Saturday, June 29, 2013

Legacy apps and legacy systems

Another session I attended at ISTE 2013 that made me think was Chris Lehmann's session entitled Technology Transforms Pedagogy.  At one point he talked about the things he taught in his English class long after they were necessary for students to learn - for example HTML4 - and asked "What are your legacy apps?  What are the things you are still teaching that are no longer relevant?"  I started to think about keyboarding.  A parent of a new 5th Grade student recently asked me if/when we were teaching it.  We do actually introduce the Typing Club in Grade 2, but I'm wondering how useful this is long-term for our students.  Is keyboarding something that has reached its expiry date?  He then asked us to think about how we would end this sentence:
Technology means that I have to let go of .....
The next question we started thinking about was legacy systems.  Examples could be the way we communicate with parents, professional development models, curriculum, class schedules, grading, assessment and administration.  Are these now legacy systems - do we continue to do these in the same way without questioning their relvance to our students' futures?  Which of these could we change or control, and what could we do?  And how could technology make that change happen?

Photo Credit: onkel_wart (thomas lieser - computer dead) via Compfight cc

Who needs 100 apps?

I went to many great sessions at ISTE 2013, and over the next few days will be sharing some of what I learned through posting on this blog.  Today I want to share a great session I attended by Melissa Herring where she explained that there were basically 10 types of apps students need on their iPads - if they have one from each of these genres it will enable them to investigate, take notes, communicate and create.  These can be shared with the rest of the class using Airplay and an Apple TV.

1.  A Word processor
  • Pages allows written expression, journaling etc.  Many templates are already built in e.g. posters, letters, newsletters.  The templates mean you/the students don't have to do a lot of work on layout - you work smarter as you focus on content not the design.
  • Melissa discussed keyboarding on iPad.  She said her KG and G1 students are using iPad minis and they are able to type fast using their thumbs.  Keyboarding has limited uses these days - students need different skills.
2.  A Presentation tool
  • Keynote - can also be used to create info graphics
3.  A Drawing Space
  • Draw Free - this is free but has ads at the top.  It's a virtual whiteboard and good for diagrams.  Melissa's students use this app daily. They can bring in pictures from the web and label them and they can import PDFs.
4.  A QR Scanner - Melissa's teachers print out a QR code and stick it to board/wall and students come in and scan.  They also use it as a reward system/classroom incentives.  Students can create QR codes to make museum walks etc.  Some teachers use it with word jumbles or to display student work.
  • QR Stuff
5.  An Annotator 
  • Explain Everything - you can make movies, you can mark up PDF images, you can bring up websites and mark up.  It's like a whiteboard.  You record what you are doing slide by slide. The plus button brings in media and you can visit websites live in the app.
6. A Mapping or Planning tool
  • Popplet - used as timelines.  Students can add images, text, storyboarding, sequence, summarize, lab report.  They can color code the links/groups
7.  Reference tools
  • Wolfram Alpha - math formula, music.  Not useful for 2nd grade and below.
  • Facts4Me - for younger students  
8.  A Book Maker 
  • Scribble Press - now a paid for app.  Students need to have an account.  Melissa's students have made All about Me books from sentence starters.  There are also blank book templates. Students can add stickers, you can draw, add captions.
9.  A Poster Maker
  • Pic Collage - students can search on the web for pictures (watch out - it's not safe search all the time).  They can tap and use the camera to take photos, add text, add stickers, font choices and so on.
10.  File Management 
  • Melissa's students use Google Drive and Dropbox  Other apps to consider:
Other apps she mentioned that are worth considering:
  • iMovie
  • MyStory - book creation for young students
  • Videolicious - talk over a series of pictures - record self, add music
  • Trading Cards - make on a person, place, vocabulary words and so on.  It gives a prompt and character limit - you can make the front and back of cards and can print out
  • Genius Scan - Take a photo of something annotate it
  • Haiku Deck - a presentation tool that gives suggestion for adding image
  • Screen Chomp - an annotation tool/whiteboard space where students can record themselves and send link via email to share
  • KWHL Chart - created by a student - create charts and send to teachers
While I've used some of these with students, many of these recommendations are completely new to me.  I'm glad I have several weeks left of summer to play with them so that I can share them with our teachers at ASB next school year.

Photo Credit: Daniel Y. Go via Compfight cc

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

10 Positive Emotions

Jane McGonigal was the opening keynote at ISTE this year.   She explained that there are now 1 billion gamers worldwide who play for at least one hour per day. This is good news for learning and education and for those who want to solve world problems as these gamers make up a network that can change the world. 

She talked about a worrying statistic:  the longer you stay in school the less engaged you become. In the USA studies have shown that 76% of elementary students are engaged but only 44% of high school students.   However if you look at gaming you see a different pattern - 7 billion hours a week of maximum engagement with 99% of boys and 94% of girls under 18 playing games. Put into layman's terms, it took 100 million hours to create Wikipedia. This is the same number of hours that gamers spend in 7 days playing Call of Duty. 

Jane talked about what gamers want - why do they play games.  She explained it is all about positive emotions (see the photograph I took of the slide she presented above).  Three quarters of gamers are engaged in cooperative games which create positive emotions - and these positive emotions persist despite that fact that gamers fail 80% of the time.

She said that the opposite of play isn't work - it's depression and there is now medical evidence that supports how playing games is good for your emotional health.  The parts of your brain that stop lighting up when you are depressed are the ones that are active when gaming. Your brain becomes goal oriented so that it can get better.  Because we fail 80% of the time the brain is constantly engaged in learning how to do better - gamers are constantly in the learning zone. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Invent to Learn: Less Us, More Them

Yesterday, my first day at the ISTE Conference, I did the Invent to Learn workshop with Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez.  This workshop was very hands-on, but also gave some background about the DIY/Maker Revolution.  Gary explained that there is a lot of interest in learning by making.  At the moment many schools are investigating 3D printing, for example, yet it is the design and intellectual processes behind this printing that is most interesting in terms of student learning.  Gary talked about personal fabrication being the next major revolution - with 3D printers for example you have the means of production and also the process skills to be able to design and create.  It is now possible to receive the design of something such as a musical instrument or bike by email, and to customize it to your own preferences and then print it out.

Gary explained at a time when educators are getting the message that formal schools are becoming irrelevant to our students, he feels the opposite:  he cares about schools because that is where kids are and he believes that the new emphasis on STEM could be "save" schools because science is something that children love and which helps them make sense of the world.  The focus is shifting back to:
  • Fabrication
  • Physical computing
  • Computer programming
This can remove the distinction between academic and vocational education.  

Gary talked about how the Maker Revolution is giving us the skills we need for the future and likened this to "going up on the down escalator".  Students need to try things out and learn what works and what doesn't work by working through a process of think, make and improve.  They move a little bit forward and also a little bit backwards and yet they are still motivated.  In order to foster a climate of risk taking Gary discussed what is necessary:
  1. A good prompt, challenge or problem - which is brief, ambiguous and has an immunity to assessment
  2. Appropriate materials
  3. Sufficient time - we want deep learning so need to let students work on long-term projects
  4. A supportive culture, including expertise
However the most important thing we can do as teachers is to step back and let students learn through their experience.  There needs to be less us and more them.

Image Credit: 3D printed guitar taken from licensed for reuse.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The 2013 - K-12 Horizon Report in 4 minutes

I wrote several blog posts about the K-12 Horizon Report when it was issued earlier this month.  For those who missed it, here is a quick 4 minute overview.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Interaction -v- Participation, Standardization -v- Innovation

This year I've been focused on 3 main words:  engagement, transformation and rigor.  As a Tech Coordinator I want to see teachers moving from using technology to engage students to using it to transform and personalize the learning.  During the last half of the year I've also been looking much more at student artifacts and asking how rigorous they are, where they fall on Bloom's Taxonomy and whether students are using lower or higher order thinking.   I find it important to also consider how active students are in their learning - are they empowered to take change of their own learning, or are they simply following instructions and doing what the teacher requires to complete assignments or do well on test?  Another way of asking this could be are students merely interacting or are they really participating in the learning?

Recently I read an article by Meghan McCarthy Welch and Caitlin McMunn Dooley on this very question.  They write that students have access to screens everywhere, but are they using these tools effectively?  Are they using the higher order thinking skills or are they just "passive consumers"?  They define the difference between interaction and participation in the following way:

Interaction: tools that ask for a simple response or input, for example online games where students select the correct answer by clicking or typing an answer
Participation:  students receive information, but then interpret it and use it to create.  Participation usually involves feedback which can lead to modifying or redesigning the original idea

Interaction may work well in an education system that is geared towards standardized testing.  Online games, for example, often reward correct responses and can be quite motivating and engaging.  However students who simply interact with technology are probably not really developing their creativity, as many of these interactive games can work against developing an innovator's mindset.  Innovation requires being able to think outside the box, or beyond the game.  It involves breaking the rules, taking risks, thinking in a transdisciplinary way, and actively participating and collaborating with others.  Schools are often good at teaching to standardized tests, hitting learning outcomes and anything else that involves observing what students are doing and then ticking the box.  Yet the very things that teachers are doing to raise scores and standards may well be working against students taking change of their own learning and developing their own creativity.  

