Innovation & eLearning at St Andrew’s College in 2015

2015 is shaping up to be another exciting year at St Andrew’s College, as we welcome a second cohort into the 1:1 Computing Programme that debuted in 2014. A number of things have been done to support the growing numbers of students with devices at the College including:

  • The creation of a new role called eLearning Integrator, that has been filled by Mr Tom Adams. Tom’s focus will be supporting teachers and students to use technology more effectively in the classroom and the role is a logical extension of the 1:1 Computing Programme that was first planned in 2012.
  • The hiring of an additional ICT help desk staff member, Mr Brodie Dickinson. Brodie joins the team from Adelaide, Australia and his appointment means there will always be quick and friendly ICT support for students and staff when they need it.
  • snapA second fibre optic internet connection has been installed, with support from our ISP Snap Internet. This means the College now has two diverse internet feeds available, so in the event of a fibre cut or outage, the College internet connection will automatically fail over to the secondary connection, ensuring almost seamless internet access for students and staff.

I can see that this year there will be a number of trends that the ICT team will focus on supporting in the classroom and growing the confidence and competence of a wider range of our teaching staff.

Creating An Environment Where Innovation Can Occur:

RectorOne of the themes from the Rector in 2014 was to help create an environment where innovation can occur and in her opening address in Regulus she noted:

I am always mindful that we cannot sit still and simply enjoy the benefits of success. William Pollard (Episcopal priest and physicist) wrote in the 1960s “Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

In this light, we have adopted the theme for St Andrew’s College in 2014 of Innovation and Collaboration – two qualities that are at the heart of 21st century learning.

To support that goal, a Research and Innovation Group was set up that has laid the groundwork for the 2015 Professional Learning Groups (PLGs) that will drive teaching staff Professional Development once again this year. Furthermore, to help create an environment conducive to innovative teaching practices certain things need to occur:

  • Innovators need to be encouraged, rewarded and celebrated. At St Andrew’s this has been done in a number of ways, including creating a new billboard area in the very busy pickup/dropoff zone celebrating teacher excellence. This is the inaugural poster in this area:

Jac and Ben

  • Innovators need to be closely supported – provide them with access to the latest equipment, software and professional development as it becomes available. Ensure that when they experience frustrations there is timely support, as the classroom can be a very lonely place for teachers when technology fails them!
  • Monitor closely what is happening at the “bleeding edge” of technology in education – what’s happening on the fringe today will quite possibly be mainstream in a number of years.
  • As a school, settle on “innovation within parameters” – there is now so much choice available, that there must be some rational decisions made about the broad direction a school is heading in. (I touch on this in my #CENZ14 blog post comparing the choice of Google Apps For Education vs Microsoft Office365)
  • Support innovation at all levels – even the aspirational “first steps” by teachers, and then provide a framework for them to grow their attempts e.g. the SAMR taxonomy
Explaining the SAMR model through coffee

Explaining the SAMR model through coffee

Pulling The Majority Forward:

Innovation Adoption LifecycleSt Andrew’s College is lucky that we have a number of teachers that are routinely trying new things in their classroom. We celebrate this in a number of different ways, including postings on this blog, whilst occasionally these teachers are also recognised externally for their innovative teaching practices. This was the case with Mrs Jac Yoder and Mr Ben Hilliam who were recognised for their innovative work with Microsoft products towards the end of 2014.

Additionally, we are now starting to get requests from other schools, teacher training institutions, subject association groups and other organisations for our staff to present or facilitate professional development in the education sector. Whilst this is very pleasing, the staff involved represent a relatively small subset of our wider teachers – as the diagram above shows, they would be seen as innovators or early adopters. Amongst the remainder of our staff, the early / late majority, most are very keen to try new things but may lack the confidence or support to try new things in their classroom, particularly when it comes to technology.

For this reason, our new eLearning Integrator has the goal of growing the size of our staff innovating and who could become early adopters of technology and best practice in the classroom. Sharing the successes (and challenges!) of these innovative attempts is imperative as it will encourage all of our teaching staff to give it a go.

Tools To Help With Innovative Practice:

An important point not to lose sight of: it's the teacher, not the technology, that makes the difference!

An important point not to lose sight of: it’s the teacher, not the technology, that makes the difference!

