Three computer whiz kids in Year 8 are acting as technology mentors for the entire Preparatory School student body, and even quite a few teachers. Caleb, Cameron and Mitchell run twice weekly Fountain of Knowledge technology training sessions, with students able to book appointments on a sophisticated website set up by Caleb. “I took over the project from its founder Ward (now Year 10) when I was in Year 6. We have seven mentors including the three of us, and are training up some Year 6 students so they can run the sessions next year,” says Caleb.
The students help with everything from setting up the internet on laptops, phones and tablets, to installing anti-virus software, and helping students to get the most out of OneNote. They also teach students how to use the cameras and other equipment in the TV studio. Their teacher Ms Melissa Rennell says she sometimes has teachers knocking on her door seeking technical help from one of the boys, or asking for assistance with their Activboards. “They often go to these students first before the ICT Department.” Caleb has even rebuilt an old laptop from the Preparatory School and connected it up to an active board on which students can share their projects.
As they get ready to hand over the Fountain of Knowledge at the end of the year, Caleb, Cameron and Mitchell are thinking about which equally enthusiastic young technology experts they will pick as its new leaders, and are already training Year 6 student Nicholas. “We’re proud of the programme and have had a lot of support from Mr Dekkers, who will be the teacher in charge of it again next year,” says Caleb.
Cameron says he enjoys technology but isn’t planning on a career in the field at this stage. However Caleb and Mitchell hope to one day own their own technology companies, “like Apple, or Google”.
Note: this is quite a lengthy and, at times, technical post about configuring and deploying Minecraft in a school when choosing not to use the new Microsoft Education Edition. The following is the structure of the blog if you want to jump to a particular point of interest:
The Background Situation: existing Minecraft usage and identified problems.
The Opportunity: what we felt we needed to deliver to run our own Minecraft server securely and easily.
The Technical Setup:
Client Installation & Deployment
Where To From Here:
Minecraft, the hugely popular game with students of all ages, is described as:
A game about placing blocks and going on adventures. Explore randomly generated worlds and build amazing things from the simplest of homes to the grandest of castles.
Despite this initial success there has always been some problems with administering Minecraft, particularly around easily and securely allowing student interaction and collaboration in these virtual worlds. To date, teachers have had to rely on students using the Minecraft Personal Edition meaning it was essentially single player mode only, removing the ability to collectively work on a project together. To promote greater student engagement and allow the key competencies to be fully utilized in learning through Minecraft, alternatives needed to be identified.
In late September 2014, Microsoft purchased Minecraft for $2.5billion which held out the possibility of a deeper integration into Office365 and Microsoft’s wider Education strategies. It took just under two years before Minecraft Education version was released, during which time an alternative Minecraft Edu was essentially shut down and absorbed into Microsoft’s new Education version. This was a shame as the Edu version was very good, allowing the use of numerous custom mods (modifications to improve/customise the game play) and it could be run on a hosted server, not just on the student’s personal device.
There was no ability to host the game on a stand alone server – now it would be installed and hosted via the teacher’s laptop computer (this raised significant security concerns for us and ultimately was a show stopper).
There was no custom mod support whatsoever. Over time, it was the ability to modify and customise the game play that had contributed to the enduring appeal of Minecraft and without this, the default game play was less appealing.
The upside, however, was that licensing was incredibly easy to manage and, if you were prepared to overlook security concerns, deployment for a teacher in a basic network would also be simplified.
An example of students using Minecraft Pocket Edition in previous years
After the initial disappointment of realising we would not deploy Minecraft Education as soon it was released, Mr Wilj Dekkers engaged in a number of discussions with myself and Mr Joshua Harrison from the St Andrew’s College ICT Services Team to explore how we might progress forward with Minecraft. Very quickly, some key features were identified:
Teacher Control: teachers would need the ability to easily manage students within the game. Without this, the chances of students running amok and getting into mischief was very real. This would require third party mods to achieve and a strategic plan around how Digital Citizenship teaching could be included into the Minecraft worlds.
The Minecraft server needed to be hosted centrally so that it could be controlled by the ICT services team, whilst still allowing the delegation of in-game management to teachers and to those students identified as leaders who could be student administrators.
Teacher/Student administrators needed the ability to maintain / deploy approved mods and perform low level administration work e.g. restarting worlds, creating/deploying new worlds.
Finally, the issue of how to deploy a pre-configured client onto student BYOD devices in a quick and simple manner, without disrupting any existing installations of Minecraft they may have already installed.
The above list of requirements needed addressing if we were going to be able to build a sustainable environment for integrating Minecraft into the eLearning strategies at the College. Joshua decided he would explore various options based on his prior knowledge administering various Minecraft servers in his own time and see if there could be some suitable solutions to use at St Andrew’s.
For the proof of concept, we decided to use an existing HP Compaq 6000 that was spare. The specifications of this machine were pretty light weight, having only a Core2 Duo CPU and 4GB of RAM. It remains to be seen if this will be sufficient and we anticipate needing to increase the resources of this machine as more users and worlds join.