Many of the tools and apps teachers are using in schools are interactive and engaging, but I think it is my job to ferret out the ones that go further than simply remember, understand and regurgitate.  Next year I want to focus much more on finding tools that allow students to be more creative.  Suggestions welcome.

Photo Credit: Vicki & Chuck Rogers via Compfight cc

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I received a tweet today informing me that Tech Transformation has made it into the Top 100 Influential Education Blogs list complied by Onalytica.  This was quite a surprise to me - a very pleasant surprise of course when I looked down the list and found my blog there at number 34, alongside blogs by wonderful educational bloggers who I've been following for many years.  It was also a surprise because I do almost nothing to promote my blog, since my last school frowned on anything that might be seen as personal branding or self promotion.  From force of habit, from having to fly under the radar there, I rarely ever tweet about new posts, or add them into Google+ or other social media as this caused no end of problems to me at my last school.  The people who read my blog I guess are a fairly loyal following of international educators who found it and continue to read it and who sometimes comment or tweet about it.  I want to thank you all, as it is your support that has kept me going with the blog during the 3 years when the reaction of those I was working with was much less than positive.  The readership is now more than 365,000 people, though I suppose if I had been actively promoting it, it may well have been much more.

I was curious of course to know how my blog gained this ranking.  Following various links took me to this explanation, which I'm copying here for anyone interested to read:

Our influence measuring methodology is based on the Input/Output model developed by the Nobel Prize winner Wassily Leontief. 
The model takes into account all references and citations between the blogs. We developed three metrics for each blog: Influence Index, Popularity and Over-Influence. 
The Onalytica Influence Index is the impact factor of a blog, or how much that blog matters.  
Popularity represents how popular or well-known the blog is among other education blogs.
Over–Influence seeks to capture how influential a blog is compared to how popular it is. 
There is a strong correlation between how popular or well-known a blog is and its influence. However some blogs carry more influence than their popularity leads us to believe; this is what we call over-influence.
It seems that for me, this ranking was caused by the over-influence of the blog.  I think I write for a fairly niche market (international school educators) so I would be surprised to find it was well known or popular.  In any case this tweet made me happy.  It is an honour to be on this list! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fast, good and cheap?

Last week I visited friends I used to work with in Switzerland and had a fascinating conversation with one of them about the Project Management Triangle.  This triangle is basically about designing and delivering a project, and the theory is that you can do 2 of the 3 things but you cannot do all 3 at the same time.  For example you can design something that is a good quality quickly but it will not be cheap.  You can design something quickly and cheaply, but the quality will not be good.  You can design something that is high quality and cheap, but it will take a long time.

I wonder if the Project Management Triangle can also be applied to school improvement?  For example I have seen schools grow very quickly without a lot of investment both in human resources and in infrastructure, but there has been a definite decline in quality/morale.  I've also seen schools develop and become better in a very short time, but it has been at a huge cost in both new buildings and in professional development.  What do you think?  Do you think that schools can improve and focus on all 3 of these at the same time?  Can they improve in a short time without a huge investment?  Could the investment actually be a human one?  Could teachers in a school decide that in a short period - maybe one or two years - that they will take advantage of the amazing amount of free professional development that is available - sometime from within the establishment itself - in order to change mindsets and really move forward?  I think it is possible.  Do you?

The image of the Project Management Triangle is taken from Wikimedia Commons and is licenced with a Creative Commons licence.

Monday, June 17, 2013

SAMR: Moving from Enhancement to Transformation

I have used the SAMR Model for many years during discussions with teachers about how they can integrate technology into the PYP programme of inquiry.  In general I have felt that teachers are easily able to use technology for Substitution or Augmentation (the enhancement areas of the model), but that they need support from an integration specialist or coach as they try to use technology for Modification or Redefinition (the transformation areas of the model).  In the latest edition of ISTE's Leading & Learning with Technology I read an article that made me think further about moving from enhancement to transformation.  In this article there were actually 3 levels that were discussed called Engage, Enhance and Extend.  The definitions for these different levels are as follows:

  • Engagement - allows students to focus on assignments with less distraction, motivates students to start the learning, and causes a shift from passive to active learning.  Basically this is simply a way of teachers trying to motivate disengaged students.
  • Enhancement - lets students develop a more sophisticated understanding of the content, makes it easier to understand the concepts, and allows a way for students to show their understanding in a different way.  At this level technology helps students to learn in ways that would not be possible without technology.
  • Extension - allows students to learn outside of the school day, links their learning with real life experiences and encourages them to become lifelong learners.  This level is more about learning outside the classroom.
As I read this through I wonder if the first two of these could equate with the S and A of the SAMR model, and whether Extension is more aligned with the M and the R.  I also started to realize that by looking closely at any learning engagement it may be possible to move it from enhancement to transformation.  A great example was given by Liz Keren-Kolb, the author of article.  She describes a level 1 engagement as students developing their own websites, which would include taking a stance on a controversial issue.  Moving onto level 2, she describes that students could go on to add interactive features that would allow visitors to the website to  comment or participate in a poll - perhaps offering a different perspective.  At the 3rd level she describes students using mobile devices to record interviews, take photos or make videos that could be added onto the web pages.  In this example I would agree that students have moved on the SAMR model from enhancement to transformation - in particular I think the idea of using live polls or video interviews to add to the website that show different perspectives are things that could not be done without technology.

