Overflowing with #EdTech Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is infectious, but Education Technology should empower and support your classroom environment

Writing this I would like to openly admit to being someone who gets very excited about EdTech and new apps, but who has also seen the impact of both sides of this coin. I have learnt along my travels, to consider the depth before use

I have been lucky enough to work with educators from a range of disciplines at International schools for middle and higher education (11-19yrs). 

As a trainer I have some very varied weeks. If we all reflect on the education institutes we work in and for, you can imagine the breath of experience and knowledge for pedagogy as well as their subject.

It has been an inspiring and reflective.

Training others in Education Technology it can be very difficult to get the room on your side.  For me, this is something I enjoy, in fact changing mindsets is one of my favourite tasks when it comes to delivering training, as this to me is real progress.

When walking into situations where change is needed but blocked, there is no real amount of preparation you can have.  Knowing your resources is very important, but above all, reading the room is the best skill you can have to give those educators.  Just like when teaching your own students, developing the work to suit the needs of those in front of you is your most important super power. 

So, what does all of this boil down to? Why does it come under the “Overflowing” heading you might ask?

The biggest part which I find as a barrier, not only to student progess, but also their own progress is the sheer volume of apps and programmes which are being used.  Sadly, it is not just in the school I am reflecting upon, its is across a range of institutes, across, I would assume the world.

A shiny new app comes along and people want to use it. Which is understandable. We are sold the educational reasons for using it and are now inspired… Please do not get me wrong, this is wonderful that we can see the benefit of using technology in the classroom. 

But imagine this… 

Every teacher in your institute asks the same thing, asking for one or maybe two brilliant apps which we cannot live without. 

Now, imagine the student in your classroom, who has come to your lesson, perhaps it is the third or fourth lesson of the day.  

To them, this is the fifth or sixth new application or programme they have used already.  How much of the actual learning are they able to take in, around remembering what to do, where to login and how to use the tools?

The answer is, not a lot.  

Now, if in addition to this you are talking to your students in a non-native language, very common in lots of schools not just international schools, then they are also trying to de-code all of the terminology you need them to know for your subject.

So how do we over come this? Keep it simple.

What do students need to know? How to use EdTech which will help them succeed in lesson, but also in their future 

What is the best way to do this?

Use programmes native to the device the students use. Apps can be here today, gone tomorrow, however Numbers, Keynote and Pages have been around since iWork was launched in 2005, only getting better and more advanced in their ability.   Students need transferable skills, things which will hold relevance to their daily lives now and also in the future.

I am not saying all apps are irrelevant, they defiantly are not. However, complimenting a core understanding of one range of software, develops a mastery level for students (and educators) will allow learning to happen in your classroom every day, with ease.

Embedding some core apps to support assessment or theory can still happen, but slowly allowing everyone to have confidence.  Especially if EdTech is new to your classroom. It also allows you to share information quickly and easily with one another as well as your students.

How can this be instilled?

  1. Chose your software 
  2. Train all staff in the school on that specific platform, have non negotiable elements with staff to ensure it is being used and implemented effectively. 
  3. Have core “whole school apps” things which can help more than one department or subject area 
  4. Get leadership to use the same platforms – consistency and modelling of the systems by leadership show staff that you are working together 
  5. Have a whole school ethos about meaninful EdTech

Personal recommendations would be Apple, once you have the device, all you need is in there. I could teach all elements of learning in a lesson using the iPad native software alone, it allows for so much development and creativity.

Apple have guides on how to develop curriculums, as well as rubrics.  They even support CPD within their #AppleTeacher program, relevant to all staff in your school, not just the educators. https://www.apple.com/ae/education/apple-teacher/

in addition:

  • You are Embedding real-world skills into students
  • Apple platform allows for creativity within all subjects #EveryoneCanCreate
  • Ability to design simple work flows for staff
  • Assessment tracking (Integrated very well with external apps via SchoolWork)
  • Students work portfolios; In Pages, Number or Keynote #ElementsOfLearning 
  • SchoolWork you can send documents and assignments to students with deadlines creating a diary for the student which allows you to track progress
  • Clips or iMovie can allow collation of evidence 
  • Sketch and annotation avaliable on all their software 

For more information click on the following links:

https://www.apple.com/ae/everyone-can-code/

https://www.apple.com/ae/education/everyone-can-create/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/elements-of-learning/id1367981260?mt=11

The first week back is like spinning sugar

If you have ever seen or tried to spin sugar, you will know it looks tricky and confusing.  The sugar layers over and over again. Like spinning sugar, when we begin in September we have ideas of grandeur which we expect to be instant but it takes time to develop, shape and moulds it to our liking.  Just like the information we receive as teachers at the beginning of the term.

If you are new to a school, the layers of information can feel overwhelming and when you are in the thick of it, it can sometimes feel like it won’t ever make sense, or turn out the way you want or had hoped. There is so much to learn, so many things to take in and most importantly, there are many little faces which stare at you waiting to be inspired by your wisdom.

With this in mind, I thought it would be the perfect time to give my top three apps for helping you navigate yourself in those first few weeks.

(NB: I work in an apple 1:1 device school, so these are tailored to the iPad, although I am sure there are other similar options available on the Android alternatives.) 

