Tuesday, 7 July 2015

ICT in Primary Education - Week Six Reflection

Woo! Hoo!  I've handed my last assignment in and just come back from lunch and a movie with my friend and our boys.  So a very pleasant afternoon accompanied by that happy feeling that you have when something that kept you busy is completed.  I can now get on to the other things on my list, including some more blog posts based on what I got up to last term.  But first, here's the best bits from this week:

"Many computer-supported TPD projects focus on technical concerns, to the exclusion of all others.  Underlying these projects is the assumption that learning how to use computers equals knowing how to teach with computers".  This point has been brought up in the readings before and I think it is one to keep in mind in order to properly integrate ICT in a school.  Just showing teachers how to use a new tool is not enough, there also needs to be suggestions on how to use the tool with students. 
And one more:
"Like their students, teachers learn by doing—by collaborating with peers, reflecting, planning classroom activities—not by sitting and listening to a facilitator or following along in directed technology instruction". 
  • The above article also discussed what is meant by technology integration.  It should not be a separate subject that you study by itself.  Instead students should use computers regularly and learn computer skills as part of their study of other content areas. 
    • ICTs and Teacher Competencies - I had no idea how many really interesting UNESCO publications there were.  This one discusses the fact that students today have grown up with technology and expect that their education will have "the same authentic, relevant and interactive characteristics" as they have at home.  Unfortunately in a lot of classrooms this is not the case.  Here's a good quote:
    "The literature is clear that among other factors, high-quality professional development for teachers is critical, yet often lacking in education reform efforts. This lack of effective professional development for teachers is often considered a root cause of the divide between what learners could potentially achieve and the reality they actually face in classrooms throughout the world". 
    • Here are some great last words:  "Our challenge, then, is to use effective professional development to scale up from successful “pockets” to large-scale, systemic change".

    Tuesday, 30 June 2015

    ICT in Primary Education - Week Five Reflection

    View image | gettyimages.com     Lack of time and lack of money

    This week's focus in the ICT in Primary Education course was 'Inspiring examples and implementation concerns'.  I was grateful that the workload was lighter than last week's topic as juggling work and study is not easy.  Only one week left, of both study and work!  Yay for the holidays!!

    Here are the things that caught my interest this week:
    • One of UNESCO's excellent publications was again the focus for the week.  This time it was Section 4, Limitations and Concerns.  The main problems mentioned were lack of funding, lack of technical support, outdated technology and poor infrastructure, lack of knowledge and confidence from teachers, lack of time for teachers to learn about ICT, and lack of involvement from management and also families.
    • Another concern was privacy and security, including hacking, harmful sites and cyberbullying.
    • In terms of the impact of ICT on education, the schools in the UNESCO report expressed a lot of concerns around:
      • pupils being isolated
      • reduction in handwriting skills
      • pupils being addicted to the computer and the internet
      • pupils being distracted by mobile devices
      • pupils learning faster than teachers
      • the time it takes to try out technology before it's used in the classroom.
    • There were concerns around how to fully integrate ICTs into the school culture and across the curriculum.  Getting teachers to willingly integrate ICT into their teaching was a key point.
    • Suggestions were given about how to overcome the limitations and concerns, including:
      • Give ICT a real focus and value in the school.
      • Include ICT in the school Charter.
      • Have a good ICT infrastructure in place.
      • Encourage collaboration between teachers, pedagogical specialists and ICT coordinators.
      • Engage parents by offering training and support.
      • One of the key aspects was professional development of staff, including:
        • At the beginning offering technological courses and then offering continuing professional development for the entire staff.
        • Offering training in small groups, allowing mentoring and differentiation.
        • Training teachers to let students have time to explore ICT, learn and express themselves with it.
        • Organising staff workshops led by staff for staff.
    • There were some interesting case study videos.  In particular, one Canadian teacher raised a lot of really good points:
      • It is important to make sure students are using critical thinking when looking at sites on the internet.  She talked about teaching them what the domain suffixes mean and how they can find out who wrote the site, so they are questioning the source of the information.  
      • To make sure students are not just cutting and pasting she has her students visit multiple sites, take notes and put information in their own words.  
      • Her students help each other with problem-solving when their iPads have issues.
      • You need to reassure parents that their children won't be on tech all day.
      • The role of teachers is changing and it's a learning curve.
      • Teachers need to look at a device as a pedagogical tool, then find out how many uses they can find for it, in small ways as well as larger ways (I love this point!).

