Fundraising For Vanuatu – New & Old Approaches

Damages from Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu. Creative Commons: UNICEF Pacific, 2015

Damages from Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu. Creative Commons: UNICEF Pacific, 2015

Over the weekend of 14-15th March 2015 a Category 5 cyclone cut a path of devastation across the Pacific, with the island nation of Vanuatu experiencing some of the worst damage from this massive storm.

St Andrew’s College has a strong relationship with Onesua Presbyterian College located on the north-eastern side of the main island of Efate, having sent annual Community Service trips there for over a decade. Onesua is a boarding school with around 350 students and suffered extensive damage from the storm:

With the 2015 Community Service Trip to Onesua College scheduled to depart in the first week of the Term 1 holiday break, the timing of this Cyclone resulted in the cancellation of this trip. The leadership team at St Andrew’s College reached out to Onesua immediately to see where we could help and heard from their Principal, Mr Kalmar a week after the storm:

Onesua is badly hid by the cyclone, a lot of classrooms lost their roofs and also staff houses. My office and house roof also flew away. The students are all out of school. Water and food will be a problem. I thank God that not even a single soul was lost during the cyclone at Onesua. We were all safe.

At the moment the school is out of telephone and internet services. I am emailing from Port Vila.

We immediately explored how we could channel existing fundraising approaches to help our sister school in Vanuatu.

Online Donations:

We setup an online donation option through our existing ticketing and donation platform from PatronBase.com which allowed our community members to make a credit card payment directly to the funds being collected for Onesua:

Online credit card donations for Onesua College via PatronBase.com

Online credit card donations for Onesua College via PatronBase.com

Online Ticket Sale Top-ups:

St Andrew’s has been selling tickets to College events online for 12 months now, and currently both the Senior Production (Urinetown – The Musical) and Style At StAC have tickets selling fast. We were able to include the opportunity for our community to “top up” their ticket payment with a donation for Onesua College:

An option donate to Onesua is provided during the checkout process with ticket sales for St Andrew's College events

An option donate to Onesua is provided during the checkout process with ticket sales for St Andrew’s College events

Mufti Day & Disco:

More traditional approaches to fundraising were also undertaken which included:

  • A mufti-day where students in the Secondary School could come in tidy non-uniform attire. For this event, the College encouraged students to go beyond the usual gold coin donation, and instead gift “folding money” towards Onesua College.
  • Preparatory School Disco. This is the annual fundraiser organised and run by the students going on the annual Community Service Trip, and aimed at students in Years 4-8 to attend a tropical themed disco.
  • Collection raised at the Middle School Chapel service

Total Donations So Far:

By combining both new and old ways of collecting donations, particularly with the ease of online credit card payments, we have been able to reach a wider section of our College community who have been incredibly generous.  Today, St Andrew’s College was able to transfer NZD$10,000 to Onesua Presbyterian College to help them rebuild their damaged school and replace their destroyed teaching resources.

With a number of remaining smaller fund raising activities running into Term 2, there will be a second payment of the remaining funds raised gifted to Onesua.

A huge thank you to our entire community for contributing so generously. In his latest email Mr Aldo, Principal of Onesua, said:

Thank you very much for this much needed support. I thank God that Onesua has build a relationship with STAC.

The Onesua community has set up a working group  consisting of teachers and ancillary staff and carrying out rapid response operations in the college.

This means that they are putting up temporary classrooms and staff houses and dorms to gather for the classes next week. We are all eager to begin classes though we lost a lot of materials.

We will start with what we have available hoping that support will definitely come. Please thank all your community for your support sincerely.

Exploring Film Settings Through Google Earth

An example tour created by Year 10 students

Last week I was invited into the Year 10 English class of Ms Tam Yuill Proctor to observe her students creating virtual tours within Google Earth of the key settings in the film Karate Kid they were studying. Creating these tours is something I’ve blogged about before, however this is one of the first times I’ve seen it being used in English to specifically map out the locations of a film or novel.

I sat down today with Ms Yuill Proctor to learn more about the process and find out what worked well and what could be improved on for next time.

SETUP & GOAL:

The goal of this exercise was very simple: for students to arrange themselves into groups of three, of which one student must have knowledge of how to use Google Earth (and ideally, how to create tours in them). Fortunately, many of these students had done a similar exercise in Religious Education the previous year and were able to draw on prior knowledge to help.