I think it could also be possible to look at this assignment in the light of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.  Taking a stance on an issue could show understanding, and incorporating readers' views could also lead to analysis and evaluation.  Finally using audio, video and images could add to the creative elements of the website that the students are designing, transforming this learning engagement from lower to higher order thinking.

Photo Credit: Mr. T in DC via Compfight cc

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The changing role of the librarian: an information coach

At one time not so long ago, literacy was defined as the ability to read and write and the school library was a place where students came to check our books to read or to find information in reference books.  In recent years, however, with the rapid advances of technology and the way it has become ubiquitous in schools, the definition of literacy has changed so that the emphasis is more on students being able to find and edit information to create their own digital media.  Around the world, schools have seen a fusion of the traditional roles of the teacher librarian and the IT teacher in order to teach students the skills they need for the future.  The library is turning into an information centre where technology, teaching and learning come together and where those staffing it can help students with both technical and information questions.

Last year, building a new campus at ASB, allowed us to completely rethink the concept of the elementary library.  We now have an iCommons on every floor of the building where students can access both eBooks and printed books, and the Librarian and Tech Coordinators work closely in these interactive spaces to help students learn both independently and collaboratively.  No longer are these iCommons just a place for books for passive consumption, but they are places of inquiry where students are supported and coached to become information creators and communicators of their knowledge.  As students engage in inquiry they build new understandings and skills and they develop and apply critical and creative thinking.  Above all, the technology provides the opportunities for the transformation of learning and empowers students to be responsible for their own learning - with the support of an information coach.

School -v- Work

I'm staying in London with my son, who graduated last year and is now working at a bank in the City.  We spent yesterday evening updating his LinkedIn page and talking about his first placement and how, despite having very little experience, he was able to effect change and turn around underperforming branches of the bank in the north of England.  The amazing thing to me is that many of the skills he is using now, those that are so valuable in the world of work, are simply those that were not even considered useful at school or university.  This morning I came across an article published yesterday by Sugata Mitra in the Guardian that sums this up:
In school examinations, learners must reproduce facts from memory, solve problems using their minds and paper alone. They must not talk to anyone or look at anyone else's work. They must not use any educational resources, certainly not the internet. When they complete their schooling and start a job, they are told to solve problems in groups, through meetings, using every resource they can think of. They are rewarded for solving problems this way – for not using the methods they were taught in school.
As teachers we need to take this on board.  We need to prepare our students better for the skills they will need in the world of work.

Photo Credit: fisserman via Compfight cc

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Media Fluency and Digital Citizenship

Every year at ASB we have an author come and visit us at school.  Next year our librarian has managed to persuade Frank W. Baker to make a trip to Mumbai to teach our students about media literacy.  In the latest edition of Learning & Leading with Technology, Frank Baker writes about the importance of being able to analyze media and create media products.

Students often enjoy looking at art and being able to understand the different techniques an artist has used.  In our media lessons with Grade 2 this year we introduced students to the wonderful website from the National Gallery of Art Kidzone where students were able to create many original pieces of digital art and then add them into Animoto to make their own art movies.  However visual literacy goes a step further - since students are being constantly bombarded with images it is important that they understand how to "read" the information that is being communicated visually so that they understand that images can be manipulated.  In the past I have taught lessons using fake websites such as the Tree Octopus or Dog Island and students were initially fooled into thinking these were genuine websites because they contain images.  As Baker writes many students "don't have the visual literacy skills they need to be critical viewers and competent communicators in a digital world."

In our Grade 4 students study and eventually also make their own advertisements.  We develop this further in Grade 5 as students put on a trade fair and need to advertise the products or services that they are selling.  The adverts the students create can be posters or videos, and next year I'd like to have them also try to make radio scripts too using different sound effects.

At the same time that we teach media lessons, it's important to continually reinforce the necessity of being responsible digital citizens.  Students understand the need to write using their own words, but many teachers and students need to be constantly reminded that many online images and sound are also copyrighted and they need to be responsible in locating media that is labelled for reuse - and then citing where this media came from.

