Food For Thought

I am in the process of digesting a rich piece of work “Technology Integration and High Possibility Classrooms“, Dr Jane Hunter. This work provides a comprehensive look at the context for the integration of technology and considers how TPACK comes into play in classrooms. It is good to find research and thought brought together in this cohesive narrative. The Australian perspective makes the work particularly relevant for Australian schools. As the author points out there is a lack of research in the field and the work provides practical examples which apply theory to classroom practice. Schools require academic leadership and they want to understand better the possibilities opened through technology. Educators are seeking a theoretical foundation to support change in their learning environments.

In addition to Dr. Hunters work I recently read a valuable work which looked at the use of ubiquitous computing in the systemic transformation of a high school to embrace 21st century teaching and learning, Leah M. Christman. I liked this paper as it drew on TPACK and SAMR and provided evidence to support a series of recommendations. Among these were the following:

“• clearly articulated vision, goals, and expectations;

• leaders who understand the mission and create supporting policies and procedures;

• teacher and stakeholder support and engagement;

• reliable supports for technology infrastructure, hardware, software, and training;

• connections between technology, pedagogy, and 21st century skills; and

an ongoing measurement plan to analyze results.”

(Ref: https://idea.library.drexel.edu/islandora/object/idea:4534/datastream/OBJ/download/UBIQUITOUS_COMPUTNG___SYSTEMIC_TRANSFORMATION_TO_21ST_CENTURY_TEACHING_AND_LEARNING.pdf)

   

 Both works brought me back to consider the excellent framework developed by Apple to help define their Apple Distinguished Schools Program. In this framework the following criteria is provided to guide schools:

Visionary Leadership

  • Shared Leadership

School leaders take collective ownership of the initiative.

  • Individual Leadership

A credible and inspirational thought leader sets and articulates the vision.

  • Community Engagement

Broad community sponsorship supports the institution’s initiatives.

Innovative Learning and Teaching

  • Student Learning

Learning is a personal experience for every student.

  • Instructional Practices

Faculty are master learners who expertly guide their students through difficult and complex tasks.

  • Curriculum Design

Innovation and rigorous curriculum is redesigned to leverage technology.

Ongoing Professional Learning

  • Relevant and Timely Professional Development

Faculty engage in a cycle of inquiry that promotes reflection, experimentation, and sharing.

Compelling Evidence of Success

  • Quantitative

Data is routinely collected and analyzed to inform progress and measure success.

  • Qualitative

Narrative, reflective, or anecdotal evidence is collected and shared.

Flexible Learning Environment

  • School Design and Facilities

Facilities and schedules are designed to maximize learning opportunities that technology provides.

  • Information Technology (IT)

Information Technology (IT) infrastructure supports innovation in teaching and learning.”

(Ref: https://www.apple.com/education/apple-distinguished-schools/)

The Apple framework has been useful in evaluating and benchmarking our own process. Continuous evaluation of our effectiveness and being open to ideas which are informed by research is crucial. The work of Dr. Hunter and Christman will add useful input to this process. I am also keen to look at the work of Dr. Damian Bebell who is a leader in the design and implementation of empirical research studies in technology rich educational environments.

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3D On The Horizon

It often takes a little time for innovations to mature enough to be considered viable in our learning environment. We have limited resources and we need to be confident that there is an educational need and affordability. By way of example it took us about two years before we were confident that “Stile” had matured enough to a viable learning platform and for us to be certain that our infrastructure would support the to and fro of files which “Stile” enabled. True, too, of our very complex journey to adoption of a 1:1 iPad solution across our classrooms. I mention these because we have toyed with introducing 3D printing into our school for some time. Certainly the 3D printing concept has appeared pretty regularly at conferences that I have attended over the last three years. The Horizon Report has also suggested that 3D printing is on the horizon too. 3D printing also fits well with STEM (or STEAM) and the growing demands of the Australian National Curriculum.  

I also recently attended a session with Gary Stager at The Museum of Contemporary Art. He is a leading proponent of “MAKING” and clearly 3D printing, along with building circuits, coding and robotics etc, fits right in. We are certainly committed to the idea of STEAM and recognise the need to involve “MAKING” as a part of what we do in classrooms. 

  
Above: Gary Stager at Museum of Contemporary Art (May 2015)

One of the providers that we have partnered with, for professional development, Datacom have also helped us to connect the dots. They have 3D packages via Makers Empire

  Above: Datcom display at AIS Conference in Canberra (May 2015)
The software crucially, for both student and teacher users, is simple to use and surprisingly powerful. We have learnt that for adoption to occur technology needs to be simple and intuitive to use. Certainly I am feeling that both the software and hardware have developed considerably and are now more accessible for students and teachers. Importantly, for us, the software is iPad enabled for our 1:1 iPad classrooms. Here I must note that 3D printing is a rapidly evolving technology and there are a variety types appearing. I would be cautious about investing too much in hardware yet. 

Our approach towards adoption will be purposeful and cautious. Enabling teachers will be crucial. Teachers will need to understand how this technology might fit into learning programs and how students can benefit. As with many new initiatives I envisage that some teachers will champion the innovation. Because we are interested in challenging students and providing more open ended learning opportunities we have asked Datacom to run a series workshops which will model an inquiry based approach to the 3D learning experience. Hopefully this will not only develop capability, but importantly will engage our teachers in a collaborative, purposeful learning environment themselves.

The second phase will certainly involve a small commitment to 3D hardware. The extent of this will be informed by the reaction of our teaching staff to the 3D printing workshops that are referred to above. At this stage it is about providing capability and opening possibilities. What we are hoping to see is 3D printing becoming an option rather than a necessity. In much of the more open ended learning, which we are encouraging, it is about providing choice. Certainly as problem solvers, thinkers and designers we want to provide choice and 3D printing could be a powerful option. 

A Little Inspiration Along The Way

Last week I attended a short session with Dr Ruben Puentedura and Dr Damian Bebell. Apologies, my notes here are brief (I was feeling unwell). They certainly provided a little food for thought and inspiration.

Dr Puentedura looked at examples coupling the SAMR Model with Blooms Taxonomy and with Challenge Based Learning. It was easy to see how the SAMR Model fitted well with both. The basic premise is that some aspects of Blooms or CBL fit well with different levels of the SAMR Model – see below. 
Redefinition – Evaluating, Creating

Modification – Applying, Analysing, Evaluating

Augmentation – Understanding, Applying

Substitution – Remembering

(Note: Kathy Schrock also refers to this coupling of SAMR and Blooms ref: http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

I will explore the coupling of SAMR with Challenge Based Learning Model further. Dr Puentedura showed examples which explained how this would fit well with SAMR. (Ref re Challenge Based Learning – https://www.apple.com/au/education/docs/CBL_Classroom_Guide_Jan_2011.pdf

Dr Damian Bebell spoke extensively about the disconnect of traditional assessments and options around other forms of assessment. This is certainly something which educators need to consider as our classrooms and our teaching/learning models are changing. http://edtechteacher.org/using-research-data-to-define-measure-success-live-blog-of-dr-damian-bebell-at-lfl15/

Discussion: 

What is success?

How do you know if what you are doing is working?

He discussed that there are valid assessment tools which can measure creativity. 

In discussion we considered the importance of engagement, formative feedback, peer assessment.

One particularly useful assessment tool that Dr Bebell referenced was the use of drawings. I liked this idea it is relatively non invasive, and as he pointed out, can provide valid data and poignant feedback. He showed a range of examples e.g. Draw yourself learning in the classroom, draw yourself writing. In these examples we were able to quickly see what learning models might be occurring in a particular learning environment. In some research that Dr Bebell had conducted, using this method, it was interesting to note that in 1:1 device environments about 92% of students referenced using their device for writing while in a shared device environment over 70% referenced using pen and paper.

In our own circumstance we are encouraging teachers to seek feedback from students about their learning experience. Using pictures to provide feedback might be a way to help do this. 

Certainly exploring Dr Bebell’s work further may help to inform our own teaching/learning models.

A Journey Filled With Connections

The last month has been filled with rich moments. I have travelled to Melbourne and Canberra and have participated in events locally too. This has really been a journey of connection. 
  
I attended the Association of Independent Schools ICT Conference in Canberra. This is a great opportunity to connect with educators from across Australia. There are also a wide range of vendors attending so it is a great chance to learn about current trends and to ask deeper questions about possibilities. There were some excellent speakers including Jeff Utecht, Dr Jane Hunter, Nas Campanella & Colin James. 

Two of the presenters Dr Jane Hunter and Nas Campanella were of particular interest to me.
Dr Jane Hunter is a teacher educator in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney (UWS), Australia. She has received five teaching awards for Outstanding Contributions for Student Learning in universities and is now on an international team of educators providing Technology Enriched Instruction around the world. Her doctoral thesis developed a new model for technology integration in learning in schools; titled High Possibility Classrooms. 

Dr Hunter’s presentation sparked particular interest for a couple of reasons. I am very interested in evolving pedagogy and enabling teachers to open the learning opportunities through integration of technology. I am also interested in gauging improvement in non traditional, technology rich environments. 

I really enjoyed listening to her ideas and in a subsequent workshop there was some great discussion. I am looking forward to reading her book which I hope will further inform our own vision. http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138781337/

A later discussion with her via Twitter regarding The SAMR Model resulted in a wide exploration re TPACK, SAMR and RAT. This resulted in finding another really excellent article 

https://idea.library.drexel.edu/islandora/object/idea:4534/datastream/OBJ/download/UBIQUITOUS_COMPUTNG___SYSTEMIC_TRANSFORMATION_TO_21ST_CENTURY_TEACHING_AND_LEARNING.pdf

This article strongly references TPACK and SAMR and provides some excellent tangible recommendations founded on the research conducted by the author regarding the development of 21st Century schools. 

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Nas Campanella a journalist and newsreader for the ABC and Triple J. 26-year-old Nas is blind and has a medical condition which prevents her from reading braille.

Nas discussed the challenges of navigating life with a disability and of facing discrimination as well as the positives and negatives of technologies that helped her at school, university and in the workplace. 

Her tenacity, in the face of adversity, was truly inspiring and her capability is extraordinary. It underlined, for me, how crucial it is for schools to persevere with challenges that appear and how important it is for educators be open minded in resolving the needs of students. In Nas’s circumstance at one point there was a disconnect between support being provided and her real need. Understanding her need and then supplying a credible solution was vital and ultimately opened a world of possibilities to her. Clearly great schools and great educators are the ones who can really make a difference by being aware and responsive. We certainly should personalise our approach to our students. I have included a graphic which was created during her speech at the conference. It summarises the key points from her speech. Thanks to Rachel Dight for the great graphic.

  Graphic by Rachel Dight 

If you’d like to learn more about Nas this short video via the ABC provides some insight. 

  
https://t.co/WjFFEHAcu1

In Melbourne I attended a “Stile” conference day. I enjoyed listening to the two excellent speakers Andrew Douch (The Tools of Engagement, Redefining the Classroom) & Georgina Pazzi (The power of online differentiation,The Differentiated Classroom in Action). We have certainly seen the possibilities around engagement and differentiation, individualisation and personalised learning blossom with ubiquitous technology in our learning environment.

The conference also provided a chance to meet with many educators who were using Stile actively in their classrooms. Victoria seems to be further ahead on the innovation curve. When we were considering our iPad trial Victoria and Western Australia were already rolling iPads into their classrooms and the Victorian Education Dept had embraced the innovation. We were able to leverage their experience to help enable our roll out. Similarly Stile has a strong base in Victoria (Stile’s home state) while in New South Wales it is just starting to gain a foothold. Here I must add that I also really love the rich content that Apple has and is producing via iTunes U. There is no reason why Stile and iTunes U can’t work well together in a school environment. The particular benefit, for us, of Stile has been the easy ability of teachers to deliver content, for students to return work and for easy, direct, formative feedback. Where it has been employed actively in our classrooms, in tandem with our iPad Program, it has revolutionised the teaching/learning environment. Discussions that I had with Stile educators provided insight and opened conversations around broad educational innovation. I was also privileged to spend a little time with Dr Alan Finkel AO, the Founder and Chairman of Stile. His interest in enabling educators to be more effective in their work and his commitment to STEM initiatives identifies him as an innovation leader. The fact that he made time to connect and really listen to educators showed his real commitment to making a difference at “the coal face”. 

  
I also attended an Open Morning hosted by CISCO at North Sydney. This too was a chance to meet with other educators. The CISCO presenters were very polished and knowledgeable. We have a CISCO wireless infrastructure so I was interested to look at where wireless is headed. Remaining current in a fast changing landscape is important. Two quick takeaways – yes wireless speed is much faster with the new standard Ac and CISCO’s new generation access points enable easy upgrade via an interchangeable component.

CISCO also have some fabulous conferencing hardware and software. As we reinvent our learning spaces bringing some of this into the mix would be great, but cost may be a factor for smaller schools like ourselves. I wasn’t convinced that a typical teleconferencing space would be the right fit for all schools. I can see that the possibilities for virtual excursions and interactions across the world will become a common part of our modern classrooms. I was interested to see that CISCO are putting energy into classroom design as they recognise the changing classroom dynamic. I hope we can leverage some of this in our own reinvention. 

