher skill service jobs and creative jobs. They ask ‘what value do human workers add that software robots don’t’? Critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, high level communication, collaboration…

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 16.51.28Then we come to learning. How we learn, how we teach, what our role as teacher is, whether we are meeting the needs of our learners.

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A blend of digital and kanohi ki te kanohi learning provides both content and the interactions necessary for developing the soft skills needed to manage the information.  We need to prepare our students to be fluent navigators of an online world, to have a positive digital presence, to understand the ethics and legalities of a digital landscape, to be able to share their knowledge and skills as both consumers and creators. We need to prepare students for learning agility – they need to know how to ‘flounder intelligently’. (Guy Claxton)

I think online learning offers us some really positive options especially for kids who are isolated or marginalised, but also for those who sit in a system that sort of works for them but sort of doesn’t.  I’m thinking of the majority of middle of the road kids who get by in spite of a school system that is out of date and not a good fit for them.  The kids who are ‘passively disengaged’.

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This is dealt with in Chapter 4: The Boredom Argument.   A question for every teacher….

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How much time is spent in your classroom when the student is ‘passive’?  What activities motivate your students to learn? My wero to you is to time some of your lessons, or someone else’s, and reflect.

George Couros asks in one of his blogs;

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‘Different’ schools could be online schools but there is a danger that all we do is extend a traditional model of learning into an online environment.  We need to think of ways to allow our kids to learn without just replacing an exercise book with a device.  Teachers need support to design blended learning opportunities that allow pathways for all learners.  Students need to collaborate – the classroom should be a space for ‘doing’, asking, sharing, exploring, then go home and use a computer to reflect on content, write up notes etc. So, there has to be a lot of thought as to how online education is blended with face to face interaction. And online doesn’t mean ‘robots’ delivering courses as some have said. It means carefully constructed pathways of learning created by teachers, with discussions facilitated by teachers and learners with multiple ways of accessing content and creating responses.

This brings us on to the Innovation Argument; Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen (2009) suggest that innovators possess 5 key skills;Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 17.40.43

and that we need to create an environment in school which allows for those skills to be developed and flourish. My question is;

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We are constrained by top down drivers – results and standards, which can be used as an excuse not to provide opportunities for genuine inquiry and experimentation, to limit questioning, to stimy divergent thinking, and to prevent kids from forming and using networks to amplify their learning.  I can see so many possibilities to support and develop these 5 key skills by using a powerful blend of online and face to face learning.  At the moment, though, our assessment system isn’t playing ball and too much testing is still geared towards passive ingestion and thoughtless regurgitation.

The final argument is one of equity.  The obvious is a lack of access to digital technologies and thus online opportunities. But it is also a question of usage – even with access what do kids from different socio-economic backgrounds use digital technology for?  Studies done in the USA suggest that substitute tasks such as drilling and practice are overwhelmingly done by African American kids whilst more affluent students use technology for creative, higher order thinking activities.

I haven’t had time as yet, to explore my thinking about how online learning would solve the issue of equity – my initial thought is around attendance.  It is clear that lack of attendance at school has a profound effect on kids learning outcomes. Barriers to getting to school are many but if kids can access learning from home when they can’t get to school, surely that helps to reduce the inequity in some small way?  It is also a question that Shareski and McLeod don’t really answer either apart from suggesting that we ask questions of our communities to get a clear picture of who has access and who hasn’t, and to build partnerships with community and businesses to support access.

When we think about ‘different schools’ we are not talking about the physical or virtual space, we are talking about pedagogical philosophy.  As teachers we can all be part of the conversation, pushing for dialogue, questioning our own assumptions about how we teach and how our kids learn. We can demand (in reasonable terms) that those in power think very carefully about how to implement what could be a very positive model for learning. We also have a responsibility to read widely all of the information and assess critically, not jump to conclusions and onto the ‘sky is falling’ bandwagon. Online learning in some shape or form is going to happen so we might as well work together to ensure that we implement the best model possible which works for all our learners.

Copyright for Innovation

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Large copyright graffiti sign on cream colored wall by Horia Varlan  CC-BY

A few weeks ago I attended a panel discussion about copyright and how fair use of media, copyrighted material promotes or inhibits creativity. It was hosted by the University of Auckland Law Department.

A panel of international experts on copyright and innovation led the discussion about copyright, fair use of intellectual property, open access and how it all works in the media, education and business.

Below is the Storify of the evening.

But how does all this apply to schools, teachers and students?

Mention copyright in staff rooms and people’s eyes usually glaze over.  The only real exposure most teachers have to it is in ignoring the poster over the photocopier warning them about what percentage of a book they can legally copy!  Some schools have a vigilant admin person who manages all the photocopying and enforces the rule strictly, in other schools the law may as well not exist.

Drama and music departments have a better understanding of copyright laws as it directly impacts the work they do.  Some media is available for use in an educational context but the limitation lies in that the content cannot be published or presented to the public. It may be possible to perform plays, use musical scores, sing songs within a school context to an audience composed of people within school, but as soon as you invite an outside audience in you may find yourself breaching the terms of the copyright unless you have sought permission to use it. (https://www.tki.org.nz/Copyright-in-Schools/Guidelines-for-schools/For-teachers-and-contractors/Guide-to-performances)

So far so clear.  But what about films? I know that films are used extensively to support learning in many subjects. They are also used as ‘end of term fillers’. The philosophical and pedagogical rights and wrongs of this I will not go into here. However, it is clear from the guidelines on the TKI page Guide to copying and showing films that the showing of films should be for educational purposes only.

“You may not show a hired or purchased video/DVD in your school simply for entertainment purposes. For example, you can show the film Shakespeare in Love when it relates to your drama course, but you may not show it to your drama class merely to entertain them at the end of term.”

And you cannot copy the film multiple times to enable every student to have their own copy, nor can you make it available on the school learning management system. Read more at Electronic copying and works on the internet.

OK, so all this is well and good, and the law is quite clear if we bother to find out about it and pay any attention to it.  But there are areas around use of media and ownership that are less clear (or more open to interpretation).

Who owns what you produce as a teacher for your students?  At any time of the day or night, term time or holidays?

The answer is simple: your employer. The Board of Trustees. Not you.

What does that mean?  It means that legally speaking anything that you create in the course of your employment has to stay in the place of your employment when you leave and you cannot take a copy of it with you. WHAT?!  My work, my time, my blood, sweat and tears, my creativity, my imagination!

How does not being able to share my work fit with Kāhui Ako (Communities of Learning)? How does it encourage collaboration across schools and between teachers? How does it encourage me to be creative, spend my time working on great resources if I can’t keep them? How will anyone know if I take a copy anyway? Who is going to stop me?

Well the answers are, it doesn’t and nobody. Unless you start to sell them and make megabucks, or if you take them and don’t leave a copy behind for your colleagues to use and they are left in the lurch.

So, how can I legally own what I feel I morally own because I created it?

A CREATIVE COMMONS policy provides teachers and schools with a way forward.  Put simply, if a school adopts a Creative Commons Policy, then the BOT maintains ownership of resources but agrees that those resources can be shared as long as they are shared under the same license.

So what about images and media that you and your students use in your work? How do I know who has created media on the internet? Who owns the photos in “Google Images”? How do I know what I can use and what I can’t? How do I attribute ownership?   Creative Commons provides answers there too. There is heaps of ‘free to use’ media if you know where to look.  In Google images, go to Tools and then Usage rights to get a return of open source images.  Photos4Class is a great one to send kids to as it inserts appropriate referencing too.  The Creative Commons website has a heap of links to open source resources as well as useful information on how to appropriately attribute and reference media you have used.  Saying “Retrieved from Google Images” just doesn’t cut it!  Or take your own photos and use them and apply a Creative Commons License. Encourage your kids to be creators rather than consumers.

Nobody is very likely to prosecute you if you use an image or a piece of music that is not yours to use unless you are particularly unlucky. Although, there are plenty of examples when that has happened, especially where music is concerned. And I have heard plenty of teachers and students say, “But how will anyone know if I have used a photo, a video, a piece of music?” and “Why should I care?” and “Will anyone really stop me?”

But it comes down to trust, to values, ethics and morals. The values of citizenship that we instil into our kids, that are enshrined in our school charters, that we live and work by everyday.  Taking what is not legally yours without asking permission is theft. Pure and simple.  Using media that is created by someone else without attributing it to them is just bad manners and shows lack of gratitude. And as educators we have a responsibility to model good practice.

What will it mean to be educated in 2050?

Today I was lucky enough to be at the first of 2016’s Core Breakfasts in Hamilton. Derek Wenmouth challenged the thinking of a group of Hamiltonian educators and inspired them to question their practice.

By way of recording the conversations I have created this Storify.

What will it mean to be educated in 2050?

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My Passion Project

I am a bit of a photograph nut and always have my eye out for an interesting subject, odd angle, quirky perspective and tricky bit of light.  I have always had cameras – my Dad got me started when he bought me my first camera – an Olympus Trip – for my 18th Birthday.  Before that I was allowed to borrow his camera occasionally and I remember having a  little Instamatic camera to take away with me when I was lucky enough to visit Berlin when I was 12 years old.  I still have all the photos in albums. Some are rather faded now but they still prompt memories.  

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Berlin 1975
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From top left anticlockwise: Paris Zoo 1975; Family on holiday 1975; Noel and Grandmere, Siran, 1975; Christine, Andre and me, Siran, 1975

I have most of the negatives too, all collated in envelopes and numbered according to month, year and which photo album the prints are displayed in. I started with the albums that have sticky pages and the cellophane leaves that hold the photos in place as well as protecting them but soon found that I couldn’t fit enough in them and they were bulky to store.  So I turned to scrapbooks.  The size of the pages also allowed me to create collages with the photos.  I rarely got the perfect shot but every picture told part of the story so I would cut around the bits in focus or smiling faces and put them together to form a pictorial story of an event.  Real cropping, cutting and pasting!  Later on I got a bit arty and started to take panoramic pictures.  Of course, the light and the varying height as I turned around as well as the curvature of the land meant that the individual photos never quite matched so I ended up with semicircles of pictures that were too long to fit in the album.  I would carefully sellotape them together so that they would concertina together when I closed the book.

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Caucasus Mountains, Georgia, USSR 1990
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The Kremlin, Moscow, USSR 1990
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Torridon, Scotland
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Family Holiday in the Jura, France

In those days I also had to be careful about how many photos I took – after all a film reel only held 36 photos. Remember the anticipation when you sent the reel away to be processed and waited for the envelope to arrive back in the post? How many times was I disappointed when what I imagined were going to be amazing photos turned out to be not up to expectations?  

By this time I had a fancier camera; as my Dad replaced his cameras I would be the grateful recipient of his old ones.  I now had an SLR and I also moved on to slides rather than prints.  Slides are difficult to display in an album but don’t you just love slide shows?  I think the magic for me stems from when we were kids and Dad used to show us slides of our holidays. We used to love it when there was a photo of us; very narcissistic, but I used to wait in anticipation of the photos of me and be very excited when there was one!  A few years ago when I inherited my Dad’s books of slides I excitedly set to and scanned them all and shared them with my sisters – delight and embarrassment in possibly equal measure!

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The Hodgson Family on an East Coast Beach: Kate, Anne, Mum (Shelagh) Steph, Paul (cousin), Jo
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Me, collecting flowers behind our house (33 Coal Hill Lane, Farsley)

I think by this time I was seeing myself as a bit of a photographer – I had a couple of lenses and spent time taking photos of plants and landscapes. I also had time pre-children to stop and compose a picture, fiddling with f-stops and apertures and focus.  My Dad still criticised the technical shortcomings of my photos (his were always technically excellent) but I reckon mine had more interesting perspectives and had more “soul”.  

So there is a period in my life missing from the photo albums when I search through them as it is represented on slides tucked away in boxes.  Slide boxes were a bit like how we stored digital photos originally – hidden until we had the means to look at them.  We had to get out the slide projector and screen and load the slides into cartridges, close the curtains, switch out the lights and enjoy the magic.  For photos stored on our computer we needed to connect to a projector or all peer around a small screen. Not as easy as just whipping out the albums.  Although, of course, all the photos were in one place and certainly much easier to carry one computer around than a box of albums!  But now with mobile devices and easy to share to sites like Flickr, Google Drive, Dropbox, Facebook our photos are so much more available an visible.  We can share across continents to family and friends and get instant feedback, we can also edit and create so much more easily.  And did I say I was also an Instagram nut!  I have my phone in my hand all the time, just looking for a photo.  My Instagram account is linked to FB and Twitter and the notifications “Anne-Louise has just uploaded a photo” that my husband receives several times during a day have become a standing joke in the family.Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 15.46.34.png

Once children arrived the focus of my photos was people – well my children to be more precise!  And we have a comprehensive photo history for us and them to pore over.  My eldest son was 21 last year so I spent a few evenings taking photos of old photos and making them into a digital slide show and video with WeVideo which I then uploaded to You Tube.  

