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.  

A Visit From Northern New South Wales

   
We recently hosted the visit of a leadership team from a school in Coffs Harbour. The visitors had travelled to Sydney to learn specifically about technology integration occurring at a couple of schools in Sydney.

The visitors were treated to a smorgasbord of technology integration. They enjoyed opportunities to interact with the children and they were provided with opportunities to connect with teachers. 
As I journeyed around the school, facilitating the visit, I was privileged to witness  some great learning in action. This is possibly the best part of my job – seeing the engagement of our students and the innovative ways in which technology has permeated our learning programs. We are happy to open our doors and to share what has worked for us and make valuable connections with other educators too. 

Below is the plan for the visit which provides a snapshot of the experience.

Visit Plan:

1:00pm – Principal, ICT Coordinator  – Meet / Greet – looking at the Vision, challenges and imperitives

1:30pm –  Year 3 class teacher (ADE) sharing his experiences blending, flipping and helping to drive STEM initiatives

1:50 –  Librarian – eBooks, QR Codes and Aurasma 

2:00 – Year 4 Maths in action creating interactive games using Futaba

2:10 – Year 3 Maths in action, differentiated leaning in a blended classroom using Stile

2:20 –  Music Year 5, GarageBand in action – creating music inspired by Star Wars

2:30 – Year 1 HSIE, Wet and Dry Environments using Pic Collage

Year 1 HSIE, Wet and Dry Environments using Popplet

2:40 – Year 4 Student Share Time – looking at student work samples and teacher experience – including CBL and 3D Printing

2:55 – Year 5 Student Share Time – looking at student work samples and teacher experience – including Book Creator Science Journals, Stop Motion, Keynote, iMovie, Minecraft

  

Stepping Out With Robotics and Coding

  

We have used our regular community fundraiser to enable the further integration of technology in classrooms. As I have indicated we are committed to bringing 3D printing, Minecraft, robotics, coding etc. into our learning programs purposefully. We are keen to move away from these being extra curricular and more a natural part of what children can chose to do. 

And isn’t that a great thing! I wish I’d had such possibilities in my own education. I can still remember Sunday nights and having a sinking feeling in anticipation of the week of school ahead. I hope our children wake on Monday morning delighted and leave on Friday sorry that the weekend is getting in the way. We have certainly.observed heightened engagement and focus courtesy of our 1:1 iPad program. This is more than wishful thinking. We often have visiting educators who comment on the engagement of our students. Certainly our surveys of students, teachers and parents have also reflected this. From my perspective I see it on a daily basis and student engagement is truly tangible and importantly there is a sense of purpose in the activity. This of course hasn’t occurred without the considerable commitment of our teaching staff. Here too we have focussed on real integration and it has delivered a natural feeling where the technology just fits comfortably. This is what we hope to achieve with the additional technological integration. 

We have just invested in a very comprehensive bundle of EV3 Lego Robotics. The bundle includes software, sensors, a huge range of blocks / resources enough to build a dozen robots. These will be added to our existing Mindstrorms resources which have existed in the background for several years. We have also bring into play a set of Blue Bots (just a note of warning  iPad 2s are unable to connect via Bluetooth to the Blue Bots) for use with the younger children and ten small drones. All of these will provide great tangible, interactive devices for our coding initiative. We will use apps like Tickle to assist with block coding of drones. We are also looking at a range of coding applications. One stand out amongst these is Scratch https://scratch.mit.edu. Scratch is a powerful block coding application which was developed by MIT and is recognised as a powerful coding tool for children. This isn’t a new application and it has been used from time to time in co curricular activities. There are also a great series of coding resources available via https://code.org/. Additionally apps such as Scratch Junior, Hopscotch and  Pyonkee etc. may all be employed. 

A number of teachers have had opportunities to attend training and development days in support of our program to integrate coding / robotics. Initially we will focus on block coding as a standard capability across the school. Here I must add that some teachers are already actively employing applications such as Minecraft and 3D printing as possibilities in their learning programs. Coding and robotics are also appearing and are being actively planned for. As planned we will run some open ended experiences using robotics and coding for the children. Here we hope to start to upskill both teachers and students in the more relaxed atmosphere of our end of year alternative education week. 

