Progress Update & Reflections on 1:1 Computing at St Andrew’s College Part 2 of 2

During the recent term break, I wrote an initial blog reflecting on the launch of 1:1 Computing with our Yr9 Cohort this year. Whilst that blog focused mainly on the parent perspective, this one will share some feedback from students and staff.

The Staff Voice – by the numbers:

  • For 98% of our Yr9 teachers, this was the first time teaching in a fully 1:1 environment (hence staff PD was so important)
  • 78% of staff had previously permitted students to use devices in their classes
  • 40% of staff said they didn’t need to provide any tech support to students whilst 44% responded they needed “to some extent” help students with their laptop
  • 93% agreed to strongly agreed that ICT tech support was available to help them or their students when they needed it during class time.
  • Teacher expectations around laptop usage in class was:
    • 37% every lesson
    • 32% 3-4 times per week
    • 31% 1-2 times per week

These numbers paint a largely positive picture and reflect what our planning and investigation had revealed: the majority of our teachers would be “new” to managing a classroom where every student had a laptop and that we would need to continue to provide tech support in a timely fashion for teachers and students to feel confident this was going be a success.

Our surveys of staff in 2013 also revealed two main concerns held by teachers: the pace of learning would slow and behaviour management would become problematic. Here’s the survey results from a teacher perspective:

  • Pace of Learning: 54% it was about the same as before, 32% it has increased with the technology in the classroom
  • Classroom Management: 54% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that behaviour management challenges had increased with the introduction of laptops, whilst 20% agreed or strongly agreed there were new challenges.
  • 70% of staff agreed or strongly agreed that the 1:1 Computing initiative added value to the learning for students.

It’s pleasing to see that the majority of teachers are finding that the technology is not increasing the challenges of learning, nor significantly slowing the pace of learning in the classroom either. As one teacher commented in the survey:

Year 9 students are not distracted by laptops – happy to open and close as needed. It is just another piece of equipment.

The Student Voice – by the numbers:

  • 46% of students were allowed to bring a device to class in Yr8 (approximately half Yr9 students come from the Preparatory School, and half from feeder schools)
  • 75% of students responded this was the first device they had personally owned or been responsible for the majority of the time.
  • 60% of students made a joint decision on the type of laptop with their parents (only 17.5% had sole discretion on choosing an Apple or Windows based computer)
  • 82% agreed or strongly agreed that they are a confident user of a computer (our experience would suggest this is too high, and some have an over-inflated sense of their competency!)

Again, this matched our expectations – Continue reading

Mixcraft – Reinforcing Traditional Musical Elements By Visual Representations

Mixcraft Timeline

Mixcraft Timeline

The first post of this blog was about using ICT in the teaching and assessment of music. I’m going to revisit that topic again, but this time from a junior music perspective, instead of a senior NCEA subject.

St Andrew’s College uses Acoustica’s Mixcraft software to assist students in the basics of musical composition and theory in the Core Music junior classes. As Mr Duncan Ferguson points out:

At the junior level, Core Music is about exposing students to different styles of music, giving them the enjoyment factor from where they can develop a passion for music and hopefully start to learn an instrument from there.

Opportunities in these classes are provided for students to perform in a “classroom orchestra”, learn theory, and of course compose and share their own masterpieces. The use of computers allows these students to visually analyse their compositions and to quickly create good music relatively easily.

This ease inspires greater engagement from the students, particularly when they can use the technology like Mixcraft to help with things like:

  • Composing to Grid – meaning even if students lacked the skill to hear that their music is out of time, Mixcraft will keep it in time.
  • Changing the key of individual musical loops, to allow the student’s composition to remain in key

Of course, Mr Ferguson’s own direction is important here – he requires students to avoid mixing genres too much: just because you can use reggae drum loops with a blues guitar riff doesn’t mean you should! Here is an example composition from a Yr9 2013 student:

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/58349924/Blog%20Data/Year%209%20Mixcraft%20composition%20focusing%20on%20element%20of%20structure_Joo%20Young%20Kim.mp3 ]

And this is how it is visually represented in Mixcraft:

Mixcraft Timeline

Mixcraft Timeline

Sharing of the compositions is also encouraged, sometimes by way of Moodle Forums, so others can listen and comment on their classmates’ music.

Here is another example of music composition on iPads from a school in the UK:

This Is Us – Student Led Learning

In late 2012, Blake Morgan (2013’s Student Head of Television and Media) dreamed big. Having seen other organisations promoting themselves through lip dup videos, he pondered whether St Andrew’s College could do the same. After some initial planning of a possible route around the campus and identifying some potential songs, the project was shelved until 2013 because of time constraints.

From this initial planning however, some important realisations were made, notably that the size of the campus made it too difficult to complete the whole shoot in a single shot. Consequently, the decision was made to split the filming into three separate sections which would make the process logistically easier. The College had developed a promotional video in 2012 called “Feel the Spirit” and Blake was keen to create a new video that was designed and influenced more by students.

At the outset, Blake had a clear and somewhat ambitious goal: exceed the ~5,000 views of the “Feel the Spirit” video, and the resulting “This is Us” lip dub achieved that within a few months, currently sitting at ~14,000 views at the time of writing:

This amazing project did not just miraculously fall into place and significant planning and communication from Blake and his team contributed to this successful outcome.

Continue reading

Technology and Music – Let’s start at the very beginning

Video

As the first blog post that provides a look into how technology is being used in a classroom at St Andrew’s College, it seems appropriate to start with a department that has been utilising the power of computers in teaching and learning for a long time. This is, of course, the Music Department.

Sitting down and talking with Head of Department Mr Duncan Ferguson it is apparent that technology permeates all aspects of music composition these days. He notes:

Mixcraft (composition software) reinforces traditional teaching of the elements of music by giving students a visual representation of abstract ideas such as ‘texture’ and they can literally see the structure of a piece of music by looking at the timeline in the software.

This works particularly well for junior students who have perhaps not been previously exposed to musical theory. With more advanced senior students, the technology enables them to create quite outstanding work. An example of this is a requirement for a Level 3 (Yr13) Standard, simply called Making Music (3.4).

This standard requires students to take inspiration from an area of the Visual Arts and compose an accompanying musical piece. An example of student work comes from Harry Guy who focused on this task:

  • Compose an original piece of music inspired by a visual art work, which could be a painting, drawing, sculpture, photograph, or graphic art.

Check out Harry’s video talking through the connection between Michelangelo’s Last Judgement and his own composition:

Unsurprisingly, Harry’s interest and skills in composition started a number of years ago, Continue reading