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):
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:
Mr Duncan Ferguson has spoken at a number of events on using technology in music including at the NZ Music Educators Conference in Auckland and at an NZQA Best Practice in Music workshop in Christchurch.
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.
In 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.
RELATIVE 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
RELATIVE 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
St Andrew’s College is a school that is committed to delivering first class technology to students and staff to use in supporting their teaching and learning practices. In 2012 Moodle was introduced as the first real Learning Management System the College had used, replacing an ageing and feature-limited version of Microsoft Sharepoint. In 2013, thanks to the introduction of cloud based synchronisation via SkyDrive (now called OneDrive), Microsoft OneNote became increasingly popular amongst teachers as a tool for delivering class notes and collecting student feedback.
Since then, many teachers have variously tried both Moodle and OneNote interchangeably, sometimes abandoning one in favour of the other or struggling to identify when to use the most appropriate tool. Through various discussions, I have picked up a distinct pattern of thought that suggests most teachers believe they must use exclusively either Moodle or OneNote, but rarely did any teachers describe a workflow that included both.
This is a shame, because I believe both tools actually complement the other and when used in conjunction they provide a phenomenal feature set to easily deliver quality eLearning to our students. As this case study from Microsoft shows, both Moodle and OneNote can work together and over the course of the next two blog posts I aim to highlight:
The various strengths and weaknesses of each product
Some suggested workflows of using them alongside each other
It is free and easy to install for immediate use. Furthermore, it was designed from the ground up for educational use.
As an Open Source product, you are free to customise it in any way you choose to meet the needs of your school or students (admittedly, this does require some coding ability).
There is a huge amount of third party plugins written for Moodle, rounding out the feature set to meet the needs of most schools.
Assignments: it easily handles the setting of various different assignment types, automatic cut off at due dates, electronic marking using rubrics and other scales, and feedback to students.
Forums: multiple forum styles that allow for online discussion and sharing, with no chance of student interference of other’s comments.
Resources: since mid-2013, teachers have been able to drag’n’drop most file types for uploading into Moodle courses, streamlining the building of quality courses.
Quizzes a robust and flexible quiz engine allowing for individualised, self-paced learning and feedback.
Reporting: teachers can easily see which students have viewed a resource, contributed to a discussion or completed an assignment or quiz. This massively reduces the management of checking student work.
Embedding of third party content: You can easily embed third party video, audio, animation content directly into your courses meaning your students do not need to simply follow links to websites.
Automatic enrolment: students can be automatically enrolled into courses based off a third party database or directory groups.
End of course / year rollover: Teachers can easily “reset” a course at the end of a year or semester, removing assignment submissions, forum comments and other student data, readying it for the next class they teach.
There are many other features that could be listed here, but this is a number that relate to specific usage at St Andrew’s College.
It is part of the Microsoft Office Suite, so is immediately reasonably familiar in the look and feel when compared with Word, Excel or PowerPoint for example, reducing the learning curve for teachers and students.
The default layout is very similar to a traditional tabbed ring binder folder – there is a visual connection as an electronic ring binder that is familiar with most people.
The ability to drag and drop images, documents and text into the NoteBooks is very intuitive.
It can now be shared easily via OneDrive with other OneNote users.
The desktop application is very feature rich: for example video and audio can be recorded directly into a NoteBook.
There is an online, browser based version called OneNote Online which can be shared as read-only to create an ePortfolio style document.
The recently added Class NoteBook Creator Tool makes it very easy for a classroom teacher to setup all students in a class to share a single NoteBook.
Evidently then, both Moodle and OneNote offer incredible features for teachers and students alike, making it immediately obvious why schools and educational institutions all over the world are using them. In the next blog post I will discuss some of the drawbacks with each product when used in isolation and in doing so, highlight where they can complement each other when used together.
Every Thursday lunchtime throughout Term 4 I have been running lunchtime professional development for our teaching staff. I’ve been pleased with the uptake from the teachers, who can book a place in the lunchtime sessions via Moodle using the Booking module we have installed.
Each session focuses on one of the following topics:
The Office Mix add-in for PowerPoint is a new way to tell your story with voice, video, inking, screen recording and interactive magic.
It’s important to distinguish the two types of recording available in Office Mix:
Record: This feature will load up whatever Powerpoint presentation you have open, and allow you to narrate and annotate via “inking” each slide as you progress through the deck.
Screen Recording: when this is selected Mix will return the user to whatever application they were last in before going to PowerPoint and allow you to start recording everything on your screen even if you change between applications.
There are some excellent screen recording software options on the Apple platform and I have used Screenflow for recording many tutorials for staff ever since I saw a Year 13 student record a narration of his musical composition using Screenflow:
However, there have been limited options in the Windows environment, and certainly no great ones for free. Office Mix does change this by allowing staff and students to easily record and share screencasts. The icing on the cake is the built in ability to upload directly to the web for sharing of the recorded Mix, without the need to publish to a third party video platform such as YouTube or Vimeo.
Whilst both Mr Matt Nicoll and Mr Kevin Barron are both comfortable creating playlists in their YouTube channels, for other teachers the ability to publish directly from Office Mix holds big appeal. The following video provides a great overview of how to upload and share a Mix:
As the video points out, Mix offers four levels of sharing to help teachers and students decide what the best level of visibility is:
Organisation: Essentially, only teachers or students at the school would be able to view the Mix
Limited: Users might be outside of the school, but would still need to sign in using a Microsoft account to be able to view the Mix
Unlisted: Anyone with the direct link could view the Mix, but it was not searchable on the internet
Public: Anyone can search and view the Mix.
The only downside with the above is that if you want to embed your Mix into your Moodle class site then the sharing settings must be set to either Unlisted or Public.
After the most recent Thursday training session, our Assistant Head of English Ms Tam Yuill Proctor was keen to give it a go and created her very first Mix to help her Year 11 English class with the basics of writing an essay. She blogged about the experience here and you can watch the mix below:
It is really pleasing to see our teachers attending professional development sessions and then giving it a go and implementing new technologies that will benefit the learning outcomes for our students. As most teachers will confirm, it’s not always easy to record and publish your teaching moments for others to replay again and again and yet it is precisely this type of resource that can help cement student understanding of complex ideas.
I am encouraging our teachers to embed their Mix recordings into their Moodle class sites as well, since this will allow them to use the reporting tools within Moodle to see precisely which students have actually watched the clip, and how many times.
Whilst having the ability to write on the screen during the Mix recording through using a Surface Pro 3 is a nice feature, there is plenty of applications for this in other areas with a traditional laptop as well, such as:
Recording how to create a spreadsheet or graph in Commerce classes
I am excited to see which directions our teachers will take this functionality in 2015 and I know that many of them will also encourage their students to use it as well. With changes to English standards, students no longer need to stand in front of their peers to deliver a speech – they could record a presentation like this using Office Mix for assessment instead.
Finally, as useful a tool as Office Mix is, it is clearly no substitute for the teacher. If anything, it reaffirms the central role the teacher plays in guiding students and assisting with the clear explanation of complex ideas. Many eLearning tools allow students to listen and watch again a key learning moment from the teacher and in the end, this must help with knowledge building.
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:
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).
Notion 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.
Songs 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:
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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):
Many 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.
Ben 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.
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.
Schools 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.
The incumbent cloud collaboration suite for many New Zealand schools is Google Apps For Education, and with the launch of Office365, Microsoft had significant ground to make up. We encouraged many teachers to take advantage of the benefits of the collaborative, cloud based documents – in particular many embraced OneNote with their students. There were challenges and even confusion at times – Microsoft’s cloud based storage changed names from Skydrive to Skydrive Pro, then to OneDrive before settling on OneDrive For Business.
Additionally, there was no native application on Apple’s OS X or iOS (that finally changed, after a false start in March, with a significant release in July), meaning many of our students had to rely on the web browser version of OneNote Online. Throughout all of this, many of our most innovative teachers continued to persevere as they could see the potential for their students. A number of these stories were picked up by Microsoft New Zealand Education and blogged about over here, reinforcing we were definitely on the right track.
Realistically, however, many of our teachers found the process of setting up OneNote notebooks, sharing them with their students, followed by the reciprocal process of students sharing their notebooks back to the teacher, just too difficult. There were no easy shortcuts to circumvent this process – that is until now.
At the start of October Microsoft released an app for Office365 called The OneNote Class Notebook Creator – I had first seen a beta version of this at the Edutech Conference I attended in Brisbane in June. This tool is the missing ingredient in making the setup of a class OneNote notebook incredibly easy as it allows the classroom teacher to:
Create a “read only” section in the NoteBook where they could add notes, slides, files, images and links that students could easily see within their notebook.
Create a “collaborative” section where both the teacher and all students in the class can contribute information and ideas to – each student’s contribution can be seen with their initials beside their additions to the notebook.
Create private subsections for each student. These are visible only to the to the individual student and the teacher, with both having read/write permissions into the notebook. This effectively creates sub-notebooks for each student within the one master notebook allowing the teacher to see a student’s work and provide feedback directly into their notebook.
In practice, this means that there is only a single notebook for each class, whereas currently the teachers using OneNote with their students share their “master” notebook, and receive access to an individual notebook back from each student.
To encourage our staff to start using this fantastic tool, I’ve created a screencast showing just how easy it is to set this up:
Setting up a new OneNote Notebook with the Class Notebook Creator Tool
This is a huge step forward for Office365 schools, and I know of some New Zealand schools that are now going to be using OneNote as their only Learning Management System (LMS). Whilst I personally believe OneNote is not an all encompassing, feature-rich LMS, the ease of use for staff and students alike along with the familiar MS Office interface makes it a very powerful tool in the classroom. The Class Notebook Creator tool allows for a single link to be shared with students, either via email or on the class Moodle site, and from there students can open the NoteBook directly into their App or Browser.
Google Apps for Education, with their jump start on Microsoft in this sector, have seen some valuable third party apps designed – perhaps none better than Hapara, founded originally in New Zealand (hapara is Māori for “dawn” or “daybreak”). This product allows teachers to get an overview of activity amongst their students and their use of various Google Docs.
It would be awesome if there are extensions to the OneNote Class Notebook Creator as well to enhance the feature set on offer currently. Regardless, this new tool is guaranteed to assist with uptake of OneNote amongst teachers since they can now easily create and share a single NoteBook with their entire class.
This is a powerful desktop application that allows teachers and students to do a range of different things, including writing text books, creating and sitting assessment as well as making Powerpoint-like presentations. It utilises the power of the cloud based WolframAlpha to return some results / graphing abilities, and one of the key strengths is students can enter questions in “natural language.” The programme then interprets this and formats it into the correct syntax for Mathematica to complete the equation.
This makes it very easy to learn, and there are a number of “palettes” that guide teachers or students through the correct syntax of more advanced formulas. The state of Victoria, Australia, has provided Mathematica to students from Yr4 up in schools to help them across all curriculum areas, not just Maths (Craig said Physics and Chemistry are the biggest users of Mathematica, followed by Maths, but English and Social Sciences also make use of it).
Demonstrating the power of Wolfram Alpha search
Possibly this was the one tool that most of the teachers attending had been exposed to before. Rather than functioning as a search engine like Google or Bing that traditionally return thousands of pages that might contain the answer to your search query, WolframAlpha tries to provide the actual answer to your question.
One of the examples given was “What is the boiling temperature of water on Mt Cook?” Pulling on information stored in the databases WolframAlpha has access to, it knows both the height/elevation of Mt Cook, and the scientific principle of how elevation affects boiling temperatures. It returned: What was neat to see was the results returned in the metric system – using Geo-IP technology, it knew we were in New Zealand and returned results accordingly.
Another fascinating example was the results returned to the esoteric question “What was the weather like on Keith Urban’s 24th birthday?” Again, drawing on the extensive meteorological information WolframAlpha has access to, it showed the results for Christchurch, New Zealand (again, recognising our location based on IP Address):
These held quite a bit of appeal given they could easily be embedded into a school’s Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle or Ultranet – here is the video I created earlier showing how to do this:
Installation of CDF Plugin & Embedding Wolfram Demonstration Model into Moodle
The interactive nature of these models, where students can manipulate the input or data, make them perfect for embedding into a Moodle Forum or Assignment activity, allowing students to submit answers directly into Moodle without needing to use any other software.
What was reassuring was that all demonstration models are vetted for accuracy by staff at Wolfram, source code must be made available so teachers could modify the models if they wished to, and the model can be downloaded as a separate CDF file or embedded directly into a web page. Here are some examples of different Wolfram Demonstration Models:
Selection of Wolfram Demonstration Models
Members from the Canterbury Maths Association enjoy the presentation
The feedback from the teachers that attended was very positive about the session and I am sure that many will go away and look at the free products and also evaluate whether licensed products are purchased for teaching staff and/or students.
It started as a way to help her students organise their notes, but Year 11 Dean and English teacher Jacqueline Yoder 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,” she says.
By using OneNote, an electronic version of a traditional binder, Jacqueline can access students’ online exercise books so if a student has a question she can see what they are working on and make suggestions, especially if she notes they are going off track.
“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.”
With some help from Director of ICT, Sam McNeill, Jacqueline created a folder on OneDrive to which she uploads everything.
“My two English classes don’t have books they only use OneNote – that’s their method of storing all of their work and assessments.”
Jacqueline 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.
But does it make better English students?
“The evidence of my first trial group who have gone into Year 11 is that teachers say they are doing very well at NCEA. OneNote doesn’t replace teaching, it’s a tool to help students organise their work so they can find everything they need. It gives me a way of providing more informative feedback on a regular basis because I can literally comment immediately.”
It’s this combination of staying organised and engaging feedback consistently over time rather than
just at the end of an assignment, that Jacqueline says makes the difference.
Another attraction is the software’s collaborative potential. Because work is stored in the cloud, it offers opportunities for students to work together. Jacqueline’s Māori students are working on shared presentations and movies.
While the thought of adopting technology can be daunting, Professional Learning Groups are available. Jacqueline is keen to share the knowledge among StAC teachers that the software is more than just a word processor.
“It makes learning seamless. When it’s time to write reports I have all the information at my fingertips through those shared notebooks. Parents have real time access to their child’s learning so they can see what they’ve done during the day. It’s a triangle of student, teacher, parent, which is a powerful way to make learning happen.”
For Jacqueline, using technology such as OneNote is about the student owning the learning – transferring the ownership of the learning from being teacher centred to student centred.
“It’s a move from where the teacher owns all the information on the student in a folder to the student having the ownership of the learning and being able to access to look and learn from it in real time.”
Increasing use of technology also fits in with the school’s commitment to lifelong learning.
“Because technology is evolving all the time, you can’t think you’ve ever mastered something. It’s exciting to push the system and discover where it will take you next.”
Rector Christine Leighton says it is exciting to see how St Andrew’s teachers 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.”
Technology has been a disruptive force in education for a while now, allowing for educators in all sectors to re-examine how content is delivered to, and consumed by, students of all ages.
A very popular concept is that of flipping the classroom or flipped teaching– the basic concept being students watch a pre-recorded “lesson” by the teacher in their own time for homework, and then use the class time for discussion / assistance. Usually, some form of Learning Management System such as Moodle is used to deliver this content, however sometimes it is simply a link to a YouTube clip.
This came up in conversation recently with Mr Kevin Barron, a Science and Physics teacher here at St Andrew’s College who commented:
I find it amusing that we give some fancy jargon like “flipping the classroom” to something that is, to me, merely exploiting modern technology driven by a common sense need.
He went to on to identify the quite legitimate factors that are increasingly taking students out of the classroom such as field trips, sporting and cultural activities and international exchanges. Recognising this trend, he went looking for some solutions and came across the relatively obscure Microsoft product called Community Clips.
This tool has allowed him to record narrated explanations of scientific concepts whilst illustrating them in Microsoft PowerPoint, and his library of explanatory videos has now exceeded 200. He then applied this concept to his NCEA Physics classes too:
I further made NCEA examples for Senior Physics and noticed that I could really think through the key points I was trying to highlight without being under any stress.
This process is not dissimilar to what Mr Hilliam does in his maths classes, although one of the key differences is Mr Barron is recording these sessions outside of the classroom, allowing him greater time for thought and clarity, as well as providing learning opportunities for the students before they come into the lesson itself.
In some ways, this is not new for his students: he has always uploaded course content, handouts and links to Moodle beforehand. The difference is now these handouts are enhanced with voiceovers and key information, students can go over these as often as they like or require. From experience, it appears that the optimum length of these videos is around five minutes, as this caters for attention spans and also keeps file sizes manageable for uploading to the College Moodle site and Youtube.
Explaining Electricity to Yr10 Students
Moodle was designed first and foremost as a Learning Management System (LMS) so it has a number of easily accessible reports that help identify levels of student participation and engagement with content in the course site. Mr Barron utilizes these reports to see which of the students are viewing the content in advance of lessons:
One of the issues is tracking use and increasing uptake. One of the mechanisms to achieve this is to write Moodle Quizzes that test the knowledge on the videos, and adds the grades straight into my mark book … a quick quiz at the start of the lesson can accomplish a similar result.
This monitoring and visibility of what students are viewing online and that which they can demonstrate understanding through assessment is critical, and the combination of Moodle and Youtube videos facilitates this. Anecdotally, it appears that those students who watch key videos as “pre-reading” before classes appear to pick up the complex topics quicker and are more familiar with terms prior to the lessons.
Thinking Aloud When Marking Assessment For Students:
In 2013 the St Andrew’s College Pipe Band departed for the World Championships in Scotland, and won the event (see their triumphant return here). This resulted in a number of Mr Barron’s students missing the preliminary exams, and they were required to catch-up exams and internal assessments. To assist the students who had missed the teaching time whilst away in Scotland, Mr Barron “narrated aloud his thinking process” whilst marking their assessments and recorded it for them with Community Clips.
This resulted in a very targeted and condensed teaching moment for these students and was a very effective catchup for them. He was then able to extend the usefulness of this process to others:
With student permission, I asked if I could use these videos as model answers to support a wider audience
Tips For Managing This Style of Teaching:
Get students to bring headphones to class – they can re-watch some of the videos to reinforce learning in class if they have not grasped the concepts the first time. This allows for differentiated learning as students can be extended or supported as necessary.
Use playlists within YouTube – it keeps topics of videos together and a simple hyperlink to students gives them access to all relevant videos. This can be further enhanced by using playlists for each year level of work.
If a student is requesting extra tuition, an expectation can be set that they have viewed the relevant explanatory video before attending the tutorial.
Using Third Party Videos:
When an excellent explanation of a concept is found online, Mr Barron will still consider using this, for example an explanation of Alleles for Level 1 Biology:
Explaining Alleles for Level 1 Biology
As mentioned above, to ensure students have viewed and comprehended the video before a class commences, the use of a simple HotPot test in Moodle can achieve this. Here are a selection of basic questions used based on the above video:
There are some clear next steps to extend this type of teaching, and Mr Barron suggested one he is targeting is filming the practical experiments conducted in class. This would be similar to what his colleague in the science department, Mr Nicoll, is already doing and which I’ve blogged about here and here. This final comment from Mr Barron is telling:
I hope that it becomes a “pull” [by students] rather than a “push” … it is not a silver bullet, but rather just another resource and tactic to use in an effective teaching programme. The more complex and demanding the classroom becomes, the more effective this approach can be … it puts a real emphasis on the student make the best use of the resources provided and it takes away some of the excuses.