Reflection on 2012

I have been thinking about writing a post based upon my experiences last year regarding all things iPads for quite a while now… I just don’t know where to begin! Last year was amazing, thanks to the awesome group of students I taught 🙂 It was one of those years where everything fell into place – the learning, the ideas, the choices, the voices, the risk taking, the sharing, the collaboration, the respect (for one another). I was blown away by the way my students supported each other in doing “better than their best”. They set their own high standards and continued to surprise me each day. An example is the video clip two very talented students published. During our poetry unit, these boys asked if they could write a song to the music of the 80s rock classic, Sweet Child O’Mine. Of course I said they could… they were enthusiastic about this idea! For me, learning is about embracing my students’ interests, listening to their voices and allowing them to make choices. When students are excited about an idea, they are engaged. Learning comes naturally then, it’s not forced. Well, this choice worked for these two young boys. Word soon spread about their video clip and within days they achieved rock star status! Take a look for yourselves…

 

Tutorials – Take 2

Last year, I wrote a post explaining how my students were creating tutorials to demonstrate their learning, mainly in mathematics. Students either took screen shots, inserted these images into a movie making app and then voice recorded over them, or they used the app Show Me Interactive Whiteboard.

This year, some students have continued to use Show Me Interactive Whiteboard. Many, however, have moved onto using Explain Everything. Explain Everything offers many more features, including the ability to add additional slides and export to the camera roll.

At present, my students are continuing to create math tutorials. They are also using this app to publish explanation and procedural texts in writing, as well as to explain concepts and systems in science.

In the past, my students kept their tutorials on their own iPads, sharing their work with me when prompted. Now, my students upload their work to the ‘tutorials’ folder in our shared class folder in Dropbox. My students really enjoy watching and listening to the different ways they each learn.

Earlier this year, I followed the hashtag thread from a conference via Twitter. Alan November was the keynote. He said something that really resonated with me:

“We are very good at asking students to create tutorials to demonstrate their learning, but what are we doing with them?”

As a result, I’ve now created a separate folder where I’ve placed the best examples from my students. I plan to use these next year, if I teach in the same year level again, to front load students in a way similar to a flipped classroom.  The main difference will be that these tutorials have been created for students, by students, using what I call “kid speak”, as opposed to “teacher talk”. I also plan to place these tutorials on the school server for other year levels to access because sharing is caring 🙂

Artistic Trail – Hosier Lane, Birrarung Marr and NGV

Earlier this year, the grade 6s went on an excursion into the city to explore different art forms and styles, as this was the focus for our inquiry unit. Our students are very creative this year, so we decided to embrace and explore this by opening up to the students experiences they may not have yet had, i.e. seeing street art, observing aboriginal art, visiting an art gallery.

It was amazing to see our students with their iPads out, snapping pictures and, when connected to the free wi-fi at Federation Square, exploring artists and art works.

Although our students mainly used their iPads on the day to take photos of art they liked, as well as to capture moments with peers, it made the sorting out of the experience back at school quite rich. Students had a selection of images to refer to, to personally relate with, to analyse more closely and to refresh memories. They were able to engage in conversations with peers about the features of the art pieces based upon the images in front of them, not just from memory. They were able to then explore more art pieces in the same style, by the same artist or from the same period, to compare the similarities and differences. Students were able to investigate stories behind some of the pieces and present all of their findings in an interesting way. The iPads were definitely a tool that enabled our students to capture, explore, analyse, collaborate and create.

iLearning

Following on from our class experts, my “iLearning” program was further developed. I had introduced iPlay and iPortfolios to my students last year and decided to expand this concept to cover more ways to promote thinking, creativity and collaboration.

 

iCreate

iCreate began as a way of embracing my students’ creativity. I was truly amazed by the brilliant constructions my students were producing in Minecraft. One of my students had been home sick for a couple of days and emailed through to me some dinosaurs she had constructed to cheer up her younger sister, who was also home sick with her. During the same week, another student had shared with me some work she had completed in an app called PicCollage. This app wasn’t on our school list, it was one she had found herself. I was surprised by how professional her work looked, in terms of layout, balance, text and image size, etc. Having an art and ICT background myself, it was clear that this student was a natural in considering the elements of design in her work. I also had a number of students in my class who played musical instruments, so they enjoyed tinkering in Garageband, as well as a student who was very keen on movie making. With such a creative class, it was obvious I had to do something to show I valued and was impressed by such talents.

