Posts Tagged ‘ICT’

My reason for writing this is to highlight how PLANE, the online Professional Learning Program for teachers, has been affected as a viable Online Learning Community (OLC) and to draw attention to those who might be unaware of this.

PLANE's landing page

PLANE’s landing page

For the uninitiated, PLANE stands for Pathways for Learning, Anywhere anytime – A Network for Educators. It offers a series of resources and professional learning in ICT for teachers. Learning comes in the form of short skill snacks that take a matter of minutes, to lengthier and more involved quests and courses. There are forum boards, a twitter feed, an activity stream, a virtual world based on Second Life to name but a small number of interactive content. Overarching all of this is the user’s Passport, which sees you accrue points as you journey about the site and take part in a range of activities. Simply, it is an engaging form of stamp or badge collecting. Here is a shot of my Dashboard from late August 2013:

I first came to PLANE earlier this year, during my first trimester of a Masters of Education, specialising in eLearning. A colleague had made a passing mention that I should check it out, and having signed up, I spent about an hour having a click around at this enticing site. This was in March and, having made a comment about it on a Forum panel to my university cohort, my subject lecturer mentioned in a Reply post that it was worth a look, but perhaps after the looming assignment had been completed.

As a result, I did not get back to have a look at PLANE until several months later, in July. It seems that, during this time, substantial changes were taking place that would see this OLC in a very different realm. The first thing I noticed was that the Twitter login seemed broken, so having sent an email from within itself (having managed to connect ‘again’ via Facebook), I heard nothing back from Admin. Later I managed to locate a comment to this effect – and that the Twitter Login would soon be fixed; as yet it hasn’t.

Having logged on, one arrives at the News Page. Here the warning bells start to ring. Firstly there is the current statement, that has been up for many weeks now:

PLANE will cease to validate professional learning or issue certificates for completion of PLANE courses after Friday 27 September 2013. Any registered PLANE professional development completed before 27 September will remain on a teacher’s Institute of Teachers record for the purposes of maintaining accreditation. PLANE will continue to offer the current range of professional learning experiences. Teachers will be able to use this professional learning as Teacher Identified Professional Development only, which is logged by the teacher on the NSW Institute of Teachers website and validated by the school principal or their delegate. Teachers can export evidence pages from PLANE as a standalone HTML website to show their school principal or delegate to have the learning validated on the NSW Institute of Teachers website. For more information regarding Teacher Identified Professional Development, please go to http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/.

Adding to this concern, the Twitter Feed (#planePL) seems stagnant, with no content from PLANE itself since late June and the Educator spotlight has remained the same during this time (this might be intended). By a sad contrast, the Activity Stream that occupies the right of the screen is scrolling continuously. A quick glance indicates that, for the most part, those “scoring” the achievements are probably new to the site, based on the types of activities that they are being credited with.

Going further and exploring the site in detail only appears to confirm one’s concerns. The events calendar has nothing coming up (the last event was June), the Virtual World is empty when I’ve visited, apart from the three virtual characters at Boot Camp (again, with no events scheduled), the Ask an Expert is similarly stalled in June. Other areas such as the Groups (which boasts a striking 162 groups) reflects stagnation through the lack of activity in Forum posts and outdated page information. One area which seems to buck the trend is the Share Club, where participants have managed to keep the content up-to-date.

In trying to study PLANE for my university assignment as an Online Learning Community, I attempted to do some research as to its status. My Google skills might not be the best, but even I found it difficult to find much in terms of what was going on. What I did manage to locate, in a Forum post inside of the site, was a Google Doc that raised worries about the future of the PLANE website and ongoing viability. Additionally, it highlights particular concern about the loss of accreditation for new scheme teachers, which PLANE offered. There were a number of other concerns raised in a detailed and thoughtfully constructed letter.

The pertinent parts to the response is printed below.

As part of my Masters coursework, participants are asked to take part in Forum Discussions. One exercise asked students to explore the for/against of the statement If you build it, they will come. In writing this post, this seems apt. Perhaps more pertinently is that “they” might well come, but will they stay, or even come back? Are they expected to take on the maintenance of the site thereafter?

It would be nice to know if this last observation is the case. Perhaps this might go some way to helping maintain and foster PLANE’s base. I understand that many of the “pilots” who helped administer the site have gone and that it resembles more of an empty shell today. A lot of money has been put into this and it would be unconscionable to see this drift,  rudderless, towards oblivion.

