KidzTek Article

Earlier this year I was invited by Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria (DLTV) to consider a role as Associate Editor for their online journal. I was quite flattered by this offer, as I have worked closely with DLTV and one of its founding organisations, ICT in Education Victoria (ICTEV), for many years. Of course I accepted! In accepting this position, I decided to write an article for their upcoming journal about my KidzTek program, to share my thinking behind how it was formed. Please find my full article below.

 

KidzTek logo

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KidzTek: Full STEAM Ahead in the Early Years Classroom

“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

Last year, after a number of years teaching older students, I made the move to a grade 2 class. Towards the end of 2013, I requested this change due to my observations when working with the junior levels as a Digital Learning coach. I saw a need for more support and guidance in using technology in creative and innovative ways. Having led the 1:1 iPad program in grade 6 for three years, where students used their iPads as a way to enhance and showcase their learning, I felt it was time to provide the younger students with this same opportunity.

 

Walker Learning Approach

One of the biggest differences I noticed in my move to an Early Years level, since the last time I taught grade 2, was the implementation of the Walker Learning Approach. This is an Australian developed pedagogy, designed by Kathy Walker, that engages students in personalised learning experiences. For more information about this learning and teaching approach, please explore the following links:

During the Walker Learning Approach, or Investigations, as we refer to it at my school, students are tuned into their learning experiences for the day, move to and between a number of centres (with intentional provocations) where they investigate a range of skills, then reflect on their learning at the end of the session. The centres the students explore include reading, writing, mathematics, science, collage, construction, block construction, dramatic play, sensory and tinkering.

Art-BallerinasThroughout the year, I noticed how much my students loved working at the mathematics, science, collage and tinkering centres. My students often asked if they could draw pictures at the writing centre too, which led me to setting up an art centre. Having an art background myself, I would often talk to my students about their personal interests, then share artists and art works they may be interested in. For example, my students interested in ballerinas explored the works of Degas.

These experiences and conversations helped me see that my students were keen to explore STEAM concepts, aka Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. I thought long and hard for quite a while, trying to develop a way to build on my students’ interests in these areas so they moved between centres similar to the Walker Learning Approach, yet had more freedom in selecting what they wanted to do and explore. This is how KidzTek was formed.

 

KidzTek

KidzTek was created primarily to expose my students to elements of STEAM. Unlike the Walker Learning Approach, the centres, or rather activities, don’t necessarily include skills the students are learning or consolidating throughout the day or week; the activities actually reflect the students’ interests on that particular day.

When I first introduced KidzTek to my class last year, I asked my students if they knew what STEAM stood for. They didn’t know, which is what I expected. I wrote the letters down my whiteboard, with the corresponding learning area represented by each letter. I asked the same question again. After many guesses and prompting, my students were eventually able to identify most of the words. Engineering was Stop motionthe one they stumbled on. We listed the types of activities they could undertake in each area, and, not surprisingly, many of the activities reflected those already at centres for Investigations. As a result of this, and as a means of providing my students with new opportunities, I listed a few additional activities. These included coding, stop motion, K’Nex, marble runs and Rube Goldberg machines, which were actually part of my initial brainstorm, as documented in my KidzTek blog.

My students were really interested in knowing more about these activities, as they had heard about some of them, but hadn’t seen or explored them. I thought about talking through each activity, so my students had a clearer picture of what each was about, but decided not to. I felt that this would have impacted on my students constructing their own learning and collaborating with their peers to work through any challenges. I did, however, share a short clip with them, Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap, as way to reinforce design, construction, prediction, evaluation, perseverance, resilience, failure, success and reflection. The clip was a big hit and, you guessed it, my class was buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm to explore, create, learn and share.

 

2014

During term four, when I introduced KidzTek to my class, I ran the session weekly – each Friday afternoon. My students were always excited to participate, often coming back inside from their lunch break with a clear intent regarding what they were going to do.

easyblogjrEarlier in the year, I set up a class blog, after being contacted by an app developer. The app, Easy Blog Jr, allows you and your students to post text, photos and videos directly to your blog with only a few taps. Please refer to my posts for more information. I wanted to capture my students’ learning and thinking during KidzTek, so I decided to link the app to my KidzTek blog too. Each week, my students would ask for my iPad, take a photo, voice record a recount or reflection, show me for approval, then press submit. I loved the way my students were becoming global authors. They would often play back their recording and record themselves again if they felt their message wasn’t clear, prior to sharing their post with me. I embraced this independence and reflection, and encouraged my students’ ability to take control of their learning.

Last year, one young boy, who transitioned to my class during term four from my school’s onsite support (specialist) centre, was the first student to create a closed circuit that lit a globe and played music. Through perseverance, he also made the ‘helicopter blade’ fly. You can’t even begin to imagine how proud he felt when the class cheered on his effort and achievement.

Coding3Two students decided to explore some coding apps on my iPad. During the following session, one of these students connected my iPad to the Apple tv and began teaching a larger group of students who wanted to learn how to code. She demonstrated what to do, then passed my iPad around, watching the tv screen and providing support. Coding became quite popular after that session, with around 10 students gathering each week to learn to code together. The amazing thing about this is that I did not show any of my students how to code. I only showed them where the coding apps were located on my iPad.

This experience, or rather program, has shown me “what is possible”. I have seen my students welcome STEAM concepts and thrive on exploring them further, on their terms, at their pace.

 

2015

This year I have introduced KidzTek to my new class. They, too, have welcomed the experience. Surprisingly, though, they have different areas of interests. Maker spaces and tinkering is more their style. My classroom is bursting with boxes and old circuit boards. My students’ parents are amazing in topping up our supplies. Active imaginations also run high. One student pulled apart a circuit board and used the parts to create a remote, similar to the one in the movie ‘Click’. It was great when his peers and family played along with his ‘invention’ and commands, e.g. pause, rewind, fast forward. Another student made night vision goggles, whilst another made a Transformer.

DashandDot-LabeledforReuse2I’ve shared with my class my interest in robotics. I have ordered ‘Dash and Dot’ and cannot wait for them to arrive so my students can have a play. In the meantime, I am setting up some ‘simple robots’ kits. These include materials similar to those I used during a workshop I attended at the FutureSchools Expo in March. Shortly after working with Daniel Green and Dr Sarah Boyd from the Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre, I came across a kit posted by Tinkerlab on Facebook – Make Your Own Tinker Box & Build Robots. This has been my inspiration. It contains many items you can purchase from stores like Jaycar, e.g. springs, wires, globes, magnets, plastic ties, etc. Mine also includes battery holders, hobby motors and insulation tape. I’m looking to add copper wire too. I cannot wait to see what my students create when I introduce them!

 

I haven’t been able to run KidzTek sessions as frequently with my class this year, due to timetable constraints. This, however, hasn’t affected my students’ enthusiasm. If anything, it is feeding it. Interestingly, my students from last year have asked if I plan to run KidzTek as a lunch time club. I am definitely considering this, as clearly there is a need to provide students, particularly primary aged students, with opportunities to explore STEAM concepts. Imagine the possibilities these experiences will create!

Future Schools Expo

Last week I was fortunate to have attended the Future Schools Expo in Sydney. The expo was amazing, in that there were five conferences running at the same time. I signed up for the ‘Teaching Kids to Code’ conference. I listened to some amazing presenters, including Gary Stager and Martin Levins, and came away with some new ideas to trial in my classroom 🙂

A few of my highlights include:

  • book01meeting and chatting with Gary Stager at the Expo book store. I purchased his book, Invent to Learn, written with Sylvia Libow Martinez, and must admit I was a tad star struck when Gary signed my copy 😉 I also purchased the ever-talented Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Project Book. If you haven’t watched any of Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Shows, I suggest you do. Sylvia sure is one clever young lady who has achieved massive success through making, tinkering and inventing 🙂
  • creating a little robot using a battery pack, two motors, some wires and insulation tape. Although my cute little guy didn’t move sideways in a straight line… nor stand upright, it showed me just how easy it is to bring robotics into the classroom. robotAfter participating in this hands-on session with Daniel Green and Dr Sarah Boyd from the Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre, I came across this kit, posted by Tinkerlab on FacebookMake Your Own Tinker Box & Build Robots {STEM Project for Kids}, and chatted to my brother, who studied robotics at university. I’m keen to set up a kit similar to this… and to look through some of the text books my brother has kindly lent me. robotkitI can’t wait to see what my students create… and what we learn together through making and tinkering 🙂
  • participating in a Scratch workshop with Martin Levins. As someone who studied programming in high school, and majored in programming during my Post Grad, it was fantastic to make connections between the languages I used all those years ago, with Scratch. I’ve explored Scratch a few times in the past… and my students love using Scratch Jr… I just haven’t really sat down to take everything in myself. Before I knew it, I was writing scripts and drawing on my prior knowledge. I was debugging errors and including variables. scratch01
  • Wow! I was really surprised at how quickly things were coming back to me. For many years after graduating, I remember teaching my students how to code, as I’ve written in a previous post, I just can’t believe I’ve allowed myself to push this passion aside due to time constraints and an over-crowded curriculum. Sometimes, I think, you just need to listen to your heart and do what you think is right. After all, it is the students who will benefit from learning this skill 🙂

Whilst at the conference, I bumped into a lovely lady I connected with at the schoolstechOZ conference last year, Leanne Cameron. During our chat, I shared details about my KidzTek program. Leanne passed on to me a flyer relating to a STEM progam, co-ordinated by Dr Megan Vazey. The program, which involves completing online modules based on computational thinking, really sparked my interest. So that night, I emailed Dr Vazey and we have since been in contact. I cannot wait to build on my new connection with Dr Vazey, and learn from her, as she is an amazing lady 🙂

Overall, I would have to say my Future Schools experience was, as Sylvia puts it, AWESOME! I connected with some talented people, I saw what is POSSIBLE… and I now have a clearer picture as to how to move forward with coding and robotics in my classroom! 🙂

Kids Collaborate

When I first started this blog two and a half years ago, I also set up a wikispace and Facebook page that shared the same name – “Kids Collaborate”. I registered a business with this name as well. For me, at that time, I was very keen to establish a space for educators around the world to “connect, create, collaborate and communicate”. This idea was put on hold back then, as I started a new venture, integrating iPads in a 1:1 setting. Now that I have that under way, I am very keen to pursue my initial plan 🙂

Today, I spent some time updating the Kids Collaborate wikispace. I’ve listed some global projects my students are keen to be part of. If you and your students are also interested in participating, please get in touch with me. More details can be found at the site.

At present, five projects are listed. I call them the “My School” series 🙂 They include sharing images about:

  • your school
  • your classroom
  • a playground in your school
  • the items in a student’s lunch box
  • the view from a window in your classroom

Inspiration for the projects have come from my students, as well as Professional Learning sessions I have attended in the past.

My students are keen to create presentations using the images shared.

This space is available for you to list your own global projects too 🙂

Digital Stories

I have always been a firm believer that “a computer is not a typewriter”. This is why, since I first started teaching, I have always encouraged my students to publish their work in creative ways, digital or not.

In 2008, I attended my first professional learning session with Marco Torres. Wow! What a true inspiration! I will always remember that day and the way Marco’s students created digital stories, aligning pictures, music and sound effects to their scripts.

Since that day, I have encouraged my students to produce work of a similar nature. To my surprise, my students have always stepped up to the challenge. They have followed the writing process in class, i.e. planning, drafting, revising and editing… and have selected how they’d like to publish their story in digital form.

Last year, I was truly impressed by the song my students wrote and recorded during our poetry unit. This year, I am just as amazed by the narrative my student has published. She has integrated a number of apps and skills to create the outstanding digital story below.

I love how my students take the idea and make it their own 🙂

 

 

Learning with iPads

Last year, my colleague, Jessica Gallagher, and I were extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to present at ULearn, an international learning and teaching conference held in New Zealand. We presented how we integrate iPads in a 1:1 setting. Our hands-on workshop was booked out. Throughout the conference, attendees thanked Jess and myself for inspiring them and suggesting purposeful ways iPads can be integrated. They loved our list of free apps too.

This year, Jess and I are presenting a similar session at the ICTEV conference. Shortly after our abstract was accepted, we were approached by ICTEV to write an article about our session for a publication about mobile devices. We are flattered that we’ve been recognised as innovative educators who promote student voice and student choice through effective ICT integration.

Please read our article below.

 

Learning with iPads – By Jessica Gallagher and Michelle Meracis

Manor Lakes P-12 College is a government school in Wyndham Vale, a rapidly growing residential area. The school opened in 2009 with 450 students. Today, the school has approximately 1600 P-11 students and 200+ dedicated staff. The College is set amongst large grounds with numerous active and passive play areas.

Manor Lakes P-12 College strives to provide a personalised learning program through a rigorous curriculum that integrates the use of Information and Communication Technology. Currently, students in years Prep, 1, 6, 7 and 8 participate in a 1:1 iPad program and students in years 9-11 participate in a BYOD model. This allows for learning to take place anywhere, anytime. Mobile devices have not simply replaced pen and paper; they have rather enhanced student creativity and collaboration.

iPads were first introduced to grade 5 students in late 2010 when the college was asked to take part in the DEECD iPad trial. In the very beginning, apps were mainly used to support and reinforce concepts covered in classes. They were introduced during warm-ups as a way of tuning students into learning and, in some cases, to front load students. Now, iPads are a tool used to support the learning process when and where students see fit. Teachers set learning tasks and students choose how to complete and present them.

 

Literacy

Staff and students at Manor Lakes P-12 College use a number of apps to support and reinforce literacy skills, particularly in the areas of vocabulary building, note-taking, planning, drafting and publishing. Many of the apps have been suggested by staff, but most have been discovered, tried, tested and shared by the students.

Some of the apps we use during the first 10-15 minutes of literacy lessons, our warm-up/tuning-in time, include Chicktionary Lite, Whirly Word, Story Spine, Mad Libs, Words with Friends and Hanging with Friends. All of these are free. Chicktionary Lite and Whirly Word are both anagram based games. They require students to create a number of words out of the given letters. Story Spine and Mad Libs both focus on the strategies and skills required for creating an interesting narrative. Mad Libs reinforces parts of speech too. Words with Friends is a game similar to Scrabble and Hanging with Friends, as the name suggests, is similar to Hangman. In our classrooms, we alternate between using the Apple TV to explore these literacy apps as a whole class and giving students quiet time to work independently.

Many students prefer to take notes on their iPad using apps such as Popplet Lite, SimpleMind+, Corkulous and Lino. These apps allow students to record notes in a speedy manner, move them around and alter where necessary. They are also popular for planning written texts, as are Bamboo Paper and Idea Sketch. Sound Note is another great note taking and planning app as it allows students to verbally record their ideas, as well as type and draw them. As teachers, we love that our students are planning and organising their ideas using these apps, but we encourage them to write in their books too. There is a time and a place for writing straight on the iPad; it is all about the purpose of the activity.

In terms of publishing, iMovie, Storyrobe and Explain Everything are at the top of our students’ lists. Students find it easy to import text, images and photos into these apps and voice record over them. Toontastic is another app that students enjoy using. Its layout complements the 7 Steps to Writing Success program and reinforces the sequence and strategies necessary for composing a correctly structured narrative. We have heard some students say that they like how Toontastic has clear steps for them to follow, making the process of writing and publishing so much easier.

Another great publishing app is Wattpad. This app allows students to publish their work to a global audience and read the published pieces of those also signed up to it. We have noticed that students who generally refuse to write anything are suddenly motivated to write and publish their work. The published pieces are sorted into genres, making it easy for users to locate something of interest.

During independent reading, students have the option of selecting physical or digital texts to read. In many cases, students read pieces from Wattpad. They also read iBooks, eBooks, online books and material from web sites, such as newspapers and history based texts. As teachers, we roam and engage in conversations with our students to ensure the texts they are reading are appropriate for their reading level and age group.

 

Numeracy

Similar to literacy, we use a number of apps to support and reinforce numeracy skills. Many of these apps are discovered by students and shared on a daily basis. In most cases, these fun and addictive games are played during the warm-up/tuning-in time at the start of each lesson. Currently, the most popular math apps include MathBoard, Mathletics, Math Dragon, Math Ninja, Math vs Zombies, Number Battle, Pick-a-Path, Shuttle Mission Math and Speedo Math.

One particular app we have found to “stand out” from the rest in terms of supporting and reinforcing student learning is Virtual Manipulatives. This app is an interactive fraction wall that can be viewed in fraction, decimal and percentage form. Students can drag tiles out to a main working space for simple comparison and manipulation. Equivalent fractions, decimals and percentages are all in the same colour too, making the connections easier to see and make. Students of all ages and abilities have benefited from this app.

Drawing apps have been useful during small teaching focus groups. Rather than students writing on paper or a small whiteboard, students complete equations on their iPad in a drawing app and save their work directly to their camera roll. This image is then inserted into their digital portfolio or used as the background to a voice recording that outlines the steps undertaken to complete the problem. In the beginning, students used Reel Director, Splice, iMovie and Storyrobe to create their tutorials. Over the past two years they have moved onto screen recording apps like Explain Everything, Educreations and ShowMe Interactive to produce the same result.

In the beginning, students kept their tutorials on their own iPad, sharing their work with their peers and teachers only when prompted. Now, students export their tutorials to their camera roll and either email them to their teachers or upload them to a shared folder in Dropbox. Our students really enjoy watching and listening to the different ways they each learn. We are currently collecting the student made tutorials so we have a bank to select from to support student learning across the college, as well as to front load students in a way similar to a flipped classroom; the main difference being that these tutorials have been created for students, by students, using “kid speak” rather than “teacher talk”.

An idea we have been looking into is having a student video record their teacher on an iPad during the introduction of a lesson to later post to a shared space, i.e. Dropbox, YouTube. At present, students take photos of the examples completed on the board to refer to, but if someone records their teacher, an immediate tutorial can be created for students to watch and listen to again, anywhere, anytime. As an alternative to this idea, because not everyone likes to be videoed, teachers have started to connect their iPads to an Apple TV and then record themselves using a screen recording app introducing the lesson. A tutorial is instantly created and, during the lesson, it is uploaded to Dropbox for students to refer to. Students are encouraged to view the tutorial prior to the following lesson to reinforce the concepts and skills already covered.

 

Inquiry

For inquiry based work, students select the apps they feel best meet their presentation needs. This may include using one or a number of apps. Over the years, we have seen a big shift from a picture and some text in Keynote to top quality graphic designs created in PicCollage. Some students take these designs one step further by importing them into iMovie to produce digital masterpieces including voice recordings and original music composed in GarageBand. Like all lessons in each learning area, as a class, we discuss the apps that can be used to complete certain tasks, to model thinking about our thinking, as well as to assist those who may be a little unsure of where to start. Ultimately, though, the choice is up to the student as to how they present their work.

A very popular app amongst students of all ages and abilities at the moment is Haiku Deck. It is very similar to PowerPoint and Keynote, yet adding images as backgrounds, positioning text and rearranging the order of slides is much easier. Its simple features make it an effective and powerful app to produce impressive presentations.

 

Collaboration

Since the beginning of the 1:1 iPad program, we have been amazed by the natural transition towards collaboration and peer coaching amongst students. It is common for students to sit on the floor in small groups to assist each other and discuss the tasks they are completing. The design of the devices lends themselves quite easily to students passing iPads around to share and showcase what they’ve done and how they’ve accomplished this.

This has been particularly evident in the iBuddies program, where classes in grades prep and 6 pair up and participate in purposeful lessons that provide students with opportunities to work collaboratively on their iPads. Over the past two years, we have observed the preps learning and practising foundation skills and the grade 6s strengthening their peer coaching and leadership capacity. A bonus from last year’s experience has been the way this year’s grade 1 students have supported their current teachers with using the iPads to enhance their learning by selecting appropriate apps to complete class tasks. This has been very helpful in supporting the grade 1 teachers, many who are new to the college, with effectively integrating the technology in their learning and teaching programs.

It is evident that student voice is a strong component of our 1:1 program. A large part of its success stems from students having the freedom to choose the app/s they want to use for a task and then being able to explain why they chose it and deemed it to be appropriate. This emphasis has really strengthened our students’ abilities to articulate and reflect on their learning.

 

Cloud Technology

With a major focus on digital learning environments, we have needed to explore ways for students to share work completed on their iPads with their teachers and peers. In the very beginning, this was through email. Every student at Manor Lakes P-12 College has an email account. Over the past two years, we have moved across to using Dropbox. Within Dropbox, teachers create one shared class folder that all students in that grade are invited to access. Teachers also create individual folders for each student that only them and that student access. This set up is made possible by students having their own Dropbox account. Managing work this way has proved to be less time consuming as teachers don’t need to scroll through and open copious emails to download attachments, they can rather access student folders and view submitted work on any connected device.

A number of classes are also using Edmodo and Google Drive as mediums to share and submit work. Teachers at Manor Lakes P-12 College work with their students to select the preferred space to use and work within, again demonstrating the college’s focus on student voice.

 

The use of iPads in classrooms at Manor Lakes P-12 College has certainly opened up new and exciting ways for students to create, collaborate, connect, share and reflect. They have allowed students of all abilities to feel immediate success and produce work of an outstanding quality.

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…

 

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.

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…

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.