Apple Classroomthis brilliant app from Apple allows you to support and navigate your pupils around a meaningful lesson using technology.  In addition, it is a great way of ensuring students are always on task and behaving.  Apple Classroom allows you to navigate (and lock) pupils into apps which are on their devices for them to be able to complete specific tasks.  You can take them to web pages via the app, directing them to websites which you have stored in your favourites, this allows you to find suitable research material, especially for those in the lower year groups or at a primary age. It allows you to control all, or individual iPads ensuring all students are listening and not still using their device when you are expecting them to be listening.  One of my favourite elements, however, is the grouping options. As teachers, we have very mixed ability groups.  I think this is true to almost every school around the world, Apple Classroom allows you easily to separate pupils into groups, where you can then personalise the learning for those pupils and ensure that their needs are being met, the great thing, none of the other pupils even need to know that worksheet or question paper is different. The app also allows airdropping to the whole class in one touch, screen sharing, mirroring without logging in and muting of sound if so required.

In addition to those elements is also gives you a great rundown of the student’s device usage, at the end of the lesson, you can see second by second what they did when they were in your class.

Tip: If you have an apple school management system, lock their Bluetooth on. 

Kahoot

Kahoot is not a new app, however, it is one which at our school we use frequently. Why? because it allows us to capture data snapshots easily.  Students love the challenge of a Kahoot, it engages them all in active learning but also doesn’t humiliate those who are unsure or unlikely to speak out in a hand up exercise. If they get it wrong, they can hide their screen and only you and they know overall scores.

The great thing about Kahoot is you can create your own, edit something already created or even borrow someones if it is suitable for the task.  At our school, we use these for new topics, keyword consolidation, tracking understanding in a lesson and even baseline testing in some subjects where there is no standardised test.  Kahoot happily allows you to download the data for the class and this can influence your next lesson planning, your student tracking or just be a good formative assessment task. Kahoot also allows a “Ghost Mode” so you can do the same Kahoot at the end of the lesson to show progress in their understanding. It frees up teacher time from marking mini tests as it is all completed for you which can be very helpful, especially when you are teaching a range of classes or a range of subjects to one class.

Tip: Give pupils a time limit to log in, ensuring they pupil their correct name (tracking).  You can even allow the first people to be listening to put an emoji at the end of their name to encourage them to get on task as quickly as possible. 

Camera, Camera Roll & Markup Tool. 

I realise that there are three elements to this one, however, I find this is the most useful tool you have on the iPad. It can be a great get to know you activity, you can have conversations about sharing information but as a tool, it can allow you to use something very simple, and free, to create a really interesting and meaningful lesson.

With the updates to the iPads, pupils can now edit and draw or write (text and cursive) onto their iPad.  It could be a photograph of an object, linking to Maths, English, Science or any subject. A stimulus.  Pupils writing words, ideas, comments onto and then sharing with others via AirDrop. This could be placed into their Notes app as a digital workbook of ideas and research.  You might want pupils to photograph their own work, they could share this with another pupil and they comment on the work, allowing collaboration of ideas with their classmates and getting that valuable peer-to-peer assessment and feedback.

Tip: If you teach students to know how to use the Mark-Up tool on their Photos they will be able to use it in all of their other Apple Programmes. Making other lessons and learning easier to manage as they already have the prepared skills. 

My final Tip would be to use the camera to photograph your students in their seating plans.  At the beginning of the year, if you teach lots of new pupils, it can be a great way to get to know your students faster.  If like me you teach upwards for 400 Students it helps to remember those names. We all know knowing their names can make such a difference to your student’s lives.  Feeling empowered, special and remembered, especially if they are new to the school. (NB: I use my school iPad and not a personal device – this is for my classroom management only and I do not share the images.)

I hope that some of these apps and tips can be helpful to you, guiding your spun sugar to create beautifully crafted lessons.

Digital Break Out – The Isles Need YOU!

With everything we do in schools now, there is no better way to get pupils to understand the concepts than to link it back to everyday life.  I am a very hands-on learner.  I really do have to be emersed in the physical making and doing, to understand it.

So with that in mind, I try to ensure that all learning styles are given the opportunity to excel, Differentiation I will save for another blog because every child is not like me.

I currently teach coding to KS2 we touch upon a range of different elements of coding, now we are in our third term my pupils are confidently coding a range of different robotic systems.  All with the topical insight about why that specific system may have been developed. We discuss how @Sphero could be similar to a driverless vehicle, how @Parrot Drones are used in tracking down sources of water, heat and areas which we cannot physically, or safely reach.  We don our space imaginary space suits and blast off to Mars with @LEGOEducationUK, considering why we cannot land on Mars or even why we would want to?

The realistic approach to teaching and learning is key to the development and understanding of each child. We can cover all learning styles when we make it real.  Why do we need to know these things, if there isn’t a credible reason to do so.  With a future of uncertain job structures, our pupils need to learn so many skills to enable them to be adaptable.

Coding is such an amazing way of being able to get them to become more adaptable to ever-changing circumstances. Keeping pupils on their toes, they never know what my classroom may morph into when they step through the door.  What they do know is, I will always be able to link everything they do to a reason and their topic.

So how do we go wider and get the whole school to collaborate under these changing circumstances? Get pupils to see the bigger picture?

Take a look at the link below:

Save the Isles

For a whole afternoon, we had verticle style learning, house teams, with a range of scenarios and pupil ability.  Pupils were pushed out of their comfort zone, using all of their coding and programming knowledge they worked as teams to save stranded villagers on the islands, find sources of water and navigate around areas of natural disaster.  It was wonderful to watch as they discussed and negotiated, using critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I even threw an @Kahoot in there for pupils to keep them on their toes.

The most important part, the pupils enjoyed it.  They understood how their technology, which quite often is taken for granted, really can begin to solve larger problems.

I cannot wait for the next one!