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!

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.

Microsoft Brings Handwriting to OneNote For iPad

OneNote NoteBook on a student's iPad

OneNote NoteBook on a student’s iPad

Along with all the great eLearning stories that happen within the classrooms at St Andrew’s College, this blog does also try to cover the occasional product release or update that is pertinent to our students and parents.

This week saw a significant update to the free OneNote iPad app from Microsoft, with two new features introduced:

  1. Handwriting directly into a NoteBook with either a finger or preferably, a stylus.
  2. OCR functionality – allowing for searching within images that have been added to a OneNote NoteBook.
    1. UPDATE: Microsoft OneNote Developers have confirmed to me that OCR functionality is only available in OneDrive (Consumer) and not in OneDrive For Business that schools / workplaces use and rely on.

Regular readers of this blog will know that the College has invested significantly into teachers using the Surface Pro 3 tablets (around 25 teachers now have one as their primary device), and 2015 has seen quite a few students bringing a Pro3 to class each day too. Whilst we do run a fleet of iPads in the Junior Department managed by JAMF’s Casper Suite, the lack of handwriting or drawing within the free OneNote app on an iPad has always been a significant drawback.

Until now.

I decided to create a quick video highlighting the handwriting feature of OneNote for iPads, and included the necessary steps to connect with the College’s Office365 account (all OneNote NoteBooks on an iPad must be stored in OneDrive or Sharepoint Online – they can not be stored locally on the iPad only).

The other new feature that is bound to be prove helpful to students is the OCR functionality – in Microsoft’s release notes they say:

With today’s update, text within any image inserted into a notebook saved on OneDrive will be searchable in OneNote on all PCs, phones and tablets, as well as OneNote Online. Once added, the OneNote service will process it and it will start showing up in search results typically within a few minutes.

Searching text within an image inserted into OneNote on an iPad

Searching text within an image inserted into OneNote on an iPad

It is primarily in our Preparatory School that we have seen lots of iPads being used by students and with this update I am sure there will be a re-examination of their usefulness in the classroom, given the tight integration into Office365.

Microsoft OneNote Usage At St Andrew’s College

This post was originally written for publication at the official Microsoft OneNote In Education blog.

2014 was a year that saw significant increases in usage of Microsoft OneNote at St Andrew’s College and there were a number of factors that contributed to this, including:

  • Continued promotion of OneNote by earlier adopter teachers such as Mrs Jacqueline Yoder which led to uptake amongst her fellow teachers in the English Department and beyond. Her story was eventually published in the College quarterly magazine in an article entitled OneNote To Rule Them All.
  • The transition from Microsoft Live@Edu to Office365 that occurred at the end of 2013 allowed for tighter integration of cloud hosting of OneNote notebooks, thus increasing both the access to notebooks from any device as well as promoting true collaboration between students and teachers.
  • The release of the more fully featured OneNote for Mac application was significant as this allowed students at St Andrew’s that owned an Apple Mac to be able to connect to Notebooks hosted in OneDrive for Business. Approximately 50% of our students in the 1:1 laptop programme brought a Mac to school so it was imperative that they could use OneNote natively on their laptops.
  • The ongoing trials with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 highlighted the benefits of a pen / touch interface when using OneNote, with teachers committing to using OneNote more effectively in the classroom, in anticipation of getting a Surface Pro 3 in 2015.
  • The release of the OneNote Class Notebook Creator tool finally showed an easier way to create notebooks for teachers where every student could easily see and share content. Prior to this tool, teachers were receiving up to 27 shared notebooks from students per class making it unwieldy to manage class notebooks.
  • Ongoing professional development sessions were being offered to staff both formally and informally, allowing them to learn how to use OneNote in their classrooms more effectively or for collaboration with other teachers in their Departments or Syndicates.

Old to NewWhilst the above reasons have all contributed to increased usage of OneNote amongst staff and students I believe that one of the biggest reasons for the success of OneNote is the interface. The layout is reminiscent of a traditional ring binder folder with coloured tabs that all students and teachers can relate to. Additionally, the “blank canvas” approach to the notebooks means users are not confined to dimensions of a page and can arrange content, text, images, hyperlinks and comments anywhere they choose. This freedom is appealing, whilst still being supported by optional page templates and the ability to insert lists, to-do items and other organisational elements. As Mrs Yoder noted for her English students:

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

Curriculum Areas Where OneNote Is Being Used:

St Andrew’s College is the equivalent of a K12 school and one of the most pleasing aspects of the Office365 deployment has been the uptake amongst our Preparatory School. Whilst this has mostly been in the Years 5-8 classes (students aged approximately 9-12yrs old), some of the usage has been incredible. Below is some examples of OneNote usage across the school in different curriculum areas:

Preparatory School

ePortfolio in OneNoteMr Wilj Dekkers joined the College in 2013 and immediately embraced the benefits of using OneNote with his Year 6 students both in class and also for their home learning (homework). I was talking to some of his students in late November after nearly a year of using OneNote and their ease and confidence in using the programme was evident. A student called Hamish commented:

OneNote is really good because we can all go on it at the same time – we have even done debates on it!

