Reflections from ULearn 2015

ulearn logo

In the last week of the recent school holidays I, along with 5 other secondary staff, attended ULearn15. This annual conference, hosted by Core Education, is arguably the preeminent IT in education conference in New Zealand. This year it was held once again in Auckland – although I must admit to being excited at the possibility of it returning to Christchurch once a suitable post-earthquake venue is finally built!

uLearn15 aimed to allow its delegates to connect, collaborate, and innovate and make a difference by exploring:

  • Re-imagining Learners and Learning / Te whakaako
  • Re-imagining Teacher Practice / Te pūtoi ako
  • Re-imagining Leaders and Leadership / Te mahi rangatira

The clear thematic structure of the conference proved to be a very powerful aspect of ULearn, as it enable more clarification of the exact content of breakouts, and also allowed delegates to focus on one particular area of interest, if they wished.

THREE ENGAGING KEYNOTES:

A feature of uLearn is always the engaging Keynote speakers, and this year we were treated to three extremely engaging keynote presentations.

The first was the American educator, Grant Lichtman. In his speech Grant outlined his vision around generating a positive capacity for change within education. Of particular interest to me was his challenge to ask if your school is Dynamic, Adaptive, Permeable and Creative. The underlying aim of such an educational institution must be knowledge creation. Grant acknowledged that this journey will require all educators to break through the fear and inertia to change, saying that it is

“harder to change if we have been going well in the past. Change is Hard, but not in schools – its uncomfortable” .

A final resource that Grant referred to is the Stairway of Successful innovation. I found this resource particularly interesting as it allowed me to reflect on the changes that I am leading here at school and allowed me to reflect on the success of their implementation.

stair

The second keynote speaker was Dr Ann Lieberman from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. During her long, and distinguished career Dr Lieberman has developed a particular interest in Teacher Leadership and the role that teachers play in implementing and driving change within their schools. A focus of her talk was the success gained by the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program in Ontario, Canada. Dr Lieberman identified the successes that this program had enjoyed, particularly the professional value that was generated within the teaching fraternity. She was also keen to pint out the role that all teachers must play in leadership within their schools. She noted that

“conflict within change does not have to be destructive. Conflict can be constructive”

manaiakalaniThe final keynote address of the conference was particularly inspiring. Pat Snedden, the Chair of Manaiakalani Education Trust, took delegates on a journey describing the origins, current successes and future of this important trust which aims to improve educational outcomes for children in some of New Zealand’s most socio-economically disadvantaged communities. I had previously heard the story of this trust – but this presentation gave me a fuller understanding of the outstanding work that this group has done, and importantly their plans to help children in similar circumstances around New Zealand to enjoy the benefits accrued by this simply inspiring Trust.

BREAKING OUT:

The most crucial element of a delegates enjoyment and learning from a conference such as this, is the range of breakouts that you attend. This year I made a conscious effort to be on-the-ball regarding the opening of breakouts – to ensure that I got all my top choices, which I did.

Across the three days I attended 7 different Breakout sessions. All of these sessions were extremely well organised, interesting, and relevant to both my role here at St Andrew’s College, and the future direction of education in New Zealand.

One particularly interesting session was presented by Westley Field, an Australian educator. He initially reflected on the importance for a school to have a clear school-wide pedagogy; one that all staff can buy into. He continued, to speak about the importance of student well-being as a catalyst for academic success, and the implications that this has for schools.

“Resilience can be changed, and taught. Socratic questioning can be incorporated as a way to ensure that students are building resilience. This improvement must be happening constantly.”

One of the highlights of my conference was Mark Osborne giving an extremely interesting seminar around leading change in schools, leadership vs management, and the importance of preparing people for change.  He also gave some clear strategies that should be considered in dynamic organisations such as schools. I particularly like the question

“what is the opportunity cost of NOT changing”

The session was particularly useful for me as a colleague, Ms Yuill-Proctor, was also in attendance. She remarks that she particularly enjoyed:

“looking at 1st order change and 2nd order change. How to make the transition from 2nd order change into 1st order change smoother.”

To read more about Ms Yuill-Proctor’s experiences at ULearn, check out her blog.

IMPACT OF THE CONFERENCE:

pirate

Part of the St Andrew’s College delegation enjoying some important social time at the uLearn Dinner.

