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

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.

Reinventing Spaces

In a previous entry Journeying in a Sandbox I had discussed our intention to innovate our learning spaces and how initially we wanted to trial furniture in our Year 6 and Year K spaces. 

Our motivation for innovating spaces was based on changing pedagogical needs. Ubiquitous access to technology spurred by our 1:1 iPad Program was enabling our teachers and students. Effective, meaningful integration of technology into teaching programs was expanding opportunities and changing the way that we worked. Our classrooms needed to accommodate the more diverse needs of both the students and the teachers. Project based learning, blended learning, authentic learning tasks, differentiation, personalisation, collaboration, workflows, potential for real time feedback and formative assessment and the possibilities to redefine (SAMR) were surfacing across our school and we were starting to feel the constraints of our boxed traditional classrooms. Change was necessary. 

To a certain extent we were blind and uncertain about making furniture choices. It is easy to recognise the need, but much harder to translate that into real furniture. Remembering here that we weren’t changing the architecture (yet). The classroom spaces that we were seeking to reinvent did at least have the capability to open walls which meant that one large space for each year group was possible. We had visited other innovative schools and had explored literature extensively and so this combined with the knowledge of our furniture partner ‘Furnware‘ enabled our initial reinvention.  

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Above – Year 6 (Featuring Furnware furniture)

Below – Year K (Featuring Furnware furniture)

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The Year 6 classroom space has certainly been applauded by the students and the teachers. They really love their space and are taking enormous pride in an area which is really unique. The thing I notice most, about their use of the space, is that it is constantly changing throughout the week and often throughout the day. The space is really fluid and can adapt to the needs of the users really well. Here I must add that the program of learning in Year 6 is very dynamic leveraging PBL with authentic learning tasks and collaborative learning. The teachers team really well injecting direct instruction as required. Their management of the space is artful and purposeful. 

Similarly the Kindergaten space too is open plan and fluid. It is exciting to walk through the space when the dividing wall is open and the children are working in stations or interacting in group activities. The open nature of the space is a shift for the teachers as they move away from a more traditional model. It will be interesting to observe how the use of this space evolves as the children mature and the teachers innovate further.

I am hopeful that during Term 2 the teachers in both these areas have the opportunity to visit other schools to see how other teachers are working in innovated spaces. Being able to learn from others and improve our own innovation is vital as we move to innovate spaces more widely across the school. 

A ‘Stile’-ish Journey

We have just started to initiate a trial of the web application ‘Stile‘. This is a relatively new application (Australian) which makes it possible for content to be easily delivered to students via a web based workbook.
What does Stile offer?
*Stile can be accessed on any web capable platform
*Students can respond directly and teachers can review, respond and record within the application
*Stile may have the potential to act as a student digital work portfolio
*Stile can handle all sorts of files, media, etc
*Unlimited storage
*On iPads ‘Stile’ can interact well with most apps via camera roll and email (it is possible to email directly into Stile work spaces)
*The simplicity of Stile appeals especially in a Primary context.
*Easy for teachers to set tasks and easy for students to respond

In our trial we will be using Stile with children from Kindergarten to Year 6 and it will be interesting to see how the younger children manage within the ‘Stile’ workspace.

Stile isn’t a free application so, to justify the cost, we will need to see substantial benefit and real adoption by teachers to improve learning opportunities of the students.

We have an early adopter year group (Year 4) leading into our trial.
The screen shots below:
These screen shots are from a workbook / lesson produced by Year 4 teachers as part of a Science unit. The screen shots provide a student view of some the possible types of activities in Stile.

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Reflecting On The Journey

Our school is a Primary school (K – 6). We embraced a 1:1 iPad roll out in 2013.

Powerful Transformative Learning: Ideas around Workflow, SAMR (http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/) and TPCK (http://www.tpack.org) can become a reality in a 1:1 iPad program.

A host of different applications are in play across classrooms. Our school hasn’t attempted to be prescriptive. Allowing a degree of freedom amongst teachers has opened possibilities and teachers are also offering students options which expand the learning opportunities to individualize and to differentiate. We have tried to tailor applications to class needs, however certain apps are staple across most grades including all the Apple Applications iMovie, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, GarageBand, also Book Creator, Creative Book Builder, Edmodo, Explain Everything, Puppet Pals and Visualize. The more “open ended” applications are the most useful providing greater scope to both teachers and students. Student-centred, authentic, project-based learning experiences are being enhanced and inspired by the application of iPads.​

The capability of delivering content quickly through iTunes U, Edmodo, Showbie and Evernote has made opportunities for blended learning and of flipping Classrooms a reality. Teachers are developing class blogs or arranging Skype links with classes in other countries and bringing experts virtually into the classrooms and into children’s homes to support learning

Teachers are also actively using iPads to augment their assessment of student progress. The capability of the iPad to record learning moments, collect, collate and report is impressive.​
Our library has developed an eBook collection and borrowing system which means that students can access digital books virtually on a range of devices. This has opened access for students and learning opportunities in our classrooms.

Curriculum
In Australia there has been substantial change with regard to the Curriculum. The new Australian National Curriculum is seeking to integrate technology across all strands of the Curriculum. Our provision of iPads to all students in years K to 6 has provided the capability to achieve this. Teachers are redesigning their teaching programs to reflect the integration of technology, and in particular the integration of iPads, as the New Curriculum is released. Our school has a Curriculum Coordinator helping to coordinate change. The process is very much a collaborative team effort.
The Australian Curriculum includes seven General Capabilities as can be seen in the diagram below ICT Capability is identified as one of the seven General Capabilities to be addressed across the Curriculum.

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© Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

Teacher Development
Our mission as educators, at our school, is to transform the potential technology offers to improve teaching and learning practices and ultimately, student outcomes.
The school has committed to developing a strong culture of learning aimed at developing learners for the 21st Century.
Our teachers have been actively involved in a comprehensive learning program. A Whole School approach was undertaken which targeted several key areas.
Differentiate teaching to meet specific needs of students across the full range of abilities.
Teachers undertook to complete a number of learning opportunities presented in an iTunes U Course and demonstrate differentiated strategies in programming of Curriculum including the use of technology to individualize and differentiate
Technology – Effective integration of iPads and other technology resources within the Curriculum.
Provision of an Apple Certified Educators (via external providers) to provide a structured mentoring program and workshops.
Crucially the school has continued to develop a Culture of Thinking (both amongst teachers and the students) where learning is more purposeful, deeper and more meaningful to students. ‘Thinking’ is an integral part of the learning process. Visible Thinking is tied strongly to our use of technology, Project Based Learning and broader Curriculum Outcomes. http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org
.

Changing Spaces
The arrival of real mobile technology via the iPad has opened possibilities to change pedagogical practices. The way that classrooms are working is changing too. Escaping from traditional classrooms to more versatile spaces is another great by product of the iPad Program. Entering classrooms it is common to see children on floors, sitting in pairs, in clusters or just moving and doing, as well as working in traditional formations. What is clear is that spaces need to be able to accommodate many ways of learning and collaborating.
We are starting to think about how we can achieve this using existing structures, by adapting furniture, creating movable walls, using glass to open the environment, as well as reviewing timetables and student groupings. The school is engaging in a process to identify and plan, so that our existing and future buildings and spaces can be designed to accommodate for the changing needs of students, teachers, curriculum and the community.