Another called Izzy noted that whilst the other Year 6 classes were using traditional exercise books for their home learning, they weren’t:

We have not done one piece of home learning in a book all year – it has all been completed in OneNote.

Mr Dekkers did take time to help the students setup an individual OneNote notebook at the start of the year which they then shared with him. He could then see all students’ notebooks and his planning directly within OneNote on his computer.

Titles in red have been added to highlight different features of the ePortfolio

Titles in red have been added to highlight different features of the ePortfolio

With the platform in place, students were then able to use OneNote as a planning and collaboration tool in a variety of different learning areas such as writing “choose your own ending” stories within OneNote. Below is a video showing a student reading his story and also navigating through a virtual world in MInecraft he created based off his OneNote writing:

You can read the stories they wrote directly in OneNote Online since they shared them with guest access – Desert of Terror, The Black Death Maze and Island Adventure. There was a strong focus on effective editing throughout the creation of these stories, with students using the highlight feature in OneNote to indicate passages they had reworked (often through visually “seeing” their world they had created in Minecraft). Similarly, students were encouraged to share their drafts with their classmates so they could receive feedback and suggestions on the development of their stories.

Another usage of OneNote by students in Mr Dekkers’ class was during an inquiry learning project on Kiwiana – features that are unique to New Zealand. Again, there was significant usage of a range of features offererd within OneNote:

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

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

To watch a video of the students sharing their Kiwiana Minecraft world and reading their presentation from OneNote on an iPad click here.

English Department

Corrections and comments on student work via OneNote

Corrections and comments on student work via OneNote

In many ways, the English Department have been leaders in OneNote usage at the College, with a number of teachers tightly integrating it into their classroom teaching. The Rector of St Andrew’s, Mrs Christine Leighton, commented that it is exciting to see how teachers at the College are embracing opportunities through e-Learning.

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

It is precisely in these areas of collaboration and sharing that OneNote excels, with Mrs Yoder saying It started as a way to help her students organise their notes, but she quickly found that Microsoft’s OneNote had a lot more potential.

“It has an extensive collaborative capability which allows students access to all my folders, and lets me see their work … My two English classes don’t have books they only use OneNote – that’s their method of storing all of their work and assessments.”

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

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

This involves inserting a video into her feedback providing a medium for more detailed analysis. It’s a different way of marking and works for students who struggle with English and find it difficult to read a marking schedule. For her work with OneNote, Mrs Yoder was named a Microsoft New Zealand Innovative Educator (along with Mr Ben Hilliam from the Maths Department) and in the following audio clip she explains how OneNote has helped her students:

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/58349924/Blog%20Data/Jac%20OneNote.m4a]
Video Response to Introductory Letter

Video Response to Introductory Letter

Another teacher in the English Department making extensive use of OneNote is Dr Jeni Curtis who set herself a goal with her Year 9 students in 2014 to be completely paperless by using a combination of OneNote and Moodle. She found that through using OneNote her students’ engagement and enthusiasm for writing actually increased.  Her use of recording video and audio comments directly into the notebooks of the students was particularly well received, especially from parents with one taking the time to send her the following the feedback:

I must congratulate you with using OneNote for marking the children’s writing. Callum showed me the video clip commenting on one of his assignments. It was really impressive and useful. It is such a great use of technology and had helped Wayne and I appreciate the use of technology in classroom environment … I have seen [Callum’s] shifts of interests from not liking writing to enjoying writing in the last 2 assignments, which is wonderful.

As any teacher will confirm, receiving unsolicited feedback like this from parents is both rare and extremely gratifying and was a great encouragement at the beginning of the year for Dr Curtis to progress with her “paperless classroom” goal. Continue reading

Teaching the Teachers: A Visit From Microsoft Australia’s National Education Specialist

This post was guest written by Mr Ben Hilliam after St Andrew’s College hosted Mr Travis Smith, Microsoft Australia’s National Education Specialist in December 2014.