In closing, take a look at this photo. It is from PLANE’s Facebook page (also with last post in June). For me it captures everything PLANE can and should stand for – the energy of a range of dedicated practitioners who have come together to create a fantastic OLC. Please feel free to forward and disseminate this post in your own social and educative circles. Perhaps it can be steered to a more appropriate course for all users.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.15.26 PM

The development in student-centred learning is certainly gaining pace in the last few years. Each day, further strategies utilising BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies are highlighted, classes are flipped (where students are able to view and review brief videos created by teachers at home) and the role of the teacher continues to be refined. Certainly, the concept of the teacher as the authoritative dispenser of information via chalk and talk is being challenged.

In light of this, what developments are there with the process of interviewing teachers for positions? Currently, it is not uncommon for prospective teachers to be asked to teach a lesson or take a class. It’s not something that I’ve had to do, but I’ve often wondered about this. Does it lead to the potential for a “crackerjack” lesson to be delivered by a candidate – perhaps the best that they can do? Or is it designed more to weed out those who might handle the interview itself successfully enough, but give little indication of the fact that they would be flounder if put in front of a more ‘colourful’ Year 9 class? Certainly it has probably had its value over time and, as a general litmus test, one can determine a degree of rapport (or not) between a teacher and a group of students.

So, do schools need to visit how they interview teachers? If we are looking at dynamic and innovative ways of interacting with students and delivering content, does this stand at odds with more traditional methods of demonstrating your classroom credentials? Perhaps the criteria need to be considered as part of the application process, looking at a wider range of skills such as:

  • examples of a teacher’s ICT skill base and how this directly correlates to classroom activities
  • a teacher’s ability to facilitate and mentor, rather than be the arbiter of instruction
  • a demonstration of a teacher’s connection to the need for lifelong learners in society (and with the ability to be taught by the students as well)
  • the place of content and creation in the classroom
  • the need to teach the value (or otherwise) of the ICT tools as part of the learning process

Would love to hear about “different” experiences in the selection process that you have witnessed or experienced.

On Monday I will start my first degree since the early 90s. I’m undertaking a Masters in Education, specialising in eLearning. The differences in the two approaches couldn’t be more pronounced. On the one hand, my first English lecture had 800 odd sitting listening to a lecture from a professor with decades of tenure, discuss (I think) the novel, Joseph Andrews. At the time (1989), I was in awe of the University itself – the oldest in Australia – with the size of its place, all of the buildings and the 1000s of students. So this wonderment transferred quite happily to sitting and (trying) to take notes in an A4 Lecture pad while the one-way delivery of performance was given. There were  “tutes” of about ten people, where we would break down the lecture in a more informal and social fashion. Then there was the social side – of clubs and societies, the cafes and bars and growing friendships. There were no mobile phones, the internet didn’t exist and, as I recall from a Psychology I lecture, “my presentations are copyright, so you are not permitted to make audio recordings of these lectures”.

Sydney University Quadrangle 2

Sydney University Quadrangle 2 (Photo credit: iansand)

How much things have changed. Now my University is 700km away and I am studying “by distance”. Ironically, “distance” can actually be measured in metres; the distance to my nearest computing device. Thus I was checking my (required) university email account as I lay in bed last night via my iPad. I can access all the online readings, the library database, the course notes… even the course participants who I will be discussing ideas and working with, without requiring any form of travel outside of my home. There are Facebook pages specific to the course and a Twitter hashtag to follow. I’ve already started using Notability to turn my required readings from PDFs into annotatable documents that automatically sync to Dropbox. I’ve started to use “e-highlighters” in a range of colours without unzipping a pencil case!

I’m excited with what’s about to follow. Most of my work will occur via a Moodlewhere I’ll be able to take part in discussion bulletin boards, use the class Forum and receive and submit my work. I am conscious of the self paced learning which recommends 12-15 hours per subject per week. It is self paced to a degree as I still need to complete those readings and submit those pieces of work. So while I might not need to sit down for a lecture at 9am on a Monday any more, I am conscious that I need to sit down some time and do that work. My education has, until now, been predicated on a timetable and while it still exists, the goalposts are being excavated ready for the subsequent shift. The irony is that I still play field hockey for my alma mater and fondly recollect that learning that I did in those days.

