Google Classroom in one minute

Here’s a one minute post with a one minute tutorial. I’m busy at the moment encouraging colleagues to start using Google Classroom. The reason I’m pushing it is that for the majority of teachers and especially the less technically inclined, it removes so many of the regular problems with choosing and setting up various apps and platforms for communicating and sharing files in a BYOD school. So here’s my summary poster that explains the key elements of each of a classroom page.

Make BYOD easy with Google Classroom:

  • A class is up and running in 5 minutes – no technician / admin required
  • Classroom automatically organised Drive folders for you
  • No more emailing required
  • Students can submit any file type for an assignment
  • Messaging can happen as a class or privately to one student
  • Multiple teachers can run a class
  • Mainly use assignments as they have the most options
  • Try to get most student work created from within an assignment

Alice Keeler has load more advice on Google Classroom

Here’s my poster:

Google Classroom Pages-eduwells

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Combating teacher’s stress in a classroom

Students-postitMy general rule for stress relief is to orchestrate classrooms that rely more on the students than the teacher to lead the learning and contribute. Short-term, quick fix solutions will only work so many times with a class. I would recommend developing long term strategies that relate to overall classroom environment and relationships. When discussing stress with my colleagues, I start by suggesting moves to slow down and dedicate more time to see what the students can bring to the table in classroom activities. Here in New Zealand, our future focused national curriculum states 5 key competencies for young people to be focused on. These are aimed at reducing the demand on the teacher to ‘deliver’ education and at building habits amongst the students to manage and take the lead over their own learning. Here they are summarised that every learner should:

  1. set and monitor personal goals, manage time frames, arrange activities;
  2. interact, share ideas, and negotiate with a range of people;
  3. call on a range of communities for information;
  4. analyse and consider a variety of possible approaches;
  5. create texts to record and communicate ideas, using language and symbols.

Given these prompts, teachers must consider a pedagogical approach that will allow students to practice and develop these competencies. In most cases, designing the sort of environment that encourages this behaviour will reduce demand for teacher attention and thus reduce stress in general. Personal thinking space leads the better outcomes and happier teachers I have been doing a lot of work recently with Design Thinking. Beyond being an excellent framework for projects, it has an important and obvious first step that few classrooms utilise: personal thinking time. During my teaching career, many high school teachers have complained about the stress caused by students who just don’t engage or the supposed inability of students to discuss topics meaningfully. In both cases, the lack of time given to allow each student to think, process and prepare thoughts for the class inhibits successful contribution. Here’s my post on Design Thinking.

Typical scenario: A teacher asks the class to form groups of 4 and discuss topic X. After 5 minutes, the teacher expresses disappointment in the results of the discussions. When activities launch immediately into group or class discussion, more confident individuals dominate or if little is known about the topic, they disengage and wait for input from the teacher due to having had no real time to think about what they might contribute.

 Three to five minutes of silent thinking time for every student on a topic to consider their own existing knowledge or questions they have, before embarking on a discussion or project means each individual will bring more to the activity. Then comparing thoughts and lists of ideas they’ve had time to compile leads to more engagement from every student and less need for prompting from the teacher. It took me many years to realise this but I now enjoy working with classes of active students who display more confidence to contribute. Rather than worrying about small quick-fix tools and activities to reduce stress, teachers need to have a long-term view and look at developing a learning environment that encourages confidence in students to take charge of the learning and rely less on teacher input. This way, teachers will discover they can focus more on facilitating conversations and dynamics in the room and less on the fear of content delivery failure.

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edubloggers.

Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

How do you balance preparation for high stakes assessments with teaching and learning in your classroom?

Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

How the average classroom operates, especially in high schools, has to change if we are to level the playing field in preparing every child for assessments, not just the middle class.

Classroom

Image credit˙

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edubloggers.

Do your parents affect your grade more than your teacher?

What makes the real difference to who succeeds in high stakes assessments? What generally correlates most consistently with exam success in the US, Europe and Australasia? Is it IQ or access to technology? Is it money spent on schools? No, It’s family background or socio-economic circumstance. This has always been the elephant in the room when discussing the approach to and success of education in the developed world. For decades, the the traditional teacher-led classroom model has helped purpetuate the obvious trend that, in general, the higher your family’s social status, the better your grades. This fact alone proves how ineffective most classrooms around the world have been in attending to student needs. But there is hope.

Does government money help?

student teams01In New Zealand, we have what we call a decile system that allocates government funds to schools based on socio-economic student circumstance.  So surely we have a fair system where all classes achieve equally. Of course we don’t. In general, it is still the wealthier learners who succeed in school. One reason the government money does’t change grades in the lower deciles is that the considerable extra funds received by the more needy schools quickly disappears providing the extra social, medical and family support required in such situations and little extra gets spent on the education of those students.

Teachers can’t do it alone

Government money is a great start but once you’ve ensured every child has had breakfast (still not the case in New Zealand and certainly not in the US), what can the classroom teacher do to start to leveling the playing field regarding the support and motivation for learning each child experiences. The classrooms need to operate in ways that maximise the amount of support every child has access to at any moment but with only one teacher in the room, this means collaborative environments that build knowledge and skills not rely on receiving them.

ocKids2-ipadAll learning environments and classroom activity should allow and cultivate collaborative workflow from early years all the way through to college. Classrooms should not be reliant on either each individual student’s personal access to the teacher or a child’s ability to stay focused on the same single point of information delivery. By making teamwork the learning norm, you not only mimic standard workplace practice but also start to provide more support to more students.

This is why a number of new classroom models, such as Project-based learning (PBL), Universal Design for Learning (UDL) or Design Thinking, to name but a few, focus on building knowledge collaboratively so as to involve every learner in an active role, rather than as a passive receiver. Building a team mentality around learning will also mean students have more people to turn to in preparing for high stake assessments, alleviating the pressure on both the teacher and the family at home.

Are your learners achieving Flow?

Lev VygotskyI’ve just had the pleasure of being inspired by Keryn Davis at Core Education, New Zealand. Keryn was speaking to a selected group of talented NZ teachers and the not quiet as talented me, who are all carrying out research projects on teaching and learning in 2015. Keryn spoke to us about the power of play in schools and used research and her own data to convince all of us that this was a significant issue for educators to explore.

Starting with the work of Lev Vygotsky, Keryn highlighted that people naturally stretch themselves during play. Vygotsky said: “In play, a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” This idea struck me as quite profound and had me hooked the rest of the way.

Next we were taken through some inspiring examples from her own research where play had been first introduced as a special hour at the beginning of the day, for “proper” school to commence afterwards. She explained how the positive results from this specially timetabled hour of play had led the schools to extend it and use elements of play throughout the day, making the most of opportunities that arose. Learners naturally started to organise, lead others and collaborate. I highly recommend you read more about her work here.

Play, Involvement & experiencing Flow

What I liked most was how she linked play to considering the level of true involvement a child displays in any school activity and finally onto the idea of flow, being a state of intense concentration on the present moment. As a tool for measuring activity and flow, we were introduced to the Leuven Scale for Involvement. Originally designed by Ferre Laevers.  This is used by elementary school educators to grade students during observations regarding how involved they are in various activities during the school day. Normally data is gathered by recording the observed involvement in activities of one child at a time as they carry out the different types of tasks in one day. I can’t see why these wouldn’t apply in principal to a learner of any age.

Here’s my infographic version:

Involvement and Flow - @EduWells

 

We were looking at her data that recorded both involvement and well-being at 5 minute intervals for a child during a school day. We started discussing the idea of flow as being the state that people attain when these 2 measures are at their peak. Karyn had actually discovered that flow was achieved when involvement was “Extremely High” but Well-being only had to be “Moderate.”

Here’s the Leuven scale for Well-being:

Involvement and Flow2 - @EduWells

Flow

Nakamura and Csikszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing the experience of flow.

  1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2. marking action and awareness
  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subject’s experience of time is altered
  6. Experience of the activity is intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

Reference: Nakamura, J.; Csikszentmihalyi, M. (20 December 2001). “Flow Theory and Research”. In C. R. Snyder Erik Wright, and Shane J. Lopez. Handbook of Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press. pp. 195–206. ISBN 978-0-19-803094-2

All teachers have the opportunity to design school structures and activities with an aim that children will experience states of flow during their day. These two scales are also useful for a teacher to use in judging their own activity design and classroom structures.

