A Journey Filled With Connections

The last month has been filled with rich moments. I have travelled to Melbourne and Canberra and have participated in events locally too. This has really been a journey of connection. 
  
I attended the Association of Independent Schools ICT Conference in Canberra. This is a great opportunity to connect with educators from across Australia. There are also a wide range of vendors attending so it is a great chance to learn about current trends and to ask deeper questions about possibilities. There were some excellent speakers including Jeff Utecht, Dr Jane Hunter, Nas Campanella & Colin James. 

Two of the presenters Dr Jane Hunter and Nas Campanella were of particular interest to me.
Dr Jane Hunter is a teacher educator in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney (UWS), Australia. She has received five teaching awards for Outstanding Contributions for Student Learning in universities and is now on an international team of educators providing Technology Enriched Instruction around the world. Her doctoral thesis developed a new model for technology integration in learning in schools; titled High Possibility Classrooms. 

Dr Hunter’s presentation sparked particular interest for a couple of reasons. I am very interested in evolving pedagogy and enabling teachers to open the learning opportunities through integration of technology. I am also interested in gauging improvement in non traditional, technology rich environments. 

I really enjoyed listening to her ideas and in a subsequent workshop there was some great discussion. I am looking forward to reading her book which I hope will further inform our own vision. http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138781337/

A later discussion with her via Twitter regarding The SAMR Model resulted in a wide exploration re TPACK, SAMR and RAT. This resulted in finding another really excellent article 

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 strongly references TPACK and SAMR and provides some excellent tangible recommendations founded on the research conducted by the author regarding the development of 21st Century schools. 

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Nas Campanella a journalist and newsreader for the ABC and Triple J. 26-year-old Nas is blind and has a medical condition which prevents her from reading braille.

Nas discussed the challenges of navigating life with a disability and of facing discrimination as well as the positives and negatives of technologies that helped her at school, university and in the workplace. 

Her tenacity, in the face of adversity, was truly inspiring and her capability is extraordinary. It underlined, for me, how crucial it is for schools to persevere with challenges that appear and how important it is for educators be open minded in resolving the needs of students. In Nas’s circumstance at one point there was a disconnect between support being provided and her real need. Understanding her need and then supplying a credible solution was vital and ultimately opened a world of possibilities to her. Clearly great schools and great educators are the ones who can really make a difference by being aware and responsive. We certainly should personalise our approach to our students. I have included a graphic which was created during her speech at the conference. It summarises the key points from her speech. Thanks to Rachel Dight for the great graphic.

  Graphic by Rachel Dight 

If you’d like to learn more about Nas this short video via the ABC provides some insight. 

  
https://t.co/WjFFEHAcu1

In Melbourne I attended a “Stile” conference day. I enjoyed listening to the two excellent speakers Andrew Douch (The Tools of Engagement, Redefining the Classroom) & Georgina Pazzi (The power of online differentiation,The Differentiated Classroom in Action). We have certainly seen the possibilities around engagement and differentiation, individualisation and personalised learning blossom with ubiquitous technology in our learning environment.

The conference also provided a chance to meet with many educators who were using Stile actively in their classrooms. Victoria seems to be further ahead on the innovation curve. When we were considering our iPad trial Victoria and Western Australia were already rolling iPads into their classrooms and the Victorian Education Dept had embraced the innovation. We were able to leverage their experience to help enable our roll out. Similarly Stile has a strong base in Victoria (Stile’s home state) while in New South Wales it is just starting to gain a foothold. Here I must add that I also really love the rich content that Apple has and is producing via iTunes U. There is no reason why Stile and iTunes U can’t work well together in a school environment. The particular benefit, for us, of Stile has been the easy ability of teachers to deliver content, for students to return work and for easy, direct, formative feedback. Where it has been employed actively in our classrooms, in tandem with our iPad Program, it has revolutionised the teaching/learning environment. Discussions that I had with Stile educators provided insight and opened conversations around broad educational innovation. I was also privileged to spend a little time with Dr Alan Finkel AO, the Founder and Chairman of Stile. His interest in enabling educators to be more effective in their work and his commitment to STEM initiatives identifies him as an innovation leader. The fact that he made time to connect and really listen to educators showed his real commitment to making a difference at “the coal face”. 

  
I also attended an Open Morning hosted by CISCO at North Sydney. This too was a chance to meet with other educators. The CISCO presenters were very polished and knowledgeable. We have a CISCO wireless infrastructure so I was interested to look at where wireless is headed. Remaining current in a fast changing landscape is important. Two quick takeaways – yes wireless speed is much faster with the new standard Ac and CISCO’s new generation access points enable easy upgrade via an interchangeable component.

CISCO also have some fabulous conferencing hardware and software. As we reinvent our learning spaces bringing some of this into the mix would be great, but cost may be a factor for smaller schools like ourselves. I wasn’t convinced that a typical teleconferencing space would be the right fit for all schools. I can see that the possibilities for virtual excursions and interactions across the world will become a common part of our modern classrooms. I was interested to see that CISCO are putting energy into classroom design as they recognise the changing classroom dynamic. I hope we can leverage some of this in our own reinvention. 

I participated in an Apple Integrators Group which was held at the Apple HQ in Pitt Street, Sydney. It was good to have a chance to share and exchange ideas with other Apple oriented educators. Here too we met with some great Apple personnel who provided information about Apple support and provision. A Development Executive K-12 Education from Apple facilitated discussion and considered the factors which enable technology in the school environment. He also discussed tools which could help evaluate the capability of teachers and leadership in relation to their capacity re the SAMR model. The meeting was enabled via iTunes U which worked really well and some great learning resources were highlighted in iTunes U and in iBooks. We were shown resources that were developed by students and teachers and which were available to experience and download in the public domain. Being able to provide students with an audience, and an authentic reason to publish, is a very powerful motivator. Certainly something that we could leverage more extensively. 

These were my excursions. We also have had several incursions where we have shared experiences with visiting educators. These too have provided rich collaborative opportunities. It has been a very busy few weeks and we have learned a great deal which will help to improve our learning environment. 

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Teaching Gen Tech – a response to questions posed by “Stile”

Recently I attended a conference day with Stile – Teaching Gen Tech  http://blog.stileeducation.com/events/2015/5/1/stile-learning-community-conference
  
The organisers posed some questions. Below I have provided a few thoughts in response. I hope to have reflected attitudes of my teaching colleagues here to some extent.

1. What are some of the challenges your teachers are faced with in the classroom?

Student engagement, surface learning rather than deeper learning due to the demands of a crowded curriculum. Challenging students with authentic learning tasks is key. 

Teachers feel the pressure of time especially. They are contending with a new Curriculum with all the demands that that brings regarding reinvention, construction of new programs etc.They are also finding increased exposure to parents via digital connection and expectations for immediate response. Teachers are also being asked to be more proactive in their formative assessments of students and in improving their own practice. Much of this is positive and works towards improving student outcomes, but on mass places teachers under increased pressure. 

Certainly for Year 3 and 5 the narrow confines of NAPLAN testing creates a conflict with the idea of a rich engaging curriculum.
2. What’s the single most exciting thing happening in education right now? 

The easy access and possibilities offered via technology in particular the open source – learning e.g. Moocs, iTunes U, eBooks, movies,  Kahn Academy etc. and easy access to data / information e.g Google, Wikipedia, news outlets etc.

3. How have student expectations changed in the last five to ten years?

There is a sense of immediacy and an insatiable need for purposeful activity. Students can be more motivated than ever. Technology when teamed with authentic, challenging and exciting learning opportunities can be a catalyst for deep learning and student engagement. Ideas around project based learning, design thinking, challenge based learning can be powerful ways to engage and enable students. 

4. How is technology improving learning at your school? Is it there yet? Where do you want to get to?

Technology is enabling individualisation and differentiated learning. 

It is empowering teachers and students to do things differently and creating opportunities to do things that were difficult, impossible or even unimagined a few years ago. 

Because of the easy access to (enabled) mobile devices in our classrooms the children are able to: 

Record their learning easily and powerfully. 

They can use applications to create. They have rich open ended applications such as iMovie, GarageBand, Explain Everything, Book Creator, Popplet, Comic Book, Puppet Pals and Pic Collage which can work alone or be teamed together to create rich workflows, 

They can curate information, images and data. They can create surveys and graphs and reflect on the information and data.

They can communicate and collaborate within and beyond the local environment. 

Teachers have tools such as Evernote to record learning of students.

They have Stile which enables easy delivery of content, media, and which can provide a canvas for student production. Stile has revolutionised our ability to easily track students, provide feedback and assessment. Where it has been used well it has revolutionised the student teacher interaction. 

Our aim for technology is more about enabling teaching and learning than it is about the technology itself. We should always be seeking to do things better. There isn’t really an end point to our journey. 

5. Could you give us an example of how you’re using Stile? 

In our classrooms Stile is used to direct, inform, engage and challenge students. Stile is used across the curriculum and it has enabled students to easily deliver a diverse range of activities and assignments – a few examples are listed below.

Book trailers

Audio

Movies

Texts

Scripts

Discussions

Assessments

Drawings 

Mind-maps

Completing visible thinking strategies

Responding to teachers videos

Stile is enabling:

Flipped learning

Receiving feedback written and oral

Working in groups to collaborate on tasks

Completing differentiated, individualised, personalised tasks

Gathering and reacting to formative assessment

Work collection 

Curation of student data

Stile: http://www.stileeducation.com/

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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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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