Shaping ICT Policy and Future Practice

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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 #ipsict iPad Rollout

One of my many jobs this year has been the rollout of my school’s iPad program. 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.

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! 

 

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.

Edublogs Award Nominations 2013

Keeping my nominations short and simple this year 🙂

Global Classroom 2013-14 Launch Webinars – Nov 22 and 23/24

2013-14 LAUNCH PRESENTATION

It is hard to believe, but Global Classroom 2013-14 is upon us. When I co-founded our first project in March 2011 with Deb Frazier, I never dreamt that I’d be here, two and half years later, announcing the launch of our fourth instalment … building on some amazing years of global connections, conversations, and collaborations.

But, here we are. 

Our project launch webinars will be happening on Friday Nov 22, and Saturday Nov 23/ Sunday Nov 24 (morning), marking the beginning of the next chapter in our #globalclassroom journey. If you come along, or watch the recordings, you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of inspirational leaders, engage in global conversations, and start to explore the amazing possibilities presented by breaking down your classroom walls.

This year, we’ve set up a Google Plus invitation to enable people to check when the sessions run in their time-zone, and to add a reminder to their calendars by RSVP’ing their attendance. If you have any questions, please get in touch 🙂

As usual, these webinars will be held on online using BlackBoard Collaborate. We recommend checking you have the latest version of Java installed on your computer (or download the Blackboard Collaborate app for iOS), and log in at least 10 minutes prior to the start of the session. Thanks!

 

Session 1 –  Friday, November 22(#GlobalEd13)

 

Session 2 – Saturday Nov 23 / Sunday November 24

Please note, the repeat webinar on Saturday takes place in a different BlackBoard Collaborate room, courtesy of Warwick University. Please make sure you use the correct room link!

My “Idea Worth Spreading” – #TEDxPerth 2013

 

A few days ago, I attended my second TEDx Perth, an ideas forum which I have come to love for its’ sheer energy, enthusiasm, and stories. I listened to stories from doctors, a mountaineer, a sustainability guru, and the list goes on … Humble stories which inspired many.

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But, perhaps the most important, and special moment of the day, was when I was given the opportunity (with 10 others), to come on stage and pitch my “30 Second Idea Worth Spreading” …

It just wasn’t (and isn’t) possible to share my passion for global education and collaboration in under 30 seconds, but I took a couple of deep breaths (first time I’ve been scared stiff in front of a – 700 strong – audience!), and did my best …

Without quoting what I said verbatim, the essence of the message is simple …

I believe that children (and teachers) learn best when they “learn with the world, not just about it” … When they are given the opportunity to meet and build meaningful collaborative learning relationships with children from other countries, religions, and cultures.

Our global connections change us, as learners, and as educators. They teach us to care. They teach us to respect difference, and seek to build bridges across cultures. We learn to care about our environment and our community, both local and global. 

As global educators, we’re starting a journey with our students, one that has the potential to take us to places we’d never dreamed of … 

It’s a journey worth taking, and I passionately believe that this truly is “an idea worth spreading” …

Thank you to the TEDx Perth team for putting on a truly amazing event, and for providing us with the opportunity to share our stories and ideas with the world.  I hope to see you next year 🙂

Photo by @RS_au
Photo by @RS_au

“Building the Western Australian Twitter PLN” #ECAWA13

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On Friday October 11, I was lucky enough to co-present the #WApln Twitter workshop with @KerryMuste at our State ICT Conference – ECAWA13. We had a great turnout for the session, and the chocolate bribe offered for the Friday afternoon slot went down a treat 🙂 (Thanks Kerry!)

Returning to #RSCON4 – A Journey Continues

RSCON4 map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday night, I returned to where it all began, presenting at the fourth Reform Symposium eConference. Considering my global journey started with attending #RSCON11, and presenting for the very first time at #RSCON3, this was a very special occasion, and I was truly taken aback by the response and interest in my session.

With 35 attendees from 6 continents, this is a presentation I will remember for some time to come 🙂 Thankyou to everyone who attended, and thank you to all those wonderful people who’ve sent me feedback on the session. It is greatly appreciated.

#iEARN13 Workshop & Presentations

 

I am still coming to terms with the fact that I travelled halfway around the world to share my social media journey and experiences with The Global Classroom Project at #iEARN13.

Qatar was the venue for my first (three!) international presentations, including my first Global Classroom Workshop, and the launch of my first iEARN project.

Here they are, with links to explore further if you wish.

Connecting Globally via Twitter and the #globalclassroom Chats (Workshop)

I still can’t believe that nearly 50 people attended this workshop, which was live translated from English into Arabic. It seemed to make quite an impact, judging by the frequent informal sessions I held with new iEARN twitter teachers over the days which followed!

It was a pleasure to present in front of the @iEARNAustralia management team, who now have a much better understanding of what I’ve been trying to do with our organisation’s Twitter account.

This workshop was also the first time I experimented with a bilingual “Find Someone Who” activity as a brief 5 minute introduction to the ‘essence’ of Twitter – short, rapid fire conversations with global partners around a range of issues.

A huge thank you goes to @rawyashatila in Lebanon, who generously translated the document into Arabic! 🙂

Workshop Notes

Workshop Handout & (Crowd Sourced) Twitter Tips

@mgraffin Twitter Workshop
Via @FrisoDoornhof

 

Social Media Panel Contribution

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One of the unexpected surprises of the iEARN Conference was the invitation to contribute to the Social Media Panel Keynote, created by Khitham Al-Utaibi (@khitamah) and Rebecca Hodges (@ProfHodges).

Presenting alongside 3 academics, and one of the most globally aware high school students I’ve ever met (@AndrewNasser), was quite an experience. We had around 450 people in the audience, and I received some very positive feedback on my contribution. I suspect I went over my time allocation slightly, but I think this tweet sums it up nicely:

 

Building the Global Classroom: A Substitute Teacher’s Twitter Journey from Michael

iEARN Travelling Scrapbook Project Launch

This turned out to be one of the more productive sessions of the conference, where I took the opportunity to share the story of the #globalclassroom travelling scrapbook project, and discuss plans for an iEARN version.

I took away some hastily scribbled notes / suggestions, and a list of potential partners. I’m hoping to get this project running by September 2013, and will have to try and sort out the planning / organisation approach over the next week or so.