Mr Hilliam Attends Microsoft Educator Exchange E2 Conference

Ben at MSAt the start of this term, Mr Ben Hilliam, flew to Seattle in the United States as a guest of Microsoft to attend their Global Educator E2 Conference. His attendance was based on his earlier selection as a Microsoft Innovative Educator for 2015 and his outstanding use of MS technologies in his classroom, including flipping the classroom with OneNote and Office Mix and his trusty Surface Pro 3.

The conference ran between the 27th April and the 4th of May and was attended by 200 delegates from over 80 different countries with only five being selected from New Zealand to go. During the conference a number of inspirational Keynote messages were delivered that focused more on the possibilities of technology in the classroom than on immediate practical implementation for teachers.

The members of the Challenge Group Mr Hilliam worked with

The members of the Challenge Group Mr Hilliam worked with

Some of the “how” was covered in the breakout sessions which included workshops on specific programmes such as Office365, OneNote and Sway (a relatively new feature from Microsoft that is a web based visual presentation tool). Another activity was the Challenge Groups – Mr Hilliam was grouped with teachers from Sweden, Georgia, Korea and Columbia and they were tasked with creating a learning activity based around 21st century learning ideas. They then had to pitch this to a number of judges and present a schema for the learning.

Being the only native speaker of English in the group this was certainly a challenge and Mr Hilliam acknowledged the conference was likely to evolve over the coming years – 2015 being the inaugural event. I was interested in any observations he had gained in terms of how his teaching practice with technology, and indeed the wider staff at St Andrew’s College, compared to what was happening in other countries. He noted:

No one else there was flipping their classroom in maths in the way a number of our teachers are at St Andrew’s. There was a teacher of French Literature who was using OneNote similar to how Jac Yoder and the English Department are, in the sense that they were using audio recordings for feedback and directly annotating into the NoteBooks.

The conference delegates from New Zealand

The conference delegates from New Zealand

Whilst St Andrew’s College has embraced Office365 and the cloud based flexibility it offers via OneDrive, Mr Hilliam did not see many US based schools setup in this way. Some were still using local on-site Sharepoint servers for OneNote synchronisation, meaning students could not get updates when at home. To this end, he felt that the work by teachers at our College was quite close to the leading edge, a view reinforced by the parents feedback at the recent Year 10 parent/teacher interviews, where a number commented how widely OneNote was being used across the school:

The ubiquity of OneNote in our College makes it quite easy for our students to get a handle on how to use it. It’s largely just fallen into the “background” of their usage. Students have stopped thinking about how to use OneNote and instead it is simply a tool to help them with their learning.

Interestingly, this view was echoed by Mr Tom Adams, the College eLearning Integrator, who mentioned:

Students don’t think they’re doing any special using OneNote now – they just get on and do it.

He went further by suggesting that because the College has focused on only two main tools of Moodle and OneNote, students are not being bombarded by a wide range of different tools and platforms from teachers. This has allowed them to quickly grasp the fundamentals of each and use them efficiently in their school work.

One the highlights for Mr Hilliam at the conference was the chance to ask Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella a question:

Mr Hilliam ask Satya Nadella for advice for Kiwi kids interested in working in the ICT sector

I am really pleased to see our teachers getting recognised outside of St Andrew’s College for their great work authentically integrating technology into their teaching and learning. Moreover, to hear that the students are becoming increasingly familiar with this technology and starting to leverage it intuitively to support their progress is outstanding. I wrote in this earlier blog 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.

It seems that we are progressing well along this path of embedding technology into the background of the learning and this is a fantastic tribute to the hard work of our teachers.

Reflections from the AIS NSW ICT Leadership & Management Conference 2015

AISI have been fortunate to attend the AIS NSW (Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales) ICT Management and Leadership Conference over the last few days and I thought I would share a few reflections on it here. As this post will be quite long, you can see the various sections I’ll touch on here as an index and you can skip to what you may find relevant:

  • Keynote from Dr Jane Hunter: High Possibility Classrooms
  • Jeff Utecht – The Continuum of Digital Citizenship
  • Matt McCormack – ICT Security – Making the most of what you have
  • Various Presenters – 7minute Tell Sessions
  • Rose Elsom – Continuous Online Reporting with Moodle and Sharepoint
  • Northern Beaches Christian School – Student Media TV Crew

Introduction:

Hosted in the Canberra National Conference Centre, the organisation of the event was top notch, co-ordinated by the very useful app from GuideBook.com. This app (available free on iOS, Android, or the web – click here) provided all the necessary information at the touch of a button, including any last minute changes to sessions or venues – all updated automatically for conference delegates:

Screenshots of the GuideBook App

I can see plenty of potential uses for an app such as this, where the co-ordination of complex events (conferences, Centenary celebrations etc) can be easily achieved and all delegates or visitors can be confident of having the latest information to hand.

UPDATE: The GuideBook app is only free for the first 200 downloads. If you need more than 200 downloads then the cost is around US$1700.

Keynote from Dr Jane Hunter: High Possibility Classrooms

high possibility classroomsDr Jane Hunter is an educational researcher who presented on her research into High Possibility Classrooms. This was a very interesting session to start the conference with and it was encouraging to see very recent academic research into the impact of technology in education. It is worth noting that this research looked at “exemplary” teachers, those that were already very proficient with technology and used it daily within their classrooms. You can read in detail about Dr Hunter’s research here:

One of the exemplary teachers that was used in the research used an interesting inquiry model based on the acronym QUEST:

  • Question;
  • Uncover
  • Explain
  • Share
  • Together

It’s a simple idea that could be very useful in a range of classroom contexts. Another concept that she introduced was the TPACK model in eLearning. It’s similar to the SAMR model that we have explored previously on this blog and put simply, TPACK is:

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology

TPACK-new

Jeff Utecht – The Continuum of Digital Citizenship

Jeff Utecht presented on Digital Citizenship in an engaging and interactive session that was broken up by his encouragement for us to quickly discuss our own experiences with the people around us. He started by posing the question “What is the biggest challenge with Digital Citizenship?” before suggesting:

Many schools are simply paying lip service to Digital Citizenship, but are not actually integrating it effectively into their curriculum.

Throughout his presentation he presented information from this section of his website and provided a few interesting statements such as:

  • The average age a child touches a device in a classroom in the USA is 6yrs old – why then are we waiting another 3-5yrs before we start teaching Digital Citizenship?
  • Peer to peer cyber-bullying is a far greater threat than encountering an anonymous online cyber predator.
    • He suggested a new study found that a child has the same level of risk at being picked up at a public park than being approached online by an anonymous cyber predator
  • The current school age generation is living “public first, private second” – in other words, they are sharing their lives online with others immediately.
  • In the USA, most children by the age of 5yrs old have had around 3000 photos of them shared online – by the parents and wider family.
  • 85% of universities in the USA google prospective students before offering them a position.

His session was interesting and in places quite challenging, particularly around how he sees the need for schools to engage with social media (for example, he proposes all schools should have an online community / social media manage position – he even wrote a job description for it). Continue reading

Students Catch The Blogging Bug

Isla Evison and Harrison Cooper (creator of the blog for the trip) at Brockenhurst

Isla Evison and Harrison Cooper (creator of the WW1 European Tour blog for the trip) at Brockenhurst

The StAC eLearning Blog is now over 18 months old, something that I find amazing when I pause to reflect on all the incredible stories we have been able to tell about innovative and engaging eLearning happening around the College. One thing that I am especially pleased about is the increasing number of “tip offs” I get from teachers – suggestions to go and chat with other teachers they know that are doing amazing things in their classrooms with their students. Additionally, more teachers are now telling me they regularly check out the posts and find they are motivated and challenged to try new things in their classrooms too.

In the last week of Term 1, Mr Simon Williams (Head of Television and Media) mentioned that he had been sharing this blog with some senior students who were about to head away on a WW1 Commemorative Tour of Europe in the holidays and he asked if I could help them set up a blog to record their journey. Excited by both the nature of the trip and also the possibilities of students engaging with their co-curricular learning via blogging I met with Harrison Cooper to discover more of what he was hoping to achieve.

Together, we settled on using a WordPress blog (similar to this blog) and we discussed the various themes and how some would potentially engage the readers more than others. We agreed that whilst some of the fancier themes were very cool, with menus that minimised completely to avoid distractions, some of the readers of the blog might not be able to navigate as easily around the blog. This was going to be important, because I taught Harrison how to use category pages within his menu structure, so that posts could be dynamically filtered based on the different locations they visited e.g. Gallipoli, France, Belgium etc. Here is the end result:

Note the names of locations under the main image - these are dynamic pages filtering and displaying blog posts only from those locations.

Note the names of locations under the main image – these are dynamic pages filtering and displaying blog posts only from those locations (click the image to visit the blog).

The other conversation we had was around image ownership – whilst there are many photos on the internet from WW1 that would serve as an excellent banner image, most were copyright and could not be used. This was an excellent chance to discuss Digital Citizenship and link back to one of the three core values in our Digital Citizenship policy:

Respecting the ownership and intellectual property of content they find online by accurately referencing the owner or site they obtained content from and by not engaging in piracy of software or other digital media

creative commons licenseTogether, Harrison and I did a quick google for images that were licensed by Creative Commons and quickly found websites such as the Wiki Commons WW1 Images and a Flickr WW1 Gallery from Oxford University that was licensed under the CC BY meaning the images could be shared or adapted provided appropriate credit was given. I left it up to Harrison to find the final images that he wanted for the blog, along with showing him how to use tags to help label each blog post by author and topic. I mentioned to him that once his blog was ready, I would put it on the front of the College Moodle site to increase the visibility amongst the students at St Andrew’s.

A number of students have contributed blog posts whilst the trip has been ongoing and even our Rector, Christine Leighton, has written a reflection on the trip as well as thoughts on the moving memorial at Brockenhurst a site in south east England where 21,000 wounded New Zealand soldiers were cared for during WW1. This visit was picked up by TV3 News and you can read the full story here and see a video of this here:

Click the image to load the TV3 news site and video

Click the image to load the TV3 news site and video

The WW1 tour blog quickly gained over 80 followers, who would receive an email update each time a blog was posted, and showing just how engaging the content was for readers, it has received a number of comments for the various posts. This one shows how appreciative readers are of the student’s blogging about their trip:

Thank you for the various articles and photos. It is a great way to follow the trip and also share your travels and observations with my family and friends. We are all very impressed by the way your group is representing our country and remembering those brave men and women who fought in WW1.

The WW1 European Trip blog is not the only blogging that has been happening by students at St Andrew’s College over the Term 1 holiday break. Twice a year, students head to Cambodia as part of the College’s commitment to community service and for the last few trips, students have been blogging about their time in Cambodia:

Cambodia

The students take turns co-authoring a blog post in pairs, providing an overview of what activities they have participated in and seen as well as personal reflections – some of which are very moving, an example being reflections from the trip to the Orphanage:

The orphanage was one of the biggest highlights of the trip, and a day that has been highly anticipated by the group … During the day, we as a group witnessed how little we had to do, to make one of these kids smile … As we said our goodbyes and headed onto the bus, hugs, handshakes, presents and tears were exchanged through the windows. The experience was amazing, tiring, emotional and rewarding. The only downside was that we didn’t get to spend more time with them.

It is pleasing to see these two examples of student-led blogs reaching a wide and authentic audience, providing a platform for students to meaningfully reflect on their experiences. There are other teachers who are encouraging their students to blog as well and based on the success of these two, I anticipate more teachers may explore this as an option for student writing as well.

Technology Enables Efficiency in English Marking

 

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

Ms Coote describes her new workflow for marking student work

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

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

IMPACT ON WORKFLOWS:

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

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

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

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

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

“There was like triple handling”

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

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

STUDENT FEEDBACK:

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

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

Importantly, however:

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

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

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

SUMMARY:

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

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

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

Students Collaborate With New Features in OneNote

OneNoteAs noted in a recent post, staff at St Andrew’s College have wholeheartedly embraced the potential of OneNote to help students receive, and engage with, classroom materials in different ways. Much of the focus for teaching staff and students at this time of Term 1 has been setting up their class notebooks using the Onenote Classroom Creator tool. Feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive in the use of this tool to seamlessly organise both class and individual student’s distinct areas into a single notebook.

The new collaboration space provided in the Classroom Notebook has challenged the thinking of our staff the most in terms of how to use this effectively with students. It has been really interesting for me to help staff to think about the different ways that they can realise the potential of this feature, and the pedagogical power of this tool is obvious to many. The conceptual struggle for some staff has been the necessity of a fundamental change in both planning and delivery of content to fully utilise this feature.

One staff member who has proven to be an early adopter of this innovative feature is Dr Jeni Curtis. Dr Curtis is a keen user of Onenote, but the potential of the collaboration space has her particularly excited. This week, in her Year 13 Extension English class, Dr Curtis has embraced the functionality of the collaboration section of her class notebook

Collaborating In OneNote During Class:

In this recent series of lessons, her students were studying short stories, including ‘Some are Born’ and ‘The Moment Before the Gun Went Off’ by Nadine Gordimer. Having individually read the stories as preparation for the lessons, the students formed small groups.

The students’ task for these lessons was to discuss in their small groups the particular aspect of the story that they had been given. The students were then to designate a scribe in their group who would record their ideas in the collaboration space. After initial discussion time, the students were able to see each others contributions in real time, which would become the foundation of the classes notes for this piece of work.

the moment before the gun went off

Note the various student initials alongside different sections of work, clearly indicating their individual contributions.

Reflecting on the success of the activity, Dr Curtis said

I see the collaboration space as a great tool for students to share ideas in a way where their discussions are recorded, because so often students work in isolation and only the teacher sees their work. They can take individual and group responsibility for their learning, and those who may not be in class can also take part.

Student Feedback On Collaboration In OneNote:

Dr Curtis’ thoughts were echoed by her students. One student noted that she liked the use of the Collaboration zone because it allowed the particular strengths of each student to be utilised. Another student mentioned the fact that the collaboration space allowed students who were not in class that day to see the discussion and class content that had taken place.

Dr Curtis’ enthusiasm for the potential of the collaboration space has continued into a number of different tasks that she is already planning for this class to continue to experiment with the online collaboration in OneNote. The classes future novel study of Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisionwood Bible’ will include a collaborative task where individual students will be responsible for the study of different aspects of the novel, such as character, setting and literary techniques.

Poisionwood bible

In addition to these formal lesson activities, Dr Curtis and her students are also utilising the potential of the collaboration space in other ways. They have created a class glossary into which students are defining the wide range of new vocabulary they are engaging with in the class.

Although it was only the first week of the class experimenting with the collaboration tool within Microsoft Onenote, it was obvious that the students in the class had intuitively embraced the potential of the tool. When asked, the students could clearly articulate the benefits of the tool for their learning, how easy it was to use, and how excited they were for the potential of this tool!

Here at St Andrew’s College this first step in the use of the collaboration space is a particularly exciting development in the College’s staff continuing to embrace the exciting aspects of eLearning at the College.

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

Creative Writing With OneNote & MineCraft

Harry reading his story and showing the world he created in Minecraft

Creative writing can be a topic that even the most competent students find challenging. For the children of Mr Dekkers’ Year 6 class, added motivation was provided by the introduction of “Pick a Path” stories as the format for their creative writing. For those unfamiliar with this genre, the reader is regularly presented with a choice at the bottom of a page – depending on which option they select, the outcome or ending of the story can be quite different.

I was pretty excited by the idea of using Microsoft OneNote to create these stories ever since I had stumbled across the idea in October on the Partners in Learning Network which outlined the learning objectives of this activity as:

  • to produce interactive choose your own adventure stories
  • to work collaboratively online to produce an end product
  • to create stories to share online with a wider audience

I shared the link with a few teachers who I knew would be interested and the timing was perfect for Mr Dekkers’ Year 6 students who were embarking on creative writing as part of an English unit. Already competent OneNote users, the student did have to figure out how they were going to hyperlink between pages in their notebooks, and with this problem solved, the writing began.

Hamish made this cover image using Paint.Net and merged three different images.

Hamish made this cover image using Paint.Net and merged three different images.  CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

To encourage his students to reflect on their writing and be as creative as possible, Mr Dekkers asked them to draw a picture of a scene or the world they were describing, or alternatively to recreate it in Minecraft. In doing so, the students could literally visualise what they were writing about. Their editing from this process was reflected in their OneNote Notebooks by highlighting changes made as a result of their picture or Minecraft world.

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Due to the ease of sharing NoteBooks in OneNote, students were able to read and comment on the progression of the stories and provide feedback to one another or suggest ideas for the direction of the stories.

Desert of Terror

Harry’s story Desert of Terror. CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

With the writing complete, the class had the opportunity to read them all and then voted for the three stories they enjoyed the most. Izzy, Hamish and Harry’s stories were chosen and I had the pleasure of hosting them in the Board Room in Strowan House for a reading of their Pick a Path stories.

 

Izzy's Pick a Path Story called The Black Death Maze. CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

Izzy’s Pick a Path Story called The Black Death Maze. CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, albeit very challenging to complete the stories successfully without coming to a gruesome end by choosing the wrong path! I do encourage you to click on the cover images on the left and read the stories yourself. This is possible because the three students shared their stories in read only mode in OneNote.

When I queried Harry about the reason for using Minecraft he said:

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.

Their ease and confidence in using OneNote was evident and so I took the opportunity to ask them about how they found using this tool in their learning in general.  Hamish commented:

OneNote is really good because we can all go on it at the same time – we have even done debates on it!

Continue reading

Design A House: A Rich Task Example In Maths

This is a story of what happens when a Maths teacher looks around for real-world inspiration and then is prepared to “give it a go” when it comes to integrating new technologies into the classroom. The results and learning outcomes are, quite simply, staggering.

The design brief given to students.

The design brief given to students.

Ms Briony Marks, a Year 7 Maths and Languages teacher at St Andrew’s College, had a plan to enliven a Maths unit on Ratios and Proportions, by creating an extension task that required the students to design a house. Using a planning template from the Buck Institute for Educaction the class discussed the assessment criteria and outcomes and included a wider discussion on how the Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum were going to be included into this unit. Here is the completed template used by the class to plan:

Project planThis was a timely project because a number of the students in the class were having new houses built for their families during this unit so they could immediately connect with the learning. By designing a floor plan, the students had to decide on the ratios and proportions of three key areas in their house:

  1. Living Areas
  2. Sleeping and Bathing Areas
  3. Storage and Access
Task l

Task List to help the students focus

To spice up the project and totally hook the students into it, they given the option to use Sketchup, Build With Chrome or Minecraft to design their house in. Ms Marks also created a simple task list of the required jobs that needed to be done to assist with scaffolding this project for the students.

With the task defined, students got to work by initially looking at concept plans by local builders such as Mike Greer Homes, and shading in the different areas they were going to have to design into their own houses. The maths, at this point, was tightly integrated into the inquiry – there was a need by the students to use conversion to change floor plans between millimetres, centimetres and metres. There was also teaching on calculating the perimeter of a house plan and of course the area of the various houses.

Ms Marks classified these as “unexpected extras” in the area of maths that supported the main focus of the unit on ratios and proportions, and there was also other skills being learnt by the students at the same time. One of these was formal communications, with a number of students contacting architects and house builders via email to obtain more information. Class and group discussion covered appropriate email etiquette, and emails were duly sent off, for example:

A Year 7 student's email as part of this design project.

A Year 7 student’s email as part of this design project.

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

Student enthusiasm and engagement in this unit was incredibly high throughout, to the point that a number of students essentially self-taught themselves how to use Sketchup so that they could design a more professional looking home. Two of these boys, went on to present at the Burnside Learning Community Cluster professional development session as I blogged about earlier here.

Summary:

Some remarkable learning took place during this Maths unit that took just under three weeks to teach. It was notable that none of the students in the class had ever used any design software before and to that end, neither had Ms Marks:

I was just prepared to give it a go and learn alongside the students. I had a play with Sketchup in the library one afternoon and two of the boys saw me. By the following Monday they were sufficiently skilled in it to be able to teach others in the class the basics.

Attitude is key here: approaching a new technology with a positive and willing attitude to learn is invariably more successful than being afraid of not being an expert at it.

What really impressed me about this was the natural integration of technology into the learning area, and how deeply embedded the core maths skills were into everything the students had to do to achieve the chosen outcomes. The fact that students had input into the planning at the outset undoubtedly helped with their sense of engagement in the learning process too.

Following the conclusion of this unit, Ms Marks was asked to present a summary of it to at a Preparatory School staff meeting. This is a link to her powerpoint and it covers off her planning and running of the unit.

FOLLOW UP:

Other students in the Preparatory School were invited to come and view the final designs and vote for their favourite. Over 120 votes were cast amongst the students and staff, resulting in the awarding of certificates for the following three categories:

  • Architect’s Choice
  • Teacher’s Choice
  • People’s Choice

Well done to Ms Marks and all her Year 7 students who gave it a go.

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.

Teaching The Teachers: Year 7 Students Show Off Sketchup Skills

On Monday 29th September, teachers from the member schools of the Burnside Learning Community Cluster met at Fendalton Open Air Primary School for a teacher-led conference on teaching and learning with digital devices.

Earlier in Term 3, Fendalton’s Principal Mr Paul Sibson had visited St Andrew’s College and together we saw saw some Year 7 students teaching Year 6 students in Mr Wilj Dekkers class how to use the design software Sketchup. Upon seeing this, Paul asked me if I could organise these students to present to teachers at the BLCC conference on teaching and learning with digital devices.

The two students, Tim and James, having already self-taught themselves when designing house floor plans for a maths unit were keen to help out.

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

The two had even created instructions in OneNote to share tips with other students and teachers that included things like:

There Are things that you can benefit from using this program like…

  • Helps get an understanding of what the real world designers use
  • Uses a great skill level and can help with the ability for some designers in the making
  • Great for some house designing projects
  • Helps with 3D shapes, measurement, geometry, angles, percentages and ratios
  • And finally you have fun creating with your imagination
Sketchup instructions from James and Tim

Sketchup instructions from James and Tim

Two laptops from St Andrew’s were supplied to the boys for the conference and together they ran a session for around 15 teachers and a number of students from Fendalton Primary who were also in attendance. They taught the teachers the basics of Sketchup, explained the toolbars and icons and gave some examples on how Sketchup could be used in class.

From time to time Mr Dekkers added additional information to the teachers present so they could further understand how Sketchup was integrated into the Maths unit focusing on percentages and proportions.

Explanation of key tools in Sketchup from instructions stored in OneNote

Explanation of key tools in Sketchup from instructions stored in OneNote

The session was well received and was right in line with the goals of the BLCC which include:

  • establish shared, ongoing, professional learning programmes for teacher effectiveness and the collaborative leadership of learning across the cluster
  • Initiate a teacher-led conference, at which teachers from all BLCC schools will be enabled to run a mini-workshop for their colleagues on some aspect of TWDT.

Here are a selection of photos from the presentation at the conference:

It is excellent to see some of our students confident to show their skills in using software and present that to other teachers in the wider Burnside Learning Community Cluster who can then go on to use this technology in their own classes.

Well done James and Tim!