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!

Exploring Film Settings Through Google Earth

An example tour created by Year 10 students

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

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

SETUP & GOAL:

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

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

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

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

GROUP WORK & TIME FRAMES:

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

Students researching and operating Google Earth

Students researching and operating Google Earth

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

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

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

Students recording their tours in quieter spaces outside the classroom

SHARING THE TOURS:

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

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

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

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

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

REFLECTIONS:

Students working groups

Students working groups

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

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

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

Students using SOLO hexagons in class

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

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

Technology Enables Efficiency in English Marking

 

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

Ms Coote describes her new workflow for marking student work

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

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

IMPACT ON WORKFLOWS:

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

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

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

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

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

“There was like triple handling”

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

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

STUDENT FEEDBACK:

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

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

Importantly, however:

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

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

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

SUMMARY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

instructions

Example of OneNote NoteBook with the Excel instructions printed into it

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Innovation & eLearning at St Andrew’s College in 2015

2015 is shaping up to be another exciting year at St Andrew’s College, as we welcome a second cohort into the 1:1 Computing Programme that debuted in 2014. A number of things have been done to support the growing numbers of students with devices at the College including:

  • The creation of a new role called eLearning Integrator, that has been filled by Mr Tom Adams. Tom’s focus will be supporting teachers and students to use technology more effectively in the classroom and the role is a logical extension of the 1:1 Computing Programme that was first planned in 2012.
  • The hiring of an additional ICT help desk staff member, Mr Brodie Dickinson. Brodie joins the team from Adelaide, Australia and his appointment means there will always be quick and friendly ICT support for students and staff when they need it.
  • snapA second fibre optic internet connection has been installed, with support from our ISP Snap Internet. This means the College now has two diverse internet feeds available, so in the event of a fibre cut or outage, the College internet connection will automatically fail over to the secondary connection, ensuring almost seamless internet access for students and staff.

I can see that this year there will be a number of trends that the ICT team will focus on supporting in the classroom and growing the confidence and competence of a wider range of our teaching staff.

Creating An Environment Where Innovation Can Occur:

RectorOne of the themes from the Rector in 2014 was to help create an environment where innovation can occur and in her opening address in Regulus she noted:

I am always mindful that we cannot sit still and simply enjoy the benefits of success. William Pollard (Episcopal priest and physicist) wrote in the 1960s “Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

In this light, we have adopted the theme for St Andrew’s College in 2014 of Innovation and Collaboration – two qualities that are at the heart of 21st century learning.

To support that goal, a Research and Innovation Group was set up that has laid the groundwork for the 2015 Professional Learning Groups (PLGs) that will drive teaching staff Professional Development once again this year. Furthermore, to help create an environment conducive to innovative teaching practices certain things need to occur:

  • Innovators need to be encouraged, rewarded and celebrated. At St Andrew’s this has been done in a number of ways, including creating a new billboard area in the very busy pickup/dropoff zone celebrating teacher excellence. This is the inaugural poster in this area:

Jac and Ben

  • Innovators need to be closely supported – provide them with access to the latest equipment, software and professional development as it becomes available. Ensure that when they experience frustrations there is timely support, as the classroom can be a very lonely place for teachers when technology fails them!
  • Monitor closely what is happening at the “bleeding edge” of technology in education – what’s happening on the fringe today will quite possibly be mainstream in a number of years.
  • As a school, settle on “innovation within parameters” – there is now so much choice available, that there must be some rational decisions made about the broad direction a school is heading in. (I touch on this in my #CENZ14 blog post comparing the choice of Google Apps For Education vs Microsoft Office365)
  • Support innovation at all levels – even the aspirational “first steps” by teachers, and then provide a framework for them to grow their attempts e.g. the SAMR taxonomy
Explaining the SAMR model through coffee

Explaining the SAMR model through coffee

Pulling The Majority Forward:

Innovation Adoption LifecycleSt Andrew’s College is lucky that we have a number of teachers that are routinely trying new things in their classroom. We celebrate this in a number of different ways, including postings on this blog, whilst occasionally these teachers are also recognised externally for their innovative teaching practices. This was the case with Mrs Jac Yoder and Mr Ben Hilliam who were recognised for their innovative work with Microsoft products towards the end of 2014.

Additionally, we are now starting to get requests from other schools, teacher training institutions, subject association groups and other organisations for our staff to present or facilitate professional development in the education sector. Whilst this is very pleasing, the staff involved represent a relatively small subset of our wider teachers – as the diagram above shows, they would be seen as innovators or early adopters. Amongst the remainder of our staff, the early / late majority, most are very keen to try new things but may lack the confidence or support to try new things in their classroom, particularly when it comes to technology.

For this reason, our new eLearning Integrator has the goal of growing the size of our staff innovating and who could become early adopters of technology and best practice in the classroom. Sharing the successes (and challenges!) of these innovative attempts is imperative as it will encourage all of our teaching staff to give it a go.

Tools To Help With Innovative Practice:

An important point not to lose sight of: it's the teacher, not the technology, that makes the difference!

An important point not to lose sight of: it’s the teacher, not the technology, that makes the difference!

I recently saw the image on the right retweeted by one of our staff and it is a timely reminder that for successful learning outcomes the teacher and the student are the critical components in the process. Technology, as great as it is, merely facilitates the learning, as I mentioned in this earlier post:

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.

With this in mind, there are some tools that I expect to see heavy usage of from our staff this year, including:

  • Pro 3 WritingThe Microsoft Surface Pro 3building on our earlier trials, this year we will see over 20 staff using a Pro 3 as their primary device, no longer having a school issued laptop, but instead the excellent Surface tablet. I am personally excited to see what innovative practices come from this relatively new technology in the classroom.
  • notebook creatorOneNote Class NoteBook Creator – this is a big step for St Andrew’s as a largely Microsoft school, and is something I’ve blogged about before. What is especially pleasing is the responsiveness of the developers of this product who have now added the major feature requested by teachers: the ability to have multiple teachers sharing a class notebook.
  • moodleMoodle – freshly upgraded to the latest version (2.8.2) this will continue to be a key platform for teachers and students to access course content, share ideas and submit assessment.
  • Skype – Whilst a number of classes have now enjoyed skype_logothe fun of a Mystery Skype session, the call to Alabama and kapa haka to Singapore among my favourites, I would like to see more collaboration going on between these classes – the logical progression from simply connecting.

Invariably, other tools, websites, apps and services will emerge throughout 2015 as teachers at the College try new things. With the first Mystery Skype session scheduled for February 5th with a class in Oklahoma City, the year will be underway before we know it.

I am looking forward to sharing the stories on this blog for others to read and comment on, with readers having visited the blog from over 100 countries in 2014 (the top three being New Zealand, USA and Australia):

Map

Creative Writing With OneNote & MineCraft

Harry reading his story and showing the world he created in Minecraft

Creative writing can be a topic that even the most competent students find challenging. For the children of Mr Dekkers’ Year 6 class, added motivation was provided by the introduction of “Pick a Path” stories as the format for their creative writing. For those unfamiliar with this genre, the reader is regularly presented with a choice at the bottom of a page – depending on which option they select, the outcome or ending of the story can be quite different.

I was pretty excited by the idea of using Microsoft OneNote to create these stories ever since I had stumbled across the idea in October on the Partners in Learning Network which outlined the learning objectives of this activity as:

  • to produce interactive choose your own adventure stories
  • to work collaboratively online to produce an end product
  • to create stories to share online with a wider audience

I shared the link with a few teachers who I knew would be interested and the timing was perfect for Mr Dekkers’ Year 6 students who were embarking on creative writing as part of an English unit. Already competent OneNote users, the student did have to figure out how they were going to hyperlink between pages in their notebooks, and with this problem solved, the writing began.

Hamish made this cover image using Paint.Net and merged three different images.

Hamish made this cover image using Paint.Net and merged three different images.  CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

To encourage his students to reflect on their writing and be as creative as possible, Mr Dekkers asked them to draw a picture of a scene or the world they were describing, or alternatively to recreate it in Minecraft. In doing so, the students could literally visualise what they were writing about. Their editing from this process was reflected in their OneNote Notebooks by highlighting changes made as a result of their picture or Minecraft world.

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Due to the ease of sharing NoteBooks in OneNote, students were able to read and comment on the progression of the stories and provide feedback to one another or suggest ideas for the direction of the stories.

Desert of Terror

Harry’s story Desert of Terror. CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

With the writing complete, the class had the opportunity to read them all and then voted for the three stories they enjoyed the most. Izzy, Hamish and Harry’s stories were chosen and I had the pleasure of hosting them in the Board Room in Strowan House for a reading of their Pick a Path stories.

 

Izzy's Pick a Path Story called The Black Death Maze. CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

Izzy’s Pick a Path Story called The Black Death Maze. CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, albeit very challenging to complete the stories successfully without coming to a gruesome end by choosing the wrong path! I do encourage you to click on the cover images on the left and read the stories yourself. This is possible because the three students shared their stories in read only mode in OneNote.

When I queried Harry about the reason for using Minecraft he said:

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.

Their ease and confidence in using OneNote was evident and so I took the opportunity to ask them about how they found using this tool in their learning in general.  Hamish commented:

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

Continue reading

Teaching The Teachers: St Andrew’s College Staff Delivering Professional Development

StAC Logo WhiteThe end of the academic year is a busy time in most schools, but also a time that many teachers engage in professional development. It is no different at St Andrew’s College where three hour, small group sessions were organised for all secondary teaching staff as a refresher on eLearning. This professional development was run by Arnika Brown, an eLearning Integrator from Cyclone Computers who has previously worked with teachers in our Preparatory School.

This year has also seen increasing requests by other schools and organisations for our teachers to deliver professional development in the area of eLearning and technology use in the classroom. An example of this is earlier this week our Assistant Head of English Ms Tam Yuill Proctor was invited to deliver a keynote at the Dunedin English Big Day Out conference. The title of her message was “Putting the “E” of E-Learning into Teaching and Learning” and as a summary reflection of presentation she recorded a terrific Office Mix overview (click the slide below to view):

Tam Office Mix

The topics covered in the keynote included:

  • Teaching and Learning: knowledge building, learning communities, practice
  • Office365: Office Mix, OneNote and OneDrive
  • Inquiry Learning: putting it into action with Year 10
  • Blogs and Twitter: effective use of these in professional development.

Other examples of our staff delivering or facilitating professional development in eLearning recently include:

It is excellent to see teachers from St Andrew’s College being invited to share their expertise and experience with the wider teaching community, as it highlights the value our own students are receiving in their tuition. As well as requests to speak at events, the College has hosted numerous staff from other schools on visits to see eLearning in action in our classrooms.

To build on this momentum, St Andrew’s has created a new position starting in 2015 called eLearning Integrator. This role will focus on supporting innovative and best practice in eLearning amongst our teachers and I am confident this will lead to even more teachers being asked to speak at future events.

Moodle Versus OneNote Part 2 of 2

Moodle v OneNoteIn part one of this two part post, I highlighted the various strengths of both Moodle and OneNote and in part two I aim to highlight the relative weaknesses of them as standalone Learning Management Systems (LMS). By doing this, it should become apparent that the two successfully complement each other and provide a compelling feature set when used in tandem.

moodleRELATIVE WEAKNESSES OF MOODLE:

  • Because it is essentially a browser based website, there are some things that are much harder to do compared to a desktop application. The recording and sharing of video and audio content would be an example of this.
  • There is a considerable learning curve in understanding how the numerous menu items work – this has definitely been a turn off for some less confident staff.
  • The potential for “the scroll of death.” Where teachers do not “hide” content, front pages of courses can often need excessive scrolling to find content.
  • Aside from Forums (and some third party Wiki plugins) there is no easy way for students to collaboratively share ideas on a page, or to handwrite directly into any content section.
  • The defined themes / templates within Moodle can make it challenging to customise the look and feel of a course

OneNoteRELATIVE WEAKNESSES OF ONENOTE:

  • There is no ability to easily run assessment with cut off dates. The teacher would be required to manually lock or hide content sections at the end of an assessment to prevent students changing their answers.
  • Similarly, there is no way to prevent students from modifying others’ contributions. Whilst author tracking provides some level of visibility on this, it is time consuming to work through.
    • UPDATE: A few readers have pointed out to me that if you are using the Class NoteBook Creator Tool then each student can have their own private space that only the teacher and the individual student can edit. This is correct and very useful. My original intention was to point out that in a collaborative space, where all students can contribute and see each other’s comments and work, there is no way currently to prevent them from modifying the work of another student.
  • There is no reporting at all – no way for a teacher to tell how many times a student has clicked on a particular link or viewed a particular page.
  • Students need to be manually invited / deleted from a OneNote Notebook (not a massive task, but automatic enrolment into Moodle is a strength of the platform).
  • The disparate feature set across platforms. The Windows client application is by far the best, with functionality reducing on a Mac and iOS devices, and then even more so in the browser based OneNote Online.
  • The inability to embed content. Third party content must be linked to only, requiring students to leave OneNote to view this content.

SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION THEN?

Example of just some of the many options available in Moodle

Example of just some of the many options available in Moodle

It seems to me that both Moodle and OneNote have their own strengths that naturally lend themselves to different aspects of teaching and learning. In my own classes that I teach, I have started to use the two tools in the following ways:

Best Uses of Moodle:

  • Documentary Repository – uploading all content that students may need access to both in class and at home. This would include any Powerpoint presentations, digital “handouts” in PDF or Word formats, as well as links to third party websites and embedded video content. With the built in Moodle reporting engine, I can tell exactly which students have viewed this content and how many times.
  • Assessment – this is Moodle’s real strength as there are numerous ways to securely collect assignments, manage quizzes and obtain original student work via forums. Results can be exported as an Excel document directly from the Moodle mark book for importing into the College Student Management System (SMS) if needed.
  • Revision activities – where students need to practice assessment, be it rote learning with real time marking of key word knowledge, student collaboration on model answers or simply a record of learning progression over the year.
  • Self directed learning – Moodle excels in allowing activities to be made available to students at their pace of learning, with criteria easily set meaning students progress when they have completed the necessary work to a defined standard.
The incredible ease with which OneNote notebooks can be shared through a simple email invite.

The incredible ease with which OneNote notebooks can be shared through a simple email invite.

Best Uses of OneNote:

  • Student class notes – OneNote performs superbly as a digital substitute for the traditional exercise book or ring binder folder for students. They can easily type or write notes directly into pages, annotate with images or audio recordings, and drag their notes around into any layout that makes sense to them.
  • Collaborative work – in both formal and informal contexts, the idea of a “blank canvas” for students to work in is reality with OneNote. When configured with correct sharing it is simple for students to collaboratively build notes, ideas and frameworks together.
  • Shared ePortfolio with teachers or parents – again, because of the simple sharing permissions it is very easy to use OneNote as a personalised ePortfolio of work that a teacher or parent can view at any time.
  • Electronic whiteboard equivalent – if a teacher has configured a shared Class OneNote NoteBook, then they could do all traditional whiteboard notes directly into this, meaning students have a copy of everything that was “written on the board” by the teacher in the lesson (see this blog post as an example of this in action).

CONCLUSION:

As standalone products, both Moodle and Microsoft OneNote perform many of the functions of a traditional Learning Management System, albeit with some significant caveats. In the end, it is likely to come down to how schools see the role of technology in eLearning looking for both teachers and students.

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Student Use of OneNote with Teacher Feedback

If schools want students completing assessment online (as NZQA continues to work towards themselves) then having an assessment engine like the one in Moodle will be critical. Alternatively, if the vision is simply for students to be recording notes electronically and sharing them with teachers and parents, OneNote functions incredibly well in this area.

Ideally, as our teachers and students become more confident in both platforms, they will transition seamlessly between them, choosing the best functions of each to achieve the maximum opportunities for successful learning outcomes.

Design A House: A Rich Task Example In Maths

This is a story of what happens when a Maths teacher looks around for real-world inspiration and then is prepared to “give it a go” when it comes to integrating new technologies into the classroom. The results and learning outcomes are, quite simply, staggering.

The design brief given to students.

The design brief given to students.

Ms Briony Marks, a Year 7 Maths and Languages teacher at St Andrew’s College, had a plan to enliven a Maths unit on Ratios and Proportions, by creating an extension task that required the students to design a house. Using a planning template from the Buck Institute for Educaction the class discussed the assessment criteria and outcomes and included a wider discussion on how the Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum were going to be included into this unit. Here is the completed template used by the class to plan:

Project planThis was a timely project because a number of the students in the class were having new houses built for their families during this unit so they could immediately connect with the learning. By designing a floor plan, the students had to decide on the ratios and proportions of three key areas in their house:

  1. Living Areas
  2. Sleeping and Bathing Areas
  3. Storage and Access
Task l

Task List to help the students focus

To spice up the project and totally hook the students into it, they given the option to use Sketchup, Build With Chrome or Minecraft to design their house in. Ms Marks also created a simple task list of the required jobs that needed to be done to assist with scaffolding this project for the students.

With the task defined, students got to work by initially looking at concept plans by local builders such as Mike Greer Homes, and shading in the different areas they were going to have to design into their own houses. The maths, at this point, was tightly integrated into the inquiry – there was a need by the students to use conversion to change floor plans between millimetres, centimetres and metres. There was also teaching on calculating the perimeter of a house plan and of course the area of the various houses.

Ms Marks classified these as “unexpected extras” in the area of maths that supported the main focus of the unit on ratios and proportions, and there was also other skills being learnt by the students at the same time. One of these was formal communications, with a number of students contacting architects and house builders via email to obtain more information. Class and group discussion covered appropriate email etiquette, and emails were duly sent off, for example:

A Year 7 student's email as part of this design project.

A Year 7 student’s email as part of this design project.

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

Student enthusiasm and engagement in this unit was incredibly high throughout, to the point that a number of students essentially self-taught themselves how to use Sketchup so that they could design a more professional looking home. Two of these boys, went on to present at the Burnside Learning Community Cluster professional development session as I blogged about earlier here.

Summary:

Some remarkable learning took place during this Maths unit that took just under three weeks to teach. It was notable that none of the students in the class had ever used any design software before and to that end, neither had Ms Marks:

I was just prepared to give it a go and learn alongside the students. I had a play with Sketchup in the library one afternoon and two of the boys saw me. By the following Monday they were sufficiently skilled in it to be able to teach others in the class the basics.

Attitude is key here: approaching a new technology with a positive and willing attitude to learn is invariably more successful than being afraid of not being an expert at it.

What really impressed me about this was the natural integration of technology into the learning area, and how deeply embedded the core maths skills were into everything the students had to do to achieve the chosen outcomes. The fact that students had input into the planning at the outset undoubtedly helped with their sense of engagement in the learning process too.

Following the conclusion of this unit, Ms Marks was asked to present a summary of it to at a Preparatory School staff meeting. This is a link to her powerpoint and it covers off her planning and running of the unit.

FOLLOW UP:

Other students in the Preparatory School were invited to come and view the final designs and vote for their favourite. Over 120 votes were cast amongst the students and staff, resulting in the awarding of certificates for the following three categories:

  • Architect’s Choice
  • Teacher’s Choice
  • People’s Choice

Well done to Ms Marks and all her Year 7 students who gave it a go.