In December 2014, St Andrew’s College had the privilege of hosting Microsoft Australia’s National Education Specialist, Travis Smith. He spent a week touring New Zealand talking to educators from primary through to tertiary sectors about how they can use technology to improve learning outcomes. Although this sounds like an arbitrary topic for a speaker from Microsoft, Travis focussed continually on how improved learning takes place and the technology was very much an accompanying instrument to this drive.

Travis SmithThe Power of The Pen:

Travis spoke very broadly at first about how we need to target where we want to see innovation in using digital technology, otherwise, schools’ pedagogical progress can be flapped about by what any particular teacher wants to focus on at any time. The challenge is to get 80%+ of your educators being actively innovative in their practice. A hurdle that Travis identified to this goal is the way we educate our educators.

As teachers we can be quite innovative with the way we teach content and facilitate inquiry for our students, but ask us to do the same for our co-workers and we get into lecture mode. Travis suggests that when it comes to getting educators to become innovative in their practice:

  1. They first need to become familiar with the technology they are going to use.
  2. Secondly they need to develop a skills base with that technology.
  3. Then finally, they need to have be given the time and opportunity to implement it into their learning/teaching processes.

That three step process seems simple, however, most school professional development opportunities miss out steps 1 and 2 and jump straight to 3.

The technology that Travis spoke at length about in his presentation, is one dear to my own professional development: The Power of the Pen. We have been in an era of digital technology for 40+ years now. Computers have been in schools in some way or another for well over 30 years. For the last 20 years every high school student by the time they have left school has spent quite some time using a computer. And now probably the majority of schools run some kind of BYOD or 1-1 computer programme. However, for certain aspects of learning, digital technologies have made very little progress on changing or adapting the way they are taught. My subject area, Mathematics, being one of the main unaffected areas. The reason for this is because many types of thinking are best supported by pen and paper. Travis cites this research in support of this.

Personal Reflections On Using A Pen In Mathematics Teaching:

I would like to reflect on how my innovation process worked with my adoption of the pen (or stylus) and Microsoft SurfacePro when incorporating digital technologies into teaching and learning:

  1. Becoming familiar with the technology: As I sit and write this post at my parents-in-law’s house during my summer break, it is here where three years ago, my brother-in-law showed me his iPad with a stylus. I had a play around with an app called Paper. The stylus was quite good with the iPad, but had the drawback of not working when your palm rested on the screen. However, it was enough to whet my appetite and I could immediately see the advantage of a digital canvas in a world with cloud sharing. I convinced my school to let me be a forerunner with this technology and after I put the case to them, they invested in an iPad and stylus for me to use in my classes.
  2. Building skills with the technology: My iPad became my new whiteboard and notebook. I could cast my screen to my projector, deliver my content that way, and still have a copy to share with my students afterwards. I still had the frustration of having to have a magazine between my palm and the screen, but I felt I was moving in the right direction and feedback and marks from my students did not contradict me. I moved to a new school (St Andrew’s College) which was Microsoft only, so I needed to adapt. They provided me with a SurfacePro and I continued as I had with the iPad with some added advantages: I could now write naturally with my palm on the screen, my notes were always live and organised through Microsoft OneNote and I had a fully-fledged computer at my fingertips. Here is an example of how I used it.
  3. Implementing technology into my teaching and learning process: I am now able to approach 2015 running, with three of my classes now in a 1-1 computing environment. My students can have their learning their own way, either my “chalk and talk” projected in class, or watched again afterwards having been recorded and posted using OfficeMix or in some cases watch content in advance. On their own devices they all have a communal OneNote along with their own personal OneNotes that I have access to as well. And for those students also with a stylus enabled device such as a Microsoft SurfacePro or a Lenovo Yoga, they can toss their paper books aside.

As I reflect on how this process has played out for me, I can see I have built an innovative practice into my everyday pedagogy and it is now embedded. However, this whole process has taken around two years and required support from my successive HOD’s, senior managers and IT staff. If schools want to emulate this process they first need to create an environment where these things can all come together.

Further Information:

To watch a similar presentation to the one Travis presented at St Andrew’s College, watch the YouTube clip below:

Freemium: Students Can Be The Winners On The Day

freemium

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

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

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

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

How Is This Impacting Schools?

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

  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft
  • Amazon
  • Google

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

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

And so it goes on …

Should We Be Concerned?

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

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

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

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

Therein lies the problem.

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capture

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

Here is a sample of some student work:

Capture1

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

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

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

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

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