Looking forward to ACEC2014

My first ACEC National IT Conference was in 2004 in Adelaide – local, so I went along to see what was offered at an IT National Conference. I went away buzzing with enthusiasm & feeling re-envigorated in my role as IT Coordinator. I’ve attended each biennial conference since – Cairns, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and now full circle, back to Adelaide.

Why attend a National Conference?

  • High quality National & International presenters
  • Immersion in learning
  • Exposure to new & emerging technologies
  • Professional connection with other educators
  • Inspiration & stimulation

This year a team from our school is presenting about our 2013 iPad trial. Read our abstract at http://acec2014.acce.edu.au/session/ipads-finally-i-can-unleash-digital-me

If you’ve never attended a National Conference, do yourself a favour professionally & register. If you’ve been to one before… you’ve probably registered already! See you there.

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Posted in Engaging in professional learning, Engaging professionally with others, Implementing effective teaching and learning, iPads, Knowing the content and how to teach it | Leave a comment

New Year Re: Solutions

To my iMac,
I thought you were 6 years old, but when I looked up your “birth certificate”, it turns out you’re 7! (Purchased 15/12/06) You’ve been great, but we did have a few difficulties in 2013.

  • I can’t update any more to the latest operating system. You’ve gone really well through years of transitions, thanks. I understand that you’ve had enough change.
  • iPhoto editing is now truly slow (granted I do have a 128GB iPhoto library that you’ve coped well with) & I can’t update to the same version I’ve been using at work.
  • No sorry, can’t connect my iPad with this version of iTunes (which I can’t update).

So, time for retirement.
Thanks for all your hard work over the years.
Vicki

2014 solution: New iMac ordered!

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Was trialling iPads more like travelling, or childbirth?

Conducting a trial is like the experience of travelling. You can read about the journey, watch videos about the place you’re going, talk to others who’ve been there, and plan from what you’ve learnt, but it’s not until you actually do it yourself that it’s a real thing. (Why did childbirth just pop into my head?) When you come back, you want to share your photos and experiences with others,  both the good & the bad (maybe not the childbirth photos…) You’ll never be able to describe the journey in full, but you can give others a taste of what it was like for you. And you always learn from the experience, and reflect on what you could do better if you had your time again. (You’ll be relieved that I just decided to not expand further with the childbirth analogy!)

I’m just finishing writing a report about our iPad trial, and thought I’d share bits and pieces. Although many others have already written about their experiences, here it is from our eyes.

iPad use

Advantages of using iPads

  • Accessibility – allowing us to bring technology into the classroom
  • Supports current teaching and learning pedagogies 
  • Provides new possibilities and other pathways for students to experience learning 
  • Can be used across all subject areas
  • Don’t need to wait for twice a week class computing lessons and have to pick which subject areas to use technology for (can use whenever appropriate)
  • Quick to log on and use
  • The students understand that iPads are just the tool – once we learnt the basics, we don’t have ‘iPad’ lessons – we are using technologies throughout the curriculum
  • Allows for spontaneous use of technology, as well as planned
  • Mobile & easy to use inside and outside 
  • The iPads are light and compact
  • Students are engaged by the technology 
  • Shows different skills that students have – confidence with technology, mentoring other students
  • Giving opportunities for students to feel a level of expertise
  • Harnesses the strong effects of peer learning 
  • Children who don’t know, ask others. This promotes collaboration and a supportive classroom environment which flows into other aspects of classroom life.
  • Boosts confidence of lower achievers through the ability to easily edit and improve, resulting in the production of high quality end products which they are proud to share with others
  • Promotes conversations amongst students and with the teacher, focussing on the learning goals for the activity
  • Differentiation of curriculum to meet various outcomes – all students can work at their own pace on particular tasks
  • Supportive of students with a range of special needs
  • Promotes responsibility and organisation of work
  • Multiple Intelligences/Bloom’s Taxonomy – allows greater choice for students to engage with and complete work in their preferred mode of learning/presentation 
  • Open-ended technology – promoting a range of outcomes. Students are able to display different depths of understanding of content
  • The students are not only consumers but also producers, as they can create their own work/articles/projects/presentations
  • Problem-solving (using and choosing different apps for different purposes demonstrates their level of skill/competency on certain tasks)
  • Increased use of multimedia and variations in the way work can be presented 
  • Able to use audio recording with ease (this has been more difficult to integrate with other technologies)
  • Allows multi-lateral perspectives on tasks (how does this knowledge fit into the ‘big picture’?)
  • Can be taken on excursions for recording notes & photos and later writing recounts
  • Excellent for researching, reporting and sharing
  • You can save your work and open it on the computers later
  • Good for children who struggle with producing written work
  • Ability to edit without having to rewrite
  • Good for visual learners
  • Maths – measuring, recording, graphing, tables
  • Able to effectively examine data – different graphs are easy to produce and compare
  • Able to photograph or video student work to “capture learning moments”
  • Ability to record audio instructions that students can listen to repeatedly if necessary
  • Instant feedback – viewing other students’ work, reflecting on current understanding
  • Progressive feedback is provided (from teacher, other students) which gives the student an indication of ‘where they’re at’ in regards to a particular topic/lesson
  • Able to give feedback in a number of ways – written, visual, ‘conferencing’ using audio recording
  • Feedback can be recorded by teachers for students to access at a later time
  • Allows for a variety of assessment methods

Challenges of using iPads

  • Cost (infrastructure – power upgrade, WiFi upgrade, tech time, PD support, the devices, apps, cases)
  • Requires large amount of time for teachers to become familiar & confident with (any) new technology, plan & use it effectively across a range of subject areas
  • High level of commitment (time & energy) for effective PD
  • Working out how to effectively use them (both in 1:1 and shared uses) 
  • High level of technical time to set up and support
  • Bringing the community of teachers and parents along the journey with you
  • Needed to upgrade power circuits to accommodate charging multiple devices
  • Need good WiFi connection
  • Technical limitations in terms of number of iPads connecting to WiFi (varied in different locations of the school)
  • Saving work to the Common Area (using WebDAV) can be complex (depends what you are trying to do)
  • iPad baskets can be heavy to carry around
  • Sharing can be difficult (but also has its learning rewards)
  • May be an issue with some special needs children working with an SSO if it becomes the only thing the child wants to do 
  • “When a glitch occurs, you need plan B”
  • So many new possibilities – it can feel a bit overwhelming at times
  • “Only limited by the teacher’s imagination”

So – more like travelling, or childbirth? For us, this year – an exciting journey, with relatively little pain and a lot of rewards. But I guess, it’s both – we’re bringing children into the excitement of the modern world, and the challenges along the way are all relative!

Posted in Assessing, providing feedback & reporting on student learning, Blogs, Engaging in professional learning, Engaging professionally with others, Implementing effective teaching and learning, iPads | Leave a comment

Glad to be a teacher

Working with our year 3/4 class (trialling 1:1 iPads). 14 weeks into the trial. Team teaching lesson with the class teacher.

Maths lesson – change from $10.
This lesson had the potential for chaos. The task was complex for this class, involving a range of mathematical thinking skills & some technical skills. Each student used their own iPad and there was constant movement – collecting catalogues, photographing, collecting & using coins. It was the end of the day, which had started with a whole school (exciting) music performance. We’d swapped this lesson to the end of the day because of the performance. The students were restless.

Not chaos – every student on task, collaborating, helping each other, learning. Once the students had started on the task, both myself & the classroom teacher spent the entire time supporting the learning. No behaviour issues. Just Maths talk (with less than anticipated need for IT help).

Differentiation. Students owning their learning. Students who were keen to share and help each other. But they weren’t being bossy, just offering each other quick assisting guidance. We had time to help individual students and listen to them talk about the way they were tackling the task. Gaps were obvious. Extension was easy.

Went home thinking, “That’s why we’re doing this!”

Got home, checked email.

Here’s an email I received from one of the students:

20130816-082724.jpg

Email back to student:

Hi *******,
Thanks for this.

From your photo I can see that you’ve:
– Chosen a “need” and a “want” for dinner from the catalogue
– Kept under your $10 budget
– Worked out the change correctly (did you use the iPad calculator, or do it in you head?)
– Rounded off the change correctly
– Given the correct change
Well done!

Something to improve next time:
The dollar sign always comes first when you’re writing money amounts.
$5.50 (instead of 5.50$)

I can also see that you know these iPad skills:
– Taking photos with the iPad camera
– Cropping photos (did you zoom in when you took the photo, or crop it later?)
– Importing photos into “Explain Everything”
– Using the drawing tool in “Explain Everything”
– Exporting to the Camera Roll
– Emailing a photo
What an expert you’re becoming!

Something to improve next time:
Add your name and the date (this would be good typed in a text box at the bottom).

Great example of Maths work.

Vicki

Glad to be a teacher.

Posted in Assessing, providing feedback & reporting on student learning, Blogs, Creating supportive & safe learning environments, Engaging in professional learning, Engaging professionally with others, Implementing effective teaching and learning, iPads, Knowing students and how they learn, Knowing the content and how to teach it | Tagged | Leave a comment

10 weeks of our iPad trial. So how’s it going?

Returning to work after spending 6 weeks in Europe, the burning question for me was, “So how are the iPads going?”. We had moved slowly into the trial, so my scheduled leave   ended up being half way through the term in which we started using the iPads with students. I’d decided to take a “complete break”, so felt a little guilty about not keeping in touch. However, I’d been really happy with the collaborative learning & team support that had been happening when I left, and confident that the school world would continue without me. I expected some issues, perhaps even major problems, after all it is a trial. But you know, the answers to my question have all been, “GREAT!” From the year 6/7 teacher; from the year 5/6/7 IELC (Intensive English/ New Arrivals) teacher; from the Pitjantjatjara teacher; from the Italian teacher; from the Principal. The year 3/4 class (our 1:1 trial class) had another challenge as one of the teachers was also on leave for 3 weeks. But, “It’s been good, we’re getting there!”was the positive response. Just a few hiccups, nothing major. And, importantly, that was also the response from our great techie. I’ve been super impressed by the way the teachers are using the iPads to enhance their classroom learning programs.

Here’s some interesting points from my discussions this week (and my recommendations if you’re starting this journey):

1. We want students to use the iPads to be creative & record their learning
Everyone has been really happy with the choices we made regarding which Apps to put on the iPads. As a team we had spent a long time looking at Apps & discussing what we wanted. In the end, we decided
that we would get the most value from choosing “creation” Apps, and the teachers are still united in saying that this was the way to go. The students have been taking lots of photos and recording audio & video – using iMovie, Keynote, Pages and Comic Life to record & present their learning. They have also been using Numbers and CargoBot (computational thinking puzzles) to extend their mathematical learning; Maps and Google Earth to enhance understandings in Geography; a few specific content Apps and a couple of eBooks. Having the ability to present learning in a more easily accessible multi-media way has been transformative. One of the keys to the success of this with the shared devices, was the establishment from the beginning of using WebDAV to export finished work to our network CommonArea and organising work systematically.Also, it was important to have the ability to email work and print directly from the iPads. Think about learning priorities. Sort out how to save, transfer & share work. Sort out printing.

2. We want students to share their learning with others
According to all the teachers, the process of using “Reflector” to view work from the iPads on the class IWB has becoming a fluid part of the student workflow, and one of the most powerful & influential ways to improve student learning. Students are so keen to share in this way, and the increased ability of students to critically analyse and suggest improvements has been an outstanding (and somewhat unexpected) outcome. For the classes where the iPads are shared (working in pairs or groups of 3 with one iPad), has had the benefit of increased focussed, productive, work related conversation. This has also been highlighted in the 1:1 program, where sharing work & problem solving together is an integral part of using the technology. Celebrate the opportunities for growth that sharing provides.

3. It is important to have an understanding of technical capabilities and limitations
We have reflected on the technical discussions we had as a team during the set-up time. Initially, the teachers in the trial weren’t all that interested in hearing about the technical side of things, but in my role as Coordinator, I firmly believe that having some understanding of the challenges from a technical perspective has benefits for everyone involved. This has paid off – and I believe teachers being involved in the technical complexities has been a pivotal factor in the smooth implementation so far. A lot of planning went into our technical set-up. So much needs to be investigated, discussed & decided on and much of it is site specific: determining WiFi capabilities of the network & variations across the school; investigating & deciding on how to manage the devices (we are using Casper, the JAMF MDM Solution); deciding how to manage App selection, purchasing & deployment; systems for charging devices (we had to do some major electrical work to facilitate this); setting up non-supervised devices for teachers; deciding on settings for the student devices (including an important tip – Set the restrictions code before giving the students the device); the logistics of security. The feedback from the teachers is that having some understanding of the technical capabilities & constraints removed almost all of the frustrations around being told that, “I don’t think that will work at the moment”. Having some idea about technical constraints meant that they were much more able to accept that answer & move on to find solutions that would work. (Disappointment is easier to cope with than frustration.) Our technician felt that he was able to talk about issues without feeling that HE was perceived as “the problem” (sadly, this is all too common in many sites where I hear the complaint that the technician is “hopeless” if things aren’t working optimally). Having regular release for the whole team to meet was without doubt one of the best things we did (hard to organise, but SO valuable). Investigate the technical side. Work with both teachers & technical support people on the same team. Organise time to meet. Respect everyone’s input in the decision making processes.

4. Involve your Community
We have been aware of the importance of discussing our educational aims and reasons for various decisions around this trial with our Governing Council and parents. The initial decisions regarding ownership and whether we could support a BYOD program were critical. Our iPads were bought by the school and currently they don’t go home. We’re also not considering BYOD at this stage (less layers of complexity to work on). There was a definite degree of scepticism around iPads being expensive “toys” and whether they would really add value to our learning programs. Certainly, this scepticism has also been expressed in staff discussions. So that’s why we’re trialling it. To work this out for our school, on our site, with our teachers & learners. We invited parents in during the very first week of the trial, when it was all very new & raw. Great for everyone to see teachers & students as co-learners on this journey & to see this sharing of learning as one of the great things that is happening. Feedback during the term from families of the students involved has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re keeping the Governing Council informed as we go and look forward to holding some more parent information sessions this term. Communicate with the community about why & how you are doing this. Listen to & address their concerns.

5. Where to this term?
Plans are to continue with the same class structures, with each of the trial teachers keen to share their learning, perhaps by mentoring a colleague. We’re talking about how to facilitate this, keeping with our successful model of: don’t take on too much (keep it manageable), learn & share, don’t waste time and energy bashing against the barriers – concentrate on finding workable solutions, and enjoy the journey.

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“Finally I can unleash the digital me!”

iPads 2 “Finally I can unleash the digital me!” was the quote of the week from one of our year 3 students when we launched our iPad trial this week. Not said to us, but to his parent who smiled quietly when she told us of his reaction to the first day with the iPads.

The week has been amazing: high levels of collaboration, discussion, teachers as co-learners, exploration, fun, AND SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!

A week where we were happy that most things worked as expected, the collegial support has been exceptional, the students full of the excitement of learning, parents curious and supportive.

Who’s involved? Three classes – a year 3/4 class with 1:1 iPads; a year 6/7 class with 8 iPads; an IELC (New Arrivals) class with 6 iPads. 2 Language classes (Italian & Pitjantjatjara). All the iPads in the trial are owned by the school & will only be used at school at this stage. The classes got the iPads on Monday, the Language classes will start using them next week.

So much background work & thinking! We’ve set the student iPads up as supervised devices  using Casper. We can connect to our school WiFi, print & save some files to our server.  We decided to take advantage of the WebDav integration possible and have been pleased (so far) with the relative ease of importing & exporting compatible files using “Over the Air” to our server.  No doubt there will be frustrations (like only being able to transfer one photo at a time), but it’s a great improvement on emailing everything.

We spent a lot of time exploring the iPad settings and thinking about what restrictions we wanted to apply, either using Casper or on the devices. Initially, all the student devices have been set up with the same apps & restrictions. Our trial teacher team will see how this goes (as part of the trial).

Apps The devices have a “base set” of apps installed. Our initial app choices are largely creation & productivity apps. Many of the apps we have chosen complement apps on our Macs, some which are already familiar to the students. The students have already been exploring the similarities & differences between the apps on our Macs & the iPads. We’ve chosen to install Pages, Keynote, Garage Band, Numbers, iMovie, Comic Life and Explain Everything (all paid apps, but benefitting from the cost reduction of using VPP). We’ve also installed a free drawing app (delighted to find that the ads are blocked by our school internet filtering, but the app works just fine!) a calculator, a simple photo editor, a couple of mathematical thinking games (Cargo-Bot & TinkerBox), & a couple of resources for curriculum topics we’re looking at in the next few weeks. Also Google Earth & Edmodo. Enough for a start. The intention is that teachers will be able to add any free apps for their own classes. Paid apps will be centrally managed through “Self Service”.

Apps 1

apps 2

This week’s learning has been exploring the iPads – using the inbuilt camera app, learning how to use the keyboard, exploring iMovie, learning how to import & export to our server, using Reflector to share work with the whole class, email.

Teachers have been stunned by the amount of constructive, focussed talking (great for the new English Language learners in particular). It’s not classes of kids focussed on the iPads, it’s classes of kids focussed on learning together & sharing the excitement. Unleashing their digital “me”s.

Looking forward to week 2.

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Collaboration – The upside of shared computers

Sharing

There’s a lot of talk about the value of 1:1, and there is no doubt that this is a great aim for many purposes. I just want to pause & reflect on the value that can also come from our students sharing technology.
Our Resource Centre is open for students at lunchtime each day. Students can come in to play games, read & borrow books, chat, or use the computers. We have 12 desktop machines & an Interactive whiteboard. We have a schedule that allows each student access to the Resource Centre at lunchtime on three days a week. I often get asked, “Why can’t every student come in every day?”. The reason is that, from my experience, this schedule allows us to cater for the needs of individual students in a way we couldn’t if we allowed “anyone, anytime”. Let me explain by giving you a daily snapshot.

Mondays – This is the day for “anyone & everyone”
Students from all year levels across the school gather in the Resource Centre. The computers could potentially be dominated by the older students, so I have a routine where everyone sits on the floor at the beginning & I choose different year levels to go to the computers first.
There’s lots of kids choosing to play construction games, do puzzles, read, chat. Also lots wandering around and observing. The younger kids are always curious to see what the older ones are doing. There’s often 3 to a computer & many roving onlookers. There’s photos & games with kids from buddy classes & siblings playing together. It’s a hectic
day, with a buzz of energy.

Tuesdays – Early Years Students
Today is a day to learn about “sharing”. Building together, playing on the computers together. Waiting for “your turn” on a computer is not the best way to have fun. Students are encouraged to choose games that they can play together, rather than “taking turns” to use the computer. Lots of students are using the time to explore things introduced in class (Yay! Authentic proof of engagement!)

Wednesdays – Primary & Middle Years Students
This is a day when there seems to be a wider range of choices being made on the computers. Students can be seen taking & manipulating photos, making movies & comic strips, using GarageBand & getting an audience for their songs, emailing, doing class work, going on to ThinkQuest, and playing games. They talk to me about what they’re doing at home in Minecraft & other games, and make suggestions about websites or books we might want to get for school. Lots of creative things
happening.

Thursdays – Girls’ Day
On Thursdays I see girls in the Resource Centre who I don’t see on other days. And that’s reason enough to have Girl’s Day. It’s a day when I get lots of “How do I…?” questions. I suggest strategies, ask another girl to help, or gather a small group to “show them how”. It’s a wonderful opportunity for teachable moments and as a female IT Co-ordinator, gives me a chance to model how great it is to be able to use computers proficiently. There’s lots of photos taken & girls happily filming themselves dancing & having fun. But I also use the opportunity to encourage use of programs such as Yenka which develop problem solving & programming skills. I’m about to introduce Alice3 to this group. I love Thursdays. GGirls!

Fridays – Boys’ Day
The Resource Centre is full of boys! Sharing game tips, intense concentration, loud chatter. Problem solving, dealing with frustrations, collaborating. A positive end to the week. I was inspired to write this post when I saw the two boys in the photo this week. They both come in to the Resource Centre to play on the computers whenever possible. They both always want their own computer to work on, and can get very impatient if there’s not one available. I was delighted to walk past and see them together, choosing a way to play this game in true collaboration (one is moving the bug around, the other is controlling the jumps & pickups). They were talking, deciding on strategies and sharing in a way that I hadn’t seen them do before. And I know this wouldn’t have happened if there was always the opportunity for one computer per student!

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