Combining OneNote & Moodle For Assessment Submissions

OneNoteOne of the great things about Microsoft OneNote is the ease with which teachers can provide feedback to students on their work, helping them to develop their ideas towards the submission of assessment. This was explained in detail by Ms Helaina Coote, our Head of Department for English, in this earlier blog post.

moodleHowever, as the internal assessment season ramps up in 2015 a number of teachers have approached Tom Adams and I about how to “lock” OneNote notebooks to prevent students modifying content after the submission date. Whilst there are some work arounds, such as password protecting sections or moving them to a “read only” section in a teacher’s OneNote notebook, these are not always easy or intuitive as I explained in this post comparing the strengths and weaknesses of Moodle and OneNote.

Together, Tom and I thought about a better workflow for teachers and students to use and settled on the following simple process:

  1. The teacher creates an “Assignment” task in Moodle setting the due date to be when all students need to have the assessment completed and handed in by.
    1. The option to allow “late” submissions exists within Moodle too, clearly showing to the teacher in red how many hours/days overdue the submission was. This could be useful in scenarios where students were away for legitimate reasons.
  2. The student exports either their page, section or entire OneNote Notebook into a PDF file on their local computer.
  3. The student goes to their Moodle course, clicks on the assignment and then drag ‘n’ drops the PDF file for upload and submission.
    1. The teacher can optionally include to have all students “sign” the authenticity agreement by clicking the “accept” each time they submit an assessment.
  4. Once the due date is reached, the teacher can bulk download all of the submissions for offline marking, moderation storage purposes or printing and returning.

The ease of this process is outlined in this six minute video showing all of the above:

By using this process, a number of things can happen:

  • There can be no dispute about when the assignment was submitted
  • There can be no “losing” the submission because it’s stored on Moodle
  • All assignments are stored in one place with a single click to download all assignments into a folder for marking / moderation.
    • This also reduces the need for the Teacher to “harvest” the submissions from a variety of sources that students may have submitted by e.g. email, printed and left at the teacher’s desk or office etc.
  • Students can be required to “sign” the authenticity statement for every assessment they submit within Moodle.
  • Moodle supports the use of http://turnitin.com/ – an online tool for verifying the authenticity and originality of a submission. Whilst this costs, it would allow students to improve their work before a final submission and also support teachers in ensuring the submission is the original work of the student.

turnitinTransBack400pxOn the St Andrew’s College website we share a number of reasons why we use technology in our classrooms, with one of them being preparing students for tertiary study and the workforce. The vast majority of tertiary institutes now require students to submit assessment online – by teaching our students to manage their time and to become accustomed to this form of assessment submission, they are being prepared for life beyond St Andrew’s.

At this stage, there is no formal requirement for students to only submit their assessment via Moodle in this way. However, with the obvious benefits outlined above, along with the potential to include Turn It In to further assist in the originality and authenticity of student work, it is an idea that we presented to the combined Heads of Department meeting this week. There will be further discussion over the coming weeks and it may be something that we trial later this year.

Reflections from the AIS NSW ICT Leadership & Management Conference 2015

AISI have been fortunate to attend the AIS NSW (Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales) ICT Management and Leadership Conference over the last few days and I thought I would share a few reflections on it here. As this post will be quite long, you can see the various sections I’ll touch on here as an index and you can skip to what you may find relevant:

  • Keynote from Dr Jane Hunter: High Possibility Classrooms
  • Jeff Utecht – The Continuum of Digital Citizenship
  • Matt McCormack – ICT Security – Making the most of what you have
  • Various Presenters – 7minute Tell Sessions
  • Rose Elsom – Continuous Online Reporting with Moodle and Sharepoint
  • Northern Beaches Christian School – Student Media TV Crew

Introduction:

Hosted in the Canberra National Conference Centre, the organisation of the event was top notch, co-ordinated by the very useful app from GuideBook.com. This app (available free on iOS, Android, or the web – click here) provided all the necessary information at the touch of a button, including any last minute changes to sessions or venues – all updated automatically for conference delegates:

Screenshots of the GuideBook App

I can see plenty of potential uses for an app such as this, where the co-ordination of complex events (conferences, Centenary celebrations etc) can be easily achieved and all delegates or visitors can be confident of having the latest information to hand.

UPDATE: The GuideBook app is only free for the first 200 downloads. If you need more than 200 downloads then the cost is around US$1700.

Keynote from Dr Jane Hunter: High Possibility Classrooms

high possibility classroomsDr Jane Hunter is an educational researcher who presented on her research into High Possibility Classrooms. This was a very interesting session to start the conference with and it was encouraging to see very recent academic research into the impact of technology in education. It is worth noting that this research looked at “exemplary” teachers, those that were already very proficient with technology and used it daily within their classrooms. You can read in detail about Dr Hunter’s research here:

One of the exemplary teachers that was used in the research used an interesting inquiry model based on the acronym QUEST:

  • Question;
  • Uncover
  • Explain
  • Share
  • Together

It’s a simple idea that could be very useful in a range of classroom contexts. Another concept that she introduced was the TPACK model in eLearning. It’s similar to the SAMR model that we have explored previously on this blog and put simply, TPACK is:

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology

TPACK-new

Jeff Utecht – The Continuum of Digital Citizenship

Jeff Utecht presented on Digital Citizenship in an engaging and interactive session that was broken up by his encouragement for us to quickly discuss our own experiences with the people around us. He started by posing the question “What is the biggest challenge with Digital Citizenship?” before suggesting:

Many schools are simply paying lip service to Digital Citizenship, but are not actually integrating it effectively into their curriculum.

Throughout his presentation he presented information from this section of his website and provided a few interesting statements such as:

  • The average age a child touches a device in a classroom in the USA is 6yrs old – why then are we waiting another 3-5yrs before we start teaching Digital Citizenship?
  • Peer to peer cyber-bullying is a far greater threat than encountering an anonymous online cyber predator.
    • He suggested a new study found that a child has the same level of risk at being picked up at a public park than being approached online by an anonymous cyber predator
  • The current school age generation is living “public first, private second” – in other words, they are sharing their lives online with others immediately.
  • In the USA, most children by the age of 5yrs old have had around 3000 photos of them shared online – by the parents and wider family.
  • 85% of universities in the USA google prospective students before offering them a position.

His session was interesting and in places quite challenging, particularly around how he sees the need for schools to engage with social media (for example, he proposes all schools should have an online community / social media manage position – he even wrote a job description for it). Continue reading

Students Catch The Blogging Bug

Isla Evison and Harrison Cooper (creator of the blog for the trip) at Brockenhurst

Isla Evison and Harrison Cooper (creator of the WW1 European Tour blog for the trip) at Brockenhurst

The StAC eLearning Blog is now over 18 months old, something that I find amazing when I pause to reflect on all the incredible stories we have been able to tell about innovative and engaging eLearning happening around the College. One thing that I am especially pleased about is the increasing number of “tip offs” I get from teachers – suggestions to go and chat with other teachers they know that are doing amazing things in their classrooms with their students. Additionally, more teachers are now telling me they regularly check out the posts and find they are motivated and challenged to try new things in their classrooms too.

In the last week of Term 1, Mr Simon Williams (Head of Television and Media) mentioned that he had been sharing this blog with some senior students who were about to head away on a WW1 Commemorative Tour of Europe in the holidays and he asked if I could help them set up a blog to record their journey. Excited by both the nature of the trip and also the possibilities of students engaging with their co-curricular learning via blogging I met with Harrison Cooper to discover more of what he was hoping to achieve.

Together, we settled on using a WordPress blog (similar to this blog) and we discussed the various themes and how some would potentially engage the readers more than others. We agreed that whilst some of the fancier themes were very cool, with menus that minimised completely to avoid distractions, some of the readers of the blog might not be able to navigate as easily around the blog. This was going to be important, because I taught Harrison how to use category pages within his menu structure, so that posts could be dynamically filtered based on the different locations they visited e.g. Gallipoli, France, Belgium etc. Here is the end result:

Note the names of locations under the main image - these are dynamic pages filtering and displaying blog posts only from those locations.

Note the names of locations under the main image – these are dynamic pages filtering and displaying blog posts only from those locations (click the image to visit the blog).

The other conversation we had was around image ownership – whilst there are many photos on the internet from WW1 that would serve as an excellent banner image, most were copyright and could not be used. This was an excellent chance to discuss Digital Citizenship and link back to one of the three core values in our Digital Citizenship policy:

Respecting the ownership and intellectual property of content they find online by accurately referencing the owner or site they obtained content from and by not engaging in piracy of software or other digital media

creative commons licenseTogether, Harrison and I did a quick google for images that were licensed by Creative Commons and quickly found websites such as the Wiki Commons WW1 Images and a Flickr WW1 Gallery from Oxford University that was licensed under the CC BY meaning the images could be shared or adapted provided appropriate credit was given. I left it up to Harrison to find the final images that he wanted for the blog, along with showing him how to use tags to help label each blog post by author and topic. I mentioned to him that once his blog was ready, I would put it on the front of the College Moodle site to increase the visibility amongst the students at St Andrew’s.

A number of students have contributed blog posts whilst the trip has been ongoing and even our Rector, Christine Leighton, has written a reflection on the trip as well as thoughts on the moving memorial at Brockenhurst a site in south east England where 21,000 wounded New Zealand soldiers were cared for during WW1. This visit was picked up by TV3 News and you can read the full story here and see a video of this here:

Click the image to load the TV3 news site and video

Click the image to load the TV3 news site and video

The WW1 tour blog quickly gained over 80 followers, who would receive an email update each time a blog was posted, and showing just how engaging the content was for readers, it has received a number of comments for the various posts. This one shows how appreciative readers are of the student’s blogging about their trip:

Thank you for the various articles and photos. It is a great way to follow the trip and also share your travels and observations with my family and friends. We are all very impressed by the way your group is representing our country and remembering those brave men and women who fought in WW1.

The WW1 European Trip blog is not the only blogging that has been happening by students at St Andrew’s College over the Term 1 holiday break. Twice a year, students head to Cambodia as part of the College’s commitment to community service and for the last few trips, students have been blogging about their time in Cambodia:

Cambodia

The students take turns co-authoring a blog post in pairs, providing an overview of what activities they have participated in and seen as well as personal reflections – some of which are very moving, an example being reflections from the trip to the Orphanage:

The orphanage was one of the biggest highlights of the trip, and a day that has been highly anticipated by the group … During the day, we as a group witnessed how little we had to do, to make one of these kids smile … As we said our goodbyes and headed onto the bus, hugs, handshakes, presents and tears were exchanged through the windows. The experience was amazing, tiring, emotional and rewarding. The only downside was that we didn’t get to spend more time with them.

It is pleasing to see these two examples of student-led blogs reaching a wide and authentic audience, providing a platform for students to meaningfully reflect on their experiences. There are other teachers who are encouraging their students to blog as well and based on the success of these two, I anticipate more teachers may explore this as an option for student writing as well.

Suspect: The Murder Mystery Musical

banner

Mr Duncan Ferguson, Isaac Shatford and Ms Ginny Thorner.

Mr Duncan Ferguson, Isaac Shatford and Ms Ginny Thorner.

UPDATE: This story profiled on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp on Friday 24th October and can be seen here.

The buzz around St Andrew’s College lately has all been focused on the annual Middle School Production, largely for the fact it has been mostly written by Year 13 student Isaac Shatford, with contributions from a number of other senior students in the area of lyrics and plot. I knew something like this would always involve significant use of technology as the Musical Director was Head of Music Mr Duncan Ferguson, and was actually the first person I interviewed for a story for this blog.

Consequently, I sat down for an hour with him to learn what was involved and was impressed to learn that the following tools were just some that were used during the composition and performance of Suspect:

Quite a list! So how exactly were these being used?

Selection of Scenes from Suspect for Seven Sharp

COMPOSITION & REHEARSAL: 

Noton on iPad

Notion on the iPad

For starters, one of the challenges was that the orchestra members and cast needed to start rehearsing before the score was actually completed and with extensive collaboration ongoing between Isaac, Mr Ferguson and Ms Thorner there needed to be some way for them to see updates.

The answer was to use a combination of a shared folder in Dropbox, which was storing the score files being written in Notion. This allowed the three contributors to always be able to see the latest edits of the score at any time and also contribute edits and corrections that the others would receive immediately. The use of Notion also allowed Mr Ferguson to check the tempos and help the students ensure they were keeping accurate time with their playing. He did note, however, that the one drawback with Notion is that it doesn’t automatically update when the source files change. This was overcome by the notifications from Dropbox which would alert each of those working on the score that new changes were available.

As the product was used on both MacBook laptops and on an iPad, Mr Ferguson could use the iPad to play the score directly during rehearsals. He also used a Bluetooth foot pedal which would automatically “change pages” of the score on his iPad when playing, and if there were any changes required during rehearsals he could make them directly on the iPad, with the changes being synchronised back to Isaac in real time. This process created a great digital workflow for the writers and I asked Mr Ferguson to walk through how this looks:

“Loves a Lie” a song not completed in time for the show but will be included in the professional soundtrack recording in November.

There were a number of benefits of using Notion which included:

  • It resulted in far less printing of scores, as the digital sharing via Dropbox enabled real time collaboration to take place. In the future, it would be ideal if all orchestra members had iPads so they could also get updated copies of the latest scores in real time.
  • Because of Mr Ferguson’s other departmental commitments he could not attend every rehearsal of Suspect, but because of the excellent quality sound recordings created by Notion then the other staff involved in running rehearsals could work with the correct tempo music (particularly important for the dance choreography).

Tempo Advance AppNotion does focus on orchestral sounds and was not so strong in drums and bass, so Pro Tools was used to round out the music in this way. During orchestral rehearsals Mr Ferguson used an iPad app called Tempo Advance which allowed him to program the tempos for all the songs into a playlist and just work through them directly.

Technology has definitely allowed for the streamlining of the writing process of this show, resulting in a remarkable nine month period between the conception of the idea and the production of the show. As mentioned above, rehearsals had to start before the script was completed and to aid the students in practicing, video clips of the songs and music were embedded into a dedicated Moodle course to increase access e.g.

Moodle MusicSongs and lyrics were also distributed via Moodle in this way – with a nice mention about respecting copyright ownership of Isaac Shatford (Digital Citizenship should be taught in all classes after all!)

Moodle was later supplemented with a closed Facebook group for cast members, allowing for even further reach for sharing and practicing. Here is an example of the theme song recorded by senior students for the Middle School cast members to practice with:

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/58349924/Blog%20Data/1%20Murder%20in%20the%20night.mp3 ]

Murder In the Night – practice recording

This reveals one of the benefits of doing a show like this that was written by a student at the College: the ability to work directly with the score, modify and share it with cast and orchestra members directly. This is simply not possible with major productions that are licensed for performance (such as the Senior Production Guys and Dolls performed earlier this year).

I questioned Mr Ferguson how common this sort of “digital workflow” is amongst other schools and he believes it is essentially unique within New Zealand, describing it as the perfect model for other schools to consider implementing. He did admit, however, that working with Isaac made it easier:

Isaac is a musical prodigy, a stunning musician and I’ve never know another student who was able to produce this amount of work to this quality ever before. He’s written great songs, but it is the sheer amount of songs he has written that is just unheard of. There has been nothing to this level that has ever happened before to the best of my knowledge.

PERFORMANCE ON THE NIGHT:

Set design for the stage show Suspect

Set design for the stage show Suspect

Due to the complex set design, members of the orchestra could not all see the stage (see image to the left). To help get around this, Year 13 student Ella Harris came up with a simple, yet ingenious, workaround as explained by Mr Ferguson:

I had the iPad Mini beside my keyboard near the orchestra, and I placed an iPhone at the back of the auditorium that could easily see the entire stage. Before the performance started I simply started a Skype video call between the two devices, meaning I could see everything happening on stage at any time.

It is this type of thinking, use of technology and problem solving, that typifies what happens in the music department at St Andrew’s College. It was also during live performances that Mr Ferguson used MainStage 3 with a Midi keyboard plugged into his MacBook Pro to play the glockenspiel during performances.

During the first performance of Suspect Head of Culture Sophie Wells and Mr Dave Jensen from the TV & Media Studio, were tasked with using HD video cameras to film the show with some close up shots. Whilst the final performance was going to be filmed by the College’s TV & Film crew, it would be shot only from the back of the auditorium making close up shots challenging. With the performance captured, Mr Ferguson used Final Cut Pro to edit the two camera feeds into a rough mix of the entire show and then shared it with the cast members via the closed Facebook group.

This allowed them to reflect on their performances and actually see and hear in detail what guidance they were receiving from Ms Thorner and Mr Ferguson about their performances and to truly “get” the message.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/58349924/Blog%20Data/More%20than%20just%20a%20friend.mp3 ]

More Than Just A Friend – practice recording

 SUMMARY:

It’s pretty clear from this blog post that significant amounts of technology are deeply embedded into the practices within the Music Department at St Andrew’s College, and that they serve to enhance the creation and production of top quality music.

It’s worth reiterating that when talking to Mr Ferguson it was very clear that the use of this technology was always targeted around efficiency gains in collaboration and never simply because “they could.” Ultimately, this is how technology can assist learning outcomes – when used authentically and deeply integrated into the learning it is a fantastic tool, and in this case one that made the production of a show possible within only nine short months.

Storybird Helps Young Authors To Fly

The annual Preparatory School Book Week Parade

The annual Preparatory School Book Week Parade

I’ve mentioned a few times how exciting it is to get tip-offs from staff about the awesome things happening in the classrooms of their fellow teachers, and this time it was our Library Manager Mrs Cathy Kennedy providing the inside scoop.

She mentioned that Year 5 teacher Mrs Mary Leota had been using a product called StoryBird to promote writing amongst her students in the lead up to the annual Book Week festivities that happen at St Andrew’s College. I took the chance to talk this process through with Mrs Leota and it was interesting how the process of story writing had evolved for her students as they learnt the fundamentals of the editing process and also the relative strengths and limitations of Storybird. The Storybird website describes it’s services as follows:

Storybird lets anyone make visual stories in seconds. We curate artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspire writers of any age to turn those images
into fresh stories.

The students in Year 5 were keen to write picture books for the students in Year 1 – many of whom were siblings of the older children.

The First Draft:

They started out writing their drafts in their exercise books as they normally would and then attempted to write them into Storybird. One of the great functions of this product is that key words generate suggested images e.g. if the story was about a rabbit then a range of illustrations of rabbits would be presented for the students to choose from.

Whilst this was great, what they soon realised was that they could only choose a single artist’s collection of artwork per story – they could not mix and match. As they discussed this perceived limitation, they realised the value in this: the story would become quite disjointed if the images were a mixture of styles and themes.

The Second Draft:

Having learnt from this, the students abandoned the first draft and instead looked through the collections of artwork from the various artists and then chose a set of illustrations they wanted to work with. They then used this collection to inspire their story writing, matching the narrative to the individual pictures they had selected.

Here is an example of a story called Sara Couldn’t Find Her Way Home:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Discussing Digital Citizenship:

One of the great features of Storybird is that it allows the stories to be published online for reading by a wide audience. This realisation generated both excitement and some problems for our students as they had to learn two important lessons:

  1. Once you hit “publish” you can’t edit your work anymore. This reinforced the need to hone the drafting process – proof reading and checking they were happy with the story before they hit the very tempting publish button!
  2. Feedback through the comments option needs to be constructive. Even throw away comments like “eww that is stupid” are unhelpful and when these comments can be read by anyone, not just other members of the class, they quickly learnt to be more measured in what they posted as comments.

These conversations were talked over at length with Mrs Leota and from my perspective, are critical things to weave into the wider learning experience that was taking place here. Whilst the focus of the class was on writing stories, the use of technology, appropriate ways to feedback online and the importance of editing drafts were all part of the learning outcomes for the students. Here is another story called Hannah’s Adventure:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Final Thoughts:

One of the most pleasing aspects of this process from Mrs Leota’s perspective was a piece of feedback she received from a mother of one of the boys in her class who told her:

My son is such a reluctant writer and hates having to write anything and yet I could hardly get him off the computer at home last night because he was so keen to finish writing his story in this way.

It is always pleasing to see technology contributing to the motivation of students when it comes to literacy focused activities, and this echoes parent feedback that Dr Jeni Curtis received when introducing MS OneNote to her students in Year 9 this year.

The other upside of using Storybird was that it allowed Mrs Leota to see all of the work her students were doing from a single web page, and she could add comments for them to consider during the writing and editing process.

Judging by the success of this project I am sure there will be other teachers in our Preparatory School keen to try out Storybird for themselves!

Exploring A Digital World Of Kiwiana

Preparatory School Inquiry Learning Model

Preparatory School Inquiry Learning Model

This morning the students of Year 6S were presenting their inquiry research into Kiwiana and extended an invite to Mr Bierworth (Deputy Rector and Principal of the Preparatory School) and myself to attend.  Over the last few weeks they have been conducting an inquiry learning project around the question “What is Kiwiana?”

To spark enthusiasm the students visited the Canterbury Museum and toured the Paua Shell House, before looking at other Kiwiana icons.  There was also some cross-curricular learning happening here, with students working on area and proportion in Maths, where Mr Dekkers tasked them with designing their ultimate Kiwi bach (holiday home).

The students jumped at this challenge as it was a chance to use Minecraft in class for learning! They started to look at old family baches their families owned or visited, brought photos to class and asked the question “what would the ultimate bach include now?” Students had to include certain criteria such as:

  • Where would the BBQ live? (afterall, how could it be a Kiwi holiday home without a BBQ?)
  • Where would the mountain bikes and surfboards be stored?
  • What was the access to water going to be? (sea / river / lake etc)

Having gained experience in Maths using Minecraft, this was extended to the inquiry topic where the challenge was to research iconic Kiwiana features of New Zealand and then include them into a Kiwiana theme park.

Being adept at using OneNote for research and planning, the children worked collaboratively to identify their iconic images and locations and record their research in a shared OneNote notebook. Here is a fantastic example of one:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Group Presentation On Kiwiana Theme Park Using Minecraft & OneNote

Using a SurfacePro 3 to provide feedback into student OneNote notebooks

Using a SurfacePro 3 to provide feedback into student OneNote notebooks

One of the skills that Mr Dekkers was focusing on as part of this Inquiry unit was synthesising information found as part of their research with their own ideas, discussions and information from their parents.

This allowed the conversation to include plagiarism and why this is a serious issue – a great way to remind students that being a good Digital Citizen includes protecting and respecting the intellectual property of others that has been shared online (see this post for more information on Digital Citizenship).

The presentation skills of the students were excellent, and it was delightful to see them seamlessly switching between presenting to their classmates using their iPads / OneNote for reference, whilst also navigating through their Kiwiana theme park designed on Minecraft. I am sure they would have been delighted with the feedback they received:

Feedback written by Mr Dekkers on his SurfacePro3 - available immediately to the students

Feedback written by Mr Dekkers on his SurfacePro3 – available immediately to the students

SUMMARY:

  • Whilst plenty of technology was being used in this unit and presentation, it was very much in the background. It was not being seen as a distraction, but rather a tool to get the job done.
  • Students made great use of OneNote as a shared document that was accessible anytime, anywhere for them to record their research.
  • Students were accountable to one another and their teacher as it was evident who had contributed what to the notebook.
  • Interest, engagement and enthusiasm from the students was very high – they loved the “gamification” of their learning by being allowed to use Minecraft to design a theme park.
  • Students were keen to share their learning – they wanted their Principal and Director of ICT to see their learning – they were proud of their efforts.

This kind of cross-curricular learning, with deep and authentic integration of technology is incredibly pleasing to see in our classrooms.

Maths! Cameras! Tessellations!

I love it when I get tip-offs from teachers about something they have seen or heard from another class, as this shows our staff are increasingly sharing what is happening inside their classrooms which is excellent.

Recently I was told to check out what Mr Hayden Shaw, Year 7 teacher and Head of Preparatory Sport, was doing with his Maths class. It was suggested there were enthusiastic students hunting around the College for examples of tessellations and then taking photos of them. I have to admit that I didn’t remember my own primary school maths, and the nature of what exactly a tessellation was eluded me.

A quick catch up with Mr Shaw reminded me of exactly what a tessellation is:

an arrangement of shapes closely fitted together, especially of polygons in a repeated pattern without gaps or overlapping.

It transpires that towards the end of a unit on Geometry, Mr Shaw grouped his class based on who had a smartphone with a camera in it. There were eight students with one, and so in groups of three they set out to explore the campus hunting for tessellations. These are just some of the examples they came across:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The idea behind this fantastic kinaesthetic learning activity came after Mr Shaw read a report on one of his students from Socially Speaking (an organisation that provides services for children with social, sensory or communication difficulties). The report suggested that some students would benefit from taking photos of their homework and then talking about it, rather than physically writing it down every time.

From this came the “tessellation hunt” activity, with students required to snap a photograph of a tessellation they located on the St Andrew’s College grounds and text it to Mr Shaw back in the classroom. When the students returned, he then displayed them all to the students via the classroom interactive projector.

I asked how comfortable he was having students take out their cellphones and use them for learning activities and he related a story that reinforces the College’s approach to Digital Citizenship. There had been an issue with some students taking photos of others in the playground without permission and so discussions took place in the classes reinforcing that phones were:

  • Only for ringing / texting a parent.
  • Permission was required from the teacher before they could do this.
  • If a student took it out twice without permission it was confiscated.

This eliminated the inappropriate use straight away. Once students understood the boundaries, teachers were then able to get them using their phones to support their learning such as this example, knowing that the students would be responsible.

The students in the class loved the opportunity to get out of the classroom and see the practical examples of tessellation in their school environment.