After exploring various different versions of Minecraft, Joshua settled on 1.7.10 1.10.2 (this version is required to be compatible with Sponge. The earlier version was needed for supporting Bukkit which we are no longer using – see below). To support the deployment of these mods, two frameworks were necessary:
Bukkit This has been replaced with Sponge due to a potential copyright issue; this has resulted in dropping KCauldron as well.
These are essentially APIs that allow other mods to run on the Minecraft server and normally a Minecraft administrator would use only one or the other of Forge or Bukkit. However, as will be seen, it was necessary to use both and to achieve this an additional third party tool called KCauldron was necessary to enable the use of different mods on the same platform to work nicely together. With the use of Sponge, there is no need for third party tools like KCauldron, as Sponge integrates directly into Forge.
Minecraft Server Dashboard
Another important tool was MC Dashboard which allowed Joshua to use a graphical user interface (GUI) rather than a traditional command line interface (CLI) to administer the Minecraft server. This tool provides easy oversight into server resource usage, connected users and other important information.
As mentioned earlier, it is really the mods that create the key appeal of Minecraft in schools, as it allows for customisation of the worlds and gameplay and, sadly, was something that Microsoft chose to remove from their Education edition. It’s easy to see why, however, because mods are also one of the trickier components and can easily lead to problems of version compatibility and contribute to a poor user experience. There are three key mods that Joshua has deployed for the StAC Minecraft server:
Multiverse: Project Worlds:(Project Worlds replaces Multiverse due to the changes above relating to Bukkit – everything following remains the same) This is a key one as it allows us to run parallel worlds on the same server, whilst enabling teachers and/or students to jump between worlds at will. Put practically, a teacher could create a world for a collaborative social studies project where students need to work towards an assessment or project, whilst having a separate world for “free play” and experimentation. Without Multiverse, projects would need to be separated spatially within the same world which would inevitably lead to problems, such as having to walk a long way to go from one project to another – it all takes time!
PermissionsEX:PermissionManager:(PermissionManager replaces PermissionsEX due to the changes above relating to Bukkit – everything following remains the same) This mod allows for differing levels of user permissions groups, and the following four were setup for school usage:
Student – a basic user who can only do the default game play such as build/place etc
Student Administrator – have slightly elevated controls such as the ability to move other student users around, freeze them and do other temporary modifications. These permissions are designed to support a Digital Citizenship component where students can be educated and entrusted to self-manage as much as possible within the game. The assigned permissions here were carefully selected by Joshua to prevent a student who had prior knowledge of how Minecraft administration works from being able to execute any command.
Teacher – has access to most of the Minecraft server administration, can create new worlds, can kill off users, teleport users between worlds and other main administration functions.
Administrator – aimed at superusers and, at this stage, reserved for ICT staff to support the server installation as necessary.
ICY Admin:The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod(This was used to replace ICY Admin due to the version change of Minecraft) This is the key mod to bring the above together into a user-friendly GUI allowing for in-game administration from a graphical menu for the above user groups. The available menu options in ICY Admin The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod have been built from scratch by Joshua and are controlled by a config file on the Minecraft server itself. Users access the menu system during game play by hitting the tilde key (~) and this replaces the need to execute console / CLI commands within the game. This makes it significantly easier for new users to engage with the game and reduces the barrier-to-entry for teachers who may wish to administrate but know none of the commands.
Some of the controls available via ICY Admin The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod include things such as “freeze” a user/all users in place (useful if you effectively want to pause the game for a break), teleportation of a single user / all users to a shared starting point or, for example, if you wanted them all to be in the same place to work on the same project. Additionally, environmental settings can be controlled in this way e.g. make it rain or snow, or set it to always be night time.
The control interface for teachers and student-admins when using The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod (which replaced ICY Admin)
These three core mods are what allows the overall setup and administration and, through conversations with Mr Dekkers, are probably sufficient to enable most scenarios of how Minecraft might be used at this stage. Two in-game mods specifically requested by Mr Dekkers were IndustrialCraft and ComputerCraft both of which allow for significant learning opportunities. IndustrialCraft supports things like electricity generation and storage through batteries and transferring into different parts of the game, whilst ComputerCraft is essentially a full programming language accessible by computers in the game.
Client Installation & Deployment:
Windows installation batch script
With the setup of the Minecraft server achieved, the final part of the solution was how to easily deploy this to the individual student BYOD laptops. St Andrew’s College has a choice within parameters for BYOD, meaning students can bring either a Windows 10 laptop or an Apple MacBook running OS X.
It was important that there was an easy, stress-free way for teachers and students to install this version of Minecraft onto laptops that did not necessarily need to involve the ICT Services helpdesk team at the College. Joshua was pretty confident he would be able to write some batch scripts for Windows and I suggested he check out OS X’s Automator as a way of scripting installation for the MacBooks. Interestingly, he found that he was able to script the installation on MacBooks with Automator in about half the time it took to write a batch file for Windows.
The tasks in the Automator script to install onto a MacBook running OS X
The key to making this happen was Minecraft MultiMC, an open source launcher for Minecraft that allows users to run completely separate installations of Minecraft with ease, meaning that we could confidently encourage students to install this version without affecting any other installation of Minecraft they may already have on their laptop.
