Thursday, September 27, 2012

BYOD2 - what are they used for?

The more I think about students being able to bring in a second device to use in the classroom, the more  I am looking at what I do with each of the devices that I use on a daily basis (laptop, iPad and iPhone, camera).

Laptops:  I use both a MacBook Pro and a HP tablet PC.  My laptops are the devices I use most often for reading and responding to email and for writing blog posts, creating documents, rubrics, posting to Facebook and Twitter and so on.  I use my laptops for the 3 online courses that I'm currently engaged in and I would say that I use my MacBook Pro about equally with my iPad for editing photos (I use iPhoto on the iPad and Photoshop on the MacBook Pro).  I edit movies almost entirely on my MacBook Pro using iMovie.  I surf the web for information using my laptops.   I'm more likely to choose to read websites on my iPad, however.  I have the Kindle Cloud Reader on my laptops, but I can't imagine using them to read a book.  Conclusion:  I use my laptop mostly as a production tool.

iPad:  This is the device I use most for reading.  I can't remember the last time I bought a "real" book as I use the Kindle Cloud Reader to download and read books offline.  I like the easy access to the dictionary and it's easy to annotate.  I enjoy seeing what passages others have also highlighted.  I also use the iPad primarily to check the news on the BBC website, to read email and check my Facebook, though I'm more likely to switch to a laptop if I want to respond at length.  I edit photos on the iPad.  I use it for watching videos.  I use it as a map when I want to go somewhere.  I use it to check my Twitter stream.  Conclusion:  I use my iPad mostly as a consumption tool.

iPhone:  I use it as a phone, I send a lot of messages especially using WhatsApp, I listen to my voicemail, I use it to get calendar alerts, I use it as an alarm clock and to check the time.  I take photos especially using some of the apps (Pro HDR is my favourite).  I check the weather.  I use the calculator and currency converter.  I use the map when I'm out somewhere and don't have my iPad.  I have used it to read whole books (for example while I'm commuting).  I listen to music on it.  Conclusion:  I use it mostly as a communication tool, but also as a handy way to consume information when I'm on the move.

Camera:  I have a point and shoot camera which I keep with me most of the time too.  I use it for taking photos (the quality is much better than the cameras on the other devices as I can change the settings/mode to get the effect I want).  I use it to take video too - I have completely given up using my video camera.

As I started to make this list I asked myself, which of these devices could I most easily do without?   At the moment we are allowing students one device that connects to the school network - how would I feel if I could only use one device myself?  The iPad is my most recent purchase so I suppose that would be the one I would choose to give up.  I could do without any of them I guess as I could do whatever I wanted to do on the other devices, but that wouldn't necessarily be my choice.  My phone is the device that is with me the most (constantly, day and night) though it's not necessarily the one I spend most time using during the day.  I have become so used to having all these devices and choosing whichever one I want for the activity I want to do.  As I'm writing this post (on the MacBook Pro) I actually have both the iPad and the iPhone on the table beside me.  During the time I have been writing this post, I have sent and received a few messages using the phone and checked tomorrow's weather on the iPad.

This year's Horizon Report predicts that mobile learning is only 1 - 2 years away from becoming mainstream in the classroom.  One of the advantages of students bringing their own devices is that they are developing their skills on devices that they are already familiar with.  For most students I'm assuming the device that they wouldn't be without is their phone - what Mimi Ito describes as "the primary portal for social communciation".  This week we are going to survey our Middle and High School students about devices that they have and use already.  We'll be using the results of this survey to plan our BYOD Device 2 prototype.

Photo Credit:  Texting in the Park by Jeffrey Potts, 2011  AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Teaching students how to use technology -v- teaching students to use technology to learn

Recently I've started meeting with our teachers to discuss the NETS-S, and how they can support students acquiring these 21st century skills.  This has led us to consider the NETS-T and how important it is for us as teachers to consider our own professional growth.  The NETS-S and NETS-T standards align really well.  For example the one of the students' standards is creativity and innovation.  For students to be able to demonstrate these, one of the standards for teachers is that they should facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity.  We want students to understand human, cultural and societal issues related to technology and to practice legal and ethical behaviour (digital citizenship), therefore a standard that teachers need to consider is that they should also be promoting and modeling digital citizenship and responsibility.

The original NETS were created in 1998 and the focus of these was on mastering technological tools.  The focus of the new NETS is on "technological proficiency that comes as a result of e-learning and m-learning" or in other words, on digital fluency.  The aim of the NETS-S is for "authentic, inventive and emergent uses of digital technology and on how they apply outside the school setting".  The emphasis has therefore changed from knowledge and mastering technological tools to a focus on the skills that students will need to be successful in work and in life.

As we consider how to prototype a BYOD Device 2 at school, we are asking ourselves how this second device can promote 21st century skills.  Will a second device of the students' choosing enhance their ability to be creative, to communicate, to collaborate, to gather, evaluate and use inforamtion?  Will a second device help students to collaborate with those at a distance, promote personalized learning and to contribute to the learning of others?  Will mobile devices develop critical thinking skills, project management and problem solving skills and allow students to make more informed decisions about the appropriate use of digital tools and resources?

As I've been reading further in Kipp D. Rogers' book Mobile Learning Devices, I've been interested to look at the categories developed by Naismith et al for using mobile learning devices:
  • Behaviorist Activities (drill and feedback) - mobile devices allow teachers to collect data and check for understanding with tools such as backchannels and polls.  They also allow formative assessment in the form of multiple choice or free-text questions, allowing students to respond anonymously which may encourage more participation from students reluctant to speak up during class.
  • Constructivist Activities (simulations and games) - learning in real world contexts, with opportunities to interact with other students globally and locally.
  • Situated Learning (environments such as field trip and museums and problem based learning in groups) - this is performance based such as science experiments and mobile devices can be great tools for recording learning in these situations.
  • Collaborative Learning - shared mobile devices can encourage collaborative learning, teach higher level thinking skills and build oral communication skills, self-management skills and leadership skills.  Students working in collaborative groups are more active learners and more accountable to the group for learning.
  • Informal and Lifelong Learning (learning without the constraints of time and place) - mobile devices that are constantly with students provide a source of information and assist with learning on demand.
  • Learning and Teaching Support - no longer needs to happen in a specific time and place.  Mobile technology also frees up administrators to get out of their offices to conduct walkthroughs collect and send information and communicate.
As we discussed moving further with prototyping BYOD Device 2, we realized that probably many students already bring a second device into school even though they are not at this point connecting them to the school's wireless network.  These devices could be phones, iPods or other MP3 players, tablets, eReaders, calculators, mobile gaming devices or cameras.  Possibly they are already using these devices to help them learn, both at school and at home.  We are interested in finding out what devices they already have and what they are using them for.  The next stage in our preparations for prototyping a BYOD Device 2 will therefore be for us to research this and then consider how we can use these devices to improve learning.

Photo Credit:  City Girl by Asim Bharwani, 2012 AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

Monday, September 24, 2012

From eLearning to mLearning

As I'm continue to research into the possibilities of BYOD Device 2, I'm reading about how people in different countries are using their smartphones.  In Korea, for example, they are frequently used for banking transactions, to pay for food in shops and to buy tickets for public transportation.  In Switzerland, where I was just living, it was possible to buy a train ticket with an iPhone app, and the possibilities of using phones as a sort of wallet to go shopping was also being investigated.  At airports around the world I have seen people using their phones to display their eTickets.  Giving up the idea of paper money and tickets and moving to a totally wireless economy has been referred to as a "mobiconomy".

In the book Mobile Learning Devices, Kipp D. Rogers writes about how eLearning (in electronic environments) is being supported by mLearning as people are using electronic resources away from traditional learning places.  The mobile revolution has already occurred - almost everyone has a mobile phone including over half of 6 to 9 year olds in countries such as the US.  Worldwide there are almost 4 billion mobile phone subscriptions and daily 3 billion people send text messages.   These smartphones have the computing power of personal computers from just 10 years ago.

What could be the advantages of using smartphones as a BYOD2?  Probably the most compelling, especially for ASB, is that these devices could provide a personalized learning experience whereby students choose the manner or media that suits their learning style.  Kipp D. Rogers writes:
If a student is an auditory learner, she can listen to a podcast.  If she is a visual learner, she can watch a video.  If she is a spatial learner, he can play a game.
There are challenges too of course.  These could include the small screens, limited input capabilities, short battery life, data storage, less surf ability and graphics limitations.

Tomorrow is our second R&D meeting of the year.  I'm curious to know what the other members of the BYOD Device 2 Task Force have been doing over the past couple of weeks and what suggestions for moving forward they will have.

Photo Credit:  Shooting Alexander by Lawrence OP, 2008 AttributionNoncommercial 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

BYOD2 - a consumption -v- a production tool

As I am researching BYOD Device 2 as one of our R&D initiatives this year, I'm asking myself what the advantages of a second device are.  Looking at the devices that have already been registered by our teachers as a second device, it's clear that these are smaller and more portable than the device that they registered as their  first BYOD.  In some instances it could be that the first BYOD is not actually the device of choice - we did stipulate that the first device had to be a laptop - though only one teacher asked me specifically about having an iPad as her first device.  What I'm asking myself is this:  what is the primary use of the BYOD1, and what is the primary use of the BYOD2?  Are the teachers who have both using one for production and one for consumption, or are they using both for the same things, but just at different times or places?