Once in their groups, they had to identify around ten scene locations from the film that they considered important. The criteria included:

  • Why the group thought the location was important within the context of the film
  • How the location is significant to the country itself

Once they had identified these locations, they were to record a guided tour through Google Earth, highlighting their rationale for their choice of locations and then share it with the class via the collaboration section of the class OneNote Notebook.

GROUP WORK & TIME FRAMES:

The students were only given 1.5 lessons to complete this task and it was interesting to observe the efficiencies that various groups gained through their approach to managing the task requirements.

Students researching and operating Google Earth

Students researching and operating Google Earth

One of these was finding a website called Movie Locations that listed off the key scenes from the film. This allowed them to immediately locate the scenes within Google Earth quite accurately and narrow down their selections. The groups also largely assigned different roles for the members, typically:

  1. A researcher
  2. A Google Earth “operator” for identifying the various locations and creating markers for the tour
  3. A script writer – who would narrate the voiceover with relevant information for each location.

Whilst many groups chose to all use their laptops at the same time, others preferred to gather around a single device and share their ideas more directly with each other. Due to the short time allowed for this activity, Ms Yuill Proctor was quite explicit in encouraging students to manage themselves when it came to sharing the workload and ensuring all tasks were completed (Key Competencies – Managing Self) Amongst the students it was decided that one would need to allocate some homework time to meet the deadline.

Students recording their tours in quieter spaces outside the classroom

SHARING THE TOURS:

One student setup a new section in the class collaboration area in OneNote and then each group created a sub-page where they shared their tour. This did create some problems as students had often found third party recording tools to make their tours in, resulting in some file formats that did not work on all devices.

Reflecting on this Ms Yuill Proctor and I agreed that having a student submit their work via a YouTube link or Office Mix recording would probably be best in future.

Despite these problems, it provided an opportunity for problem solving amongst the groups in terms of how best to record the tour, with many finding different solutions to this. Interestingly, the boys that are into gaming on their devices tended to be quicker at finding solutions in this area, again perhaps based on their prior knowledge they possessed.

The collaboration space in the MS OneNote Class Notebook - note each page on the right represents a group

The collaboration space in the MS OneNote Class Notebook – note each page on the right represents a group

REFLECTIONS:

Students working groups

Students working groups

The overall engagement levels from the students was very high – when I was in the classroom observing there was a quiet hum as students worked in groups to achieve the various tasks and there was no one clearly off task. Given it was quite a different way to explore film settings than they had previously been exposed to, students enthusiastically approached the work. Ms Yuill Proctor noted:

The students now have a visual picture of the settings and locations of the film – this is easier for them to remember than simply writing or typing the locations as a list in their NoteBooks.

However, she was quick to point out that she continually asks herself “do students need to be using technology for this particular task, or can they do it in a different way?” She is conscious that often our students in Years 9 and 10 are using their laptops for most lessons each day, and so will often use more practical activities (such as using scissors to cut out paper SOLO hexagons) .

Students using SOLO hexagons in class

The final step for the students is to individually choose a scene they feel is important and to write a paragraph on that location, linking it back to the overall themes of the film itself.

It’s remarkable that students were able to come up with these tours in under two lessons of class time and reflects their growing competencies with their devices (having used them in many classes throughout 2014). It also highlights how an engaging activity can hook students in and set them for strong involvement for the rest of the film study.

Staying Connected With Ultra Fast BroadBand

In my first post of 2015 I mentioned that St Andrew’s College had recently invested in a second fibre optic internet connection. A number of people have asked me what that actually means and so I thought I would write a brief blog post to cover this.

In the world of IT, huge effort is often expended trying to remove “single points of failure” within a network. This can be defined as:

A part of a system that, if it fails, will stop the entire system from working. SPOFs are undesirable in any system with a goal of high availability or reliability.

An example of a Single Point Of Failure (SPOF)

An example of a Single Point Of Failure (SPOF)

Many businesses and schools invest significant resources and efforts to build “redundancy” into their networks to reduce the risk of a SPOF and this can take many forms, for example:

  • Having spare hardware such as network switches / servers to replace a faulty unit (this is known as hot/cold because one unit is running, whilst the other is off and waiting to be used if required).
  • Having multiple units running together at the same time in what is known as a High Availability pair (HA). Whilst these can be configured in different ways, it typically means limited manual intervention is required (if any), to switch over to the backup hardware in the event of a systems failure.
  • Having alternative power supplies, such as generators, to keep critical network systems running in the event of a wider power outage.
  • Replicating critical systems to off site locations (for example, our Student Management System (SMS) database replicates changes every 15 minutes to a server in a data centre in Auckland)

The one area where schools and businesses have typically had difficulty eliminating dependency on a single system is around internet connections. Historically, there has usually been only one available internet feed accessible, or the cost of additional connections was prohibitive. As eLearning has increased at St Andrew’s, and with the introduction of the 1:1 Computer Programme in 2014 for all Year 9 students, the need for a dependable, reliable and fast internet connection has become paramount.