What does this mean for iPads?

i4S - APPSMASHING.001Combining the ideas behind play, involvement and flow, I believe teachers need to be open-minded when deciding how and/or when iPads will be used by learners. Allow learners to play and express themselves. Let them build their own learning experience and in doing so become more focused and absorbed in the moment.

App Smashing is a great example of this, as long as it’s not the teacher prescribing the exact apps to be smashed. Learners should develop their own workflows and styles of output. Having to conform to any generic structure for learning is always going to lessen the chance that moments of true flow might develop.

The flexibility and massive possibilities for expressing, creating and publishing from iPads means they can enable a learning environment that caters for every individual. Personal agency can lower self-consciousness and this might in-turn lead to deeper learning and students lost in moments of their own creation.

 

What will be the most significant classroom innovation in the next 10 years?

The devaluing of content demands innovation

In my recent work, both in the classroom and in research, the most common recurring question is “what should we be teaching?” This question is valid in a world of Google, Wikipedia and instant access to information from the device in your pocket. This educational challenge is also expanded by the thousands of young people already pushing beyond the conventional system due to success in personally instigated start-ups and projects they have organised themselves. The personal empowerment and opportunities that the internet and technology offer will challenge nearly every aspect of traditional education.

robots

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edubloggers.

The most significant innovation in the classroom during the next 10 years will not be some magical technology or even students staying at home. It will be a shift towards student-led education, which focuses on the development of key competencies for success in this century.    Photo credit

I’m lucky. I live in New Zealand where we have a future-focused assessment system that allows teachers to develop a relevant educational system for the 21st century. To give you an indication as to how different it is, the national curriculum has less than one page dedicated to Math! Our focus is on five key competencies:

  • Thinking;
  • Using language, symbols, and texts
  • Managing self
  • Relating to others
  • Participating and contributing

This means teachers are free and trusted to tailor their classroom activities to suit the exact children in the room and also allow them to inquire into content of their own choosing. That said, the change to this less structured approach has been a challenge for many long-standing educators and only in its eighth year is it starting to bear real fruit.

The need for this pedagogical innovation in teaching philosophy involves technology but is also, in part, driven by technological advancement. The speed at which technology is altering the opportunities within the job market is increasing each year. Recent studies indicate that large percentages of jobs will disappear altogether. This increasingly flexible world requires flexible but also collaborative learning environments. Students are being encouraged to create their future career rather than find one.

My conversations with educators around the world indicates that we are seeing a worldwide shift towards student-driven learning, where the content studied, and challenged, is also selected by the learners. Teachers will learn to stand back and be amazed at what students are capable of when given this freedom.

The innovation will come from the dismantling of traditional classroom hierarchies and the empowerment of young people to use any technology and skills, which they can more successfully develop in a learning environment that they control.

A Teacher’s Target

I had a fantastic brainstorm meeting with an extremely talented educator and colleague Maya Foster (@MayaFoster4) where we decided to summarise our vision for a teacher’s daily priorities, the order they should be placed into and how we could get teachers to reflect on their own practice in regard to them.

We developed an idea that Maya had sketched out on paper which placed the student at the heart of successful teaching and highlighted assessment as the last thing an effective teacher should be considering. We both agreed that many teachers start with the assessment and work backwards towards considering the students as individuals. This leads to very uninspiring and often un-motivating classrooms. I’ll break our discussion into its four components but here’s the graphic:

A TEACHER'S TARGET-EduWells

Priority One: KNOW YOUR STUDENTS

students targetSpending time to build a strong understanding of exactly who each student is can save time in the long run. Students who feel genuinely appreciated will perform better throughout the school year and just knowing their name isn’t enough. The more you can connect with a student around a personal interest, the more a student will work with you and respect your ideas. This will make everything else much easier. Using the school’s data to find out which areas or school they are strong in can also help build a more useful understanding of how to design activities for the class.

Priority Two: PEDAGOGY AND ACTIVE LEARNING

ped targetYou might know your students but you won’t get every student to engage with your content unless you have a variety of sound pedagogy at your disposal. Successful pedagogy leads to student engagement in the content without constant teacher oversight. The careful design of activities and tasks tailored for the specific students in the room can reduce the energy required by the teacher in the classroom. I have covered in previous posts my belief and findings that any lecturing does not attain the the assumed outcome of all students engaging in or listening to the content. Make sure your students are active and working together to challenge the content with deeper thinking.

Priority Three: KNOW YOUR CONTENT

content targetSuccessful teachers bring any content to life. This is done by knowing the students, using appropriate pedagogy and the linking the content to current affairs, the students’ culture, other subjects being studied or its relevance to the future. All topics can be made relevant. Throughout history, humans have showed a wonderful talent for sticking to about 5 core themes, such as, greed, love, war, innovation and charity. If your subject is not directly linked to modern developments like the sciences might be, then it will always parallel something going on in the students’ lives or the world at large. Make sure you are reading-up on the developments and stories relevant to your subjects. Make connections and place the content in some kind of real context. Disconnected content leads to disconnected students.

Priority Fore: Know your assessment.

assess targetYes, the assessment should be the last consideration, but sadly is often a teacher’s first. Worrying about tests and marking guides can suck the joy from both teaching and learning. That said, it should not be completely ignored either. Make sure the requirements of the assessment are known early in the course and ensure the classroom activity allows the students to explore and challenge the content whilst being able to relate it to the demands of any future assessment. One trick is to use Flipped Teaching to relieve the pressure from worrying about whether you’ve mentioned every detail. The students can then access that detail in their own time.

Priorities for success

Too many teachers worry about assessment and grades and in doing so actually do damage to the success of many students. Many, if not most high school teachers are still subject first, teacher second. This devotion to content can lead to a devaluing of pedagogical ideas and a reduction in genuine engagement from all the children. I say genuine because ‘good’ kids will always play the game but if you get your teaching priorities straight, more students will love learning.

Design Thinking in the Classroom

Design thinking is a powerful tool to really get your students thinking about and tackling a problem or topic at a much deeper level. It is a structured task that focuses on giving considerable time to thinking about and empathising with the people within the situation (Target audience or client), designing and prototyping a possible solution that is immediately challenged in order to improve it. It is used much in business and the design industry but can be used as a general classroom task within any subject area. It also gets students to work quickly without much introduction.

Design thinking promotes creative thinking, team work, and student responsibility for learning.

Design Thinking - EduWells

It is a form of solution-based, or solution-focused thinking; starting with a goal (a better future situation) instead of solving a specific problem. This keeps minds open to multiple solutions.

The core rules behind Design Thinking:

  1. The Human Rule: All Design Activity Is Ultimately Social in Nature
  2. The Ambiguity Rule: Design Thinkers Must Preserve Ambiguity
  3. The Re-design Rule: All Design Is Re-design
  4. The Tangibility Rule: Making Ideas Tangible Always Facilitates Communication

The infographic / poster above is a guide to a simplified version you can use in your classroom. This version can be carried out in an hour, over a week, or even longer.

This versions splits the task into 5 key stages. It’s good to set fixed time frames for each of these stages and for their sub stages.

1. Goal Setting (Whole Class)

How Might WeHOW MIGHT WE DESIGN / ACTION WHAT AND FOR WHOM IN ORDER TO CHANGE SOMETHING?

The first stage is to devise an atoll goal to improve something. This is best started with 3 key words: “How might we …” Starting this way can have a powerful effect on successful classroom engagement. “How” is a word that has a bias towards action. It implied the something is to be done. “Might” acts as a safety blanket as it offers the students the freedom to fail. This ensures tham more are likely to give it a go. “We” pushes the collective responsibility and collaborative aspect meaning nobody will be alone. It also removes the classroom hierarchy, bringing the teacher onto the same level as learner alongside the students.

During this goal setting stage it is important to select as a class:

  • WHAT” = An object – E.g. App, Gadget, Speech, Toy, Campaign, Website etc.
  • WHOM” = A Specific Client/target – E.g playground users, garbage droppers etc.
  • CHANGE” = A better world – E.g. Target result, Improved situation,

Examples:

As an extra idea, I have considered it even as a fun theoretical teaching task such as:

  • How might an iPad app have helped George Washington win the War of independence in half the time?

There’s nothing to stop posting up a number of big ideas or challenges for teams to pick from but ensure the students have been part of formulating them.

