Technology Boosts Champion Rugby Team

The National Secondary Schools Co-Ed Champions of 2015, St Andrew's College 1st XV

The National Secondary Schools Co-Ed Champions of 2015, St Andrew’s College 1st XV. Mr Rod McIntosh is back row, far right.

The 1st XV rugby team from St Andrew’s College has enjoyed a record year in 2015, being crowned the National Secondary Schools Co-Ed Champions, winning the coveted Moascar Cup (only the 3rd South Island team to do so in the 100 years history of the cup), placing 4th in the local University of Canterbury Cup competition and beaten finalists in the Canterbury 7-a-side tournament.

Advantage4meIn light of this success, I sat down with Rugby Director Mr Rod McIntosh to discuss how technology has contributed to the success of the team and he talked me through how they use video analysis to stimulate improvement amongst the players. The product being used by the team is advantage4me.co and when talking about this Mr McIntosh made some big claims in terms of the significance of video analysis as a contributing factor to the overall improvement and success of the team saying:

This has been one of the fundamental drivers of improvement in our learning environment. Because if you look at the learning profiles of athletes they tend to be visual/kinesthetic, and the third level is audio. So predominantly the kids need to see it and then they can do it and reproduce it. So we try to do a combination of those learning approaches to get the message across

Consequently, all games are recorded and then an agreed on policy plays out each weekend: the game must be uploaded to Advantage4Me and coded by Sunday lunchtime. The players must then have watched the clips and be prepared to review the game at a shared Monday lunchtime in the Sports Pavilion.

For the coding to be effective, the various clips must be categorised according to the high level game plan devised by the coaching team into:

  • General Play – Offence
  • General Play – Defence
  • Set Piece
  • Field Position / Clips of Interest
The various categories of coded clips along with a rate of Effective or Ineffective

The various categories of coded clips along with a rate of Effective or Ineffective

To speed this process up, the team has an intern with the Crusaders help out. He is studying at the University of Canterbury doing the four year Bachelor of Sports Coaching (BSpC) specialising in coaching technique analysis. For an experienced intern, who attends practices and understands the high level game strategies it will take between 1-2hours to code a game.

Here is an example of two clips of game footage showing a set piece restart, the first that is won (StAC regained the ball) the second that was lost (kicked out on the full):

With all players expected to have watched the clips prior to the Monday lunchtime meeting that Mr McIntosh calls “The Brain Gym” session, it is a chance to drive home key concepts to the players visually and he commented:

The video analysis has been a really robust improvement in the team’s learning environment – players are now using a different vocabulary when describing their play and the game. They are using the language of the team’s offensive and defensive structures learnt from the video clips.

Here is an example of Mr McIntosh talking through a single play of the game and how he might break it down for the players:

A typical Brain Gym session would involve a minimum of three video clips that would be a mixture of things the team did well along with some work ons for the week of training. To further reinforce this, the team’s coaches can select specific clips from games or technique videos from YouTube and other video sources, and send those directly to players who can watch them individually and comment on the clip within the software. The coaching and management staff can check analytics to see how regularly players are logging in to review footage as well.

The aim is to enable the various units within the team, such as the tight forwards or back three, to review clips themselves and then feedback the analysis of those clips to the rest of the team which the coach described as evidence of “the highest level of learning.” Importantly, however, he takes a pragmatic view to using technology in that it absolutely must deliver value:

Like anything it is time consuming, but I wanted to unload my coaches through using technology and, like anything, if it is not really efficient and if the time you’re putting into it versus what you’re getting out of it doesn’t equate then it’s not beneficial.

Learning From World Champions:

The 2014 World Champion Pipeband from St Andrew's College

The 2013 World Champion Pipe band from St Andrew’s College

After arriving at St Andrew’s in 2014, Rod took the time to chat with Mr Richard Hawke who coached the College’s Pipe Band to a World Championship in 2013. He was keen to learn the secret of their sustained success and high performance over the last ten years. He found that they had changed their tuition in two key ways: firstly all tutors now teach the students in exactly the same way and secondly they deliver individual lessons far more than group sessions. Rod took this approach back to the 1st XV Rugby team for this season, comparing coaching to teaching in a classroom:

It’s just like in a class. If I deliver a single message to 22 players then the level of processing and recall can be varied. If I’ve got some key decision makers, I call them the “spine players” such as your #9 and #10 and typically your #8, if we do some real robust 1:1 stuff then their decision making on the field is going to be at a higher level. The best way to do that is to give them the overview of our game plan and then to use video footage to reinforce those concepts.