Attending ULearn is always extremely interesting and worthwhile; I was very impressed with ULearn15. After three years of non-attendance, I was glad to see that the conference appears to be re-energised, and this has definitely rubbed off on me. All attendees from our school found it an extremely engaging and motivating three days.

Moving forward I have learnt a great deal about managing change within my job, and more importantly, supporting staff to engage more proactively with this process of change.

As usual uLearn was heavily tweeted by delegates – feel free to follow me.  To catch up on the conference, check out archive tweets from @uLearnNZ or #ulearn15.

 

Mentoring Year 4 Students in Mihi Development

WIN_20150901_135752Throughout the year, all Year 9 classes spend some time being introduced to basic Te Reo and Tikanga concepts through a number of lessons taken by Ms Yoder – the TIC of Maori Studies. One aim of this series of lessons is for the students to develop confidence in introducing themselves, through the delivery of their Mihi. Once developed and practiced, these Mihi are recorded onto their OneNote. They can then be listened back to, to check, and improve on, pronunciation and the flow of the speaking.

A great feature of College life in 2015 has been an increasing amount of collaboration between classes in the secondary school with those in the Preparatory School. This has been blogged about previously in Science here, and digital citizenship here. In order to further foster relationships between the high and prep schools, Mr Dekkers, and the Year 9 teacher Mrs Urmson suggested to the Year 4 teachers, Mrs Munro-Foster and Miss Haisty, that there was the possibility of her group mentoring the Year 4 students to develop their own Mihi.

During this activity pairs of Year 9 students mentored small groups of Year 4 students, and were tasked with helping them to develop their own Mihi – based around the template below.

mihi sheet

The template used by Year 4 students to develop their Mihi

The Year 4 students had already spent some time, during Maori language week earlier in the term, developing their Mihi. The role of the Year 9 Mentors was to increase the confidence and fluency of these children. A real strength of this task was the clarity of instructions for all students so that the older students had a clear understanding of their role within this activity and were able to provide feedback that clearly improved the Mihi delivery of the younger students.

Mihi instructions

Mentor students were given clear instructions that made them more confident in their role

Reflecting on the value of the task, Miss Hastie commented that her Year 4 children enjoyed looking up to children older than them for advice and support.

After a few practice runs, and guidance and feedback from their Leaders, the Year 4 students were ready to record their Mihi. The highlight of the task was undoubtedly the recording phase. Once their Mihi delivery was confident all students were given the opportunity to be recorded in the Preparatory School TV studio. These recordings were then shared with their whanau community through their OneNote ePortfolio.

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A Year 4 student recording her Mihi in the Television studio.

Throughout this great collaborative activity Mrs Urmson noticed that her students really rose to the challenge of acting as leaders to younger pupils. The task was a great opportunity for students to practice, and display, important NZ Curriculum Key Competencies such as Managing Self, Relating to Others, and Participating and Contributing.

“It was fun – because the boy knew all the words that I didn’t know!”

Preparatory School Racing Ahead with Robotics

During Term One and Two this year Miss Bryony Marks, among a number of other projects, initiated a Robotics club at Year 5 in the Preparatory School. Initially the club was open to 15 students, using Lego Mindstorm EV3 to build and program in groups of 3. The purpose of the club was to introduce Year 5 students to Robotics, thus setting the groundwork for future expansion of robotics as these students progress through the college.

IMG_4672In response to overwhelming demand and interest form other year groups, it was immediately obvious that an expansion of resources was needed. The extremely supportive College PTA was approached for support in this area, and generously responded with $5000 funding for a further 8 sets – allowing whole class robotics for the first time. This now allows all children in the Preparatory school the opportunity to engage with this exciting technology, and to authentically apply their basic block programming skills to robotics.

The next logical progression in this rapidly evolving programme was to enter teams in the Canterbury Regional 2015 RoboCup Junior competition. This national competition requires students to use their programming, engineering, and creative skills to entertain, delight, and thrill an audience. They must design up to three robots that are used in a 1 to 2 minute themed performance based around either robot theatre, or rescue. robotics2At Year 5 and Year 7, all interested children were given the opportunity to ‘trial’ for these competition teams, with Miss Marks looking for children with a range of skills such as organisation, programing, robot building and creativity.

The two Year 5 teams were chosen after a ‘Loop Walk’ challenge which required them to self-teach and apply their new knowledge in small groups to program a robot to walk a square course in the style of their choosing.

Year 7 teams were chosen through a Little Red Riding Hood Challenge, which required them to program a Robot to navigate from Grandma’s house to Red Riding Hood’s garage, while stopping to look for cars. and then reversing into their garage.

The final team is a two person Year 8 team that was selected based on previous experience. James has an interest and experience in programming, while Ethan has a passion for Robotics.

On Friday all five teams spent the day preparing for the competition. Over the course of the day they conceptualised, built and programmed their robots. The room was a busy hive of activity throughout the day, as student groups worked independently on the numerous challenges involved in such a task.

IMG_4673James and Ethan are entered in the Research and Rescue Challenge which requires their robot to follow a black line across the performance area, sensing and responding to green squares. Finally, it must grab a tin can from the center of the area, eventually returning it to the beginning of the course.  James noted that his biggest challenge of the day was applying his previous block programming experience through Scratch into the new platform; EV3 Mindstorm. Ethan’s main challenge was trouble-shooting the challenges that the colour senses proved, as they initially struggled to perform as expected.

Ethan and James' robot

Ethan and James’ robot

It is challenges like this that prove the relevance and importance of robotics. Miss Marks noted that “Children are required to self-manage, problem solve and think logically as they respond to various challenges throughout the build. Competitive Robotics combines creative writing, engineering, arts and crafts, DIY, coding and programming – everything that our students love!”

Click below to see a short video of an early prototype from the day! We wish all St Andrew’s College Teams well as they continue to prepare for the regional competition on August 16th!

 

 

Using Online Simulation Gaming to Improve Student Literacy

The Year 12 Business Studies course at St Andrew’s College aims to introduce students to entrepreneurship, and help develop their knowledge and skill in running a business. The course is deliberately designed to be very hands-on and students work in small groups to run all aspects of their own small businesses. While many students taking the course have strong entrepreneurial skills, those who do not supplement the Business Studies course with Year 12 Accounting have often struggled to understand the financial impacts of decision making within a business, and the flow-on effects of this decision making in a business context.

Upon reflection by the Commerce Department, it was identified that a number of Business Studies students were struggling with the financial literacy requirements of Business Studies; particularly in the area of question terminology such as ‘Fully Explain’.

In an attempt to remedy this, Business Studies students were tasked with running a small online business. The Small Business Game is a free online simulation that provides the experience of running a small business. In the gam, students experience the start-up and management of a business, learning both from their mistakes and from their successes. The game uses the platform of running a merchandise business for a club from NZ’s ASB Premiership – the highest level of domestic football in NZ.

Students choose one of the Premierships teams and then they manage all aspects of the team’s off-field performance such as staffing, pricing, and advertising.

Small Business GameBusiness Studies teacher Steve Aldhamland has seen high levels of engagement in the game from his students. Students played the game during one class period a week in Term One, though Steve notes that

“Most students played the game in their own time too; some even completed the whole 52 week simulation in a couple of weeks!”

Success in the game is principally measured in the financial surplus that the player manages to generate, but there are other indicators such as worker well-being and health.

In conversations with educators I have heard many skeptics of the value of games in classrooms comment that improved engagement is all well and good, but is it enough? This is where this Business Studies task excels.

workbook

Building on the high levels of engagement that he saw with the game, Steve created a workbook that combines examples from the game with examination style questions and exemplar answers. The booklet reinforces students’ understanding by modeling correct responses, and analysing the structure of these answers. By combining the game with literacy tasks, students can take content that they have engaged with throughout the game, and use that content to deliberately improve the complexity of their written responses.

It is always pleasing to find teachers who are willing to engage with a new technique in the classroom. What I particularly like to celebrate is when this new technique is directly in response to student need – leading to authentic student learning.

Getting Creative with Writing

This post is based around work done by Ms Tam Yuill Proctor. She has already blogged about this unit here. She has also created a Sway about it, which you can view here.

One of our aims, as an eLearning team, is to foster and supplement the intrinsic enthusiasm of many of our staff. We find this blog is a great way to publicise and celebrate the success that we see every day in our school.

studnetsOne such staff member is Ms Tam Yuill Proctor. A previous post on this blog described her success with using Google Earth to explore film setting with her Year 10 English class. This activity was part of a wider unit exploring the importance of setting within English. In response to the great work her class produced in this activity, Ms Proctor approached me to talk through some ideas to continue this innovation-based learning with this class.

Example video showing a world created by a student to inspire their creative writing 

With a continued focus on setting, the class was given a fairly stereotypical short story brief. Write a short story of approximately 600 words with the theme of Conflict. Each student must produce at least four drafts, make those drafts available to their peers for feedback and feedforward, and act on appropriate advice given. Nothing particularly groundbreaking here!

RCstill

A scene created using the source engine of the game Counter-Strike

However, acting on inspiration gained from a keynote address given by Australian author Michael Pryor at the NZATE English Conference, Ms Yuill Proctor had students design the setting for their story before they wrote it. The period before the recent school holidays, the students were set the task of creating a virtually designed setting for their story. They were able to use any digital platform they wanted, and could spend as much time as they wanted, over the holidays, on the setting. The results were remarkable.

While a smaller number of students contacted Ms Proctor asking if they could work in ‘the real world instead’ the vast majority of the students stuck to the original brief. There was a wide variety of work produced, with settings constructed in Sketchup, Paint, Minecraft and the source engine of the game Counter-Strike.

Sketchup

Student’s setting made using Sketchup

Bringing the learning together

The final aspect of this task involved students recording a short video, or audio recording that would allow them to clearly the author’s purpose, specifically regarding the setting they had designed. The challenge we now faced was what is the best way to tie all this great work together in a way that was accessible for a larger audience. Our original idea was to use the augmented reality App Aurasma, which has been used with some success in the Preparatory School. Unfortunately it quickly became obvious that the use of this App, with this particular group, was going to be problematic as although the class all had their own laptops, not all had a compatible smartphone.

The obvious solution was to host students’ videos on You Tube and create the links with QR codes instead. This proved to be a great decision as all students were able to create and link their codes effectively and quickly. The other pleasing aspect of this success was that it further consolidated my belief that, in a classroom setting, it is usually much more effective to use an easy to use tool, that a more complicated substitute that may, in fact, have any tangible value added.

The 3D printer creating the Minecraft setting created by a student

The 3D printer creating the Minecraft setting created by a student

With many students choosing to create their setting in Minecraft, Ms Yuill Proctor and I were really conscious that it might be difficult for the audience of the story to get a full appreciation of the complexity of a Minecraft setting design from a 1D picture. Resultantly we decided to print these designs on the school’s 3D printer. The knowledge of Joshua Harrison, a member of the IT team, was instrumental at this stage, and I acknowledge his important contribution.

Printed Example of a 3D setting

Printed Example of a 3D setting

Reflections on a job well done

I was particularly pleased with the fact that this, very successful, unit is a great example of a teacher challenging herself, and her students, with an activity that is clearly modification on the SAMR scale.

Ms Yuill Proctor was also very pleased with the results of the unit; especially the fact that it “fully integrated all aspects of the English Curriculum.” The creating meaning and the making meaning Curriculum Strands were both clearly addressed and the structured nature of the unit allowed student agency to come to the fore.

Example of Student Work

The following story is based around a setting created in the source engine of the game Counter-Strike. Use the QR code to see a video of the setting, or click here!

Continue reading

Student’s Sharing their Digital Citizenship Learning

An important part of the Year 10 pastoral programme at St Andrew’s College is Te Waka. This innovative programme involves students working in a small group with a mentor teacher as they focus on the journey into adulthood through a focus on resilience, respect and responsibility. This programme, introduced in 2014, has proven very successful with staff and students alike. You can read more about the programme here.

While the Te Waka programme has strong, common themes that all groups address, there is the opportunity for groups of students to spend time investigating issues that are of particular interest to them. One such group, led by their mentor Mrs Richards, wanted to investigate issues around digital citizenship. Having spent some weeks discussing the particulars of such issues, the group were keen to share their learning to a wider audience; through a website.

Website banner

The great website 8 Te Waka students made about Digital Citizenship

 

The eight students in the group were randomly paired up, and each pair was assigned one of four topics; Digital Footprint, Cyber Bullying, Social Media and Texting. Each pair of students worked independently on their area of the website, with a little guidance from their mentor.

The aspect of this work that was particularly impressive was that the content of the site was entered, proofed, and published within two periods. What this success also indicates is that other staff, who may be thinking about the possibility of creating such a resource with their students, can be very confident that the learning curve is not too great for our students and that there are clear benefits for student learning.

Sharing the Learning Further

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Year 10 Te Waka students sharing their learning with 8C

When shown the result of the learning, the College’s Director of IT Sam McNeill suggested sharing the website with a class in our Preparatory School. One of our great Year 8 Team, Mrs Preston, jumped at the chance and recently 5 of the Te Waka group presented their website to 8C. It was really pleasing to see students speaking about their learning, and be able to articulate their learning to a different audience and respond to their lines of questioning.

Developing Connections with Business Mentors

Callum StewartAfter a lifetime of interest in Computer Science, and a more recent involvement in online forums with people from communities less privileged than his own, one St Andrew’s College student has an idea that he hopes will provide a platform for small investors to fund small start-ups in the Third World through a web-based business, tentatively called uEarn.io

Year 10 student, Callum Stewart’s enthusiasm for the cause caught the eye of his Business Studies Teacher, Steve Aldhamland. Quickly identifying the potential benefit, for Callum, of a Business Mentor Steve contacted Robyn Frey, the ‘Head of Special Projects’ at the Young Enterprise Trust. Robyn kindly put Steve in touch with an Alumni of the Trust, Josh Daniells. Josh is currently the Head of Platform and Investor Growth at the successful equity crowdfunding platform, Snowball Effect.

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A screenshot from the Skype session Callum and Josh had, hosted in the Boardroom at St Andrew’s College

Earlier this week, to initiate this mentor relationship, Josh and Callum participated in a Skype session. This session allowed Callum to speak to someone with industry experience and Josh was able to give the young entrepreneur some valuable advice about potential regulatory barriers and the importance of balancing interests between investors and companies.

Reflecting on potential future mentoring within Business Studies

Mr Aldhamland immediately saw the benefits for Callum of this session. The main positives were that it was a medium that allowed each party to see and respond to the body language of the other throughout the conversation. I believe that this was a factor in Josh quickly identifying that Callum has genuine entrepreneurial potential and that he is deadly serious about his business idea.

He is also excited about the future potential of using Skype more regularly in Business Studies, with the ability to connect with business mentors nationally, and even globally.

Reflections on a Term of Integration

As the first term of the school year draws to a close, I find myself increasingly reflecting on the first ten weeks as the eLearning Integrator here at St Andrew’s College. Due to the fact that this position was newly established at the College, there was always a bit of a sense of the unknown.

Hitting the Ground Running

Almost immediately, I was struck by the willingness of the College’s staff to embrace change in their pedagogy, and the overwhelming acceptance that eLearning has an important part to play in this development. While, obviously, staff are at differing stages of their experimentation all have been extremely welcoming and responsive to whatever assistance they have received.

OneNote in the Classroom

By far the major focus for staff has been the continued use of OneNote in their classrooms. With a compulsory 1:1 laptop programme now covering all Year 9 and 10 students the majority of secondary staff have been extremely keen to use OneNote in their classrooms. Feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive and success with its use to manage and improve student feedback in English and the potential of student collaboration have already been blogged about this year.

By far the most significant development for staff, has been the launch of the OneNote Classroom creator tool. Numerous staff have mentioned to me how they have appreciated the streamlined organisation that this tool facilitates.

The other major developments that has impacted on our student population are the improvements to the complexity of the OneNote app for Mac. Approximately 65% of our students are using Apple laptops and, although the functionality of the app is still not equivalent to that of the Windows Client version, the improvements have helped to raise the engagement levels of students with the software.

Skype developing

A second area of growth within the school has been the use of Skype. Within the senior syndicate of our Preparatory School especially, Mystery Skypes have been popular. Teachers have found them a great way to make initial conact with students in other areas of the world and also as a valuable way to investigate questioning strategies – not to mention they are great fun!

This term has also seen us experiement with other ways to utilise Skype in the classroom. On World Read Aloud Day 8C jumped at the opportunity to connect with a children’s author, Jennifer Swanson via Skype. SwansonThis session was really motivating for the students and it was great to see them having the opportunity to ask their own questions to an experienced author.

“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!” Elena, 8C

A final development has been the number of staff in the Senior College beginning to experiement with the potential with Skype to supplement the learning occuring in their classroom. A Year 13 English Teacher, Tam Yuill Proctor, is teaching a course based around James Bond. As part of this I am endeavouring to confirm an academic from the Film and Media School at Aberysthwyth University to join the class in an expert capacity. A second example is from our Commerce department who are beginning to develop relationships with business mentors through Skype. Stay tuned for a future blog post highlighting this!

Staff redefining their own boundaries

Elsewhere in the school, it has also been pleasing to see a number of staff experimenting with other aspects of eLearning. Examples of this has seen Google Earth being used to effectively study setting in English, and Excel being used in conjunction with OneNote in the Preparatory School. It has been really rewarding for me to see increasing examples of staff developing the confidence to conceptualise, develop and implement such tasks in an increasingly independent manner!

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!

Students Collaborate With New Features in OneNote

OneNoteAs noted in a recent post, staff at St Andrew’s College have wholeheartedly embraced the potential of OneNote to help students receive, and engage with, classroom materials in different ways. Much of the focus for teaching staff and students at this time of Term 1 has been setting up their class notebooks using the Onenote Classroom Creator tool. Feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive in the use of this tool to seamlessly organise both class and individual student’s distinct areas into a single notebook.

The new collaboration space provided in the Classroom Notebook has challenged the thinking of our staff the most in terms of how to use this effectively with students. It has been really interesting for me to help staff to think about the different ways that they can realise the potential of this feature, and the pedagogical power of this tool is obvious to many. The conceptual struggle for some staff has been the necessity of a fundamental change in both planning and delivery of content to fully utilise this feature.

One staff member who has proven to be an early adopter of this innovative feature is Dr Jeni Curtis. Dr Curtis is a keen user of Onenote, but the potential of the collaboration space has her particularly excited. This week, in her Year 13 Extension English class, Dr Curtis has embraced the functionality of the collaboration section of her class notebook

Collaborating In OneNote During Class:

In this recent series of lessons, her students were studying short stories, including ‘Some are Born’ and ‘The Moment Before the Gun Went Off’ by Nadine Gordimer. Having individually read the stories as preparation for the lessons, the students formed small groups.

The students’ task for these lessons was to discuss in their small groups the particular aspect of the story that they had been given. The students were then to designate a scribe in their group who would record their ideas in the collaboration space. After initial discussion time, the students were able to see each others contributions in real time, which would become the foundation of the classes notes for this piece of work.

the moment before the gun went off

Note the various student initials alongside different sections of work, clearly indicating their individual contributions.

Reflecting on the success of the activity, Dr Curtis said

I see the collaboration space as a great tool for students to share ideas in a way where their discussions are recorded, because so often students work in isolation and only the teacher sees their work. They can take individual and group responsibility for their learning, and those who may not be in class can also take part.

Student Feedback On Collaboration In OneNote:

Dr Curtis’ thoughts were echoed by her students. One student noted that she liked the use of the Collaboration zone because it allowed the particular strengths of each student to be utilised. Another student mentioned the fact that the collaboration space allowed students who were not in class that day to see the discussion and class content that had taken place.

Dr Curtis’ enthusiasm for the potential of the collaboration space has continued into a number of different tasks that she is already planning for this class to continue to experiment with the online collaboration in OneNote. The classes future novel study of Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisionwood Bible’ will include a collaborative task where individual students will be responsible for the study of different aspects of the novel, such as character, setting and literary techniques.

Poisionwood bible

In addition to these formal lesson activities, Dr Curtis and her students are also utilising the potential of the collaboration space in other ways. They have created a class glossary into which students are defining the wide range of new vocabulary they are engaging with in the class.

Although it was only the first week of the class experimenting with the collaboration tool within Microsoft Onenote, it was obvious that the students in the class had intuitively embraced the potential of the tool. When asked, the students could clearly articulate the benefits of the tool for their learning, how easy it was to use, and how excited they were for the potential of this tool!

Here at St Andrew’s College this first step in the use of the collaboration space is a particularly exciting development in the College’s staff continuing to embrace the exciting aspects of eLearning at the College.