Recording & Blogging: It’s What I Do Now

Solo Tasks: around the Law of Reflection with extension work on Moodle

Solo Tasks: around the Law of Reflection with extension work on Moodle

Mr Matt Nicoll has been a regular contributor to this blog, providing one of the very first posts on recording his lessons for later playback by students, to presenting to the CORE Education eFellows, and his very active role in the development of Twitter usage amongst staff and the #edchatnz conference organisation.

I had wanted to sit down with him and see how his videoing of the teaching moments in his lessons had evolved from when we chatted in October 2013 and took the opportunity to do so after the #edchatnz conference. It transpires that in someways he has stuck with the successful recipe he had developed in 2013.

Mr Nicoll still remains the primary blogger for his classes, sharing the content, notes and videos on the class blog. His rationale for this was simple:

I am still traditional enough to want to retain control over the quality of the key concepts and ensure that they are being explained correctly. The big win, however, is that the students don’t need to write notes in class meaning they can spend more time on the activities.

SOLO

Two obvious positives from this are:

  • More time is spent in class discussing the quality of the answers e.g. what does multi-structural thinking look like compared to relational thinking (in terms of the SOLO thinking taxonomy)
  • Students benefit from this because their understanding of the SOLO taxonomy, which is used widely at St Andrew’s College, is deepened and their ability to explain their answers improves.

Despite being the Year 9 Dean and the associated workload that comes with that role, Mr Nicoll has found that keeping up the blogging and recording of his lessons has not added to his work. If anything, he believes it has allowed him to gauge where his students are at more accurately, since there is more time spent discussing the learning, than copying down notes. Student workbooks (or computers), are used primarily for writing down ideas, notes or discussions they have had in class – not for copying content off the whiteboard.

Separating suspensions using filtration

Computers are used in class, mostly for research and communicating overall answers for a lesson – shaping the learning into a formal reflection. Again, choice is provided to students – they could use MS Word, Powerpoint, OneNote or a graph in Excel for example. Because the “nuts and bolts” of the lesson are covered off in the form of comprehensive, quality notes on the class blog, students can simply:

Think like a scientist. Investigate like a scientist.

NCEA CLASSES:

Mr Nicoll’s blogging and recording practices extend to his NCEA classes as well, and he states that this allows him to better gauge where his students sit in terms of Achieved / Merit / Excellence in the respective standards they are working towards:

If a student is struggling to remember facts, I direct them to the blog where they can review the content. If they are struggling to articulate answers at a level required to move from Merit to Excellence, then I engage them in discussion.

RECORDING THE TEACHING MOMENTS:

The NZ Science Teacher website blogged about Mr Nicoll’s methodologies earlier this year, and since then some of his processes have changed:

  • Gone from using an Android smartphone to a Microsoft Surface Pro 2. This has allowed the uploading and editing of video content to become much easier as it is all on the one device. Being physically larger than a smartphone has also allowed the student recording the lesson to hold the device steadier, meaning the quality of the video footage has improved.
  • He is now using the Surface Pro 2 to record experiments in the classroom fume cupboard and display that on the classroom projector wirelessly using Miracast (similar to how Mr Hilliam does this in Maths)
  • Approximately three times a week he will record 8-12minutes of teaching and experiments and upload them to his YouTube Channel
  • When away from classes for an extended period of time, such as Winter Sports Tournament Week, he pre-records teaching concepts for his students. He then books laptops for the lessons if required, emails his students to bring their headphones along, and they can watch along in class.

Combining oxidation and reduction half equations to give a balanced overall equation (example video left for students during tournament week)

Matt has been increasingly requested to share his methods in different forums including at the #edchatnz conference which he had helped co-ordinate, and also to visiting Senior Leaders and Principals from the Independent Schools Senior Leaders Forum that toured the Christchurch independent Schools on the 16th September 2014. He summed up his approach to blogging and videoing his lessons with the following definitive statement:

It’s what I do now – it’s not going to change.

Students explaining the Law of Reflection

Flipping The Classroom Or Simply Utilizing Modern Technology?

PhysicsTechnology 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.

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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

Monitoring Outcomes:

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.

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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:

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Conclusion:

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.

 

An Orwellian World of Surveillance and Digital Monitoring

Earlier this week I was invited to speak to a Yr13 English class that are currently studying the George Orwell classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four. It’s a novel high on big government surveillance and low on individual freedoms and so the teacher asked me to share a few thoughts on this and how this impacts on our daily lives from an ICT perspective.

I decided I’d start with this humorous clip from the 2010 film Four Lions, a film about some try hard jihadis who fear the “feds” are constantly watching them under surveillance, so consequently they go to extreme ends to defeat any tracking attempts from “big brother”

Whilst portrayed in a funny way, the reality is the tracking through cell phones and GPS satellites is very real; the police located sports presenter Tony Veitch after his attempted suicide a few years ago by tracking his cellphone and more recently, the efforts to locate missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 via satellite pings.

From this broad and high level introduction, I tried to personalise it and asked the students who had uploaded a photo to the internet (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a Blog etc) within the last month – virtually every hand went up. I then asked them to clarify – who had uploaded a photo taken on a traditional camera, either a pocket camera or SLR – only 3-4 hands this time. Who had used a smart phone (virtually all which add GPS co-ordinates into the photo) – the vast majority of hands. With the platform set, I showed them this video clip:

What surprised me was that for many students they simply did not care if other people knew where they were taking photos, nor that they had the ability to track down their location. There was a disconnect between the perception of retaining a degree of anonymity with their online behaviour and profile, with the increasing ease that strangers or online companies like Facebook could build a digital footprint of them and start connecting that with a “real person.”

This led to a good discussion around Digital Citizenship and what measures were reasonable to undertake to keep safe online. Trying to personalise the experience further, we discussed what activities students undertook all the time at St Andrew’s College that contributed towards a digital footprint that could be tracked or analysed. Things such as the following all revealed their physical location at any time:

This last one proved particularly useful as I pulled up a real time map of the third floor of the Arts Block and it showed the students who had smart phones that had automatically associated with the wireless access point in the classroom:

The 3rd floor of the Arts Block showing devices connected wirelessly to the network

The 3rd floor of the Arts Block showing devices connected wirelessly to the network

Using this example, I also showed how easy it was to create a digital trail showing where a user had walked during the day, with their phone or laptop automatically associating with each wireless access point along the way. Here is a copy of the classrooms my work smartphone connected to as I went about my day on the campus.

The rooms my phone automatically connected to during the day.

The rooms my phone automatically connected to during the day.

Finally, to complete the “monitoring” picture of internet usage at St Andrew’s College we looked at the real time logs of our firewall reporting tools (Fortinet’s Fortianalyzer) and I showed them how many attempts by students were currently being blocked – the amount of Facebook requests elicited a laugh from the students present.

In the end, it was an eye opener for most of the students just how much of a digital footprint they create, even just during their time on campus here at St Andrew’s. What I tried to emphasis was their wider online presence and how this was creating a profile that companies like Google, Facebook and others will use in a variety of different ways.

There is, of course, a tradeoff. Many of the most useful and well liked tools we have come to rely on require “location aware” services and are provided either free or very cheaply, because advertising is supporting them. The question I left with each of the students was this: just how much of their privacy are they prepared to “give up” in return for the benefits and convenience of these internet based services.

Unlike Orwell’s world in Airstrip One where dissenting views or attempting to evade surveillance was seen as a thought crime, we still have a degree of choice in how much of a digital footprint we leave.

Here is a copy of the powerpoint I used, or embedded below:

Microsoft Release OneNote for Mac

OneNoteI’ve been in two minds about writing a blog about Microsoft’s recent release of OneNote for Mac. On the one hand, this has been the biggest request on our “wish list” for a long time, yet on the other it falls short of being comparable in functionality to the Windows equivalent.

I’ve blogged in the past about how teachers are doing great things with OneNote at St Andrew’s College and consequently my ICT support team and teachers alike were excited with the announcement that OneNote had arrived for Mac at long last.

Students can download a version from the Mac App Store here and the price is great too: free.

The issue from our standpoint is synchronisation. As a College we have made a big push to have all students and staff using the OneDrive for Business (formerly SkyDrive Pro) feature of Office365 – this allows sharing of documents easily (through real time searching of the College Active Directory) and allows stronger management from an ICT perspective.

The new Microsoft OneNote for Mac only allows synchronisation of notebooks with the OneDrive Consumer service – a great thing, but unfortunately lacks the tight integration into the rest of the Office365 suite on offer at St Andrew’s College.

We hold out hope that this synchronisation with OneDrive for Business will come in a future release and, in doing so, give our students (approximately 50% of them use a Mac) equal access to the fantastic product that is OneNote.

Continue reading

Microsoft Office – Free for all St Andrew’s College Students

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In October 2013 Microsoft made an announcement that qualifying institutions would be able to provide the full Office365 and Desktop Applications in the Office Suite to their students for free:

In an effort to help prepare students for the technology skills required in the workforce, Microsoft on Tuesday announced Student Advantage, a new benefit to qualifying institutions that brings Microsoft Office 365 Education to more students worldwide. Microsoft Office 365 Education, an always-up-to-date cloud productivity service, is currently used by 110 million students, faculty and staff around the world. Office 365 Education enables students to communicate and collaborate more efficiently, access assignments in shared workspaces, have notes synchronized in OneNote and have familiar Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel anywhere, across virtually any device.

St Andrew’s students are able to download a copy of the MS Office suite for their Windows (Win7 or Win8) or Apple devices (OS X) and a video outlining how to do this is provided:

Teaching the Teachers – Introducing the SAMR Model.

Over the last fortnight I have been involved in delivering interactive training sessions for our 2014 Yr9 teachers. This is a critical stage in the preparation of our 1:1 Computing programme that will see the 2014 Yr9 Cohort bring a laptop to St Andrew’s College. It builds on the ‘behind the scenes’ changes already implemented: the replacement of the wireless network, improved switching and ensuring our fibre internet connection has sufficient capacity to manage the increased demands placed on it next year.

It can sometimes be a little daunting training the teachers – they all have significant experience as classroom practitioners along with a strong grasp on effective pedagogy. My job is to show ways in which the use of technology can increase engagement and contribute towards improved outcomes. One of the models we have adopted to help with this is the SAMR model developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura and is intended to be an easy model to consider how to integrate technology with a teacher’s existing practice.

The SAMR model has four stages which build on top of one another:

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This example shows how Google Earth can be integrated in the four levels

Substitution: The technology acts as a direct substitute, with no functional change

Augmentation: The technology as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement

Modification: The technology allows for significant task redesign

Redefinition: The technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable

Dr Puentedura explains the SAMR Model here

For many staff, the integration of the technology, in this case each student bringing a laptop to class, will allow for some very easy “substitutions” to take place e.g.

  • Traditional “handouts” are emailed to students directly or placed on the College Learning Management System (Moodle) so students can download them.
  • Similarly, Powerpoint presentations are made available to students for download instead of hand writing the key notes down from the Powerpoint or whiteboard.

The beauty of the relatively simple SAMR framework is that to build to a higher level of integration of the technology is comparatively straightforward. Continue reading