Summary:

In our conversation, other factors were identified as significant contributors to the success of the team this year, notably a massive pre-season fitness programme. This paid dividends throughout the season as the team won 70% of their games in the second half (judged by either trailing at half time in the score or being only marginally ahead). Critically, Mr McIntosh believes this level of fitness contributed to the almost complete absence of significant injuries to the team during the long season.

Additionally, the team did mental skills with the College counsellor Mr John Quinn which introduced classroom based work around performance preparation, goal setting, positive self talk, setting up routines and being organised. Again, this was an holistic approach designed to help the players in all areas of their schooling, not just their rugby.

Evidently, fitness, mental preparation and video analysis has been a winning combination for St Andrew’s rugby this season with two players selected into the wider National Secondary Schools training squad and seven players in various Canterbury age group teams. The use of video analysis, already common in the College’s hockey team (which placed second in the 2015 Rankin Cup) is being extended into the high performance netball programme as well.

This presents another example of how technology is assisting in improved outcomes at St Andrew’s College, albeit in an environment outside the classroom.

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?

Book Week Activity Augments Reality

Entrance to the Preparatory School Library celebrating Book Week 2015

Entrance to the Preparatory School Library celebrating Book Week 2015

The St Andrew’s College Library Manager, Mrs Cathy Kennedy, runs an annual Book Week for students across the College to engage in. Each year this week includes many competitions and prizes, with at least one activity having a ‘tech focus’ for students. 2015 was no different with the students encouraged to create “Auras” for books that would link to video content or book review trailers through the use of Aurasma Software.

Aimed at our Preparatory School students, the challenge for them was to promote some of their favourite books by creating interactive posters which contained a “trigger” for media content to display over the book cover. To achieve this, a smart phone running the free Aurasma app could be held up in front of the book cover or poster, and then the video content would start to display.

Sound confusing? Here are some screenshots of what it looks like:

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The rectangular content “overlaid” on the book is the augmented reality video clip used by students and displayed via Aurasma

The winning poster submissions and a number of books with Auras waiting to be scanned

The winning poster submissions and a number of books with Auras waiting to be scanned. Note the Aurasma bookmarks indicating books that have an Aura

Helpfully, Mr Wilj Dekkers had introduced his Year 6 class to using Aurasma earlier in the year, so Mrs Kennedy had some students familiar with the technology. To assist the others, she:

  • Sparked interest by creating an example Aurasma interactive poster in the library (that linked through to this Animoto Video)
  • Created a number of instruction sheets around the library
  • Ran a lunchtime tutorial for those wanting some hands on assistance

With two year group categories for judging the winners, students in Years 4-6 and 7-8, created around 40 Auras which was excellent. A key learning experience for Mrs Kennedy and the students was understanding that students and staff that wanted to see the Auras needed to be following the “standrewslibrary” Aurasma account before scanning an Aura worked correctly. As Mrs Kennedy explained:

Aurasma works a bit like Twitter – just like you need to be following a Twitter user to see see their Tweets, you need to be following an Aurasma user to see their Auras.

With this cleared up, students could happily see what their classmates had created. By using a shared Aurasma account to create the various Aura (to ensure they were collated under one user and therefore easier to find), opportunities for reinforcing good Digital Citizenship practices emerged. Among these were:

  • Students could not edit/remove the Aura of another student
  • Students had to still clearly name their Aura so they were identifiable

Pleasingly, the students were very good at the above and this created a positive culture of creating and sharing Auras that promoted a wide range of books.