Photo Credit: (davide) via Compfight cc

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What is the role of a technology integration specialist?

Yesterday I met up with some wonderful friends from a school where I used to work.  There were lots of hugs and tears and without fail everyone told me that they missed me and how since I left there has been a decline in the authentic use of technology to support student learning.  Roles have changed and it seems there is not so much "hands on" support for teachers now, which means they are less confident and less willing to try new things with technology.  This prompted me to consider the multitude of things that I did that were not "officially" part of my job description, but which were vital elements in helping teachers to integrate technology into their teaching and into student learning.  Here are a few of them:

  • I was a collaborator:  collaborative planning is at the heart of the PYP and I worked with teachers to plan, teach and evaluate student learning.  My job had to start with being a collaborator - without this I couldn't do any of the rest of it.
  • I found resources:  often as a result of the discussions we had during collaborative planning sessions, teachers came to me with questions about how to do things and I tried to find resources to help them.  As well as this I helped them find resources to support student learning.  These could be YouTube videos, websites, Web 2.0 tools or apps.  Then, as now, I published all these links on a website, providing students with a "one stop shop" for resources that supported their inquiries.  
  • I was an innovator:  as a way of carrying out the previous role, I often tried out new things.  If teachers wanted to do something, I would ferret out a few different tools or apps, try them out and report back to the teachers on which ones I thought would be best suited to their needs.  I was constantly looking for better ways of doing things.  I liked finding creative solutions to problems that the teachers had.
  • I was a learner:  I love to learn.  Technology is constantly changing, and as I'm always saying "even if you are on the right road, if you sit down in the middle of it you will get run over".  I like to learn about new ideas, new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking.  I believe teachers should model lifelong learning for their students, and I think that technology teachers/integration specialists/coaches should in turn model it for the teachers they are supporting.
  • I was a provider of professional development:  almost every lesson that I taught or modeled provided professional development to the teachers.  If the technology or the tool or the app was something they were already familiar with then they probably didn't need me in their lessons, except to support their pedagogy.  Actually when I reflect on this I think that the most important thing I did was to inspire teachers to find different ways to use the technology to support higher order thinking.  I was there to push the learning forward.  I tried many different models of professional development, but the one that made the most difference to classroom practice was one-on-one coaching.
  • I was a teacher of digital citizenship and information fluency:  Together with the librarian I worked with students in their classrooms, in the lab and in the library to help them become digitally literate and responsible digital citizens.
  • I was a communicator:  I talked with, emailed, blogged about and used social media to share with teachers, students, and administrators about how the technology programme enhanced student learning.  I was an ambassador for the integration of technology - hundreds of thousands of educators around the world read my blog, which led to the growth of my own learning community as well as invitations to present at conferences, run workshops and online courses, mentor teachers virtually through skype and more.  Communication was a way of amplifying what I was doing so that I could learn from others and they could learn from me.
Are you a tech integration specialist, a tech teacher or an information coach?  What do you think are the most important things you do in your job to support teachers and students?

Photo Credit: Helene Iracane via Compfight cc

Friday, June 7, 2013

Reflection on my personalized PD

It's the first day of the holidays and I'm in a reflective mood.  As I look back over the past year I do it with a feeling of satisfaction, with the feeling that a lot was accomplished and a lot was learned and the knowledge that I have developed in many different directions as an educator.  At this time last year, I was reflecting too.  I was reflecting on my experiences in a very different place, on what I had learned about myself, about what I could and couldn't accept, about the kind of school where I wanted to work and the kind of school where I knew I would never work again.  I was reflecting on how when people respect, value and support you that you are motivated to work hard and achieve your best, and that when they don't - well, it's pretty soul-destroying.

Over this past year I have learned so many different things, basically by being in control of my own professional development and by being encouraged to grow and become a better educator.  I did a 10 week photography course through ASB's Online Academy - and I then went on to teach students about photography in our Day 9 initiative.  I learned about how to use data to inform decision making by doing a DataWise workshop with Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.  I trained to be an IB online workshop leader and then went on to facilitate 3 online workshops over the course of the year.  I completed 2 Google MOOCs on searching and advanced power searching and I was a presenter at Google's first ever India Summit.  That same month I also presented at a very different conference - Teach For India's InspirED about assessment techniques that DIDN'T use technology.  Through the R&D team I've investigated internships and prototyped BYOM.  I did a course through ASB's Online Academy in Creativity, Curriculum and Multimedia and another online course on the 5Ws of Personalized Learning.  I also participated in the Flat Classroom Leadership Workshop and learned a lot more about the brain and learning at ASB's Un-Plugged Impact Conference.  I considered doing a MAE in Educational Leadership, but on balance decided I didn't have enough time to do this along with all the other areas that I wanted to grow in professionally. I decided I'm more of a "Lonely Planet" kind of learner, rather than the "Club Med" type.  I'm happy to read about and put together my own itinerary of learning to make a personal PD plan for myself, rather than taking a university master's package.  I feel that my approach takes me where I want to go, to explore the things I'm really interested in.  I feel that I've learned more in one year - and have been able to share and give back that learning - than I have in the previous three.

Today I had the luxury of time.  I've come back to Switzerland to visit friends and spent the morning sitting on the balcony enjoying the fresh air, sunshine and spectacular views of the mountains and I had the time to read the latest edition of ISTE's Learning & Leading with Technology.  Because I have just finished the 5Ws of Personalized Learning course, I was interested to read the article by the workshop leaders, Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey.  The very first sentence jumped out at me - because it applies to both our students and our teachers:
Over the past 100 - or even 1,000 - years, learners haven't changed much.  They have always learned in their own unique and variable ways.  What has changed is technology ... now, perhaps for the first time, we have the ability to meet learners where they are, to teach them all in the ways that they learn best, and to facilitate optimal learning experiences for everyone, anytime and anywhere.
As Barbara and Kathleen go on to mention, the idea of personalized learning (or personalized PD) is focused on the learner's motivation, engagement and voice.  Next year our aim is to personalize PD for all our teachers, based on the needs that have emerged through our recent tech audit.  I've been considering how Open Badges might be used as digital backpacks as teachers build their own professional ePortfolios.  Although Barbara and Kathleen have focused on student learning, I feel that what they write is equally applicable to teachers - they too (just like I have done this year) need to be able to own their learning and to have voice and choice in how they learn. The first step is that all learners need to be coached so that they understand how they learn best.  Once they know this, then can start to "acquire the skills to choose and use the tools that work best for their learning qualities" and self-direct their own learning.

So today I started to think about what I want to learn next year.  As I was browsing for ideas I came across the new free Coursera Teacher Professional Development courses, which are 3 - 5 week courses that run throughout the year, each course taking between 2 - 4 hours per week to complete.  The first one I signed up for was Coaching Teachers:  Promoting Changes that Stick.  I quickly found another that also seemed interesting entitled On the Hunt for Feedback:  Self-Directed Teacher Improvement.  Here are some others that I'm considering:

  • Student Thinking at the Core - this course explores how teachers can capitalize on what students bring to the classroom - their ideas, perceptions, and misunderstandings - to advance the learning of all students in the class.
  • Foundations of Virtual Instruction - learn what it takes to teach a K-12 online course.  Investigate the history of virtual education, explore innovative tools, and examine key issues related to K-12 virtual instruction.
  • Emerging Trends and Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom - investigate how we can more deeply engage students in the virtual classroom through the use of innovative practices and technologies.
  • Tinkering Fundamentals:  Integrating Making Activities into your STEM Classroom - research-based insights into design principles and learning indicators related to high-quality STEM-rich tinkering.
So as one year ends, I've already started thinking about what I can do for next year to move forward and become the best educator that I can be, and I'm thankful beyond words that I am in a school that encourages and supports teachers moving forward through personalized professional development.

Photo Credit: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML via Compfight cc

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's on the horizon - (part 4 - trends and challenges)

This is my final post in the series based on the 2013 K-12 Horizon Report.  In this post I'm simply highlighting the trends that I have noticed and that I feel are most important in international education.

The internet is challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.  As Ian Jukes would say, we need less of TTWWADI ("that's the way we've always done it"), less of doing old things in new ways, and a willingness to change.  I wrote a little bit about this earlier this year following the ASB Un-Plugged Brain Research Institute.  We have the option of flight, fight or freeze and certainly some educators and administrators can be seen to have taken these options - or we have the chance to transform what we are doing to embrace the changes and prepare students for the world in which they will live.

The falling price of technology allows schools to revise and open up their access policies - for example BYOD and BYOM.  Many educators are changing their attitudes as they come to better understand the capabilities of mobile devices to improve learning.

Schools are becoming more interested in personalizing learning - students and teachers who have their own devices are able to customize the settings and the apps, giving them more control over their learning.  Teachers are enabled to set expectations that students will be actively engaged in designing and supporting their own learning.

Online, hybrid and collaborative learning are on the increase - online learning can increase opportunities for collaboration and give students stronger digital skills.

Assessments are more focused on what you can do and less on what you know - the emphasis is moving to students applying their understanding and in particular designing solutions to real-world problems.

Openness is becoming more valued - Hallelujah!

People expect to be able to work anywhere and at anytime - traditional homework is changing and flipping the classroom can free up valuable teacher time in class.  Just-in-time learning is becoming more common.