University of New England (Australia)

University of New England (Australia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, if you ever pop by in the future, feel free to give me an e-kick… up the back side, to keep me on course and get me back to my studies!

A possible start of year address from a few hundred years ago…

Good morning students, and welcome back for the new school year. We certainly have an exciting year ahead of us. I have called this assembly to go over how the new iSlate devices will operate.
By now you should all have received your devices and, looking around, I can see many of you have brought them here today. Well done.
You will already know that the school has moved to implement these devices across all years. My aim this morning is to go over the process of this implementation.
Firstly, I want to thank your parents. They have outlaid a not inconsiderable sum of money to ensure that you have access to the latest technology. If you haven’t done so, you should thank them for their selfless act in putting you at the forefront of their thoughts. It is also beholden upon you to respect and care for your device. These slate pieces are quite robust but, as Worthington major found out this morning, tend to come off second best if dropped on the cobbled paving. We have asked you to get the wooden cork backing, but this will only provide a small level of protection. I encourage you and your parents to consider having specific insurance to cover possible damage to your device.

iSlate 1.0 From four shillings & sixpence. Available now.

Once at school, there are some expectations that we have with how you will use your device. I wish to go over some of these here with you now:
1. In starting, it is important to see your iSlate as a tool and not a toy. Certainly, you have the potential to use it for its novelty value, for its newness. However, we hope that we will see you use this as a device that aids in your education, as a content creation device and method of storing your invaluable notes. Social media, such as doodling is fine in itself; just contemplate where and when you should consider its use. Leaving your iSlate lying around with inappropriate observations about staff and students could lead to serious long-term repercussions for you and for others.
2. Practical considerations are important with using your iSlate. You will need to supply your own chalk and be attentive to how you manage it. It should be kept sharpened to make the most of your iSlate. You should not fritter away this resource with pointless doodling and, I need not say, borrowing the chalk of others will be regarded in the same light as stealing.
3. iSlates are to be kept in locker areas for safe keeping when not in use. As mentioned before, think carefully about how you intend to transport your devices to and from school. Again I remind you of their monetary value and the need for care. You should think carefully about ‘wiping’ your iSlate each day and what erasing this information will mean for your revision. Back-ups are, obviously, prohibitively expensive at this time.
4. In class, it is important to realise that the iSlate may not be used all the time. There will be times when its use is inappropriate, and your teacher may request that you put your iSlate ‘face down’ on the desk. The expectations regarding respect for all, and especially staff, remains unchanged.
5. Finally, it is important to realise that, all things considered, your iSlate device is only another tool to help you learn. It does not replace the most important tool that you possess in your arsenal, namely, your brain. It cannot do the thinking, the questioning, for you. Only you can do that. In addition to this, it will not make you a better person. Your values and what you stand for come from within. It may help your productivity, but will not replace your personality.

Certainly there are exciting times ahead and the staff and I are looking forward to some striking work as always. Rest assured, we will all be reviewing the use of these devices in coming months. Students dismissed.

 

iSlate 1.0 replaces the A-book as the new “device to have”

war·ran·ty

noun /ˈwôrəntē/  /ˈwä-/
warranties, plural

  1. A written guarantee, issued to the purchaser of an article by its manufacturer, promising to repair or replace it if necessary within a specified period of time

Educational “contracts” have been around for years and I recall the (attempted) introduction of the green desk system at my school in my later years. This basically revolved around William Roger’s Discipline Plan that saw students given ascending punishments such as being given a warning, being moved to an isolated table and being removed from the room for ongoing poor behaviour. At the time, it had mixed success at the government high school that I attended.

I recently came across this great blog post at English Teacher Confessions, which lists 13 pet peeves – number 12 reads:

The day after a major essay is due, ask your teacher if she’s graded them yet; if she balks, ask her if she’s graded yours yet; ask every day until they’re returned.

This followed on from seeing this cartoon at the start of the year:

from Joe Bower’s For the Love of Learning Blog

So perhaps student behaviour is a timeless, known quantity and the changes in society and the expectations of education have evolved. As more mobile devices become used/available in the class room, should we be exploring what the expectations are for student and teacher alike? Schools are developing the ability to allow students to access their files on servers at any time and many have contact with staff via email and class portal pages. What are the expectations for being able to contact staff at any time and, in being able to do this, what are the (time) expectations for staff to respond? In writing this, I am exploring the idea of the motivated and probably more able student, rather than the disruptive or indifferent one. Certainly, the days of a student heading off to the nearest major (university?) library to spend the day going through all the reference and stack items are endangered if not gone already. The issue is not what can be accessed, but how best to do it and how to develop a student’s curiosity, as well as the ability to discriminate with information that is available online.