The back wall of the library was beautifully themed to celebrate book week and contained a poster celebrating the start of Book Week that doubled as an Aura that students could scan:

Library Back Wall

Reflecting on this activity, Mrs Kennedy noted that the task was actually quite complex and required a fair amount of work and persistence from the students, therefore it was pleasing there were so many submissions. Whilst a paid account with Aurasma is quite expensive, it is something that she would consider in the future since it would open up a wider range of sources to link to, such as website links and YouTube videos (the free account only allows linking to content uploaded to Aurasma).

The winning student posters promoting a book with an Aura are:

Teacher Perspectives On The Surface Pro 3

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

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

As we approach the first anniversary of the Surface Pro 3 release in New Zealand, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that we now have 26 staff members using them across the school. An earlier update on how how teachers have been using the Pro 3 in their classes remains one of the more popular posts on this blog and in anticipation of teacher demand for tablets in 2016, I have surveyed those staff members who use a Surface Pro 3.

The overall satisfaction rates of teachers with the Surface Pro 3 is very high

The overall satisfaction rates of teachers with the Surface Pro 3 is very high

Using SurveyMonkey I have collated some interesting feedback from teachers and share it here for the benefit of other schools that may be interested in exploring the tablets for their teachers.

Whilst it is not always easy to ask the “right” questions when it comes to getting useful feedback I have tried to get staff to compare the key features and functionality of a Surface Pro 3 with a traditional laptop that the College has issued to teaching staff:

Laptop v SP3

An interesting comment to the above responses from a teacher was:

What is not mentioned above is the functionality – the Surface is far more functional than a laptop as it doubles as a tablet, when needed. This is the huge advantage of a Surface over a laptop.

It is important to acknowledge some of those “niggles” that teachers have experienced because no device is perfect. Here is some feedback from staff highlighting some of the challenges of the device:

The keyboard needs to be taken off and reattached to remedy glitches. The keyboard is small and I often hit the caps button. Consider body posture when using the Surface Pro 3 so that you are not hunched. Before putting a plastic box on the desk and under the tablet, I would wonder why I had a sore neck/back/eyestrain.

The thing I really don’t like is a cheapie-feeling keyboard and how I keen hitting two keys at once … lack of USB ports is really annoying too

Some issues with it freezing when in sleep mode. Need to force a restart when this happens

We have done a significant amount of experimentation with wireless projection at St Andrew’s College and a future post will cover what we have settled on, however currently only 41% of our teachers with Surface Pro 3 tablets are using wireless projection (this number is skewed as well because the majority of our SP3 users are in our Preparatory School because of where their lease renewal occurred). However, 96% of the teachers said they would use wireless projection if it was available in their class, with the following breakdown showing how significant it is to their teaching style:

Wireless Projection

Clearly, the ability to roam a classroom “untethered” from the front and a data projector cable is a big drawcard for teachers and a trend I see only growing as the technology becomes more reliable.

One of the key features of the Surface Pro 3 is the great accuracy of the pen and the ability to “write” into OneNote very easily; a feature that is consistently praised by our teachers. This question specifically asked about the usefulness of the pen:

SP3 Pen

Some departments at St Andrew’s College would love to change the requirement for students that all devices must support “inking” in some format, and it’s easy to see why: subjects that involve diagrams, formula and equations would be significantly easier for students if they could simply handwrite directly into OneNote.

Whilst the Surface Pro 3 is experiencing favourable feedback from teachers, we are also looking at “convertible laptops” that allow for the handwriting on the screen such as the HP Spectre x360 that folds back into a tablet. Historically, our testing of units like this have been disappointing as the accuracy of the inking on these hybrids just could not compete with genuine tablets like the Pro 3. That said, the attraction of a proper keyboard and a larger screen appeals to some of our teachers:

Laptop v Tablet

Ultimately, the value of any device to a teacher can be measured in whether they would recommend it to their colleagues: on this point, the teachers were almost unanimous.

Recommendation

One interesting comment from a teacher in the Preparatory School reflects the uptake of tablets in their class by students, purely based on what they have seen from teachers using the devices:

A number of staff in the Prep School who opted for laptops now regret their choice and given the opportunity would switch to a surface. 8 students in my class now use surface tablets – 2 having switched from Mac.

How has the practice of our teachers changed with the Surface Pro 3?

This is a difficult question to get answers to in some ways but a critical one to understand what, if any, impact on pedagogy a technology shift has had for our teachers. Up until the introduction of the Surface Pro 3 the teachers at St Andrew’s were all given identical laptops. By introducing some limited choice it has increased the support costs of maintenance and spares, therefore it was hoped there would be some positive changes or improvements in teaching practice. Here is a selection of some replies from teachers:

My practice has not changed, but the mobility of the Surface and the fact that will do all I ask of it has adapted my style. I am able to work with the students annotating a piece of writing or work through maths problems using the stylus and each child is able to revisit this learning through OneNote. The mobility, wireless projector connectivity and stylus allow me to get away from the desk and be with the students when teaching. Most importantly – the students use of the Surface to share with others is powerful. They take my surface and use it to explain concepts to a group when linked to the projector and when used in conjunction with OneNote, students collaborate in real time on a piece of learning using their stylus on their own Surface tablets.

Maths Teacher

A reply from a Preparatory School teacher suggests it can lead to MORE work:

I probably end up doing more work from home as it is much more portable [than a laptop]

Preparatory School Teacher

It has not changed my practice, but has complemented it very well. I already used my own Surface in conjunction with a school laptop. Before the Surface, I used my phone to do many of the same functions, complemented by a laptop. Having a Surface provided by school has meant operating fewer devices for the same outcomes, making it easier when you don’t have your own classroom.

Science Teacher

More movement around the class, use of pen and writing has enhanced the annotation ability, marking and so forth, integration of technology, ease of OneNote and working 1 on 1 with students. light, easy to move around with especially when wirelessly not connected to data projector

English Teacher

I don’t write on whiteboard anymore – I write directly onto my OneNote page so students can access this

Science Teacher

Much easier to use in PE settings ie with pen and tablet. Therefore I am more likely to use it, and complete observation style tasks more frequently. Easier to mark / use OneNote – I can mark and make comments quickly using the pen

PE Teacher

Less time at my desk and more time with students. Ability to take teaching outside the classroom, faster and with more resources. Being able to show examples of preferred practices with ease and ability to document past/current teaching and interactions with the students has been key. Students are assisted by this to become more reflective learners. (ability to revisit work via OneNote).

Preparatory School Teacher

A recurring theme comes through in these responses in terms of how a tablet, with the ability to ink, enhances the value of Microsoft OneNote, a key tool that is being used at our College.

The above information is important for the ICT team to understand. Like many schools, we lease our teacher laptops/devices and renew these every three years. The teaching staff leases are split into three, so each year we replace 1/3 of the devices (around 45-50), and I anticipate that the majority of our teachers who are up for a new device in 2016 will want something they can write on. The above information will be disseminated to those teachers to help them make informed decisions and also assist the ICT department in providing the best support possible.

Office 2016 Arrives for Mac Users

maxresdefaultSt Andrew’s College is an Office365 school, making extensive use of the Microsoft OneNote application in particular and we are also compulsory BYOD from Year 9 (we still allow choice of Windows / Apple). Over the last two years we have seen increasing amounts of Apple laptops coming to school with the students and one of the frustrations has been the old Office 2011 available for Macs.

This has changed with Microsoft’s release of Office 2016 for Mac last week, announced on their blog here (see below for the release video) and for the first time it also includes OneNote (for a long time unavailable and then only released via the Mac App Store).

It is strongly encouraged that students remove Office 2011 before attempting the install of the new version – detailed instructions are available here to do this. A video showing the complete installation process of Office 2016 for Mac can be seen here:

The new Office 2016 is distinctively “Mac” in design and brings the feature set much closer to the Windows 2013 version (although, frustratingly, some of the best features of OneNote are not there still). Here’s hoping that updates will improve this so that both Windows and Apple users have comparable functionality.

Another feature that appears to be missing from the new Office 2016 Powerpoint is Office Mix – a fantastic plugin that allows teachers and students to easily record narrated screencasts.

Overall, it’s a big step forward for Mac users and one that I am confident many of our students will download to their BYOD devices since it remains free for our students at St Andrew’s College

Promotional Video for Office 2016 for Mac:

Code Clubs @ StAC

2015 has seen two Code Clubs start at St Andrew’s College with Mr Phil Adams running one in the Secondary School since the start of the year and Mrs Vicki Pettit alongside Mr Wilj Dekkers starting one in the Preparatory School during Term 2.

Preparatory School:

CodeClub_LogoThe Preparatory school are using the resources provided via Code Club Aotearoa and there are around 20 students that attend regularly, within which there is a reasonably even break down of beginners and intermediate coders with 2-3 advanced coders.

The resources on the Code Club Aotearoa website are perfect for beginning and intermediate students however, Mrs Pettit is exploring options for the more advanced students and in what areas they can possibly start to apply their skills e.g. robotics, Raspberry Pi projects and possibly entering them into the Canterbury Core Education Digi Awards. The other pathway recently made available to these Prep students is Monday lunchtimes with Mr Adams in the secondary school code club.

Secondary School:

In Term 1 2015 Mr Adams started the Code Club for students that were interested in learning more about programming and were prepared to attend during their lunchtimes. His motivation was twofold:

  1. There was currently no option in the Junior curriculum (Years 9-10) for programming which means when students can take this at Year 11 they are often being introduced to the concepts for the very first time.
  2. There were a number of very keen students who did not have an avenue for support in their coding unless they persevered by themselves and were essentially self-taught from online.

Whilst there was an initial surge of enthusiasm from students, this settled into those that were committed, keen and prepared to give up a lunchtime to learn more. Having looked at the formal code clubs that existed (such as Code Club Aotearoa above), Mr Adams also reviewed online offerings such as Code Academy and Code Avengers which were useful, particularly Code Avengers which aligns with the New Zealand NCEA standards. Ultimately, however, he decided that students could continue to access these in their own time and that the focus of the Code Clubs at StAC would be slightly different.

python-logoThis alternative was to focus on teaching the students the very basics of Python so that they could create their own scripts and taste success early on. The reason for Python was quite simple as Mr Adams explains:

As a text based language the syntax is not complicated and it is very logical. Therefore, the learning curve would not be too steep for our new students. An alternative language such as C or C# would be too challenging for them to start with.

As students learnt the basics, Mr Adams focused on creating a team culture where students could learn from each other: the beginners seeking help from more advanced students, who in turn could reinforce and demonstrate their understanding of Python by teaching the beginners. Through this approach, it is hoped the Code Club will become self-perpetuating and independent with a positive and interactive culture.

With a few weeks of the basics out of the way, the goal became to progress students with the introduction of logic into their coding e.g. a basic guessing game such as this one:

An example of a number guessing game from Hana

An example of a number guessing game from Hana (click to download the Python script)

Hana, who created the above script, had the following to say about Code Club @ StAC:

I used to do coding at my old school, Selwyn House. There, it was a big thing and we did robotics and Hour of Code. The code club at StAC is super fun. Mr Adams is a really good teacher and he always lets us figure out why our code hasn’t worked. 

Coding a basic guessing game is not too difficult and yet it can easily be extended with the introduction of more logic that would require students to be able to calculate the average number of guesses it takes people to correctly guess the number each time. To support this extension, Mr Adams has created numerous tutorial videos on his YouTube channel that students can access, such as this one on how to create a list within a list using Python:

Paper, Scissors, Rock by Louis (click to download the code)

Paper, Scissors, Rock by Louis (click to download the code)

Louis, who also attends the Code Club @ StAC, created a game of Paper, Scissors, Rock in Python. Like Hana, he is also enjoying attending:

I am attending the Code Club because I enjoy coding in my own time (I also have done some robotics coding and other things) … 

I have learned things with Mr Adams (We are doing python at the moment, I have many other languages including: HTML, CSS, PHP, UNIX Terminal, Command Prompt, and JavaScript)

Next Steps:

Mr Adams has some clear next steps identified for the students in the Code Club, with the ultimate aim getting them to work collaboratively on a project together, all contributing code to a repository such as GitHub. This would enable replicating a “real world environment” where multiple people all work on much larger projects. This mirrors the message from Old Collegian Claudia Pottinger, who shared her experience as a Google Intern writing code in Python last summer. It is apparent that some of the students in the club are already thinking that far ahead, such as Jack who is in Year 9:

I go to code club because it is something I feel will benefit me in the future, and it is my intended career path. Computer programming is one of my passions, it is something that I enjoy doing in my own time.

It is extremely fun, learning new things and being able to help others who do not know so much.

A project I just finished recently was the year 12 internal exam, where you make a program in python that allows a user to select, order and store different pizzas with a range of flavours and prices.

I feel that in the future Programming will be a large part of nearly every job.

Jack's Pizza Ordering script (click to download)

Jack’s Pizza Ordering script (click to download)

Another idea to extend the students is to introduce activities from Project Euler – a website that describes its motivation as being:

The motivation for starting Project Euler, and its continuation, is to provide a platform for the inquiring mind to delve into unfamiliar areas and learn new concepts in a fun and recreational context.

To complete the activities on the website, students will need strong mathematical ability but also programming skills. One example from this website that Mr Hilliam, Maths and Statistics teacher at St Andrew’s, has used with his students is to write code that identifies the sum total of all prime numbers under 1000.

With keen students in the secondary school, along with increasing numbers of students coming through from the Preparatory and other feeder schools, providing an avenue for students to learn coding at St Andrew’s College is essential.

Guest Post: Collaborative Composition In Music

This guest post today comes from Mr Duncan Ferguson, Head of Department of Music here at St Andrew’s College. Previous posts have featured his work integrating technology in his practice that you can read here and here. Today’s post looks at his Project Based Learning (PBL) with his Year 10 Music Options class. You can read the original blog post here.

Over the last five weeks I’ve been trying a new way of running collaborative composition in my year 10 Option Music class.

This year I’ve been blessed to have a large class of highly motivated and talented students, so they were the perfect class to take a risk and jump into what is for me a new way of teaching composition.

The basic summary of what we did is that I divided the class into five groups.  In the first week each group had to start writing and recording a song (in a rough demo format).  In the 2nd week the groups swapped songs and continued on with what another group had started the previous week.  We did this for five weeks so that in the end, every group had been involved in the composition process on each of the five songs.

Initially the students were very nervous about this process as I’d done very little in terms of how to actually write songs.  However, that didn’t worry me as within each group of five members I knew that there were people with various strengths that when combined would make the process go smoothly.

Prior to this we had done a little work on what makes a good chord progression (mainly analysing four chord songs) and an effective melody but within the context of their own personal compositions, which they recorded/sequenced in either Garageband or Studio One Free.  It wasn’t much, but it proved to be enough to get the students on the way with the process.  What was critical to the process though (which I didn’t realise until we got a few weeks into the process) was that a strong knowledge of how to use technology and specifically MIDI keyboards/guitars with software sequencers made all the difference to the success of students being able to pass on their work to the next group (only a few students in the class had strong notation/theory skills so technology bridged the gap very effectively).

Here is a little video where I show one of the songs and how each group contributed towards it week by week:

And here some of the songs created by the students (please keep in mind that these are only supposed to be at ‘demo’ quality… we still intend to record them properly at a later date):

This whole process has been an incredibly empowering experience for the students and is a great demonstration of the high end of the SAMR model:

SAMR Diving

Software like Garageband and Studio One has enabled students to achieved a huge amount in a very short time and made it possible for this separate group collaborative thing to happen.  Students that recorded audio onto iPhones or wrote down music with traditional notation were no where near as effective in the sharing of their music with others.  By far the best way for this process to succeed was for students to compose using MIDI for the instruments and microphones/audio for the vocals… all along with a click so the music could be easily edited and rearranged by different groups.

Here are a couple of short videos watching students in action as they were creating their songs:

For other teachers who are wanting to run this sort of unit I’ve found that the following will make the process go very well:

  • Ensure that each group has at least one person who plays the following instruments: piano, guitar, drums, voice.  Often drummers don’t have a huge amount to do in the first week or two but as the weeks went by I discovered they were increasingly taking charge of the projects… running the technology (i.e. the computer DAW/sequencer)… which was critical when it came to restructuring ideas previous groups had come up with into coherent song structure of intros, verses, choruses, etc
  • Try and have a computer with a MIDI keyboard and a microphone setup in each room.  If you are using student laptops instead make sure you have a dedicated USB drive that holds the files that they work off… minimise copying of files between computers.  We ended up a losing a complete work from one room that students were working in as they mistakingly copied the wrong files then deleted the proper one.  The most successful songs were those that came out of rooms that had dedicated computers that students used each week.
  • Use the note pad facilities of your DAW (like Garageband or Logic) for writing down chord progressions, lyrics, ideas, etc  Don’t have things on scraps of paper as they may get lost.  Keeping everything with the DAW file is an elegant solution for keeping everything in the same place.
  • Don’t record piano/guitar ideas as audio… try to record them as MIDI.  This will enable successive groups to edit what was recorded.  If it’s audio, they’re stuck with it and are unable to improve upon it.

For me this process has been such an eye opener.  The students surprised themselves with what they could come up with.  The loved the process (they always arrived early from lunch so they could start as quickly as they could) and they grew so much as the weeks went by.

I will be making sure that this way of composing will be incorporated to NCEA composition at our school.  It will grow the numbers of students taking music and will help to break down the perception that you must be an orchestral musician who has been learning since you’re seven years old to be able to succeed in NCEA (even after five years at my school I’m still trying to destroy this myth!).

But overall… it was a heck of a lot of fun.  And that is what teaching and learning should be… shouldn’t it?

Getting Creative with Writing

This post is based around work done by Ms Tam Yuill Proctor. She has already blogged about this unit here. She has also created a Sway about it, which you can view here.

One of our aims, as an eLearning team, is to foster and supplement the intrinsic enthusiasm of many of our staff. We find this blog is a great way to publicise and celebrate the success that we see every day in our school.

studnetsOne such staff member is Ms Tam Yuill Proctor. A previous post on this blog described her success with using Google Earth to explore film setting with her Year 10 English class. This activity was part of a wider unit exploring the importance of setting within English. In response to the great work her class produced in this activity, Ms Proctor approached me to talk through some ideas to continue this innovation-based learning with this class.

Example video showing a world created by a student to inspire their creative writing 

With a continued focus on setting, the class was given a fairly stereotypical short story brief. Write a short story of approximately 600 words with the theme of Conflict. Each student must produce at least four drafts, make those drafts available to their peers for feedback and feedforward, and act on appropriate advice given. Nothing particularly groundbreaking here!

RCstill

A scene created using the source engine of the game Counter-Strike

However, acting on inspiration gained from a keynote address given by Australian author Michael Pryor at the NZATE English Conference, Ms Yuill Proctor had students design the setting for their story before they wrote it. The period before the recent school holidays, the students were set the task of creating a virtually designed setting for their story. They were able to use any digital platform they wanted, and could spend as much time as they wanted, over the holidays, on the setting. The results were remarkable.

While a smaller number of students contacted Ms Proctor asking if they could work in ‘the real world instead’ the vast majority of the students stuck to the original brief. There was a wide variety of work produced, with settings constructed in Sketchup, Paint, Minecraft and the source engine of the game Counter-Strike.

Sketchup

Student’s setting made using Sketchup

Bringing the learning together

The final aspect of this task involved students recording a short video, or audio recording that would allow them to clearly the author’s purpose, specifically regarding the setting they had designed. The challenge we now faced was what is the best way to tie all this great work together in a way that was accessible for a larger audience. Our original idea was to use the augmented reality App Aurasma, which has been used with some success in the Preparatory School. Unfortunately it quickly became obvious that the use of this App, with this particular group, was going to be problematic as although the class all had their own laptops, not all had a compatible smartphone.

The obvious solution was to host students’ videos on You Tube and create the links with QR codes instead. This proved to be a great decision as all students were able to create and link their codes effectively and quickly. The other pleasing aspect of this success was that it further consolidated my belief that, in a classroom setting, it is usually much more effective to use an easy to use tool, that a more complicated substitute that may, in fact, have any tangible value added.

The 3D printer creating the Minecraft setting created by a student

The 3D printer creating the Minecraft setting created by a student

With many students choosing to create their setting in Minecraft, Ms Yuill Proctor and I were really conscious that it might be difficult for the audience of the story to get a full appreciation of the complexity of a Minecraft setting design from a 1D picture. Resultantly we decided to print these designs on the school’s 3D printer. The knowledge of Joshua Harrison, a member of the IT team, was instrumental at this stage, and I acknowledge his important contribution.

Printed Example of a 3D setting

Printed Example of a 3D setting

Reflections on a job well done

I was particularly pleased with the fact that this, very successful, unit is a great example of a teacher challenging herself, and her students, with an activity that is clearly modification on the SAMR scale.

Ms Yuill Proctor was also very pleased with the results of the unit; especially the fact that it “fully integrated all aspects of the English Curriculum.” The creating meaning and the making meaning Curriculum Strands were both clearly addressed and the structured nature of the unit allowed student agency to come to the fore.

Example of Student Work

The following story is based around a setting created in the source engine of the game Counter-Strike. Use the QR code to see a video of the setting, or click here!

Continue reading

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.

Combining OneNote & Moodle For Assessment Submissions

OneNoteOne of the great things about Microsoft OneNote is the ease with which teachers can provide feedback to students on their work, helping them to develop their ideas towards the submission of assessment. This was explained in detail by Ms Helaina Coote, our Head of Department for English, in this earlier blog post.

moodleHowever, as the internal assessment season ramps up in 2015 a number of teachers have approached Tom Adams and I about how to “lock” OneNote notebooks to prevent students modifying content after the submission date. Whilst there are some work arounds, such as password protecting sections or moving them to a “read only” section in a teacher’s OneNote notebook, these are not always easy or intuitive as I explained in this post comparing the strengths and weaknesses of Moodle and OneNote.

Together, Tom and I thought about a better workflow for teachers and students to use and settled on the following simple process:

  1. The teacher creates an “Assignment” task in Moodle setting the due date to be when all students need to have the assessment completed and handed in by.
    1. The option to allow “late” submissions exists within Moodle too, clearly showing to the teacher in red how many hours/days overdue the submission was. This could be useful in scenarios where students were away for legitimate reasons.
  2. The student exports either their page, section or entire OneNote Notebook into a PDF file on their local computer.
  3. The student goes to their Moodle course, clicks on the assignment and then drag ‘n’ drops the PDF file for upload and submission.
    1. The teacher can optionally include to have all students “sign” the authenticity agreement by clicking the “accept” each time they submit an assessment.
  4. Once the due date is reached, the teacher can bulk download all of the submissions for offline marking, moderation storage purposes or printing and returning.

The ease of this process is outlined in this six minute video showing all of the above:

By using this process, a number of things can happen:

  • There can be no dispute about when the assignment was submitted
  • There can be no “losing” the submission because it’s stored on Moodle
  • All assignments are stored in one place with a single click to download all assignments into a folder for marking / moderation.
    • This also reduces the need for the Teacher to “harvest” the submissions from a variety of sources that students may have submitted by e.g. email, printed and left at the teacher’s desk or office etc.
  • Students can be required to “sign” the authenticity statement for every assessment they submit within Moodle.
  • Moodle supports the use of http://turnitin.com/ – an online tool for verifying the authenticity and originality of a submission. Whilst this costs, it would allow students to improve their work before a final submission and also support teachers in ensuring the submission is the original work of the student.

turnitinTransBack400pxOn the St Andrew’s College website we share a number of reasons why we use technology in our classrooms, with one of them being preparing students for tertiary study and the workforce. The vast majority of tertiary institutes now require students to submit assessment online – by teaching our students to manage their time and to become accustomed to this form of assessment submission, they are being prepared for life beyond St Andrew’s.

At this stage, there is no formal requirement for students to only submit their assessment via Moodle in this way. However, with the obvious benefits outlined above, along with the potential to include Turn It In to further assist in the originality and authenticity of student work, it is an idea that we presented to the combined Heads of Department meeting this week. There will be further discussion over the coming weeks and it may be something that we trial later this year.