StACNot only is it our teachers and students that rely on this, but also our support and administrative staff with more and more communications, financial transactions and payroll taking place via the internet. St Andrew’s College is geographically located on a corner of the busy Papanui Road and Normans Road, resulting in the option to have diverse fibre feeds becoming available in late 2014. Previously, no fibre existed in Normans Road, but as part of Enable Networks fibre roll out, we were able to explore removing our internet connection as a Single Point of Failure.

I looked at  various options with different Internet Service Providers (ISP) and in the end remained with Snap Internet who have provided good service over a number of years to the College.

A typical morning of bandwidth usage at StAC

A typical morning of bandwidth usage at StAC

Whilst our existing fibre connection remained largely unchanged, coming off Papanui Road and terminating in a building on the eastern side of our campus, a new, second fibre from Normans Road was connected into our Preparatory School on the western side of the campus. Both of these follow a diverse pathway to different termination points within the Enable / Snap networks:

Red is the existing fibre on Papanui Road. Blue is the pathway of the new fibre down Normans Road

Red is the existing fibre on Papanui Road. Blue is the pathway of the new fibre down Normans Road

The IT team at St Andrew’s have carried out testing in conjunction with Snap network engineers and the “fail over” time from one fibre connection to the other is less than 5 seconds.

So what does this mean in reality? In the event of something like a contractor’s digger cutting through the fibre on Papanui Road, our internet connection will automatically fail over to route down Normans Road. Conversely, when that connection is repaired and back online, our network will automatically “fail back” to the primary connection (this is managed by BGP routing). The speed of this failover should in all likelihood be transparent to our students and staff – they won’t even know it has happened.

By having the fibre termination points at different locations on our campus we have further tried to reduce the points of failure e.g. if a building was closed / rendered unsafe for any reason. This has allowed us to have multiple fibre pathways around our campus, connecting most buildings in at least two points:

Black lines represent the various ducts that fibre exists in, connecting our buildings  around the campus

Black lines represent the various ducts that fibre exists in, connecting our buildings around the campus

More work is to be done to continue to remove all Single Points Of Failure, however this step towards ensuring high availability Ultra Fast Broadband is a significant step forward for the College.

Making Global Connections on World Read Aloud Day!

Students in the Preparatory School have been continuing to experiment with using Skype in the Classroom for mystery Skype sessions, most recently blogged about here. I have been increasingly keen to try and use Skype in different ways to help our students connect with members of the wider, potentially global, community.

World Read Aloud Day is an annual event that aims to encourage and celebrate the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. This day is not one that has traditionally been marked at our College, but one Year 8 class, 8C, jumped at the opportunity to use this day as an opportunity to connect with a children’s author via Skype.

Swanson

Jennifer Swanson is a Florida based author of over 20 nonfiction and fiction books for children, increasingly based around Science and Discovery. I contacted Jennifer through Skype in the Classroom, which had a number of authors available to speak to classes on Read Aloud Day. Jennifer was really accommodating towards us, regarding the time that she was available and the structure that the Skype session would take.

PREPARATION FOR LEARNING:

In preparation for the meeting, the class spent some time investigating Jennifer’s website and learning more about her as an author, and the books that she has written. They also created a wide range of insightful questions that they wished to ask Jennifer, practicing literacy skills around question techniques and reflecting on the book writing process.

SwansonImmediately prior to the call, an excited bunch of students made final preparations to their respective rolls during the call. Immediately upon connection of the call, Jennifer showed her awesome levels of experience in this medium. She read a fascinating passage from one of her books, Uninvited Guests.

After the reading, Jennifer kindly engaged with our students by answering a variety of questions from the students in 8C about a range of writing-based topics. The students showed great listening and judgement skills in their questioning and it was a continuation of the total engagement they showed throughout the conversation.

STUDENT FEEDBACK:

Immediately after the call, the class reflected on their learning and this will continue. As part of their reflection one student, Elena, noted:

I think that it’s pretty cool that although Jennifer Swanson is so far away we felt like she was right there in the room thanks to Skype. I think that the whole class enjoyed this experience and we all want to do it again!

It was great to see the students so engaged in this Skype chat, and I look forward to creating similar opportunities for other classes!

Mystery Skype With Russia Extends Students’ Borders

 Today the Year 6 students at St Andrew’s College had a unique experience, engaging in a game of Mystery Skype with students from a school in the very remote location of Sakhalin Island International School, off the east coast of Russia and north of Japan.

This was arranged by Mr Wilj Dekkers who happened to know the classroom teacher in the International School run by Shell Oil. In fact, the Skype session happened over two days, with the initial session struggling for consistent internet connectivity (they had experienced a massive snow dump the night before which may have contributed to the problem). If anything, this taster added to the suspense for the students and also allowed Mr Dekkers to coach the the students on formulating effective questions, listening carefully to the responses given from the students and using the various atlases and computers to research more effectively:

Students talking to a class on Sakhalin Island, Russia via Skype.

Students talking to a class on Sakhalin Island, Russia via Skype.

When the students managed to reconnect, the quality of the call was significantly better, allowing the two classes to freely ask questions back and forth with these having a strong focus on geographical locations such as

Students in the the school in Sakhalin Island

Students in the the school in Sakhalin Island

  • Are you north of the equator?
  • Is your country land locked?
  • Does it snow often in your country?
  • Do you use the Euro as a currency?

The students were required to ask closed questions that could be answered as “Yes” or “No” and quickly realised from this that there was a real skill in being able to formulate a useful closed question.

In the end the students from St Andrew’s College managed to guess the capital city of “Moscow” leading to the inevitable question of “Are you in Russia?”, whereby our new friends followed with “Are you kiwis?” They then shared some interesting facts about their school, including:

  • It’s an international school with all of them being there because their parents are connected with the Oil Industry
  • There are ~140 students in their school, made up of 33 nationalities
  • They were about to head outside and play in the snow and it was -10 Celsius (it has to get to -20 to -25 degrees Celsius before it’s too cold outside to play.

The St Andrew’s students then performed a rousing waiata to finish off the very enjoyable Skype session:

Technology Enables Efficiency in English Marking

 

For me it’s like the one stop shop … go to OneNote, open up their page, have they done it? Yes? No? Give them feedback. Sync it. Sorted!

Ms Coote describes her new workflow for marking student work

I sat down today and chatted with our English Head of Department, Ms Helaina Coote, about how using a Surface Pro 3 and Microsoft OneNote was impacting on her teaching and assessment practices for A.S. 91106 Form developed personal responses to independently read texts, supported by evidence.

The entire 15 minute conversation is in the video above (recorded using Office Mix on her Pro 3) but you can skip to a few relevant sections by using the hyperlinks below:

IMPACT ON WORKFLOWS:

This year, for the first time, Ms Coote is using Microsoft OneNote with all her English classes and this has been made easier with the introduction of the OneNote Class NoteBook, where each student has their own tab (section group in OneNote). The ability to easily receive, mark, and return feedback to students has been massive:

Whilst this has not changed the way I teach AS91106, it has completely transformed how I manage the assessment practices, allowing me to streamline the feedback I am giving to students.

With students in her senior English classes required to read, listen, watch and respond to up to six different texts across three different terms at school, historically this created a lot of paperwork to manage. In this sense the technology has impacted “massively” on the speed of getting work marked and back to students.

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

Previously, work was typically received via email, using Microsoft Word to insert comments or track changes, saving a copy locally, printing a copy for NZQA records and then emailing the revised copy back to the students with feedback.

“There was like triple handling”

Now, students must submit their drafts via OneNote, and after having received their feedback from Ms Coote, have two days to develop a resubmission. These changes must be colour coded so she can easily see the differences. I asked her if using a digital pen was in some ways a return to traditional ways of marking, and she commented:

The Surface Pro 3 and the digital pen allows you to blend the “old school”  with the “new.” I am still a teacher marking student submissions, but now I am using a digital pen and writing on an electronic submission. Furthermore, the feedback is literally real time – I do not even need to email it back to them.

STUDENT FEEDBACK:

As more and more electronic mediums are introduced into teaching, some senior students have pushed back on the increased visibility (and thus accountability), their teachers now have of their work. I specifically asked Ms Coote how her senior students were finding this method of submission and marking:

Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of them receiving “written” feedback [via OneNote] … I’m able to do it much faster as well, so the pieces of paper don’t lie around on my desk for ages … it’s pretty immediate, as it’s a much more streamlined process.

Importantly, however:

Ultimately, the onus is on the student to make sure their work is in the OneNote NoteBook

Ms Coote asked a number of students for some feedback on how they are finding using OneNote for their classes and one student called Angus noted:

[Since the introduction of Class NoteBooks in OneNote] I have found it incredibly useful … I no longer have to lug around books or hand outs as it is all available on OneNote and all stored in one handy place. All my work and handouts are readily available whether I’m at home or at school its all there and backed up for when i need it. My teacher can now give me feedback on my work on OneNote using her Surface Pro 3 and and she can even hand write on it …  I can see it instantly and then make new adaptions to my work hassle free as the interface on OneNote is so easy to use.

SUMMARY:

It’s often tempting to focus on the way technology is impacting on the lives of our students and therefore I find it refreshing to hear teachers enthusiastically talking about how some of the routine aspects of teaching, such as marking, are being made easier through technology.

It is intriguing that in this example it really was the naturalness of “writing” the feedback (albeit digitally on a tablet), that appealed to both the teacher and students. I read an ICT report recently that suggested that by 2018 50% of portable “laptops” sold will be hybrids that have the ability to touch / write on them like the Surface Pro 3 that Ms Coote is using.

It is a timely reminder that many of the established practices of teaching often need only minor tweaks to achieve optimum efficiency, rather than massively overhauling them with major technological changes.

Guest Post: Excel-lent! A Smart(ie) Take On OneNote & Excel In Maths

This post was originally written by Ms Briony Marks, a teacher in our Preparatory School, on her teaching blog that you can read here. I liked the post so much, and her natural integration of technology into a Year 6 Maths lesson, that I gained permission to reblog it here – enjoy.

The setup of the class OneNote & the W.A.L.T. for the lesson.

The setup of the class OneNote & the W.A.L.T. for the lesson.

Now that the school year is well and truly underway a few of my summer pipeline plans are taking form inside my classroom which is exciting, and it feels like a long wait is over!

As a member of the eLearning professional learning group in the Preparatory School I have been trying to integrate the useful and purposeful use of computers and the Internet into my lessons and I am endeavouring to document my reflections as I go along to feed back to the rest of the group.

Last week I set up a class OneNote to use with my Year 6 and Year 7 Maths groups using the Class NoteBook Creator App (I think I’ll do a blog on this once they are underway and being used in the longer term – I’ll share how I’m using it and how effective it is in a class without their own devices). We finally got started using it in our maths lessons this week and I was really pleasantly surprised with the results.

Student graphs showing analysis of their Smartie investigations (note the feedback comments from Ms Marks to the right of the graphs)

With my Year 6 class we were undertaking the age-old Smartie statistical investigation. I decided, like many teachers, to use this opportunity to introduce the class to Microsoft Excel. My aims were to show students how to use AutoSum; to see if they could understand the benefit of this function and the advantage over using a calculator and to make simple graphs. Next week we will be adding the results of other groups to take a Mean and use a comparative graph feature to support our analysis of the results.

There were plenty of resources on the Internet (TES.co.uk had a plethora!); wonderfully detailed PowerPoints or Word documents with screen shots and arrows showing the students a step by step method. I chose my favourites and adapted them slightly (one needed modernising to the Excel 2013 we run on our school netbooks and other details such as where to save and open the Spreadsheet were made more suitable for the school systems).

instructions

Example of OneNote NoteBook with the Excel instructions printed into it

What I chose to do next was not particularly intentional but it worked fantastically. I copied the Powerpoint into our Content Library on our class OneNote. Once those students who were savvy were online they took themselves through what was essentially a step by step tutorial, with minimal assistance, and self-taught how to use Excel.

This allowed me the opportunity to work with a smaller group of students who were not so familiar with OneNote or Excel.

Children assist each other before I can get a look in!

Children assist each other before I can get a look in!

The children were able to help each other and often a question was asked and before I could get to the child to assist, another member of the class had jumped up to show them where to find the answers on OneNote or how to do it.

I can’t wait for the next lesson and to see how they deal with the next set of skills.