Essentially, a student is provided with a USB key that has an installer launcher that copies MultiMC and a Java installation into a new folder, whilst setting up short cuts in their Applications folder so they can run the game.
Interestingly, Joshua opted to not include a copy of the Minecraft client application itself within this installer file, instead relying on students having to enter their own Minecraft credentials (linked with their personal paid licensed copy) which would then trigger the download of the client application of Minecraft. This way, we are not distributing any commercial software illegally and the download only adds 1-2minutes to the overall installation process. The key benefit, however, was that MultiMC is already configured to point the installation to the College’s on-premise Minecraft server meaning there was no additional configuration required for students. Additionally, Joshua set this up to run on a non-standard port so that if other students were using Minecraft at school they could not accidentally connect to the school’s Minecraft server and become a nuisance.
All up, it takes less than 5 minutes for a student to install this version of Minecraft from a USB key provided by the teacher.
Where To From Here?
I am always really happy when members of the ICT Services Team have an opportunity to use their prior experience or personal interests to contribute to the teaching and learning at the College in ways like this. It is one of the unique things about delivering ICT in schools compared to other environments and the ability to be involved in this way is enjoyed by the staff. Talking with Joshua he admitted to being a bit worried about how to deliver what needed to be a very simple solution that could be managed by students and teachers whilst still being secure and stable:
I had a huge sense of personal satisfaction with the finished solution because I was a bit worried about how I would be able to deliver all of this at the start, or even if it was possible. Ultimately, it was ICY Admin that made it all possible and this was something I found only through researching for this project. It’s nice to know that the hundreds of hours I’ve spent administering Minecraft servers in my own time have paid off and could be used in an educational context.
Mr Joshua Harrison
For me, it is pleasing to know that we have a secure, robust and extensible platform which teachers will be able to use relatively painlessly thanks to the efforts of Joshua in this area. It remains to be seen what interesting curriculum uses arise from this and I’ll certainly be posting a followup blog highlighting this.
Of course, as Microsoft continue to develop their Augmented Reality HoloLens solutions, then perhaps the future of Minecraft will be 3D as this video shows:
Recently I caught up with Finn Perring, Anna Bennetto and Grace Dephoff who are part of a wider group of students that make up the band Souldrop. Anna leads the vocals, Finn plays bass guitar and Fin Gilzean (St Thomas of Canterbury College) plays lead guitar whilst Elliot Millar (Burnside High School) is on the drums. Formed in April 2016, their first single Mill Bay was released in August with an accompanying music video shot and edited by Grace Dephoff and their 5 track EP will be available from the 9th September 2016.
UPDATE 25/9/16 The band’s self-titled EP is now available and embedded below via Spotify:
I was particularly interested in the technology the band used to record the track as well as edit the video, however to understand all of this it was important to learn of the various musical influences on the band.
Elliot is a jazz and big band drummer, representing Burnside High School in various musical competitions.
Fin learnt blues and classic rock guitar, mostly from his father
Anna has been performing for over ten years in musical theatre shows, as a jazz singer in various bands as well as one soul band.
Finn is a classically trained guitarist who plays Spanish flamenco guitar, but bass for Souldrop.
Recording & mastering the audio track:
Most of the audio track was recorded in the St Andrew’s College recording studio with the vocals, drums and bass all being laid down in this environment. The lead guitar parts, however, were recorded in Fin’s bedroom using Apple’s Garageband. Once finished, these guitar recordings were sent to the other Finn (Perring) to add to the other instruments and mix the recording in Apple’s Logic Pro X. To this end, the band never played the entire song together in the same room during the recording process, instead relying on the use of over-dubbing to achieve the best sound.
From a non-musicians perspective, I found this a fascinating way to craft a complete song, through the selective and judicious extracting of various takes of the song and merging them all together in an order that produces the best quality song. Additionally, the song was a very collaborative effort with the idea of the song first coming in a formative stage to Finn Perring around two years ago, before drummer Elliot and lead singer Anna co-wrote the lyrics for the song.
Recording & editing the music video:
Grace Dephoff filmed all of the footage for the video in a single afternoon using a Canon 70D camera with the 16-24mm lens and a 50mm lens borrowed from Mr Dave Jensen who works in the TV studio at St Andrew’s College. There was a limited script for the recording of the music video, instead a desire to keep it as natural as possible for the band members. One of the most clever features of the music video is the fact it is in slow motion, whilst keeping the music and singing in real time.
Grace Dephoff filming the band
This was achieved by having the band perform the song at 1.5x normal speed from speakers that they could hear to help them keep time, whilst Grace filmed at 50fps so that it could be later slowed down to 67% normal speed and still look smooth after this editing had taken place. The end effect makes it look like the band are in time to the song, even though they are in slow motion. Grace had learnt of this technique from a former guitar teacher she and the whole band were thrilled with the end result and how it looked.