Some of this is tied up, I think, with what we see the primary BYOD as:  is it a teaching tool or a learning tool?  Teachers are certainly using it to create content for their lessons - I see these devices hooked up to the TVs in the learning spaces every day and I can see what teachers have created as part of their lesson preparations.  I don't know how much they are using their BYOD2 as a production tool - this is something I want to find out more about.

If we consider learning, on the other hand, the device that students use has to have the ability to be used as both a consumption device and a production device.  The evidence is out there that successful learning needs to engage multiple senses and mobile devices can certainly deliver material that uses multimedia (images, sound and text).   In order to justify a BYOD Device 2, however, I think that what students are actually accessing on these devices has to be more than simply a digital version of a static book.  For example I have made a conscious move this year to read on mobile devices.  Using the Kindle Cloud Reader I can read on my laptop, iPad and recently I even forced myself to read whole books on my iPhone just to see how easy this was.  What I discovered was that simply changing from print to an electronic format didn't really make much difference to how I read the book or what I got out of it.  I still highlighted and made notes, whether this was on a printed book or on a digital one.  The real benefit was when I read a digital book that had been created specifically for mobile devices.  The book that I read was Our Choice by Al Gore.  As an ex-IBDP Geography teacher I was already interested in the content, now the content was able to "come alive" with interactive graphics and animations, documentary footage, interactive graphs and so on.  This book is one of a new generation of books that is only available on an iPad, iPhone or iTouch.  In other words this book cannot be used on a BYOD1 device.  Therefore if more and more of these books are created for students, then being able to access this content on a BYOD2 will become increasingly important.

Today I was reading through an article from EDUCAUSE about mobile teaching and mobile learning that had been posted on the R&D Diigo by another member of our BYOD Device 2 Task Force.  I was struck by the following paragraph, which to me embodies the real reason why we would consider a mobile device for learning:
To move beyond mobile teaching — to be transformative — we need to think more systematically about how to design education to facilitate learning. One simplistic way to break down instructional design is for instructors to align their learning objectives over:
  • Content delivery
  • Content learning
  • Learning assessment
Most of the examples I've been seeing, hearing, and reading about in terms of mobile learning only apply to one-third of the steps needed for students to learn, and prove they've learned, the course material. In other words, it is not enough to just give students PDFs of pages from an anatomy textbook. It's not even enough to allow them to take self-grading quizzes. We need to provide materials or applications that allow students to practice identifying parts of the body on their mobile multimedia devices before taking the high-stakes midterm or final exam.
 Perhaps what we need to do is to survey the students to find out what they are actually using their mobile devices for already.  I know my own teenage daughter uses her phone to communicate with her friends, access the internet, take photos and so on.  I don't think she often uses it as a traditional phone (to actually speak to someone).  And many of the creation apps that I've looked at recently, for example Haiku Deck, or those that allow students to actually explain their thinking as they are presenting something, such as Educreations or Explain Everything, are those that are only available on BYOD2 devices.  The idea of students themselves being able to capture this "raw" data to use in their presentations is a powerful one:
It's one thing to learn about different architectural styles in a Western Civ or Construction textbook or lecture; it's another to apply what you've learned by going out into the community and taking pictures of buildings and then identifying the architectural influences. It's one thing to hear or read about the results of sociology studies about gender bias; it's another to go out, collect primary data, and immediately show, as well as discuss, the dynamically growing study results with the recently queried participant. In both cases the activity of capturing "raw" digital material can lead to further learning or assessment activities where students might develop multimedia projects.
Most of our students already have the sort of devices that we would want them to use as BYOD2s.  If they are not using them optimally at the moment, if they are only using them to consume rather than to produce, isn't it the job of us as educators to change that, to show them different and maybe better ways to learn?

Photo Credit:  iPad with Camera by Nile Livesey, 2010 AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

Friday, September 21, 2012

Personalized learning - creating a customized learning community

In the Learning Genome Project Kelly Tenkely describes how tagging content and developing customized learning profiles for students can provide truly personalized learning, freely available to all.. This is an ambitious project and I wish Kelly every success with it. To find out more visit the Learning Genome Project website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


As I am researching the possibilities of a second BYOD for students, I've started to read articles about how smartphones and tablets are leading to new ways of learning.  Mobile devices that can be carried around in our pockets are the devies of choice for many who want to be constantly connected and able to access information from anywhere.   Many of these articles are pointing to the need for new models of education to meet the evolving needs of both current and new students.  These new students are both today's toddlers who have grown up as familiar with touchscreens as they are with books, adults who are questioning the value of traditional campus university education and the elderly who are gaining new skills in their leisure time.  Mobile learning, or mLearning, has led to "education that you can hold in your hand" on mobile devices.

Recently I was looking at the Design Mind blog post mLearning: Revolutionizing Education.  This post discusses the impact of mLearning on traditional education.  Below is a summary of some of the important areas where I think mLearning could have a real impact:

  1. Continuous learning - the traditional model of years of education being followed by years of working is changing as education is becoming more and more part of our daily lives.  All sorts of people are involved in online courses on mobile devices.  These lifelong learners are opening up whole new markets for education.
  2. Educational leapfrogging - the low cost of many mobile devies is giving students from poorer backgrounds the opportunity to leapfrog over outdated formal school systems.  Although these young people may be forced to leave school early to help sustain their families, access to education via mobile devices can be part of their daily routine.
  3. Older, lifelong learners and educators - grandparents are adopting mLearning in greater numbers than ever before.  These devices are often easier to use than traditional computers and are the devices of choice for many when using email, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.  Older people have more time to take online courses and the retired represent a huge pool of educators who can teach remotely and so address the scarcity of qualified teachers around the world.
  4. Breaking gender boundaries - some societies place barriers on girls continuing their education but mLearning allows them to access high quality education privately in their own time.  Another group who can also benefit are those with extremel disabilities who may not be able to access traditional schools and classrooms.
  5. Education's long tail - there is a vast amount of existing educational material on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo including tutorials from the Khan Academy and TED-Ed that can be re-aggregated by theme.
  6. Changing roles - handheld tools provide opportunities for students to share their knowledge with peers or even to teach adults through creating programmes or videos.
  7. New opportunities for educational institutions - schools and universities can extend their traditional offerings.  Examples include universities such as Harvard and MIT offering free online courses and schools exploring online courses to expand the options available to students.
  8. Customized education - people are able to choose their own paths and follow their passions.  Students of any age or background have the chance to pursue knowledge that is meaningful and relevant to them.
Photo Credit:  Samsung Galaxy Tab by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla, 2010   AttributionNoncommercial  

Facebook for Parents - part 2

Some time ago I blogged about one of our teachers who has set up a Facebook group for the parents of students in her class.  Because I have had many other educators asking about how she actually went about doing this, I decided to interview her and ask her about her experience of using Facebook as a communication tool.

This was not the first tool that this teacher had tried to better connect and communicate with parents.  Last year she used Twitter but found it didn't work so well.  Over the summer she reflected on this and thought a diferent idea would be a Facebook page.  She chatted with another teacher who helped her set it up.

First of all she considered the privacy settings.  This group is only viewable to parents who are members of the group.  It's not available to friends of friends.  Next she set up a Google Form to ask parents for permission to post photos and to tag the parents in photos of the child.  That way no child would be tagged, yet the parents would be alerted when a new photo of their child was posted.  Parents had to agree not to share photos of the other children in the class.  The result of this survey was very positive - every parent in the class responded to the survey and accepted these conditions.  In addition all but one of the parents also friended this teacher on Facebook.

Next she set up a dedicated account for the class.  This account was made up of the teacher's name and the name of her class.  She started to post photos of things that were going on in class.  Then she started to post reminders for the parents.  Then she added on links to a newsletter she was writing using Google Docs.  After that she started adding on articles that she wanted parents to read, for example she posted one on how to be a better reader, one on goals for kindergarten students and another on best ways to help your child succeed in school.  She has also added videos of things she is doing in class.  Parents comment on these posts.  They give their thoughts and ask questions.  She responds to the questions - often these are questions that many parents have so they appreciate these Q&A discussions. In the evenings if she is on the Facebook group she says she often has parents chatting with her and asking further questions.  She feels she is communicating with parents using their preferred tool.

Other things she has shared on her Facebook page include YouTube videos for learning ABCs and maths videos that involve counting by 5s and 10s.  She has also posted links to videos that are being used during the units of inquiry.  What she has found is that this is a perfect tool to communicate with students too - they are excited and watch these videos at home on Facebook.  It's an interesting way of flipping the classroom with the help of parents.  She thinks that students see more educational videos at home this way, than if she posted links on a website because the parents are on Facebook every day, though they might not necessarily visit the school website on a daily basis.  For her, Facebook for Parents has been a great success.

Image Credit:  modified from Facebook vs Twitter Connections by Ethan Hein, 2010 Attribution 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Curiosity and following your passions

One of our 2nd Grade teachers is about to launch a 6 week project to support students' curiosities.  He is launching it with this video, Caine's Arcade.  It's a great movie showing a child following his passions and using his creativity.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Getting wise about using data to improve student learning

For the past 3 days I have been in a Data Wise workshop.  I had no idea what to expect when I went into this but I had some idea that it might be connected with standardized tests, since this week has seen the start of the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing at school.  How wrong I was!  What I came to see was that the data we were referring to was a broad spectrum of information on student knowledge, and on the first day we collected this data ourselves through classroom observation and looking at a formative assessment students had done as a result of the lesson we observed.  Data also includes student projects, rubrics, tests, homework, exhibitions and so on.

