Google All The Way

This year I decided to go down the path of setting up a Google site for my class web site (https://sites.google.com/site/6michelle2013/), rather than a wikispace. I’ve been using wikispaces for the past 4+ years, but last year the layout changed when viewing wikispaces on iPads, which lead to some confusion amongst my students.

I’ve adapted well to using Google sites; it isn’t much different to wikispaces. I must admit it is a lot easier than html coding… the way I used to create web sites in the mid to late 1990s… Oh, the memories! 😉 I loved the programming side of things back then, though, as I majored in programming in my Post Grad… and I do often resort to coding when I want to tweak a few things on a web page, i.e. height and width of images or embedded objects.

This year, I’ve decided to use more Google apps and features with my class. In the past, I’ve embedded Google calendars and forms in web pages, and linked to Google docs, but seeing I’m using Google sites, I think it is fine to say that it is now Google all the way! 🙂

Google apps and features have also flowed through to my team. Last year, my team and I began to use Google docs for planning. This year, I have set up Google templates for all of our planners and term overviews. This allows everyone to access and collaborate on all documents with ease… anywhere, anytime 🙂

Welcome to 2013!

It is hard to believe this term is almost over… I just don’t know where the time has gone!?

I must admit, my students and I have had an amazing start to the year. Being part of a BYO iPad program, I was a little worried during the first week of school when only half of my students had their own device. My nerves soon settled over the following week when all but three students had access to one… Phew!

This is my third year now in a 1:1 iPad program. Each year I am blown away at how easily the students adapt to the technology. My class this year has taken to app selection to complete tasks like fish to water. They have been able to articulate their choices and learning to class visitors clearly, something I truly didn’t expect so soon. They are able to navigate our class site (https://sites.google.com/site/6michelle2013/) and Edmodo group with ease, as well as email me work or upload work to their shared Dropbox folder. All of this in five weeks!!! It is outstanding!!! I am so proud 🙂

We’ve set up a class Twitter account, but it is going to remain protected. We’ve been tweeting over the past few weeks and next week, we’re going to set up individual accounts. Each student will only be allowed to follow the main class account, no one else. I’m purposely putting this restriction in place to allow parents the opportunity to see how we use Twitter as an educational tool to post responses and reflections to lessons to demonstrate our learning.

 

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.

Passion Projects

My students have been completing Passion Projects since 2001, after I attended a Gifted Education Professional Learning session at Bialik College in Melbourne. I was really impressed and inspired by the projects students in grades 1 and 2 created. I vividly remember a scaled down model of a blue whale made out of chicken wire suspended from the ceiling. Facts were attached to it in a mobile-like fashion. It left a lasting impression on me, to the point that I still speak about it today. I recall going to school the next day and sharing my excitement with my grade 5/6 students. Within a week, two students had created a wire elephant – they had worked on it over the weekend. I suppose my intense enthusiasm rubbed off on them.

Over the past ten years, I’ve set few parameters regarding Passion Projects, other than the students having to list five things they already know about the topic and five things they’d like to find out. I think it is important to provide the students with some guidance regarding their research as a way of narrowing down their focus. I’ve also encouraged them to list where they think they can find information, to highlight the difference between primary and secondary sources.

imagesLast week, my team and I were talking about how to incorporate the Design, Creativity and Technology domain into our learning and teaching program. Passion Projects can easily satisfy this. The only problem I have is that I don’t want to set parameters for a project just for the sake of it. I’d like to present an idea to the students that they’d find interesting and exciting to explore, something to draw on their strengths, yet also allow their opinions and ideas to shine. It was then that I had a brainwave. Over the weekend I received a link to an amazing infographic about the evolution of the web: http://evolutionofweb.appspot.com/?q4114671=1. How good would it be for the students to explore the evolution of computers, from mainframes to mobile devices, including smart phones!? They could be a recently employed member of a technology firm whose first project is to design the next generation mobile device. Our students have used iPads for over a year now. They know what they like and what they don’t. I’m really excited about this. The students can sketch designs, label diagrams, even make their own prototypes. I’m currently writing the Design Brief. Please find a snippet of it below:

“Congratulations! You are the successful applicant! We, at MLC Technologies, are excited to have you as a member of our team.

For your first project, we’d like you to think about the development of technology over the years, i.e. computers to laptops to mobile devices, including smart phones.

In your interview, you mentioned you had extensive experience with current technologies, this being iPads. We’d like you to consider the positives of the iPad in your design. We’d also like you to add components you believe it lacks. Be as creative as you like! Money is not a problem!”

Check back soon for an update on how things are going.

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?

iSnack

Last term, the grade 6 students asked if they could have a time during recess to remain inside to ‘play’ on their iPads. A number of recess activities had been organised for younger and older students at school, but unfortunately, the grade 6s missed out on many of these – these activities weren’t available to them. This could be because, as grade 5s, they were seen as a difficult cohort. Oh, how things have changed… So, in listening to the students, the grade 6 team decided to open up our classrooms twice a week during a morning break.

To date, the numbers have been consistent. Around 20 to 30 students remain in class during recess, eat their play lunch, socialize with their peers and play on their iPads.

Based upon my own observations, the boys like to sit alone, in pairs or in a group of 3. The girls, on the other hand, like to sit in large groups on the floor, mainly in a circle. Some of the girls use apps with a chat facility, even to chat to friends sitting opposite them. This has me wondering why, as educators, we ban instant messaging in class. I am a supporter of social networking and truly believe we need to model correct use of “chat” in classrooms.
Sure, the students will test the waters to begin with; they need to get the novelty out of their system… but after a while, who is to say that they won’t use the feature responsibly? Why spoil the opportunity for all based upon the chance that only a few students may continue to abuse the privilege? I actually wouldn’t mind if my students used ‘txt speak’ during such chat sessions too. Chat is a part of many people’s lives, whether it be through instant messaging or texting. In today’s age, it is part of our students’ lives… it is a part of our lives. If we, as educators, embrace this feature, who’s to say that the students won’t remain on task? Like all activities, there would need to be a purpose behind its use and inclusion. The session would need to be monitored, if not by the teacher, then by a responsible student. I know that many of my students take screen shots of inappropriate chat comments after school and share them with me the following day. So, if my students know right from wrong outside of school, what makes one assume they are going to do wrong during school hours? I’m going to give my students the benefit of the doubt. I’ve added the chat app to my class’ Ultranet Collaborative Space and plan to trial chat sessions next term both during and after school. Stay tuned to see how things go.

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.