Therefore, I am (lightheartedly) proposing a school warranty. You’ll notice that I copied the definition that came up for ‘warranty definition’ on Google at the top of my post and this covers the noun. I like the verb – warrant –  to justify or necessitate (a certain course of action), even more so. It suggests an active ‘doing’ rather than something set in place. I have no legal experience, but how about, as Draft 1.0, something like the following?

This understanding is made on the basis that we live in exciting technological times and you are a student looking to do your best, wanting to discover new ideas and thinking and you are ready to work. To this effect:

I warrant that I

  • will look to challenge the way you think, in order to open up your mind to fresh ideas and ways of working
  • understand that you have those mobile devices and that we will look to use them to further the ideas and content creation of the class
  • will continue to learn myself and challenge the way that I think and teach in order to promote both our positions
  • can learn from you and that together we will both benefit
  • will commit to giving you the best service that I can, through preparation, resources, feedback and direction and that this will often occur out of class time
  • am human; that (like you), I will make mistakes and I will endeavour to make amends and learn from them in future
  • will sing your praises from the rooftop because I can be so proud of your efforts

In accepting this Warranty, you undertake to

  • question everything and accept nothing at face value until you have scutinised, analysed, and tested it
  • bring your brain as well as your iWhatever along with you to use to benefit the work of all in the class
  • not try to add me as a “Facebook Friend” – we can be friendly, without having to be Friends
  • commit to fully participating, including completing the tasks and readings set, respecting the efforts of all and not shortchanging yourself through shortcuts
  • produce your own work, including attributing all sources you have used, to the best of your ability, which may involve re-drafting a piece of work at a later date
  • respect my role as teacher, including realising that, while I have may be able to access your communications at any time, I am not necessarily going to respond then and there
  • teach me as well with ideas that you have, apps that you come across and possibilities to explore

There’s probably more, (quite possibly less too!) but it’s a start. As a colleague said when I mentioned the idea for this post, “Not sure about the idea of the extended warranty!!”

Would love your thoughts and perspectives, as always.

A short post from me this time, and I start with a confession:
I have not used Prezi as I feel I ought to have done. Never being a PowerPoint aficionado, I thought that I would rectify the deficit – but now looking back, I see that time and application has been lacking.
And so I am proposing building a bank of teaching ideas and strategies with (in particular, new iPad) apps.

Presents
At present, it feels a bit too much like Christmas, and I am a six year old. I’m looking at posts on Twitter that promote “the 5 best apps for the classroom” or “50 Edtech tools” and I’m eagerly reading about them, often downloading them and using them – briefly. Then, unless I persevere (and going back to the Christmas analogy), I tend to become entranced by the next present in the pile. I’ll give the instructions a cursory glance at best and some of these items deserve a little more attention. A good case in point was the ShowMe app – I had a quick look, dreamed about it for a little while, and have not got ‘back’ to it since.

So, working on a few premises; that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, that education is still about content, content, content before technology, that the way it operates in the classroom and the way a class ‘operates’ (and is taught) cannot be replaced with a gimmick or something only half utilised, I am looking to make amends. No death-by-powerpoint by reducing a resource to its most mundane level.

And so, the idea is that I will road test a number of apps in the (predominantly) English class room. I’m thinking that spending about half a term (five weeks) would be about right, starting after our September school holidays (Australia). From this I hope to:

  • Review those apps that are most useful to teachers, those for students and those that work for both
  • Compare those that are similar to other apps out there (and perhaps, where an app falls short in the classroom)
  • Collate any other information that is out there that you can offer.
  • And after all this, I hope to Create a series of lesson ideas and strategies that help utilise an app to the fullest extent.

Currently, I’m not sure where to start – suggestions gratefully accepted, as will be re-tweets to a wider audience and pointers to places where it may have already been covered. Only relatively new to blogging, so am not looking to unnecessarily reinvent the wheel!

I’ll look to provide a later blog per app, with any and all appropriate information and resources collated. Hopefully it’ll stretch beyond the English classroom to broader teaching and learning use.

Looking forward to hearing from you in the meantime…