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

  

   
 

To Do

  
 To Do
I am preparing mentally for an onslaught of work in January. Many assume that schools close down in holiday periods (This is our long Summer break  in Australia). For our school and for most others this is a fallacy. Of course it isn’t just me at work. Our Administration department is active, teachers are often industriously preparing for their students and a whole host of maintenance and cleaning occurs. In my case as the year slid to a halt I was purposefully anticipating and preparing for the 2016 school year. Much has already been done – ordering equipment / software etc and arranging support as required to help enable the process (my tech department consists mainly of myself and a couple of solid, external resources). Flowing on from this preparation is my new “to do” list for the January period. Running a technology infused 1:1 environment,  so that it all runs smoothly, does take considerable effort. 

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To Do – January

  • Update IOS and apps on iPad class sets via Configurator – add / remove apps 
  • Add additional iPads to cater for additional students – cases, screen protectors, configuration etc
  • Year 6 replace covers and label as required 
  • Redistribution and labelling of class iPad sets to accommodate differing allocations K – 6 
  • Conduct maintenance / repair / replacement for existing iPad stock – via Apple
  • Provision of technology resources etc for new teachers 
  • Set up additional ancillary student MacBooks – ordered and received
  • Update existing MacBook supply – OS, apps etc
  • Set up Office 365 and migrate Exchange to The Cloud

https://products.office.com/en-au/academic/office-365-education-plan

  • Deploy Office 365 software across various school devices as required
  • Set up new replacement laptops for Smartboards in all classrooms – we will deploy Windows 10 on some of these (trialling functionality and software compatibility)
  • Set up a new Windows 10 PC in the Admin – testing compatibility etc 
  • Set up iPad Pros for use with Special Ed program (experimental in consultation with Special Ed and Apple specialist). 
  • Minecraft set up – looking at potential to integrate Minecraft Edu in learning programs

https://minecraftedu.com/about

  • Maker Space – robotics, drones etc – add EV3 software to all devices
  • Coding – creating a strategy to enable integration – teacher PD / student development
  • Revisit and resolve Clickview integration via Clickview support 
  • iBook Authoring – Strategic overview of our technology integration program (ADS Program)
  • Planning for teacher PD in 2016 – MyPD for new teachers re integration of technology Term 1
  • Update of email accounts and setup of new accounts 
  • Update information for “Stile” accounts (teachers and students) 
  • Servers and network maintenance – software updates etc

Apple – planner

  • Day 1: Year 5 iPads, Year 2 iPads, MacBook update and setup new  
  • Day 2: Year 4 iPads, Year K iPads, MacBook update and Setup new
  • Day 3 Year 3 iPads, Year 1 iPads
  • Year 6 iPads are provisioned under individual school owned accounts

Windows software / hardware planner

  • Prepare new laptops, develop new laptop profiles to be applied including Office update – consideration re Windows 10 
  • Pull in existing Smartboard laptops (Windows), prep for clean and restore as required
  • Warranty repairs as required – Dell
  • Arrangements re Office 365
  • Preschool and ELC laptop (Windows) evaluation and replacement plan

As a teacher who has transitioned from the classroom to enabling technology integration I realise that bringing all of this together cohesively for the start of the school year is crucial. Teachers and students expect “it” all to be working and it must because our learning programs are now so intimately tied to technology. No Pressure!

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

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. 

 

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. 

  

The Scourge of Ransomware

Recently I have encountered a couple of instances where people had inadvertently clicked a link in an email claiming to be from “The Federal Police“. This has resulted in any hard drive connected to the infected PC being encrypted. The ransomware pirates demand payment for the unique code to decrypt files. Obviously paying isn’t an option. 

Drives infected by the ransomware include cloud drives such as Dropbox. In both ransomware incidents the network drives infected were backed up and as a result all encrypted files could be restored from backup. Unfortunately the cloud drives which stored personal and shared professional folders weren’t backed up. I was surprised to learn that the standard Dropbox account only enables restoration of previous versions going back about thirty days. Anything older than that is irretrievable. Paid versions of Dropbox may enable files to be restored from any earlier time. Learn more here: https://www.dropbox.com/help/113

I wanted to learn how we might protect ourselves against such attacks. Firstly it is possible to backup local files including Dropbox on a PC or Mac and to be able to restore to a previous version. In our own case we have applied additional backup drives, in addition to tape, on our network as a fail safe and instituted backup on various individual devices. The other thing that can be done is to restrict user permissions within the network so that users can’t install programs directly themselves. If a device doesn’t have rights to install the ransomware can’t install.

We also wanted to know whether we could prevent the ransomware emails from arriving in our Exchange inboxes in the first place. Yes it is possible to screen for ransomware. Our own Symantec email protection won’t do it. This is a bit disappointing because that’s what we are expecting it to do. Apparently there is a corporate grade “Symantec Cloud” (used by banks and large corporations) which will screen out everything even ransomware. A Palo Alto firewall teamed with Wildfire will screen out any threat too and I am sure there are a range of others. These options appear relatively expensive when compared with standard email screening, but I am left wondering about the value of standard email screening. What are we paying for?

We have also been considering migrating our Exchange to Office 365. I felt certain that Microsoft would offer high end filtering to protect their valued customers and that this could be the answer. Not so, Microsoft apparently only apply standard Exchange filtering. Customers need to apply any additional filtering themselves. 

It is interesting how widely spread the effects of ransomware have been and how easily it can penetrate and disable. In investigating I found that there was little thought being provided to the backup of cloud services. Users, myself included, naively expected better protection (by cloud providers) against loss of data in the cloud. 

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.