Networked Projectors Offer Easy Access

This post was originally published on the Interface Magazine Online website – you can read the original post here.

How often do you want to access the internet but can’t because your device is connected via Wi-Fi to the classroom projector? It’s one or the other … but not both. St Andrew’s College has worked with Epson to find a way to do things differently.

stAndrews_epson“Epson gave us some sample units, and we trialled some existing units in our preparatory school before we did a major upgrade,” said the College’s Director of ICT Sam McNeill, noting the units were in place for six months. “We wanted proof of the concept.”

By Term 4 last year, the College had rolled out 35-40 Epson EB-535W short-throw projectors.

“One of the key drivers for upgrading to networked projectors was our use of OneNote,” explained McNeill. “We’re gradually becoming a compulsory BYOD school and the majority of teachers now choose a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or 4. Because we use OneNote, everything that goes up onto a projector screen also gets automatically saved for later in the students’ notebooks.”

Two underlying needs for a projector upgrade were also present, the first being teachers wanting not to be tethered to a projector by a VGA or HDMI cable. The second, more importantly, was St Andrew’s experiences with other technologies.

“We’ve played around with WiDi and Miracast devices, and had varied results.

“The Netgear Push2TV worked okay but still had interference issues because we had 30-40 devices in a classroom,” recalled McNeill. “The ScreenBeam dropped out from time to time, and had some security issues. Also, the pairing process between Miracast and a Windows 8.1 or 10 device was challenging for some teachers.”

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Epson’s EB-535W projectors are networked and have their own IP address which is displayed on the projector’s screen, and a signal is received from a teacher’s Surface Pro via the school’s wireless network. Rather than going from one device to another (point-to-point), this allows for a highly stable connection, not unlike live internet streaming.

St Andrew’s separates all projector traffic on to a separate VLAN (with a dedicated switch), meaning it was isolated and would never affect general school-wide Wi-Fi speeds. All installation of the projectors was done by the in-house ICT team.

Enticingly, Epson’s projectors did not require a network upgrade, they could be used on the existing wireless infrastructure.

“We wanted to be able to use them for the internet and project the teacher’s screens at the same time. What we like about the Epson is, you don’t have to fiddle around with the Windows configuration. It has its own standalone software (EasyMP), and it just works.

epson_EB-485Wi

Just one downside has come with the roll-out of Epson’s projectors.

“The trade-off in all of this is that video frame rate is reduced,” added McNeill. “If a teacher wants to play a movie, they’ll need to connect through HDMI for an optimal experience.”

St Andrew’s is using Epson’s advanced networking solutions with its projectors in various ways.

“We have the central management software, which allows us to see how the projectors are running, when bulbs blow, and see how teachers are connecting, all from our ICT office. We even have a scheduled off function, in case teachers forget to turn theirs off.”

Currently, the projector network is only accessible by teachers, not by students.

“It is possible, under moderator control from the teacher, but we haven’t had the teacher demand for it at this stage. Perhaps when they become more fluent and familiar with using wireless projectors, they’ll see the value in students’ BYOD devices projecting to it.”


St Andrew’s College is in Merivale, Christchurch. With a roll of 1,350, it’s a fully-independent, co-educational school for pre-school to Year 13 day and boarding students.

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

Update: Teaching With a Surface Pro 3 In The Classroom

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew's College

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew’s College

UPDATE: a survey of teachers using a Surface Pro 3 at St Andrew’s College has collated their feedback and you can read the blog summary here.

Judging by the search engine queries related to teaching with a Surface Pro 3 that end up on this blog, there appears to be significant interest in the wider education sector in how teachers are using these devices in the classroom. We started a trial of 5 teachers with Surface Pro 3 tablets across Years 6&7 in our Preparatory School and the Maths and English Departments in our Secondary School on the 1st October and today I asked them to meet and discuss how it’s working out for them.

I’ve broken the feedback down into a few main areas:

  1. Student Interaction / Feedback
  2. Explorations into the Windows 8 App Store and other software being used
  3. Ongoing issues / challenges
  4. Changes to pedagogy being explored

Student Interaction / Feedback:

  • A number of students have been asking our teachers whether the Surface Pro 3 would be a good device for them to buy – both for those coming back to school next year and those heading to tertiary study in 2015. They are attracted to the combination of both typing and handwriting and the demonstrated use of Microsoft OneNote by the teachers and the ease with which they file notes.
  • Students in Year 11 English have commented about the increased movement of the teacher around the classroom as they are “freed up” from using resources on a computer that is connected to a projector. The wireless use of Miracast has given the teachers more freedom to roam, whilst still having the key resources available.
  • In the Year 6 class the teacher commented that when he is not personally using the Pro3, his students are – they are writing directly into their own OneNote Notebooks which have been shared with the teacher so he can access them.
    • He gave an example of the students working on a decimal place exercise via BBC Bitesize Math – they were solving the problems with their pen and paper but were passing the Pro 3 around to allow them to enter results into the website to progress to the next problem, whereby the next student could enter the results (all shared on the classroom projector via a ScreenBeam Education Pro Miracast device)
  • Our Year 7 teacher trialling the Pro 3 mentioned the speed at being able to turn it on/off to accomplish small tasks is seeing her use it more frequently but for shorter periods of time, compared to setting up her laptop and working on that.

Explorations into the Windows 8 App Store and other software being used:

  • Fluid Math is now in the Windows 8 App Store and has been explored by our maths teachers
  • Prezi.com now have an app in the Windows 8 App Store as well, and Prezi is a tool that is used by quite a few of our teachers.
  • MS Office Mix (which we’ve blogged about before) is proving very popular and I will be running two training sessions for our staff on this over the next month,
  • The Radial Menu as part of the OneNote 2013 App

    The Radial Menu as part of the OneNote 2013 App

    A distinction was made between:

    • OneNote App (lightweight version of the app and has the Radial Dial which allows for rapid access to contextual menus.
    • OneNote Desktop App – the full version of the application that comes with MS Office.
    • It was apparent that both could be used – they sync perfectly and the lightweight app has a better full screen option to reduce distractions
  • OneNote Class NoteBook Creator will streamline the setup and deployment of NoteBooks for students and make the ongoing management of these significantly easier for the teachers.

Continue reading

Office Mix – The Evolution Of The Whiteboard?

We are fortunate at St Andrew’s College that there are a number of teachers that are “flipping the classroom” in various ways and using a number of different technologies to support this. Examples already blogged about include:

One of the common tools that has been used by a number of these teachers is the ageing Microsoft product called Community Clips. This has been a reliable piece of software for creating screencasts however it has struggled with new devices, failing to support the native resolution of the Surface Pro3 devices we are trialling with a number of teachers in various classrooms.

Enter Office Mix

This relatively new product is a free plugin for Microsoft Powerpoint that allows you to record your screen, voice and video all at the same time. Additionally, it allows your Powerpoint to become interactive, with students able to complete quizzes directly within a slideshow.

The key feature that appealed to Mr Hilliam was the recording of his screen in full, native resolution and the ease with which he was able to launch recording. Whilst the older Community Clips also allowed you to select a section of the screen to record, this is far easier in Office Mix:

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(As an aside – the above screenshots were all taken on a SurfacePro3 using one of the handy features – double clicking on the top of the pen/stylus automatically takes a screenshot and places it in a OneNote notebook).

Because Office Mix records native resolutions the files can become quite large – it’s not unusual for these to get up to around 400MB for a 10minute video clip. However, because most of the teachers at St Andrew’s College subsequently upload them to YouTube.com the size is less relevant. YouTube automatically streams the best quality video that the user’s internet connection supports, so those with high speed can comfortably watch in HD.

I recently asked Mr Hilliam to demonstrate this combination of Microsoft OneNote and Office Mix recording to a visiting delegation of Principals and Senior Leaders from the Independent Schools of New Zealand and this is the video he made on the fly:

Basic example of solving algebraic equations

One of the downsides of using the SurfacePro3 is the noise recorded by the sound of the pen writing on the glass – for best results, a firm connection is required and this noise is picked up by the microphone and audible in the recordings of Office Mix. Additionally, if the SurfacePro3 is flat on a desk any movement of it sliding around on the desktop sounds very loud.

These noises could be alleviated using a headset and microphone, although none of our teachers have progressed to this set up to date. When recording during class, Mr Hilliam typically holds the tablet and wanders around the class using Miracast to wirelessly beam his screen through the projector for the class to see. Here is a good example:

Year 9 class solving algebraic problems

SUMMARY:

St Andrew’s College has interactive whiteboards in every classroom in the Preparatory School from Years 4-8 and these are used widely by the teachers and students. However, these units, projectors and associated software are expensive to purchase and install.

It’s intriguing to see how alternative configurations can deliver equivalent functionality, but also extend on it in two important ways:

  1. The teacher is not “tethered” to the front of the room – with Miracast technology they can roam around the room, allowing students to write on a tablet and have that displayed on the “whiteboard” at the front of the room for all students in the class to see.
  2. Through shared OneNote notebooks, all students get a copy of the examples, working and dictation from the teacher (if the Office Mix recording is uploaded to YouTube and the link shared in the Notebook).

Pro 3 WritingWhilst SurfacePro3 tablets are not cheap, we are currently trialling them with five classroom teachers across Maths, English and the Preparatory School. The initial feedback is that they would happily hand back their school-supplied laptop and use the SurfacePro3 as their primary and only device full time.

I was pleased to hear this, especially after I have set the challenge of writing school reports on the 12″ screen of the SurfacePro3 and only using the web interface of our Student Management System (Synergetic).

ScreenBeam Pro for Education

ScreenBeam Pro for Education

We have also pre-ordered a number of ScreenBeam Pro for Education miracast units. These units have additional security enhancements for classrooms, and also come with a VGA / HDMI converter so existing older style VGA projectors do not need to be replaced immediately.

From what we have seen these units also hold the wireless connection more reliably and are easier to connect to than the existing miracast units we currently use.

These technological advancements are definitely contributing to a smarter, and more evolved version of the traditional whiteboard.

Year 8 Students Engage With #kidsbookchat

This morning Mrs Bridget Preston’s Year 8 class joined in with a multi-school Twitter chat focusing on books. This was organised by a Year 8 class at Selwyn House and was set to run similar to the #mathschatnz and #scitchatnz sessions, with a number of questions being posed for students to answer.

There were seven questions up for discussion that had been posted on the blog of the Selwyn House class site and these were:

  1. Q1: What is the best book you have read this year
  2. Q2: Who is your favourite author at the moment?
  3. Q3: What is your favourite genre?
  4. Q4: Do you have a class read aloud/ novel at the moment? What is it?
  5. Q5: What is your favourite spot for reading?
  6. Q6: How do you find books to read?
  7. Q7: Recommend some titles you’d like to share.

The students in Mrs Preston’s class were excited to be participating in this form of dialogue, and soon grasped the key skills of including the hashtag #kidsbookchat in each tweet, and also starting their replies with the question number they were answering.

I’ve collected a few of the hundreds of tweets that were sent during this 40minute chat and you can scroll through them below (the first tweets are at the bottom):

Throughout the chat Mrs Preston was engaging with the students, reminding them of the need to maintain appropriate replies in their tweets and also making the connection how this is a great way for the students to find out new titles to read. When it came to question six (how do you find good books to read?), many of the students tweeted our fantastic library manager Mrs Kennedy was a great source for finding new books. Many of them even included her Twitter handle showing they grasped this form of communication very quickly.

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A number of the students were tweeting from their own devices – a range of  laptops and tablets – and had set themselves up on a variety of furniture in the classroom, some even getting comfortable on beanbags. The attention and focus from students was high throughout the session with a number saying towards the end “This was so cool” or “this was great fun!”

During the debrief later in the afternoon Mrs Preston stressed the elements of trust involved in an activity like this, not posting silly or off-topic tweets. One thing the students requested was the ability to include their first name or initials in their tweets, rather than having all replies coming from @StAC_8C. When asked directly what sort of learning takes place from an activity like this some of their responses included:

  • Being open to new learning
  • Managing impulses and staying on task/showing appropriate behaviour
  • Learning how to use twitter/twitter handles and hashtags
  • Gained new knowledge about books – what books to read
  • Taking on a role and responsibility within the chat
  • Communicating with other students around NZ
  • Sharing their knowledge of books

They expressed an interest to run their own Twitter chat on a different topic at a later point in the year.

It is always pleasing to see a new initiative work out successfully and for the students to be able to identify their learning from an activity like this. This class is also going to try their first Mystery Skype later this week as well – more fun and engaging learning opportunities powered by technology.

UPDATE: This #kidsbookchat has been summarised in the following Storify recount as well.

Early Reflections on 1:1 Computing Launch

Video

Mr David Bevin (Head of Teaching & Learning) and Mr Sam McNeill (Director of ICT) discuss the launch of St Andrew’s College inaugural 1:1 Computing Programme with the Yr9 2014 Cohort.

A more detailed breakdown of feedback from students, staff and parents will follow, along with a recording of students discussing their thoughts on how Term 1 has started for them.

An Orwellian World of Surveillance and Digital Monitoring

Earlier this week I was invited to speak to a Yr13 English class that are currently studying the George Orwell classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four. It’s a novel high on big government surveillance and low on individual freedoms and so the teacher asked me to share a few thoughts on this and how this impacts on our daily lives from an ICT perspective.

I decided I’d start with this humorous clip from the 2010 film Four Lions, a film about some try hard jihadis who fear the “feds” are constantly watching them under surveillance, so consequently they go to extreme ends to defeat any tracking attempts from “big brother”

Whilst portrayed in a funny way, the reality is the tracking through cell phones and GPS satellites is very real; the police located sports presenter Tony Veitch after his attempted suicide a few years ago by tracking his cellphone and more recently, the efforts to locate missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 via satellite pings.

From this broad and high level introduction, I tried to personalise it and asked the students who had uploaded a photo to the internet (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a Blog etc) within the last month – virtually every hand went up. I then asked them to clarify – who had uploaded a photo taken on a traditional camera, either a pocket camera or SLR – only 3-4 hands this time. Who had used a smart phone (virtually all which add GPS co-ordinates into the photo) – the vast majority of hands. With the platform set, I showed them this video clip:

What surprised me was that for many students they simply did not care if other people knew where they were taking photos, nor that they had the ability to track down their location. There was a disconnect between the perception of retaining a degree of anonymity with their online behaviour and profile, with the increasing ease that strangers or online companies like Facebook could build a digital footprint of them and start connecting that with a “real person.”

This led to a good discussion around Digital Citizenship and what measures were reasonable to undertake to keep safe online. Trying to personalise the experience further, we discussed what activities students undertook all the time at St Andrew’s College that contributed towards a digital footprint that could be tracked or analysed. Things such as the following all revealed their physical location at any time:

This last one proved particularly useful as I pulled up a real time map of the third floor of the Arts Block and it showed the students who had smart phones that had automatically associated with the wireless access point in the classroom:

The 3rd floor of the Arts Block showing devices connected wirelessly to the network

The 3rd floor of the Arts Block showing devices connected wirelessly to the network

Using this example, I also showed how easy it was to create a digital trail showing where a user had walked during the day, with their phone or laptop automatically associating with each wireless access point along the way. Here is a copy of the classrooms my work smartphone connected to as I went about my day on the campus.

The rooms my phone automatically connected to during the day.

The rooms my phone automatically connected to during the day.

Finally, to complete the “monitoring” picture of internet usage at St Andrew’s College we looked at the real time logs of our firewall reporting tools (Fortinet’s Fortianalyzer) and I showed them how many attempts by students were currently being blocked – the amount of Facebook requests elicited a laugh from the students present.

In the end, it was an eye opener for most of the students just how much of a digital footprint they create, even just during their time on campus here at St Andrew’s. What I tried to emphasis was their wider online presence and how this was creating a profile that companies like Google, Facebook and others will use in a variety of different ways.

There is, of course, a tradeoff. Many of the most useful and well liked tools we have come to rely on require “location aware” services and are provided either free or very cheaply, because advertising is supporting them. The question I left with each of the students was this: just how much of their privacy are they prepared to “give up” in return for the benefits and convenience of these internet based services.

Unlike Orwell’s world in Airstrip One where dissenting views or attempting to evade surveillance was seen as a thought crime, we still have a degree of choice in how much of a digital footprint we leave.

Here is a copy of the powerpoint I used, or embedded below: