St Andrew’s Teachers Named Microsoft Innovative Educators

JYO

Earlier this year Microsoft advertised the availability of nine positions throughout New Zealand for teachers interested in being recognised as innovative educators in their use of Microsoft products. St Andrew’s College was the only school to have two staff members selected into this programme:

BHIThe evaluation criteria to be selected included:

  • Ready to share your passion for Microsoft with peers, both face to face, and through social media, blogs and videos
  • A creative, innovative technology advocate
  • An educator interested in developing strategies to benefit and share with other educators
  • Energised, with a friendly and outgoing personality
  • Able to work autonomously and within a team
  • Display confident and articulate presentation and written communication skills
  • Full-time educator in Y1-13 or in a higher education faculty of education
  • #1 fan of Windows devices and services – 3+ years’ experience on a Windows device using Microsoft Office and other key Microsoft applications
A training session in Microsoft's Sydney Offices

A training session in Microsoft’s Sydney Offices

Each applicant was required to submit a written application, and those short listed were interviewed via Skype and needed to present a 5 slide Powerpoint. Having been selected, Mrs Yoder and Mr Hilliam were presented with a new Surface Pro 3 to keep, along with a number of other rewards, including an all expenses paid trip to Sydney, Australia for an intensive weekend with other Innovative Educators from around New Zealand and Australia.

Mr Hilliam has written a reflection on the weekend in Sydney that can be read in full here, but a small quote is:

It is amazing that there are so many incredibly passionate teachers out there who are showing incredible competency in how to become more competent! These teachers all know they need to continually update their practice and push the boundaries to improve the success of their students …

I had a wonderful time, met some wonderful people and was left inspired by some wonderful ideas. I can’t implement everything all at once, but I will start with something small.

Mrs Yoder added:

It was incredibly exciting to attend the forum with a group of teachers who were constantly seeking out innovation in their teaching practice through collaboration and embracing new ideas within e-learning.

As part of the weekend they were able to tour the Microsoft offices and see their flexible working environment:

It is very pleasing to see these two teachers recognised for their efforts in successfully integrating technology into their teaching practice and their stories are ones that we have shared regularly already. Mr Hilliam’s work with OneNote, Miracast and a Surface Pro was blogged about here, along with his experimentations with Office Mix in the classroom.

Meanwhile, Mrs Yoder was an original innovator with OneNote at the College, heavily influencing other English teachers such as Dr Jeni Curtis which was blogged about here and more recently an article was published on her teaching practice in the College Regulus Magazine.

With the creation of a new role of eLearning Integrator at St Andrew’s starting in 2015, our goal is very much to take the practice of our innovators and make it commonplace across all our classrooms.

Storybird Helps Young Authors To Fly

The annual Preparatory School Book Week Parade

The annual Preparatory School Book Week Parade

I’ve mentioned a few times how exciting it is to get tip-offs from staff about the awesome things happening in the classrooms of their fellow teachers, and this time it was our Library Manager Mrs Cathy Kennedy providing the inside scoop.

She mentioned that Year 5 teacher Mrs Mary Leota had been using a product called StoryBird to promote writing amongst her students in the lead up to the annual Book Week festivities that happen at St Andrew’s College. I took the chance to talk this process through with Mrs Leota and it was interesting how the process of story writing had evolved for her students as they learnt the fundamentals of the editing process and also the relative strengths and limitations of Storybird. The Storybird website describes it’s services as follows:

Storybird lets anyone make visual stories in seconds. We curate artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspire writers of any age to turn those images
into fresh stories.

The students in Year 5 were keen to write picture books for the students in Year 1 – many of whom were siblings of the older children.

The First Draft:

They started out writing their drafts in their exercise books as they normally would and then attempted to write them into Storybird. One of the great functions of this product is that key words generate suggested images e.g. if the story was about a rabbit then a range of illustrations of rabbits would be presented for the students to choose from.

Whilst this was great, what they soon realised was that they could only choose a single artist’s collection of artwork per story – they could not mix and match. As they discussed this perceived limitation, they realised the value in this: the story would become quite disjointed if the images were a mixture of styles and themes.

The Second Draft:

Having learnt from this, the students abandoned the first draft and instead looked through the collections of artwork from the various artists and then chose a set of illustrations they wanted to work with. They then used this collection to inspire their story writing, matching the narrative to the individual pictures they had selected.

Here is an example of a story called Sara Couldn’t Find Her Way Home:

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Discussing Digital Citizenship:

One of the great features of Storybird is that it allows the stories to be published online for reading by a wide audience. This realisation generated both excitement and some problems for our students as they had to learn two important lessons:

  1. Once you hit “publish” you can’t edit your work anymore. This reinforced the need to hone the drafting process – proof reading and checking they were happy with the story before they hit the very tempting publish button!
  2. Feedback through the comments option needs to be constructive. Even throw away comments like “eww that is stupid” are unhelpful and when these comments can be read by anyone, not just other members of the class, they quickly learnt to be more measured in what they posted as comments.

These conversations were talked over at length with Mrs Leota and from my perspective, are critical things to weave into the wider learning experience that was taking place here. Whilst the focus of the class was on writing stories, the use of technology, appropriate ways to feedback online and the importance of editing drafts were all part of the learning outcomes for the students. Here is another story called Hannah’s Adventure:

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Final Thoughts:

One of the most pleasing aspects of this process from Mrs Leota’s perspective was a piece of feedback she received from a mother of one of the boys in her class who told her:

My son is such a reluctant writer and hates having to write anything and yet I could hardly get him off the computer at home last night because he was so keen to finish writing his story in this way.

It is always pleasing to see technology contributing to the motivation of students when it comes to literacy focused activities, and this echoes parent feedback that Dr Jeni Curtis received when introducing MS OneNote to her students in Year 9 this year.

The other upside of using Storybird was that it allowed Mrs Leota to see all of the work her students were doing from a single web page, and she could add comments for them to consider during the writing and editing process.

Judging by the success of this project I am sure there will be other teachers in our Preparatory School keen to try out Storybird for themselves!

Freemium: Students Can Be The Winners On The Day

freemium

This post was written as part of the Connected Educators Month 2014 and was first published on the Christchurch Connected Educators blog.

In my role as Director of ICT at St Andrew’s College I get to see lots of great products in the ICT sector, both the latest hardware (such as new tablets aimed at education) and software (cloud based productivity suites are the in thing currently for schools). I also get to step back from the coal face from time to time and observe some of the bigger trends happening in ICT & Education and there are two obvious ones:

  1. BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. More and more schools are exploring how they can allow (or in some cases require) students to bring a laptop/tablet/smartphone to school and use it as a tool for their education. There are literally tens of thousands of blogs about this, so I’m not going to write about that today.
  2. Freemium – Defined as “a business model, especially on the Internet, whereby basic services are provided free of charge while more advanced features must be paid for” This is a growing trend in education and, as the blog title suggests, students will be the ultimate winners from this.

The concept of Freemium is probably best known as starting within the Apple App Store and it has spread rapidly from there. Developers, keen for you to try out their apps, give away a limited feature set, be that the first few levels of a game for example, and if you love it, you pay the full price for the app.

How Is This Impacting Schools?

Major players in ICT have long recognised that exposing students to their products early on increases the chances of them continuing to use their products when they leave school. Earlier this year I attended a conference where Francis Valintine from The Mindlab by Unitec named five companies that are likely to dominate education in the near future. These were (in no particular order):

  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft
  • Amazon
  • Google

office-logo_v3Many New Zealand schools are already availing themselves of the Ministry of Education negotiated contract with Microsoft allowing for very affordable access to Office365 and associated products. Other schools have gone for the free option of Google Apps For Education (GAFE). Both products are excellent, and allow schools to deliver Enterprise quality email, cloud collaboration services, online storage and backup options and a huge range of additional features from third party developers that plug in to these core products. It has massively reduced the workload for school ICT technicians; for example not having to run a local mail server and spam filter for students and staff.

Google-Apps-for-EducationBen Kepes, writing for Forbes.com, described the Google/Apple/Microsoft rush for education as a “war” – they are certainly battling for the hearts and minds of students, hoping that their loyalty to a product will continue on into tertiary study and, ultimately, the workplace. Indeed, I’ve even come across ICT technicians from different schools exclaiming incredulously “What? You’ve gone with [product x]?? I can’t believe it when [product y] gives you 10x that storage space for free!!”

And so it goes on …

Should We Be Concerned?

The answer to that question is not a clear cut yes or no – it’s more like a “maybe.” With more and more companies offering free or heavily discounted products to schools, we should in theory be seeing increased choice around what tools are used for the best educational outcomes. Paradoxically, however, the opposite is happening as each major vendor creates an ecosystem where their products play nicest together. As these ecosystems grow ever more encompassing there becomes less compelling reasons for schools to explore great products outside of those provided within the ecosystem.

To highlight just how much focus these vendors are pushing a widening product set, many traditional software only companies are now releasing hardware products to complete their ecosystem:

  • Microsoft: with a long history of operating systems and office suites, they are now offering hardware like the Surface Pro 3 tablet
  • Google: started out as a search engine and then developed a mobile operating system called Android and then ChromeOS for running on laptops. They have now released their own ChromeBook called Pixel
  • Apple: already a hardware and software company, they needed a cloud based productivity suite to complete their ecosystem and introduced iCloud

Ultimately, schools have to make a choice which ecosystem they enter and straddling two at once becomes challenging. Towards the end of Term 3 I organised some of our staff at St Andrew’s College to present to senior leaders from a range of schools throughout New Zealand on how we are using Microsoft OneNote in Maths and English. Afterwards, a number of the guests from other schools asked how they too could implement OneNote in their schools, only to realise they were a GAFE school and didn’t have the Microsoft licensing to affordably do this.

Therein lies the problem.

It’s not that Office365 is better than Google Apps for Education – both are tremendous products and as schools, we should all be incredibly grateful we have access to these. It’s more that in being spoilt for choice for free or heavily subsidised product offerings, it’s not always easy to explore the best products across multiple ecosystems.

Conclusion:

I wrote in a recent blog post that great integration of technology in a classroom should see it fade into the background:

Whilst the phrase “ubiquitousness of technology” is over used, this lesson did demonstrate that when used effectively, the technology is not at the forefront of the lesson. It was not gimmicky or flashy, instead it provided functional improvement to what was already a great lesson.

moodleSchools are in an incredible position that they’ve never really experienced before where major players in ICT are literally giving away their products to them or using a freemium model for base services. On top of that, there is the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community offerings such as the very popular learning management system (LMS) called Moodle.

At a time of such rich pickings, our focus should not be solely on [product x] or [product y], but squarely on the teaching and learning practices that authentically integrate whatever the chosen technology is into the lesson.

When this occurs, the students will indeed be winners on the day.

Update: Teaching With a Surface Pro 3 In The Classroom

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew's College

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew’s College

Judging by the search engine queries related to teaching with a Surface Pro 3 that end up on this blog, there appears to be significant interest in the wider education sector in how teachers are using these devices in the classroom. We started a trial of 5 teachers with Surface Pro 3 tablets across Years 6&7 in our Preparatory School and the Maths and English Departments in our Secondary School on the 1st October and today I asked them to meet and discuss how it’s working out for them.

I’ve broken the feedback down into a few main areas:

  1. Student Interaction / Feedback
  2. Explorations into the Windows 8 App Store and other software being used
  3. Ongoing issues / challenges
  4. Changes to pedagogy being explored

Student Interaction / Feedback:

  • A number of students have been asking our teachers whether the Surface Pro 3 would be a good device for them to buy – both for those coming back to school next year and those heading to tertiary study in 2015. They are attracted to the combination of both typing and handwriting and the demonstrated use of Microsoft OneNote by the teachers and the ease with which they file notes.
  • Students in Year 11 English have commented about the increased movement of the teacher around the classroom as they are “freed up” from using resources on a computer that is connected to a projector. The wireless use of Miracast has given the teachers more freedom to roam, whilst still having the key resources available.
  • In the Year 6 class the teacher commented that when he is not personally using the Pro3, his students are – they are writing directly into their own OneNote Notebooks which have been shared with the teacher so he can access them.
    • He gave an example of the students working on a decimal place exercise via BBC Bitesize Math – they were solving the problems with their pen and paper but were passing the Pro 3 around to allow them to enter results into the website to progress to the next problem, whereby the next student could enter the results (all shared on the classroom projector via a ScreenBeam Education Pro Miracast device)
  • Our Year 7 teacher trialling the Pro 3 mentioned the speed at being able to turn it on/off to accomplish small tasks is seeing her use it more frequently but for shorter periods of time, compared to setting up her laptop and working on that.

Explorations into the Windows 8 App Store and other software being used:

  • Fluid Math is now in the Windows 8 App Store and has been explored by our maths teachers
  • Prezi.com now have an app in the Windows 8 App Store as well, and Prezi is a tool that is used by quite a few of our teachers.
  • MS Office Mix (which we’ve blogged about before) is proving very popular and I will be running two training sessions for our staff on this over the next month,
  • The Radial Menu as part of the OneNote 2013 App

    The Radial Menu as part of the OneNote 2013 App

    A distinction was made between:

    • OneNote App (lightweight version of the app and has the Radial Dial which allows for rapid access to contextual menus.
    • OneNote Desktop App – the full version of the application that comes with MS Office.
    • It was apparent that both could be used – they sync perfectly and the lightweight app has a better full screen option to reduce distractions
  • OneNote Class NoteBook Creator will streamline the setup and deployment of NoteBooks for students and make the ongoing management of these significantly easier for the teachers.

Continue reading

OneNote Class Notebook Creator Is Here!

It’s easy to forget that Microsoft’s Office365 was only launched in early 2013 and was the successor in the education sector to Microsoft’s Live@Edu product, which St Andrew’s College had been running since 2010.

Google-Apps-for-EducationThe incumbent cloud collaboration suite for many New Zealand schools is Google Apps For Education, and with the launch of Office365, Microsoft had significant ground to make up. We encouraged many teachers to take advantage of the benefits of the collaborative, cloud based documents – in particular many embraced OneNote with their students. There were challenges and even confusion at times – Microsoft’s cloud based storage changed names from Skydrive to Skydrive Pro, then to OneDrive before settling on OneDrive For Business.

Additionally, there was no native application on Apple’s OS X or iOS (that finally changed, after a false start in March, with a significant release in July), meaning many of our students had to rely on the web browser version of OneNote Online. Throughout all of this, many of our most innovative teachers continued to persevere as they could see the potential for their students. A number of these stories were picked up by Microsoft New Zealand Education and blogged about over here, reinforcing we were definitely on the right track.

Realistically, however, many of our teachers found the process of setting up OneNote notebooks, sharing them with their students, followed by the reciprocal process of students sharing their notebooks back to the teacher, just too difficult. There were no easy shortcuts to circumvent this process – that is until now.

notebook creatorAt the start of October Microsoft released an app for Office365 called The OneNote Class Notebook Creator – I had first seen a beta version of this at the Edutech Conference I attended in Brisbane in June. This tool is the missing ingredient in making the setup of a class OneNote notebook incredibly easy as it allows the classroom teacher to:

  • Create a “read only” section in the NoteBook where they could add notes, slides, files, images and links that students could easily see within their notebook.
  • Create a “collaborative” section where both the teacher and all students in the class can contribute information and ideas to – each student’s contribution can be seen with their initials beside their additions to the notebook.
  • Create private subsections for each student. These are visible only to the to the individual student and the teacher, with both having read/write permissions into the notebook. This effectively creates sub-notebooks for each student within the one master notebook allowing the teacher to see a student’s work and provide feedback directly into their notebook.

In practice, this means that there is only a single notebook for each class, whereas currently the teachers using OneNote with their students share their “master” notebook, and receive access to an individual notebook back from each student.

To encourage our staff to start using this fantastic tool, I’ve created a screencast showing just how easy it is to set this up:

Setting up a new OneNote Notebook with the Class Notebook Creator Tool

This is a huge step forward for Office365 schools, and I know of some New Zealand schools that are now going to be using OneNote as their only Learning Management System (LMS). Whilst I personally believe OneNote is not an all encompassing, feature-rich LMS, the ease of use for staff and students alike along with the familiar MS Office interface makes it a very powerful tool in the classroom. The Class Notebook Creator tool allows for a single link to be shared with students, either via email or on the class Moodle site, and from there students can open the NoteBook directly into their App or Browser.

haparaGoogle Apps for Education, with their jump start on Microsoft in this sector, have seen some valuable third party apps designed – perhaps none better than Hapara, founded originally in New Zealand (hapara is Māori for “dawn” or “daybreak”). This product allows teachers to get an overview of activity amongst their students and their use of various Google Docs.

It would be awesome if there are extensions to the OneNote Class Notebook Creator as well to enhance the feature set on offer currently. Regardless, this new tool is guaranteed to assist with uptake of OneNote amongst teachers since they can now easily create and share a single NoteBook with their entire class.

Teaching The Teachers: Year 7 Students Show Off Sketchup Skills

On Monday 29th September, teachers from the member schools of the Burnside Learning Community Cluster met at Fendalton Open Air Primary School for a teacher-led conference on teaching and learning with digital devices.

Earlier in Term 3, Fendalton’s Principal Mr Paul Sibson had visited St Andrew’s College and together we saw saw some Year 7 students teaching Year 6 students in Mr Wilj Dekkers class how to use the design software Sketchup. Upon seeing this, Paul asked me if I could organise these students to present to teachers at the BLCC conference on teaching and learning with digital devices.

The two students, Tim and James, having already self-taught themselves when designing house floor plans for a maths unit were keen to help out.

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

The two had even created instructions in OneNote to share tips with other students and teachers that included things like:

There Are things that you can benefit from using this program like…

  • Helps get an understanding of what the real world designers use
  • Uses a great skill level and can help with the ability for some designers in the making
  • Great for some house designing projects
  • Helps with 3D shapes, measurement, geometry, angles, percentages and ratios
  • And finally you have fun creating with your imagination
Sketchup instructions from James and Tim

Sketchup instructions from James and Tim

Two laptops from St Andrew’s were supplied to the boys for the conference and together they ran a session for around 15 teachers and a number of students from Fendalton Primary who were also in attendance. They taught the teachers the basics of Sketchup, explained the toolbars and icons and gave some examples on how Sketchup could be used in class.

From time to time Mr Dekkers added additional information to the teachers present so they could further understand how Sketchup was integrated into the Maths unit focusing on percentages and proportions.

Explanation of key tools in Sketchup from instructions stored in OneNote

Explanation of key tools in Sketchup from instructions stored in OneNote

The session was well received and was right in line with the goals of the BLCC which include:

  • establish shared, ongoing, professional learning programmes for teacher effectiveness and the collaborative leadership of learning across the cluster
  • Initiate a teacher-led conference, at which teachers from all BLCC schools will be enabled to run a mini-workshop for their colleagues on some aspect of TWDT.

Here are a selection of photos from the presentation at the conference:

It is excellent to see some of our students confident to show their skills in using software and present that to other teachers in the wider Burnside Learning Community Cluster who can then go on to use this technology in their own classes.

Well done James and Tim!

Guest Post: Reflecting on ICT In Maths Through The Lens of SAMR

This post was written by Mr Ben Hilliam and was originally posted on his blog here.

Throughout this year I have been using Microsoft OneNote with my students at St Andrew’s College. Sam McNeill has a fair account of how I have been using it here with my year 9 one to one computing class, and I have been constantly reflecting on how I can continue this journey.

Using the SAMR model, I have currently been operating in the Substitution and Augmentation stage, where technology replaces some traditional aspects of teaching, such as “Chalk and Talk”, but with some added advantage. In my case, having examples, notes and work always live and accessible to students through Microsoft OneNote and also recording my lessons as I deliver them and link them back to my class OneNote. This is a very teacher orientated model and I would like to see students more empowered through their use of technology.

In the last topic I covered with my year 9s, Geometry, I took OneNote to a new level, setting up my students with their own editable OneNotes within the class OneNote:

Capture

Here you can see the topic tabs up the top and the lesson pages down the side. You might also notice some tabs to the right of the topic tabs with names on them. These belong to my students. In their OneNote, they can only see their own OneNotes and edit them, whereas I can see them all as tabs and also edit them with the purpose of giving feedback.

Here is a sample of some student work:

Capture1

In this case the student is investigating circle geometry, with a triangle whose hypotenuse is also the diameter of a circle. Incidentally the program used for drawing the circle, triangle and measuring the angles is Geometer’s Sketchpad. While there is nothing revolutionary about the learning happening here, the thing I really like about it is the efficiency. When this task is done without digital technology could easily take up a whole lesson, but this task took no more than 10 minutes. With Geometer’s Sketchpad, the student was able to investigate the properties of the triangle by fixing a triangle’s diameter into a circle, then vary the two shorter sides while measuring all the angles.

He was able to quickly copy and paste some questions and a sample of their drawing. This gave the student a framework to explore a rich aspect of geometric reasoning. I like that in this case, time can be given to this rich task, where many mathematics teachers would simply draw the example, say the rule and get the students to copy it down.

When I reflect on where this task sits in the SAMR model, I feel that to an extent it is still mostly Augmentation. But there are aspects of modification. The ability to investigate a geometric rule using Geometer’s Sketchpad has modified the way I teach the topic in so much as it is a much more containable and manageable task within the confines of a 50 minute period. However, the way the student articulates themselves by pasting and commenting in OneNote is augmenting what they would do with pen and paper (and scissors and ruler and compass).

It will be interesting to see how my students perform in their next Geometry assessment. But I feel they have had more time to grapple with why these rules work rather than just apply them to a situation.

In terms of moving towards Redefinition on the SAMR model in this context, at the moment I am not sure how I would go about that. Perhaps I could get groups of students to explain different Geometric rules then the class can share their results using OneNote.