Starting at the first step on the swirl we discussed how a good school is not simply a collection of good teachers working independently, but "a team of skilled educators working together to implement coherent instructional plans, to identify the needs of every student and to meet those needs".  The idea behind Data Wise, which is an initiative of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is that learning from data contributes to building an effective school and to helping the school continue to improve its performance, through aligning the instructional programme with strong standards.  It is through the collaboration of educators who are committed to working together to develop the skills and knowledge of all children that the improvement will be implemented so that students will develop the skills they need for the future.

As shown in the Data Wise Improvement Process graphic above, there are three main parts of the swirl, which itself is divided up into 8 steps.  The whole process is basically a system for collaboration.  In the preparation part a structure needs to be put into place for analyzing the data.  Then comes the inquiry - where educators acquire the knowledge to decide how to improve student learning.  What we came to discover is that digging into student data can help us to identify a student learning problem, called a "learner centred problem".  It is really at this stage that the Data Wise process differs from traditional school improvement plans.  At this point the usual thing to do would be to develop an action plan to deal with the learning problem that has been identified.  However Step 5 in the Data Wise process involves examining instruction.  The data collected is used to help teachers to examine instruction and current practice, eventually leading to identifying the "problem of practice".  The PoP is a statement about teaching practice that is concerned with the learner centred problem.  The really important thing is that the PoP must come from the teachers - not from the observers or school administrators.

The final section of the swirl involves action - deciding what to do to improve instruction and assess whether the changes that are introduced are instrumental in making a difference to student learning.

After 3 days my head is literally buzzing with all the ideas - far too many for a single blog post - so I am going to break up these ideas into 3 separate posts dealing with the main sections of the swirl:  how we prepare to work collaboratively by creating a data team and collecting the data, how we inquire into the data we collect in order to identify the learner centred problem and articulate the problem of practice and finally how we develop an action to plan and integrate it into ongoing school work.  I'm interested to hear from other teachers who use data to inform improve teaching and learning too.  Leave me a comment and let me know what process you are using in your school.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

IWB -v- Apple TV - which is best for 21st century learners?

This afternoon I was in a Kindergarten class and was talking to the teacher there about how she is using  her Apple TV.   We don't have IWBs here, and Tiffany herself told me that she'd never used one so it was hard for her to compare the two, but she gave me lots of ideas for how she is using the Apple TV with her students.  Her Apple TV is connected to a TV that can be moved around in her learning space.  She has a lot of windows in this space and no walls at all so an IWB would not be practical.  She talked about different posters that she has created on her computer that she can pull up for the students to refer to and said she finds this better than a visualizer as she can work with Word documents on her computer that the students can all see.  She also uses it with YouTube and other videos and this morning was using it to connect to the Illuminations website to demonstrate a maths concept.

Tiffany chose to have a MacBook as her BYOD.  She also has an iPad and iPhone that she uses in class.  She was explaining to me that today they had a visitor to the classroom (a dog) and that she was able to connect the iPhone and iPad so that she could take photos and turn them into a slideshow that the students could immediately watch and interact with.  She talked to me about how engaged and excited her students were about this learning.

A couple of years ago at my old school I recommended using Apple TVs with iPads as a better solution than installing SMARTboards in all of our primary classrooms.  Of course this suggestion ran into problems with the one-size-fits-all policy there whereby all classrooms were being outfitted with the same IWBs, and I remember feeling extremely disappointed by the decision to purchase yet another teaching tool instead of spending the money on a set of iPads and putting the technology into the hands of the students.  I've used a SMARTboard since 2000 - when I worked at the International School of Amsterdam we were one of the first schools in the Netherlands to buy them, and I have to say as a teaching tool they were great.  As a learning tool for students though, not so.  Over the years I've dropped into literally hundreds of classrooms where they were not being used optimally, and where they simply reinforced the "sage on the stage" style of teaching.

Over the past couple of years or so I've also seen a different way of doing things, using Airplay, and iPads and an Apple TV.  Last year at ASB Unplugged I saw the participants at one of the presentations interacting with and sharing what they were doing on their iPads with the entire audience.  Anyone could wirelessly project to the entire room from anywhere.

Today I came across the Tech Savvy Teachers blog where the Apple TV-iPad combination was suggested as a better interactive whiteboard.   The post includes the following chart comparing IWBs with Apple TVs +iPads:

I think that one of the comments following this post really sums up the difference:

The nature of the iPad encourages the type of teaching most experts have agreed better meets the needs of 21st Century students.  Does a tool change teaching? Absolutely not, teachers do. But which tool will better facilitate learning? That’s the question we should be asking and the comparison between these two tools is obvious.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Augmented Reality is a Reality

Yesterday I went to the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai.  I was handed a set of headphones and an audio guide that I could press when I reached various points around the museum so that I could listen to information about what I was looking at.   Without a doubt this service enabled me to enjoy my visit more and to develop a more in-depth understanding of artifacts on display.  Soon, however, this experience may well be replaced by a technology that the Horizon Report in the past couple of years has identified as something on the "far horizon"of 4-5 years away.  Augmented reality is the layering of place-based information over a 3D view of the normal world - in other words the real-world is augmented by computer generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

The video below gives a few examples about how augmented reality could be used in the future.  My feeling is that this future could well be nearer than some of the experts have predicted.

Back in April this year Google unveiled its Project Glass - an initiative that it had been working on for a couple of years.    Project Glass goes further than using a mobile device as it involves a wearable device that resembles glasses with a lens that can display text messages, maps, reminders, video chats, notes and so on - and activated through voice commands.  The video below from Google gives an example of a day wearing such glasses:

Since this blog is about how technology can transform education, I was interested to read a blog post from Online Universities today about how such glasses can have a real impact in the classroom.  This post identifies the following possible benefits:

  • immersive educational experiences can change the ways that students learn
  • apps will allow students to interact with visual imagery, text and other educational resources
  • memorization will continue to decline in importance as information is more readily available anywhere
  • text books will be obsolete as text, images and videos can be streamed directly to a student's glasses
  • classes can take place anywhere and students who are unable to be present can participate via Google Hangouts
  • field trips will become richer experiences
  • Using Google Translate through the glasses will enable students to collaborate with others around the globe as they will be able to see and read what someone is saying in another language.  This could have a real impact on international mindedness and cultural understanding.
Currently these glasses are only available to developers - but later this year the intention is to put them on sale.  The price tag of $1500 puts them in the same league as a good laptop.  Personally I think we will start to see students with these devices fairly soon.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Our R&D core team met for the first time this year on Tuesday.  Our purpose is to explore, research, design and develop new teaching and learning environments for the 21st century - we will study, pilot, prototype, design and share research in new designs of schooling, teaching and learning and we will evaluate the impact that these initiatives are having.  Our job is to envision what ASB could look like in 5 or 10 years time.  Through looking into the social shifts that are coming in the future we are making decisions now that will put us ahead of the curve.  We are looking at what new positions need to be created at school and at what PD is needed.  Everyone on the R&D core team has chosen to be a part of this - we are all motivated by and passionate about the learning that we are engaged in and the people we are working with.

This year's task forces are researching the following:  project based learning, gamification, alternative school year structures and BYOD Device 2.  There are also parent groups who are researching issues such as ethics in a digital age, augmented reality, internships and apprenticeships, multiple generations at a workplace and facilities design among others.

The group I am working on right now is BYOD Device 2.  This year we transitioned into a BYOD programme from Grade 4 upwards, now we are asking is one device enough?  Many of the faculty this year opted to register a second device to use at school, so I started my research by looking at what these devices were.

The first device for all faculty is a laptop.  67% of the faculty who opted to bring in their own device this year brought a MacBook Pro or Air.  Looking further to see what the second device was I noticed that 47% registered an iPad, 37% registered an iPhone and 16% registered another tablet as their second device.  The interesting thing about this is that every single one of the teachers who brought in a Mac as their first device, chose an iOS device as their second device - possibly this is because of the way that the devices sync easily.  If this is so, then this could have implications for our BYOD Device 2 pilot for students: 70% of the students who registered their BYOD chose a Mac.  

It's interesting to consider what might be the second device of choice - the market is rapidly changing so we are wondering what criteria should be chosen.  It's hard to consider a second (or secondary) BYOD when we don't yet know what it could look like and there are many other things we need to consider such as apps - will we require certain ones on the second BYOD, or will we let the students choose since they already have a standard set on their first BYOD?

Our research period for this will be 6 weeks.  We then want to move onto prototyping it for a couple of months.  We hope to report back on what we have learned in mid- to late-January.  Check out the ASB Findings blog to read about this and other R&D initiatives this year.

Encouraging students to follow their passions

This year our Elementary Librarian and myself have launched a new initiative with our students in Grades 3 - 5.  It's called Independent Studies and our aim is to give the students the skills they need to become lifelong, independent learners.  So far this year we have given students the opportunity to use the print resources in the library and the databases that the school subscribes to, such as the World Book.  The students have now chosen what they want to investigate and have started to write out some questions.  During Independent Studies we discuss the importance of developing good research questions and the skills that are important for critical thinking:  analysis, synthesis and evaluation.  We are hoping that by developing open-ended questions that promote deeper research, that we will be supporting these skills.

