Exploring A Digital World Of Kiwiana

Preparatory School Inquiry Learning Model

Preparatory School Inquiry Learning Model

This morning the students of Year 6S were presenting their inquiry research into Kiwiana and extended an invite to Mr Bierworth (Deputy Rector and Principal of the Preparatory School) and myself to attend.  Over the last few weeks they have been conducting an inquiry learning project around the question “What is Kiwiana?”

To spark enthusiasm the students visited the Canterbury Museum and toured the Paua Shell House, before looking at other Kiwiana icons.  There was also some cross-curricular learning happening here, with students working on area and proportion in Maths, where Mr Dekkers tasked them with designing their ultimate Kiwi bach (holiday home).

The students jumped at this challenge as it was a chance to use Minecraft in class for learning! They started to look at old family baches their families owned or visited, brought photos to class and asked the question “what would the ultimate bach include now?” Students had to include certain criteria such as:

  • Where would the BBQ live? (afterall, how could it be a Kiwi holiday home without a BBQ?)
  • Where would the mountain bikes and surfboards be stored?
  • What was the access to water going to be? (sea / river / lake etc)

Having gained experience in Maths using Minecraft, this was extended to the inquiry topic where the challenge was to research iconic Kiwiana features of New Zealand and then include them into a Kiwiana theme park.

Being adept at using OneNote for research and planning, the children worked collaboratively to identify their iconic images and locations and record their research in a shared OneNote notebook. Here is a fantastic example of one:

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What impressed me so much about their use of OneNote was:

  • Using “Tasks” that could be ticked off when each job was completed – this meant they knew exactly who had to do what.
  • Having the “show contributors” turned on so the initials of each group member was alongside their work, meaning they could see who had contributed what to the research.
  • Storing images in the notebook as examples for when they started to build their Minecraft theme park.
  • Use of highlighting – key words / concepts were highlighted to ensure they would be include in the theme park and oral presentation.
  • Using their iPads and OneNote to read their notes from during the actual presentation.
  • Mr Dekkers writing feedback directly into their OneNote notebook during the presentation so by the time they finished they would see his comments.

Group Presentation On Kiwiana Theme Park Using Minecraft & OneNote

Using a SurfacePro 3 to provide feedback into student OneNote notebooks

Using a SurfacePro 3 to provide feedback into student OneNote notebooks

One of the skills that Mr Dekkers was focusing on as part of this Inquiry unit was synthesising information found as part of their research with their own ideas, discussions and information from their parents.

This allowed the conversation to include plagiarism and why this is a serious issue – a great way to remind students that being a good Digital Citizen includes protecting and respecting the intellectual property of others that has been shared online (see this post for more information on Digital Citizenship).

The presentation skills of the students were excellent, and it was delightful to see them seamlessly switching between presenting to their classmates using their iPads / OneNote for reference, whilst also navigating through their Kiwiana theme park designed on Minecraft. I am sure they would have been delighted with the feedback they received:

Feedback written by Mr Dekkers on his SurfacePro3 - available immediately to the students

Feedback written by Mr Dekkers on his SurfacePro3 – available immediately to the students

SUMMARY:

  • Whilst plenty of technology was being used in this unit and presentation, it was very much in the background. It was not being seen as a distraction, but rather a tool to get the job done.
  • Students made great use of OneNote as a shared document that was accessible anytime, anywhere for them to record their research.
  • Students were accountable to one another and their teacher as it was evident who had contributed what to the notebook.
  • Interest, engagement and enthusiasm from the students was very high – they loved the “gamification” of their learning by being allowed to use Minecraft to design a theme park.
  • Students were keen to share their learning – they wanted their Principal and Director of ICT to see their learning – they were proud of their efforts.

This kind of cross-curricular learning, with deep and authentic integration of technology is incredibly pleasing to see in our classrooms.

Recording & Blogging: It’s What I Do Now

Solo Tasks: around the Law of Reflection with extension work on Moodle

Solo Tasks: around the Law of Reflection with extension work on Moodle

Mr Matt Nicoll has been a regular contributor to this blog, providing one of the very first posts on recording his lessons for later playback by students, to presenting to the CORE Education eFellows, and his very active role in the development of Twitter usage amongst staff and the #edchatnz conference organisation.

I had wanted to sit down with him and see how his videoing of the teaching moments in his lessons had evolved from when we chatted in October 2013 and took the opportunity to do so after the #edchatnz conference. It transpires that in someways he has stuck with the successful recipe he had developed in 2013.