Schools are moving away from textbooks and towards web based resources and eBooks - these resources can be easily revised.  Open educational resources such as the Khan Academy are becoming more popular.

Social media is changing the way we interact, present ideas and information and communicate.

Learning is becoming more challenging, active and incorporates more real-life issues.

There is a gap between the vision of personalized learning and the tools needed to achieve it - technology should allow more student voice and choice.

Teacher training is still inadequate - digital media literacy is rising in importance yet training in the skills and techniques necessary to teach this is rare in teacher training programmes.  To some extent this is being offset by PD or informal learning.  The real challenge highlighted by the Horizon report is that "digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking".

New models of learning are now competing with traditional methods - MOOCs enable students to have rich, free, online education.

Ongoing PD needs to be valued and integrated into the culture of schools - many new technologies are underutilized because of a lack of training, or are simply used for substitution, to do new thing in old ways.

Digital media could be better used for formative assessment - in particular there is the need to be able to assess 21st century skills.

Photo:  Agonda Beach in Goa

What's on the horizon? (part 3)

This post is a follow on from my last 2 posts, looking at the 2013 K-12 Horizon Report.  While my school seems to be well on the way to implementing technologies on the near and mid horizon, I was curious to see what we should be preparing for on the far horizon and excited when the first thing the report mentioned for an adoption time of 4-5 years was 3D printing.

Earlier this year we bought several different models of 3D printers at ASB in order to try them out.  The  one that I currently have in the tech office is the Cube.  Reading through the Horizon Report I can see that the relevance for teaching and learning could be as follows:

  • allowing exploration of objects that might not be readily available to schools for example animal anatomies or fragile objects such as fossils and artifacts
  • students can explore the entire process from design to production of 3D objects
Considering the use of the first of these brings me onto another technology that has been identified as being on the far horizon, virtual and remote labs.  These labs enable the equipment and elements of science laboratories to be more easily available to learners via the web.  ASB is fortunate that on our elementary campus we have a well stocked science lab designed especially for young students and a science specialist who works with teachers to incorporate science into the units of inquiry.  However this is the first school I've worked that has this facility available to elementary students and so I can certainly see the value of using remote labs where experiments can be done in a safe environment.  The Horizon Report outlines the following advantages for teaching and learning of virtual and remote labs:
  • students are able to make mistakes and be involved in as many experiments as they like since no real chemicals or equipment is being used
  • teachers can make videos of the online experiments and play them back afterwards to analyse how students have done
  • access to science tools is increased when students can access them via the internet
The third technology on the far horizon for K-12 schools is augmented reality - the layering of information over 3D space.  Outside of education augmented reality is also leading to a movement towards more mobile devices.   I think that AR connects well with the final technology on the far horizon - wearable technology.  A popular example of this is Google Glass that allows the wearer to see information about his or her surroundings or to access remote data.  Wearable technology can communicate information from the user to text, email or social networks based on voice or gesture commands.

The K-12 Horizon Project concludes with trends and challenges.  I'll be making a final post about these later this week.

Photograph taken at the top of The Peak, Hong Kong

Monday, June 3, 2013

What's on the horizon? (part 2)

The last post was about what is on the near horizon for technology in education.  Today I'm going to write about what technologies are likely to be adopted by schools in 2-3 years time.  As mentioned before, ASB is a leader in educational technology and many of these initiatives are already part of our R&D work, or even being prototyped at school.  On the middle horizon are electronic publishing, learning analytics, open content and personalized learning.

Let's start with personalized learning, which is one of our school goals this year and which is "a key and necessary component of the next generation of schools and learning".  The K-12 Horizon Report notes that this encompasses a wide variety of approaches to support self-directed learning.  We have seen different initiatives at ASB this year including 20% time, Independent Studies and the Day 9 project, all of which I've written about before.  With the BYOM prototype last year we noticed that it has also become easier for students to personalize their learning by bringing in the device of their choice and using the apps they are most familiar with.

Electronic publishing is another technology on the middle horizon, with mainstream adoption in 2-3 years time.  The Horizon Reports explains that "electronic publishing is redefining the boundaries between print and digital, still image and video, passive and interactive".  Apps such as the iBook Author allow both teachers and students to publish their own eBooks.

Data informed decision making is also part of our current strategic plan at ASB, to promote a culture of high student achievement.  ASB has adopted the Data Wise Improvement Model from Harvard University and in the Fall of 2012 many of ASB's educators were involved in a 3-day workshop where we were trained to use multiple forms of data to inform us about student learning, to help us identify struggling students and those who are high achievers.  This year new positions have been created including that of literacy coach, to work with teachers to look at the data we have collected about growth in reading, a maths instructional coach to help differentiate learning and to also work on special projects with high achievers in Elementary, and a data and instructional coach for Middle and High School.  Literacy and math data meetings take place once every 8 days with Elementary teaching teams.  The Horizon Report K-12 puts learning analytics on the 2-3 year horizon for adoption - the idea of this in schools is to "leverage student related data to build better pedagogies, target at-risk student populations, and to assess whether programs designed to improve retention have been effective".  The report outlines other benefits for teaching and learning including:

  • early signals that indicate a student is struggling can allow teachers to address issues quickly
  • teachers are enabled to more precisely identify students' learning needs and tailor instruction appropriately.
Open content is something I've been very interested in this year.  The Horizon Report also identifies this as being on the middle horizon.  Open content licensed though organizations such as Creative Commons allows the sharing of information.  Many teachers write blogs and license their own work with a Creative Commons licences which allowing us to share our thoughts and wonderings about our practice and pedagogies with other educators around the globe.  This past year has also seen a huge growth in MOOCs (I have participated in several myself and am just about to start another one on Google Earth and Maps).  The advantages to teaching and learning of open content are described as follows:
  • sharing materials means teachers' workloads can be reduced
  • many universities have published their courses online and made them freely available to anyone
  • open content promotes digital literacy skills enabling people to find, evaluate and use new information.
In technology terms, 2-3 years is a very long time.  Once again, as I reflect on where we are at ASB, my feelings are that these future technologies will be mainstream here well before the next 2 years.

Photo taken at Juhu Beach

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What's on the horizon?

Every year I'm always excited to read the K-12 edition of the NMC Horizon Project where various new technologies are discussed along with the timeline for them to become mainstream.  This year, however, it's quite a shock:  all the "new" technologies listed are those that ASB has already started adopting!

The first set of technologies are those that are on the "near horizon" with an adoption timeline of one year or less.  These include BYOD, cloud computing, mobile learning and online learning.   In the case of BYOD, the reports states that "the act of a student using his or her own device for learning has proven to increase productivity and engagement".  Other benefits listed for their impact on teaching, learning, research and creativity are as follows:

  • Students use the same device at school and at home - this extends learning opportunities to times and places outside the classroom
  • BYOD allows students to use technologies with which they are already familiar
  • BYOD is seen as cost effective when compared with school provided devices
ASB has been BYOD with laptops for all students from Grade 6 upwards this year, with BYOD options for Grades 4 and 5.  Next year we are transitioning into all students from Grade 4 upwards bringing their own laptops.  Members of the ASB Tech Department will be presenting on BYOD in 4 Easy Steps at ISTE later this month.

Another technology on the near horizon mentioned by the Horizon Project is cloud computing.  Among the advantages of this for teaching and learning are the following:
  • Cloud resources are often free and simple to use - tools, media and educational materials are more accessible than ever before
  • Access to documents and applications online means that students and teachers can create and edit their work or review information whenever or wherever they want
Mobile learning is another technology with an adoption timeline of a year of less.  At ASB we already prototyped students bringing their own mobile devices in November last year in a Grade 4 homeroom and in 8th Grade maths and 10th Grade algebra.  Students used these in addition to their laptops.  Following the successes of these prototypes the R&D team recommended that students be permitted to access our network using their mobile devices, and that more prototypes be carried out for teachers and teaching assistants for the whole of next school year as we study how mobile devices can further improve learning at ASB.

The Horizon report highlights the relevance of mobile learning for education:
  • Schools wanting to go 1:1 might find mobile learning an economic and flexible alternative to laptops
  • Mobile apps allow students to share questions and findings with each other in real time, for example to exchange notes, videos and so on.
  • Students can use the inbuilt microphones, cameras and other tools.  This is very useful for work done outside of the classroom (for example on field trips), and we have also found it useful for students to use to capture their work for adding to their ePortofolios.
Online learning is the final technology that the Horizon Reports mentions as being on the near horizon. Once again ASB has already made massive advances in this in recent years.  For example we already have the position of Online Learning Coordinator at school, and ASB has its own Online Academy for students, teachers and parents - and also for those outside of the ASB community.  This year I've accessed the OA to do a photography course, various courses on apps for education and a course about the creation of rigorous multimedia products.  Online learning also supports ASB's drive towards personalized learning.  Other advantages highlighted by the Horizon Project include:
  • the creative use of educational technologies and emerging instructional approaches, including blended learning, video lectures and badges
  • the ease of accessibility supports self-directed learning
In the coming week I will be looking at the trends on the middle (2-3 years) and far (4-5 years) as well as the significant challenges.  In the case of technologies on the near horizon, however, at ASB the future is now.

Photo taken at Dadar Chowpatty, showing the Sealink between Bandra and Worli in Mumbai