CUE13 – Keynote: Kevin Honeycutt – Trends, Tools and Tactics for 21st Century Learning

Everyone has their favourite inspirational speaker. Every teacher out there has probably seen Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks and every school leadership team has a playlist of YouTube videos of their latest guru. This morning I just happened to discover this guy through a Scoop-it page I follow – Kevin Honeycutt. I didn’t know much about him but I do now that I’ve watched this video.

His comedic style will keep you listening through this presentation but don’t be fooled by his boyish behaviour. He has a serious message to get out there. He draws you in with his personal story which is an inspiration to every child who has struggled and every teacher who has struggled to deal with them. Then he hits you with cutting observations about the state of education and how we can better it. And don’t think it’s all about tech – the teachers that saved him didn’t use tech; they cared. Of course in amongst all the anecdotes is some sage advice on how we can use tech to improve the learning along with changing the environment and, above all, the relationships.

Take the time to watch this – it deserves more than the 654 views it has at time of writing. (Video and sound quality isn’t perfect but bear with it). If you want a quicker introduction to Honeycutt than this 45 minute video, try the one below. Similar message in less time but not as inspirational.

iPurpose before iPad


The two above images are good examples of purposeful thinking about iPad usage in schools.

One, a screenshot of an oft-used tool known as iPad As.. by edtechteacher.org, focuses on what the iPad can be used for and provides links to various apps that can be utilised for those functions. It goes without saying that it is a very useful website for schools thinking about iPads. It provides nutshell explanations of a number of apps that relate to each iPad as… category as well as pricing. It’s a good introduction into the functionality of the iPad that counteracts the misconception of iPad as consumption NOt creation tool.

The other, The Padagogy Wheel, is one of many variations on applying Bloom’s Taxonomy of skills to iPad apps. It develops from the general learning action verbs/skills we want our students to acquire to technology based activities that relate to these skills and finally to a selection of apps that can support this development.

Both tools have supported my reflection on iPad use in school and are worth checking out in detail. Having said that, though, I feel they both fall short in what is needed as a resource for implementing iPads in education. iPad as… does a good job at presenting uses for iPads in school – what they can be used for – but doesn’t really provide depth about the skill development that can arise from their use. It’s still action/activity emphasis rather than pedagogical/learning emphasis. It’s great to know that you can create videos, and it describes what the app can do,  but how will this improve learning and what learning will it improve is also a priority iPad schools need to address. I think it also pigeon-holes apps as one trick ponies – I’d like to emphasise the apps that can be used to develop many skills.

The Padagogy Wheel provides many links between skills and tech activities but doesn’t really address what iPad apps address which skills and activities specifically other than lumping them into a particular category. It too, tends to classify the apps as one trick pony options rather than seeing them as multiple category options.

Don’t get me wrong, I think both are great tools but there is room for improvement in creating a tool for supporting time poor iPads in Schools implementers in planning, selecting, justifying and integrating iPad apps in education.

Which leads me to attempt a herculean task… I’m going to try to blend the best of both of these resources and address the short falls I have mentioned by creating my own resource. But it’s going to be a work in progress for a while and I hope to get support from Mr G Online followers, subscribers, users and casual visitors.

I’ve started creating a table of important skills, some derived from the Padagogy Wheel, and actions, some derived from iPad As… What I am planning to highlight is that there are many apps that can be use for many purposes and for developing many skills. For example, I have already added “Explain Everything” to 9 categories as I see it as a multifunctional app and one worth its price because of the educational benefits it provides. Over the coming months I plan to add text descriptions to each category to explain how the apps listed address the skill or action they have been linked to and may also link them to other online sources that show them in action. I’ll also provide direct links to the App Store, as I always do on this blog when I mention apps so you can check them out yourself if you want.

Now this sounds like a big task and it is. So I do need some help. What do I want from you? Anything you can give. Just add them to the comments of this post.

  • Examples of apps that help to develop specific skills
  • Additional skills I haven’t listed here
  • Examples of apps that are multifunctional.
  • Explanations of good pedagogical practice with apps. Don’t worry, all credit will go to you when I include your suggestions.
  • Links to blog posts, websites, Youtube tutorials, open wikis, nings etc that promote good practice that I can link to from here.
  • Examples on add ons like bookmarklets for curation sites, websites that work well with iPads ( Flash-free) that can still be categorised under these headings for iPad use.
  • Spread the word regularly through Twitter, Facebook, Curation sites like Pinterest and Scoop-It to keep educators coming back.
This post will look messy for a while as new ideas get added. A blog may not be the best storage place for it in the long run. If I actually get the support – and it’s likely I won’t – and it grows I will probably move it to a separate website for better functionality. It may well be better as a wiki but  I didn’t want to move away from Mr G Online unless I needed. For easy access in the meantime, I will add this post to my main menu at the top of the blog so you can come back to check revisions. I will be planning weekly updates at least, more if I get regular contributions I can just copy and paste in from the comments.
I really hope I can get this off the ground. From reading so many blog articles, I can see there is a huge need for clarity in using tech like iPads. If you have been a regular reader of Mr G Online, you would know I am a big proponent of Pedagogy before Technology. That’s why I want iPurpose before iPad. Hope to hear from some of you soon.

 

IPAD AS VIDEO CREATION IPAD AS AUDIO RECORDING

iMovie Pinnacle Studio VideoScribe HD iStopMotion GarageBand  TagPad  Evernote  Notability

Explain Everything Art Maker Animation Desk iMotion HD AudioBoo
 Whether creating live action videos with iMovie and Pinnacle Studio, animated stories with iStopMotion, Animation Desk and iMotion HD or how to tutorials with Explain Everything, the iPad is a great tool for video creation. Creating videos with these apps develops organisation and planning skills, supports story telling skills in non writers and enhances creativity and problem solving in many ways.
 IPAD AS BOOK PUBLISHER  IPAD AS DIGITAL STORYTELLING
StoryWheel
Book Creator Creative Book Builder StoryWheel    Sonic Pics Explain Everything Toontastic Storify
Video Scribe HD
Providing opportunities for authentic writing with a real audience outside the classroom, publishing real books using the iPad can improve motivation and actual writing skills. With sufficient access, tech based writing can employ the editing capabilities to encourage children to write without worrying about rewriting from scratch. With the real possibility of publishing books online or in the iBookstore for others to read, children will be encouraged to put more effort into editing and improving their written work. The possibilities for multimedia additions allows for more creativit There are more ways of telling stories these days than text and pictures. Some students have stories inside them that don’t get shared because of a lack of writing ability. Let’s give them opportunities to tell stories orally until they are ready to write so that they can develop their imaginations and story telling for when they are ready to write. These apps all allow for alternatives to traditional writing texts, either through combining audio and images seamlessly in a variety of formats
 IPAD AS GRAPHIC NOVEL CREATOR   IPAD AS READING SUPPORT
 Strip Designer Comic Life     Book Creator iPrompter Creative Book Builder iBooks
Explain Everything
Creating stories with audio, highlighted annotations, vocabulary support through linked dictionaries, scrolling screens provides support for students who lack reading skills. Getting children to record themselves reading gives them feedback on their progress as well as support for independent practice.
 IPAD AS COLLABORATION TOOL  IPAD AS PRESENTATION TOOL
Edmodo VoiceThread Skype Evernote Keynote  VideoScribe  Haiku Deck   VoiceThread
Instapaper Whiteboard Popplet Comic Life  Explain Everything  Skitch   iPrompter
  IPAD AS A WRITING TOOL  IPAD AS BRAINSTORMING TOOL
Comic Life  Writing Prompts SpellBoard Tap Dictionary iMind Map 3D  Popplet  Skitch Inspiration Maps Lite
Notability
Notability Whiteboard
  IPAD AS INFORMATION COLLECTOR  IPAD AS INFORMATION MANAGER/ORGANISER
 