2. Thinking – Individual then Group

Think DTDecide on an amount of time that students will individually think around the topic. This personal thinking space is important for letting quiet, reflective and deeper thinking take place to start the process off. This might only be 5 or 10 minutes but means more will come to the table when the group starts discussions.

The individual thoughts are then brought to the group. I recommend groups of 3 or 4 as bigger than this can become less manageable for the students.
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3. Empathise

a) Facts  b) Opinions  c) Interactions

EmpathiseThis is the crucial stage where considering the people and situation that the solution will be dealing with is broken down into 3 stages to help the students allow for as fuller picture as possible. These 3 stages might take anything from 10 to 30 minutes.

  • First the Profile the target as a list of facts. What do they do? What do they have? What are we dealing with physically?
  • Second they imagine or research all the typical opinions and feelings that the solution will have to allow for.
  • Thirdly they consider all the connections within the situation. Who talks to who? Who shares things with who? Who or what competing with what or who?

By the end of this stage, the students will have done far more genuine thinking about the situation than they might have done if asked to just “research the situation.”

4. Solution Design – “Ideate”

ideateA minimum of 20 minutes is now needed for the group to dream up a solution. The important emphasis here is that no idea should be squashed too quickly. Let the students dream up ideas that may or may not be possible and allow the discussion and challenge evolve. The point of this whole process is for all possibilities to surface and be challenged. Sometimes the craziest idea can lead to successful divergent solutions.

App and gadget design can be applied to most situations and the fact that the students may or may not be able to make the final product should’t matter and allows them to focus on the needs that the product meets.
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5. Prototype Critique – Feedback & Improve

PrototypeThis stage simultaneously develops multiple skills whilst also encouraging a more optimistic growth-mindset as teams present and challenge each other. The emphasis here must be on growing ideas and not judgements. One thing I would highlight to students is that designers and problem solvers always seek advice and feedback and so can use and appreciate anything that gets fed back to them.

Even after good thinking and empathising stages, there’s always a number of “what ifs” that any team will not have thought of. This also highlights to all students that there’s always another view and this feedback loop is key to any significant success that will last. Just keep asking why? why? why?

 

Which apps help with Design Thinking?

Essentially, the apps that help design thinking are those that allow students to collaborate around their ideas and  creative output. Here’s a few to help.

post-itSecrative can be used to canvas the class for foreseen problems to be solved and once target problems are chosen, it can then ask students to submit How might we… questions to frame the task around.

Nearpod can also be used to collate the class ideas for problems.

Post-It Plus amazingly allows an individual’s real Post-its be captured by camera and shared as digital post-its with the group. You can even edit the digital copies!
Here’s a review.

Drawp is another great collaborative system and app for class activities.

Talkboard is an instant and free collaborative drawing board for the group to scribble down ideas on. Might need a stylus to get the best from this.

Prezzi can be used to present a plan.

 

Design Think Links and Info

NoTosh are a key organisation pushing Design Thinking in education. Great info and resources.

Stanford Uni have produced a whole crash course in Design Thinking!

 

 

Future Proof your Learning Environment

BlogBut-app14“Did you know, there’s an app for that?” In fact, there’s 100s of new apps everyday and many teachers are put off technology because of it’s rapidly changing landscape. “How can I possibly keep up with what I should be asking the kids to use?” is a common question. The secret is to not worry about which app is the right one. Let the kids collectively do the ground work and worry about keeping abreast of the generic technologies and capabilities that numerous apps are making available.

But before you even worry about overall technologies, worry about what skills your teaching (regardless of content) might be developing. It is becoming a much talked about subject that any particular content schools might have “delivered” in the past is diminishing in value as A) it all becomes available on-demand on the internet in both written and video format and B) the world changes at an increasingly faster rate and priorities change year-on-year.

Universal Skills – prepare for a changing world

kids ipadMy planning starts with analysing universal skills I think are lacking amongst the students.

  • Do my students need more practice at collaborating?
  • Do they need more time on reflecting on previous work or experiences?
  • Should they be working on successfully communicating in writing or visually?
  • How about project planning or connecting with the community?
  • … and so on.

