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.  

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Tomorrow The World! – Future Schools 2016 

  
Recently we had a group of our Year 6 students participate at The Future Schools Expo at the Sydney Technology Park in Redfern. This great experience to participate in a Makers Playground was provided by Future Schools organisers in conjunction with Datacom and various supporting sponsors.
Our involvement wasn’t haphazard. Student activity commenced last year months before the actual event. Our students, then in Year 5, participated, identifying a number of authentic problems to solve (educators provided by Datacom lead this process). Four of the problems were selected by the students as authentic challenges for the Future Schools event. A series of videos were then created by the children outlining the problems to be addressed.in the Makers Playground, at the Expo. These videos can be viewed at http://www.futureschools.com.au/makers_playground.html

Much of the equipment provided by sponsors in the Makers Playground, at Future Schools, would be new to our students so a little time on lead up was provided to develop familiarity with various maker space technologies. This proved to be valuable and it was interesting to see how intuitive the children were in working with the different technologies. We are starting to build resources ourselves and this was a great opportunity to see possibilities that these new technologies might bring. 

Types of resources provided in the Makers Playground included: Little Bits, Spheros, Arduino, Edison robotics, tablets, Laptops, Scratch, Craft resources, Activity mats etc.

The conference delegates experienced authentic learning in a “Makers” environment. Delegates were able to interact with student teams working on the solutions for the four challenges. During the sessions, Datacom’s Professional Learning consultants (Maker Mentors) played the role of ‘teacher’ in supporting student Makers in using the range of technologies / resources to design, build, record and report on solutions in this dynamic, just-in-time learning environment. For both the delegates and the children the experience was really a rich one. Our students certainly worked effectively, productively and collaboratively. It was great to see the students interacting with delegates sharing their experience. Our teachers accompanying the children were also actively involved recording, supervising and more importantly in experiencing / learning. 

While this was not a competition, evaluation and feedback plays a big role in any Makers project. FutureSchools provided a great opportunity to model this with each team presenting their solution to a panel of experts (Maker Magistrates).

1. How well did the solution address/solve the problem? 

2. How innovative is the solution? 

3. How well were the ideas presented? 

4. How well was the technology used? 

The resulting solutions were a great testament to the making process. I will post more about the process and the solutions produced in response to the challenges in a seperate post.

  
I often attend conferences and as adults we browse around asking questions and looking, but rarely do I see adults really doing “hands on” experiences. The Maker Playground provided that sort of experience for the delegates. 

Interestingly I took a small group group of students around the various exhibits. The children were all about “hands on”. They touched and played with everything (thanks to the generosity of the exhibitors). It was such a different experience looking at the vendors displays with the children. They gave everything a work out and judged quickly the value and productivity of resources. For the children it was like the ultimate “play” arcade. For me it was a great way to really see the possibilities of otherwise relatively static displays.

What did the students engage with the most? 

Virtual reality goggles 

The NAO robot

The Romo Robot

The live reptile exhibit

The Promethean multitouch interactive panel 

  
Another component of the Makers Playground experience was the parent / student activity. This was conducted late on the first day and was open for parent and student participation. About twenty families from our school joined in to do an “Edison” maze challenge. Again this provided a great collaborative and powerful learning opportunity for all involved.  

For any school interested in developing STEM capabilities the Future Schools Expo is a must. Looking forward to 2017. This year too we are sending several teachers to EduTech which is being held in Brisbane – very worthwhile when the opportunity for real immersive professional development is so great. 

Learn more about The Future Schools Expo here:

http://www.futureschools.com.au/pdf/NationalFutureSchoolsExpo_2016_Brochure.pdf
Learn more about EduTech here:

http://www.edutech.net.au

  

   
 

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.  

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. 

Bringing Computational Thinking Into Classrooms

  
One of the challenges for us has been how we can make what we are doing with technology and innovation a simple and natural part of what occurs in classrooms. We have certainly achieved this, in some considerable measure, via our 1:1 iPad program. In our learning environment iPads are, for the most part, a bit like a pencil case. They travel everywhere with students and they are pulled out for purposeful use as required.

Like many schools we have tended to hang things like robotics, coding, Minecraft, 3D printing on as side bits – extracurricular or co curricular. What we are really striving to see is classrooms filled with options naturally incorporating coding, robotics, Minecraft, 3D printing, circuits, recyclables, crafts etc – maker spaces which entice, inspire and enable.

So how do we hope to achieve our vision?

Firstly the vision is dependent on developing pedagogy to enable the learning environment. We are committing ourselves to fairly major shifts in thinking as we recognise that we need to be providing more authentic challenges, cross curricular project based learning, physical environments which change learning dynamics, making thinking visible and gaining insight through effective formative assessment, along with differentiation and more personalising learning opportunities. This is not to say that these are not in play already because they are occurring in varying degrees across our classrooms. The shift just needs to more universally enabled and embedded. The circumstances are right for us to pursue further change and our more innovative teachers are seeking opportunities to enhance their classroom and challenge their students. 

The plan below is dependent on two funding streams. The first allocation is towards professional development and the provision of release time so that teachers can explore and learn. The second funding stream is directed towards hardware and software acquisition.

The program would aim to:

  • Map learning activities associated with coding / robotics to Curriculum Outcomes
  • Provide students authentic learning opportunities using code / robotics 
  • Identify first order barriers to implementation in the classroom
  • Identify effective enablers for teachers and students
  • Consider ways to differentiate and personalise learning for students
  • Provide a roadmap for future development and improvement 
  • Engage and excite the school community about a STEM infused learning environment.
  • Measure the learning outcomes and engagement of students through empirical and anecdotal measures

Phase 1: Acquisition

Aim: To provide a broad understanding and provide teachers time to focus on an area of particular interest based on potential integration into learning programs.

A pilot group of teachers is identified (4 teachers – one teacher per year group). Provision of training and development e.g. Scratch, Tickle, Orbotix, Sphero, Lego Robotics, Xcode etc (we are actively exploring options).

Pilot/lead teacher(s) will be released to examine makers kits and rate them for suitability for different age groups – vendors to demonstrate their products. Teachers will choose from amongst the coding/robotics options the applications that they believe will have most application with the Stage 2 and Stage 3 class groups. 

We recognise that teachers may have a stronger connection or see greater potential with certain applications and this can be accommodated providing the teachers have a broad functional understanding of others. We are keen to see provision of diverse options for students in the longer term. It is expected that the pilot teachers would consider ways in which coding / robotics might be incorporated within existing learning programs.

Provision of 2 full days release per teacher.Provision of professional development resource personnel as required – providing specific training re coding and robotics. 

Phase 2: Implementation

Aim: To provide project based activities to engage and facilitate learning in a “Code Camp” – for students and teachers.

Pilot teachers develop a “Code Camp” series of lessons which target basic code and robotics skills and knowledge based on their experience in Phase 1. These will provide immersion opportunities for students and other teachers. Code Camp sessions would aim to provide for differentiated learning and would be run by the pilot group collaboratively with different class groups during our alternative activities week, which runs each year at the end of Term 4. Activities e.g. creation of a robotic dance, developing a solution to an authentic problem, or a solution to an authentic challenge. 
Provision of 4 days (one day per teacher) release time for pilot teachers to enable development of Code Camp activities etc. 

Evaluation of Code Camp Series. This will provide guidance to teachers for the development of programs that will leverage code / robotics in Term 1, 2016.

Phase 3: Application

Aim: To integrate Code / Robotics into learning programs and activities.

Participation of our students and teachers in external events / maker spaces e.g. Future Schools. Partnering with other schools etc.

Teachers work to integrate coding / robotics into one or more of their learning programs during the next three school terms. This may apply to Science and Maths specifically or may be a part of integrated Project Based Learning e.g. Challenge Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, Inquiry Based Learning etc. 

Enter groups in ICT Young Explorers 2016 and other learning challenges (Measure of success – if coding / robotics feature strongly as part of student work).

  

Update progress  to date: Stepping Out With Robotics and Coding | Learning Journey

 STEM / STEAM In Action

Is this a school or a SCIENCE LABORATORY?

Over the last few days I have had the pleasure of observing our Year 3 Students at work. I enquired about the experiments underway.

“In Year 3 we are learning how to investigate a specific part of the universe known as Heat. We learn what heat is, how it moves through the world and what kinds of things can be changed by heat. We have created our very own testable questions about heat, and then designed and carried out experiments to try and answer these burning questions about thermal energy.”

What struck me was the focus of the children purposefully at work and the seamless, natural use of iPads to record and reflect on their observations and conclusions. What I was seeing, from these nine year old students, was real scientific process and authentic learning occurring. 

This short video gives a small window into the great learning being experienced. 

 http://youtu.be/AzDDRik1i9s 

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A few steps away in another learning zone, this time Year 5, I found students in action conducting experiments on microorganisms. Here too I was seeing real scientific process as the students tested conditions which might influence the growth of mould on bread. Here too I was struck by the richness of the learning and by the engagement of the children as they conducted their experiments. 

  
And then off to one side I stumbled upon a bizarre group of petri dishes also in various stages of growing “something”. Here was, as it turned out, a great and unexpected example of Science and Art at work. The Year 5 students were attempting to grow microorganisms in patterns to create works of art. It was clearly an example of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) in action. The other aspect which I found particularly exciting was that the Year 5 teachers had brought a Scientist from the UNSW and a working Artist into the learning experience. These “real life” participants brought a sense of authenticity into the classroom. Being able to bring professionals into learning environments is now easier than ever before. Technology breaks down the physical barriers and opens great possibilities.