 

iDiscuss

iDiscuss was formed because I wanted a space for my students to interact and respond to individual posts. I had a class blog last year and I loved the way my students commented on posts that were made. One downfall I found, though, was that on all of the pages, other than my home page, there was only one comment box at the bottom of the page. This, in my mind, defeated the purpose of responding to posts. I say this because I wanted my students’ comments to particular posts to be clearly identifiable. In the comment boxes on these pages, you needed to scroll down to read what was written.

This year I explored the discussion tool on wikispaces. It was easy to embed, yet my students needed to sign up to wikispaces and become a member of our class wikispace. Due to learning and teaching content being placed on our class wikispace, I decided this wasn’t the way I wanted to go – I didn’t want my students to accidentally delete information. I know I could have protected pages, I just hoped there was another option. I spent a while searching embeddable discussion tools and eventually came across one I liked – Nabble.

Nabble offers free access to discussion tools; however, after a trial period, a subscription is required if you don’t want advertisements displayed. For $25 for the year, I didn’t mind paying to remove the advertisements.

To date, my students enjoy responding to my posts. I now intend to open the discussion topics up to my students in order to cater for ideas and interests.

 

iExplore

Last year I encouraged my students to explore the internet in order to pursue personal curiousities. I occasionally posted links and infographics on our Discovery Learning page in order to spark discussions and initiate interest. This worked really well, so this year I repackaged this concept as iExplore.

 

iPoll

iPoll came about as a result of listening to my students and respecting their “voice”.  At the end of term 1, I posted a poll to see if my students wanted holiday homework. Of course, they didn’t 🙂 What they did want, though, was the opportunity to continue to vote on a range of topics selected by either them or me.

This data is real as it reflects my students’ responses. During our ‘Data’ unit in mathematics, we analysed these results. We looked at the different ways the data was graphed, we discussed which graphs were easier to read and questioned why the results were presented as percentages. During our ‘Sustainability‘ unit, we also hypothesised why litter is such a problem at our school, based upon the results presented.

Collecting data through this means has proved to be a rich learning experience for my students. It has also provided my class and my school with real data about a range of topics.

 

iQuote

Throughout my day, I often find myself sharing quotes and sayings with my students. These are shared to support what we’ve been learning or in response to an incident that’s happened. A class discussion follows where we unpack the meaning they take from the quote or saying and how it relates to the situation at hand.

Some of my students have really been inspired by this and have come to school with their own quotes and sayings to share with the class. Sometimes these are shared just before a recess break and sometimes they are shared at the end of the day as a way to promote thinking and reflection.

In some ways, I often think we overlook the messages and lessons we can learn from quotes, sayings, proverbs, etc. That is why I created the iQuote page on my class wiksipace, to expose my students more to thinking about their thinking.

Flickr

This week, the grade 6 classes went on an excursion to Serendip Sanctuary, Lara. It was truly one of the most enjoyable excursions I’ve been on in all of my 14 years of teaching. My students loved the excursion too, especially the ponding experience where they investigated and classified pond life.

IMG_0247

During the day, I took over 100 photos on my iPhone. I wanted to share the photos with my students and thought long and hard of ways to do this. Seeing my students have iPads, it wasn’t possible for me to upload the photos to the school server for them to access. Emailing all of the photos to them wasn’t an option either. I tried uploading the photos to Dropbox, but only 10 to 15 of them loaded. Then I thought about Flickr. I set up an account, looked at the settings and pondered possible privacy issues. I wanted the students to access the photos of themselves, but I didn’t want the photos to be visible to the public. At this point, I hadn’t uploaded any photos yet.

images-3At school the next day, I spoke to my team teaching colleague, James, about my dilemma – our classes went on the excursion together and there were photos of his students too. Together we decided it would be best to create a private Flickr account both of our classes could access, to upload the photos, then email out all of the log-in details to the students. In the email, I reassured the students that nobody, other than us, could see the images. I also shared that the photos would be on the site until the end of school on Friday, so if they wanted any particular photos, they needed to save them to their iPads prior to then.

This idea seemed to work well. The students were able to log in to the account, view all of the photos and save the ones they wanted. At no point were the photos visible or searchable outside of the log-in.