There is something about those old albums, though. The tactile nature of them is so much more in the present than the collection of digital photos. Maybe it’s the time and effort it took to put the book together, the story they tell, the fact that there are only a few photos rather than the hundred I can take with my phone or a digital camera.  Who knows?  But my plan for this year is to organise my digital collection more efficiently and put them into albums or slideshows that tell a story.  I will also create some picture books like the one I create to mark our very first year in new Zealand so that we have books to pick up and thumb through. 

 

 

Teachers as Learners First

Sheryl Nussbaum talks about schools being “Future Ready” and there are four elements to being future ready 

  1. learning is student centred
  2. the technical infrastructure will easily support the learning,
  3. distributed, collaborative leadership which happens when many people share leadership functions. 
  4. remembering always that teachers are learners first

The final element of “teachers as learners” has been an important part of my last few weeks. They have been a whirl of learning.  In my new role as a Connected Learning Advisor I have been in a team running Professional Learning days for leaders.  First we headed to Whangarei, then Hamilton and finally, yesterday we were connected with educators in Christchurch.  Principals and eLeaders travelled from the far north and the deep south to engage in rich conversations, challenging thinking and robust questioning over the three days.

The sessions dealt with strategic planning, shifting teachers’ thinking and managing change through professional learning, and exploring how social media can build connections between schools and the wider community.

But the focus was on collaboration and connectedness and teachers as learners. Providing time to have conversations, share stories and good practice, plan and make connections was a key element of the days and it seems that it was appreciated by those who attended.

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 I know that I have learned as much as the teachers I have been working with. There is such power in conversations and I have been inspired by so many people and the work they are doing in schools, grappling with overwhelming change with commitment, positivity and open minds.  Thank you.

After each event we “Storified” the days and published posts on the VLN to encourage the participants and those who couldn’t make it to continue or join in the conversations.

The links to the Storifies are below.

Whangarei

Hamilton

Christchurch

We also used Todaysmeet to “chat” and record the conversations. Here is the transcript from some of the discussion in the sessions on Professional Learning.

Learning #edblognz #cenz15

#EdBlogNZ Challenge WK 1 
Think about your teaching practice. How has it evolved over time? What are you currently working on developing in your practice? What tools have you used during this inquiry time? Blog about it!
This is a big question!  How long have you got?
Of course my teaching practice has evolved over time, but I think that I always tend towards my preferences and my natural style. That means that over the last 30 years I have responded to new trends, learned from my peers, reflected on my practice and picked and chosen what fits with my basic philosophy about learning.  I don’t think I’ve always been honest about the things I’ve found challenging and faced up to them.  Have I improved my practice, have I transformed my practice? Have I helped my peers and my students?  I hope so.
writing on a whiteboard table in a meeting
I love learning when I am passionate about something.  When I first started teaching I was so passionate about languages that I found it difficult to understand why 25 of the 30 kids in front of me really couldn’t care less about learning French. They were there because they had to be and some showed a glimmer of interest especially when they could get me to digress and tell stories of when I lived in France rather than learning grammar, and some were blatantly bored.  It started to wear me down after a while and I was forced to think outside the box to find ways to motivate, to inspire and to .. yes, make my life easier and more pleasant. After all how many hours a week could I spend in front of bored, resentful, reluctant faces and not get ground down?
I used to hate grammar when I was at school but I found myself teaching the way that I had been taught at secondary school and the way that I had been taught to teach at Uni. It didn’t really work except for the 5 in the class who were as passionate as me.
So, I dug deep and thought about where my passion first came from.  Way back as a nine year old my school was part of a pilot scheme for teaching French to Primary School children.  The scheme was ahead of its time.  No writing, no reading. Speaking and listening, practice and role play, total immersion and a very passionate, very new and very trendy teacher!  Miss Francis (now Larraine Biscombe) has clearly continued to hone her teaching expertise but it was her passion that got me hooked all those years ago.
Active, problem-solving, task-based learning. I had to fit it in with the expectations of a relatively restrictive National Curriculum and by no means did I suddenly have 30 passionate francophiles in front of me but some of those reluctant learners started to show interest, engage and I started to enjoy teaching again.
Fast forward to NZ 2011 and suddenly I find myself teaching Spanish not French. Not a fluent Spanish speaker, no longer the master of my domain and task-based learning took on a whole new perspective.  When you don’t know everything you have to make a decision;
  • Fake it until you make it
  • Man up and learn alongside your students

