The interview below introduces Mr Dekkers and his role.
Wilj, can you give an outline of your previous roles/experiences?
I began teaching 19 years ago in a bilingual school in Mangere. My interest with technology in education was quickly picked up on by the school principal who had me draw up plans to cable the old school buildings and network their Acorn computers.
From there the technology advanced and I became a teacher, network administrator and tech support in a new Apple school in Manurewa, eventually becoming an ICT facilitator working with a cluster of schools across Auckland where I worked with school Heads, teachers and students.
I returned to the classroom in 2003, teaching and running various departments in the United Kingdom until my wife and I returned to New Zealand towards the end of 2013.
I began teaching in the Preparatory School here at St Andrew’s College with the responsibility of eLearning Co-ordinator added to my main function as a Year 6 classroom practitioner.
Over the past three years my use and combination of technology to enhance and promote learning continued develop and I was fortunate to be selected as one of five Microsoft Innovative Educators to be sent to Budapest, Hungary for the annual E2 education conference.
What are the main aspects/responsibilities of your new role at StAC?
My new role in the College is as Head of Innovation and Information Services. I will be running programmes and projects with students and teachers that involve everything from coding, robotics and 3D printing through to helping collegians use technology more effectively within their learning programmes.
What are the main aspects of your role that you are most looking forward to?
2017 will be an exciting time. With the new challenge of also running the Secondary Library I am looking forward to working with the team to redevelop the space into a modern library technology centre. This redefined learning space will become the venue for testing new technology before introducing them into the classroom, various coding and robotics programmes and will also be a variable learning classroom for Science and other departments to book as required.
The core library function will be enhanced with a more modern look with the library staff role altering to work more closely alongside subject teachers to support the curation of resources and to teach the effective use of information literacy skills.
Other than technology and education, what are your main interests?
Aside from my teaching and learning role with technology I also thoroughly enjoy running the Preparatory School Football programme. Each Wednesday I am out on the Prep School field with 60 players ranging in age from 5 to 10 and in the winter months I have the pleasure of coordinating the Under 9 to 13 teams. The last three years have seen football number continue to increase with the sport becoming very popular with both boys and girls.
It’s great to welcome Wilj more formally into our team, and it is exciting to hear of the developments he will be implementing. Wilj will become an occasional contributor to this blog so check back to hear of his progress!
Secondary School – overview of technology and current activity
Two concepts come to mind when contemplating Technology and its significance within education. Firstly, once hailed as the Holy Grail for its innovation within the communication field, Technological innovation increasingly holds the auspicious role of ‘global saviour’ when engineered by socially conscious citizens. Experts argue that we are now living in the age of the Anthropocene – the proposed epoch when humanity has irrevocably altered the planet’s geology and ecosystems. Can the youth of today, who will live in a world where the ‘internet of things’, ‘bio- wearables’ and ‘blockchain’ technology are the norm, turn our influence around and steer our global impact in a new direction towards a more sustainable future aided by innovative technology?
Marie Pellin, 2014
Secondly, technology (characterised by exponential growth) surely needs to be influenced by socially conscious citizens as eluded to above. For example, exponential growth of internet technology may be tempered by our socially aware youth favouring net neutrality. Equally so, it appears that technology is forcing companies to be better global citizens. “In the age of internet transparency, it seems corporates no longer have anywhere to hide – a spot of corporate social responsibility (CSR) whitewashing is not going to cut it anymore” (Lawson, 2016).
At St Andrew’s College we are aiming for continuous improvement as far as opportunities for ‘technology enablement’ and development of ‘computational thinking’ are concerned. Well-supported by our Technology Department’s academic expertise and our ICT Division (headed by Director, Sam McNeill, and e- Learning Integrator, Tom Adams) the additional support we offer GATE students includes: Coding Club, Neuroscience Learning Module with participation in the Australasian Brain Bee Competition for Year 11 students, Forensic Science and Astrophysics Learning Modules, Passion Projects where students have the opportunity to complete coding-based projects, online participation in the New Zealand Diplomacy Competition, attendance at University of Canterbury public lectures, such as the recent Black Hole lecture, meetings with University of Canterbury lecturers and access to technology-based opportunities and events such as the recent Singularity University workshop.
Students taking part in the Neuroscience module
Future strategies for 2017 include: offering Geographic Information Systems modules as part of the Year 9 and 10 Academic Extension and Enrichment (ACEE) Programmes, development of the Coding Club supported by Tech tutors drawn from industry, introduction of a comprehensive robotics programme to bridge our Preparatory School’s excellent programme, facilitation and guidance for students wishing to apply for the NASA Space School, potential visits to Auckland’s Stardome Observatory and/or the Mt John Observatory, online tech learning opportunities such as edX and Coursera [the top specialisations in Coursera are all technology-based], facilitation of Orion’s Evolocity Competition, and the establishment of further connections with Christchurch’s Innovation Precinct as part of the Christchurch Tech Sector Strategy [2015-2025]. In addition we will continue to punctuate our GATE calendar with further ‘SMAC’ opportunities for intellectual growth and sharing of minds such as expanding the classroom via e-meetings.
