Technology & Skype Connects Students With Experts In Religious Education

As a Presbyterian College, all students at St Andrew’s attend weekly Religious Education classes. At Year 9, the course provides an overview of the Christian narrative with a focus on the life and death of Jesus.

Vanishing CorpseIn Term 3 this year I have been teaching an inquiry unit entitled The Case of the Vanishing Corpse which is supported by the novel of the same name, where students explore the various theories about what might have happened to Jesus’ body after his crucifixion. In previous years, students compiled a paper-based “Police Dossier” with their evidence, however now that we are a 1:1 BYOD school using Office365, students use Microsoft OneNote instead.

The OneNote Class Notebook Creator has been especially useful here, allowing teachers to create a “master copy” of a student workbook, and then for this to be easily copied into the individual student sections:

OneNote Overview

Teacher templates in the “Content Library” that students can easily copy into their personal sections within the Class Notebook for editing

Two pages from the PDF version of the OneNote - click to download

Two pages from the PDF version of the OneNote (click to download the entire dossier as a PDF)

Alongside the novel that we are reading as a class, we are watching snippets from the award winning documentary series called The Son of God presented by Jeremy Bowen, a former BBC news correspondent based in the Middle East.

Students can access the ClickView video through Moodle using their Single Sign on credentials

Students can access the ClickView video through Moodle using their Single Sign on credentials

To enable students to re-watch critical sections, this is being watched through the video library service ClickView and embedded into the College Moodle site for ease of access to students.

The documentary presents a number of alternative theories about what might have happened to Jesus, mirroring the investigation of the fictional Ben Bartholomew in the novel. These theories need to be evaluated by students and include:

  • Jesus’ body was stolen either from the cross or the tomb to “fake” a resurrection (e.g. his disciples wanted others to believe what Jesus had said was true)
  • Jesus never actually died on the cross but was administered a powerful anaesthetic (possibly the root of a Mandrake plant) so he only appeared dead, and then recovered in the tomb and escaped
  • The alleged appearances of Jesus after his death were brought about by a mass hallucination caused by intense grief at his death
  • The traditional gospel account: that Jesus was in fact the Son of God who was killed and then resurrected.

To encourage critical thinking of these ideas I have tried to bring in external experts to discuss various aspects of the case. Recently, Dr Martin Swan talked over Skype with the class about the physiology of crucifixion and what likelihood existed that someone could survive this method of execution:

Mr Dave Moskovitz

Mr Dave Moskovitz

From this we learned it would have been extremely unlikely for anyone to have survived crucifixion.

We also Skyped with Mr Dave Moskovitz, a former President of the Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation – Temple Sinai  and the current Jewish co-chair of the Wellington Council of Christians and Jews. He provided a fascinating insight into Judaism for the students over a 30minute question and answer session. Importantly for the student investigation, he confirmed that it was common practice for Jews in the Middle East to bury their dead before sun down on the day of death, meaning it was unlikely Jesus was left on the cross.

Previously, we have Skyped with Reverend Dr. Andrew Nicol from St Margaret’s Church for a traditional Christian explanation of the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Lastly, after a number of attempts to contact the New Zealand Skeptics Society for a comment on their views on the possibility of resurrection, we were able to Skype in class with committee member Mr Michael Edmonds:

His focus was on encouraging critical thinking with students and he introduced the idea of using Occam’s Razor to try and go with the simplest answer with the least amount of assumptions (this was in response to a particularly complex conspiracy theory put forward by one student). Additionally, he discussed how Confirmation Bias may have impacted recollections from an event or shaped the narrative.

With the expert opinions out of the way, students completed a SOLO Evaluation Map to help them explore the feasibility of their preferred theory about Jesus’ resurrection. Again, they completed this template in their OneNote:

SOLO 1

SOLO 2

COMPLETING THE ASSESSMENT:

Instructions in the Moodle Assignment.

Instructions in the Moodle Assignment.

The final element of the unit was an in-class assessment where students had to write a letter to conclude their police dossier into the “Investigation of the Vanishing Corpse”. This was written in their OneNote Notebooks and then submitted for marking through the use of a Moodle Assignment.

The overall quality of the work was very high from students in their final written assessment for this unit – here are two examples from Mitchell and Russell:

SUMMARY:

This is always an interesting unit to teach because it deals with one of the most well known narratives from the Gospels – the death and claimed resurrection of Jesus Christ. This year, by getting outside experts to share over Skype their perspectives and expertise, students have been forced to critically analyse a wide range of sources, run this through a SOLO evaluation map, formulate a personal opinion and then collate that into a written answer under test-like conditions.

Throughout this process, technology has been pervasive: whether it be the recorded Skype conversations, accessing content on the class Moodle site or watching a critical section from the Son of God DVD in ClickView, through to note taking and assessment writing in OneNote. However, this has all been to support and facilitate the students to critically think about the content at hand and to formulate a personal opinion. Because after all, isn’t that what teaching is all about?

Exploring Film Settings Through Google Earth

An example tour created by Year 10 students

Last week I was invited into the Year 10 English class of Ms Tam Yuill Proctor to observe her students creating virtual tours within Google Earth of the key settings in the film Karate Kid they were studying. Creating these tours is something I’ve blogged about before, however this is one of the first times I’ve seen it being used in English to specifically map out the locations of a film or novel.

I sat down today with Ms Yuill Proctor to learn more about the process and find out what worked well and what could be improved on for next time.

SETUP & GOAL:

The goal of this exercise was very simple: for students to arrange themselves into groups of three, of which one student must have knowledge of how to use Google Earth (and ideally, how to create tours in them). Fortunately, many of these students had done a similar exercise in Religious Education the previous year and were able to draw on prior knowledge to help.

Once in their groups, they had to identify around ten scene locations from the film that they considered important. The criteria included:

  • Why the group thought the location was important within the context of the film
  • How the location is significant to the country itself

Once they had identified these locations, they were to record a guided tour through Google Earth, highlighting their rationale for their choice of locations and then share it with the class via the collaboration section of the class OneNote Notebook.

GROUP WORK & TIME FRAMES:

The students were only given 1.5 lessons to complete this task and it was interesting to observe the efficiencies that various groups gained through their approach to managing the task requirements.

Students researching and operating Google Earth

Students researching and operating Google Earth

One of these was finding a website called Movie Locations that listed off the key scenes from the film. This allowed them to immediately locate the scenes within Google Earth quite accurately and narrow down their selections. The groups also largely assigned different roles for the members, typically:

  1. A researcher
  2. A Google Earth “operator” for identifying the various locations and creating markers for the tour
  3. A script writer – who would narrate the voiceover with relevant information for each location.

Whilst many groups chose to all use their laptops at the same time, others preferred to gather around a single device and share their ideas more directly with each other. Due to the short time allowed for this activity, Ms Yuill Proctor was quite explicit in encouraging students to manage themselves when it came to sharing the workload and ensuring all tasks were completed (Key Competencies – Managing Self) Amongst the students it was decided that one would need to allocate some homework time to meet the deadline.

Students recording their tours in quieter spaces outside the classroom

SHARING THE TOURS:

One student setup a new section in the class collaboration area in OneNote and then each group created a sub-page where they shared their tour. This did create some problems as students had often found third party recording tools to make their tours in, resulting in some file formats that did not work on all devices.

Reflecting on this Ms Yuill Proctor and I agreed that having a student submit their work via a YouTube link or Office Mix recording would probably be best in future.

Despite these problems, it provided an opportunity for problem solving amongst the groups in terms of how best to record the tour, with many finding different solutions to this. Interestingly, the boys that are into gaming on their devices tended to be quicker at finding solutions in this area, again perhaps based on their prior knowledge they possessed.

The collaboration space in the MS OneNote Class Notebook - note each page on the right represents a group

The collaboration space in the MS OneNote Class Notebook – note each page on the right represents a group

REFLECTIONS:

Students working groups

Students working groups

The overall engagement levels from the students was very high – when I was in the classroom observing there was a quiet hum as students worked in groups to achieve the various tasks and there was no one clearly off task. Given it was quite a different way to explore film settings than they had previously been exposed to, students enthusiastically approached the work. Ms Yuill Proctor noted:

The students now have a visual picture of the settings and locations of the film – this is easier for them to remember than simply writing or typing the locations as a list in their NoteBooks.

However, she was quick to point out that she continually asks herself “do students need to be using technology for this particular task, or can they do it in a different way?” She is conscious that often our students in Years 9 and 10 are using their laptops for most lessons each day, and so will often use more practical activities (such as using scissors to cut out paper SOLO hexagons) .

Students using SOLO hexagons in class

The final step for the students is to individually choose a scene they feel is important and to write a paragraph on that location, linking it back to the overall themes of the film itself.

It’s remarkable that students were able to come up with these tours in under two lessons of class time and reflects their growing competencies with their devices (having used them in many classes throughout 2014). It also highlights how an engaging activity can hook students in and set them for strong involvement for the rest of the film study.

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

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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Hosting The CORE Education eFellows of 2014 at St Andrew’s College

2014 eFellows from CORE Education listening to presentations at St Andrew's College

2014 eFellows from CORE Education listening to presentations at St Andrew’s College

CORE Education is well known in New Zealand for delivering major educational events such as ULearn, Learning@School Roadshow and the Emerging Leaders Summit.  Earlier this month I was asked by Margot McKeegan and John Fenaughty if they could bring their 2014 eFellows to St Andrew’s College to learn more about eLearning in our classrooms.

This struck me as a good opportunity for some of our teachers to meet the eFellows, teachers from around New Zealand recognised for their commitment to eLearning and the successful implementation of it in their classrooms. Additionally, it was a perfect chance for the great work our teachers are doing to be shared with a wider audience, with hopefully some of the connections made today growing with shared professional development over the coming months.

The morning started with a warm welcome from our Rector, Mrs Christine Leighton, and then I provided a broad overview of the move to 1:1 Computing at St Andrew’s, what eLearning in the classroom can look like, as well as some of the main platforms we use such as Moodle and OneNote / Office365. The following teachers then shared some aspects from their teaching and learning:

  • Dr Jeni Curtis talked about use of OneNote and Moodle, particularly with her Yr9 BYOD class. This blog post would give a good summary of her discussion today.

    Tam Yuill Proctor presenting to the 2014 eFellows from CORE Education

    Tam Yuill Proctor presenting to the 2014 eFellows from CORE Education

  • Mrs Nicola Richards talked about integrating the SOLO Thinking Taxonomy into her PE and Health teaching, along with her aim to have a “paperless” class with her Yr9 students. This blog post would give a good overview of her chat today.
  • Mr Matt Nicoll chatted about his personal reflective blog, approach to his classroom blogs with his students and also some of the practicalities of recording his teaching moments. This blog post is worth reading if you’re interested in this and he was also interviewed for NZ Science Teacher on this subject too.
  • Ms Tam Yuill Proctor talked about how technology has impacted on her teaching, particularly with the Yr9 Cohort 1:1 programme, along with some of the MLE furniture she is trialling in her classroom. This blog post shows some of the innovative use of technology she has used in a Level 3 English “Digital Narratives” assessment.
  • Ms Rachael Hoddinott gave an interesting perspective from the Preparatory School, calling herself a “self taught dabbler” in eLearning! She demonstrated her regular use of Moodle, Socrative, LiveBinders, and OneDrive as part of the Office365 suite. Teaching extension maths to Yr7 students, she is also in charge of the GATE group involved in the Future Problem Solvers competition, and she explained how technology facilitated the sharing of resources even when students didn’t always meet regularly.

It is great to be able to facilitate the sharing of knowledge amongst progressive teachers like this and hopefully there will be more opportunities like this in the future!

Matt Nicoll presenting to the 2014 eFellows from CORE Education

Matt Nicoll presenting to the 2014 eFellows from CORE Education

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:

Guest Post: Reflections on Teaching PE in a BYOD Environment

In todays blog post, I’ve invited Mrs Nic Richards to reflect on how her first term of teaching in a Yr9 BYOD class has gone. She teaches PE and Health at St Andrew’s, is the SOLO taxonomy co-ordinator and always keen to implement ICT into her teaching. The following is her thoughts and observations:

With the introduction of BYOD in Yr9 at St Andrew’s College, I felt it was a good chance to extend the ideas I had around the use of Moodle for assessment and also how we could introduce OneNote as our “workbooks” in PE. It was also a good chance to see how we could formalize the SOLO taxonomy used in classes. Here is a summary of how we have used both technologies.

OneNote has been used as our “day to day’ workbook in PE. We had a few teething issues to start in terms of getting students set up. Each student now has a notebook that they have shared with their teacher and for the PE “section” they have the course outline and a “page” for each unit. For the first unit “Part of the Team” there is a SOLO rubric that the students reflected on their performance (generally out of class).

The benefits of this were that we didn’t have bits of paper floating around the gym that seem to get “lost” and I could see what students had and hadn’t done and provide brief feedback. Below is an example of a student’s Notebook.

Example of a Yr9 student's OneNote workbook with feedback from the teacher

Example of a Yr9 student’s OneNote workbook with feedback from the teacher

I have designated Moodle for formative and summative assessment for the main part – although I did end up using it for resources as well, when my initial OneNote plan fell through. Students used a “Choice activity” for their initial and final self assessments (based on SOLO taxonomy) and also submitted their final written assessments (a SOLO Describe++ map and paragraph) to Moodle.

Using SOLO for self-assessment in PE

Using SOLO & Moodle Choice activties for student self-assessment in PE

With the “Choice” activities I could very quickly see where students thought they were at at the beginning of the unit. It also helped with the overall assessment at the end of the unit. I used SOLO taxonomy to create the final assessment rubric on Moodle and meant for quick and easy marking with the ability to also include more specific feedback if required.

At report time it is very easy to go into the gradebook and see the results for each of the units. It doesn’t solve the problem of non-completion but it is much easier to see who has done what and follow up via emails. Overall I have enjoyed the challenge of introducing BYOD to PE and I am looking forward to how we can use it more for practical activities particularly in our next unit “Physical Literacy”. My goal to have a “paperless” Yr 9 PE course is still intact!

Moodle - Part of the Team Unit

Moodle – Part of the Team Unit

A student completed Describe++ Map submitted via Moodle Assignments

A student completed Describe++ Map submitted via Moodle Assignments

Moodle Rubric SOLO Marking - useful in parent/teacher interviews

Moodle Rubric SOLO Marking – useful in parent/teacher interviews