Revelling in STEM – a week of activity to immerse teachers and students



In our experience real tangible opportunities for teachers and students to be immersed in technology is key to enabling integration.

We have raised money to support a STEM initiative which involved a range of new gear. We used a some external providers to help enable a week of immersion. Here are a few snapshots from a week of activity. 

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A Snapshot of Technology Integration

  

  

  We started using iPads in our classrooms in 2011. Since our adoption of our 1:1 iPad Program K – 6 ,  in January 2013, we have focussed on using the SAMR Model  as an underlying scaffold. We have also tried to look at ourselves through the Apple lens of The Five Best Practices.

The journey is very much an ongoing one and while we have been delighted to see an amazing evolution take place there remains a sense of untapped possibilities. We are starting to imagine an environment which brings STEM / STEAM into play more inventively, more authentically, more naturally. 

Our iPad devices are amazing in their versatility and their power to enable almost anything. 

The iPad environment has pushed us in many new directions and has grown our capacity and capability. When I think back to the difficult environment pre iPad and the narrow possibilities on offer via the standard laptop environment I cringe remembering the difficulties and limitations. Our classrooms then were places where technology was much less an enabler and much more a challenge to implement effectively across a large group of children. 

I am often surprised when educators and those running technology programs in schools insist that they need more powerful laptop devices. For our Primary School classrooms iPads provide more than enough capability. There are those odd remnants of Flash which elude us e.g. Scratch and some fully blown environments such as Minecraft, but these can be catered for with a few additional ancillary devices or via a rich range of iPad app options. I shy away from returning to the clunky laptop form factor when such great, powerful portability is available in the iPad form. Certainly in our Primary classrooms portability is key for so much which is occurring. I am also surprised at fixations that some have for keyboards. With the way technology is evolving I wonder whether hardware like keyboards will become as odd to us in the future as floppy disks have become.

Our iPads are actively used as tools for capturing learning, communication, creation, collaboration, curation and research. All our learning programs are benefitting from the infusion of easy technological capability and certainly iPads have delivered this brilliantly.

Recently we had a visit from a couple of schools interested to see how we are integrating technology. As an early adopter of iPads, in a 1:1 context, our school attracts a few visits each year. From my point of view these are great opportunities for us to benchmark ourselves and also to interact with other educators. When the schedule for visits is devised our intent is to show real activity as it is occurring naturally in classrooms. There is never a change to our timetable or to the activities on display. 

Here is the schedule for this particular visit. A snapshot of activity across the school.

Visit Thursday 17 March

  

9:30 Meet and greet – (Primary/ ICT) – overview of the iPad Program

9:35 Year 1 Maths – Patterns and Algebra, Seesaw

9:40 Year 6 – G&T group – flipping learning within the classroom

9:45 Year K – Literacy groups – QR Codes, Maths – Explain Everything

9:55 Year 6 Science (PBL) – Chemistry – student designed experiments – recording and reflecting on learning – various apps e.g. Greenscreen, iMovie, slow motion, time lapse etc

10:05 Year 4 PDHPE – Stile interaction – Anti Bullying

10:15 Meet The Principal – morning tea – The Vision

10:35 Meet Librarian – Aurasma, QR Codes, eBooks, and our Apple Distinguished Educator – flipping learning, PE (physical education teacher) – looking at biomechanics / visual feedback apps on an iPad 

10:55 Year 5 – (Year 5 Teachers) sharing experience – Book Creator recording learning in Science, Comic Book narrative of learning HSIE

11:10 Year 3 Maths – Multiplication / Division – various apps Stile, Book Creator, Explain Everything

11:20 Year 2 Maths – Patterns and Algebra, Matific and other apps

11:40 Year 5 – using iPads to learn another language – oral learning – Quizlet and Stile

11:50 End

Snapshots from some previous visits:

A visit in 2015

A visit in 2013

A visit in 2013

It is interesting to compare and contrast the experiences and consider whether the learning program has evolved. What is not clearly apparent, in this brief snapshot, is the  increased sophistication via applications such as stopmotion, green screen and the integration of many other applications – along with the power that Stile has brought to enable the exchange between teacher and student (iTunes U offers some similar capability). Nor apparent is the increased sophistication and engagement of the users both students and teachers. 

Change is our constant and as I have already suggested a shift towards the real integration of STEM / STEAM is already underway and I hope that this shift will become apparent in the sorts of experiences in play across the school in future visits. Here I am alluding to a maker culture which leverages technologies, thinking and skills – incorporating robotics, coding, Minecraft, 3D printing etc. All of these capabilities can be accommodated and enhanced in a dynamic iPad environment.  

Authentic learning opportunities are also a major focus. PBL is already a natural part of what we do in our classrooms and we are pushing ourselves towards Challenge Based Learning across K-6 and towards publishing and interacting with broader audiences.  

To Do

  
 To Do
I am preparing mentally for an onslaught of work in January. Many assume that schools close down in holiday periods (This is our long Summer break  in Australia). For our school and for most others this is a fallacy. Of course it isn’t just me at work. Our Administration department is active, teachers are often industriously preparing for their students and a whole host of maintenance and cleaning occurs. In my case as the year slid to a halt I was purposefully anticipating and preparing for the 2016 school year. Much has already been done – ordering equipment / software etc and arranging support as required to help enable the process (my tech department consists mainly of myself and a couple of solid, external resources). Flowing on from this preparation is my new “to do” list for the January period. Running a technology infused 1:1 environment,  so that it all runs smoothly, does take considerable effort. 

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To Do – January

  • Update IOS and apps on iPad class sets via Configurator – add / remove apps 
  • Add additional iPads to cater for additional students – cases, screen protectors, configuration etc
  • Year 6 replace covers and label as required 
  • Redistribution and labelling of class iPad sets to accommodate differing allocations K – 6 
  • Conduct maintenance / repair / replacement for existing iPad stock – via Apple
  • Provision of technology resources etc for new teachers 
  • Set up additional ancillary student MacBooks – ordered and received
  • Update existing MacBook supply – OS, apps etc
  • Set up Office 365 and migrate Exchange to The Cloud

https://products.office.com/en-au/academic/office-365-education-plan

  • Deploy Office 365 software across various school devices as required
  • Set up new replacement laptops for Smartboards in all classrooms – we will deploy Windows 10 on some of these (trialling functionality and software compatibility)
  • Set up a new Windows 10 PC in the Admin – testing compatibility etc 
  • Set up iPad Pros for use with Special Ed program (experimental in consultation with Special Ed and Apple specialist). 
  • Minecraft set up – looking at potential to integrate Minecraft Edu in learning programs

https://minecraftedu.com/about

  • Maker Space – robotics, drones etc – add EV3 software to all devices
  • Coding – creating a strategy to enable integration – teacher PD / student development
  • Revisit and resolve Clickview integration via Clickview support 
  • iBook Authoring – Strategic overview of our technology integration program (ADS Program)
  • Planning for teacher PD in 2016 – MyPD for new teachers re integration of technology Term 1
  • Update of email accounts and setup of new accounts 
  • Update information for “Stile” accounts (teachers and students) 
  • Servers and network maintenance – software updates etc

Apple – planner

  • Day 1: Year 5 iPads, Year 2 iPads, MacBook update and setup new  
  • Day 2: Year 4 iPads, Year K iPads, MacBook update and Setup new
  • Day 3 Year 3 iPads, Year 1 iPads
  • Year 6 iPads are provisioned under individual school owned accounts

Windows software / hardware planner

  • Prepare new laptops, develop new laptop profiles to be applied including Office update – consideration re Windows 10 
  • Pull in existing Smartboard laptops (Windows), prep for clean and restore as required
  • Warranty repairs as required – Dell
  • Arrangements re Office 365
  • Preschool and ELC laptop (Windows) evaluation and replacement plan

As a teacher who has transitioned from the classroom to enabling technology integration I realise that bringing all of this together cohesively for the start of the school year is crucial. Teachers and students expect “it” all to be working and it must because our learning programs are now so intimately tied to technology. No Pressure!

Challenge Based Learning: Sustainability

We have committed to implementing Challenge Based Learning across the school. You can read more about CBL in an earlier post Towards Authentic Learning – CBL

Year 6 students explore energy.

Students apply their knowledge and understanding of energy to solve sustainability challenges in the community. Students publish their ideas via blogs – sharing with the broader community.

Our local Federal Member learns about the work students are doing to develop a sustainable community.

Year 6 Sustainability Fair – sharing ideas and artefacts regarding sustainability with the community. 

The Five Best Practices

     
During the holiday period I was fortunate enough to attend an Education Summit in Adelaide. I always find conferences inspirational and this one certainly was. This was a different sort of conference as it brought together the leadership of schools from across Australia and New Zealand that have been recognised as Apple Distinguished Schools. The conference was not at all about products, which we were all using in various configurations. The focus was clearly and coherently on our common interest of education / pedagogy.

One of the things I realise when I mix with other educators, leading change and innovation, is that there are some truly extraordinary people doing some truly exceptional things. These meetings and collaborative opportunities help to feed our vision. I often walk away realising that there is much, much more to do. This conference was no exception. Here assembled were many schools with mature dynamic 1:1 learning programs. Educators with clear vision and deep understanding of teaching and learning. They were representing schools whose teachers have been empowered through powerful professional learning commitments and where students are using technology as a natural part of their school life. The schools gathered were eclectic from across a wide spectrum of systems. This I think always enriches a conference because the models, challenges and solutions expressed are so diverse. There is always something new and unexpected and brilliant. There are perceptions and perspectives which always challenge our own narrow point of view. 

Through a series of workshops, we explored Five Best Practices relating to visionary leadership, innovative learning & teaching, ongoing professional learning, compelling evidence of success and flexible learning environments. Each of the workshops encouraged us to look at ourselves objectively and to interact with the other educators. While we might consider that we are making great strides in integrating technology, taking this time to reflect and learn from the experience of others was really beneficial. It fed directly to vision and brings clarity to future planning. It was all about connection and self appraisal.

The Five Best Practices concept is really worth a close look. It extends on criteria going beyond the Distinguished classification, looking at how schools can aspire to achieve Exemplary and Transformative descriptions.

Clearly we are on a continuum and being able to better articulate where we are on that continuum is essential to future planning e.g. while we are integrating and creating impressive workflows are we creating truly authentic learning experiences? How can we become more focussed on providing personalised opportunities for our students? How can we do better in providing formative feedback to teachers? How can we reinvent our learning spaces to really match the needs of students?
Materials and resources were all provided efficiently via iTunes U and we were pointed towards many of the great resources being produced by educators and available in the iTunes U Library. Of course the evolution of iTunes U with 3.0 has revolutionised the possibilities as it is now possible to provide direct feedback to students. https://www.apple.com/au/education/ipad/itunes-u/

  
A great highlight, for me, was speaker Tim Jarvis who provided compelling insights into leadership in extreme circumstances. He spoke about Shackleton’s Expedition to the Antarctic and about his own expedition to retrace the impossible Shackleton journey. It certainly put our own struggles into perspective. Here I have to add that intertwined with this extraordinary tale was a deeper message about global warming and the subsequent environmental issues. Here is Challenge Based Learning in the extreme. You can learn more about Tim Jarvis’s journey here: http://www.timjarvis.org/speaking/video/

 Another highlight speaker, educator Craig Smith, impressed with his passion and commitment to improving learning experiences of Autistic students. His creative use of technology to improve outcomes was inspired e.g. Using Minecraft to create digital representations.