Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Five tools for 21st century connected teachers - a story of connection.

Last week, my friend Melanie Matthews and I presented an afterschool workshop to the Connected Taupo Teachers group at Tauhara College.  Celebrating Connected Educator Month was a priority for us, and we modelled this connectedness in an unusual and unplanned way.
But I will give you a little bit of background to begin with.  Melanie and I live only a few blocks away from each other, but did not know each other before we had met online in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN). We also connected through mutual friends and decided to form a group in Taupo for teachers who wanted to share and learn from others.
Hence the Connected Taupo Teachers group was conceived and born at the end of 2013.  Supported by two more friends, Kristen and Angela, with ideas and resources, we have met each term to provide an opportunity for local teachers from all schools to meet face to face and share and learn.  Our facebook page is growing in popularity and each time we hold a meeting we see new faces which is awesome because it is achieving the purpose we wanted.
Our term 4 meeting was held this October, which is worldwide Connected Educator Month.  So we decided to focus on how to use 5 tools that help teachers become and remain connected.  Our presentation was based on a talk or discussion for 10 to 15 minutes on each of five tools - Twitter, Feedly, blogging, Diigo and the VLN.  The slides, along with links on the slides, can be seen here.

 So when it came to the day of the presentation, Melanie unexpectedly had doctors orders to stay at home and keep off her feet.   So coming to the meeting and presenting her share of the slides was impossible.  Luckily Melanie never missed a beat.  "Connect me up with Skype or Hangouts and I'll do it from home," she said.
So when I arrived at the venue, I connected my ipad via Skype to Melanie at home, and we co-presented, with me holding the ipad up when it was her turn to talk.    The group interacted with her, asking questions which she answered with aplomb!  
I reckon we did pretty well, modelling connected-ness.  

Monday, 20 October 2014

Using Google Apps for Education as a Learning Management System

A friend (secondary school teacher) wants to migrate from using Moodle as a learning managment system to GAFE. I am trying to think of ways that will make the transition painless, and also engaging and visually stimulating for the students. The school has effectively dropped access to Moodle and has moved to being a GAFE school.
So what are the main components of GAFE?  

  • Drive (storage and also the applications of docs, sheets, slides, drawings, and forms)
  • Blogger 
  • Sites 
  • Youtube 
  • Gmail 
  • Google Class 
  • Maps 
  • Calendar
  • Google + including Hangouts

Each of these components can be integrated with each other easily and there is a single sign on.

Google Drive is a great place to store and organise resources, documents, images and many different files and, with the added bonus of unlimited storage for GAFE school students and teachers, Google has effectively wiped the floor of other LMS's. As I see it, Google Class is the place to start in getting "the work" to students. I also think that Google Blogger could work in the same way, with the newest information on top, and it could be a lot more visually appealing. You see, you can embed videos into Blogger and students respond quickly to that stimulus.
Maybe she is better to work with a Google Site as that can really be made very attractive and a site can deliver the year's curricular content as a fait accompli for students to refer to as they need to complete assessments. I can also see Google Slides being a great way to present instructions and or content. Google+ groups would be great for her students (who are mainly over 13 years old) but Google Class allows students to submit completed work easily.  I do think that Google Forms can be used effectively for work submission (through sending the link to the work) as well.
There are so many tools available in GAFE, each with so much potential to do many different jobs for us. I also think I am maybe looking at this the wrong way. What if the students were involved in the design of her new course? It is so beneficial for students to create content and thereby create their own knowledge. The difficulty here could be that much of their year would be focused on learning to use the tools instead of the knowledge that they need for their NCEA assessments. I have a reasonable knowledge of all the Google tools available so it would be pretty easy for me to mix them up a bit, but for a beginner like my friend, there is a lot of learning to be done in all tools.
 This is my big picture thinking: Take a google site, build resources around all of the "must knows" on the site. Use Google Class to address day to day "what to do".  The calendar can be used to attach assignment work and give due dates.  Require students to write blogs on Blogger which reflect on what they have learned each lesson and check for learning. Ask students to demonstrate knowledge creation on Slides and Drawings.  Use Forms to gather feedback, formative and summative assessment.  Hangouts make great ways to break down the walls of the classroom.
Now, as well as that there are thousands of apps, addons and extensions that work with Google, but I think I will leave that lesson for another day.
Any other feedback and advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Using Google Apps to Flip Learning in Your Class

As you might know, I am a real fan of flipping the learning. That is, using videos to move the instruction or content(for learning) from the group space into the individual learner space - available 24/7, if and when needed. It is a great step to take toward personalisation of learning. In this post, I am sharing the workshop slides that I did at the Ulearn conference this year. There are two main parts in this presentation after the introductory slides. The first is about using Youtube for editing and the second part is about useful tools to use that integrate well with Google Drive and or Youtube. Please contact me if there are any questions you have about the steps to take toward flipping or about this workshop, and do let me know what successes or failures (which are really just opportunities to learn from experience) that you have. Enjoy!!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Ulearn14 conference was different for me this year because of tweeting

I have been going to Ulearns for a few years now, not all ten that have been held, but quite a few of them.  I really feel like I got a lot more out of ULearn this year.  I think the reason was that I tweeted a lot.  I decided that instead of making notes that I lose or get hopelessly out of order, I would try and record keynotes and workshops by taking photos of slides and writing 140 character tweets on what I was hearing.
And as a result, my tweets got retweeted and I made connections with other educators that I have not met.  If someone retweeted, then I made sure I followed that person, too, and in the evenings, as I sat alone with my miserable head cold and recapped the day, I looked through the tweets and remembered a lot more that what I would normally have done, and felt connected.
Visuals make all the difference, and so does the fact that you have an authentic audience. In addition, if you use "Storify", you can get all the relevant tweets up in order and make comments as you go.  I didnt have time for that just yet but it is something I will do.
As well as that, I was able to use Tweetdeck on my laptop to manage to review the tweets of the day with the hashtags #ulearn14.
So I have been slow to get on board with tweeting, as I felt that I had all the extra external contact I needed through Feedly and Diigo, but it did make my whole Ulearn experience much better: -  more useful and more memorable and more recollectable and more connected.
As I look over the tweets this morning, my favouriteimage of the day so far is one that came from an overseas tweeter @shirljud1 who retweeted a tweet that I made about someone at the conference.  Rings true on many planes.

Twitter, I made a mistake about you.  There is a place for you in my life.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Today was all good.

Media previewMedia preview

My four main learnings today came from
  • Keynote speaker ( Joram Harpez) - that we must choose an educational ideology.  Must we?  I am still not sure.  Of course the individuation was my choice, but I am not sure that socialisation and acculturation cannot be integrated into the model as well.  I might have to read more!  
  • How do we learn? Mark Treadwell presenting.  Revisiting his work was a real treat for me.  Must read more!  
  • Google Fest a group collaboration on SAMR then a grand slam.  Fun.  Too many people.
  • Keynote speaker. (Adam Lefstein) Enjoyable look at professional discourse and conversations. Great advice but not sure about the good professional discourse from Israel shown as an example.  I thought the principal lacked vision in his conversation.  I also thought his approach was all wrong - it was quite "superior" and not collegial or collaborative in tone.  The conversation was about the "what" and "how", not the "why".  Perhaps I need to read more. 
Big picture learning: the over-whelming number of participants are primary school teachers - do we need a secondary school focus or stream for the next Ulearn?  What is happening in secondary schools?  Can we have a 50:50 turn out next year on primary to secondary?
Yes, I will give feedback.

The meeting up with people was great.  Awesome catchup with friends and foes.  

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The good and the bad and the ugly at ULearn Mobile Learning Day 2014

The Good
Today, we kicked off ULearn 2014 in Rotorua with the Mobile Learning Day.  I was clever enough to choose Tom Barrett's workshop on Learning as Inquiry for my first.  Tom had a model of learning through inquiry which was very easy to understand and could be applied to many learning situations.  Along with that model, he had Thing-linked a heap of digital tools which could be used at each stage of the inquiry.  Thanks for such a useful morning, Tom. Here follows a little storify of mainly my tweets as I listened in.  It is really great to be able revisit these tweets alongside his notes.  Great prompts for remembering.

The Bad
By contrast, I became frustrated and even angry at my afternoon workshop where the presenter had quite a few digital tools to address a pedagogy that, it was obvious that she knew very little about.  Now I don't want to sound like a know-it-all but when the tools were being used just for showcasing the tools, the workshop became meaningless.  There has to be some semblance of substance about the knowledge being learned.  You can't crowd-source knowledge for two and a half hours from a crowd that had very little understanding of the topic.  They were there to find out about the topic, and instead got to use some of the tools which could be useful once they had the knowledge.  They made resources based on their lack of knowledge for the rest of the time.
The Ugly
 I hate to see teachers going away from a workshop ill-informed, which is what they would have done.  Teacher pd time is precious, especially for those who have give up out of school time.
I have to admit, my feedback was pretty scathing.  And I am sorry for that,  because it is not easy standing in front of a group of teachers and presenting a workshop. However,  I do hope that she learns from that.  During my teaching life I have been taught to take on board good feedback and discard any negative feedback that you don't think is warranted, but act on what you think is warranted.   You don't need to argue or discuss, just do it.  However part of me still feels ugly for being unkind.
So that's it.  My first day at Ulearn 2014.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Some ideas aound flipping your class (or at least the learning.)

The Free Technology for Teachers guru, Richard Byrne, is amazing!  He has a way of quickly reviewing and aligning the functionality of different digital technologies to different educational settings and assessing their usefulness.  He is a must to follow - I have been since about 2009 -  and he never ceases to amaze me with the sheer variety of technologies but more importantly, his clear statements about how he thinks they could be useful in the classroom.

Recently, he has reveiwed 7 tools to use in one of my favourite pedagogies - flipping the learning.  By co-incidence, I also talked to a journalist about flipping.  There seems to be a surge of interest in flipping in New Zealand. Flipping, of course, has evolved so much since the first years when Aaron Sams and Jonathon Bergmann started videoing their Woodland Park, Colorado lessons and posting them online so that students who had been absent through illness or school- based activities could catch up.  They found that all of their students started using the videos for their own learning.

Sams and Bergman started to get the students to watch the videos at home first and then come back to them with any questions the next day at school.  As a result, their lessons evolved into interactive, student centred learning rather than teacher led "lectures. Nowadays the two recommend short videos that engage the students easily, to be watched in their own time.   This approaches a more personalised learning paradigm, or at least an individualised one.

As you start to make the move towards personalised learning in your classes, consider a flipped approach.  It is important that you make use of the relationship that you have with your students to connect with them through video.  Video is a powerful and engaging medium. The flipped learning network is a useful organisation to belong to. They have come up with a great explanation of what they believe flipped learning to be, and an easy to remember mnemonic (FLIP) which characterises the concept.

I am about to run a workshop on Flipping the Learning using Google Apps - it might be worth a look at the slides if you have an interest in  trying flipping out.  I am happy to field questions about this important pedagogical approach.  Happy to help you walk this way.

Have a happy Connected Educator month!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Connected educators

October has begun.  Nothing unusual in that. October follows September. But for educators, it is time to stop and take stock.
Educators, ask yourself.  Are you connected? That means using technology to forge relationships with educators you wouldn't meet at your own school.  Strictly speaking I suppose that may not be the official definition, but for me it is the most relevant.
I spent 33 years at an isolated country school.  Professional development meant two hour trips to bigger centres where I would meet others for the day, and then we would go our separate ways, maybe meet up at a follow up workshop, but just as likely to never see and share resources and experiences again.
I must admit that I liked to get out of my own school and get copies of what the other teachers were working with, and share my own work.  I once found my own work turning up in a booklet made by others in my subject area, so nebulous were the connections.  
As email and technologies developed, the connections became a little more long lasting.   But things have changed now.  We have opportunities to connect with others whom we may never meet, and if and when we do meet, it is sometimes as old friends.  Virtual friends that is.
I have made friends with educators across the globe.  People who are willing to share time and effort to help, discuss and investigate.  I belong to overseas communities, one of which is the Flipped Learning community based in USA.  When I joined that community, I was the first in New Zealand to do so.  There were about 500 members across the USA.  Nowadays it is more like 20,000 members across the world.  
How awesome to be able to lurk in the community, join in virtual events, and discuss with members across the world!
One of the other overseas communities that I belong to, has webinars regularly.  Usually they are not in my waking hours, sometimes 2 or 3 am in the morning.  Through technology, they are available to me as soon as I get time to watch them.  
The virtual world has allowed me to travel down a pathway that was unimaginable years ago.  I am happy with and cherish my connectedness.  So as I write in the middle of the North Island, New Zealand from Taupo,  I wonder how far afield my readers are tonight.  My request to you is that you write in the comments below how far away you are from me.  
This will be a celebration for me during Connected Educator Month. Please join me in celebrating my lifelong learning journey.