 Evernote Edmodo   PollDaddy Socrative   EverNote  Edmodo Pinterest  Instapaper
Notability
Notability  Notability
 IPAD AS NOTE TAKER  IPAD AS PROBLEM SOLVER
 Notability Hopscotch
 Skitch  Evernote  Notability    Wolfram Alpha Numbers  Hopscotch
 IPAD AS GRAPHING TOOL  IPAD AS RESEARCH TOOL
Wikinodes Notability
 Numbers  Wolfram Alpha  Doodle Buddy    Wolfram Alpha PollDaddy  WikiNodes Notability
 IPAD AS DATA COLLECTION TOOL  IPAD AS A ROLE PLAYING TOOL
 
Edmodo  PollDaddy   Socrative Numbers  Edmodo   Puppet Pals    
TagPad Evernote EasyTag
IPAD AS A CLASS MANAGEMENT TOOL IPAD AS AN ASSESSMENT TOOL
ClassDojo  Notability
Edmodo  Socrative   ClassDojo   Explain Everything   Edmodo Socrative  Notability 
IPAD AS A MAPPING TOOL IPAD AS A CALCULATING TOOL
Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 8.32.29 PM   
Routes Explain Everything Skitch Geocaching Numbers Wolfram Alpha MyScript Calculator
MyMapsEditor
My Maps Editor
IPAD AS DEMONSTRATION TOOL IPAD AS COMMUNICATION TOOL
Skitch Explain Everything  Skype    Edmodo  Skype
IPAD AS AN ARTISTIC TOOL IPAD AS A DESIGNING TOOL
ArtRage Garageband Snapseed RoomPlanner
ArtRage GarageBand  Snapseed iStopMotion Skitch  Explain Everything   RoomPlanner iDraw
Phoster ScrapPad
IPAD AS AN EXPERIMENTING TOOL IPAD AS A DEBATING TOOL
Hopscotch  
Explain Everything   Numbers Hopscotch     Edmodo  VoiceThread Skype  iPrompter 

 

 

 

Maths Maps – an engaging way to teach Maths with Google Maps

It’s been around for a few years now and had plenty of interest from around the world already, but Mr G Online has only just discovered Maths Maps. From first impressions, I am absolutely blown away by the idea. The brainchild of leading UK educator Tom Barrett, (now based in Australia), Maths Maps uses Google Maps as the launching pad for Maths Investigations.

Barrett’s vision was for teachers around the world to collaborate on building Maths Maps, examples of some seen in the screenshots on the left. Here is a brief description of how it works from the Maths Maps website.

Elevator Pitch

  • Using Google Maps.
  • Maths activities in different places around the world.
  • One location, one maths topic, one map.
  • Activities explained in placemarks in Google Maps.
  • Placemarks geotagged to the maths it refers to. “How wide is this swimming pool?”
  • Teachers to contribute and share ideas.
  • Maps can be used as independent tasks or group activities in class.
  • Maps can be embedded on websites, blogs or wikis.
  • Tasks to be completed by students and recorded online or offline.

The collaboration aspect worked like this: ( again from the website)

How can you contribute?

  1. Explore the maps below for the ideas already added, follow the links to open them in a new window.
  2. Send me details of which map you want to edit and your Google email address and I will add you as an editor, follow the link from the email invite.
  3. Click on EDIT in the left panel.
  4. Zoom close to the city and it’s surroundings. (Don’t forget Streetview)
  5. Find some TOPIC ideas you can see.
  6. Add a placemark (use the right colour for the age group it is best for – see purple pin)
  7. Explain the activity in the description.
  8. Change the title to show how many ideas there are.
  9. Send out a Tweet or write a blog post to highlight this resource andencourage others to contribute.

For those of you who have never edited a Google Map before, you need a Google account to do so. Here is an annotated screenshot that shows the basic layout of the Edit stage. I know I say it a lot to colleagues who don’t believe me, but it is very easy to do, like most Web 2.0 tools.

I’m not sure I could handle the world wide collaboration long term but I think this would be very manageable at a school level if you could get together a team of teachers willing to contribute. To me, it is a great way of presenting worded problems in real life contexts. On one level, with the emphasis on teaching children how to analyse questions for standardised tests, this would be a more engaging way of presenting the problems to the children. On a more creative, engaging level, it provides opportunities for linking Maths to real problems, not just questions out of a textbook or practice test sheets.

Beyond the question level, it provides opportunities to investigate all Maths concepts as you can see from the screenshots above. Adding the investigations to an always available Google map means students can access the problems anytime, anywhere and can work at their own pace. I always see tech solutions for recording work for students to complete as a benefit, not extra work. Instead of photocopying or getting children to copy down unfinished problems in a rush before leaving, the work is stored online. It means it can be shared with other classes as well.

The image here shows how Maths Maps was set up to add problems and investigations for all grade levels so collaboration can take place across levels, allowing for differentiation possibilities. Barrett just colour coded the placemarks to match a grade level.

If students have access to Google accounts, it is a great opportunity for them to create their own investigations, taking it to a higher thinking level for them. Students in higher grades could create maps for lower grades to investigate or for their fellow classmates. If nearby schools wanted to join in, they could and, of course, you could go the Maths Maps website route and find some schools outside your area to collaborate with and learn so much more about the world.

Of course, there is no reason why it has to be limited to Maths. You could do the same investigations with geography heavy novels, historical events, geography investigations, anything you can link to real locations. It’s certainly open to a lot of possibilities and, while I know it’s easy for me to say, it doesn’t have a huge learning curve and, with collaboration, shouldn’t take too much time to create. If you are going to type out some questions and print out on paper anyway, it will not take much more effort to create this far more engaging option instead.

Here’s a direct link to one of Barrett’s embedded Maths Maps, 27 Measures Activities in Madrid. You can explore this in detail and get a greater sense of the range of real world Maths you can find in real geographic locations.


View 27 Measures Activities in Madrid in a larger map

And, since I’m one teacher who always has to practise what I preach rather than just post ideas from others, here’s my first attempt at starting a Maths Map around Melbourne – unfinished and early days but might test it out with a few of my colleagues and the Grade 5/6 students.

View Measuring Melbourne in a larger map

Standardised testing – Who’s at fault? System, teacher or student? Pt 1 – The System.

I had been planning to weigh in on the Standardised Testing debate for a while now. Then I spotted this article titled The four biggest myths of the anti-testing backlash and decided to put my ‘two cents worth’ in.

First of all, don’t call me a fence sitter, but I can see what both sides are saying. And that’s part of the problem with the whole debate. It’s just two sides not listening to the other’s point of view. Being a quasi/mutant part teacher, part leader composite being, I get to discuss the postives and negatives of testing with many stakeholders and this is where it all sits with me.

The System Level.

At system level, no one has a coherent, unified explanation of the purpose of Standardised Testing. Is it for tracking student progress or achievement? Is it a means of evaluating the performance of schools, teachers or students? Is it a “one off snapshot of performance to get a general picture of student achievement to be used alongside school/teacher recorded data to build a profile of a student’s strengths and weaknesses” ( phew!) or is it the all important indicator of school and teacher performance that takes precedence over all other evidence of achievement before or after the test? Are we meant to use the results to guide curriculum and school planning or work with the results at a one to one level to build on Individual Learning Plans for students? Are the results intended for educational experts or meant to be published by newspapers and government websites to pigeonhole schools into rankings based on a one off event? Over the years, I hear and see all of these scenarios played out all the time and the end results too often don’t result in targeted learning improvements because we get bogged down in definitions of purpose and mixed agendas.

Testing is necessary. In a mobile, global society, there needs to be some standard we have to set for the typical 10 year old if one year their Dad’s job takes him to Thailand and the next year he ends up in Dubai. Results can be used effectively. Trends can be found at a class or school level that can be addressed quickly. Results can generate purposeful planning conversations based on actual data rather than teacher intuition or generalisations based on a small sample group. Done well, students and their parents can get timely feedback that they can use to address strengths and weaknesses quickly, not when they get their report five months later. Despite what we think, many students like competition and like to know how they are performing against their best mate or nemesis. So I am not against the concept of standardised testing. I have issues with its perceived purpose.

I’ve spent the last 3 weeks at school using a lot of standardised tests. We believe at the leadership level, we have a clear purpose for these tests. The On Demand testing we are using online with entire Grade Levels can give us a snapshot of who is below, at and above standard. From there we plan programs to address needs of groups of students. It’s instant feedback – which is a massive advantage over the ridiculous 5 month waiting period for NAPLAN ( Australia’s nation wide standardised testing program) . The minute the student finishes the test, we can bring up overall and question by question results. But the amount of data can be overwhelming at the micro-level and too general at a macro level. More importantly for me, raw numbers and right and wrong answers tell me what the student can’t do BUT it doesn’t tell me why.

That’s why a more effective form of standardised testing is the one on one interview. Too time consuming to do with every student and often too pointless to use with high achievers or the ‘normed’ student, but what you get the chance to do that makes a real difference to the student’s learning is identify how they think. A instead of C doesn’t tell me why the child couldn’t add two digit numbers; listening to that same student verbalise the misconceptions of addition does. Where standardised testing of the written, whole class nature helps me here is identifying the students who would benefit from the interview. Over the last week, I have had some eye opening interviews and discovered some major issues with some students that NAPLAN and On Demand or class worksheets clearly missed. I’ve also found out that some of the students I interviewed because of Standardised Test results, were not low achievers at all. They were using sophisticated mental computation strategies that will support them in future years and should have helped them ‘ace’ the test. Something else was going on at the test site that a written test can’t begin to pick up.

I don’t know how possible it is but it would be nice if at system level someone could investigate the possibility of an alternative to the 50 question multiple choice question test. Is our priority the Collection of Data about WHO is at risk or finding out HOW we can help the at risk student? I don’t know how practical it is at a system level, but 5 questions on key ideas that ask a child to justify their responses is going to tell me more about what is going on in the head of that student than a score of 12/50.

Testing is vitally important but it’s important to find out how to help our students learn, not simply what they do and don’t know on a given Thursday. Identifying learning issues is what I want to see as the purpose of Standardised Testing. That helps teachers. That helps students. Anything else becomes a political football in a debate between two groups of people who are only providing the media 1o second soundbites to keep the real stakeholders out of the conversation.

Having said that, it is certainly not all the system’s fault. Teachers and students have to be accountable in all of this too. What roles, rights and responsibilities do those at the coalface have in this debate? I’ll cover that in Pt 2 ( or maybe even Pt 3 – depends on how much I ramble on for!!) In the meantime, I’d like to hear what you think? What’s your take on Standardised Testing? Which side of the debate do you support? Join the conversation.

School Shared iPad User Policies – a Necessity or Overkill?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonunbound/6811217950/ (used and adapted under CC licence)

In 2011, our iPad program began with 15 trial iPads given out to willing teachers and school leaders prepared to test out their usefulness.

In 2012, 35 iPads were divided up into five sets of 7 and shared between the 27 classes at our school.

Now, in 2013, Phase 3 begins with further purchases enabling us to put together sets of 14 iPads for EACH Grade Level ( 4 classes in each). With greater and more regular ( and unregulated) use across the school, I’ve begun to consider what policies/procedures/practices to put in place to enable a successful implementation of iPads across the school.

Last year’s setup had its limitations. All of the iPads were centrally stored in my office in a secure, locked cupboard. This was great for the 5/6 classes who lived with me but a pain for some grades who have to travel 100 metres to find them and carry the tray(s) across, sometimes with weather as an issue. It was an unfortunate necessity as we wanted everyone to have equitable access to the number they wanted rather than spreading them thinly across all classrooms.

This year, with the Grade levels having their own sets of iPads, they are now to be stored locally in their area. Great for them, but security, level of care and monitoring become an issue. I don’t want to be concerned, but at times last year iPads were returned with cables and covers in a sorry state – and that was with me seeing them at the end of each day. Out of sight but not out of mind, I want procedures in place to ensure staff and students look after them responsibly.

I also want to monitor their use. I know this is probably seen as overkill by some but it has its reasons. The introduction of the iPad across the school is different to how we have accessed desktop and laptop computers in the past. Because of this, I want to be able to assess the implementation and use of the iPad for future planning and use. Like everything in schools today, data is required. Therefore, the monitoring system comes in to play.

So this is how I plan to implement the program this year. I would really appreciate feedback from other co-ordinators of iPad programs at their schools or districts. Is it overkill or a necessity? Let me know what you think.

THE BORROWING SYSTEM.

Similar to last year, class teachers or teams will need to record when they are going to use the iPads and for what purpose ( or what apps were used). This should be a simpler task this year as teachers will only be negotiating with their own team rather than all 28 classroom teachers. This means it can all be sorted out at team planning rather than worrying about clashing or double booking with other year levels.

The booking will be done on a shared Google Spreadsheet. If the team decides they want to have a chart on the wall to make bookings more visible and easily accessed that will be their call but at the end of the day, I still expect a team member, possibly the ICT team member of the year level to record all details on the Google Spreadsheet. What I need all to understand is that I want to be able to evaluate the level of use the iPads are getting at each Grade level and what apps are being used regularly so that future decisions can be made about further app or iPad purchases. It’s not a matter of ‘checking up’ on individuals or teams. It’s a way of collecting data that can inform me on who may need more PD in using the iPads or which apps I have spent money on have been worth the cost based on use. Now that the iPads are linked to Grades rather than the whole school, I can focus on purchasing apps specifically targetted at Grade level needs rather than installing a large number of a particular app on all iPads and then not being used. This should save money in the long run.

The Spreadsheet will also include a list of the Apps installed at the level as well as sheet for recording a Wish List of apps or purposes. Teachers and students will be able to browse the App Store on the iPads ( but not purchase ).Grades may be able to apportion a small percentage of their Year Level budget on apps specifically for them. This sheet will be an efficient way of informing me of what the grade wants.

If teachers want to borrow overnight, they can just write their name instead of Class name. An unforeseen problem caused by Configurator’s Supervise mode means that teachers will need to bring the iPad to me before they take it home if they want internet access at home. I have to disable the installed profile to allow the iPad to connect to a wifi network other than school’s and reinstall it the next day so that it will work at school.

Q: WHY THE NEED FOR THE SYSTEM? WHY CAN”T WE JUST USE THEM LIKE OUR DESKTOPS AND LAPTOPS?

A: I think it would be generally accepted that the use of Desktops and to a lesser extent Laptops at our school hasn’t changed too much over the years. Internet use (free but monitored for acceptable use), desktop publishing ( = Microsoft Office, included in our computer licensing agreements) some dabbling in programs like Pivot, Google SketchUp, Scratch and Inspiration and, more recently, free access to some web 2.o tools like blogging, Prezi and Glogster. Mostly free or established as part of the standard school computer set up, monitoring is not required.

The iPad changed the game ( sorry for the cliche!) It doesn’t sit on a desk with its limited use cases. It is isn’t restricted by the limited number of programs installed on them. It’s a camera, a movie maker, an audio recording device, a book, a mobile device of many uses. It offers new opportunities for teaching and learning that staff may or may not be aware of. Its going to be used in ways the desktop/laptop haven’t been and above all, it’s being shared. For these reasons, I want the system in place so teachers can plan for their new uses, so I can monitor how they’re being used and plan for support and PD to improve usage, and yes, so we know who is responsible for the iPads at a given time ( they’re more fragile, more difficult to pack up, so I want to monitor who has them if they are damaged. One iPad was broken last year ; I was able to trace the source immediately because I knew who had just used them. Full disclosure – it was actual my group!) We have a system for borrowing books, a system for borrowing Maths resources, a system for borrowing digital cameras, all items that are shared and limited…..so we can have a system for borrowing iPads.

RESPONSIBLE USE

My other big issue ( and maybe its because I’m a closet ‘control freak’) is insuring that the iPads are secure and stay in one piece. Laptop screens can break, keyboards and monitors can get knocked on the floor. iPads are just looking for trouble in their design. Entire faces made of glass, connections with fiddly pins ( we still have 35 iPad 2 connectors to contend with), ultra-portability that can sometimes mean users forget where it’s placed. On top of that is my cost cutting measuring to save money to get more iPads. No fancy charge and sync trolleys costing thousands at our school. Dish rack + powerboard + extension cord = iPad storage system Mr G style. Cheap, effective, easy to store – but easy to mess up, too. Tangled cords, shifting iPads, heavy to carry for some -there have been issues. My neighbouring Grade 6 Teachers and I spent more than a few days tidying up after iPad trays returned from some grades. So we need to be on top of all of this with some clear procedures and protocols. Check the cords are tied up, the iPads are placed correctly and in the right position, the cords aren’t bent or stuck under the iPad, apps are shut down, covers closed properly.

Security wise, teachers can’t afford to leave them laying in the open exposed to the view of others walking past their windows or open entrances. Each Grade level will be getting a lockable cupboard to store them when not in use. Not jsut at the end of the day but at recess and lunch time as well.

Last year was a starting point. This year is the beginning of the real thing. No more Mr G watching over the whole thing. The staff have what they asked for – more access, more responsibility, more iPads. Now its time to use them well.

 

Edmodo vs Blogging (updated and reposted from a post originally published in September 2012)

20120902-071937.jpg

I originally wrote this post in September 2012. With a new school year beginning in Australia and plans to ramp up blogging and Edmodo at our school this year, I have updated this post to use with my staff with more screenshots, new ideas and some additional references to the iPad use of these tools with dedicated apps. For those who have seen it before, you may like to revisit.

When introducing transformative teaching practices involving technology, you have to be careful not to overload the senses of the tech novices on your staff. What took über geeks like me a couple of hours to master can take a life time for others. This year at my school we’ve begun to dip our toes into the waters of online communication (some staff are already swimming while others are still sitting on the edge thinking they’ll drown without support). We’ve introduced both Edmodo and blogging to varying degrees this year. Grade 6 embraced Edmodo from the start and used it in many ways, following in the footsteps of a trial program I began with some of the current teachers last year. Grade 5 came to the party a bit later and are working towards good practices with support from current teachers who were part of the trial last year. Grade 3 and 4 have recently jumped on board and are currently in the experimental stage, with some of the more tech savvy trying out more advanced features.

The Grade 6s have taken to blogging this term, although more as private digital portfolios rather than true blogging with a global audience. However, class blogs have started to surface ( still limited to class member only access) and this has started to blur the lines between Edmodo and the class blogs. Our ICT Leader recently attended a network meeting and other leaders there questioned the purpose of Edmodo if they were already blogging ( until they actually investigated Edmodo – few actually knew of its existence). The point for me though is how to make a convincing argument for both Edmodo and blogging being transformative teaching and learning tools that we should be embracing. The purpose of this post then is as a reflection tool for me to consider the purposes of both platforms before selling them to the staff. It’s also a cry out for you, the reader, to share your experiences of both Edmodo and blogging. Do you use both or tend to focus on one?

In a nutshell, I see Edmodo as an all encompassing classroom management/teaching and learning/collaboration system. Blogging, on the other hand, while it can be used for all the purposes just mentioned, is a tool for writing, publishing and sharing your body of work, be it major writing tasks or quick reflections on life or school work. While it aims to share and craves feedback, blogging is a personal tool. Edmodo, however, it more group oriented. Because of the differentiation between the two, I think they should both be part of classroom practice.

EDMODO
Groups – My favorite feature of Edmodo and a big difference between itself and blogging. I’ve written a few posts on how I’ve used groups to organize my lessons with different small groups. In a contemporary open learning environment in which children are grouped by needs and interests, I appreciate the convenience and ease of creating groups for different subjects or smaller groups within that group so that specific groups of children can collaborate and discuss.It takes no time to set the groups up and they can be altered at any time. These groups are then linked to other features listed later. It’s simply a feature blogging doesn’t offer (as far as I can tell – correct me if I’m wrong)

Collaborative Discussion – the simplicity of the Edmodo discussion wins me over compared to blogging. Simply add a note explaining the topic of the discussion, which can include images, videos, embedded links to other web tools, links to other sites, click Add and the discussion begins. All it takes is to hit the Reply button and the discussion is in full swing. The one feature I would like Edmodo to add is the ability to reply to a specific comment like you can in blogs. It can be a bit cumbersome having to write a reply to someone who wrote something 10 comments back.

Assignments and Gradebook – I love this feature because it becomes a class management system. While I appreciate the ability to comment on a student’s blog, for assessment purposes you would prefer to communicate directly and privately with the student. Using the assignment feature, children can send their work directly to you for feedback and assessment. The feedback is only seen by you and the student and the child can resubmit their work as a response to your feedback. Each assignment is linked to a student’s Gradebook where a teach can store grades ( of your choosing) and comments.

File Sharing – as I mentioned in the Collaborative Discussion section, sharing files is very easy with Edmodo. While you can do this effectively in blogs through widgets and links, the Facebook like nature of Edmodo makes sharing a link to another site quickly more timely than blogs.

Of course, it can get a little messy when the posts come in thick and fast and they get lost at the bottom of the page or move to the Previous page section, a feature shared with blogs and other social network sites……which leads us to the solution to this problem>>>>>

Folders and Tags – Tagging is an easy way to group posts around the same topic so you can access then from your tag list later on when they disappear of the front page of posts. Folders can also be set up to store specific posts on a common topic. Both tags and folders can be shared, although only the creator can add to them.

Polls and Quizzes – while more advanced polls and quizzes can be created by dedicated web tools and embedded on blogs, the polls and quizzes on Edmodo can be created much more quickly, albeit only by the teacher. Quizzes can be multiple choice, written answer or fill in the blank and can be useful in collecting data for a range of subjects. With the way testing is becoming a major focus in education, this can become a way of acclimate sing children to the testing process while making it relevant to the class day to day learning. Witt scheduled posts becoming a recent feature, teachers can create a number of quizzes in one sitting but set them to appear on Edmodo at specific times throughout the year.20130209-112757.jpg

Calendar – the Edmodo calendar is a effective way to help your students manage their time. Teachers can add daily events to the calendar and all assignments are automatically added as well. You can post events for specific groups as well so only those who need to see the event do. It adds to the class management capabilities of Edmodo that is simpler to use than blog calendars. I would like students to be able to add events, though.

Library/Backpack - for teachers it’s called Library; for students it’s the Backpack. Either way, it offers a easy to use file uploading and storing system, handy, when you do work at home or school and want to continue it at the other location. Better than emailing or USB data stick.

Extrinsic motivation through Badges - Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like to use stickers or awards, Edmodo has its own reward system called badges. You can create your own (but it’s a lot easier to just grab badges already created by other Edmodo teachers – I’ve collected 190 of them from my connections) and to encourage or acknowledge student effort or work, you can simply select their name in your class list, select a badge and award it to the students. There’s a badge made for just about anything and many come with a comment. Used wisely, it’s a good way to collate a whole bunch of comments for your student reports without doing any more work than giving that badge toa student.

BLOGGING
I’ve written a few blogposts about the benefits of blogging that you can read here if you haven’t seen them. Here’s what I think differentiates blogging from a system like Edmodo.

Open/Closed Collaborative Discussion – Blogging can certainly allow for collaborative discussion and provides you with a level of control over who takes part on the conversation. If you have a public blog, anyone can take part in the conversation. If you have more rigid privacy settings, you can restrict who participates. For me, though, Edmodo is the better option for instant, collaborative discussion and feedback. With most school blogging wanting some level of moderation of comments, there is the time consuming and inconvenient need to approve every comment before it is seen by others. Edmodo, on the other hand, allows for instant posting and replying because of its secure, closed environment. Yes, popular blogging platforms allow for the set up of dedicated forums but to go through the process of setting up that, it makes more sense to put a link to Edmodo on your blog and use that as your forum.

Collaborative Assignments – This is where blogs exceed Edmodo in the collaboration area. While you can share resources, have debates, and contribute to each others work collaboratively on Edmodo, blogging allows for full scale project collaboration. Individual or class blogs can give access to other users to publish work together. Users can either create their own posts or have permission to edit other users’ posts. Images, embedded web tools , videos, comments can all contribute to a shared project between two users, a whole class or even multiple classes – in your own school or worldwide. Yes you can create groups in Edmodo for different classes to share work in but it’s not as wide ranging as blogging collaboratively.

Publishing and sharing work – it goes without saying that blogging is about sharing your ideas, interests, passions and work of any nature with others. Edmodo is great for sharing a link to your blog, but the work all takes place on your blog, in all the ways I’ve outlined in the other categories in this section of this blogpost.

Tags and Categories – Edmodo and Blogging are very similar in this area. Tags are a great way for creating access to specific posts by using keywords related to posts. Categories allow you to group posts under subject areas. Blogging categories offer more flexibility than Edmodo folders in that you can file a single post under multiple categories.

Audience – One of the benefits of Edmodo is that it is a secure, teacher controlled environment restricted to teacher control and a clearly defined set of users. This is also a drawback if you are looking for a wider, open audience. Blogging gives you both options. If you are looking for purpose for writing well, audience is important. Yes, you can keep your blog private or control who views it, but you can open it up to the whole world to share in your journey and provide you with feedback and incentive. Student bloggers get the opportunity to decide on their audience access and the level of communication they have with them. They don’t get this choice with Edmodo, which his heavy on teacher control.

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As a portfolio – While Edmodo has its backpack/library for no fuss, easy to access file uploading and storing, it works more as a filing system. Blogging offers more of a publishing/presentation tool feel to storing your work. It can act as an adequate word processing/publishing option with decent formatting tools, weblinks and ability to add images. It allows you to embed web tools for instant viewing of linked work, whereas Edmodo, while offering embedding, requires you to click on the embedded link to view the file ( albeit within Edmodo). Stored files on Edmodo are private ( unless shared in folders or individually posted to specific groups) whereas on a blog you can open it up for anyone ( or a limited few ) to view and comment on.

Both Edmodo and blogs allow for parental interaction. Edmodo provides a parent code that links the parent to their child’s posts and connects them to the teachers as well. With a blog, students can add their parents as subscribers if they are running a private portfolio blog so parents can view and comment on their work.

I think the feature sets I’ve outlined for both platforms show a clear difference in usage but also shows how beneficial they can both be. Nevertheless, I’d like to hear from other users of Edmodo and blogging. Have I missed something that you think is important to either? Do you have uses of either that eliminates the need to use both. Please join the conversation.

UPDATE:

Edmodo App vs WordPress Blogging App on iPad

The Edmodo App was given a substantial update recently, which I outlined in a post late last year.

The WordPress App is what I use for blogging on the iPad as it is compatible with Edublogs/Global2. There is a dedicated Edublogs app but it is not as advanced in features as the WordPress app.

Before you can use the WordPress app with Edublogs/Global2, you have to enable remote publishing in the settings. Go to settings in the Dashboard and select the Writing section. Under Remote publishing check both the Atom Publishing and XML – RPC options.

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Then open the WordPress app and go to the Settings to add new blog. Select Self hosted blog and type in your blog address and username and password to connect to your blog.

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Once logged on, you can easily view and create new posts. The editing function is something you need to get used to. It is in HTML markup language so it can look a little confusing when you format text, add links and import multimedia because you only see the code, not the actual image or formatting. Also, when you add images, they are added to the end of the text, fine if you are editing sequentially, but a pain if you want to add an image earlier in the text. If this is the case, you have to cut and paste the code and move it to the earlier section of the text.
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One bonus with the app is that you can compose and edit while offline, meaning you can draft posts ” on the road” and then upload later when connected. This is useful if on school excursions or camps and you want to record reflections. The only problem is that the images can’t be added offline – you need to be connected to add images. You can also do some more detailed editing of your blog using the web based format in Safari or other iPad browser, although it can be a bit clunky compared to the normal computer experience ( it is improving )

Whether using Edmodo or blogging, the iPad is now a viable option. On the iPad Edmodo app, you can easily log in and out so a shared iPad can be used safely. Using WordPress is a bit of a security issue if sharing an iPad because you don’t need to keep logging in to the blogs.

Is it the iPad, the apps or the user?

Technology has been trying to ‘revolutionize’ education for a long time now. The mistake we’ve been making all along is placing all of the focus on the least important component of the revolution – the tech itself. It’s where all the money goes and then what? Nothing left to actually ensure it’s going to make the difference we want, with the the people we want to impact – the teacher and the student. It’s happened all throughout education tech history in recent times. The film projector, the photocopier, the typewriter, the desktop and laptop computer, data projectors, interactive whiteboards, digital cameras were all heavily invested in ( and many still are today ) to bring engagement and improved teaching and learning to the educational world….But talk of the revolution is still going on.

And now we have the tablet. The iPad has begun a new “education revolution” and now the obligatory opposition tech companies have joined the battle. The question has to be asked – are we again starting from the wrong end of the battle lines? Is the iPad (inserted alternative tablet if so desired) the real catalyst or is there so much more to this than money spending school systems can see beyond the new and shiny?

It’s why I ask the question: Is it the iPad, the App or the User?

The iPad

What is it about the iPad that has enamoured so many in the Education World? Spare me the trollish jibes about Apple’s Reality Distortion Field and slavish fanboys. Educators aren’t that shallow. There is something about this tablet, originally aimed squarely at the consumer, that lends itself beautifully to educational pursuits. The desktop computer, for all its power and potential, leaves the learner anchored to a desk and reliant on other tech tools to increase its functionality. The laptop improved on this with its portability but it still lacked flexibility and true mobility as well as clunky touchpads that lacked precision.

Then came the tablet. Yes, Microsoft predated Apple with a tablet but the iPad brought its use into the mainstream. In a school setting, it brings big changes to the learning experience. It takes mobile learning to a level far beyond the laptop. Its tactile interface brings the learner in direct contact with the screen with positives and negatives. The touch screen allows for direct drawing, handwriting and screen navigation beyond the capabilities of a mouse of trackpad. The built in A/V capabilities, in particular the front and back facing cameras for photo and video, adds one stop access to multimedia use that adds engagement and creativity that other computers can’t match. Its ‘always on, instant save’ nature means instant interaction, replacing the wait time that can slow down learning in class. And its unique lack of filing system, while a fault for many computing traditionalists, makes accessing work for younger children in particular far easier than combinations of menus, commands and hierarchical folders. The touch interface makes it a familiar experience and easier for children to pick up experiment and learn to use ( although this is not always the case for adults with computer behaviour engrained in their physical memory.)

That in itself, though, falls far short of what is necessary for an “Education Revolution”. Beyond a web browser with its well documented Flash deficiencies ( whether we like it or not, educational web 2.0 tools are dominated by Flash ), basic A/V viewing and editing tools, an e-book/PDF reader, a text messaging system, a VERY basic text editor in Notes and some time management tools, what you get out of the box has serious limitations. So obviously, to get closer to revolutionizing education, we need to tap into the vast system of the App Store.

The Apps
“There’s an App for that!” has become part of the English conversation. While early on, we were inundated with countless games, social apps and a mind boggling selection of skills and drill apps of dubious value, it wasn’t long before every possible educational opportunity could be addressed by an app. For years, many schools have been hamstrung by expensive software packages tied into bulk user licences that added up to hundreds sometimes thousands of dollars, preventing us from going beyond the internet and the obligatory Microsoft Office package. True, there are a great number of Web 2.0 tools that have brought creativity and collaboration to the classroom, but while some are free, many expect yearly licences from schools to use them.

As I have written in my post “Essential Paid iPad Apps”, for a reasonable cost (obviously some will disagree),especially under the half price VPP system, the limitations of the ‘out of the box’ iPad transforms into an all purpose teaching and learning machine. Suddenly students have access to video editing, animation creation, ebook publishing, comic book production, digital storytelling in many forms, annotation tools, note taking, audio recording, collaboration tools, painting and drawing apps, content curation and news feeds all at the touch of an icon. In a 1:1 environment, the user has all of this stored within the apps he uses, making for efficient use of time and a non-reliance on accessing messy network folder hierarchies.

But………and it’s a BIG BUT…..

All the tech tools in the world mean nothing if they are not used effectively. Too often over the last 2 years, I have seen way too many examples of half finished, poorly edited creations in the name of “experimenting with the apps”. That, however, is as far as it goes. The lesson is about the app, not the content or the skills that needed to be developed to make a real difference. This is why the role of the User becomes Number One Priority.

The User

No amount of tech or any other educational innovation can make a difference if the users aren’t prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. The so called “digital natives” in our classrooms may have grown up using technology but it doesn’t mean they know how to use it to its full potential. Teachers have a great opportunity to revolutionise education with what has become available but just because their cupboard is full of iPads (or laptops, digital cameras etc, etc) it doesn’t mean the revolution will happen.

Politicians need PD. Leaders of Education need PD. Teachers need PD. Parents need….whatever we call PD for parents. Students need to learn what  is possible with what they know.

          • Facebook/Twitter/Social media in general isn’t just for organising parties, telling us where in the city you are having dinner or writing funny responses about awkward situations. If that is all educators, students and the community think its for, they won’t use it to collaborate, to share, to investigate, to innovate.
          • If teachers aren’t shown how iPads or any other tech tool can improve their current practices and given time and support to gain confidence in their use and possibilities, they will continue with whole class instruction, worksheets and textbooks and every other practice that worked for them in the past.
          • If we only focus on the tool and not the purpose for using it, then we will still get substandard essays and projects – they’ll just look better.
          • If we spend all of our time talking about increased engagement in class because of iPads, but don’t evaluate the improvement in learning, nothing has been accomplished. After all, a 15 year old can be engaged in an all night movie or video game party. Doesn’t mean they’ll learn anything.

I said at the start that Educators aren’t shallow. We can, though, still get caught up in the latest craze, whether it’s the latest buzzword or the next great tech tool. This Education Revolution has been talked about for a long time. We need to focus on the teaching and learning, the teachers and the learners before we focus on the tools. Instead of investigating and experimenting with tablets and apps, let’s make sure we  investigate and experiment with the pedagogy that’s need to make the difference. Let’s put the user first.

What’s your experience in your schools? Are you planning for change or just having tech thrown at you with the hope that something will stick? Join the conversation.

21st Century Fluencies

21st Century Fluency Institute from Fluency21 on Vimeo.

The 21st Century Fluency Project is an organisation dedicated to improving education. Central to their vision is their focus on the development of what Lee Crockett, seen above in the video, calls the critical skills students need in the 21st Century to succeed. The organisation has developed these 6 major Fluencies in responses to questions asked by all interested in the education of our children.

Solution Fluency – the ability to solve problems in real time
Creativity Fluency – thinking creatively and divergently in both digital and non digital environments ( a key distinction made by Crockett in the video – we are not talking only technology here; these are life long learning skills for everyone, not just tech lovers) to develop solutions to see problems
Information Fluency – Crockett here talks about the higher end of Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy – evaluating, analyzing, synthesizing, comparing/contrasting – to make sense of the information overload they experience in a Google/Wikipedia driven, media rich world
Collaboration Fluency – ability to work collaboratively ” in physical and virtual spaces with real and virtual partners” ( again not throwing out traditional forms of communication but also embracing digital forms )
Media Fluency – communicating learning not just in writing and in speech as we have been accustomed but also in multiple multimedia formats, the communication forms of the present and future.
Digital citizen – Crockett mentions ethical thinking, action, accountability, personal responsibility, resilience, risk taking, global perspectives and understanding a diverse range of cultures in a global world our current students have no choice but to be part of

Their Website goes into a bit more detail on each of the fluencies and also contains links to a range of resources to support their philosophy as well as regular blog posts on specific topics regarding 21st Century Learning ( they even linked to one of my posts in April!)

These are big concepts and challenge a lot of teachers today. For school administrators and experienced teachers currently involved in leadership, these are ideas that were never really explored back in our training days or years in the classroom. Some of these ideas may be beyond our comprehension or comfort level. What I am excited about with what Crockett is “selling” in this video is that the 21st Century Fluency Project’s solution goes far beyond your standard Professional Development session in  a way that I think will make a big impact in schools still on the leaning curve towards true 21st Century Learning.The 21st Century Fluency Institutes Crockett describes here is based on workshops that are follwed up with months of collaborative support freom their team to embed their innovative practices into your school’s way of being. It is far more beneficial to a day of keynotes and hour long workshops that we come back from excited but then lose the impact of as time goes by and we are disconnected from the experts. Its a great PD model that I hope is adopted by others. Watch the video, visit their website and hopefully get engaged and involved. Our students deserve the chance.

For Australian readers, here is a link to information about the workshops being run in Australia in February/March next year

Technology – Providing Incredible Opportunities for Students whether we want it to or not

We hear bad stories about young people using technology, especially the internet, at a monotonous regularity. YouTube is awash with ridiculous copycat videos of boys putting themselves in danger. Forums are flooded with a steady stream of insults and rumours from teenagers protected by anonymity. As teachers, we are constantly dealing with reports of cyberbullying on Facebook and Twitter we have no personal control over. If you believed the media shock jocks, every kid on the internet is either an idiot or in great peril.

But I want to tell a different story starring my daughter, her best friend and a small group of friends ( including my opportunistic son!). This is a completely different story that highlights the amazing opportunities that today’s available technology offers our students. It’s also a story about how, if given the freedom, children will take what we ‘make’ them do at school and take it to a whole new level that the limited minds of us teachers don’t even plan for. It explains why student led learning can be a success if we don’t restrict our students from going beyond our stated objectives. It shows how true engagement doesn’t need a teacher or a classroom for children to achieve great things and how technology can allow young students follow their dreams without the restrictions we had in the past.

It begins with a simple project for my daughter’s Studio Arts class. They were asked to create a short Horror film for their major term project. That was the only requirement. My daughter and her friends, from this point on known as BatFilms Productions. ( long story I won’t go into – suffice to say I am listed as ‘Lucius Fox’ in my daughter’s address book)  could have just coasted through the class this term, like apparently some students did, cobbled together a few clips on the computers at school and handed in a bland DVD in a plastic bag to get their ‘At Standard’ mark and go back to studying for their Maths and English exams. That’s all that was expected of them – a video.

Instead, this is what happened. The formed BatFilms Productions. ‘Best Friend’ (who in the 10 years she’s been coming to our house I have never heard utter more than one sentence at a time yet was the star of the movie)  set herself the task of writing the script for the 9 minute ‘epic’. ( the script does not get handed in to the teacher). My daughter started work on the Film Poster and DVD sleeve cover ( also not expected) using her favourite app on her iPad, ArtRage. She is also a budding artist, having attended an after school art class since she was 8. She paints with both natural media and digitally on the iPad, all in her spare time, completing works of art for family members on a regular basis.

Over the Term 3 holidays, while most of their class mates were hanging out at resorts, shopping centres or in front of the TV, Batfilms Productions got together on a Thursday for an all day, all night rehearsal and filming marathon – during the holidays! My kids came home just before midnight, exhausted but excited. “School work” was the highlight of their holiday – and my son wasn’t even part of the assignment. He just went to be the cameraman but is now an official member of Batfilms Productions. Of course by this stage, it had moved beyond school work. A passion had been ignited and it just continued to grow.

While Daughter, who inherited her father’s tech geek gene, got to work on the film editing and production, piecing together hundreds of clips of outakes, bloopers and useable video, Best Friend started thinking about publicity. She set up a YouTube Channel ( not part of the assignment and not connected to the school component at all) and a Twitter Account (again, not part of the school work). Best Friend’s Cousin, also a member of BatFilms, started working on the Film Trailer on iMovie ( also not part of the assignment requirement) and Daughter decided to add a professional edge to the opening credits using another iPad app Intro Designer (she upgraded to the full paid version to get the Horror Movie template ). When she found out about Bsst Friend’s YouTube/Twitter idea, she decided to use her Weebly account to create a Website to advertise Batfilms and their future plans.

Back at school, they discovered their clips weren’t opening on the school computers. Daughter calmly announced she would take them home and convert them ALL on her MacBook using Handbrake. When they viewed the converted files back at school, they noticed pixelation in full screen. They could have accepted mediocrity – at this stage some students hadn’t even filmed their scenes yet – but instead Daughter took them all home again and re did the whole conversion process at a higher resolution setting.

After all that not for extra credit effort, the film was finally completed. It was only now that I found out all they had to hand in was a video. Everything else was their own choice. They handed the movie in completed but all the teacher got was the DVD. What they kept for themselves was a film trailer, extras sections with bloopers and outtakes, a professional standard DVD sleeve and Film poster, and the potential for a real audience through their YouTube Channel, Twitter account and website, none of which would have been encouraged by the school.

What also came out of this was the genesis of a film company with plans made by a group of teenagers to create  more films together. Best Friend already has a script on its way for Movie number two, the completed movie Midnight Man is on Youtube, the Twitter account @BatFilms has started attracting followers and the website tells the story of the fledgling crew and their plans.

The movie itself is pretty good for a bunch of teenagers’ first effort. Me being me, I offered some constructive criticism, suggesting it needed some background music for mood. Daughter said they’d do that for the NEXT movie. Yep, they’re more interested in improving the next movie, the one they have DECIDED to do in their own time, no the one for school.

So what is the message of this story for me as a teacher? Well, there’s several.

  1. Our students are capable of so much more than what we expect of them. They’re not really motivated by grades; they are motivated by engagement. Their reports will probably have the same At Standard score as the slackers who are still working on their films. But BatFilms don’t care. They’re working on their next movie.
  2. As teachers, we need to broaden our learning outcomes and assessment. All these students will be assessed on is the video under the umbrella of Studio Arts. But what else have they demonstrated? Collaboration, entrepreneurism, initiative, teamwork, commitment to excellence, independent learning, communication skills, visual arts, planning, time management and preparation. One of the strengths of Primary School is that your teacher takes you for all classes so she can possibly credit you for all this. Secondary school teachers with their single subject focus may only focus on their narrow subject based outcome. We need to credit our students for unintended outcomes.
  3. We need to know our students’ passions and interests and give them opportunities to grow. The Studio Arts teacher should let the Drama Teacher, the English teacher, the Art Teacher,  the History teacher, the ICT teacher all know what these students are willing to do. Given the opportunity, these kids would put together a great interpretation of Romeo and Juliet or a World War Two battle through the sheer engagement of digital media, showing more understanding than their standard written essay. What they got out of this experience will not show up in a two hour exam.
  4. ICT provides opportunities that us teachers never had when we were students at school. We are limited by our own experiences. We shouldn’t limit our students’ possibilities. Instead of dwelling on the fake death reports and insults on Twitter, explore the possibilities of connecting to promote creative pursuits and worthy causes at school. Use blogs and websites and Youtube. Which leads me to ….
  5. Trust that students can use the Web constructively and responsibly. BatFilms is not a secret project. They are loving that the geeky father is promoting them on his longwinded, highbrow educational blog. Daughter told me straight away that Best Friend had set up the Twitter account. All the parents were asked by the children for permission to set up the YouTube Channel and Twitter. I’m following @Batfilms and Daughter has already blocked a follower who was promoting inappropriate material for them. Daughter is already a Weebly veteran, having set up a website Gleje Comics, displaying her comic strips series and soon to be released animations. She registered her site on the Comic Book Archive to promote it and has followers. ( She’s aiming for a career in computer animation.) They are responsible kids whose only interest in the internet is promoting their talents. Give students the opportunity to be responsible and creative and they will become good digital citizens.

So let’s not limit our students. Let them explore every possibility and bring their own goals along. If we are not getting the best out of them the traditional way, we need to try it their way. Trust technology to open up those possibilities. They’ll do it without you anyway. BatFilms did. Wouldn’t we prefer our students to put in all that effort and be rewarded and acknowledged for it at school as well as outside? Wouldn’t it be better to tap into that energy and enthusiasm and be there to add our experience and knowledge to the mix to improve the experience? I’m reading enough about how we don’t need schools or teachers as we know them anymore. We do. Students still need us. But we need to meet them in their world and support them there. And for those who want to dwell on the students who didn’t make the same effort to argue against the engagement factor of technology, go ahead. I’ll focus on the positive story of BatFilms Productions.

P.S. Please check out the video. They’d like an audience. And Daughter’s comics too.

What are you doing to make Maths real in the classroom?

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spikedmath.com

Mathematics – you either love it or you hate it. There seems to be very little middle ground in this area of thinking. The lovers can find something fascinating in any challenge involving the world of numbers, statistics, shapes and measuring. The haters switch off as soon as you announce ” Please get out your maths books” and go into a quivering near foetal position at the mere mention of the word ‘algebra’.

So where have we gone wrong? Is it just that Maths is too hard for some people? Or have we failed to make it relevant so the doubters just switch off? If we did a better job at showing how important Maths is to real life – that it doesn’t just exist within the confines of a lifeless text book divided into 12 chapters and 120 Exercises of mind numbing practice drills –  would we, along with an injection of teachers who truly love and understand Maths, finally produce a generation of mathophiles (if thats even a word)?

What are you doing to make Maths real in the classroom ( and beyond where it should be)?

  • Are you taking advantage of the simple beauty of Lego blocks to teach arrays, number patterns, counting and  visualization?
  • Do you rely on all those exercises in the textbook or do you show how Trigonometry and functions can be used  to build ramps, staircases, find out slopes;Test and adjust the water flow of a slope on a roof or a pipe; discover The effect of a ramp’s slope on the distance of a jump; work out whether throwing a ball on a steeper angle increases the distance it travels; test the physics of Angry Birds and other similar games?
  • Are you using ratio to alter recipes to cook for more or less people or for changing the taste of a sauce?
  • Do you just learn about the properties of different shapes or do you explore how different shapes fit into a space more efficiently and how this can impact design?
  • Are you buying all of your class/school supplies or getting students to organise surveys to find out parent/their preferences, do research on costing of supplies, table or graph results, compare costs of home purchases versus school purchases, investigate savings and what money could be used for instead?
  • Do you organise school events or have you thought about students working together to organise the costing of events like graduation parties, excursions, transport options, fundraising events?
  • Does your school block or encourage free fantasy sport online competitions which develop money management skills?
  • Do you go on excursions to local shopping centres to buy resources and look for the best prices and possible discounts?
  • Do you use worksheets about statistics and percentages or do you keep statistics about school sports events as real data to monitor performances?
  • Do you use Maths text books for examples or do you collect infographics from newspapers, news programs and websites so children have relevant, recent data to analyse?
  • Do you just serve up pages of algebra exercises to complete or do you demonstrate how algebra can be used as an efficient way to solve real problems, create formulas for simplifying work practices or show the usefulness of algebraic formulas in spreadsheets?
  • Are you still making graphs about favorite colors in the junior grades or are you teaching them that graphs can represent information from questions that make a difference to their lives ( that doesn’t have to be as deep as it sounds)?
  • Are you teaching students how to manage budgets, are you showing them how interest rates impact on their spending? Do they understand credit card debt?
  • Are you involving them in every mathematical possibility in a school day from helping out in the canteen, collecting and counting fundraising money, being timekeepers, sorting out notes in the office, conducting daily surveys of relevance, cataloging books, tallying fines or costs of replacing lost books in the library, helping the PE teacher measure results in athletics carnivals or repaint the lines on sports and games fields out in the playground?
  • Are your students building resources that involve accurate measurements like puppet theaters, book boxes and doll houses for the junior grades? Do you just draw plans to scale or let the children build scale models of real objects they measured?
  • Do you let your students take control of the layout of your room so that they can apply location strategies learnt in class?
  • When considering guest speakers to come to your classroom, do you just think authors and campaigners or do you think about builders, engineers, businessmen or others that can share Maths in the real world?
  • Do you see that organising collaborative discussions with classrooms around the world provides an opportunity for teaching time concepts?

The list can go on forever. I would love to hear from you about what you are doing in your classrooms to make Maths real, relevant and exciting. One idea would be sufficient or more if you want. I’ll add your ideas to my list ( and give you credit of course). Maths is too important to be feared. We have to show our students its worth. Join the conversation.