As part of sorting out the excursion experience, James and my classes came together to talk about what we saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted. James and I also shared that now they were to represent their time at Serendip Sanctuary in any way they’d like. We brainstormed ways of doing this, i.e. drawing, writing, performing, creating a presentation on their iPads, etc… It was wonderful to see so many students select different ways to complete this task. Some students drew pictures; others made collages of animals. Many students opted to use their iPads, but in saying this, they chose to present their experience using different apps, i.e. drawing apps, Strip Design, Popplet, Corkulous, Flip It, ReelDirector, Keynote, etc…

I love learning experiences like these, where you set the task and students select how they want to process and complete it. I’m a big fan of student voice and student choice… as are my students!

**Update: All photos including students have now been deleted from the Flickr account.

Tutorials

Screen shot 2011-09-02 at 9.07.18 PMThis year, my students have created a range of tutorials to demonstrate their learning and understanding of concepts covered in class, mainly for mathematics. To begin with, my students used a number of apps to create a short movie, i.e. a drawing app and ReelDirector. They would take screen shots of their work as they progressed through the equation, then import their screen shots from their Camera Roll to ReelDirector. In ReelDirector, they’d place their images in the correct sequence and voice record over them the steps they took to complete the equation, eg. Addition and Subtraction. This process proved to be quite time consuming, but it displayed my students’ ability to use a number of apps to create an authentic piece of work they could embed in their iPortfolios. This tutorial also revealed any problems and misunderstandings a student had regarding the concept/s and the calculation of the equation. What a fantastic form of assessment!

Screen shot 2011-09-02 at 8.53.32 PMShow Me Interactive Whiteboard is an app my students now use to create tutorials. It is a simple drawing app that integrates the steps the students had previously taken, as outlined above. Students are able to record their written and verbal explanations at the same time, similar to a screencast. There are now quite a few apps similar to this one available. I suppose it is up to you and your students to find the one that best suits your needs. I was actually involved in trialing the beta version of this app, so I am a little biased… hehehe…

iPortfolios

Portfolios and digital portfolios have long been a way for students to share and celebrate their learning and selected work samples throughout the year with family and friends. This year, the students were asked to think about what they wanted to include in their portfolios. This allowed them to have a greater sense of ownership over their iPortfolios, as well as a greater connection with what they selected to present. We discussed the purpose of iPortfolios, as well as the possible apps they could use to showcase their learning. This was uploaded to our class wikispace (http://manorlakescollege-6michelle.wikispaces.com/iPortfolios) so students could regularly refer back to our agreed class expectations.

Having worked with students on digital portfolios for over 10 years now, I must admit I was blown away by the standard of work my students produced using their iPads. The capability of the devices compared to laptops and netbooks was phenomenal. My students’ creativity and ‘eye for design’ reinforced the impact of digital media on the youth of today. Their colour choices, font selection and general layout looked professional. Their iPortfolios were actually of a better standard than my students from the year before… and they used MacBooks!

**Screenshots to come**

iPlay

Gaming is a big part of my students’ experiences with the iPads. They love exploring and sharing the apps they have downloaded, comparing their scores and levels and assisting each other to improve their progress. I thought long and hard about incorporating gaming into my learning and teaching program to promote higher order thinking and reflection. I was hoping that by relating these skills to gaming, something my students do with ease and so naturally, the transition and transference of similar thinking and reflection processes about concepts covered and learnt in class would be much easier.

I posted my expectations on my class wikispace (http://manorlakescollege-6michelle.wikispaces.com/iPlay) and shared with my students my latest addiction to Angry Birds. My students loved sharing their successes with the app and I loved hearing the tricks to pass certain levels.

angrybirds

Brief:

During iPlay, I’d like you to play a non-violent game / app for around 20-30 minutes. I’d like you to take screen shots of your game / app and think about the strategies you use to score points, pass each level, etc… I’d then like you to create a presentation for me outlining the following:

  • Name of game / app
  • Purpose of game / app
  • Strategies required to score points, pass each level, etc…
  • Important information future players of this game / app need
  • Hidden features
  • Why do you like playing this game / app? (At least 5 sentences.)
  • What improvements can be made? Why?

iPads 4 Learning – Professional Learning

Last month, I was fortunate to attend two professional learning days with inspirational educators as part of my school’s involvement in the DEECD’s iPad trial. It is always a pleasure to listen to and engage in meaningful discussions with educators who share the same vision… this being improving the learning experiences of students by embracing the mobile technologies available to them. It is also great to visit schools. I just love entering learning spaces, talking to students about their learning and listening to conversations between students and teachers, but moreso between students and students. As I wrote earlier this year though, it is important to adapt what you hear and see to meet your own school’s/classroom’s needs… innovate, don’t replicate!

Day 1

On the first day, we visited three different school settings to view the ways iPads are being integrated in learning and teaching – Ringwood North Primary School (RNPS), Ringwood Secondary College (RSC) and Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School (VCASS). Students at all schools demonstrated a connectedness to their learning using the iPads. They were engaged and were able to articulate their learning. The leaders within the schools had a clear vision and explained the learning journey for themselves, their staff and their students. I particularly liked the way the Principal of RNPS stated that the main focus at their school is the process, not the product. I also loved RSC’s motto: iLearn, iShare, iCreate, iPad. It is clear that creativity is valued and promoted within these schools, something I can personally identify with because, as mentioned in an earlier post, I want my students to use the iPads at a transformative level, not as a substitute. By this I mean that I want my students to use a number of apps/skills to create something to demonstrate their learning, thinking and understanding; I don’t want the iPads to be used just as a word processer, web browser, game console or calculator.

Day 2

On the second day, we met at Federation Square. Wow! is all I can say! This day was truly inspirational. I walked away with my mind buzzing with ideas. Where to start?

Screen shot 2011-06-07 at 12.32.38 PMWe began the day with Stephen Heppell, a well-respected international educator. Stephen shared his passion for learning spaces and inclusion of student voice within the creation of these. This had me thinking about my own classroom. There is a lot of floor space and the tables are grouped to promote collaboration… but at what point did I involve my students with setting things up? Hmmm… Stephen shared an example of a class in London. This class entered a competition and won some money to transform a room into their ideal learning space. From what we saw, this room had low-level lighting (stobe lights) and there weren’t any whiteboards, rather many surfaces that could be written on. There was a tiered seating area, perfect for collaboration with iPads. There were desktops with video conferencing capabilities set up as a Skype bar and when these computers weren’t being used, current affairs and news were streamed on them, as well as any unused LCD screens mounted around the room. The students moved between spaces responsibly, they were engaged in their learning tasks, they felt ownership over their learning space and they wanted to go to school.

Stephen also shared that in England, a few teachers he knows use Facebook and Twitter with their classes. These teachers have two identities, one for their friends and another for their students. The teachers set boundaries with their students as well, stating that they won’t look at their profiles, photos, etc…  and they will only communicate via the group. The class group includes the teacher, all students… and occasionally, an expert is invited in to respond to students’ questions. Then, once their expertise isn’t required, they are removed. Again, this had me thinking… I set up a Manor Lakes College Facebook group last year and don’t feel it has any direction. I posted a couple of discussion topics and have noticed students post to the wall every now and then. I’ve also noticed parents join the group as this group is open to the general public. Oh wow… just after writing that, I can hear alarm bells are ringing… How safe is this group for the student members? It is open for anyone to join… Hmmm… note to self, when setting up my class group, make it closed and by invitation only. I need to go in to the current MLC group and change the settings too…

One more thing Stephen mentioned that had me reflecting on my own practice was the amount of time my students spend actively learning. Stephen spoke about a school in Scandinavia where rather than students attending a number of different classes/subjects everyday, classes/subjects were taught in day blocks. Student progress through this approach was tracked over time and apparently data shows a dramatic increase in achievement levels. Hmmm… I don’t think I’m able to teach day blocks… but maybe I should start teaching double blocks for particular areas…

After Stephen, Kim and Gawain spoke about documenting our learning journey by keeping reflective journals and digital diaries. They shared examples from teachers they have worked with in the past and asked us to commit to sharing our school’s story. This had me thinking… why limit my school’s learning journey to only being told by the teachers involved… why not have the students create a one minute reflection on their learning journey too? What better way to evaluate the iPad trial than through the eyes and “mouths of babes”, so to speak?

ngvfacade1Our next session involved us getting out and about in Federation Square. We were asked to form teams, select a place to go to, find something there that resonated with us, compare and contrast it with something else and present this all in a creative way. My team and I chose to go to the Stormy Weather exhibition. There, we selected photographs that related to our own local environments, photographed them and found photos on our iPads that related to them. This was the easy part. The hard part was trying to get everything across to one iPad to create the movie. We tried to send pictures via email, but that didn’t work. We tried to transfer pictures via the Bump app, but that didn’t work. We tried to upload pictures to a wikispace to download from, but that didn’t work. So, eventually, we used Dropbox. The problem solving was intense. The collaboration was authentic. The task / challenge was rigorous. The experience was fun. Whilst doing this, we also needed to check Twitter because tasks were going to be posted for us to complete and respond to.