We have three essential ingredients which will drive change 

  • students who are inquisitive, intuitive and motivated
  • teachers who are innovative and prepared to take risks
  • leadership which is visionary, supportive and enabling

 
Above: Groups at work sorting EV3 kits and building base model robots.

Below: experimenting with drone programming using Tickle – fly a square.  

It’s All About Reading

  
I spend a considerable amount of time reading. I tend to be a trifle obsessive about this. For many years I read exclusively in certain genres. As a young teen I read historical novels exclusively for a couple of years and then moved to Science Fiction and Fantasy and then Mystery and so on over the years. The consistency is that it has always been about reading something. 

In recent years my reading has become obsessively centred around education, technology and innovation. I suppose this shift really took hold with the advent of mobile technology and the maturing of social networks such as Twitter. Applications such as Flipboard and Zite (which create digital magazines from various feeds) made consumption easy. I was excited to learn from others and to be able to translate the ideas, thoughts and research into our own reality. Here I have been really fortunate because in my school other leaders, policy makers, the teachers, the staff and community in general have encouraged and enabled this. Reading and connectedness has contributed substantially towards breaking us out of our “box”. 

So here I have posted a few links to articles which I have found of particular interest n my recent adventures in reading. As I look through the links it is certainly a different list to the one I would have posted three years ago when I was obsessively exploring the possibilities that mobile devices might bring. 

  • This excellent paper looks at transformation of a US school, discusses challenges and solutions – considers SAMR Model and its context re changing pedagogy. 

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 looks at the Finnish system where a school System based on equality has been created. Interesting to note that while successful there isn’t a strong sense of connectedness to schools in Finland. I have included a second article which considers the importance of connectedness (towards the end of this article there are some ideas re engaging students). 

Re Finnish system
http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/finnish-education-chief-we-created-a-school-system-based-on-equality/284427/

Re Connectedness
http://www.asla.org.au/publications/access/access-commentaries/engaged-students.aspx

  • This article discusses a report by the OECD on the effectiveness of technology in classrooms. I think what this really shows is the importance of pedagogy as the driver rather than the technology.

http://www.educationnews.org/technology/oecd-technology-in-schools-not-boosting-achievement/

OECD Report 

http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/students-computers-and-learning_9789264239555-en#page1

  • Yong Zhao – Elements of a World Class Education

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.sais.org/resource/resmgr/imported/ZhaoIndicators.pdf

http://unescochair.blogs.uoc.edu/blog/2012/11/27/yong-zhao-world-class-education-educating-creative-and-entrepreneurial-students/

Catching up: learning from the best school systems in East Asia via The Grattan Institute.

http://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/129_report_learning_from_the_best_main.pdf

  • The Horizon Report – essential reading

http://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-horizon-report-2015-k-12-edition/

  • The Case for Challenge Based Learning

http://www.nmc.org/pdf/Challenge-Based-Learning.pdf

  • Clever Classrooms – evidence around learning spaces and effects on learning. Summary report of the HEAD Project (Holistic Evidence and Design), Professor Peter Barrett , DrYufan Zhang, Dr Fay Davies, Dr Lucinda Barrett, (University of Salford 2015)

http://www.salford.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/518122/1503-Salford-Uni-Report-A5-DIGITAL.pdf

  • Personalisation vs. Differentiation vs. Individualisation

http://www.personalizelearning.com/2013/03/new-personalization-vs-differentiation.html

  • This useful piece, provided by Guido from Stile Education, on formative assessment

http://blog.stileeducation.com/stileeducation-blog/2015/4/15/is-stile-the-best-tool-for-formative-assessment

  • 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.

https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138781337

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.

    

 

Towards Authentic Learning – CBL

 
Recently we have been considering various Project Based approaches to learning. One of the key drivers for us is the idea of providing authentic learning opportunities for our students. One approach which we are exploring is Challenge Based Learning (CBL). I have gathered together a few links which provide some insight about this approach. Interestingly some schools in the US dabbled with CBL participating in the study conducted by NMC, but I have found little evidence of continued involvement. There is a forum, but nothing much new. I wonder whether the focus on standardised, national testing has undermined the CBL initiative there.

The main activity I found seemed focussed in Australia and most specifically in Victoria. Here I must comment that Victoria demonstrates a consistency around innovation. We have found that many of the trends that have interested our own reinvention are ideas which Victoria has embraced or explored before us. 

What is Challenge Based Learning?

“Challenge Based Learning – an engaging, multidisciplinary approach to learning that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems.”

Benefits of Challenge Based Learning

A flexible framework for learning with multiple entry points

A scalable model with no proprietary systems or subscriptions

Places students in charge of their learning

Focuses on global challenges with local solutions

Promotes the authentic use of technology

Develops 21st century skills

Encourages deep reflection on teaching and learning
Case for:  http://www.nmc.org/pdf/Challenge-Based-Learning.pdf. New Media Consortium (Horizon Report)

Toolkit: https://www.challengebasedlearning.org/public/toolkit_resource/cf/0a/0ac5_8c6c.pdf?c=137d
CBL Website: https://challengebasedlearning.org/pages/welcome
iTunesU library – search for “Challenge Based Learning”.

  • Kalinda Primary School

ACARA – illustration Kalinda revising their approach to Curriculum and leveraging CBL to improve student learning. http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Illustrations/Metadata/IPCM00014?group=SchoolLocation

School website: http://www.kalinda.vic.edu.au/page/78/Challenge-Based-Learning

  • Mont Albert Primary School

Victorian Government – seeking a solution beyond an “Inquiry Based” approach and using CBL to meet student needs.

https://fuse.education.vic.gov.au/pages/View.aspx?pin=7YWDQY

School website: http://www.maps.vic.edu.au/page/70%20

  • Ringwood North Primary School

Victorian Government: https://fuse.education.vic.gov.au/pages/View.aspx?pin=RYJ7RS

School website: http://www.ringwoodnorthps.vic.edu.au

  • Wonga Park Primary School

School webpage: http://www.wongapark.vic.edu.au/Pages/challenge-based-learning.aspx

About CBL: http://www.wongapark.vic.edu.au/Pages/Programs.aspx

School Website: http://www.wongapark.vic.edu.au

Rising to the Challenge

We are constantly challenged to remain current in the fast changing educational landscape. Leveraging knowledge of others is crucial and much of what we have been able to achieve has been as a result of interaction with the broader educational community. This is a landscape where the possibilities offered by technology are outstripping pedagogical practices.This statement by Thornburg in 2004, surprisingly, still holds currency.

“The notion of educational practice as the impartation of a (largely decontextualised) body of information to be regurgitated on examinations is dead. It has been dead for a long time, although vestiges of it seem to have survived. But consider this: this model of education is experiencing its own demise simply because it is inadequate for the educational needs of young people entering a dynamic workforce where lifelong learning and creativity are among the few certainties for success.” (Expectations, 2004, Thornburg Center)
  
Exploration of literature makes it abundantly clear that some systems are harnessing technology and pedagogy with greater success. Certainly we are seeing innovation occurring in Asia and Scandinavia. If we take PISA assessments as a litmus we must believe that some systems are working more effectively than others. 

“An in-depth report by the Grattan Institute on the successes of four of the top five territories—Hong Kong, Shanghai, South Korea and Singapore—found that the success of the East Asian ‘tiger’ countries in PISA is likely to be connected to reforms that have developed the capacity of teachers.”(Ben Jensen, Catching Up: Learning from the Best School Systems in East Asia (Melbourne: Grattan Institute, 2012)

“No education system in East Asia that participates in international tests ranks below the international average. Such outstanding performance has led to the perception that East Asian education systems, particularly Shanghai, Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore, exemplify practices and policies worthy of emulation worldwide”(Jensen, 2012) (OECD, 2011, 2014; Tucker, 2014, 2011) (Miao & Reynolds, 2014). (Ref: Zhao, Y. (2015). Lessons that matter: What should we learn from Asia?, Mitchell Institute discussion and policy paper No. 04/2015.)

There is a strong perception that the strength of these systems, and I must include Finland here, is that these systems are actively evolving to embrace pedagogical practices which better prepare students for a 21st Century World. To continue our evolution we should look beyond the traditional conferences and courses. We need to look at regions that are innovating differently and importantly are perceived to be succeeding. We should see what can be learned from the innovators in Asia.

“Outside observers have largely neglected or misunderstood these reform efforts, either failing to address why and how East Asian education systems have engaged in continuous reform over the past three decades or mistakenly treating some of these reform efforts as reasons for outstanding performance on international assessments. As a result, many of the popularly promoted lessons drawn by outside observers relate at best to the recent past of education in East Asia, while these systems have been actively working to create an education of the future.” (Ref: Zhao, Y. (2015). Lessons that matter: What should we learn from Asia?, Mitchell Institute discussion and policy paper No. 04/2015.)

And finally this comment, while reflecting on the UK system, is relevant here too. 

“Success will go to those individuals and nations that are swift to adapt, slow to complain and open to change. The task for UK policymakers is to help its citizens rise to this challenge.” (Andreas Schleicher is deputy director for education and special adviser on education policy to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Secretary General.)

Here I have included links to a couple of conferences occurring in Singapore and Hong Kong later this year which look worthwhile opportunities. (Wish list items)

https://asia.bettshow.com

http://www.ltexpo.com.hk/expo/who-will-visit/

Readings:

http://www.mitchellinstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Lessons_that_matter_what_should_we_learn_from_Asias_school_systems.pdf

http://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/129_report_learning_from_the_best_main.pdf

https://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6301764

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/28/finland-education-overhaul_n_6958786.html

Making It Easy Isn’t Easy

  

  
Walking into classrooms and seeing learning in action is always a great pleasure. I am seeing a range of activity which I wouldn’t have imagined could become a reality just three short years ago. It is amazing how far we have progressed in our journey towards making technology a truly integrated part of our learning environment. Even our perception of what integration looks like has changed and that in itself is exciting.

  • Students regularly recording their learning using a variety of media
  • Teachers delivering differentiated and personalised content directly to students via their devices
  • Student workflows leveraging multiple applications
  • Regular, integrated use of open ended applications
  • Teachers actively recording learning for formative assessment
  • Teachers providing timely, poignant feedback 
  • Students working, regularly in productive collaboration
  • Student and teacher intuitive engagement with technology
  • Curriculum being manipulated to leverage technology meaningfully 
  • Direct and necessary communication between students and teachers
  • Students and teachers happy to explore, try new things and take risks 
  • Students extending their own learning
  • Technology tools regularly employed to extend and support students 
  • Confident technology users
  • Changing classroom dynamic – use of space, the way teachers and students work together
  • Easy exchange of information between teachers and students
  • A shift in the relationship between the student and the teacher
  • Greater ownership of learning by the students
  • Open ended learning – PBL, CBL
  • Proliferation of authentic learning opportunities 

What I like best is that it all feels effortless. This isn’t to devalue the work of our wonderful teachers in any way because I know that in the background there is a great deal of effort being employed to enable the learning programs, but when I see it it feels completely natural. There isn’t a feeling of bells and whistles. The technology is seamlessly woven into the fabric of purposeful activity. And I know that this is how it is meant to be. 

Making it easy isn’t easy. So what have been the crucial elements which have enabled our progress to this point?

Firstly the technology itself needs to be right. This is a major component. The technology needs to work reliably, day after day. Crucially for us running with a 1:1 iPad Program Internet and Wireless infrastructure are vital enablers. We opted for a corporate level CISCO wireless network. These devices have worked perfectly and have coped well with the high demands of multi user traffic. Our Internet has been continuously improved as demand has grown (40 up / 40 Down). Providing redundancy in case of failure of this primary link is also essential. If our Internet fails then our classrooms stall too. We have a 10 up / 10 down fibre redundancy. 

iPads are our 1:1 device of choice and they have been brilliant. They have challenged us too, but once we understood the device and its Cloud based DNA we were able to leverage its versatility, portability and power. IPads for us have been a game changer. They have great battery life and they have proven to be extraordinarily robust and reliable. We turn over our iPads on a biannual basis. This maintains the quality of our iPad fleet. We do as little as possible regarding apps. Early on we realised that the best apps are the open ended ones and we only add odd apps here and there as required. In most instances the central core of apps are all that we require. Compnow have helped us with device deployment.

In our own experience Professional Development has been crucial to the success of our program. 

Before embarking on our 1:1 commitment we needed to invest in preparing our teachers. Initially we supplied all of our teachers with iPads. We conducted workshops and provided hands on support via a full time support teacher to help our teachers with the technical side of using devices and to support pedagogical change. 

We teamed with Datacom (originally Xcitelogic), a provider, who had a strong educational support team. We were able to leverage their experience, gained in early adopter iPad schools in Victoria, Western Australia, to inform our own experience. Datacom educators facilitated traditional workshops for our teachers and parents, but crucially they offered a mentoring program for our teachers. This mentoring enabled a personalised approach to support, grow and develop our teachers. Catering to the different needs of our teachers was essential and as a result we were able to bring all of our teachers along on a journey no matter what their starting point (this program is an ongoing part of our PD program). Teamed with this is a natural organic internal mentoring where our teachers work together to support each other.

Datacom educators have helped to push our boundaries and opened us to new possibilities.

We have also formed a close relationship with Apple Education and this relationship has provided ongoing vision around pedagogy and considerable inspiration and sense of purpose. We are supporting our teachers to participate in the Apple Distinguished Educator Program

We are actively, now, involving partners like Datacom, Apple, Stile, Clickview, CISCO and Furnware in the process of helping to develop our teachers. We have found great advantage in developing and leveraging external connections. 

Professional development has helped change us from being inward looking to becoming outward looking. Where we can we involve teachers in conferences and external workshops such as Edutech, Future Schools, AIS, Apple, VIVID, Datacom, Furnware, Stile etc. 

Our professional learning journey has delved widely into Curriculum, thinking processes, pedagogical theory along with the integration of technology. Our teachers are becoming leaders of change, they are open to new ideas and our students are the clear beneficiaries.

  

The third game changer for us has been the integration of Stile into our classrooms. This has been a relatively new component in our program. The to and fro of information between the teachers and students has been one of the greatest challenges presented by our brilliant iPad tool. While we could create amazing work on our iPads being able to easily view and share was difficult. Initially we were using a range of tools e.g. Dropbox, email, Evernote, Showbie, Edmodo and iTunes U (iTunesU has rich content which is valuable. With a recent update  (3.0) iTunesU now has capacity to interact in the to and fro of information more fully). All of these required accounts and offered different capacities. Stile has to a large extent allowed us to consolidate all of this via one application. Stile has “unlimited” capacity and is able to transfer all sorts of work. Stile has also enabled work anywhere, anytime capability because it is accessible via any browser as well as an app. Here I should mention that we don’t send iPads home (this has helped with maintenance and reliability) and Stile has meant that we have easily been able to blur the lines between home and school. Flipping becomes an easy, realistic option. 

The last element I will discuss is planning and leadership. In our circumstance having leadership and commitment from across the School has enabled our vision to become a reality. In my role as a dedicated resource (supporting, managing and dreaming) I have needed the commitment of many participants. Bringing all together in a purposeful way is key. Often with all of this it has been about DREAMING BIG. While I can certainly dream big sometimes there are those who can dream even bigger. Being open to the dreams and visions of others is most crucial. Our School Board is a good example of dreaming big. We have recently perceived a need to evolve our learning spaces. We were starting to consider how we might reinvent our existing classrooms with furniture and some minor renovation. Our amazingly progressive Board wanted to dream much bigger. A whole architectural program has resulted, which will substantially reinvent our school. Sometimes the dreams can become enormous challenges. Here I must emphasise that the vision is what makes the dream sustainable. Certainly this has been true of our recent evolution and our integration of iPads in our learning environment. Leadership and Big Dreams have punctuated this. Dreams of teachers, of parents, of students and of administrators have sparked and evolved the vision. The tricky bit is interpreting, articulating, realising and building these into the structure. Some of the dreams of course don’t become reality immediately timing is also crucial. Knowing what will fly and when is also important. I have a strong belief that simplicity is vital. Educators don’t need or want complexity as it gets in the way of the teaching and learning. Students also need things to work easily. So sometimes dreams have to wait for technologies to mature enough to be viable. I note here that in some school environments there is abundant technical support and often these schools are able to be early adopters. In our circumstance we can observe and learn from these early adopters. There is much to be gained from learning from the experience of others.

We are seeing a revolution occurring and being a part of the conversation is crucial. For my own part social networking is vital – conferences, workshops and Twitter have been major enablers. I read a huge amount and it helps that I am really obsessive about enabling our learning environments. Seeing it all working simply and seamlessly in a wholistic educational context is the really exciting part. 

  

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.