Mr Nicoll still remains the primary blogger for his classes, sharing the content, notes and videos on the class blog. His rationale for this was simple:

I am still traditional enough to want to retain control over the quality of the key concepts and ensure that they are being explained correctly. The big win, however, is that the students don’t need to write notes in class meaning they can spend more time on the activities.

SOLO

Two obvious positives from this are:

  • More time is spent in class discussing the quality of the answers e.g. what does multi-structural thinking look like compared to relational thinking (in terms of the SOLO thinking taxonomy)
  • Students benefit from this because their understanding of the SOLO taxonomy, which is used widely at St Andrew’s College, is deepened and their ability to explain their answers improves.

Despite being the Year 9 Dean and the associated workload that comes with that role, Mr Nicoll has found that keeping up the blogging and recording of his lessons has not added to his work. If anything, he believes it has allowed him to gauge where his students are at more accurately, since there is more time spent discussing the learning, than copying down notes. Student workbooks (or computers), are used primarily for writing down ideas, notes or discussions they have had in class – not for copying content off the whiteboard.

Separating suspensions using filtration

Computers are used in class, mostly for research and communicating overall answers for a lesson – shaping the learning into a formal reflection. Again, choice is provided to students – they could use MS Word, Powerpoint, OneNote or a graph in Excel for example. Because the “nuts and bolts” of the lesson are covered off in the form of comprehensive, quality notes on the class blog, students can simply:

Think like a scientist. Investigate like a scientist.

NCEA CLASSES:

Mr Nicoll’s blogging and recording practices extend to his NCEA classes as well, and he states that this allows him to better gauge where his students sit in terms of Achieved / Merit / Excellence in the respective standards they are working towards:

If a student is struggling to remember facts, I direct them to the blog where they can review the content. If they are struggling to articulate answers at a level required to move from Merit to Excellence, then I engage them in discussion.

RECORDING THE TEACHING MOMENTS:

The NZ Science Teacher website blogged about Mr Nicoll’s methodologies earlier this year, and since then some of his processes have changed:

  • Gone from using an Android smartphone to a Microsoft Surface Pro 2. This has allowed the uploading and editing of video content to become much easier as it is all on the one device. Being physically larger than a smartphone has also allowed the student recording the lesson to hold the device steadier, meaning the quality of the video footage has improved.
  • He is now using the Surface Pro 2 to record experiments in the classroom fume cupboard and display that on the classroom projector wirelessly using Miracast (similar to how Mr Hilliam does this in Maths)
  • Approximately three times a week he will record 8-12minutes of teaching and experiments and upload them to his YouTube Channel
  • When away from classes for an extended period of time, such as Winter Sports Tournament Week, he pre-records teaching concepts for his students. He then books laptops for the lessons if required, emails his students to bring their headphones along, and they can watch along in class.

Combining oxidation and reduction half equations to give a balanced overall equation (example video left for students during tournament week)

Matt has been increasingly requested to share his methods in different forums including at the #edchatnz conference which he had helped co-ordinate, and also to visiting Senior Leaders and Principals from the Independent Schools Senior Leaders Forum that toured the Christchurch independent Schools on the 16th September 2014. He summed up his approach to blogging and videoing his lessons with the following definitive statement:

It’s what I do now – it’s not going to change.

Students explaining the Law of Reflection

Maths! Cameras! Tessellations!

I love it when I get tip-offs from teachers about something they have seen or heard from another class, as this shows our staff are increasingly sharing what is happening inside their classrooms which is excellent.

Recently I was told to check out what Mr Hayden Shaw, Year 7 teacher and Head of Preparatory Sport, was doing with his Maths class. It was suggested there were enthusiastic students hunting around the College for examples of tessellations and then taking photos of them. I have to admit that I didn’t remember my own primary school maths, and the nature of what exactly a tessellation was eluded me.

A quick catch up with Mr Shaw reminded me of exactly what a tessellation is:

an arrangement of shapes closely fitted together, especially of polygons in a repeated pattern without gaps or overlapping.

It transpires that towards the end of a unit on Geometry, Mr Shaw grouped his class based on who had a smartphone with a camera in it. There were eight students with one, and so in groups of three they set out to explore the campus hunting for tessellations. These are just some of the examples they came across:

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The idea behind this fantastic kinaesthetic learning activity came after Mr Shaw read a report on one of his students from Socially Speaking (an organisation that provides services for children with social, sensory or communication difficulties). The report suggested that some students would benefit from taking photos of their homework and then talking about it, rather than physically writing it down every time.

From this came the “tessellation hunt” activity, with students required to snap a photograph of a tessellation they located on the St Andrew’s College grounds and text it to Mr Shaw back in the classroom. When the students returned, he then displayed them all to the students via the classroom interactive projector.

I asked how comfortable he was having students take out their cellphones and use them for learning activities and he related a story that reinforces the College’s approach to Digital Citizenship. There had been an issue with some students taking photos of others in the playground without permission and so discussions took place in the classes reinforcing that phones were:

  • Only for ringing / texting a parent.
  • Permission was required from the teacher before they could do this.
  • If a student took it out twice without permission it was confiscated.

This eliminated the inappropriate use straight away. Once students understood the boundaries, teachers were then able to get them using their phones to support their learning such as this example, knowing that the students would be responsible.

The students in the class loved the opportunity to get out of the classroom and see the practical examples of tessellation in their school environment.

Film Festival – Celebrating Student Talent

“Identity Crisis” – 2013 winner of Overall Best Film

Each year since 2009 St Andrew’s College has run a Film Festival – an evening dedicated to celebrating the diverse creative talents of our students and their film making ability.

Originally accepting all student film submissions, over the years the event has been refined to a showcase of the top ten student entries, interspersed with a number of “5 second films” which are usually humorous in nature. When I met with the Media Studies team to find out more about this festival, I learnt that it was originally a student initiative as they looked for an opportunity to showcase and celebrate their work, and this was supported by head of Media Studies, Mr Simon Williams (whose TV & Film events I’ve blogged about before).

An example of a 5 second film

Poster designed by Sophie Wells to promote the 2014 edition of the annual St Andrew's College Film Festival

Poster designed by Cultural Captain Sophie Wells to promote the 2014 edition of the annual St Andrew’s College Film Festival

It has subsequently evolved to include a red carpet style experience, with the Cultural Captains functioning as the presenters / MCs for the event, whilst other students involved interview attendees as they arrive, with these being broadcast live through to those already in the Theatre. Along with these interviews, there is an invitation for all attending to dress up and make a night of it, which all contributes to the special feeling of this occasion.

The Film Festival celebrates student creativity and is intended to be an inclusive event for a wide audience range with the expectation that all films can be viewed by the students’ younger siblings and grandparents. This helps ensure the themes and content remain in good taste with films vetted for unsuitable content. Consequently, a good size crowd comes along for an enjoyable evening and it is seen as a chance to appreciate these films quite apart from the assessment criteria upon which they are usually judged. Additionally, part of the success of this evening is the length – it’s usually all over in an hour.

When asked why they like the Film Festival, the students involved commented:

People all love movies – you can’t go wrong with a film festival!

 

It’s a chance to promote our creativity, a payoff for our hard work.

 

It’s nice to premiere our films in front of our family and friends – seeing the films on a big screen, with big sound and a real audience is awesome.

From a teacher’s perspective, showcasing the films in this way adds a sense of gravity to the production of them – if over a hundred strangers are going to watch your film, you’re going to try that little bit extra.

A slightly longer example of a 5 second film

The majority of entries come from students involved in the Media Studies and TV classes and typically represents the culmination of nearly two terms worth of effort. Students may spend up to twenty hours in the filming production, combined with up to thirty hours of post-production editing. This editing is done on a range of devices, with some students preferring to use their own laptops, often MacBook Pros using Apple Final Cut Pro, whereas others use the College computers and Adobe Premiere Pro.

College equipment available for use by our students includes:

  • 2x Sony HVR-Z7s cameras which run mini-DV tapes
  • 4x Sony HVR-NX cameras which run SD cards
  • Professional tripods, lighting and rigging, and a range of quality microphones and cabling

Support is also available from staff member Mr David Jensen (who filmed our Mystery Skype Session with Singapore), who has worked on a number of feature length and short films including Netherwood, as well as the other Media Studies teachers.

On the night the Cultural Captains have significant responsibilities: from welcoming the guests, to MC’ing the event, introducing each nominated film and interacting with the audience. They come up with their own monologue, often putting significant effort into this.

Behind the scenes there is a technical crew of up to twenty students and staff that ensures the event runs smoothly – this involves organising the lighting and making sure the films, often submitted in a diverse range of digital formats, all play successfully on the night. This team is co-ordinated by Mr Williams who continues to play a key part in the ongoing organisation and success of this event.

Finally, there are some small prizes that recognise winners in different categories including:

  • Best overall film
  • Best actor / actress
  • Best lighting
  • Best costume / makeup
  • Best camera work

These awards are not the focus of the evening, but add to the sense of a film premiere that the students have worked towards creating. The titles of the nominated films are announced in advance, with a promotion in a full school assembly to build anticipation for the event. Media Studies teachers meet a week before to judge the films and agree on the prize winners.

Many of the students involved in the Film Festival are regularly volunteering their time in other College events, providing technical sound and lighting expertise for assemblies and the massive event of our annual prize giving. I also love the fact that this festival provides an opportunity for the wider community to come share and celebrate in the success of our students’ work.

The evening is seen as a chance for students to celebrate their shared passion for film and media and for all these reasons, it is a very popular event on school calendar.

The Film Festival will be running on September 12th 2014

OneNote To Rule Them All

JYO OneNote

This post first appeared in the August 2014 edition of the College’s Regulus Magazine

It started as a way to help her students organise their notes, but Year 11 Dean and English teacher Jacqueline Yoder quickly found that Microsoft’s OneNote had a lot more potential.

“It has an extensive collaborative capability which allows students access to all my folders, and lets me see their work,” she says.

By using OneNote, an electronic version of a traditional binder, Jacqueline can access students’ online exercise books so if a student has a question she can see what they are working on and make suggestions, especially if she notes they are going off track.

“I didn’t want a place just for storing documents. I wanted kids to interact, not to struggle to use their devices, and to have a ring binder in the sky.”

With some help from Director of ICT, Sam McNeill, Jacqueline created a folder on OneDrive to which she uploads everything.

“My two English classes don’t have books they only use OneNote – that’s their method of storing all of their work and assessments.”

Jacqueline also does all her marking online making her classroom effectively paperless.

“The students hand in nothing. I do a lot of colour coding in my feedback so they get back a far more visually enhanced assignment. I am also experimenting with oral feedback.”

This involves inserting a video into her feedback providing a medium for more detailed analysis. It’s a different way of marking and works for students who struggle with English and find it difficult to read a marking schedule.

But does it make better English students?

“The evidence of my first trial group who have gone into Year 11 is that teachers say they are doing very well at NCEA. OneNote doesn’t replace teaching, it’s a tool to help students organise their work so they can find everything they need. It gives me a way of providing more informative feedback on a regular basis because I can literally comment immediately.”

It’s this combination of staying organised and engaging feedback consistently over time rather than
just at the end of an assignment, that Jacqueline says makes the difference.

Another attraction is the software’s collaborative potential. Because work is stored in the cloud, it offers opportunities for students to work together. Jacqueline’s Māori students are working on shared presentations and movies.

While the thought of adopting technology can be daunting, Professional Learning Groups are available. Jacqueline is keen to share the knowledge among StAC teachers that the software is more than just a word processor.

“It makes learning seamless. When it’s time to write reports I have all the information at my fingertips through those shared notebooks. Parents have real time access to their child’s learning so they can see what they’ve done during the day. It’s a triangle of student, teacher, parent, which is a powerful way to make learning happen.”

For Jacqueline, using technology such as OneNote is about the student owning the learning – transferring the ownership of the learning from being teacher centred to student centred.

“It’s a move from where the teacher owns all the information on the student in a folder to the student having the ownership of the learning and being able to access to look and learn from it in real time.”

Increasing use of technology also fits in with the school’s commitment to lifelong learning.

“Because technology is evolving all the time, you can’t think you’ve ever mastered something. It’s exciting to push the system and discover where it will take you next.”

Rector Christine Leighton says it is exciting to see how St Andrew’s teachers are embracing opportunities through e-Learning.

“Teacher voices are really powerful and to be able to share that voice with other teachers, as well as parents and greater numbers of students is very effective. Teaching is not staying enclosed in a classroom.”

Year 8 Students Engage With #kidsbookchat

This morning Mrs Bridget Preston’s Year 8 class joined in with a multi-school Twitter chat focusing on books. This was organised by a Year 8 class at Selwyn House and was set to run similar to the #mathschatnz and #scitchatnz sessions, with a number of questions being posed for students to answer.

There were seven questions up for discussion that had been posted on the blog of the Selwyn House class site and these were:

  1. Q1: What is the best book you have read this year
  2. Q2: Who is your favourite author at the moment?
  3. Q3: What is your favourite genre?
  4. Q4: Do you have a class read aloud/ novel at the moment? What is it?
  5. Q5: What is your favourite spot for reading?
  6. Q6: How do you find books to read?
  7. Q7: Recommend some titles you’d like to share.