I recently saw the image on the right retweeted by one of our staff and it is a timely reminder that for successful learning outcomes the teacher and the student are the critical components in the process. Technology, as great as it is, merely facilitates the learning, as I mentioned in this earlier post:

Whilst the phrase “ubiquitousness of technology” is over used, this lesson did demonstrate that when used effectively, the technology is not at the forefront of the lesson. It was not gimmicky or flashy, instead it provided functional improvement to what was already a great lesson.

With this in mind, there are some tools that I expect to see heavy usage of from our staff this year, including:

  • Pro 3 WritingThe Microsoft Surface Pro 3building on our earlier trials, this year we will see over 20 staff using a Pro 3 as their primary device, no longer having a school issued laptop, but instead the excellent Surface tablet. I am personally excited to see what innovative practices come from this relatively new technology in the classroom.
  • notebook creatorOneNote Class NoteBook Creator – this is a big step for St Andrew’s as a largely Microsoft school, and is something I’ve blogged about before. What is especially pleasing is the responsiveness of the developers of this product who have now added the major feature requested by teachers: the ability to have multiple teachers sharing a class notebook.
  • moodleMoodle – freshly upgraded to the latest version (2.8.2) this will continue to be a key platform for teachers and students to access course content, share ideas and submit assessment.
  • Skype – Whilst a number of classes have now enjoyed skype_logothe fun of a Mystery Skype session, the call to Alabama and kapa haka to Singapore among my favourites, I would like to see more collaboration going on between these classes – the logical progression from simply connecting.

Invariably, other tools, websites, apps and services will emerge throughout 2015 as teachers at the College try new things. With the first Mystery Skype session scheduled for February 5th with a class in Oklahoma City, the year will be underway before we know it.

I am looking forward to sharing the stories on this blog for others to read and comment on, with readers having visited the blog from over 100 countries in 2014 (the top three being New Zealand, USA and Australia):

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Guest Post: Year 6 Mystery Skype With Alabama School

This post was written by a student in Year 6SD after a Mystery Skype session in Term 4.

On November 21st 6SD was involved in a mystery skype with another Year 6 class.

As soon as they spoke we knew that they were in America, so we had to guess what State they were in. To make it more interesting and more challenging, we were only to ask yes, no questions. We were allowed to use our devices to check information and it didn’t take long for us to ask if their State had a starting letter between A and L.  We asked if their capital city was Montgomery and they replied yes. We found out on our devices that they were in Alabama.  Ben played on his electric guitar, Sweet home Alabama and they told us we were right!

They found out we were in New Zealand. After we both knew what Country/City each other was in, we asked them questions about Alabama, like what their favourite sports teams were. We found out some very cool facts about Alabama like that they get to wear mufti every day while we had to wear uniforms all the time and also that at 9.10am on Friday morning it was only 2.10pm on Thursday for them.

Overall it was a great experience and we would love to do it again.

By Henry

This post was also displayed for students to see on the College Moodle site

Culture Connecting Classrooms: Kapa Haka Via Skype

A student from Avondale Grammar in Singapore asking a question of Year 4 students at St Andrew's College via Skype

A student from Avondale Grammar in Singapore asking a question of Year 4 students at St Andrew’s College via Skype

On Friday last week our two Year 4 classes in the Preparatory school engaged in their first ever Mystery Skype, something other classes have done before with schools in Singapore and Australia. For those unsure of what a Mystery Skype is, here is a good explanation:

Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions.

This Mystery Skype was again with Avondale Grammar in Singapore, but with different classes, neither sets of students knew where in the world the other class was. It was terrific seeing the students asking intelligent questions, using atlases, globes and trusty Google to try and locate where the other school was. I was impressed with the students from St Andrew’s asking questions such as “Are you an island?” and also picking up clues such as the names on the school uniforms of the students from Avondale.

This culminated in our Year 4 students being the first to correctly guess the country and the school which was a very exciting “win” for them. To help out the Avondale students, the St Andrew’s College students decided to perform the school haka:

Year 4 students from St Andrew’s deliver a passionate haka over Skype to students in Singapore.

Mr Craig Kemp, the teacher at Avondale Grammar that helped co-ordinate the Mystery Skype was really impressed with the haka from our students, sending out a tweet with a photo of how it looked via Skype from their end.

It was quickly decided at this point that a followup Skype between the two classes should happen, as Mr Kemp was keen for his students, who had been learning some Kapa Haka themselves, to see more from the St Andrew’s College students. This happened today and we again captured the action as the two classes shared performances with each other:

Year 4 students from St Andrew’s College and Avondale Grammar exchange kapa haka performances via Skype.

