Using Online Simulation Gaming to Improve Student Literacy

The Year 12 Business Studies course at St Andrew’s College aims to introduce students to entrepreneurship, and help develop their knowledge and skill in running a business. The course is deliberately designed to be very hands-on and students work in small groups to run all aspects of their own small businesses. While many students taking the course have strong entrepreneurial skills, those who do not supplement the Business Studies course with Year 12 Accounting have often struggled to understand the financial impacts of decision making within a business, and the flow-on effects of this decision making in a business context.

Upon reflection by the Commerce Department, it was identified that a number of Business Studies students were struggling with the financial literacy requirements of Business Studies; particularly in the area of question terminology such as ‘Fully Explain’.

In an attempt to remedy this, Business Studies students were tasked with running a small online business. The Small Business Game is a free online simulation that provides the experience of running a small business. In the gam, students experience the start-up and management of a business, learning both from their mistakes and from their successes. The game uses the platform of running a merchandise business for a club from NZ’s ASB Premiership – the highest level of domestic football in NZ.

Students choose one of the Premierships teams and then they manage all aspects of the team’s off-field performance such as staffing, pricing, and advertising.

Small Business GameBusiness Studies teacher Steve Aldhamland has seen high levels of engagement in the game from his students. Students played the game during one class period a week in Term One, though Steve notes that

“Most students played the game in their own time too; some even completed the whole 52 week simulation in a couple of weeks!”

Success in the game is principally measured in the financial surplus that the player manages to generate, but there are other indicators such as worker well-being and health.

In conversations with educators I have heard many skeptics of the value of games in classrooms comment that improved engagement is all well and good, but is it enough? This is where this Business Studies task excels.

workbook

Building on the high levels of engagement that he saw with the game, Steve created a workbook that combines examples from the game with examination style questions and exemplar answers. The booklet reinforces students’ understanding by modeling correct responses, and analysing the structure of these answers. By combining the game with literacy tasks, students can take content that they have engaged with throughout the game, and use that content to deliberately improve the complexity of their written responses.

It is always pleasing to find teachers who are willing to engage with a new technique in the classroom. What I particularly like to celebrate is when this new technique is directly in response to student need – leading to authentic student learning.

Code Clubs @ StAC

2015 has seen two Code Clubs start at St Andrew’s College with Mr Phil Adams running one in the Secondary School since the start of the year and Mrs Vicki Pettit alongside Mr Wilj Dekkers starting one in the Preparatory School during Term 2.

Preparatory School:

CodeClub_LogoThe Preparatory school are using the resources provided via Code Club Aotearoa and there are around 20 students that attend regularly, within which there is a reasonably even break down of beginners and intermediate coders with 2-3 advanced coders.

The resources on the Code Club Aotearoa website are perfect for beginning and intermediate students however, Mrs Pettit is exploring options for the more advanced students and in what areas they can possibly start to apply their skills e.g. robotics, Raspberry Pi projects and possibly entering them into the Canterbury Core Education Digi Awards. The other pathway recently made available to these Prep students is Monday lunchtimes with Mr Adams in the secondary school code club.

Secondary School:

In Term 1 2015 Mr Adams started the Code Club for students that were interested in learning more about programming and were prepared to attend during their lunchtimes. His motivation was twofold:

  1. There was currently no option in the Junior curriculum (Years 9-10) for programming which means when students can take this at Year 11 they are often being introduced to the concepts for the very first time.
  2. There were a number of very keen students who did not have an avenue for support in their coding unless they persevered by themselves and were essentially self-taught from online.

Whilst there was an initial surge of enthusiasm from students, this settled into those that were committed, keen and prepared to give up a lunchtime to learn more. Having looked at the formal code clubs that existed (such as Code Club Aotearoa above), Mr Adams also reviewed online offerings such as Code Academy and Code Avengers which were useful, particularly Code Avengers which aligns with the New Zealand NCEA standards. Ultimately, however, he decided that students could continue to access these in their own time and that the focus of the Code Clubs at StAC would be slightly different.

python-logoThis alternative was to focus on teaching the students the very basics of Python so that they could create their own scripts and taste success early on. The reason for Python was quite simple as Mr Adams explains:

As a text based language the syntax is not complicated and it is very logical. Therefore, the learning curve would not be too steep for our new students. An alternative language such as C or C# would be too challenging for them to start with.

As students learnt the basics, Mr Adams focused on creating a team culture where students could learn from each other: the beginners seeking help from more advanced students, who in turn could reinforce and demonstrate their understanding of Python by teaching the beginners. Through this approach, it is hoped the Code Club will become self-perpetuating and independent with a positive and interactive culture.

With a few weeks of the basics out of the way, the goal became to progress students with the introduction of logic into their coding e.g. a basic guessing game such as this one:

An example of a number guessing game from Hana

An example of a number guessing game from Hana (click to download the Python script)

Hana, who created the above script, had the following to say about Code Club @ StAC:

I used to do coding at my old school, Selwyn House. There, it was a big thing and we did robotics and Hour of Code. The code club at StAC is super fun. Mr Adams is a really good teacher and he always lets us figure out why our code hasn’t worked. 

Coding a basic guessing game is not too difficult and yet it can easily be extended with the introduction of more logic that would require students to be able to calculate the average number of guesses it takes people to correctly guess the number each time. To support this extension, Mr Adams has created numerous tutorial videos on his YouTube channel that students can access, such as this one on how to create a list within a list using Python:

Paper, Scissors, Rock by Louis (click to download the code)

Paper, Scissors, Rock by Louis (click to download the code)

Louis, who also attends the Code Club @ StAC, created a game of Paper, Scissors, Rock in Python. Like Hana, he is also enjoying attending:

I am attending the Code Club because I enjoy coding in my own time (I also have done some robotics coding and other things) … 

I have learned things with Mr Adams (We are doing python at the moment, I have many other languages including: HTML, CSS, PHP, UNIX Terminal, Command Prompt, and JavaScript)

Next Steps:

Mr Adams has some clear next steps identified for the students in the Code Club, with the ultimate aim getting them to work collaboratively on a project together, all contributing code to a repository such as GitHub. This would enable replicating a “real world environment” where multiple people all work on much larger projects. This mirrors the message from Old Collegian Claudia Pottinger, who shared her experience as a Google Intern writing code in Python last summer. It is apparent that some of the students in the club are already thinking that far ahead, such as Jack who is in Year 9:

I go to code club because it is something I feel will benefit me in the future, and it is my intended career path. Computer programming is one of my passions, it is something that I enjoy doing in my own time.

It is extremely fun, learning new things and being able to help others who do not know so much.

A project I just finished recently was the year 12 internal exam, where you make a program in python that allows a user to select, order and store different pizzas with a range of flavours and prices.

I feel that in the future Programming will be a large part of nearly every job.

Jack's Pizza Ordering script (click to download)

Jack’s Pizza Ordering script (click to download)

Another idea to extend the students is to introduce activities from Project Euler – a website that describes its motivation as being:

The motivation for starting Project Euler, and its continuation, is to provide a platform for the inquiring mind to delve into unfamiliar areas and learn new concepts in a fun and recreational context.

To complete the activities on the website, students will need strong mathematical ability but also programming skills. One example from this website that Mr Hilliam, Maths and Statistics teacher at St Andrew’s, has used with his students is to write code that identifies the sum total of all prime numbers under 1000.

With keen students in the secondary school, along with increasing numbers of students coming through from the Preparatory and other feeder schools, providing an avenue for students to learn coding at St Andrew’s College is essential.

Guest Post: Collaborative Composition In Music

This guest post today comes from Mr Duncan Ferguson, Head of Department of Music here at St Andrew’s College. Previous posts have featured his work integrating technology in his practice that you can read here and here. Today’s post looks at his Project Based Learning (PBL) with his Year 10 Music Options class. You can read the original blog post here.

Over the last five weeks I’ve been trying a new way of running collaborative composition in my year 10 Option Music class.

This year I’ve been blessed to have a large class of highly motivated and talented students, so they were the perfect class to take a risk and jump into what is for me a new way of teaching composition.

The basic summary of what we did is that I divided the class into five groups.  In the first week each group had to start writing and recording a song (in a rough demo format).  In the 2nd week the groups swapped songs and continued on with what another group had started the previous week.  We did this for five weeks so that in the end, every group had been involved in the composition process on each of the five songs.

Initially the students were very nervous about this process as I’d done very little in terms of how to actually write songs.  However, that didn’t worry me as within each group of five members I knew that there were people with various strengths that when combined would make the process go smoothly.

Prior to this we had done a little work on what makes a good chord progression (mainly analysing four chord songs) and an effective melody but within the context of their own personal compositions, which they recorded/sequenced in either Garageband or Studio One Free.  It wasn’t much, but it proved to be enough to get the students on the way with the process.  What was critical to the process though (which I didn’t realise until we got a few weeks into the process) was that a strong knowledge of how to use technology and specifically MIDI keyboards/guitars with software sequencers made all the difference to the success of students being able to pass on their work to the next group (only a few students in the class had strong notation/theory skills so technology bridged the gap very effectively).

Here is a little video where I show one of the songs and how each group contributed towards it week by week:

And here some of the songs created by the students (please keep in mind that these are only supposed to be at ‘demo’ quality… we still intend to record them properly at a later date):

This whole process has been an incredibly empowering experience for the students and is a great demonstration of the high end of the SAMR model:

SAMR Diving

Software like Garageband and Studio One has enabled students to achieved a huge amount in a very short time and made it possible for this separate group collaborative thing to happen.  Students that recorded audio onto iPhones or wrote down music with traditional notation were no where near as effective in the sharing of their music with others.  By far the best way for this process to succeed was for students to compose using MIDI for the instruments and microphones/audio for the vocals… all along with a click so the music could be easily edited and rearranged by different groups.

Here are a couple of short videos watching students in action as they were creating their songs:

For other teachers who are wanting to run this sort of unit I’ve found that the following will make the process go very well:

  • Ensure that each group has at least one person who plays the following instruments: piano, guitar, drums, voice.  Often drummers don’t have a huge amount to do in the first week or two but as the weeks went by I discovered they were increasingly taking charge of the projects… running the technology (i.e. the computer DAW/sequencer)… which was critical when it came to restructuring ideas previous groups had come up with into coherent song structure of intros, verses, choruses, etc
  • Try and have a computer with a MIDI keyboard and a microphone setup in each room.  If you are using student laptops instead make sure you have a dedicated USB drive that holds the files that they work off… minimise copying of files between computers.  We ended up a losing a complete work from one room that students were working in as they mistakingly copied the wrong files then deleted the proper one.  The most successful songs were those that came out of rooms that had dedicated computers that students used each week.
  • Use the note pad facilities of your DAW (like Garageband or Logic) for writing down chord progressions, lyrics, ideas, etc  Don’t have things on scraps of paper as they may get lost.  Keeping everything with the DAW file is an elegant solution for keeping everything in the same place.
  • Don’t record piano/guitar ideas as audio… try to record them as MIDI.  This will enable successive groups to edit what was recorded.  If it’s audio, they’re stuck with it and are unable to improve upon it.

For me this process has been such an eye opener.  The students surprised themselves with what they could come up with.  The loved the process (they always arrived early from lunch so they could start as quickly as they could) and they grew so much as the weeks went by.

I will be making sure that this way of composing will be incorporated to NCEA composition at our school.  It will grow the numbers of students taking music and will help to break down the perception that you must be an orchestral musician who has been learning since you’re seven years old to be able to succeed in NCEA (even after five years at my school I’m still trying to destroy this myth!).

But overall… it was a heck of a lot of fun.  And that is what teaching and learning should be… shouldn’t it?

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.

Technology Enables Efficiency in English Marking

 

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

Ms Coote describes her new workflow for marking student work

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

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

IMPACT ON WORKFLOWS:

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

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

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

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

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

“There was like triple handling”

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

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

STUDENT FEEDBACK:

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

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

Importantly, however:

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

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

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

SUMMARY:

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

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

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

Moodle Versus OneNote Part 2 of 2

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

moodleRELATIVE WEAKNESSES OF MOODLE:

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

OneNoteRELATIVE WEAKNESSES OF ONENOTE:

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

SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION THEN?

Example of just some of the many options available in Moodle

Example of just some of the many options available in Moodle

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

Best Uses of Moodle:

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

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

Best Uses of OneNote:

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

CONCLUSION:

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

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Student Use of OneNote with Teacher Feedback

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

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

Narrating Teaching Moments with Office Mix

office mixEvery 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 new OneNote Class Notebook Creator tool which many teachers have wanted to learn more about.
  • Using Office Mix to record lessons or explanations on critical concepts for students.
  • Using Moodle Forums to assist students with revision for examinations.

In this blog I am going to cover a neat feature of Office Mix – the ability to upload a Mix to Microsoft’s platform, and how permissions can be managed to control the visibility of the content. I have blogged about using Office Mix as a digital whiteboard already and how the ability to narrate ideas and concepts is helping some of our teachers flip the classroom, like Mr Kevin Barron.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

MixThere 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:

  1. Organisation: Essentially, only teachers or students at the school would be able to view the Mix
  2. 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
  3. Unlisted: Anyone with the direct link could view the Mix, but it was not searchable on the internet
  4. 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:

Tam Mix

In this Mix, she recorded it on a Surface Pro 3 as part of the trial group we have going at St Andrew’s College and used the inking features to highlight different points as she went through them. The initial feedback from her students is that it was really helpful to have this visual and aural guidance especially from their own teacher and not just a random clip off YouTube.

SUMMARY:

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
  • Recording tips and tricks in subject specific applications such as Photoshop or Sibellius
  • Recording how to write up a bibliography in History
  • Recording how to change certain network settings in Windows 7 or 8 to improve wireless performance.
  • And the list goes on!
  • UPDATE: Darrell Webster, an Office365 & Microsoft MVP, suggested some other useful ideas for recorded Office Mix by teachers: to record an overview of the course or promote an upcoming assessment or project. Excellent idea! Darrell has also recorded a good introductory overview to Office Mix that you can see here. 

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.

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

OneNote To Rule Them All

JYO OneNote

This post first appeared in the August 2014 edition of the College’s Regulus Magazine

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.”

Reflections from the 2014 #edchatnz Conference (Guest Posts)

edchatnzEarlier this year Mr Matt Nicoll started introducing a wider group of staff at St Andrew’s College to Twitter, and how they could use this as an expanded Professional Learning Network (PLN) to support their teaching practice. As part of this, he introduced them to the fortnightly #edchatnz “teacher chat” which is sometimes referred to as “PD in your PJs” since it runs between 8:30-9:30pm on a Thursday night.

edchatNZ MissionsAs wider momentum built nationally behind this regular chat, plans for a conference grew, coming to fruition over the 8-9th of August at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. Matt Nicoll was part of the #edchatnz organising committee, and St Andrew’s College sent ten staff to attend this, a mixture of Preparatory and Secondary teachers and our Library Manager. They all committed to blogging some reflections and you can see them in their entirety here. I have selected just a few observations to include below:

Vicki Pettit – Head of Learning Preparatory School:

Mrs Pettit started with a tour of Hobsonville Point Primary and reflected:

From hearing all the talk about modern learning environments it was great to see one in action [at Hobsonville Point Primary] … What we saw continually reinforced by staff and students at HPPS was the students being at the centre of the learning … Learning is visible and by visible, all stages of the planning and process are displayed as you move around the different spaces … It was interesting to talk to the students and hear them articulate where they are at in the learning process.

She went on to reflect about how personalisation of learning is instrumental:

Personalised learning in Action and lies in designing a curriculum that truly engages the learner. And of course to do that, personalisation is the key. Would your students still come to school, or to your class in they didn’t have to? The answer should be a resounding “YES” … A great two days spent with an inspiring group of educators!

Ben Hilliam – Maths and Statistics Teacher:

Like Mrs Petitt, Mr Hilliam started out with a tour, but this time it was of the brand new Hobsonville Point secondary school. He observed:

The campus is unlike any secondary campus I have ever visited. It is built to accommodate 1350 day students, but currently it has a roll of around 120 year 9s … The feel of the building is much more in line with what a modern library, university campus or software development company office might feel like. It is physically set up to encourage openness and collaboration …

The potential challenges of teaching in an environment like this was not lost on him, but there was abundant evidence that learning was taking place:

There are no classrooms, form-groups, timetables, bells, periods or subjects. As a teacher from a ‘traditional’ school, the question begs, how on earth does anything get learnt?! (or taught) … Yet, despite the apparent lack of structure, the year 9s were busy doing all sorts of things. The walls were covered with examples of student work … What struck me a lot within the way students self-direct themselves was the way they are encouraged to be self-aware of their goals and what they will have to do along the way to achieve them.

This final comment is telling in terms of the emphasis placed on students to be responsible for their own learning:

Such a pedagogical structure places massive amount of responsibility on the individual student. This is not a fact lost on the staff at Hobsonville Point.

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