I went for the 2nd option.  It had worked with my challenging groups of low ability boys when we explored using computers, video cameras and digital recorders to liven up French lessons in the early 2000s.  Plus I am no good at lying and a classroom full of curious, demanding teenagers will soon find you out so honesty is the best policy.  We learned together, exploring, finding out, researching, teaching each other. The fact that I was taking a risk to speak in a language in which I was not proficient meant that they were mostly prepared to as well.

So, how does this link to where I am today?  At the same time as learning Spanish I was supporting teachers in my school to integrate digital technologies into their teaching programmes.  Using technology in the classroom scares a lot of teachers. They are afraid that they don’t know enough and will appear foolish in front of their students. Encouraging them to accept that they don’t have to be experts about everything, that they can admit that they don’t know and be willing to explore alongside their students is huge.  As we strove to transform practice and were discussing it over morning tea one day one of my colleagues said of how she felt,

“I feel quite liberated now, much more liberated as a teacher than I did before.  That I could walk into a class and I didn’t know everything and the learning still worked, in fact it worked better, being inspired by those experiences, that’s what’s changed the way I teach completely”.

So that’s where I am now.  Honing my craft.  Listening, speaking, connecting, communicating, failing, risking, challenging myself, improving my practice, aiming for transformation. Learning.

BYOD: An ongoing process

byodI recently received an email from a young lady who is researching schools that have adopted BYOD for her Level 2 NCEA Accounting.  As I answered her questions I was prompted to consider more deeply the process we went through and I thought it might be worthwhile sharing.  We are in our second term of compulsory BYOD (I posted some reflections on the first few weeks in this post) and we are still learning.  I am sure that our progress will be a constant theme of my blogs this year as we reflect on how we are going.  These are just some initial thoughts.

Preparation and Planning: What did we do?

First of all it is worth pointing out that I work in a State Integrated Secondary School and we are relatively well-off in terms of infrastructure.  I appreciate that State Schools may not have the same finances at their disposal as we do and it may take longer to put the infrastructure in place. However, I believe that preparing the school community to cope with the changes to the way we teach and learn are similar wherever you are.

Planning a pathway

We restructured our ICT Committee so that there was a balance of technology and pedagogy to ensure that teaching and learning drove the decisions about technology. Discussions were focussed on what we needed in the way of technology to deliver robust teaching programmes and enable our students to own their learning.

We formed a group, affectionately called the “Bling” group (Blended Learning Instructional Group), which consisted of early adopters from different subject areas to look at the bigger picture.  We used the eLearning Planning Framework as a starting point and mapped out a pathway for integrating blended learning opportunities within the curriculum plans. We were very clear from the outset that we wanted to use technology to enhance the already very good teaching and learning that was going on in our school, rather than replace it.  Blending a range of strategies that work for all our teachers and students is essential.

The BLING team were also responsible for encouraging members of their departments, providing them with moral support and worked on a Professional Development programme.

The key component for all of this was, of course, Professional Development.  Our school academic goal three years ago was focused on building personal competency and confidence around using technology on the basis that if teachers are not comfortable using tech themselves they will be reluctant to use it in the classroom.  The following year it was consolidating on that and developing skills within the classroom, embedding technology into the curriculum and looking more deeply at learning approaches such as SAMR, Blooms and Solo Taxonomy.  Our aim was to build a sense of “it’s ok to have a go and fail” in fact, it’s better to have a go and fail than not have a go at all.  Since resiliency, problem-solving and creativity are what we want our students to aspire to then we should model that behaviour and be prepared to stretch our limits too.

Infrastructure

We have a strong tech team and we worked closely with them.  Once they were clear about what we wanted in terms of learning they set to to make sure we had enough wireless switches and that they were in the best places to ensure wireless coverage was consistent across the school.  The materials from which some of the buildings in school are constructed cause issues with wireless reception.  Our tech team have found work-arounds for these places but we still have to work within those constraints.  We planned well but still have a few “dead spots”. These are being picked up and sorted out on an ongoing basis.

Technology Adoption

We decided to adopt Google Apps for Education (GAFE)  after some teachers trialled using Google Docs with classes and found that it impacted positively on student achievement.  This gave us a common platform for curation, dissemination and creation of materials for both staff and students. However, that doesn’t mean that other software, programmes and apps are not used and we encourage a broad spectrum of resources to promote effective learning.

Training & Preparation of staff

Preparation for all staff, both teaching and admin, was undertaken to ensure that staff were as ready as they could be for the transition to BYOD. This happened over a two year period prior to full adoption of BYOD.  Building confidence and integrating use of tech in teaching programmes has been successful as a result of the time spent preparing teachers.  All staff were involved in GAFE training to familiarise themselves with a new email system, calendars and the collaborative elements of Google Apps.  This happened more quickly than we had intended and required a significant mindshift and willingness to be flexible and open to new ways of doing things from all staff.  It wasn’t plain sailing but I have been amazed at the resilience of our teachers and support staff and how positively they have approached the change.

Phased roll out of BYOD

In the years prior to BYOD adoption, some teachers encouraged the use of devices and trialled using technology tools for teaching and learning. Then students in Senior classes were invited to bring in their devices, followed by Juniors but they were not compelled to do so. The challenge here was that some students would have devices in a classroom and others wouldn’t, making it difficult for teachers to manage and plan. We soon realised that we would need to make the transition to compulsory BYOD.

Research & choice of devices

We looked carefully at what had worked in other schools and decided to go with an agnostic device BYOD rather than mandate a brand or type of device. The benefits of this are that the learning is the priority not the tool to achieve it, parents don’t have to buy new devices if they already have one from a previous school, they have choice over how much they wish to spend and students use what they are comfortable with and know how to “drive”.

Battery life is a huge consideration and to avoid health and safety issues of cables trailing in classrooms we made the decision to buy charging lockers and installed them throughout the school.

Preparation for students

This has been one area that I feel we have neglected in a way. Although we were aware that not all students are “tech savvy” we did still assume that they would adapt quickly to using devices in the classroom.  However, they are not all good at managing their own devices and knowing how to use them for learning.  Digital Literacy is something that we are addressing on an ongoing basis in the classroom.  The Junior Curriculum provides opportunities in the first term for the different subjects to build capabilities sharing, collaborating and creating documents, presentations and videos. There is time to explore what plagiarism is, how to conduct research, use media and effective referencing.  Digital Citizenship is also a key factor for both staff and students and we have put in place strategies for dealing with inappropriate use of devices.  As with Digital Literacy, Digital Citizenship is being addressed in the classroom in context.

Preparation for Parents

A BYOD booklet explaining our rationale and giving examples of the sort of learning that can happen has been prepared and distributed to all parents. It includes a guide to the sorts of devices that are suitable.  We have run Netsafe workshops for parents to raise awareness of Digital Citizenship and we are building a section of our website with useful hints and tips for parents of digital teens.  We are still working on other ways of engaging parents in the BYOD process as this is an area that we identified as being relatively weak when we used the eLearning Planning Framework.

The process of going BYOD has not been without its challenges but we think we have been successful so far as a result of the planning and preparation we have undertaken.  Change needs to be managed and we need to have everyone on side for that; too fast and you lose some on the way but there has to be drive and you need to build some momentum.  I remember hearing a Principal talk about “getting everyone on the bus” so that you have a common approach, and if people aren’t packed and ready then there is no place for them.  We all learn at different paces and as long as there is a common will and understanding then we will all get there. So I think you need to be prepared to let people get off at different stops along the way to process what they have learned, have a break and then get back on again when they are ready.

After two years we took the eLPF to our staff and spent an afternoon exploring it.  They put us two places higher than we had put ourselves two years ago.  From Emerging we were now Engaging in all areas and Extending in many.  Not bad, I reckon but there is still a way to go and the technological landscape will continue to change but I think our teachers and our support staff have the positive, flexible mindset to cope with that.

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!

#28dayofwriting Day 5: Keeping it Real

First week of school for 2015 over!  Fortunately a short week, but a busy one.  I love meeting students for the first time. They are all excited and nervous and eager and reluctant all at the same time.  I wonder if they realise that their teachers often feel the same way?  What does the year hold?  What will I learn?  What will I achieve?  How will I fail?  Will I cope?  Will I inspire my students?  Will they inspire me?

Every year we have a theme for the year.  Last year was “Kotahitanga” which means ‘united” or “together”.  In fact for the last couple of years we have had a Maori word as our theme.  But our theme for this year is “Keep It Real”; Developing Resilient, Enterprising, Authentic, Learners.

logo for school them of the year "Keeping it Real"

Resilience (or resiliency) is a buzz theme at present in education, isn’t it?  Sometimes called grit, determination, picking yourself up, failing forwards, pluck.  Thesaurus.com gives these synonyms for resilience;  elasticity, bounce, flexibility, spring, stamina, staying power.   Then of course there are synonyms for each of those words but the idea of being able to adapt, to problem solve and to persevere is constant.  A necessity for living in the real world beyond school.

This year we have made the decision to go compulsory BYOD.  We also decided that we would not mandate a type of device except that it had to be equal to or larger than a 10″ screen.  Devices also have to be capable of using Google Apps as we are a GAFE school. Phones are permitted and welcomed in school for learning but have to be a secondary device.  This decision was made after two years of experimentation and exploration when students could bring devices if they wished.  Feedback from both students and staff was clear;  laptops and full sized tablets were much easier to manage for learning than smartphones.  Older students preferred laptops whilst younger students would rather use their smaller devices.  Some of the issue around handheld devices is that blurry line between whether a student is using the device for social and personal use or education and learning.  Teachers who are not comfortable with tech themselves are understandably unsure about how to handle it when students have their phones out in class.

hands holding smartphones to take a video of a pronunciation activity on a laptop screenSo my first full day of teaching was Year 9 ICT induction.  A day spent delivering the same lesson to 5 different eager Year 9 classes, with a mixture of devices; some shiny and new, some borrowed, laptops, tablets, Apples, Androids, Windows.  Some girls knew how to use their devices, some clearly did not!  First message; “Go home this weekend and learn how to drive your device!”

A fair degree of resilience was required, for all of us!  But we got there, working together.  I loved the way that they helped each other.  We have “Techy Angels” at school who run the techy stuff in Chapel for our Chaplain.  We also talk about “Digital Angels” in our induction lesson.  How can you help others who don’t know how to create a Google Doc or share a video or email a recording to a teacher?  How can you help a teacher who may not know as much as you and is feeling a little nervous about using technology?  There were plenty of “Digital Angels” ready to spread their wings last week.  Very heartwarming!

But it isn’t just our students who we are encouraging to “Keep it Real”, it is us too. The teachers.  In a high achieving school such as ours, with ambitious students, parents and teachers, the pressure is to succeed and that often leads to a non-risk taking approach.  The balance is difficult to reach – you can experiment but you also have to succeed. It was great, then, to hear our Principal giving the message to both staff (in our first meeting of the year) and to the students in their first assembly about aiming high but also being prepared to fail to move forwards.

A friend sent me a link to a paper written by “ETAG” The Education Technology Action Group chaired by Stephen Heppell.  I haven’t had time to read it in its entirety but this paragraph resonated loudly with me.

“This is an area (integrating technology into education and learning) where we would seek to shout out loud and clear that faced with the certainty of uncertainty and the constancy of change, the greatest risk, the most reckless course, lies in trying nothing new. We would and should expect occasional failure. Properly observed, professionally managed, collegially shared, a little failure is a necessary step in progress. Which is not to say that constant and abject failure is tolerable or useful. But in, for example, quality assuring an institution, an element of risk and discovery – of research – would surely always be a pre-requisite of the highest quality of practice in an educational organisation?”  

So, if you are feeling a little nervous at the start of a new year, with new initiatives, new students, new courses, take heart that it is ok to fail and “Keep it Real”.