To edit the hours of video footage, Grace used Apple’s Final Cut Pro, a tool she was largely self-taught in after graduating from using Apple iMovie for a number of years, including winning numerous prizes at the annual St Andrew’s College Film Fest. All up, she spent around 10 hours editing the footage and another 6 hours completing the colour grading in the video.
Distributing and Promoting the single:
The band are using a combination of word of mouth and social media to get exposure for the first single Mill Bay, combining messages on Facebook, Instagram and, of course, the YouTube channel itself. They have added a number of live performances as well, including lunchtime shows in the St Andrew’s College Quad, an assembly at Burnside High School and a performance at St Thomas of Canterbury College as well. There is a planned interview on 98RDU radio station as well on 14th September.
The song has been released through TuneCore which is a digital media distribution company which automatically publishes the song to the main digital music platforms including Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Shazaam and the YouTube channel the band have created as well. Anna and Finn’s focus at this stage is getting the song out to as wide an audience as possible and any revenue that is generated from the track being played is a bonus. TuneCore will send the band monthly statistics around the performance of the song on the various platforms.
In terms of copyright and protecting the song, the band have chosen to use the Creative Commons licensing platform. They recognise that this license might not stop another band from being able to sample their work, but they will be required to acknowledge Souldrop as the source of the original content for the sample.
The band are keen to keep gigging and playing as many live performances as possible to increase their exposure and improve as a unit. They are also thinking about recording another music video for one of the other tracks on the soon to be released EP.
I have been super impressed with the members of the band that I have met so far, both in terms of their musical ability but also their technical skills to be able to produce such high quality recordings and videos. It is always pleasing to see that skills that have been taught and learnt at St Andrew’s College are finding a creative outlet in the areas of student’s own interests such as being part of a band.
The wider Souldrop crew including Anna Bennetto (back row, second from right), Finn Perring (back row, far right) and Grace Dephoff (from row, first on the left)
This song and video highlight how technology has enabled students to create high quality, professional looking videos and promote them digitally to an international audience. When I pointed this out to Finn, Anna and Grace their reaction was a mixture of pride and nonchalance in the work they had created, highlighting to me just how natural the use of this technology is to students these days. Importantly, they had thought about using Creative Commons to copyright their work demonstrating an inherent understanding of the value of their music and video.
Finally, there is opportunities for this work to be credited against various NCEA internal Achievement Standards in some subjects (mainly English/Music) which would be a serendipitous outcome of what is essentially a passion project for these students. This is, perhaps, one of the biggest outcomes and reasons to pause for thought from this. If schools were able to recognise the creative output of students in areas of their interests perhaps we would finally see the flexibility of NCEA that is often talked about, yet rarely achieved.
As eLearning Integrator at St Andrew’s College my primary role is to encourage innovation in classrooms across the College. One aspect that I particularly like is when a staff member brings an idea, or new product that they have heard about, and want to implement it in their classrooms.
On her return from the 2016 New Zealand Association of Language Teachers Conference one of our French teachers, Mrs Angela Marshall, introduced me to Adobe Spark.
‘I had not come across this product before, and I was instantly hooked on its potential to allow students to create great looking content easily, quickly and effectively.’ – Mrs Marshall
In the first weeks of term, Mrs Marshall found time to further investigate the possibility of using Spark in class. She remained impressed.
‘I was excited by how easy-to-use it was; particularly the speed in which a good product could be produced, the quality of the sound recording, and the sheer number of photo resources that were available for practically any subject’
Canva vs Spark: Easy Web Creation
Only a few months earlier I had been introduce to Canva, and it quickly became my favourite content creation tool. It was not without its limitations, however, particularly around the quantity of images available for free use.
While I have not had the opportunity to use Spark in my own classroom yet, it was pleasing to see that Mrs Marshall’s enthusiasm towards Spark continued into a classroom setting. She set both her Year 9 classes the task of creating a 30 second narrated video that explained 8 prescribed aspects of the life of a person they admire.
Students were given 1 1/2 periods of class time to complete this activity. This class-time included finding the information to include in the presentation, mastering the pronunciation and vocabulary necessarily, and learning how to use the presentation tool. Mrs Marshall was pleased with the results. Pleasingly, students too could clearly see the benefits of using this great tool.
‘This task went smoothly – Spark exceeded my expectations. It was really easy to add images and text, and the microphone clarity was good’ – Jack
‘Spark is like PowerPoint, but with better options. It was particularly easy to use and I could add music, change the layout. I will definitely use it again!’ – Hannah
Spark – A tool I recommend
In the same way that I finished my Teachmeet presentation, I will end here with a strong recommendation to teachers to investigate Adobe Spark. It is a great tool that you, and your students, will enjoy.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the course for Donna has been the ability to collaborate with colleagues from a variety of different schools, and teachers of other year levels. These opportunities for collaboration are an important aspect of educational postgraduate study like this, as Donna describes:
‘It has given me a much clearer understanding of the big picture educational landscape across Canterbury. Engaging with teachers from all sectors has been both enlightening and inspiring.’
A second aspect of the course that Donna has particularly enjoyed is the hands-on time that is spent learning through technology. Donna has thoroughly enjoyed working with stop-motion, robotics, and AR. This increased awareness has manifest in a new-found interest in the potential of concepts such as gamification to help raise engagement and achievement in her English classes.
Finally, she has gained a greater understanding of the theories of leadership, particularly Transformational Leadership in 21st Century Learning.
Applying Learning in the Classroom
Students making stop motion
Whenever staff attend Professional Development courses, one measure of success of the applicability of that development, is the impact that the new learning has on classroom practice. One particularly pleasing aspect of Ms Jones’ participation in the course is the immediate applicability of her new learning.
She has already been able to develop different ways of assessing existing concepts. An example of this is the use of stop motion as a way of assessing understanding of theme within a novel study. She has recently done preliminary work to investigate the use of an ‘Escape Room’ with Year 9 students which complements her implementation of a cross-curriculum project solving real-world problems; used last year.
‘The course has been a reality check and reminder that if we as teachers don’t engage with 21st Century technology and integrate these into ou programmes, we are not providing students with the correct preparation for their future. The pace of change in classroom technology is both exciting and frightening.’
The planning of the unit reflected my desire to account for, and more fully utilise, the extra teaching time that should be released to me due to my Substitution of note taking in class, for the delivery of class notes using OneNote. Last year, my first year using OneNote, I reflected that I was not satisfied with the amount of extra teaching I was able to do to help my students apply the understanding of the material presented in class. I simply could not adequately account for that time.
Basic Unit structure using the SAMR ladder
As part of my planning of the unit, there were specific tasks that I incorporated in order to help student apply the new knowledge, rather than copy it down.
Using Google Earth to Identify Spatial Patterns
One of the most engaging tasks within this unit was using Google Earth to create a resource that identified the spatial patterns that Tourism Development has created in our Geographic Environment; Queenstown. As you know, Google Earth is awesome.
In our case we were interested in the spatial variations in the locations of visitor accommodations; specifically Hotels, Motels, Backpackers and Luxury Lodges, and attractions; both allocentric and psychocentric. A more ‘traditional’ approach would be to have students develop a paper map resource with the specific examples accurately mapped; in fact this approach may well form part of an answer that a number of my students choose to complete during their November NCEA examination. However, by doing a similar task using the Placemark feature of Google Earth, students can create a resource that is much more adaptive and maliable.
Spatial Variation in location of Accommodation
The students found the completion of this task engaging and motivating. After an initial period when a few of them wondered what the purpose of the task was, it quickly became evident to them the power of the layered approach of the data. When it came to discussing and recording the detailed reasons why the spatial patterns existed the students were easily able to create links between the location of accommodation or attractions, and the topography and infrastructure of Queenstown particularly.
The final aspect of the task was adding this summary understanding to the map. This was done by adding a final layer of Placemarks and entering our summary information to the map. Upon completion the placemarks could easily be exported, saved, and shared as a single .KMZ file.
Sharing the Learning
A pleasing aspect of the task was the enthusiasm of the other Year 13 Geography Teachers at St Andrew’s College inviting me into their classes to replicate the task. These students were also fully engaged in the task, and the feedback from these staff was extremely positive. It was great to see a wide range of students, with extremely varying levels of experience with technology, being able to articulate the benefits of the task structure. Hopefully we will see reinforced student understanding of this content when it comes to my revision program for their upcoming examinations!
The aim of this blog is always to share some of the things going on with technology at St Andrew’s College and, wherever possible, provide some ideas and inspirations for other schools as well. Some of these innovations take considerable planning and resources such as our work with PowerBI for Educational Analytics, whereas others like this post about online voting are relatively simple.
Recently, the College’s new Head of Senior College Mr John Ruge approached me about moving Prefect voting to an online system. Immediately, there were some questions around how to do his securely and fairly. Paramount in my thinking was ensuring:
Results were anonymous
Students and staff could only vote once
Restrictions could be placed on the number of potential Prefects one could vote for
Time limits could be enforced for when voting stopped.
A number of people recommended using something like Google Forms or Office365 Forms, both of which are excellent products when used for what they were designed for. The major limitation, however, was there is no way to ensure the voting would be both anonymous and limited to one vote per person. I decided to cast my net a little wider and utilise the excellent Techies For Schools NZ Google Group as well as the Australian MITIE Forum and see if I could crowdsource some alternatives. Some of these included:
It was the latter that caught my attention because it was suggested that using some of the more advanced features around emailing would achieve my main aims of anonymity and restrictions to one vote per person.
SurveyMonkey Setup For Prefect Voting:
We used a basic MS-Query to extract student and staff email addresses and first/last names from Synergetic, our Student Management System. We then loaded these into a CSV file with the first row indicating the header fields:
We needed to analyse votes from three different groups of people:
Secondary School Teaching Staff
Current Year 13 Prefects
Current Year 12 Students
Consequently, we decided to make three identical surveys, but have the different groups above loaded into separate CSV files. Upon setting these up in SurveyMonkey we needed to select “Send by Email” to ensure unique links generated for each voter, rather than a generic link that could be forwarded to people outside the intended voters, or used more than once by the same person:
Choosing “Send by Email” was a key part of achieving the defined aims of online voting.
When choosing “Send by Email” you are invited to submit users from a range of sources and we used the CSV file we had already generated:
You are then able to compose an HTML message to the voter that is sent by SurveyMonkey based off the information from the CSV:
Note the salutation: the use of variables [FirstName] and [LastName] will personalise each email based off the information from the CSV already loaded into SurveyMonkey
Numerous additional variables can be set, some of which we made use of because of our aims included:
Changes: Respondents can change their answers on any survey page until they complete the survey (alternatively you can allow no changes at all, right through to changes after it’s been submitted but before the cut off date
Anonymous Responses: exclude ALL respondent information (names, email addresses, IP addresses, and custom data) from your survey results (we chose this, but you can collect all of the above information if you wished)
Cutoff Date & Time: This was important to ensure timely voting:
The end result, when sent, provided a really smart looking HTML email that encouraged staff and students to vote for 2017 Prefect Leaders:
Note the personalised salutation, the HTML “Vote Now” button and the footer indicating the URL is unique to the recipient.
When votes are opened you can track in real time the number of votes completed, as well as email opens and partial votes, for example:
One of the final tweaks I learnt through this process was how to limit or restrict the number of choices a voter could make from a multi-choice question. This was significant as voters were allowed to select up to twenty student names from the long list of candidates. There were some help instructions available, but the key areas to check were in the options of the multi-choice question:
For this to work “Require an Answer to This Question” is ticked
You choose “at most” for number of choices if you want voters to be able to select up to but not exceeding a number of candidates
You can customise the error message if a voter chooses more than the allowed number of candidates when voting.
With voting completed, it was easy to export as a PDF the graphs showing the candidates with the most votes and allow the leadership team to analyse the data. Now that we know we can generate personalised, single-use and anonymous voting systems through SurveyMonkey I can anticipate we will use this in other areas as well.
Inquiry | Creativity | Collaboration – The role of technology in modern learning
Developing teacher understanding and encouraging implementation of collaborative and digital learning methods
Integrating and encouraging digital technology adoption in curriculum and classroom
The new narrative: IT training and computational thinking
Building technology into the curriculum – lessons, challenges and what we’ve learnt along the way
Collaboration at the forefront of today’s teaching environment
When preparing what I wanted to share at the 40 minute session I had been given, I decided on using the Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum to explain why some examples of eLearning from four St Andrew’s College teachers had been successful. Additionally, I wanted to use authentic student voice to highlight this – fortunately, having been blogging on this site for over two years now there was plenty of examples I could draw on.
Thinking: is about using creative, critical, and metacognitive processes to make sense of information, experiences, and ideas … Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of this competency … [Students] reflect on their own learning, draw on personal knowledge and intuitions, ask questions, and challenge the basis of assumptions and perceptions.
Using Language, Symbols and Texts: Using language, symbols, and texts is about working with and making meaning of the codes in which knowledge is expressed … Students who are competent users … can interpret and use words, number, images, … and technologies in a range of contexts … They confidently use ICT to access and provide information and to communicate with others
Managing Self: This competency is associated with self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners … It is integral to self-assessment.
Relating To Others: Students who relate well to others are open to new learning and able to take different roles in different situations … By working effectively together, they can come up with new approaches, ideas, and ways of thinking.
Participating & Contributing: This competency is about being actively involved in communities … They may be local, national, or global. This competency includes a capacity … to make connections with others, and to create opportunities for others in the group.
I started the session off by highlighting the fact that often ICT is talked about in terms of risk. This can come from security breaches, budget blow-outs and ICT project cost overruns, not to mention distracted and off-task behaviour when using technology. I then posed the following questions:
I wanted to highlight how some of the best examples of effective eLearning from teachers at St Andrew’s College was firmly rooted in Key Competencies. I chose examples from the following four teachers:
Combining OneNote & MineCraft To Create Pick-A-Path Stories:
to produce interactive pick-a-path adventure stories
KC: Using Languages, Symbols & Text
to work collaboratively online to produce an end product
KC: Relating To Others
to create stories to share online with a wider audience
KC: Participating & Contributing
As mentioned above, I wanted to use authentic student voice as much as possible so I included an abbreviated version of the following video so that the audience could hear students articulating their learning and the impact that technology had made:
An insightful quote from the student called Harry was:
The goal was not to just make something pretty in Minecraft, it was actually to improve the quality of your writing … after writing the story, the idea was to look back in Minecraft and see how you could improve the writing you had already completed.
To assist teachers at St Andrew’s College with integration of technology into their teaching and learning, we have adopted the SAMR taxonomy that you can see on the left.
This is a really useful way for teachers to conceptualise how technology might assist the learning outcomes for their students as well as provide them some aspirational goals for extended use of technology. Tom Adams, our eLearning Integrator, has recently written in detail about effective use of the SAMR model which is definitely worth reading if you are new to it. During the presentation, I introduced the audience to a relatively new product from Microsoft called Pulse. This enables the audience to provide real time feedback on a session as well as allowing the presenter to push out questions for quick polls. I asked the audience “What level of SAMR do you feel the Minecraft/OneNote example was operating at?” and below is their response:
Using Microsoft Pulse for instant feedback from the audience
Inspiring Creative Writing Through Constructing Digital Worlds:
The next example I shared was again around creative writing, this time from the High School instead of a Year 6 class. The full reflection can be found here, however the high level overview of the task was as follows (with Key Competencies inserted):
Learning Tasks For This Unit:
Write a short story of ~600 words with a theme of “conflict”
KC: Using Languages, Symbols & Text
Students Must produce at least 4 “drafts”
Drafts must be shared with peers for feedback/feed-forward & act on appropriate advice
KC: Participating & Contributing
What was different about this activity is that students had to build their digital world before they started their writing and use it as a source of inspiration and planning, not just as a reflective tool for editing. Settings were constructed in Sketchup, Paint, Minecraft and the source engine of the game Counter-Strike. Here is a student Ralph talking about his world which I again shared with the conference audience:
Again, I find the language used by the student here informative, with some of his comments being:
“I wanted readers to grasp that the bombs had come from the bank itself”
Clearly, the reader’s experience is at the forefront of his thinking when he is designing his digital world.
He blended his natural enjoyment of the game Counter Strike with his school work and learning – a win/win situation!
Ralph talks about adding a backstory to the real events of the London Bombings, demonstrating a wider awareness of global communities
“As I was designing the level I was constantly thinking of ways I could make the story more interesting.”
This was not just technology for the sake of it – it was clearly shaping and informing his understanding of the creative writing task that was the key learning outcome here.
This was manifested through his drafting process where he removed a lot of the dialogue to improve the narrative flow and added more descriptive text such as the sound of the gunfire
This impressive learning came on the back of an earlier, easier task where the students in the class had leveraged an existing digital world (Google Earth) rather than having to create their own. Through the lens of the SAMR scale this makes perfect sense – the students build their knowledge and experience of digital toolsets in the lower levels of SAMR and once mastered they can progress to more difficult tasks. Here is a write up of the earlier task where students had to explain the significance of setting in a film, and this is a student talking about their comprehension.
Again, it’s important to pick up on the student’s language – the technology is integrally linked to the learning outcomes, it is not merely there for entertainment or distraction. By requiring students to record their personal reflections in this way, students are using a number of Key Competencies.
Communicate Musical Intention By Composing An Original Piece of Music Inspired By Art:
The final example I shared with the audience came from Level 3 Year 13 Music. On the first day of the conference I had been asked to be part of a Q&A Panel about integrating technology into schools and one question from the audience was essentially around what are real world examples of great technology usage in NCEA subjects. The heart of the question was around the challenge of adapting existing assessments to be technology rich and I answered it by a brief description of this example from Mr Duncan Ferguson our Head of Music.
Using AS.91419 (3.4)
KC: Using Languages, Symbols & Texts
Students are required to reflect on their composition and explain the connection with the art that inspired them
These are largely independent projects that the students need to work on themselves
KC: Managing Self
Here is the video of the student reflecting on their learning:
Students were required to watch the instructional videos and then attempt the practice questions
Students needed to regularly complete check lists indicating their progress
KC: Managing Self
Here is an example video made by Mr Hilliam:
What I most liked about this example is that students were not left on their own to just work through it, the teacher is still involved through the process, despite the availability of the instructional videos. The following screenshot is from a OneNote Class Notebook showing how the student has completed their progress reports and the teacher has provided feedback:
I used MS Pulse to ask the audience whether they personally felt that using a “flipped classroom” genuinely created more opportunities for differentiated and personalised learning during class time. Their response was overwhelmingly “yes!”
An alternative way to show poll results from MS Pulse
I concluded my session with the following thoughts:
This week St Andrew’s College has joined in the national celebrations of Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori with a number of different activities. For the first time, we decided to run a Digital Scavenger Hunt that was aimed at getting ākonga (students) and kaiako (teachers) engaging in the celebrations in a fun way through using technology.
This was achieved using a Digital Scavenger Hunt, whereby students had to complete a number of tasks that accrued points based on the level of difficulty or effort required. The following poster was created using Canva and posted around the College and also on the news stream of our Moodle LMS
A handwoven harakeke pikau was 1st Prize
Initially, I was unsure of the best technology to get students to submit their photos and videos to a central location easily, and without needing a specific app or account. I tried to crowdsource some suggestions through my PLN (Professional Learning Network) on Twitter, with ideas of using Padlet, Cluster, Instagram and Google Drive all being suggested. I also thought about setting up an open course on our Moodle site that students could submit photos and videos for the competition through, however the reality is that it is still not super easy from a mobile phone to do this.
In the end, I settled on using the relatively new “File Request” feature that is available free with a Dropbox.com account. The beauty of this is that it significantly lowers the barrier of entry for students as:
They did not require a personal Dropbox account themselves
They didn’t need a specific app on their phone – it worked through a mobile browser on any platform (we tested on iOS, Windows and Android). We used a QR Code and shortened URL to make it easier to type on a phone – http://bit.ly/stac-mlw
Any files they submitted were visible only to me as the Dropbox account – students could not see the entries of anyone else which was important.
Students entered their name and email address when submitting files, so all entries were easily identifiable and Dropbox emailed me as the account owner when a submission was made.
To assist students with how to submit their entries, I made an instructional video using ScreenFlow 6 and a nice new feature in version 6 is the ability to record the screen of your mobile phone. This allowed me to show what to do on the phone to upload photos and video, whilst simultaneously showing what it looked like on the Dropbox account as the files were submitted:
Video showing how to submit photos for the Digital Scavenger Hunt directly from your mobile phone
The competition proved most popular in our Preparatory School, with the majority of entries coming from Year 7 students. Here are a couple of example photos that were entered:
I had a chat with Mr Tom Adams, our eLearning Integrator, at the end of this competition and we both agreed that this is an idea that could be recycled easily for other purposes. Now that we know that Dropbox File Requests is an easy way to submit and receive files via mobile phones this could be used for other Digital Scavenger Hunts with a different theme.
One idea could be an orientation programme for new students, aimed to get them going around the campus to learn where different places/services are located. There are some specific apps aimed at doing this, such as Scavify, but building your own would probably not be too difficult either. In the end, this was a fun and relatively easy activity to build into our celebration of Te Reo Māori at St Andrew’s College.
At St Andrew’s College we are extremely fortunate to have two great staff manning the IT helpdesk; Joshua and Brodie. Frustratingly, as the College’s 1:1 laptop programme nears universal coverage, they continue to see students, and occasionally staff, whose computers have failed, often through no fault of their own. Too often the owners are faced with the, sometimes devastating, realisation that their data is potentially irretrievable. This can be particularly traumatic for students who lose part, or all, of an NCEA assessment.
The catalyst for action on the College-wide promotion of OneDrive as the cloud storage solution for Collegians was the opportunity to test the class-wide implementation with Year 8 students. In an earlier meeting, a Year 8 staff member had mentioned that there was some confusion within his class of what they should be doing, and the ins and outs of using OneDrive as a storage solution. Our solution was to approach all Year 8 teachers and request a period to install OneDrive on the devices of all their students.
With the stability of the Next Generation OneDrive Sync Client we felt that it was prudent to actively encourage students to use this service. Joshua and I gained access to the four Year 8 classes in a two week period – refining the process down to less than 25mins to install and activate the Client on all student devices in a class. There were certain challenges with a small number of students whose devices were set up to stop them installing software on their devices without parental permission – a situation that is understandable for Year 8 students.
The result of this action was that we were happy with the class-wide implementation of OneNote as a feasible way to gain traction within the Preparatory School, and perhaps class-by-class may in fact be the most effective implementation method for students of this age.
Year 9 usage survey
In the Middle School, and Senior College it is perhaps a little more complicated. With upwards of 1000 students it is difficult to find an efficient way to engage students in the process. In an informal brainstorming session it was decided to try a range of approaches in a short period of time to try to raise awareness of OneDrive as a potential secure, online data storage solution.
Poster created for Preparatory Students
To gain a bit more information about OneDrive usage in the school I initially surveyed a Y9 class. It was interesting to discover that, from a group of 26 students, only four were actively backing up their data to a cloud based service – two using OneDrive, and two using Dropbox. This behaviour was not due to ignorance of the risks however, as every student spoken to was able to articulate awareness that their data would be compromised if their computer was stolen, or damaged. This information further solidified my opinion that many of our students are aware, but essentially ambivilent to the risks of losing their data. This, in turn, consolidated my desire to produce a resource to change student attitudes and behaviour in this space.
As a result, Joshua and I have produced a series of four posters, and accompanying videos, to help students engage with OneDrive as a sensible online data storage solution. Because we are a Y1-13 school the posters have been designed to hopefully engage students of different ages, with one produced particularly for a Preparatory School audience and another for Senior College students. The remaining two are for a more general audience.
Example of a more generic poster
An important stage of the production stage was gaining feedback from students. It is important that these posters effectively inform students, and by showing early drafts to students of differing ages we were able to make some important changes, mostly around the clarity of the message, ensuring that it was obvious to the students what their next step should be. This feedback was gained from students who were in Helpdesk, as well as Joshua and I approaching students in different parts of the school asking for direct feedback.
Video resources have also been produced to guide students through both the installation process, and the basic usage of OneDrive as a tool. Care was taken to ensure that we produced videos for both Mac and Windows users. As usual these video resources were stored on the StAC eLearning YouTube Channel.
With the holidays quickly approaching, it will be week one next term when we launch these resources. I am planning a multi-platform approach, with printed and electronic versions of the posters in circulation, deans and tutors emailed, and spoken to, in an attempt to generate a conversation in class, and the instructional videos will be promoted to students via email and the front of the moodle site. I am hopeful that students will engage with this message, and ultimately the payoff will be fewer students in Helpdesk with lost work!