So what are our students interested in?  Here are a few examples from the many different investigations our students have started to engage in:

Grade 3:  Paper planes, extreme sports, Indian ranis and English queens
Grade 4:  Special effects in movies, relationships between animals and people, Jamaican dance, the art of Leonardo da Vinci
Grade 5:  the Northern Lights, Shakespeare's life and writings, video games

I will continue to write about this new programme and how it develops with our elementary students.

A quarter of a million people can't be wrong

I used to work in a school where sharing your thoughts, asking questions and wondering if there were better ways of doing things was frowned upon by one or two small minded people who confused critical thinking with criticism.   I started writing a blog where I shared my own thoughts and wonderings because for me writing was survival, reaching out to educators around the world with whom I could have these open discussions and who both supported me and challenged me and made me think deeper.  The number of people who read my blog, who contacted me by email and Twitter, who offered words of support and encouragement, continued to grow and now that I've moved to a really forward looking school I feel it's payback time - I am thankful for all the help I've received over the past 3 years and I want to be helpful in return.  This year I will be sharing some really important, cutting-edge ideas that we are exploring here at ASB as we rethink education and I'm hoping that some of my readers will also find the ideas that I am sharing on this blog interesting enough to take back to their own schools and try out.  We are currently investigating and prototyping a number of different initiatives.  Last year the R&D task forces researched green education, multi-age classrooms, project-based learning, games-based learning, personalized learning, online and blended learning, social technologies and alternative calendars and schedules.  For a school to take on just one of these in a year would be huge, however we are investigating all of them in the R&D core team and the Findings blog is open for everyone to read about them.

Let's put this into perspective.  Only two people have ever told me that they didn't like something that they read on my blog, whereas a quarter of a million people have come here and read something that they obviously liked and found interesting, have come back again to read more and have passed the links to these post onto others.  The numbers themselves continue to astound and humble me.  I hope that the blog posts that I'm writing now will be even more interesting for my readers, as what we are doing here is breaking new ground.    It's not possible to play it safe and break new ground both at the same time so what we are doing involves courage, but what I also know is that everything that has ever been invented started once as an idea in someone's mind - and that idea was nurtured and allowed to grow.  Here at ASB we are doing a lot of nurturing of new ideas - I'm excited to see what they will grow into.

Nurturing the vision and empowering people to make changes is an important part of leadership and in order to be successful the R&D core team will need to consider carefully how to do this.  The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu suggested:
To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!
Hatred and fear, yes I've known so-called leaders who were thought of in this way.  Honour and praise don't interest me in the least.  But walking beside someone, coaching and mentoring and helping them down the path, yes that's something I know I'm good at.  That's something I want to do.

Photo Credit:  Festival by Poppy,  2006 AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Differentiated -v- Personalized

At a previous school we seemed to go through a very long process (years) to eventually arrive at a place where the goal was to differentiate instruction.  My current school has jumped right in and even gone one stage further.  We have gone beyond differentiation and focused on personalized learning.  At first these may seem very similar, but they are in fact almost total opposites.  Personalized learning is child-centred.  Differentiation is teacher-centred.  Personalized learning focuses on the learner, differentiated learning focuses on the instruction.  In personalized learning, students come to understand how they learn best as they are active participants in designing their learning goals and deciding what they are learning, in fact they own their own learning.  In differentiated learning the students are more passive as the teachers have already determined the learning outcomes which are the same for the whole group of students.  Teachers have also selected the content, tools and resources that different students will use.

The US Department of Education defines the difference in the following way:

Differentiation refers to instruction that is tailored to the learning preferences of different learners. Learning goals are the same for all students, but the method or approach of instruction varies according to the preferences of each student or what research has found works best for students like them. 
Personalization refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary.

As we have gone beyond differentiation and are looking at the individual child, the importance of using data collected about that child is of paramount importance.  Last week's staff meeting was devoted to working in groups to look at data we have and to ask what more we need.  Next week many of the teachers are participating in a 3-day workshop with trainers from the Data Wise group at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.

The approach to assessment is also very different.  Differentiated assessment is assessment for learning. It is formative with the aim of aligning further instruction with helping students meet the pre-determined learning outcomes.  It provides the teacher with information about what the students know and can do in order to help them to design the next steps.  Personalized assessment regards assessment as learning.  It is the learners who self-assess and reflect on their progress and come up with their own new goals.  Because assessment is different, reporting is different too.  In personalized learning it is the learner's responsibility to identify their strengths, communicate their learning to others and to plan how they can develop further.

The differences between individualized, differentiated and personalized learning are explained very clearly in this chart by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey.

Photo Credit:  by Ken Owen, 2011 AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

Learning is beautiful - the PYP attitude of curiosity

Several teachers at school have shared this over the past few days and I think it's worth sharing again here.  Jesse Schell talks about how everything is becoming more beautiful, customized, shared and real - except in schools where many classrooms are ugly, standardized, withheld and unreal.  He talks about how schools are often slow to adopt new things, in particular new technologies, but goes on to give examples of some institutions and teachers that are challenging the status quo.

Schell says that curiosity is more important now than it has been at any time in our history because we have the entire field of human knowledge available at the touch of a button which gives curious children a great advantage - they can just "get in and do it".  He talks about the "curiosity gap" and asks what can we do to make children more curious?  Curiosity of course is one of the PYP attitudes.  Jesse Schell said he didn't know of any school that was trying to develop curiosity - as an international educator who has worked in IB schools, I  know many.  One of the attributes of the IB Learner Profile is inquirer.   The aim is that students develop their natural curiosity as they acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning.  Because they actively enjoy learning, this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.

As part of our PYP programme of inquiry we encourage students to become curious about the nature of learning, the world, its peoples and cultures.  Schell makes a great point:  when you customize learning you are rewarding curiosity. It occurs to me that in our Independent Studies,  we are tapping into children's curiosity.  We are encouraging them to develop their own passions about a subject that is of interest to them.  We have had some interesting ideas so far from our students - one girl has decided she wants to investigate bubble gum!

Independent Studies is a brand new initiative at our school this year.  I'll be blogging about it as it unfolds.

Photo Credit:  Curious by Broterham, 2005 AttributionNoncommercial

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Knowledge -v- Wisdom

What is education for? asks David Orr in a post on the Context Institute website.  This is not a new question of course, but Orr's premise is that education has gone seriously wrong as the most educated of us are the ones who are destroying the planet.  He writes:
After a typical day on planet Earth ... the Earth will be a little hotter, its waters more acidic, and the fabric of life more threadbare.  The truth is that many things on which your future health and prosperity depends are in dire jeopardy:  climate stability, the resilience and productivity of natural systems, the beauty of the natural world, and biological diversity.  It is worth noting that this is not the work of ignorant people.  It is rather, largely, the result of work by people with BAs, BSs, LLBs, MBAs and PhDs.
He argues that many people confuse education with wisdom and explains some of the myths associated with this:
  • ignorance is a solvable problem - in fact he writes that the advance of knowledge always carries with it the advance of some form of ignorance
  • with enough knowledge and technology we can manage planet Earth - again not true because the complexity of Earth and its ife systems can never be safely managed.  He writes that we need to reshape ourselves to fit a finite planet, not attempt to reshape the planet to fit in with our infinite wants.
  • as knowledge increases so does human goodness - Orr cautions against mistaking an increase in information with an increase in knowledge and wisdom.  He argues that some knowledge is increasing while other kinds of knowledge is being lost.  In addition, learning does not necessarily make us ethical.
  • we can restore what we have dismantled - by this Orr refers to the fragmentation of knowledge into subjects and disciplines.  He writes that most students graduate without any sense of the unity of things.
  • the purpose of education is to give you the means for upward mobility and success - those who are upwardly mobile are not necessarily those who live well or who have moral courage.  
  • our culture represents the pinnacle of human achievement
David Orr's plea for recognising the importance of wisdom rather than knowledge has implications for education.  He writes:
  • all education is environmental education
  • the goal of education is not mastery of subject matter but of one's person
  • knowledge carries with it the responsibility to see that it is well used in the world
  • we cannot say we know something until we understand the effects of this knowledge on real people and their communities
  • students respond to the power of examples over words - educations need to model integrity, caring, thoughtfulness
  • the way that learning occurs is as important as the content of particular courses
Since this blog is about how technology can transform learning I have been thinking about the idea of digital wisdom.  In the 21st century, what is the link between technology and wisdom?  In thinking about this I came across the following by Marc Prensky which I think highlights the role that technology can play in developing wisdom.  I have thought about these words a lot today:
Digital wisdom is a twofold concept, referring both to wisdom arising from the use of digital technology to access cognitive power beyond our innate capacity and to wisdom in the prudent use of technology to enhance our capabilities. Because of technology, wisdom seekers in the future will benefit from unprecedented, instant access to ongoing worldwide discussions, all of recorded history, everything ever written, massive libraries of case studies and collected data, and highly realistic simulated experiences equivalent to years or even centuries of actual experience. How and how much they make use of these resources, how they filter through them to find what they need, and how technology aids them will certainly play an important role in determining the wisdom of their decisions and judgments. Technology alone will not replace intuition, good judgment, problem-solving abilities, and a clear moral compass. But in an unimaginably complex future, the digitally unenhanced person, however wise, will not be able to access the tools of wisdom that will be available to even the least wise digitally enhanced human.
Photo Credit:  Apple Earth iPad Wallpaper by JD Hancock, 2010 Attribution