I participated in an Apple Integrators Group which was held at the Apple HQ in Pitt Street, Sydney. It was good to have a chance to share and exchange ideas with other Apple oriented educators. Here too we met with some great Apple personnel who provided information about Apple support and provision. A Development Executive K-12 Education from Apple facilitated discussion and considered the factors which enable technology in the school environment. He also discussed tools which could help evaluate the capability of teachers and leadership in relation to their capacity re the SAMR model. The meeting was enabled via iTunes U which worked really well and some great learning resources were highlighted in iTunes U and in iBooks. We were shown resources that were developed by students and teachers and which were available to experience and download in the public domain. Being able to provide students with an audience, and an authentic reason to publish, is a very powerful motivator. Certainly something that we could leverage more extensively. 

These were my excursions. We also have had several incursions where we have shared experiences with visiting educators. These too have provided rich collaborative opportunities. It has been a very busy few weeks and we have learned a great deal which will help to improve our learning environment. 

Teaching Gen Tech – a response to questions posed by “Stile”

Recently I attended a conference day with Stile – Teaching Gen Tech  http://blog.stileeducation.com/events/2015/5/1/stile-learning-community-conference
  
The organisers posed some questions. Below I have provided a few thoughts in response. I hope to have reflected attitudes of my teaching colleagues here to some extent.

1. What are some of the challenges your teachers are faced with in the classroom?

Student engagement, surface learning rather than deeper learning due to the demands of a crowded curriculum. Challenging students with authentic learning tasks is key. 

Teachers feel the pressure of time especially. They are contending with a new Curriculum with all the demands that that brings regarding reinvention, construction of new programs etc.They are also finding increased exposure to parents via digital connection and expectations for immediate response. Teachers are also being asked to be more proactive in their formative assessments of students and in improving their own practice. Much of this is positive and works towards improving student outcomes, but on mass places teachers under increased pressure. 

Certainly for Year 3 and 5 the narrow confines of NAPLAN testing creates a conflict with the idea of a rich engaging curriculum.
2. What’s the single most exciting thing happening in education right now? 

The easy access and possibilities offered via technology in particular the open source – learning e.g. Moocs, iTunes U, eBooks, movies,  Kahn Academy etc. and easy access to data / information e.g Google, Wikipedia, news outlets etc.

3. How have student expectations changed in the last five to ten years?

There is a sense of immediacy and an insatiable need for purposeful activity. Students can be more motivated than ever. Technology when teamed with authentic, challenging and exciting learning opportunities can be a catalyst for deep learning and student engagement. Ideas around project based learning, design thinking, challenge based learning can be powerful ways to engage and enable students. 

4. How is technology improving learning at your school? Is it there yet? Where do you want to get to?

Technology is enabling individualisation and differentiated learning. 

It is empowering teachers and students to do things differently and creating opportunities to do things that were difficult, impossible or even unimagined a few years ago. 

Because of the easy access to (enabled) mobile devices in our classrooms the children are able to: 

Record their learning easily and powerfully. 

They can use applications to create. They have rich open ended applications such as iMovie, GarageBand, Explain Everything, Book Creator, Popplet, Comic Book, Puppet Pals and Pic Collage which can work alone or be teamed together to create rich workflows, 

They can curate information, images and data. They can create surveys and graphs and reflect on the information and data.

They can communicate and collaborate within and beyond the local environment. 

Teachers have tools such as Evernote to record learning of students.

They have Stile which enables easy delivery of content, media, and which can provide a canvas for student production. Stile has revolutionised our ability to easily track students, provide feedback and assessment. Where it has been used well it has revolutionised the student teacher interaction. 

Our aim for technology is more about enabling teaching and learning than it is about the technology itself. We should always be seeking to do things better. There isn’t really an end point to our journey. 

5. Could you give us an example of how you’re using Stile? 

In our classrooms Stile is used to direct, inform, engage and challenge students. Stile is used across the curriculum and it has enabled students to easily deliver a diverse range of activities and assignments – a few examples are listed below.

Book trailers

Audio

Movies

Texts

Scripts

Discussions

Assessments

Drawings 

Mind-maps

Completing visible thinking strategies

Responding to teachers videos

Stile is enabling:

Flipped learning

Receiving feedback written and oral

Working in groups to collaborate on tasks

Completing differentiated, individualised, personalised tasks

Gathering and reacting to formative assessment

Work collection 

Curation of student data

Stile: http://www.stileeducation.com/