Shaping ICT Policy and Future Practice (#ionapsict)

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Since joining my school just six months ago, I have been working on a number of projects alongside my ICT teaching and integration role, including:

  • Collaborating with the CEO ICT team to complete the technical set up Google Apps for Education, and planning for staff professional development and student use in 2015.
  • Providing feedback on the design and content of our new school website
  • Revising the school’s Strategic Plan, ICT Policy and Internet Access Agreements, with an explicit emphasis on modelling positive digital citizenship, publishing student work online, and promoting global connections and perspectives.
  • Developing a Digital Technologies / ICT Scope and Sequence for K-6 (very much a work in progress)
  • Researching and negotiating the Policy Framework for the development of classroom blogging across the school in 2015, and advising Admin on the advantages, disadvantages, and costs of various blogging platforms.
  • Planning for the creation of a small-scale Student Digital Leaders program from early 2015.

What have I learnt?

I consider myself fortunate to have a supportive, open-minded Administration, who are extremely keen to build our school’s digital presence into the future. I am extremely mindful of the fact that I am helping to collaboratively shape the future direction and practices of a school community, and endeavour to provide clear, explicit feedback and research-based recommendations to guide decision making and practices – with the long-term goal of bringing about sustainable, lasting change.

Helping negotiate ICT plans and policies has been a challenging learning experience, and 2015 will likely be a very busy and interesting year as I will be working alongside my colleagues to help translate these ideas into their classroom practice. Implementing change may not be easy, but it certainly won’t be boring!

Thoughts on the #ionapsict iPad Rollout

One of my many jobs this year has been the rollout of my school’s iPad program, funded by the generous support of our Parents and Friends Association. Working in close collaboration with my colleague, who works as a part-time IT technician, and the school administration, I’ve learnt some valuable lessons about iPad VPP management, and explored effective pedagogical strategies for integrating iPads into K-3 classrooms.

Dot Day

1) Technical iPad management has come a LONG way since 2012.

While many people know of my work as a Research Assistant on the TIPS2012 iPad Project (Edith Cowan University, 2012), not many are aware of my other role – as the poor guy tasked with the technical setup and management of 120 iPads for the School of Education. These were the days before the introduction of the Volume Purchasing Program for Australia, and before the development of Apple Configurator … and to put it mildly, it was an incredibly time-consuming and tedious process.

Fast forward to 2014, and the discovery that my school uses the Meraki Mobile Deployment Solution from CISCO. Now, I rarely promote products on my blog, but I can honestly say that Meraki is a true time-saver – and well worth whatever it costs to use! While it takes at least 20 minutes / device to install the Meraki profile on the iPads (if all goes well), the time savings lie in the ability to remotely purchase and push new apps onto selected devices over WiFi. This is the one caveat of using Meraki – you must have excellent WiFi bandwidth for it to be effective. As I discovered, it also pays not to try and remotely deploy apps to 60 iPads off the one router (for first time setup). Downloading 10GB+ of new apps / device is not a good idea. Placing the iPads around the school, and checking that apps are downloading properly is the way to go.

2) Your choice of iPad case and charging solution matter.

Our school went down the road of centralising iPad charging in one easily accessible (secure) room in the school, rather than charging small numbers of iPads in each classroom. Some people I have talked to (outside the school) are not keen on this approach; however, it seems to be workable for our school context. While classroom use is currently limited to ICT lessons & Integration sessions, this is primarily an indicator of teachers’ confidence – which is something we will be working to develop next year.

On the issue of iPad cases, my personal preference is the STM Skinny case, which is durable, protective, and most importantly – light. Our new school iPads came with the STM Dux case, which has a high drop protection rating and an (admittedly useful) clear back. Unfortunately, I am not joking when I say that these cases took, on average, 3 minutes to install per device, and the ends of my fingers hurt for days afterwards. They are also extremely heavy, especially for small children, as well as the teachers trying to carry a box of five. I am hoping that we take this into consideration when we expand the iPad program in future years.

3) Establish clear guidelines for selection and purchasing of iPad apps

One of the challenges of establishing a school iPad program is planning and communicating what kinds of apps will be purchased, and whether the school or classroom teachers pay for them. From the outset, I argued for a focus on creative rather than skill and drill apps, a position supported by my administration. Drawing upon international best practice, implementing this approach was not without its challenges, and I did make a few mistakes along the way.

Drawing upon teacher feedback, and my own experimentation with a play-based approach to iPad integration in K-3,  I have realised that there is a need for a few phonics/literacy game / skill development apps in the early years – provided those apps are limited in number, sourced from high-quality educational providers, and support the classroom literacy approach. While I have had considerable success in ICT classes with developing students’ skills with more creative iPad apps, such as Book Creator, Play School Art Maker, DoodleBuddy. Strip Design, and Puppet Pals Directors’ Pass (which I will introduce next week), the classroom integration of these tools will be a focus for 2015.

One key lesson I learnt from this rollout is that pushing out the same set of apps onto Kindergarten to Year 3 iPads is not particularly helpful. There is a need to adjust the apps provided for various year levels, as well as a need to remove unnecessary duplication. For example, DoodleBuddy is a fantastic drawing tool for EC, while renders the more complicated SketchBook Lite unnecessary. Similarly, while I would happily use HaikuDeck from Year 1 upwards, there is no point in having it on Kindy and PP devices. In addition, it pays to check that the Lite versions of apps (such as Puppet Pals HD, Spelling City, Reading Eggs) are actually useful prior to putting them onto all the devices. Sometimes, as we discovered with Puppet Pals, it genuinely pays to purchase the full version, while the others require a paid subscription.

One other important issue that we confronted during our rollout was negotiating and communicating procedures for classroom teachers to request and purchase iPad apps. Both my administration and I take the view that app selection and purchasing needs to be carefully managed to ensure that selected apps are of educational value – beyond skill and drill games. As the procedures currently stand, classroom teachers are able to request apps for their classes / year level on a Term by Term basis, and purchases of paid apps are charged to classroom budgets. While we’ve had a few hurdles, the system seems to be working well, and will be refined in 2015.

4) Teach students (and staff) how to use Cloud workflows for sharing work

I have been pleasantly surprised with how my Pre-Primary and Year 1 students have learnt how to save their work, and download photos (with guidance) from their class Dropbox account. As part of the iPad rollout, I set up Gmail addresses and Dropbox accounts for each year level, using the Carousel app to get an additional 3GB space. While I had to individually input these accounts on every device, teaching students about the cloud has been invaluable.We may switch to Google Drive next year, but for now at least, Dropbox is my preferred, simple solution for sharing classroom photos for student use, and collecting work from devices.

Whatever cloud storage solution you choose to use, it is important to explicitly teach students and staff how to use it to store and retrieve documents, images, and other files. The development of these skills in my school is a work in progress :)

5) It is important to balance explicit teaching and play-based / discovery learning with iPads

When I first started in this role, I strongly emphasised a play-based / discovery approach to teaching students how to use creative iPad apps. Drawing upon collegial advice and feedback, and my own observations, I am realising that there is a need to balance the play-based approach with explicit teaching and guided demonstrations, especially for the more complicated app workflows, such as Dropbox and Explain Evrything.

One very valuable suggestion, which I will work on next year, is providing students with simple instructions (either screenshots / video) which they can refer to as they work on iPad projects. My initial thinking is we could put these in Google Docs, and teach students how to access them via QR code … and if at all possible, I’d like to employ some Year 6 students to create them … We will see.

6) Classroom iPad integration requires ongoing professional support, beyond one off workshops.

I am lucky enough to be in a school which can  employ me as a part-time ICT integrator, currently for half a day a week. With this extra time, I have been able to work alongside four teachers to support their integration of ICT, in addition to those who have regularly given up their DOTT time to join my ICT lessons.

Over the past few months, I’ve learnt a great deal about collaboration and coaching; learning from my mistakes, and celebrating some huge milestone achievements – such as running a book trailer project & introducing Mystery Skype  in Year 3, and supporting teachers’ involvement in the Travelling Teddy Project. These sessions have been invaluable in that they have allowed me to help build teachers’ confidence and understanding of how to integrate iPads into their classroom teaching, while helping me develop my collaborative teaching skills & own professional learning.

The greatest lesson I’ve drawn from this experience; however, is that while traditional workshop / professional development days are fantastic for introducing teachers to ICT and iPad integration, it takes time and ongoing support for teachers to build their confidence and skills. Developing teachers’ ICT skills is not a straightforward process, and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. If you’re preparing or planning to implement an iPad program, it is vital that you build in some form of professional support – through Techie Brekkies, or providing time for teachers to join the ICT teacher for a Term’s ICT lessons. I am extremely grateful that my school has appreciated the value of this approach, and I’ve certainly enjoyed the challenge.

Where to in 2015?

In comparison to many other schools, our iPad program is relatively small, and most definitely in its’ infancy. We’ve made significant strides in the first few months, and I am looking forward to continue our iPad journey in 2015.

Lessons learnt working with iMovie in Upper Primary (#ionapsict)

In Term 3, 2014, I spent half a term working with Years 3-6 students on various iMovie projects. While I plan to blog about my Year 3 and 4 students’ creations later on, I am in a position to share and reflect upon my experiences working with the upper primary classes. The Year 5 and 6 students were set a challenge – to create an iMovie ‘explanation‘ or advertisement for a chosen audience.

As I wrote in my planning document, the iMovie project was intended as an introduction to digital storytelling, one which will

“develop students’ skills for telling powerful stories through the use of images, text, and sound. Students’ final product will be an iMovie book trailer / explanatory video (depending on year level), which will require them to create planning storyboards, identity and cite Creative Commons images and music, and edit a video presentation.”

At the time, being new to the school and teaching ICT, my planning for this project was more closely aligned with the ICT General Capabilities than the new Digital Technologies curriculum, of which I am starting to develop a working knowledge. The project ran for just under 5 weeks, which in hindsight, was barely enough time to complete and submit the finished products!

The Challenge

I challenged my  students to plan and produce an iMovie which respected copyright through the use of Creative Commons (CC) images and (optional) soundtrack. Stressing that the completed works were highly likely to be published online (which will be a new initiative at the school), I tried to build my students’ understanding and awareness of copyright and online privacy, encouraging their use of CC images rather than live footage of themselves. I was also very keen to emphasise that the time spent planning and scripting the iMovie was just as important as the actual filming – countering the expectation that students could  just jump in front of a webcam and perform with little to no preparation.

The Year 5 students, with the benefit of the detailed project framework, came closer to achieving these goals – although approximately half of the teams didn’t take on the challenge of using images instead of live footage (some had permission to do this). The Year 6 students, set the much broader challenge of creating an advertisement, had more freedom with the use of live footage; however, were expected to demonstrate that they could plan, produce, and edit an iMovie which respected copyright laws.

How did we go? 

Year 5

Given this was not an ICT integration project, and only loosely aligned with the classroom English curriculum, I wasn’t overly worried that many students created procedures rather than explanations. What I did find fascinating; however, was how some groups responded to the challenge of using still images rather than live footage – by creating and using their own photos.

Amongst the Year 5 projects, there were some truly stand out examples of creativity, collaboration, and learning – including explanations of life cycles, the formation of igneous rocks, and how to paint your nails (I work in a girls school!). Some of my personal favourites are the recipes for cakes, brownies, and chocolate balls; the best of which I will be seeking parental permission to share later on.

In the meantime, I can share a selection of my Year 5 students’ iMovies which illustrate a wide range of iMovie production skills, and an emerging awareness of Creative Commons. Some of these have been edited to protect students’ privacy.

Year 6

My Year 6 students, despite some initial hesitation, responded brilliantly to the challenge of planning and scripting their iMovie presentations. I suspect the purpose and usefulness of writing the script / scene plans was made a little clearer due to their participation and intensive preparation for the upcoming Year 5-6 dramatic production, based on The Amazing Maurice, by Terry Pratchett.

Set the broad challenge of producing an iMovie advertisement which respected copyright, students set about collaboratively creating advertisements for the Royal Show, gymnastics, the Garden City Shopping Centre, Iona PS, and the school production. I had students spread out across the school – some were interviewing the Principal, Deputy Principal, teachers, and younger students, while others were filming gymnastics on the front lawn. The resulting advertisements reflected students’ unexpectedly high level interview skills, and a wide range of iMovie production skills, including the very clever use of effects, and a classroom wall as a rudimentary greenscreen.

Considering that students were primarily encouraged to work out how to use the iMovie tools amongst themselves, I was thrilled with the results. Unfortunately, as most of the Year 6 videos feature students’ faces, I can’t share them on my personal blog without parental permission. I can share one though – which if the students’ had included a ‘hook at the end’, would have come close to being one of the best advertisements in their class.

 

So, where to next year?

I will take a great deal of confidence and learning out of this teaching experience, which is technically the first major upper primary ICT project  I have planned, taught, and assessed. I now have a much better understanding of my students’  iMovie planning and production skills, and have a fairly good idea of the topics I will need to teach and reinforce in 2015.

Some notes that I’ve made along the way include:

  • There is a real need to explicitly focus on the use & referencing of Creative Commons media (music, images, etc) in ICT. This was a brand new concept this year, so it is not surprising that many students are still coming to terms with it.
  • I will need to continue the emphasis on prior planning and scripting, with some more work on storyboarding, especially with next year’s Year 6s. We will likely use Google Docs for this.
  • Never assume students know how to export and submit iMovies via Edmodo or Dropbox. (This is a mistake I won’t make again!).
  • I will also be focussing on the introduction of more advanced iMovie skills, especially the use of title / text overlays to convey meaning, and how to adjust volume and length of film clips.

Overall, this was an invaluable teaching and learning experience for me, and a great way to start my ICT journey at Iona PS. I know I have a great deal to learn, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and especially proud of my wonderfully creative students – who never cease to inspire me as a teacher.

On Becoming an @HaikuDeck Guru

 

HaikuDeck Guru Application – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

 

As I recently told my students, I vividly recall the time I sat at the back of a classroom, struggling to stay awake through one of the most mind numbing PowerPoint presentations I’ve ever experienced.

I could barely keep my eyes open. One small problem … I was the teacher. :(

In early 2013, I was thrilled to discover an iPad app which opened my eyes to the power of an effective presentation, combining beautiful imagery with minimal text to share a story. That app was @HaikuDeck, and I’ve been using it ever since, sharing my story, and the stories of my colleagues, on the local, national, and international stage.

A few days ago, my application to become a HaikuDeck Guru was accepted: and I am thrilled to join a small, but growing international community of storytellers helping to support the ongoing development of one of the world’s best presentation tools.

HaikuDeck set my story free, and I’m thrilled to be part of their journey in the years to come.

Grade 1 Kidpix "Imaginary Creature"

A Little Adventure in Teaching ICT

Grade 1 Kidpix "Imaginary Creature"

Well, some of those visiting the blog over the past few weeks may have noticed a subtle change to the title of this blog. It is hard to believe, but I’m four weeks into a temporary ICT Teaching & Integration role at a wonderful girls’ school in Perth, Western Australia. 

It has been a busy time, in which I’ve been exploring digital citizenship with my students, helping prepare our new iPads for rollout (next week I hope!), and working with colleagues to set up collaborative iPad project plans.

I am extremely grateful for the warm welcome I have received at my new school, and now, as I start to settle into my role, I feel like I’m on an exciting little adventure into the wonderful world of teaching and learning with ICT for the remainder of 2014.

Here’s to an interesting journey, wherever it may lead.

 Netiquette Activity

 

 

(Distracting) view from SHORE School

Flat Connections, Sydney 2014

Heading to Sydney for Flat Connections marked an important milestone, namely the first time I have ever visited the East Coast of Australia! Held at the SHORE School, Flat Connections proved to be an amazing conference, where I met many friends, new and old, and discovered leadership and multimedia skills I didn’t know I had :) 

(Distracting) view from SHORE School

(Distracting) view from SHORE School

Flat Connections was a conference involving teachers and students, with some flying from Canada, the United States, and Iran; and saw teachers pitching and presenting to students, and vice versa. I was working with Leadership Team 9, a diverse bunch of Australian high school teachers, and my friend from Iran. Given two days to come up with a multimedia product showcasing a global project or idea, we decided to focus on creating a pitch for secondary teachers to start exploring the power of global connections in their curriculum and learning experiences. While we had our stressful moments, I was extremely impressed with how we bonded as a team, and capitalising on our various strengths, we produced a result we were happy with.

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Leadership Team 9

 

Some Takeaways

  • I really appreciated the hands-on focus of this conference. It truly wasn’t a conference where you could turn up and vegetate. You had to make a real, collaborative contribution, and you certainly were never bored – just mentally and physically exhausted! Someone once said that this conference was “hard fun”. They weren’t joking. It was the most challenging, yet most rewarding professional development I have ever participated in; and I would love nothing more than to do it all again in future years!
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Team members working on voice over

  • I was also extremely impressed with the students, aged 10-16, who simply blew me away with their creativity, presentation skills, and ideas. I think the greatest lesson of this conference was never underestimating what students can do when given the time, resources, and opportunity to “think big”, and explore the other story. A case in point is  ”The Passion Project” student video, which conveys the argument for 20% time so eloquently. Please sign their petition! 

 

A Teacher’s Life on the Road

Copyright Free image via unsplash.com

Copyright Free image via unsplash.com

I once promised a friend that I’d write this post, and it is written for those who have never experienced what it is like to teach ‘on the road’.

I have been relief (substitute) teaching for four and half years, far longer than most, and to be fair it certainly has had its ups and downs. Waking up every morning waiting for the phone to ring (or not, as the case has been this year), being subject to the whims of often tired, stressed relief coordinators who just need to fill the day’s vacancies, turning up to a school not sure if you have a day’s schedule or not … it is not an easy road.

In the past, I have been criticised, and sometimes openly attacked, because I’m a relief teacher.

The idea, once quite openly expressed on Twitter, was that there must be something wrong with me, or that I couldn’t possibly be interested in working full-time – “The jobs are there if you wanted one” … The truth is that they are wrong, on both counts.

While those people are thankfully few and far between, I have some news for them …  I was a relief teacher by choice. Despite the stress and the complexity, I was free to teach, learn, and grow. Unlike some new teachers I know, I came through the hell of my first few years with my teaching spirit intact, and I know I am a better teacher for it.

Tomorrow, I will be visiting a new school. 

This time; however, I will be there for a different reason.  I have finally found a school which shares and values my vision for teaching and learning with the world through ICT. I knew it existed, but I’m still a little shocked as to where I found it.  I don’t mind that its a temporary part-time position, the very fact that I’ve won it is a personal vindication. It is the next step in my teaching journey, and as I hope to start my Masters degree next year, I’m quite happy with how I’m travelling. Everything happens for a reason, even if I don’t know what that reason is just yet!

Most teachers appreciate the work that relief teachers do.

Indeed, the best relief coordinators and Deputy Principals are those who have done relief teaching themselves in the past. But for those who dare to judge us without walking a mile in our shoes, assuming that we are lesser teachers, please re-consider. Our job is far from easy, and every relief teacher has a story. Just remember, … a welcoming smile, a friendly word of advice or teaching tips, a detailed daily work pad, directions to the staffroom … are appreciated far more than you will ever know.

Relief teachers talk to each-other. Schools where the teachers and admin are friendly and supportive are more likely to keep their experienced relief contacts. Those that show they don’t care, through their words and actions, are avoided – and others are warned to stay away.

We repay your kindness and care through our words and actions, and your students, and your school, stand to benefit. After all, we are all in this together.

Join us Virtually @ the Flat Connections Conference 2014

It’s just two weeks until I fly out for the Flat Connections Conference in Sydney! As much as I’d love to see everyone there in person, this is one of the few conferences which you can attend virtually, and I hope you can join us online – for FREE!

You can find out more details, and sign up for the Virtual Conference (even as a team member!) at http://tinyurl.com/flatsydney, and the virtual kickoff meeting is happening early next week, on June 8/9, depending on your timezone.

For more details about the conference, I highly recommend the official website - http://www.flatconnections.com/sydney-2014.html.

If you’re in Sydney, and would like to meet up, tweet me. Looking forward to meeting a few long-time friends there!

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The Global Classroom Project: An Australian Teacher’s Story

It has been somewhat remiss of me, but having so much to do over the past few months, I am only now sharing the slides and recording from my presentation at the #OZeLive Conference, which was held some months ago. It’s good to be back to blogging, and there are a few more posts in the pipeline.

My thanks to the OZeLive coordinators for an amazing conference, and the opportunity to share my story. The YouTube recording of the presentation is embedded in the slides; however, if you wish to watch the Blackboard Collaborate version, please click here.

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World Water Day International LinoIt Project 2014

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This coming weekend marks  World Water Day 2014, held on March 22 each year, and it promises to be a rather ‘wet’ weekend.

World Water Day International LinoIt Project 2014

For the past three years, the WWD LinoIt Project has given students around the world the opportunity to share their thoughts, photos, and experiences of water conservation with the wider world.

This year’s project will run from March 19-25, and will be jointly hosted by Class 5, from School 1302 in Moscow, Russia and Robyn Thiessen’s Grade 4/5 class in Canada. We are also looking forward to working with Project Purus, who are fundraising to provide clean water for school children in Nepal.

Please bookmark the 2014 LinoIt and share with your class using this link - http://bit.ly/worldwaterday2014.

I’m hoping to smash the country participation and audience count this year, so please feel free to share this with your networks!