Please find below a link to my team’s final response. The original file was over 40mb, so in order to export the file, the quality was set to low.

Stormy Weather

As educators (and learners), we found this activity engaging. Imagine how students would respond to an activity like this at school or when on an excursion. I know when I did my Teacher Professional Leave (TPL) a few years ago on the integration of PDAs in classrooms, my students loved using the mobile devices out in the yard and when on excursions. It required a bit of work on the teacher’s behalf beforehand to create a brief / short movie outlining what to do / what information to collect, but in the big scheme of things, where do you draw the line for authentic learning opportunities for students?

As you can see, there is a lot to absorb and process from the two days. I now need to prioritise my ideas and put them into practice. I’ll post an update very soon.

iPals

Grade 6 students + Prep buddies + iPads = iPals

Grade 6 students have often paired up with prep students as a way of providing prep students with an older friend to turn to in the playground should they have a problem. It has also been an opportunity for grade 6 students to demonstrate a greater level of responsibility within a school, to be role models, to prove they truly are leaders. This year, rather than run the usual ‘Prep Buddies’ program, the year 6 and prep teams decided that we wanted to maintain the focus of the buddy program, yet incorporate the iPads and student to student coaching.

I have been fortunate to work as an ICT Peer Coach in the past. I loved the experience and came to see peer coaching as taking on many forms – educator to student, student to educator and student to student. I found student to student coaching quite powerful. From my observations, students responded better to what I call “kid speak”. Sometimes, “teacher talk” was just too complicated and frustrating for them to grasp and understand. I noticed this to be the case with student to educator coaching too. Students had a different way of explaining to educators how to use certain programs and create things. Many educators responded better to working with students as well. In my opinion, this pairing was very effective for the professional growth of some educators too because it opened their minds to learning with students, moving them beyond the mind shift that they had to be the bearer and instructor of all knowledge and skills.

My class paired up with Prep Kim. Kim and I decided it would be best for my students to meet in her classroom so her students were in their comfort zone. Meeting and working with “big kids” can be a daunting experience for preps.

From the moment my students entered the prep classroom, the prep students’ eyes beamed. They knew the grade 6 students were bringing their iPads and they knew they were going to have a chance to play on them. I say play for a reason here because I believe it is really important to have play and discovery time in all areas of learning, whether it be looking through new books, decoding and writing new words, using a calculator, playing a musical instrument, experimenting with new pastels and paints or exploring software and mobile devices.

It was amazing! From the moment the iPads were in the preps’ hands, they knew exactly what to do. They were sliding their fingers across the screen, as well as turning and shaking the iPad around. Many students opted to play games, whilst others chose to draw pictures. A few even decided to create a little movie in PuppetPals, including voice recordings. I was particularly blown away by the excitement level of one prep student who made a PuppetPals movie. He jumped up and down and giggled when he played the movie for Kim. Afterwards, he clearly articulated his experience and what he learnt. It became very clear then that the iPads not only provided opportunities to support the prep students’ interests and preferred learning styles, they also provided opportunities to support their oral language and reflection experiences. This was evident during the session’s share time too. Many prep students not only recounted what they did and what they played, they also clearly explained what they liked and what they learnt.

Now that the preps have had their discovery time, Kim and I hope the grade 6 students can work with their iPals to create little movies to support what they are learning in class. We will still allow for discovery time at the beginning of our sessions, to tune the students into learning, but our main focus will be on reinforcing concepts covered in class. I will provide some guidance to my students prior to our iPals session, but in most cases, it will the grade 6 students working with the preps to create something that incorporates a number of apps and skills.

I, personally, want to see the iPads used at the transformative level, not just as a substitute… even with preps. I believe the devices are more than just a game console, word processor and web browser… they are true multimedia devices. It just takes some vision, creativity and risk taking to see this and make this happen… and we, at Manor Lakes College, will make this happen!

Please click on the following links to see some movies created by the preps and their buddies: