Category Archives: Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning

BYOD @ SRC – our experience this year

It’s certainly been an interesting year, rolling out a BYOD program in a school where an additional 200+ students will be joining us at the same time.

For an overview of the year, visit the College’s blog, which I started and then maintained as a way to collect information about developments as they occurred, and to which parents could be directed. This saved an enormous amount of repetitive email replies, and assisted parents – particularly those joining us in 2015 – in understanding the philosophy as well as the practical requirements of the program.

Our starting point was the lack of recurrent Federal Government funding for 1:1 devices, purchased in 2011 and 2012. As these devices approach end-of-(useful)-life, a replacement strategy was needed. We had three options, at the end of the day:

  1. retire all of the devices and return to labs
  2. purchase College-owned devices and continue to lend them to students
  3. make the provision of a suitable device the responsibility of the family.

Clearly, we’ve opted for the third of these: the first would see learning suffer, and the second would still be funded by parents. Our rationale for the third, in terms of the reasons in its favour (as opposed to against the other two options), included:

  1. recognising that students and families will already have devices they prefer to use and which are compatible with their home networks
  2. breaking the expectation that school-appropriate technology is only that which the College provides – with a wider range of hardware and software in play, students’ perceptions will shift in this regard.

Our rollout is staggered, so that 3 of our 6 year levels will be BYOD in 2015, and the other 3 in 2016. For details, click here.

Some factors that have simplified matters:

  • As we had already removed student network drives, we did not have to plan for their access via BYOD.
  • Much of our teaching materials for students is on browser-based sites such as Sharepoint and Schoolbox, helping us to be more device-agnostic
  • Our use of an e-commerce portal (optional) has streamlined major support issues for us by consolidating support through one log/ helpdesk
  • We have been able to use retired College devices as swaps when BYOD devices require extended offsite support
  • Our infrastructure – particularly wireless – has been tweaked and upgraded to cope fairly well with the number and variety of devices.

On the whole we would count the year a success. There were some teething problems with deliveries and collections, and a relative small number of devices have had chronic problems requiring multiple returns, but these have been managed. Mind you, those families affected by the repeated failure of their device have justifiably not considered the year a major success, but we have been able to issue replacement devices and monitor the fairly slow repairs process, providing feedback where helpful.

We are about to begin the second phase of the rollout, with the remaining 3 year levels requiring BYOD in 2016. We are updating the blog, hosting a device information session supported by most vendors (Apple and Microsoft will not accept our invitation to show off their wares, as opposed to HP, who are sending a representative), and opening up the e-commerce portal for orders in Term 4.

On the whole, our transition from College-owned devices to BYOD has been relatively painless.

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11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us that “Less is More”.

One could do worse for a framework to review what we all do as educators. Well worth the time to read and reflect.

Filling My Map

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When I left my 7th grade math classroom for my Fulbright research assignment in Finland I thought I would come back from this experience with more inspiring, engaging, innovative lessons.  I expected to have great new ideas on how to teach my mathematics curriculum and I would revamp my lessons so that I could include more curriculum, more math and get students to think more, talk more and do more math.

This drive to do more and More and MORE is a state of existence for most teachers in the US….it is engrained in us from day one.  There is a constant pressure to push our students to the next level to have them do bigger and better things.  The lessons have to be more exciting, more engaging and cover more content.  This phenomena  is driven by data, or parents, or administrators or simply by our work-centric society where we…

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Wallwisher becomes Padlet – and reminds me that it’s pretty handy!

Quite some months ago I set up my Wallwisher account and thought I’d try it out with some classes – primarily, I thought, to gain some anonymous feedback as lessons progressed, allowing me to tailor subsequent lesson to address the feedback received. I did – then forgot about it when we swung into exam mode and then extended holidays.

Wallwisher came back onto my radar today in its new incarnatiion, Padlet, with the same simple to use features in a more advanced form.

Reminded of how useful it is for quick ‘snapshots’ of student learning, I quickly set up a wall (pad?) for my Year 12 class and asked them to post on the wall as follows, about our current unit of study:

  • a note on the right = something they enjoyed or really felt rewarded by
  • a note on the left = something a bit ‘meh’, or they weren’t satisfied by
  • a note in the middle = something interesting they will take away

This simple visual division helped me see at a glance certain trends, and the anonymity encouraged frank (but polite!) expressions of opinion.

Now it’s back on the radar, I can see Padlet/Wallwisher coming out often….

When does ‘resource support’ becomes ‘pressure to conform’?

I applaud all of those teachers who selflessly share their best resources with others through various online repositories. Some of the major ones have hundreds of thousands of resources and are available regardless of geography (for example, the http://tes.co.uk/resources collection which boasts ‘the largest network of teachers in the world’). One of the real boons of the Web has been the ability simply to share resources and draw on the imagination and ingenuity of others (with the option to use them collaboratively even more of a bonus).

Some education authorities also provide a wealth of resources, usually tied to particular curriculum areas, topics, units, activities or assessment items. These, too, can be very useful.

I wonder, though, whether it is always in our best interest when an education authority provides a collection of resources so explicitly linked to each learning activity/ task/ assessment item? Is it possible that this kind of detailed link between a unit and relevant resources can suggest:

  • these resources MUST be used;
  • these resources are ALL that you need to use/ may use
  • these resources must be used IN THIS ORDER/ IN THIS WAY
  • these resources WILL work with all students/ teaching styles/ in all learning contexts?

If this is the outcome – desired or not – is it fair to raise concerns about:

  • de-professionalising teachers who become deliverers of standardised courses?
  • limitations on creativity, ingenuity, responsiveness to individual learning needs?

Seems to me that there is the potential for, paradoxically, these potentially marvellous resource banks to become counter-productive, working against other educational aims such as joint construction of meaning, individualised learning, and wide-ranging collaborative learning.

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Something new for Term 4

If I come across a tech tool that I think might add something to my work with students, I’ll often look for the next opportunity – or create one – to use it with them. An example of this would be the social bookmarking tool, Diigo, that I realised part-way through last term would help my senior English students keep track of reference sites for their most important exam of the term, as well as share the fruits of their labours. Although I’d been using it myself for some time, I hadn’t created – or found – the opportunity to build it into my lessons plans; however, when I saw how my students were conducting their research (simple bookmarks, or copying and pasting URLs into their OneNote workbooks) I realised that Diigo’s time had come.

There are also times when I’ll plan in advance to use a tool because I anticipate it will be productive to do so, and  – usually – I am trialling it to share with others and so want some evidence of its usefulness. This term I think I’ll try to expand our Googledocs repertoire.

We’ve previously used Googledocs to collaborate on a series of questions: with 90 revision questions to answer and 30 students, each student was assigned three to write a ‘killer’ response to, and then had at their disposal the other 87 answers to revise from (they were encouraged to suggest amendments/ refinements to those other answers through commenting, by the way).

This term, I want to try the ‘immediate feedback’ function of Googledocs. That is, I’ll project a Googledoc on the screen and invite all students to co-edit it. They can add questions that arise during the class discussion, and add ‘me too!’ to existing questions, etc. so that I can get a sense of the more pressing questions/ areas needing clarification. I can add some pointers or other guiding responses to the document after class and then change the status to ‘view’ so they can see the document later as part of theirt revision. Incidentally, I won’t require them to log in to edit the document during class time so that their contributions can be anonymous – this time at least, and with my senior class, I want to see if this encourages the quieter ones to ask questions without their worrying about what others think (there is more research I’d like to do in this area using this tool!).

I’ll post about the outcome later….

Diigo as a classroom collaboration tool

I’ve just started using Diigo with my Year 12 English students. They’re doing some background research into the novel 1984 and I wanted them:

  • to keep track of web pages that were relevant
  • to record the bits of those pages that were particularly relevant
  • to share what they find and
  • to be able to search through their collaborative efforts to pinpoint particular ideas – ‘totalitarianism’, or ‘propaganda’, for example.

So we all created Diigo accounts and I created a group to which they were all added. I then reminded them of effective web searching strategies (using the resources that Google provide – useful!) Before they set off on their individual contributions to the collective list.

With only a simple demonstration, they were highlighting, adding sticky notes, tagging pages, and sharing with the group. Easy! To go a step further, we have added the RSS feed to the year group’s Moodle course so that our updated resource can be shared with their wider cohort.