I am a Primary Teacher in Christchurch, NZ, who is passionate about developing e-learning in school. Here is my blog to record my findings and thoughts.

Our Google Docs Journey Begins

We are about to start on our Google Docs journey, we have decided to use the Hapara Dashboard as a managing tool.

I really like Hapara Dashboard and think it is an essential add-on to google apps. I am concerned that our staff will be overloaded with new things and that this is ANOTHER NEW THING. 

To get around this I will look at rolling out team-teaching sessions with our Senior Team where we will spend time helping students get to grips with their new Google accounts at the same time as supporting the class teacher with the Hapara Dashboard. I hope that this will add both confidence to the class teacher's thinking about google apps and provide a simple, manageable start to the journey. Our team focus for our first use of Google is on writing. We thought this was an area that could easily translate to the early stages of the SAMR model

The Team-Teaching model I hope will be more effective than whole staff/team PD sessions. Our meeting timetable is packed this term/year and there are plenty of videos that will go through the same setup process which teachers can look at within their own schedule rather than having to meet after school on top of scheduled team and whole staff meetings. Also theses team teaching sessions will involve the students and therefore an authentic learning scenario which can be planned for and reflected upon.   

There is also a need for an integrated cyber-safety/citizenship program within these sessions. Time is the enemy once again so to combine the google setup with an integrated cyber citizenship task would be great. This needs careful planning between the two teachers before hand, but will be able to be carried on by the class teacher throughout the term. 

A future post will have this planning and reflection. 

here is a great detailed tutorial on how it might work - 

Thanks to Allanah King @allanahk for creating and sharing these resources on her excellent 'Getting Good with Google' website!! 

Great blog about Hapara Dashboard from Jan Wee - click here 

Also see this video from her blog post 

How can I blog my class without having to think?

My blogging machine, my phone! 

Next week we are on camp, everyone is looking forward to it lots are also having worried thoughts, parents and students! I want to post photos and comments each day to connect with the parents at home and keep a record of our cool experience. How can I do it? Well, I can't upload on my laptop as there will be no wifi, I can't blog on our LMS with my phone because we are not compatible with mobile devices and parents need to get their child's logins. I want my parents to have the easiest access to the posts. I started a blog on blogger and made it all access. Then I thought how will my parents know that I have posted? I would have to email them, I can't get my group address going on my phone, how will I easily email all my parents? I'm only at camp for three days, I just want to capture a moment then post it. 

Then I figured it out, I will post to the school facebook page! I will send an email before camp giving all the parents the facebook url, even if they are not on facebook they can check the posts daily. Hopefully they will sign up/friend the school facebook if they haven't already and then I have instant connection with my posts. Done. 

I just want to post, no thinking, no time spent, just do it! 

 Why was it so hard for me to figure out the camp blog? Now I know why my class blog has fallen behind or at best is up to date but with only with my posts of photos, videos of class life. It's just too hard. Too hard to get students to update during their busy day, too hard for parents to log on, so there is no audience, too hard to convince students that it is worthwhile, they would rather update their personal school blogs, one student updates his own blog outside school. My blogger app on my phone lets me upload and post on the spot. I won't have to go to my computer after the lesson, during lunch, in between meetings or in downtime when I could be looking at my students learning. I can do it from my pocket, no wires, no delay. My blogger blog is open access, I will send my link to all parents, they have an instant comment option. 

Next year there is a possibility to go BYOD, so with each student capable of having a mobile device/laptop this could expand, record of experience, reflections, comments could all happen seamlessly, no need for scheduled time, just make it part of the culture. I want to be like this in my room, instead of recording to post later, I will post 'now'. Imagine a reflection time at the end of the day looking at the class blog. What have we done today? Why did we do it? How did it go for you? It's all there, already!

Enough talk, it's Term 4 next week, I'm just going to do it, I wonder how it will go...?

Why Ipads?

Below is a post in reply to some very good questions posed by my DP regarding the thinking behind choosing ipads for our school. The below article brings up some great points of consideration for all schools. We are particularly interested in points 4 and 5 especially the "compelling answer to Why Ipads?"

I also like the idea of drawing all ideas back to the 4Cs - see this link for a summary of the thinking behind Creativity Critical Thinking Collaboration and Communication as 21st Century Skills.

See this link for ideas on how to integrate the 4Cs into planing and curriculum implementation.

The 4Cs in Education

The idea of keeping it as a single user device is interesting as I have read conflicting views on this. On the one hand yes it is designed for the apple user experience, on the other hand our students are good at (and used to) collaborating together to solve problems and don't have the adult baggage of 'owning' the device. 

BYOD offers a different perspective on this as students WILL have their own device rather than a class pod. I am not to worried about using it as a multi user device at the moment, even if we think 1:1 is the best way eventually, for now we can only develop our thinking with experience. I guess when/if we have 1:1 then collaboration will occur in different ways, so two people talking as they use and then the whole idea of sharing output through blog/portfolio/websites (which we can develop ahead of 1:1). 

I find it difficult to predict best practice in these terms with such a new device. As long as we stick to our Key Competencies and our 21st C aspirations of Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity and Collaboration (The 4Cs) we will be on the right track. One point is, are we confident that the old fashioned laptops are being used for best practice? I don;t remember too many conversations about this in schools but I would link it to the same issues with any device. 

Yes, always a good one, how do you justify to the unconverted? This is a different conversation than to the 'converted'. For me the solution to this is could be three fold 

- one provide a succinct vision statement for stakeholders (linked to Key Compentencies)
- two provide regular relevant and excellent examples of learning linked to Key Competencies (use blog, class page and classroom displays) 
- three to create up to date info/research/classroom studies based on blogs,twitter links etc that stakeholders can easily access if they want to - if only some people read this then we help connect the stakeholders with the pedagogy, one discussion ata  coffee group could spread the word. 

Oh and there should be a fourth, teachers need to understand the whole point of it so they can easily talk to any stakeholder and confidently enthuse about their learning decisions on the classroom - this can refer back to the succinct statement.

Sounds easy!   I will work on the statement...

Update post - Scott McLeod has already done it! See this excellent YouTube summarising the answer to 'Why IT?" or for my purposes 'Why ipads?"

Also, here is a great clip using Sir Ken Robinson's talk on shifting paradigms in education, I love the use of the visual to illustrate the speech.

Story Telling, Disney Robin Hood - a Key Text

After reading through some tweets this morning on minecraft in the classroom and game based learning I remembered a conversation I had with a colleague and friend about my own daughters' fascination with the classic Disney film 'Robin Hood'a film using animals to depict the famous characters from the legend. My girls love their films but this one struck a chord and for a time period of three to four weeks they were obsessed with it, constantly wanting to watch the recording over any other television. During this time my eldest (5 years old) started to ask questions about the film during the day at random times, obviously the film was on her mind. What's an outlaw?  What's a pardon? Why do people have to pay taxes? When were bow and arrows invented? Why does the king want to capture Robin Hood? Why is the King the bad guy? 

Now some of these questions were easier to answer than others, as I started explaining what a tax system was I found myself having to digress into areas of society, politics, government, fiscal policy, the welfare state... another tricky one was the idea of a 'pardon' As I fumbled through an attempt to succinctly explain these concepts I started to think how this 'text' had stimulated complex areas of discussion. In the classroom there is a constant search for the key text to provide the start or hook or emotional stimulus across the curriculum. This cartoon is no different. The success of this film is essentially the story, a fantastic traditional story passed down through the years capturing classic themes that are enduring, fantasy, aspirational and exciting and relevant to all. But within the story are the historical, social and economic concepts of a past society. Despite this being a legend, there was a King John, a King Richard, outlaws and pardons. There was a tax system, there were peasants, royalty, arrows, poachers. All of which are important aspects of history and comparing them to today's systems is the essence of learning about history.

When talking to my friend we agreed that this is an example of key text, even though it's just a Disney cartoon. A few years ago our syndicate did an inquiry into 'systems' involving a creation of whole worlds which would need to include a monetary system, a transport system, a government/ruling system etc... To help us with this we watched clips of the Bee Movie. The cartoon ticked all the boxes we were looking for and supported students to consider the implications of inventing their own world. A society run by the bees reliant on workers, transport, means of production all this along with a story line of one bee questioning the Status quo and trying to break out of the system.

The idea of using cartoons/films is not new, but questions generated by my daughter refocused me on the power of the key text to provoke thinking and discussions about important concepts and that this can be a multi media experience. Also that story telling is the way we connect to the world around us.

What if the experience of my daughter was replayed in the classroom, what if student wonderings flowed from the watching a key text? I teach 11 year old students so they would carry some more prior knowledge but I bet they would dive into such an inquiry about how a government ran a country, how to ensure social equality  how to solve problems of fairness, of rights and responsibility. Their prior knowledge would be tested, their misconceptions would be able to played out. Of course books do the same and continue to do so in my classroom, I also have films and cartoons, and video games and personal stories to use. You can't beat a good story, and you can find them in all sorts of places!