The students in Mrs Preston’s class were excited to be participating in this form of dialogue, and soon grasped the key skills of including the hashtag #kidsbookchat in each tweet, and also starting their replies with the question number they were answering.

I’ve collected a few of the hundreds of tweets that were sent during this 40minute chat and you can scroll through them below (the first tweets are at the bottom):

Throughout the chat Mrs Preston was engaging with the students, reminding them of the need to maintain appropriate replies in their tweets and also making the connection how this is a great way for the students to find out new titles to read. When it came to question six (how do you find good books to read?), many of the students tweeted our fantastic library manager Mrs Kennedy was a great source for finding new books. Many of them even included her Twitter handle showing they grasped this form of communication very quickly.

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A number of the students were tweeting from their own devices – a range of  laptops and tablets – and had set themselves up on a variety of furniture in the classroom, some even getting comfortable on beanbags. The attention and focus from students was high throughout the session with a number saying towards the end “This was so cool” or “this was great fun!”

During the debrief later in the afternoon Mrs Preston stressed the elements of trust involved in an activity like this, not posting silly or off-topic tweets. One thing the students requested was the ability to include their first name or initials in their tweets, rather than having all replies coming from @StAC_8C. When asked directly what sort of learning takes place from an activity like this some of their responses included:

  • Being open to new learning
  • Managing impulses and staying on task/showing appropriate behaviour
  • Learning how to use twitter/twitter handles and hashtags
  • Gained new knowledge about books – what books to read
  • Taking on a role and responsibility within the chat
  • Communicating with other students around NZ
  • Sharing their knowledge of books

They expressed an interest to run their own Twitter chat on a different topic at a later point in the year.

It is always pleasing to see a new initiative work out successfully and for the students to be able to identify their learning from an activity like this. This class is also going to try their first Mystery Skype later this week as well – more fun and engaging learning opportunities powered by technology.

UPDATE: This #kidsbookchat has been summarised in the following Storify recount as well.

Trialling Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Tablets 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

With the official New Zealand launch of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 last week, St Andrew’s College took delivery of six of these units with a very clear focus to get them into the classroom and finding innovative ways of using them in teaching and learning.

Having purchased a number of the original Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 devices, excellent examples of teaching with these in the classroom have already emerged, such as Mr Hilliam’s math lessons blogged about here. Over the course of 2014 a number of teachers, in both the Preparatory and Secondary schools, have been asking for Tablet style devices to trial in their classes.

The various angles of the HP360 stand in action

The various angles of the HP360 stand in action

We have explored a range of different units, including the HP X2 and HP 360 – the latter really impressed us with the innovative design that allowed for the keyboard to flip right around behind the screen and also serve as a built in stand.

In the end, the biggest difference between these devices and the Surface Pro 3 came down to the inking (writing) ability on the screen. The earlier iterations of the Surface Pro had shown the accuracy in this technology from Microsoft was significantly ahead of the other Windows 8.1 devices and iPads. Small things, like the ability to rest your palm on the screen and still be able to write without the palm interfering with the touch, really stood out.

Pro 3 Writing

Microsoft’s website says:

Behold the most natural writing and drawing experience on a tablet thanks to the new Surface Pen. Use the Pen to mark up presentations, sign documents or enjoy art apps. You can also open a blank OneNote document with a click of the Surface Pen to instantly capture your next idea–even if your device is in sleep mode.

OneNote is used extensively at St Andrew’s, so the instant click on the end of the pen to open a notebook will appeal to our teachers and students.

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The use of Tablet style devices does create some challenges for the ICT team here – reduced storage on the devices means teachers will need to become more familiar with Cloud / Network storage for starters. Additionally, if a teacher currently has a laptop failure e.g. a cracked screen, they come to the ICT helpdesk where the hard drive is removed, placed into a spare laptop, and they carry on as normal very quickly.

Given we can not directly service these devices, there is potential for some delays for our staff if they have not stored their content off the device.

Another part of this trial will be getting our staff to use the web interface of our Student Management System, Synergetic, instead of relying on the client application. The trend in development for this product is towards the web interface and if this trial is successful, it may open up possibilities for even wider device choice amongst staff.

Finally, we are listing the Surface Pro 3 as part of our recommended devices for 2015 for students at the College. The ongoing testing of these devices by the teachers should present additional compelling reasons why this device is an excellent fit for a student in the classroom.