    Tuesday, 23 June 2015

    ICT in Primary Education - Week Four Reflection

    By www.ocg.at

    I've had another busy week trying to balance sick relatives in hospital, technical issues with our leased iPads (further details will be in another post), and the ICT in Primary Education MOOC.  Plus I've had a sick child this week.  Oh, and for some reason I decided it was good idea to see if anyone was interested in having a NZ school library chat on Twitter!  It would have made a lot more sense to wait a few weeks until the course and iPads are dealt with but no, I'm clearly not thinking sensibly at the moment.

    However, I have just submitted my second assignment with a whole 40 mins to spare!  So here are some of the highlights from Week Four:
    • This week there was a lot of information about what kind of technology schools are choosing to use and what criteria they are using in their decision-making.
    • The trend is towards tablets and BYOD - the direction our school is taking.  It is interesting that as environments become more technology-rich schools often advocate for a one-to-one strategy.  I wonder if that is where my school is heading?
    • The principle of developmental appropriateness, for recognising the most appropriate ICT tools, was a key framework that was considered to be important at a primary school level.  It is known as DATEC (the outcome of The Developmentally Appropriate Technology in Early Childhood project), and is described in UNESCO's book 'Recognising the potential of ICT in early childhood education' (the last paragraph on page 25, and the table on pgs.26-27).
    • There were several mentions of Bee-Bots in the literature.  I haven't heard of them being used in NZ but they certainly are cute! 
    • I was really interested to see the use of email with younger students (Section 4.2 of the UNESCO book).  I'm obviously a fan of blogging but in terms of interaction, actually getting a response from parents, I think email has the advantage.  Parents are a lot more used to emailing than commenting on blogs - shouldn't we meet them where they are comfortable?  If we wanted to combine the two we could personally email parents with a link to the blog and they could choose whether to comment by replying to the email or commenting on the blog. In the example given the teacher used the class email account to interact with parents, email other classes, send thank-you emails to visitors, and email relatives of the children living/travelling abroad and use that to learn about other countries.
    • Also in the UNESCO book a teacher described how her students documented their daily life with the digital camera and used photos and videos of their work to present it to their parents using a digital photo frame.
    • The reading on One-to-One Tablets in Secondary Schools (pg. 7-12) had a lot of interesting information on three schools' experiences with introducing tablets.
    • Learning Management Systems were discussed, as a way for students to access digital content.  My main concern with this is equity - what happens to those children who don't have access to the internet?
    • Computational thinking and early programming were discussed.  Things like programmable digital toys (e.g. Bee-Bots!), educational robotics sets (e.g. Lego WeDo) and educational programming languages (e.g. Scratch), were mentioned.

    Tuesday, 16 June 2015

    ICT in Primary Education - Week Three Reflection

    Whoa!  Good thing the weather was rotten this weekend because I spent a lot of time learning about teacher-y stuff so that I could understand how to do my first assessment (creating a 'Learning Object using ICT') for my ICT in Primary Education MOOC.  It was time to learn about Bloom's Extended Digital Taxonomy, assessment rubrics and even a bit more about the New Zealand Curriculum.  It was definitely more outside my comfort zone than previous weeks but I stuck at it and I've just submitted it - Yay!

    Week Three was all about 'Pedagogical changes achievable through ICT'.  Here is a quick look at what was covered this week:
    • Learning styles and how to cater to different styles by using a variety of teaching methods from each of the categories.
    • I read pages 40-46 from another really useful UNESCO report.
    • I did a personality quiz and one on my type of intelligence - what fun!
    • I read an interesting article on how to deepen student learning.
    • I thought this UNESCO book on 'How Children Learn' was fascinating.
    • It was nice to see a link to a report by a New Zealander on Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.  I was a proud Kiwi!
    • This site has over 2,000 learning and performance tools.  There is also this Learning Technologies Pearltree.  Both are useful sites if you want a range of tools that can perform a particular function.
    • We covered 21st century skills.  I think it is worth keeping these in mind when creating any learning activities.  As well as being useful for surviving in the job market I also think they are skills that engage students in their learning.
    • I found Kathy Schrock's site which links Bloom's to iPad apps (and other tools).
    • We looked at some examples of teaching with ICT, including this Canadian government information, and this series of videos from a Hungarian school using tablets.
    • I also enjoyed this video on "How Youth Learn: Ned's GR8 8":

    There was actually lots more really useful information but I need to get on with my learning for next week!  I am sure Coursera will run this free course again and I highly recommend it.

    Sunday, 7 June 2015

    ICT in Primary Education - Week Two Reflection

    Week Two in my ICT in Primary Education MOOC was entitled "How does ICT make a difference?".  The first thing that was discussed (we read Chapter 6 of this UNESCO publicationwas the fact that the introduction of ICT is creating a number of changes within schools:
    • Changes in the teaching profession
      • Teachers are collaborating more by sharing ideas, materials, projects, research and knowledge with each other.  This is also happening at national and international levels.
      • Technology is supporting teachers by helping them do things like find appropriate resources, prepare their lessons and update students' records.
      • The ongoing developments in technology are making it essential that teachers in engage in lifelong learning.
      • Some teachers are still resistant to technology.
    • Changes in pedagogy
      • ICT has encouraged teachers to implement more interactive, project-based and cross-curricular learning activities which increase students' engagement and motivation.  It has also raised students' communication and research skills, as they learn to assess multiple sources of information, combine them, and present them in a coherent way.
      • Technology is also providing students more opportunities to creatively express their ideas and learning.
      • Teachers and students are increasingly able to use ICT to connect with others on a national and international level, bringing a wider perspective to their learning.
    • Changes in learners
      • Many students are extremely motivated by using ICT.
      • ICT gives students instant feedback so enables them to work independently for longer periods of time.
      • ICT encourages the important skills of communication, collaboration and problem-solving.
      • Students can make mistakes more privately when they use technology.
      • Students can use technology to help other students with their learning.
      • When teachers are learning new technology skills they are modelling lifelong learning to their students.
    • Change in administration
      • ICT has made administration tasks more efficient.

    A school in Brazil brought up the idea that with so much information available to students the role of the teacher changes, as they are asked questions they are not able to answer.  They said, "Teachers can act like teachers (make questions, suggest guidelines, evaluate kids performance, help kids understand concepts, explain how to perform a specific procedure) while kids are using ICT, regardless of the teacher knowing or not knowing the details inside subject or topic that kids are learning" (pg.97).  I think this is something that can make teachers feel uncomfortable, yet it is a natural consequence of moving towards project-based learning and emphasizing information literacy skills.

    One school from the Slovak Republic mentioned they had a computer club for students who have no internet access at home (pg.94) .  I think this is an interesting point - if we encourage students to explore resources and learn at home then we must have a plan in place to support those who are disadvantaged by lack of access.

    Later in the chapter the researchers described some of the aspects around integrating ICT that teachers weren't expecting when they started the process.  They were expecting that the transformation would take place more quickly than it did.  They thought it would be easier to transform their traditional pedagogy to "harness the potential of ICTs" but this was not the case.  It was also believed that new teacher graduates would bring with them digital skills and innovative ideas from their universities but that also has not happened.  Finally, they weren't expecting that using technology to develop their own learning materials would be so time consuming.

    I was interested in one of the case study videos in which a teacher from a school in the UK described having their Year 6 students create a world in Minecraft and then the Year 4 students were invited into that world and did writing about being in there.  I think showcasing older students' work and using that to inspire younger students is a fantastic idea.

    Beyond the School

    Several websites were suggested for making national and international connections:
    This is an area I would like our school to pursue more.  Gaining a global perspective on different issues, through technology like Skype, is an amazing and exciting way to expand students' learning.  The challenge I suppose is connecting with the right people at the right time.

    Children's Perspectives

    We finished up by having a look at how students perceive the use of ICT in their school (pg.101-111).  Not surprisingly they are enthusiastic and motivated and think that technology is fun.  They like creating, digital storytelling and communicating using ICT.  I was interested that some students liked the support that word processing programmes gave them when they were writing - "You can have a go at spelling a word and MS word tells you if it’s wrong and it helps you learn spelling" (pg.104).  I have a son who is equally keen to write using technology, and for much the same reason!

    I am really enjoying this course so far.  So much of what is discussed, in the forums and in the course videos and readings, is in line with my feelings and observations about ICT within my school.  It is helping to clarify my opinions and also provide direction and pathways for the future.

    Monday, 1 June 2015

    ICT in Primary Education - Week One Reflection

    So, right at the moment I have a lot on my plate but I couldn't resist doing this course through Coursera (thank goodness for my understanding husband!).  It is a free, online course run by the University of London and the UNESCO Institute for IT in Education.  I did my Gamification course through Coursera in 2012 and found the six week course length an achievable one (I've tried several longer courses since but haven't managed to finish any!).  There are students on the course from all over the world and it is interesting to see their viewpoints in the discussion forums.

    Week One was about "ICT and the 21st Century Primary School".  I'm going to keep this quick by bullet pointing what I found interesting:

    • We were given a definition of the six learning types - acquisition, discussion, investigation, practice, collaboration and production.  Then we were shown what these learning types look like with conventional technology and with digital technology.  For me, this is a different way at approaching what technology can do. (Definitions are taken from Chapters 6-11 in Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. New York and London: Routledge).
    • In terms of the learning types an interesting distinction was made between what a student gets from discussion and from collaboration.  With discussion you can 'agree to disagree' but when you are collaborating and have to produce something then you have to agree about what you are doing together.
    • Learning through production is important because presenting their learning and showing it to others is a big motivator for students.
    • I really liked this quote from one of Diana Laurillard's videos - "If we only ask ‘What can we use this technology for in teaching/learning?’ then we go along with doing whatever it is good for; we don’t sort out the problems we need to solve.  So instead we say ‘Here is the teaching/learning problem – How can technologies help?’  And that way, we challenge the technology to help with the really important learning needs".
    • We watched an interesting video showing some great learning with technology:

    • The video prompted an interesting point, which is that you need to be careful when planning lessons that you think about what you are focussing on and whether the technology you choose takes time away from that.  For example, if your focus is science how much time should you spend learning about iMovie?
    • We read a number of chapters from this UNESCO publication, which is based on the experiences of 37 schools in 20 countries and is well worth a look.  Here's a quote I liked from a U.S. school - “In our experience it takes a cycle of support and inspirational activities to keep staff motivated to integrate digital resources and to keep learning in the ever-changing field of technology for teaching and learning. The cycle begins with inspiring teachers with ideas for student learning and project examples, collaborative planning time for the teacher and instructional technology coach, classroom mentoring and modelling, support for teachers with professional development, the opportunity to reflect on learning and share successes and challenges” (pg.39).
    • There was a lot about supporting teachers in the report.  The importance of professional development came up several times.  Teachers' confidence in their own use of IT was said to have improved but finding ideas to integrate it into the curriculum and their teaching in the classroom was where they needed help.  "Examples of ICT-based learning activities" and "supporting teacher peer learning exchanges" were recommended.
    • The schools in the UNESCO report were asked about what lessons they had learned.  Here are some of their thoughts (from pg.38):
      • Give a greater role to ICT in development and assessment, as it is very motivating for learners to get immediate feedback.  
      • Give teachers and students one-to-one access as soon as possible. (In the discussion forum I shared this study, which found that young students performed better if they shared an iPad than if they had their own device.  Something to think about!). 
      • From the earliest opportunity, provide consistent and frequent technology training sessions for staff members, so that they feel comfortable incorporating the technology, which can be uncomfortable or overwhelming, making some teachers hesitant to use the technology.
      • The best way is to talk to the teacher, to understand the critical curricular topics they want to explore. Then present some suggestions and build a learning unit, or a project the teacher feels is important and really fits their needs. 
    • A key point was that teachers need to have the time to collaborate, to work out how best to use a technology together, and to re-use each other's ideas and lesson plans.

    Sunday, 31 May 2015

    The Benefits of our School-Wide Blog

    Last year I pitched the idea of having our Year 5 & 6 students contribute to a school blog.  We have a few class blogs but I felt that a school blog would be a great way to share with the community the learning going on in different parts of the school.  It would also provide a student voice about school events and give all classes a chance to share their learning, even if they don't have their own blog.  The homepage of the school website would also have access to fresh content on a weekly basis, something I have done since I started managing it.

    The benefits for the students themselves are learning how to:
    • decide which events are newsworthy
    • approach teachers to ask them to be in a story
    • come up with questions and interview students and teachers
    • take notes and turn those into a news article
    • take photos and choose the best ones
    • use a video camera and help edit the footage.

    When we started the 'Te Totara Times' last year we used it as an opportunity to extend our GATE students.  Three students from each class were selected by their teachers, and some were more interested than others.  Over the year, there were eighteen students involved in gathering stories.

    When it came to interviewing students and teachers about their learning, I met up with our reporters after lunch and went with them to the selected class to help them.  Then they met with Renee, the teacher who worked with me on the Times, over one lunchtime and wrote up their article.  The articles are short and sweet - we decided that we wanted regular articles rather than longer pieces as we didn't want to overtax our students or remove them from their classes for too long.  The articles then came back to me to be typed up and put onto the blog and then the website.  Renee and I got together at the beginning of each term to talk about what events and areas of the school the students would write stories about.

    Overall I felt the school-wide blog was successful and I was pleased when I was given the go-ahead to continue with the blog this year, although I had to find a new teacher, Jemma, to help me.  A new student leader initiative in our senior classes meant a change to the way we recruited our student reporters.  Instead of having them selected by their teachers, student leaders were offered the opportunity to volunteer to be on the Te Totara Times.  We ended up with six student leaders, who we put into two groups of three.  I have to say that we have more motivated students this way, as they have chosen to be reporters rather than had that decided for them.

    This year we decided to allow the students more say in what they are reporting on, so they can bring more of their ideas to the blog.  We let them know what events are coming up and then they work out what to cover and what classes to approach about their learning.  So Jemma and I have input but I feel the students have more ownership than our reporters from last year.

    This week the reporters did the first video interview for the Times.  This is something I had been interested in doing but it was the students who led the way.  We can improve both in front of and behind the camera but it was a great first effort.  I have only just received my first Macbook and had to get help from Renee again working out how to use the latest version of iMovie.  Nothing like having to post something in a couple of hours to move along the learning process!

    Another thing I feel we can work on as a school is to have more classes and teachers comment on the blog.  That might encourage parents to comment as well.  In some cases I think this is an education issue so I will try to help teachers feel confident to comment.

    I think that a school-wide blog is a great way to get some of the benefits of blogging without requiring all teachers to do it.  I am very pleased to be involved with it and am enjoying watching it evolve.

    Switching to iPad Minis

    It has been almost three years since we leased 100 iPads for our school.  Confession time, back then I thought it would have made more sense financially for us to purchase the iPads.  But the thing about technology, you just can't predict where it's going to go, and our wise principal knew what he was doing.

    Things have changed a lot since 2012.  We have moved from a very decentralised way of iPad management to using Configurator and Meraki and specifying which apps are on the iPads (here's my post about that).  We now have 152 devices, 42 of which are iPad minis.  When I investigated the cost of leasing iPad minis I found that leasing six of them was equivalent to leasing four iPads.  I was given permission to trial a set and the feedback I got was that the smaller size was not an issue for the students, but the big benefit was the teachers having enough devices for their groups.  Subsequently all of our new devices have been iPad minis and they have been well-received by the team leaders who have been lucky enough to get them.

    When the time came to decide what to replace our old iPads with, my recommendation was to bring in iPad minis.  This was endorsed by our team leaders.  Our supplier offered us a choice of the mini Basic (the original iPad mini), the mini Retina (iPad mini 2) or the iPad mini 3.  Our policy has always been to purchase the latest models, however I had read a number of articles, including this one, that said there were no real benefits to upgrading to the mini 3.  It was decided to go with the iPad mini 2, and on Friday we confirmed our lease for 150 of them.  The cost of the lease is actually less than what we paid to lease the 100 iPads three years ago!

    We now have the interesting prospect of setting up 150 iPad minis and replacing the old iPads in a very short space of time (I underestimated how long the negotiating and approval process would take).  We do have a couple of things in our favour.  Firstly, Apple's Device Enrollment Program (DEP) has just arrived in New Zealand and should make set up easier and do away with having to use Configurator (although even our I.T. guru has not actually used it before, because it is so new).  Secondly, we sold about 40 of the iPads to our staff so can leave those until after we have returned the other 60.

    It is going to be a very busy time about 5-10 working days from now (the time it will take to get the minis from our supplier).  Once I recover I will post about the (hopefully smooth!) process of using DEP and Meraki to set things up.

    Thursday, 21 May 2015

    I'm a Dial-Up Survivor

    I am back from the wilderness that is dial-up.  My lovely husband, in an effort to save money, reduced our broadband package to 80GB.  This turned out to be a very bad idea.  We reached our limit within ten days and were forced to wait out the rest of the month on dial-up speeds.  Now I realise this is very much a first world problem.  But I wish to whine!  Oh my gosh, how did we ever survive on dial-up?  I could only have one tab open on my browser and certain sites, like Blogger, either refused to open or didn't work properly when they did.  I couldn't even open the Herald app on my iPad.  Forget about those webinars I wanted to view or the little video clips on Facebook.  Even clicking links on Twitter was slow and painful.  The printer didn't work.  My online life ground to a halt. 

    When I asked our I.T. guru if it was really that bad when we used to be on dial-up he reminded me that back then you only tended to have one computer.  So you weren't having to compete with the rest of your family's devices for bandwidth.  

    How's this for photographic evidence of how addicted our family is to technology?  Why play a game when you can play a game AND watch Youtube at the same time?!

    It's a good thing we've got our broadband data back (unlimited now) as we have three or four teenagers coming for a bring-your-own-laptop birthday sleepover on Saturday and I'm not sure dial-up speeds would have been well received! (And why do they call them 'sleepovers' when that is not an accurate term at all?!).

    Having 'survived' dial-up I am now marvelling at the speed and ease of broadband.  What a wonderful thing it is!  A beauty to behold!  I have six tabs open, Blogger is working, and the rest of my family is all online.  Peace has been restored.

    Friday, 17 April 2015

    Ninja Readers and Storyteller's Club

    Earlier this year I posted about my plans to improve my Ninja Readers Book Club and to also start a storytelling club.  However, since then I've been thinking about how I got some of our quieter book club students to come along to the comic club last year and step out of their shells a bit in order to tell stories.  I was also thinking about how I missed the opportunity to promote reading to some of the comic club students, the ones who weren't confident readers.

    So I decided to combine the two clubs and form the Ninja Readers and Storyteller's Club.  This hasn't come without its problems.  Last year's clubs took place at morning tea but to combine the two and get a little more time I wanted to run over lunchtime.  I encountered unexpected opposition, with our older students deemed too busy with other things.  I could only take them at morning tea.

    I went away and thought about it, and then decided to see if I could take the Year 4's at lunchtime instead.  The book/storytelling combo needs the extra time and I think I can make it work with younger children.

    I got the students to sign up - 40 of them!  Gulp!  Still, I was pleased that it showed the concept was a popular one and I'm sure there will be some drop off as we go along.  I decided to meet with them before the term ended so I could tell them a bit about how the club would run, and issue a couple of voluntary challenges for the holidays.

    The first challenge was an image scavenger hunt.  I got the idea from a book I had just read - 'Half a Chance' by Cynthia Lord. The main character is a girl who does a photography scavenger hunt.  I wanted to make sure all the students could join in if they wanted to, so I made it an image scavenger hunt, and gave them the option of drawing images if they didn't have a camera to use.  I read out the list of images and we discussed what we could draw or take photos of.  Here is what I gave them:

    Only one of these words and phrases was taken from the book.  The rest I made up, keeping in mind that after we share the images I thought we might use them to inspire short stories.  Over the holidays I have been doing the scavenger hunt with my younger son and we have both been enjoying it, so hopefully some of the students have too.

    The second challenge was to draw a Nina reader or storyteller so we could make a poster for the club.  As an example I showed them the one we made last year for the Moustache Potatoes Comic Club.

    I have spent some of the holidays reading about writing, with my favourite book so far being 'Once Upon a Slime' by Andy Griffiths.  There are so many awesome ideas to inspire writing in there.  As usual I have spent too much time researching and now I need to pull it all together for next week.  I am aiming to use books/genres as the basis for the storytelling projects, while also showcasing the various storytelling apps on the school's iPads.  I will let you know how we get on.