The St Andrew’s College Secondary School GATE programme has integrated Technology as a learning area with Philosophy, Sustainability and increasingly, Global Citizenship. Continue reading →
Three computer whiz kids in Year 8 are acting as technology mentors for the entire Preparatory School student body, and even quite a few teachers. Caleb, Cameron and Mitchell run twice weekly Fountain of Knowledge technology training sessions, with students able to book appointments on a sophisticated website set up by Caleb. “I took over the project from its founder Ward (now Year 10) when I was in Year 6. We have seven mentors including the three of us, and are training up some Year 6 students so they can run the sessions next year,” says Caleb.
The students help with everything from setting up the internet on laptops, phones and tablets, to installing anti-virus software, and helping students to get the most out of OneNote. They also teach students how to use the cameras and other equipment in the TV studio. Their teacher Ms Melissa Rennell says she sometimes has teachers knocking on her door seeking technical help from one of the boys, or asking for assistance with their Activboards. “They often go to these students first before the ICT Department.” Caleb has even rebuilt an old laptop from the Preparatory School and connected it up to an active board on which students can share their projects.
As they get ready to hand over the Fountain of Knowledge at the end of the year, Caleb, Cameron and Mitchell are thinking about which equally enthusiastic young technology experts they will pick as its new leaders, and are already training Year 6 student Nicholas. “We’re proud of the programme and have had a lot of support from Mr Dekkers, who will be the teacher in charge of it again next year,” says Caleb.
Cameron says he enjoys technology but isn’t planning on a career in the field at this stage. However Caleb and Mitchell hope to one day own their own technology companies, “like Apple, or Google”.
Note: this is quite a lengthy and, at times, technical post about configuring and deploying Minecraft in a school when choosing not to use the new Microsoft Education Edition. The following is the structure of the blog if you want to jump to a particular point of interest:
The Background Situation: existing Minecraft usage and identified problems.
The Opportunity: what we felt we needed to deliver to run our own Minecraft server securely and easily.
The Technical Setup:
Client Installation & Deployment
Where To From Here:
Minecraft, the hugely popular game with students of all ages, is described as:
A game about placing blocks and going on adventures. Explore randomly generated worlds and build amazing things from the simplest of homes to the grandest of castles.
Despite this initial success there has always been some problems with administering Minecraft, particularly around easily and securely allowing student interaction and collaboration in these virtual worlds. To date, teachers have had to rely on students using the Minecraft Personal Edition meaning it was essentially single player mode only, removing the ability to collectively work on a project together. To promote greater student engagement and allow the key competencies to be fully utilized in learning through Minecraft, alternatives needed to be identified.
In late September 2014, Microsoft purchased Minecraft for $2.5billion which held out the possibility of a deeper integration into Office365 and Microsoft’s wider Education strategies. It took just under two years before Minecraft Education version was released, during which time an alternative Minecraft Edu was essentially shut down and absorbed into Microsoft’s new Education version. This was a shame as the Edu version was very good, allowing the use of numerous custom mods (modifications to improve/customise the game play) and it could be run on a hosted server, not just on the student’s personal device.
There was no ability to host the game on a stand alone server – now it would be installed and hosted via the teacher’s laptop computer (this raised significant security concerns for us and ultimately was a show stopper).
There was no custom mod support whatsoever. Over time, it was the ability to modify and customise the game play that had contributed to the enduring appeal of Minecraft and without this, the default game play was less appealing.
The upside, however, was that licensing was incredibly easy to manage and, if you were prepared to overlook security concerns, deployment for a teacher in a basic network would also be simplified.
An example of students using Minecraft Pocket Edition in previous years
After the initial disappointment of realising we would not deploy Minecraft Education as soon it was released, Mr Wilj Dekkers engaged in a number of discussions with myself and Mr Joshua Harrison from the St Andrew’s College ICT Services Team to explore how we might progress forward with Minecraft. Very quickly, some key features were identified:
Teacher Control: teachers would need the ability to easily manage students within the game. Without this, the chances of students running amok and getting into mischief was very real. This would require third party mods to achieve and a strategic plan around how Digital Citizenship teaching could be included into the Minecraft worlds.
The Minecraft server needed to be hosted centrally so that it could be controlled by the ICT services team, whilst still allowing the delegation of in-game management to teachers and to those students identified as leaders who could be student administrators.
Teacher/Student administrators needed the ability to maintain / deploy approved mods and perform low level administration work e.g. restarting worlds, creating/deploying new worlds.
Finally, the issue of how to deploy a pre-configured client onto student BYOD devices in a quick and simple manner, without disrupting any existing installations of Minecraft they may have already installed.
The above list of requirements needed addressing if we were going to be able to build a sustainable environment for integrating Minecraft into the eLearning strategies at the College. Joshua decided he would explore various options based on his prior knowledge administering various Minecraft servers in his own time and see if there could be some suitable solutions to use at St Andrew’s.
For the proof of concept, we decided to use an existing HP Compaq 6000 that was spare. The specifications of this machine were pretty light weight, having only a Core2 Duo CPU and 4GB of RAM. It remains to be seen if this will be sufficient and we anticipate needing to increase the resources of this machine as more users and worlds join.
After exploring various different versions of Minecraft, Joshua settled on 1.7.10 1.10.2 (this version is required to be compatible with Sponge. The earlier version was needed for supporting Bukkit which we are no longer using – see below). To support the deployment of these mods, two frameworks were necessary:
Bukkit This has been replaced with Sponge due to a potential copyright issue; this has resulted in dropping KCauldron as well.
These are essentially APIs that allow other mods to run on the Minecraft server and normally a Minecraft administrator would use only one or the other of Forge or Bukkit. However, as will be seen, it was necessary to use both and to achieve this an additional third party tool called KCauldron was necessary to enable the use of different mods on the same platform to work nicely together. With the use of Sponge, there is no need for third party tools like KCauldron, as Sponge integrates directly into Forge.
Minecraft Server Dashboard
Another important tool was MC Dashboard which allowed Joshua to use a graphical user interface (GUI) rather than a traditional command line interface (CLI) to administer the Minecraft server. This tool provides easy oversight into server resource usage, connected users and other important information.
As mentioned earlier, it is really the mods that create the key appeal of Minecraft in schools, as it allows for customisation of the worlds and gameplay and, sadly, was something that Microsoft chose to remove from their Education edition. It’s easy to see why, however, because mods are also one of the trickier components and can easily lead to problems of version compatibility and contribute to a poor user experience. There are three key mods that Joshua has deployed for the StAC Minecraft server:
Multiverse: Project Worlds:(Project Worlds replaces Multiverse due to the changes above relating to Bukkit – everything following remains the same) This is a key one as it allows us to run parallel worlds on the same server, whilst enabling teachers and/or students to jump between worlds at will. Put practically, a teacher could create a world for a collaborative social studies project where students need to work towards an assessment or project, whilst having a separate world for “free play” and experimentation. Without Multiverse, projects would need to be separated spatially within the same world which would inevitably lead to problems, such as having to walk a long way to go from one project to another – it all takes time!
PermissionsEX:PermissionManager:(PermissionManager replaces PermissionsEX due to the changes above relating to Bukkit – everything following remains the same) This mod allows for differing levels of user permissions groups, and the following four were setup for school usage:
Student – a basic user who can only do the default game play such as build/place etc
Student Administrator – have slightly elevated controls such as the ability to move other student users around, freeze them and do other temporary modifications. These permissions are designed to support a Digital Citizenship component where students can be educated and entrusted to self-manage as much as possible within the game. The assigned permissions here were carefully selected by Joshua to prevent a student who had prior knowledge of how Minecraft administration works from being able to execute any command.
Teacher – has access to most of the Minecraft server administration, can create new worlds, can kill off users, teleport users between worlds and other main administration functions.
Administrator – aimed at superusers and, at this stage, reserved for ICT staff to support the server installation as necessary.
ICY Admin:The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod(This was used to replace ICY Admin due to the version change of Minecraft) This is the key mod to bring the above together into a user-friendly GUI allowing for in-game administration from a graphical menu for the above user groups. The available menu options in ICY Admin The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod have been built from scratch by Joshua and are controlled by a config file on the Minecraft server itself. Users access the menu system during game play by hitting the tilde key (~) and this replaces the need to execute console / CLI commands within the game. This makes it significantly easier for new users to engage with the game and reduces the barrier-to-entry for teachers who may wish to administrate but know none of the commands.
Some of the controls available via ICY Admin The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod include things such as “freeze” a user/all users in place (useful if you effectively want to pause the game for a break), teleportation of a single user / all users to a shared starting point or, for example, if you wanted them all to be in the same place to work on the same project. Additionally, environmental settings can be controlled in this way e.g. make it rain or snow, or set it to always be night time.
The control interface for teachers and student-admins when using The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod (which replaced ICY Admin)
These three core mods are what allows the overall setup and administration and, through conversations with Mr Dekkers, are probably sufficient to enable most scenarios of how Minecraft might be used at this stage. Two in-game mods specifically requested by Mr Dekkers were IndustrialCraft and ComputerCraft both of which allow for significant learning opportunities. IndustrialCraft supports things like electricity generation and storage through batteries and transferring into different parts of the game, whilst ComputerCraft is essentially a full programming language accessible by computers in the game.
Client Installation & Deployment:
Windows installation batch script
With the setup of the Minecraft server achieved, the final part of the solution was how to easily deploy this to the individual student BYOD laptops. St Andrew’s College has a choice within parameters for BYOD, meaning students can bring either a Windows 10 laptop or an Apple MacBook running OS X.
It was important that there was an easy, stress-free way for teachers and students to install this version of Minecraft onto laptops that did not necessarily need to involve the ICT Services helpdesk team at the College. Joshua was pretty confident he would be able to write some batch scripts for Windows and I suggested he check out OS X’s Automator as a way of scripting installation for the MacBooks. Interestingly, he found that he was able to script the installation on MacBooks with Automator in about half the time it took to write a batch file for Windows.
The tasks in the Automator script to install onto a MacBook running OS X
The key to making this happen was Minecraft MultiMC, an open source launcher for Minecraft that allows users to run completely separate installations of Minecraft with ease, meaning that we could confidently encourage students to install this version without affecting any other installation of Minecraft they may already have on their laptop.
Essentially, a student is provided with a USB key that has an installer launcher that copies MultiMC and a Java installation into a new folder, whilst setting up short cuts in their Applications folder so they can run the game.
Interestingly, Joshua opted to not include a copy of the Minecraft client application itself within this installer file, instead relying on students having to enter their own Minecraft credentials (linked with their personal paid licensed copy) which would then trigger the download of the client application of Minecraft. This way, we are not distributing any commercial software illegally and the download only adds 1-2minutes to the overall installation process. The key benefit, however, was that MultiMC is already configured to point the installation to the College’s on-premise Minecraft server meaning there was no additional configuration required for students. Additionally, Joshua set this up to run on a non-standard port so that if other students were using Minecraft at school they could not accidentally connect to the school’s Minecraft server and become a nuisance.
All up, it takes less than 5 minutes for a student to install this version of Minecraft from a USB key provided by the teacher.
Where To From Here?
I am always really happy when members of the ICT Services Team have an opportunity to use their prior experience or personal interests to contribute to the teaching and learning at the College in ways like this. It is one of the unique things about delivering ICT in schools compared to other environments and the ability to be involved in this way is enjoyed by the staff. Talking with Joshua he admitted to being a bit worried about how to deliver what needed to be a very simple solution that could be managed by students and teachers whilst still being secure and stable:
I had a huge sense of personal satisfaction with the finished solution because I was a bit worried about how I would be able to deliver all of this at the start, or even if it was possible. Ultimately, it was ICY Admin that made it all possible and this was something I found only through researching for this project. It’s nice to know that the hundreds of hours I’ve spent administering Minecraft servers in my own time have paid off and could be used in an educational context.
Mr Joshua Harrison
For me, it is pleasing to know that we have a secure, robust and extensible platform which teachers will be able to use relatively painlessly thanks to the efforts of Joshua in this area. It remains to be seen what interesting curriculum uses arise from this and I’ll certainly be posting a followup blog highlighting this.
Of course, as Microsoft continue to develop their Augmented Reality HoloLens solutions, then perhaps the future of Minecraft will be 3D as this video shows:
Inquiry | Creativity | Collaboration – The role of technology in modern learning
Developing teacher understanding and encouraging implementation of collaborative and digital learning methods
Integrating and encouraging digital technology adoption in curriculum and classroom
The new narrative: IT training and computational thinking
Building technology into the curriculum – lessons, challenges and what we’ve learnt along the way
Collaboration at the forefront of today’s teaching environment
When preparing what I wanted to share at the 40 minute session I had been given, I decided on using the Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum to explain why some examples of eLearning from four St Andrew’s College teachers had been successful. Additionally, I wanted to use authentic student voice to highlight this – fortunately, having been blogging on this site for over two years now there was plenty of examples I could draw on.
Thinking: is about using creative, critical, and metacognitive processes to make sense of information, experiences, and ideas … Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of this competency … [Students] reflect on their own learning, draw on personal knowledge and intuitions, ask questions, and challenge the basis of assumptions and perceptions.
Using Language, Symbols and Texts: Using language, symbols, and texts is about working with and making meaning of the codes in which knowledge is expressed … Students who are competent users … can interpret and use words, number, images, … and technologies in a range of contexts … They confidently use ICT to access and provide information and to communicate with others
Managing Self: This competency is associated with self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners … It is integral to self-assessment.
Relating To Others: Students who relate well to others are open to new learning and able to take different roles in different situations … By working effectively together, they can come up with new approaches, ideas, and ways of thinking.
Participating & Contributing: This competency is about being actively involved in communities … They may be local, national, or global. This competency includes a capacity … to make connections with others, and to create opportunities for others in the group.
I started the session off by highlighting the fact that often ICT is talked about in terms of risk. This can come from security breaches, budget blow-outs and ICT project cost overruns, not to mention distracted and off-task behaviour when using technology. I then posed the following questions:
I wanted to highlight how some of the best examples of effective eLearning from teachers at St Andrew’s College was firmly rooted in Key Competencies. I chose examples from the following four teachers:
Combining OneNote & MineCraft To Create Pick-A-Path Stories:
to produce interactive pick-a-path adventure stories
KC: Using Languages, Symbols & Text
to work collaboratively online to produce an end product
KC: Relating To Others
to create stories to share online with a wider audience
KC: Participating & Contributing
As mentioned above, I wanted to use authentic student voice as much as possible so I included an abbreviated version of the following video so that the audience could hear students articulating their learning and the impact that technology had made:
An insightful quote from the student called Harry was:
The goal was not to just make something pretty in Minecraft, it was actually to improve the quality of your writing … after writing the story, the idea was to look back in Minecraft and see how you could improve the writing you had already completed.
To assist teachers at St Andrew’s College with integration of technology into their teaching and learning, we have adopted the SAMR taxonomy that you can see on the left.
This is a really useful way for teachers to conceptualise how technology might assist the learning outcomes for their students as well as provide them some aspirational goals for extended use of technology. Tom Adams, our eLearning Integrator, has recently written in detail about effective use of the SAMR model which is definitely worth reading if you are new to it. During the presentation, I introduced the audience to a relatively new product from Microsoft called Pulse. This enables the audience to provide real time feedback on a session as well as allowing the presenter to push out questions for quick polls. I asked the audience “What level of SAMR do you feel the Minecraft/OneNote example was operating at?” and below is their response:
Using Microsoft Pulse for instant feedback from the audience
Inspiring Creative Writing Through Constructing Digital Worlds:
The next example I shared was again around creative writing, this time from the High School instead of a Year 6 class. The full reflection can be found here, however the high level overview of the task was as follows (with Key Competencies inserted):
Learning Tasks For This Unit:
Write a short story of ~600 words with a theme of “conflict”
KC: Using Languages, Symbols & Text
Students Must produce at least 4 “drafts”
Drafts must be shared with peers for feedback/feed-forward & act on appropriate advice
KC: Participating & Contributing
What was different about this activity is that students had to build their digital world before they started their writing and use it as a source of inspiration and planning, not just as a reflective tool for editing. Settings were constructed in Sketchup, Paint, Minecraft and the source engine of the game Counter-Strike. Here is a student Ralph talking about his world which I again shared with the conference audience:
Again, I find the language used by the student here informative, with some of his comments being:
“I wanted readers to grasp that the bombs had come from the bank itself”
Clearly, the reader’s experience is at the forefront of his thinking when he is designing his digital world.
He blended his natural enjoyment of the game Counter Strike with his school work and learning – a win/win situation!
Ralph talks about adding a backstory to the real events of the London Bombings, demonstrating a wider awareness of global communities
“As I was designing the level I was constantly thinking of ways I could make the story more interesting.”
This was not just technology for the sake of it – it was clearly shaping and informing his understanding of the creative writing task that was the key learning outcome here.
This was manifested through his drafting process where he removed a lot of the dialogue to improve the narrative flow and added more descriptive text such as the sound of the gunfire
This impressive learning came on the back of an earlier, easier task where the students in the class had leveraged an existing digital world (Google Earth) rather than having to create their own. Through the lens of the SAMR scale this makes perfect sense – the students build their knowledge and experience of digital toolsets in the lower levels of SAMR and once mastered they can progress to more difficult tasks. Here is a write up of the earlier task where students had to explain the significance of setting in a film, and this is a student talking about their comprehension.
Again, it’s important to pick up on the student’s language – the technology is integrally linked to the learning outcomes, it is not merely there for entertainment or distraction. By requiring students to record their personal reflections in this way, students are using a number of Key Competencies.
Communicate Musical Intention By Composing An Original Piece of Music Inspired By Art:
The final example I shared with the audience came from Level 3 Year 13 Music. On the first day of the conference I had been asked to be part of a Q&A Panel about integrating technology into schools and one question from the audience was essentially around what are real world examples of great technology usage in NCEA subjects. The heart of the question was around the challenge of adapting existing assessments to be technology rich and I answered it by a brief description of this example from Mr Duncan Ferguson our Head of Music.
Using AS.91419 (3.4)
KC: Using Languages, Symbols & Texts
Students are required to reflect on their composition and explain the connection with the art that inspired them
These are largely independent projects that the students need to work on themselves
KC: Managing Self
Here is the video of the student reflecting on their learning:
Students were required to watch the instructional videos and then attempt the practice questions
Students needed to regularly complete check lists indicating their progress
KC: Managing Self
Here is an example video made by Mr Hilliam:
What I most liked about this example is that students were not left on their own to just work through it, the teacher is still involved through the process, despite the availability of the instructional videos. The following screenshot is from a OneNote Class Notebook showing how the student has completed their progress reports and the teacher has provided feedback:
I used MS Pulse to ask the audience whether they personally felt that using a “flipped classroom” genuinely created more opportunities for differentiated and personalised learning during class time. Their response was overwhelmingly “yes!”
An alternative way to show poll results from MS Pulse
I concluded my session with the following thoughts:
This week St Andrew’s College has joined in the national celebrations of Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori with a number of different activities. For the first time, we decided to run a Digital Scavenger Hunt that was aimed at getting ākonga (students) and kaiako (teachers) engaging in the celebrations in a fun way through using technology.
This was achieved using a Digital Scavenger Hunt, whereby students had to complete a number of tasks that accrued points based on the level of difficulty or effort required. The following poster was created using Canva and posted around the College and also on the news stream of our Moodle LMS
A handwoven harakeke pikau was 1st Prize
Initially, I was unsure of the best technology to get students to submit their photos and videos to a central location easily, and without needing a specific app or account. I tried to crowdsource some suggestions through my PLN (Professional Learning Network) on Twitter, with ideas of using Padlet, Cluster, Instagram and Google Drive all being suggested. I also thought about setting up an open course on our Moodle site that students could submit photos and videos for the competition through, however the reality is that it is still not super easy from a mobile phone to do this.
In the end, I settled on using the relatively new “File Request” feature that is available free with a Dropbox.com account. The beauty of this is that it significantly lowers the barrier of entry for students as:
They did not require a personal Dropbox account themselves
They didn’t need a specific app on their phone – it worked through a mobile browser on any platform (we tested on iOS, Windows and Android). We used a QR Code and shortened URL to make it easier to type on a phone – http://bit.ly/stac-mlw
Any files they submitted were visible only to me as the Dropbox account – students could not see the entries of anyone else which was important.
Students entered their name and email address when submitting files, so all entries were easily identifiable and Dropbox emailed me as the account owner when a submission was made.
To assist students with how to submit their entries, I made an instructional video using ScreenFlow 6 and a nice new feature in version 6 is the ability to record the screen of your mobile phone. This allowed me to show what to do on the phone to upload photos and video, whilst simultaneously showing what it looked like on the Dropbox account as the files were submitted:
Video showing how to submit photos for the Digital Scavenger Hunt directly from your mobile phone
The competition proved most popular in our Preparatory School, with the majority of entries coming from Year 7 students. Here are a couple of example photos that were entered:
I had a chat with Mr Tom Adams, our eLearning Integrator, at the end of this competition and we both agreed that this is an idea that could be recycled easily for other purposes. Now that we know that Dropbox File Requests is an easy way to submit and receive files via mobile phones this could be used for other Digital Scavenger Hunts with a different theme.
One idea could be an orientation programme for new students, aimed to get them going around the campus to learn where different places/services are located. There are some specific apps aimed at doing this, such as Scavify, but building your own would probably not be too difficult either. In the end, this was a fun and relatively easy activity to build into our celebration of Te Reo Māori at St Andrew’s College.
To help promote the event, I took to a new tool I’ve been using recently called Canva which allows you to very quickly and easily develop stylish posters, images and social media banners through their website:
One of the key reasons TeachMeets are successful is that presenters are limited to only 2minutes or 7minutes for their presentations. This results in a fast-paced event and a range of different ideas and solutions being shared. It also means that preparation for the volunteer presenters is kept at a minimum – it’s not onerous to share something you’re already doing in your classroom or researching to give a go.
From the slides above, you can see there were seven presenters who shared on the following topics:
Wilj Dekkers (St Andrew’s College) Using MineCraft and OneNote for Creative Writing
Tom Neumann (Riccarton High) Using an alphanumeric self marking video game in Moodle to review content of Yr11 Economics
Sue McLachlan (Hagley College) Using OneNote Learning Tools in the classroom
Tam Yuill Proctor (St Andrew’s College) Using OneNote as a Digital Teacher’s Planbook
Karyn Gray (Haeta Community Campus) The Quest for Personalisation of Learning- My Thinking, My Research, My Questions
Schira Withers (Our Lady Of The Star Of The Sea) How we as educators can help students with low working memories improve their self-management skills using digital technologies, thus allowing them to experience success and move from a fixed to growth mindset.
Donna Jones (St Andrew’s College) Using a 3D app to inspire creative thought and ideas for creative writing.
This post was written by Mr Wilj Dekkers who attended the Annual E2 Conference. He is the second St Andrew’s College teacher to be invited to this global conference, after Mr Ben Hilliam attended in 2015.
Mr Wilj Dekkers
Microsoft Education hold an annual event that celebrates the achievements of educators who combine pedagogy and technology in their classrooms and schools. The event is held in a different global location each year, with 2016 seeing Microsoft Innovative Educator experts (MIE experts) converge on Budapest, Hungary.
I was fortunate to be selected as one of five New Zealand educators to attend this year. The E2 educator conference ran during the week of March 7th and was based at the Corinthia Hotel in the heart of Budapest.
300 educators from across the globe were given opportunities to collaborate and share our experiences integrating technology within our schools in ways that enhance and move learning forward.
As with every conference, a series of keynotes and discussion panels provided all delegates with inspiration and thought provoking ideas.
Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education at Microsoft, spoke to us about recent trends and the move towards 21st century skills in education. His keynote reinforced that the world our children are growing up in will require new skill sets; that employers are looking for collaborative, critical problem solvers. I was impressed that all the concepts discussed came from a pedagogical background and never placed technology above learning but made it an integral part of the lifelong learning process. As Anthony said, “What we’re here to do is help every student on the planet achieve more.”
Two of the highlights of the morning keynotes were Stephen Reid and Jacqueline Russell.
Stephen runs a company called Immersive Minds and for the past 20 years has been using technology as a learning tool in classrooms. Stephen works with students and teachers to create new learning environments though a mix of digital and real world tools, developing confidence in the learning process on both sides as well as competence in the use of technology to support pedagogy, classroom management and assessment. Stephen presented how he uses Minecraft to help develop Key Competencies through History and Science. I attended one of Stephen’s workshops and spent time speaking with him about my own use of Minecraft to enhance literacy and accepted his kind offer to help us at St Andrew’s with ideas we are developing using Minecraft as part of the school centenary.
The workshops this year were diverse with subjects such as flipping your classroom using OneNote, Surface and digital inking to engage students; Minecraft application throughout Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM); building a world in Project Spark that reflected the collective understanding of the ideal learning environment; digital literacy and creative programming in the classroom.
One particular workshop was run by Nikkie Laing, a Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow from Opaheke School in Auckland. Nikkie’s workshop centred on the use of Office 365 SharePoint Sites. In detail Nikkie shared how to minimize the time teachers spend collating and preparing resources and the time learners spend looking for materials and get on with learning. Her presentation and workshop was so well structured and delivered that she won the prize of best presentation of the conference. An overview of Nikkie’s workshop is below.
Another teacher tells me how he uses Minecraft to teach creative writing. “I used to tell them to write a story and they’d give me these blank stares. Now I ask them to act out a story in the Minecraft world first and then, together, we figure out how to articulate it in writing.” He describes how the virtual block world lets him walk his students back to specific locations so he can interrogate them about the details. “I encourage them to get more descriptive and specific; I tell them to imagine how things might smell, what the grass might feel like under their feet.”
Overall the experience has both reinforced my beliefs in the importance of integrating technology purposefully in learning and motivated me to expand upon my own pedagogical learning. The people I met have continued to amaze me with their enthusiasm and creativity. The New Zealand and Australian contingent have remained in contact post conference, having developed both a close network and long lasting friendship. We are already planning continued collaborative, cross Tasman learning opportunities for our students.
In 2015 our Preparatory School teachers began integrating robotics into the curriculum. We have blogged about it previously here, and here. 2016 has seen the continuation of introductory sessions with all year 7 classes, where they investigate the basic functionality of their EV3 robots – such as making the robots move forward, and turn.
Of particular interest to me, was how has this initial enthusiasm for robotics manifested itself into the everyday curriculum delivery of the Preparatory School. I was excited to hear about the way a Year 7 teacher, Mrs Kelly McBride, was
Mrs Kelly McBride
utilising the robots to help her students apply their knowledge of regular polygons.
Developing Growth Mindset Through Perserverence
Having spent some time teaching her students the characteristics and properties of various polygons, Mrs McBride set the class a challenge – ‘Can a robot draw a perfect polygon?’
In order for Technology to be appropriately integrated into planning, it is important that the tool selected complements the desired learning outcomes. Having introduced the new learning, the children were now required to apply it, and integrate it with their basic knowledge of robotics.
The development of a Growth Mindset is facilitated by resilience, and a love of learning. The first lesson in this series became a trial and error session as students had to persevere to respond to the slight differences in response between individual robots, in terms of the amount of turning they observed in response to particular programming commands.
“It was great to be able to develop a task that incorporated three different aspects of learning; a growth mindset, application of Robotics, and their learning about the properties of Polygons” – Mrs McBride
Year 7 Students drawing a square with a robot
Getting the Robot to Draw
Once the students had ironed out the nuances of their robots they were able to meet their first challenge – to get their robot to draw a perfect square. This challenge required even more perseverance for the students to complete perfect right angles with their squares. Mrs McBride observed students completely engrossed in their tasks, as they strove for perfection.
“It was fun having to actually calculate the degrees and try and get the robot to do it – try and fail, try and fail….then finally succeed.” – Grace, Year 7
For the groups that tasted success early, they were presented with a second, and much more complex, challenge – to get their robot to draw an oval, or a hexagon. This challenged the students to apply their understanding of these different shapes, and the properties of each, before then programming their robot to produce the shape.
“Instead of boring old maths, we had fun working out how to get the robot to draw for us” – Reeve, Year 7
Successful Integration of Technology into Teaching
It is easy to introduce an engaging tool like Robotics to students. What is more difficult, and what I am much more interested in celebrating, is when a teacher can take that tool, and create a series of lessons which authentically integrate that particular technology into the curriculum. I feel that that is exactly what Mrs McBride has achieved here. She has planned an engaging, relevant, and scalable task – which has challenged her students to contribute to their own learning.
“The students lost track of time they were so engaged – working until they had solved the problem” – Mrs McBride
How often do you want to access the internet but can’t because your device is connected via Wi-Fi to the classroom projector? It’s one or the other … but not both. St Andrew’s College has worked with Epson to find a way to do things differently.
“Epson gave us some sample units, and we trialled some existing units in our preparatory school before we did a major upgrade,” said the College’s Director of ICT Sam McNeill, noting the units were in place for six months. “We wanted proof of the concept.”
By Term 4 last year, the College had rolled out 35-40 Epson EB-535W short-throw projectors.
“One of the key drivers for upgrading to networked projectors was our use of OneNote,” explained McNeill. “We’re gradually becoming a compulsory BYOD school and the majority of teachers now choose a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or 4. Because we use OneNote, everything that goes up onto a projector screen also gets automatically saved for later in the students’ notebooks.”
Two underlying needs for a projector upgrade were also present, the first being teachers wanting not to be tethered to a projector by a VGA or HDMI cable. The second, more importantly, was St Andrew’s experiences with other technologies.
“We’ve played around with WiDi and Miracast devices, and had varied results.
“The Netgear Push2TV worked okay but still had interference issues because we had 30-40 devices in a classroom,” recalled McNeill. “The ScreenBeam dropped out from time to time, and had some security issues. Also, the pairing process between Miracast and a Windows 8.1 or 10 device was challenging for some teachers.”
Epson’s EB-535W projectors are networked and have their own IP address which is displayed on the projector’s screen, and a signal is received from a teacher’s Surface Pro via the school’s wireless network. Rather than going from one device to another (point-to-point), this allows for a highly stable connection, not unlike live internet streaming.
St Andrew’s separates all projector traffic on to a separate VLAN (with a dedicated switch), meaning it was isolated and would never affect general school-wide Wi-Fi speeds. All installation of the projectors was done by the in-house ICT team.
Enticingly, Epson’s projectors did not require a network upgrade, they could be used on the existing wireless infrastructure.
“We wanted to be able to use them for the internet and project the teacher’s screens at the same time. What we like about the Epson is, you don’t have to fiddle around with the Windows configuration. It has its own standalone software (EasyMP), and it just works.
Just one downside has come with the roll-out of Epson’s projectors.
“The trade-off in all of this is that video frame rate is reduced,” added McNeill. “If a teacher wants to play a movie, they’ll need to connect through HDMI for an optimal experience.”
St Andrew’s is using Epson’s advanced networking solutions with its projectors in various ways.
“We have the central management software, which allows us to see how the projectors are running, when bulbs blow, and see how teachers are connecting, all from our ICT office. We even have a scheduled off function, in case teachers forget to turn theirs off.”
Currently, the projector network is only accessible by teachers, not by students.
“It is possible, under moderator control from the teacher, but we haven’t had the teacher demand for it at this stage. Perhaps when they become more fluent and familiar with using wireless projectors, they’ll see the value in students’ BYOD devices projecting to it.”
St Andrew’s College is in Merivale, Christchurch. With a roll of 1,350, it’s a fully-independent, co-educational school for pre-school to Year 13 day and boarding students.