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. 

  

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Broadening Our Horizons

Last week we were asked to share our 1:1 iPad student experience at an Enterprise Conference at Sydney’s Intercontinental Hotel. One of our teachers Mr B and his Year 3 Maths class attended.

This is Mr B’s account of the event, to over 100 participants, from some of Australia and New Zealand’s largest companies .

“At the end of my 15 minutes presentation, I said ‘You know, I could stand up here all day and tell you about what we do with iPads and Education, but instead why not show you?’ It was a great reveal as the whole audience turned around and then to their surprise, the doors opened and in walked my Year 3 Maths class looking super happy and confident. It was really a great moment! They interacted with the audience and illustrating their creativity, proficiency and capabilities. Many people were amazed at the competency of our 9 year old students. The feedback received from the delegates was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. At the end, the audience made a huge tunnel and cheered us out of the room which I know made the kids feel like true rock stars.
It went incredibly well. The presenters said on multiple occasions that it went better than they ever could have imagined, so it is a huge testament to our students.
It was a fantastic event.”

(No picture available at this time)

Throughout the year we have hosted several “in school” visits of both local and International educators, but this was the first time we had participated in an external event of this nature. Managing and facilitating such moments involves considerable time and energy on the part of all involved, but the benefits are also great.
*Our students gain confidence, esteem and they love to showcase their work
*Our teachers feel empowered and more connected
*Our school gains affirmation and gathers momentum for meaningful change
*Our community recognises that we are striving to be the best we can be
*And we, of course, hope that sharing our experience benefits others

Stile: A Few Impressions

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Early in Term 3 we commenced a trial of an application called Stile. You can read in more detail on a previous post https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/a-stile-ish-journey/
Since my first introduction to Stile, over a year ago, I have toyed with doing a trial. I think, now that we are concluding our trial, that Stile might be the truly robust teaching / learning solution that we have been seeking to team with our iPad Program. I must stress here that nothing is ever perfect. I still like Edmodo, Dropbox and iTunes U etc. I also keep stumbling on great new options like the new Glogster app. Possibilities are growing and the ground is constantly changing. One of the things that appeals about Stile is that it can easily fit into an eclectic environment like ours. When choosing something new, to use across K to 6, we need to take a firm step particularly as this application (Stile) will cost the school money.

When we came to undertake our trial, during Term 3, we needed a reasonable amount of time to really get the trial up and running across the K to 6 classes. This was provided. We also needed to run our trial across all of our classrooms. We wanted to know whether Stile would be suitable and be adopted by all age groups and potentially by all teachers. We wanted to know if Stile would make a significant difference wherever it was employed. I must say that the Stile team have been very helpful and supportive throughout and their willingness to accommodate our needs has helped to make our trial a meaningful one.

As our trial has drawn to a close we have sought teacher impressions. These are provided below via an exit survey which we posted in Google Forms. We sought responses from teachers who had really engaged in using Stile as part of their regular classroom activity during the trial period.

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More Than Just A Few Souvenirs (1:1 iPad Program)

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The iPad Program has revolutionised our school in many ways and a number of by-products have been generated as a result of their adoption.

Firstly we were forced to evolve our connectivity. Clearly our old wireless network, stitched together with a mixture of different branded wireless access points, wasn’t going to be reliable or fast enough for the onslaught of so many data hungry devices. Initially we trialled a Cisco access point (we chose a device which could become a part of a managed network) and over the course of about a year we progressively built a managed CISCO wireless network.Today we have 10 access points which work together seamlessly so that no matter where we are in the school buildings, and in some areas of the playground, the wireless network is available all the time. There has been a shift in our thinking. In the past we would have felt satisfied with our destination. Today we are more aggressively aware and ready to change as innovation occurs.

We needed a better internet connection. A single ADSL line servicing our network was ineffective and we added two more lines. This we thought would be adequate. And it was for download, but suddenly upload was a growing necessity. This was a challenge for a small primary school with limited resources. In the end we managed to bring in a fibre optic connection which increased our upload capacity (10 up) as much as we can afford at the moment. The fibre does provide the possibility for us to massively increase capacity if we need to (and can afford to) in the future.

One of the other major by-products has been a shift amongst our students and teachers to “The Cloud” in a variety of ways. The DNA of iPads was a challenge to us when we started out. We were very “earth bound” by this I mean locally based. Everything was saved to our servers and that was where the data stayed to a large extent. The iPads are all about the mobility of data and this opens possibilities to share, flip, blend etc. Mobility of data between school, home or anywhere is a real shift for us and an exciting one for us to start to leverage. The sooner we can get away from those “earth bound” restrictions the better. Great too to escape the clumsy school server network and associated costs and failures. We haven’t quite escaped yet, but hope that we will one day soon. The iPad has certainly moved us substantially towards The Cloud through a host of options such as Dropbox, iCloud, Edmodo, Google Apps for Education, YouTube, Evernote etc.

Our attitude as educators and as students has changed. The niggling issues around ease of access, reliability, time, capacity and capability are greatly improved. As a result technology is enabled and possibilities are opened in classrooms. This has added another real dimension to our Professional Development. Teachers are more eager to learn, share and exchange ideas as they recognise the technology tool as an asset to their teaching rather than often seeing it as a liability. Suddenly too we are rethinking traditional learning spaces as we realise the need for flexibility.

The result of all of this has been a substantial shift in the way we are thinking about technology. It is becoming more of what it should be a simple and integral part of the school environment. Our iPad Program has opened our minds about the possibilities available and got us thinking actively about innovation to improve student outcomes and that’s so much more than just a great souvenir from our journey.

Creative Book Builder – A Year 5 student talks about his work.

A short video explaining the creation of an iBook about Microorganisms using Creative Book Builder (app) on an iPad.

Transformation SAMR and Redefinition

It is interesting to consider how apps might be used to satisfy the various transitions in the SAMR Model. This is a work in progress and this reflects my understanding of the model. I am starting by looking at Redefinition. When I attended Dr. Puentedura’s sessions, at a recent conference, he described work where all four transitions were being involved in the completion of learning tasks. In the suggestions here, for example, when a word processor is used in Book Creator or Evernote this would really just be “Substitution” and yet it forms part of the “Transformed” / “Redefined” product which is the desired outcome. We can strive towards “Redefined” products, but not all work needs to be at that level and often doesn’t need to be. Sometimes a “Substitution” e.g. Watching a video in preparation for a flipped lesson can offer a rich learning experience or using an app such as “Side by Side” to help research a topic can improve the effectiveness of the process.
Additionally, I recently saw a wheel which attempted to combine Blooms Taxonomy with SAMR and with apps. This is useful, but needs to be viewed in the context of how the app is used e.g. Explain Everything (app) can be used as a simple whiteboard to record notes or at a more sophisticated level as an annotation or screen casting tool. How the app is employed is important to consider when viewing in the context of either Blooms or SAMR.
http://www.edudemic.com/2013/05/new-padagogy-wheel-helps-you-integrate-technology-using-samr-model/

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Below I consider how apps might fulfil the Modification Transition in the SAMR Model.

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Below are the groups of apps used by Dr. Puentedura in presentations at a recent conference. He used an app for each transition to create a learning sequence.
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Sequence 1:
iPhoto – substitution
Timeline 3D -augmentation
Quick Graph – modification
Interior Design for iPad – redefinition
Sequence 2:
iBooks – substitution
Timelines Eons – augmentation
iThoughtsHD – modification
iMovie – redefinition
Sequence 3:
Khan Academy – substitution
Coach’s Eye – augmentation
Algodoo – modification
Comic Life – redefinition
Sequence 4:
Google Earth – substitution
My Maps Editor – augmentation
JMF Graph Builder – modification
Safari website – redefinition
Sequence 5:
iTunes U, video discussion – substitution
Word Collage – augmentation
eClicker Presenter – modification
iMovie – redefinition
Sequence 6:
iTunes text book, Life on Earth – substitution
Peterson Birds of North America – augmentation
Numbers (graphing data) – modification
iMovie – redefinition

Links to Dr. Puentedura’s presentations
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Paths to Technology Integration: keynote presentation http://t.co/tIIagzCeEz
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SAMR: Moving from Enhancement to Transformation” workshop: http://t.co/DPIdH5ZC8U

Below is a workflow from a previous post which I think adds to the discussion. In this workflow a number of different apps are used to create a learning experience which encompasses different stages of the SAMR Model and would meet the criteria to provide a “Transformative” experience.

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More about the SAMR Mode on this blog:
Improving the Journey – SAMR
https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/improving-the-journey-samr/

Revisiting SAMR with Dr. Ruben Puentedura
https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/revisiting-samr-with-dr-ruben-puentedura/

Transformation Example 1: This short video was created by a Year One student using an iPad. He sourced pictures and used iMovie to create a narrative around the pictures on the topic Shelters.

http://youtu.be/KtomFkQxX84

Example 2: Here a student is working in the Book Creator app in conjunction with Visualize app to create a product (creating a workflow).

http://youtu.be/lOxIDgtPXXE