I also then ensure I have answers for the kids regarding why this is a skill worth practicing. Much of how I operate is around student devised projects but I work with the students on what they might focus on if I feel they or their team are not proving strong at a particular skill, like those I listed above. In a rapidly changing world, these are the skills that help develop what for me is the key skill: learning to learn. Why? For example, recent research is showing that unto a 3rd of jobs that exist in western countries will be replaced by automated robots or computers in the next 2 decades!    Picture Credit

Universal Content – add purpose to education

ocKids-iPadWhat information is most important these days? That’s a hard question. Given the uncertainty over even the next 5 years, how does any teacher know what they are teaching will be both paramount or relevant in five years. In New Zealand, I’m lucky that the National Curriculum took account of this uncertainty over where the future might lead and in 2007 removed nearly all content to focus on universal skills relevant to improving communities and the economy in the 21st century.

Universal technologies not apps

The freedom the iPad brings to each student’s learning experience is key when the skills and content being dealt with can be so varied within a class. Let the students find relevant apps whilst teachers focus on knowing the available technology types that they might be expect to see or encourage as options for dealing with material, even if it’s just occasionally. Here is my list of technologies that iPads now offer to a student:

  1. Movie making (Telling stories) – see here for movie making skills
    Narrative is so important in learning and allowing students to tell a story whilst combining multiple media types (film/photo/audio/voiceover) can be one of the most powerful and enjoyable learning experiences. The importance I have placed in any one-to-one device having a camera that can be used for this activity never fails to prove itself every week in my school.
  2. Animation – A challenge in planning and patience
    The opportunity to plan and produce animation, either in 2D or 3D is a real challenge at any age. It’s also fun and allows students to recreate any situation for any topic of story they might want to present.
  3. Collaborative cloud documents / presentations / planning
    This is very much how the world will operate for the next few decades and so building these skills and also their new forms of “netiquette” become paramount. The power in crowdsourcing ideas and skills when producing learning outcomes and the way in which live collaboration speeds up the process whilst developing social / team skills is crucial to all industries from the arts to business to sports.
  4. Web publishing – Blogs / wikis / iBooks / video / apps
    The fact that young people can now publish instantly for free is still not fully understood as the world-changing situation that it is by many educators. The world audience that many people under the age of 16 already have and the self-made learning network the children build for themselves through feedback and professional advice can not be underestimated in how it will change the landscape in schools over the next 10 years.
  5. Green Screening
    This technology is a powerful and fun addition to the world of mobile device learning. It is powerful for telling stories, reporting on events already filmed, school work produced in class or acting out impossible scenarios never before imagined in the classroom. My students were able to stand inside their iPad work whilst they talked us through in a video.
  6. Modelling – Allow students to play with that that would normally be impossible or difficult
    Many apps now model or simulate objects and scenarios for the students to play with but there’s also numerous opportunities to build models with on-screen clay, lego, paint, metal, or electronics. This is not ideal as the real thing is often better but if arranging or funding the real thing is difficult logistically, these virtual technologies are brilliant, especially in the way they can be instantly reset for numerous attempts.
  7. Augmented Reality
    This is the new frontier becoming increasingly mainstream. AR, as it’s referred to, is the idea of adding a layer of on-screen information, written, colour or 3D, on-top of what you can see through the camera in real life (think Robocop). Google has just completed it’s first trial with “Google Glass” and what DAQRI are doing for industry is amazing. Here’s my intro to the Augmented Reality for schools
  8. Coding
    Code.org and “Hour of Code” are part of an international push to have young people all coding. Whether you knew that or not or are already onto debating its merits or not, it can’t be argued that the results of coding now rule our lives and children should have at least some exposure to what it looks like and is about. There are now many teach-yourself systems and apps on the market and most are entertaining and successful at introducing young people to how coding works. Here’s one of my post on iPad coding.
  9. Building Networks
    This has become natural and normal practice for many children. Kids start networking online as early as age five with sites like MoshiMonsters.com and even coding apps like Hopscotch build on this with uploading, commenting and peer support through what they call “Branching”. Tumblr, Facebook and even Snapchat can be seen by parents and teachers as worrying signs but a positive view is to see them as practice for what some business experts have already predicted will be the most crucial skill of all over the next 30 years – networking & connecting. Many of my senior students will setup support Facebook groups or pages regardless of it being mentioned or not by the teacher. It’s just how they operate.
  10. Bookmarking
    Being able to not only save web discoveries but also collate, organise, collaborate and share collections of bookmarked material is an essential skill from the “to-do list” to more serious research. Systems like Evernote and others are great at helping people manage the vast array of stuff on offer. Modern bookmarking apps are also great when teams are collaborating on one project.

An open ended challenge

There are thousands of apps that offer entertaining and even interactive experiences with specific content. The issue for schools is becoming too reliant on a specific app’s existence. It is hard more most app developers to maintain the business and compete in such a difficult market and they often disappear after 2 or 3 years. Allow students to discover and use content apps but don;t centre your teaching on them. Focus your energy on universal skills and technologies and allow the students to practice and showcase their innate curiosity and talents for mastering specific apps collaboratively. in short, future proof your learning environment.

Please let me know if you have ideas for other technology types and I’ll add them to the list. Thanks.

Digital and Collaborative Learning

A three minute video highlighting a journey from 20th to 21st Century learning. Video transcript below.

An incorrect start…

At the beginning of 2014, we started a new computer programming module with all our Year 8 students. This was part of their technology curriculum and offered them 2 hours a week to look at coding and how applications were made. My colleague and I went though a relatively standard planning period for this and as experts in code, we broke the subject and potential problems down into sections and prepared resources and videos for the students to access.The students were using iPads and an coding app called Hopscotch.

student teams01During the first term, we noticed that although the work was self-paced, the diversity in both ability and interest for coding was causing problems for real understanding and engagement. Students were attempting to learn the separate coding elements by running through our tasks as individuals, asking a friend if they got stuck but the classroom had only small numbers of students showing a genuine love for learning this knowledge. At the end of Term 1 we reviewed the course and i highlighted that the students’ level of communication was very shallow, limited to short moments where one would help another over a small coding hurdle.

A new beginning…

student teams02The start of the second term meant a rotation in the timetable and a new group of students for our programme. I proposed that to gain more engagement from a wider pool of the students we focus not on coding elements, i.e. the content, but develop the programme so that collaboration and engagement become the primary goal. If we focus on team-based activity, there will be more sharing of knowledge, collective responsibility and knowledge creation. We were also in luck, Hopscotch added built in tutorials and most importantly an online sharing and feedback community for students to upload their products to. A shared learning journey would make it more enjoyable for all and the Hopscotch online community will allow the teams to share their products and offer feedback and advice to others.

A change in leadership…

student teams03So the course transformed from a teacher led, heavily structured acquisition of knowledge and skills into a more inclusive and active programme that all could be enjoyed by all. The teams of students set about developing a computer game without teacher-led instruction. The focus was shifted away from the content and more towards the experience of collaboratively learning. We even got a mention by Hopscotch when I published evidence of a the new level of engagement. Another development that arose from this new more open approach was that I would often learn from the students and the traditional teacher-student hierarchical relationships started to change.

As covered in the ITL research on 21st century learning design, we were now focused on skills such as collaboration, learning with ICT, self-regulation, and knowledge construction, whilst also being more successful in students developing coding and problem solving skills.

This post is a quick assignment for the Mindlab.

Games to Ignite Brains

7439512656_04f88d7461_zHow about this for an idea? Your learners can game when they want at any moment during class. I know it sounds a bit crazy, so let’s put some structure and reasoning around it.

I’ve outlined in a previous post, my findings that quite obviously, the moment that any individual learner is ready to listen, read, watch or even learn will vary. To expect any class to turn up at a scheduled hour and fully engage in the same learning activity is literally treating them like products on a factory line and not the humans they enjoy being. Photo Credit.

I have 2 daughters, both brought up by the same parents who approach everything in life very differently. Why would we expect 30 young people form different life situations to behave and have the same needs for an hour?

e1yeaWhen I regularly divide my classes into groups, I often notice that a number of the groups have a member who seems distant or unengaged and I wonder how I can energise these kids to engage with the group or task during the short time that I’ve got them? (I teach in a high school still restricted by segregated, hourly subject lessons) Most of my class activities involve an element of problem solving. Examples might be, How are we going to reduce cyber-bullying in the school? What do the students need in a school app? Or even, How can I start my music career in New Zealand? It is the problem-solving part of the brain I want to activate in my students who are not in that frame of mind when I need it.

The other day, I noticed one of my daughters playing a puzzle type game on my iPad. It was obviously challenging and often frustrating but she kept at it regardless. The game was direct problem solving and my girl was deeply engaged. It was then I had an idea. If any learner who found themselves disengaged from a school task had permission to select from a list of problem-solving, “brain igniting” games, it might mean they return to the task more energised to tackle it or suggest other solutions.

Initial Trial.

e1ybfTo carry out an initial trial, I projected a problem-solving game on my board and invited individuals to have a single turn to complete the puzzle/level. After 2 minutes, pairs were coming up to have a shared turn. This turned into small groups and after 10 minutes had 8 people competing to make suggestions for the next move. What I noticed was that these 8 were not a normal grouping within the class but had selected themselves to share an experience. This had an immediate effect on the dynamics in the class. I have found that after this exercise, new pairings started appearing in the class and it definitely made it easier for me to suggest new groupings without any backlash.

Class gaming rules

  1. Time Limit: A set amount of game play per hour or per week might be allowed but there would be freedom to select when that time was used.
  2. The games would be form the endorsed “Brain-igniting” list.
  3. All games would be Problem-solving
  4. Gaming progress (levels) could be reported to class to encourage collaboration between students that might not otherwise connect.
  5. New Game teams are organised around individual’s favourite games

Class management

  1. e1yl0Ads: “The Games have too many Adverts!” Airplane mode (in the control centre) will remove most, if not all the ads that pop up.
  2. 2. Student suggestions – Students should be free to make suggestions for adding to the approved list. I think keeping it to about 10 will encourage more discussion in the class about solving certain levels. With too many games, the classes attention can become fragmented. Suggesting games for the list will give them ownership over their problem solving world.
  3. Students are allowed to connect over a game to discuss strategies to beat levels. This builds strong relationships which spill over into class tasks.

Brain igniting Games

So I set about searching and inquiring after entertaining puzzle games I could issue as an endorsed game list. These are just suggestions but will give you a starting point.

  1. VERY BAD CUBE
    VeryBadCubeiconThis game builds in complexity from the most basic of starts. Join all the cubes of the same colour. Sounds easy but had my classes connecting into larger and larger groups trying desperately to beat a level.
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  2. 2048
    T
    2048iconhis game is challenging and demands a little math. Same number blocks collide and merge into a single doubled number block. Trick is to not fill the board. Even my senior students play this by choice.
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  3. DUOLINGO
    Lduolingiconearn another language in a personalised, fun and accessible way. With an account, each student is automatically tracked and reminded to return to their 10 minutes a day if they forget. I’m learning Spanish along with the rest of my family!
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  4. 2 DOTS
    2dotsicon
    This game does not have a single solution for each level. This means it is less likely to bring students together but does quickly get an individual’s brain working. This too nicely grows in complexity and is good for the quieter students to work on alone.
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  5. THINKROLLS
    TThinkRollsiconhis is good for younger students but fun for all. A constant rolling screen of quick problems to solve before the character can continue on. My7 year-old daughter  played this game for much more than 10 minutes!
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  6. MOVE THE TURTLE
    moveTheTurtleicon
    This challenges with simple puzzles whilst teaching the fundamentals of programming. There are programming iPad apps but most allow kids to play games already made and Move the Turtle is the game itself and so is on my list.
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  7. POP WORDS
    popwordsiconThis is a great twist on the game Boggle. It has a individual time-pressure game where you try to find words on the grid before your timer runs out. It also has a great puzzle mode where the letter tiles disappear when used to see how many tiles you can score with just one grid. This is great for building literacy skills and again naturally draws students together to find new words.
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  8. MEMNEON
    memneonIconThis is a bit different. At first you think it’s just a very simple memory game where you only have to remember which neon lights lit up for 5 seconds on a grid to complete a circuit. It seems quite tricky so you find yourself developing your own strategies for remembering which lit up. I even started remembering shape names to jog my memory. This really gets the brain working hard.

Team building

Sometimes we consider the term team-building as only something employers organise. I’ve found this to be powerful in my classes, especially with boys, who are often less social and likely to work well in new teams. You may have heard of Google 20% time, well this is an endorsed form of team-building / brain ignition time. Give it a try!

EXTRA LINK: Games are good for you