I was really thrilled to see this “re-connect” between the two classrooms as it builds on the connection established via the original Mystery Skype and allows both classes to share cultural performances they have been practicing, in this case, kapa haka. It’s awesome to see that New Zealand teachers around the world are taking aspects of tikanga Māori with them into their classrooms and sharing it with their students.

A view from the St Andrew’s College classroom as Year 4 students perform the classic waiata “Toia mai te waka nei”

It’s incredible that technology such as Skype allows this sort of cultural exchange to take place so easily and I am pleased that teachers like Mr Kemp from Avondale Grammar in Singapore, and our own Year 4 teachers Mrs Penny Munro-Foster and Mrs Anneke Kamo are open to making these sorts of connections.

Mr Kemp noted at the end of the performances that former All Black rugby captain Tana Umaga was coming to visit the school only an hour after the Skype session and this was a great warm up for his students who were going to perform the haka for Tana.

Students from Avondale Grammar practice their kapa haka via Skype before a visit from former All Black rugby captain Tana Umaga

This connection creates an awesome example for other classes at St Andrew’s College to take up the challenge and try Mystery Skyping for themselves!

Suspect: The Murder Mystery Musical

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Mr Duncan Ferguson, Isaac Shatford and Ms Ginny Thorner.

Mr Duncan Ferguson, Isaac Shatford and Ms Ginny Thorner.

UPDATE: This story profiled on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp on Friday 24th October and can be seen here.

The buzz around St Andrew’s College lately has all been focused on the annual Middle School Production, largely for the fact it has been mostly written by Year 13 student Isaac Shatford, with contributions from a number of other senior students in the area of lyrics and plot. I knew something like this would always involve significant use of technology as the Musical Director was Head of Music Mr Duncan Ferguson, and was actually the first person I interviewed for a story for this blog.

Consequently, I sat down for an hour with him to learn what was involved and was impressed to learn that the following tools were just some that were used during the composition and performance of Suspect:

Quite a list! So how exactly were these being used?

Selection of Scenes from Suspect for Seven Sharp

COMPOSITION & REHEARSAL: 

Noton on iPad

Notion on the iPad

For starters, one of the challenges was that the orchestra members and cast needed to start rehearsing before the score was actually completed and with extensive collaboration ongoing between Isaac, Mr Ferguson and Ms Thorner there needed to be some way for them to see updates.

The answer was to use a combination of a shared folder in Dropbox, which was storing the score files being written in Notion. This allowed the three contributors to always be able to see the latest edits of the score at any time and also contribute edits and corrections that the others would receive immediately. The use of Notion also allowed Mr Ferguson to check the tempos and help the students ensure they were keeping accurate time with their playing. He did note, however, that the one drawback with Notion is that it doesn’t automatically update when the source files change. This was overcome by the notifications from Dropbox which would alert each of those working on the score that new changes were available.

As the product was used on both MacBook laptops and on an iPad, Mr Ferguson could use the iPad to play the score directly during rehearsals. He also used a Bluetooth foot pedal which would automatically “change pages” of the score on his iPad when playing, and if there were any changes required during rehearsals he could make them directly on the iPad, with the changes being synchronised back to Isaac in real time. This process created a great digital workflow for the writers and I asked Mr Ferguson to walk through how this looks:

“Loves a Lie” a song not completed in time for the show but will be included in the professional soundtrack recording in November.

There were a number of benefits of using Notion which included:

  • It resulted in far less printing of scores, as the digital sharing via Dropbox enabled real time collaboration to take place. In the future, it would be ideal if all orchestra members had iPads so they could also get updated copies of the latest scores in real time.
  • Because of Mr Ferguson’s other departmental commitments he could not attend every rehearsal of Suspect, but because of the excellent quality sound recordings created by Notion then the other staff involved in running rehearsals could work with the correct tempo music (particularly important for the dance choreography).

Tempo Advance AppNotion does focus on orchestral sounds and was not so strong in drums and bass, so Pro Tools was used to round out the music in this way. During orchestral rehearsals Mr Ferguson used an iPad app called Tempo Advance which allowed him to program the tempos for all the songs into a playlist and just work through them directly.

Technology has definitely allowed for the streamlining of the writing process of this show, resulting in a remarkable nine month period between the conception of the idea and the production of the show. As mentioned above, rehearsals had to start before the script was completed and to aid the students in practicing, video clips of the songs and music were embedded into a dedicated Moodle course to increase access e.g.

Moodle MusicSongs and lyrics were also distributed via Moodle in this way – with a nice mention about respecting copyright ownership of Isaac Shatford (Digital Citizenship should be taught in all classes after all!)

Moodle was later supplemented with a closed Facebook group for cast members, allowing for even further reach for sharing and practicing. Here is an example of the theme song recorded by senior students for the Middle School cast members to practice with:

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/58349924/Blog%20Data/1%20Murder%20in%20the%20night.mp3 ]

Murder In the Night – practice recording

This reveals one of the benefits of doing a show like this that was written by a student at the College: the ability to work directly with the score, modify and share it with cast and orchestra members directly. This is simply not possible with major productions that are licensed for performance (such as the Senior Production Guys and Dolls performed earlier this year).

I questioned Mr Ferguson how common this sort of “digital workflow” is amongst other schools and he believes it is essentially unique within New Zealand, describing it as the perfect model for other schools to consider implementing. He did admit, however, that working with Isaac made it easier:

Isaac is a musical prodigy, a stunning musician and I’ve never know another student who was able to produce this amount of work to this quality ever before. He’s written great songs, but it is the sheer amount of songs he has written that is just unheard of. There has been nothing to this level that has ever happened before to the best of my knowledge.

PERFORMANCE ON THE NIGHT:

Set design for the stage show Suspect

Set design for the stage show Suspect

Due to the complex set design, members of the orchestra could not all see the stage (see image to the left). To help get around this, Year 13 student Ella Harris came up with a simple, yet ingenious, workaround as explained by Mr Ferguson:

I had the iPad Mini beside my keyboard near the orchestra, and I placed an iPhone at the back of the auditorium that could easily see the entire stage. Before the performance started I simply started a Skype video call between the two devices, meaning I could see everything happening on stage at any time.

It is this type of thinking, use of technology and problem solving, that typifies what happens in the music department at St Andrew’s College. It was also during live performances that Mr Ferguson used MainStage 3 with a Midi keyboard plugged into his MacBook Pro to play the glockenspiel during performances.

During the first performance of Suspect Head of Culture Sophie Wells and Mr Dave Jensen from the TV & Media Studio, were tasked with using HD video cameras to film the show with some close up shots. Whilst the final performance was going to be filmed by the College’s TV & Film crew, it would be shot only from the back of the auditorium making close up shots challenging. With the performance captured, Mr Ferguson used Final Cut Pro to edit the two camera feeds into a rough mix of the entire show and then shared it with the cast members via the closed Facebook group.

This allowed them to reflect on their performances and actually see and hear in detail what guidance they were receiving from Ms Thorner and Mr Ferguson about their performances and to truly “get” the message.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/58349924/Blog%20Data/More%20than%20just%20a%20friend.mp3 ]

More Than Just A Friend – practice recording

 SUMMARY:

It’s pretty clear from this blog post that significant amounts of technology are deeply embedded into the practices within the Music Department at St Andrew’s College, and that they serve to enhance the creation and production of top quality music.

It’s worth reiterating that when talking to Mr Ferguson it was very clear that the use of this technology was always targeted around efficiency gains in collaboration and never simply because “they could.” Ultimately, this is how technology can assist learning outcomes – when used authentically and deeply integrated into the learning it is a fantastic tool, and in this case one that made the production of a show possible within only nine short months.

Guest Post: Yr8 Mystery Skype

MysterySkype

This post was guest written by Noah, Harry and Angus from Year 8C

Last Thursday, 8C was part of a ‘Mystery Skype’ with another unknown school in the world. We didn’t know what to expect because we had never experienced this before. A ‘Mystery Skype’ is an activity where a random class or school in the world Skype us in order to find out our location and our school name. It is a competition between the two schools to identify each other first.

A day in advance, we had to prepare. We had to split into different groups, consisting of questioners, answerers, atlas mappers, poster mappers, Google mappers, note takers and photographers. Every group had 2-4 people working on it.

Firstly, we had to have Mr McNeill (our school Director of ICT) set up the webcam and project the Skype video onto the classroom interactive whiteboard. Once that was all ready, we were prepared to make the call. Just before we made it though, Mrs Preston told us some heartbreaking news: the teacher from the mystery class had told his class that we are in New Zealand. This made it so much easier for the opposition to find where we are. Anyway, there was no looking back. We made the call. The teacher from the other school greeted us warmly. But, they also greeted us with a very well known accent. The teacher had a classic, Aussie twang to his voice. As well the students had their school logo on their jerseys

As our first question we asked ‘Are you from Australia?’ as it was obvious from the accents. The reply was yes and then they asked ‘Are you in the South Island?’ The answer was yes.

[tweet https://twitter.com/samuelmcneill/status/509882183171837952 align=’right’ width=’275′]

After a few questions they asked ‘Are you in Wellington?’ we had a bit of a laugh while replying ‘No.’

As we closed in, we found out that they were from Tasmania, Hobart and that they were only aged 8-9 years old [which helped us knowledge wise].

We managed to successfully guess they were from St Virgil’s College in Hobart

Then as we started to wrap up the Skype call they started to talk about their sport and the Tasmanian tiger and devils. Then the Skype call ended. As a class we talked about the pros and cons and what we could we improve on.

In conclusion, our class enjoyed this experience and would like to do it with another class one time but would hope for older, more experienced classes our age.

Noah, Harry and Angus.

Full video of our Mystery Skype with St Virgil’s College

Keen Young Scientists Collaborate with “Nano Girl” Via Skype

Dr Michelle Dickinson a.k.a. Nano Girl Skyping with our students in Year 4 & Year 6

Dr Michelle Dickinson a.k.a. Nano Girl Skyping with our students in Year 4 & Year 6

Collaboration. There is that word again – it’s proving to be a recurrent theme running through some of the recent blog posts I’ve written and this post epitomises the value of collaboration amongst teachers and the wider education sector.

Ten staff from St Andrew’s College travelled to Auckland earlier this month for the #edchatnz conference and a popular speaker was Dr Michelle Dickinson a.k.a. “Nano Girl.” Ginny, who teachers across both the Preparatory and Secondary schools, talked to Dr Dickinson at the conference suggesting it would be great if she could connect with our students in some way.

Quite independently, Mr Wilj Dekkers and Mrs Penny Munro-Foster had heard an interview on the radio with “Nano Girl” and also reached out to her with a request to Skype with our classes in Years 4 and 6.

Mrs Munro-Foster’s class had been looking at science in a range of different areas throughout the year, exploring ideas such as:

  • The rhythm of nature
  • Electricity, including making basic parallel circuits
  • Chemical reactions
  • Superconductors

The students had demonstrated their knowledge and understanding to their parents during a Celebration of Learning Evening much like this one with the Year6 students.

A focus was on developing rich, open questions as part of their oral language skills development and being inquisitive of the world all around them. The students had been very inspired by the TED talk given by Dr Dickinson, actually asking to re-watch the clip multiple times over the last few weeks, and each time they were getting different understanding from it:

This concept that “science is everywhere” connected with our students and led to Ginny receiving confirmation of a chance to Skype with the Year 4 and Year 6 classes today at 11:30am. With many excited students, not to mention teachers, the Skype went ahead.

Here is the first question being asked by a Year 4 student, and Dr Dickinson’s reply (the full Skype session can be seen further down the post):

Talking with Mr Dekkers and Mrs Munro-Foster after this Skype session, they both described their students as “super excited” “incredibly inspired” and “absolutely buzzing” from their chance to listen to a world class scientist working in the field of nano technology.

The Full Skype Session With Dr Michelle Dickinson

Reflections:

I am personally very excited by learning stories such as this one.

In this instance there are three different teachers, from different syndicates and departments across both the Preparatory School and Secondary School collaborating to connect with an external expert to bring rich, authentic and inspiring learning opportunties to our students. Obviously “Nano Girl” actually works in a cutting edge technology sector, but behind the scenes there is lots of great technology making this type of learning possible.

Earlier in the year we have skyped with Vikings in York in the United Kingdom as well as connecting via Skype with an international school in Singapore through a Mystery Skype session. Today’s session builds on these earlier initiatives and highlights our teachers willingness to extend their students’ knowledge and connect with true experts in their field to inspire our learners.

RectorWhat could be more exciting than that?

At the beginning of this year the College Rector, Mrs Christine Leighton, observed in her opening address in Regulus

I am always mindful that we cannot sit still and simply enjoy the benefits of success. William Pollard (Episcopal priest and physicist) wrote in the 1960s “Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

 

In this light, we have adopted the theme for St Andrew’s College in 2014 of Innovation and Collaboration – two qualities that are at the heart of 21st century learning.

I am thrilled that our teachers are picking up on this challenge and actively innovating and collaborating both internally within the College, and like today’s session with Dr Michelle Dickinson shows, further afield. For some of our staff this was their first time using Skype in the Classroom:

Based off the success of the session today, I am confident more teachers will look further afield to connect in this way.

UPDATE: Student reflections from class 4T on the Skype Session:

Dr. Michelle Dickinson of the University of Auckland also known as ‘Nano Girl’ Skyped us and answered our science questions. We all agreed that we felt both very excited and nervous at the same time. It was our first experience in a Skype classroom and we were going to talk to our science hero. We have followed her experiments, conducted our own chemistry experiments and explored electrical circuits. We were so excited that we knew about electrical currents, static electricity and chemical reactions and we could understand the conversation. Below are some extracts by 4TMF students, reflecting on their learning in a Skype classroom.

“I was very inspired when Casey asked his question and we found out that it could be possible to really fly, and you need really cold shoes.” – Maddy

“When I asked my question about super conductors and how cold the shoes would need to be to make the shoes fly, Nano Girl said -109 Celsius. The material she would use to make the boots is Yttrium, which acts as an insulator inside her shoes so that her feet wouldn’t get cold.” – Casey Continue reading

Skyping with Vikings in Jorvik

A staff member from Jorvik Viking Centre in York, role playing as a Viking woman called Toba

A staff member from Jorvik Viking Centre in York, role playing as a Viking woman called Toba

This morning our Year 3 students had a very early and exciting start to their school day, as they quietly filed into the Preparatory School Theatre at 8am, to be met by Toba a Viking woman from Jorvik (York).

Mrs Jane Radford and Mrs Jane Egden, our Year 3 teachers, were concluding a unit on Vikings and this session was going to be a chance for the students to ask a number of questions, as well as learn some additional information from a “real” Viking woman.

I had arranged this on their behalf 3 weeks ago (after a tip off from Skype in the Classroom), and the Jorvik Viking Centre had kindly agreed to a later session (9pm York time) to enable our students to have this wonderful learning opportunity.

Students listening to Toba from Jorvik

Students listening to Toba from Jorvik

It was an engaging and interactive hour long session, with Toba asking our students a number of questions, to which they could answer many of them, demonstrating some excellent learning had already taken place as part of this Viking unit. Toba showed a number of tools and weapons that were used by Vikings, with the swords and axes drawing excited “oohs and ahhs” from our students.

When it came to discussing personal hygiene, we learnt that the Vikings were very cleanly people, especially when compared to their contemporary Saxons who only bathed three times a year! When it came to dealing with nits and lice they had special combs for this and would also wash their hair in urine to kill the lice (to squeals of “that’s so gross” from our students!). You could tell who had done this as their hair turned very blonde!

Asking questions of Toba from Jorvik

Asking questions of Toba from Jorvik

Towards the end of the hour, our students still had a few remaining unanswered questions, which Toba kindly answered, including this one of “who were Vikings afraid of?”

As a group of teachers, we were very impressed with the quality of the session, it was informative, fun and engaging for the students involved. We got to see and learn about lots of different Viking tools, traditions and daily life. What was also pleasing was a number of parents stayed along to watch the session and be involved in the learning – porridge was even being prepared for afterwards!

Building on from our Mystery Skype earlier this term, it is great to see teachers looking for ways they can bring experts into the classroom through technology and present authentic learning experiences for their students.

Forging Global Connections – Mystery Skype to Singapore

On Friday 23rd May Yr3 students engaged in an eLearning first for St Andrew’s College – a Mystery Skype!

Mrs Jane Egden agreed at short notice from me to help out a request I’d seen on Twitter from Mr Craig Kemp, a Senior Teacher and ICT Specialist at Avondale Grammar in Singapore for a Yr2 or Yr3 class to engage in a Mystery Skype session. The object of a Mystery Skype is

An educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions.

In preparation for the Mystery Skype, Mrs Egden had discussed what sort of questions would be good to ask to find out where the other class was – this is what the students came up with:

Image

With the session scheduled to kick off at 1:30pm, the fantastic ICT support team at St Andrew’s set up a HD webcam in the classroom linked to the projector, and arranged chairs for the students to sit in front of so they would be visible on the webcam to the class in Singapore. Meanwhile, Mr Kemp and I had exchanged tweets showing both classes eagerly anticipating the start of the Mystery Skype:

Armed with atlases, globes and a little help from Google, the students were underway with their questions, both classes trying to “win” by correctly guessing the country of the other. Mr David Jensen from our wonderful Film and Media department filmed the action:

In the end, Avondale’s questions of “What continent are you in” and “What is the most popular sport” allowed them to correctly narrow down to New Zealand, whilst probing questions like “Are you south of China” helped our students locate Singapore.

Throughout the 30minute session, there was high engagement and excitement by all students, and as they popped outside for a quick play at the conclusion, a number requested “can we do this again soon?” A successful initial Mystery Skype for all, confirmed by Mr Kemp’s tweet shortly afterwards:

I have written previously about the benefits of harnessing Skype to pull experts into our classrooms, and I am delighted at the prospect that through this initial Mystery Skype, these two classrooms may be able to reconnect and share other learning experiences with each other. Ultimately, it is these types of learning experiences that excite me so much about the possibilities of technology in education. It is easy to expand the horizons of our students through connecting them with others all around the world, whilst keeping the learning engaging, relevant and fun.

I am looking forward to introducing other teachers at St Andrew’s to the rewarding experience of Mystery Skype sessions.

Here is a link to a different Mystery Skype from Skype’s own webpage:

Internet Radio Archives – Improving English Listening Skills

I recently sat down and chatted with Mrs Natasha Derry, a new teacher in the English Department at St Andrew’s College this year, and she talked about a lesson sequence she had just finished as part of lead in to teaching the play Twelve Angry Men.

One of the wider goals of the English Department in 2014 was working on the listening skills of students and so with this Yr12 class Mrs Derry decided to combine the intriguing story of Cornealious Michael Anderson with a radio broadcast on the internet from the website thisamericanlife.org. By using a radio broadcast, albeit from the internet, instead of a video clip from the many TV news articles that ran about Anderson, students would need to actively engage in the listening process. Helpfully, the website also provides a transcript of the radio interview which in this case allowed students the benefit of listening and reading to review what they had heard.

The blurb for the radio item said:

Mike Anderson was 36 years old, married, a suburban father of four. He owned a contracting business and built his family’s modest, three-bedroom house in St. Louis from the ground up. He volunteered at church on the weekends and coaches his son’s football team. All pretty normal, right? Except for one thing … which surfaced one day last summer.

Cornealious Michael Anderson in prison garb

Cornealious Michael Anderson in prison garb

That one thing was 13yrs ago had he been convicted of armed robbery, before posting bail pending the outcome of his appeal. When the appeal was rejected he expected to be collected and imprisoned for 13yrs. Due to a clerical error this never happened, and it was only when they came to “release” Anderson, was it discovered he had never served his time.

The students listened attentively to the 16mins in the radio broadcast, before being asked to decide whether Anderson should still serve his prison time, and to reflect their decision by standing in different areas of the room. Each group had to elect a foreman such as a jury might have, who would then represent the group, explaining the basis of their decision.

Mrs Derry was very pleased at how much detail the students recollected from the radio broadcast, evidenced by the inclusion of facts and opinions expressed during the interviews. She also showed some visuals of Anderson in prison garb and with his family as well:

Cornealious Michael Anderson with his family

Cornealious Michael Anderson with his family

Throughout this activity, the message being reinforced was how much power individual jury members have over the outcome of a court case and therefore the life of the person on trial. By contrasting the different views of the students on Anderson’s situation, Mrs Derry was able to prepare them to critically think about the play Twelve Angry Men

As we discussed this use of internet based radio broadcasts, we considered what the next steps were in consolidating the themes. One outcome from this was the possibility of leveraging Skype in the Classroom to bring an expert on the law “into the classroom” with a number of District and High Court judges as possible candidates through connections with the College.

I hope this comes to fruition as it would again highlight the important role that technology can play in making the learning authentic through connecting texts with real life events, people and experts – all of which are important factors in engaging our students.

 

Teaching the Teachers: Professional Development Between Schools

Video

I was invited to speak today with staff from Catholic Cathedral College who were part of a Professional Learning Group (PLG) that is focusing on the impact of technology in the area of literacy.

Unfortunately, I could not be physically present after having knee surgery, so made use of Skype and Screenflow to record the videoconference that took place instead. A wide ranging discussion took place over the next hour and I’ve edited this down to the following: