The science of teaching is knowing a number of different methodologies. The art is knowing when to use which.
Source: Taming The Beast
Our school has had a government funded 1:1 laptop program since 2009 that is ending. We have learnt much about changing our pedagogy, classroom management and technology in the last 5 years that will stand us in good stead for the move to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in 2014. Here are some ideas that individuals, faculties and the school may wish to reflect on and develop in coming weeks and months.
The move to BYOD provides a great opportunity for professional renewal. The SAMR model (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) is useful as a roadmap of ways forward and as a reflective tool, allowing one to see where our pedagogy is currently situated. Too often technology is substituted with little discernible benefit (a worksheet is just a worksheet regardless of format). Augmentation (when the electronic quiz is easier to mark) is the next step up but we really need to be considering how to create new tasks (Redefinition), or at least modify cleverly (Modification).
In Denmark, my students were able to bring their own device and we had no filtering. It was the most extraordinary freedom I’d ever experienced as an educator and at the time I had no knowledge of SAMR but believe that these tasks (here and here) are genuinely innovative approaches that were very exciting for students. They did traditional school work like writing essays but gathered information in a completely contemporary fashion. More excitingly, they had the freedom to be creative and took that opportunity, producing documentaries, music, poetry and much besides.
More recently, Year 10 wrote scripts for a purpose, creating their own machinima. Other students in this class built websites and used them to teach Year 6 students (at their old primary schools) about Macbeth and Shakespeare. The class also engaged with experts, using technology to connect, that not only interested them but also really provided opportunities for higher order thinking about problematic knowledge.
The SAMR ladder is one to professionally climb. The questions below are good ones to scaffold professional reflection. I am also asking myself the question: does the new design provide opportunities for students to be creative and improve their cultural literacies?
What have you developed in recent years that modifies or redefines traditional pedagogical approaches?
NB I will continue to add SAMR resources here.
2. Feedback: sharing programming approaches and pedagogy
We need to learn more about providing feedback to each other and to our students. Our school is funding greater opportunities for teachers and faculties to collaborate in classrooms through observing and sharing practice with colleagues in 2014. It will be invaluable to watch other teachers demonstrate their pedagogical approaches to BYOD (or, for example, ALARM). Head teachers have been asked by the principal to consider the best ways teachers share their ideas and provide feedback.
Already faculties are collaborating with colleagues at other schools to share programming/resources. This will continue, as the Australian Curriculum is bedded down and opportunities to see other approaches to BYOD will emerge. Here are some ideas for teachers from another another state school implementing BYOD.
What do you wish to observe? How could you participate? What would you like to share? New tools? Innovative approaches to student engagement and classroom management? New assessment ideas with the SAMR model in mind? How can we use technology to improve feedback to students. How can we assists students to provide each other with thoughtful feedback?
There are number of practical issues for faculties to resolve – rather than designing a prescriptive whole school approach – regarding assessment. For example, one cannot assume that students will have Microsoft PowerPoint, Word or any other software (as they did with the school-issued Lenovos) so tasks should be designed to be ‘software agnostic’. The redesign of tasks would likely provide students with alternatives and opportunities to make suggestions. Many students are already familiar with alternatives like Prezi or Open Office. Of course, NSW DEC has been promising Google Apps for some time now and it could be available via the portal for students shortly but check this out anyway in preparation. There is also blogEd and eBackpack at the portal.
Edmodo is an absolutely essential tool imho and it is possible for students to submit work, the teacher to assess and return quite easily. There is a feature that allows for the formation of small group spaces which could be invaluable for collaborative, group-based assessment work. Edmodo is web-based but many students will prefer the app for their tablet. Voicethread is a great tool you should explore and Class Dojo may be a motivating tools for encouraging students to complete tasks. Last but not least, I have used Weebly for building websites with my stage 5 class for the last two years (I paid a small amount for greater flexibility). This could be a great motivating tool for students to engage more enthusiastically with assessable tasks.
Our ePhoenix MOODLE has the facility for students to submit tasks. Please be aware that most of the functions mentioned in the above paragraphs could be replicated in our ePhoenix MOODLE which has many features not used by teachers and students at this stage.
The reason that prescribing a whole school, one-size fits all approach is not viewed positively is that each faculty will have the chance to adapt and innovate as new technologies become available (and SAMR design-thinking spreads). It is a pity that NSW Google Apps is not available at this stage, perhaps this will emerge as a solution for some faculties. Regardless, students should know how to submit assessment tasks and what tools may be employed.
4. Cultural and other literacies
The world has been profoundly altered by technology, particularly by the World Wide Web and more recently social media. Politics, commerce, relationships, photography, art, entertainment, education and…well, everything! That is not to say that all is changed utterly but clearly there are cultural and other literacies more readily available to students and their teachers than ever before. Skilful teachers are blending the traditional with the new. Understanding copyright and concepts like creative commons is very important. We live in a world where our data is mined relentlessly and students need to explore digital citizenship, as well as democracy, in a sophisticated, as well as practical manner.
The opportunities afforded for encouraging/motivating student choice, creativity, self-direction and self-management are evident. The plethora of apps and online tools grow exponentially each day and students are often more confident with this than adults. It just seems normal. Students will have a personal device that will house their music, videos and hopefully, be a motivating tool to help them learn more independently, if opportunities are created in class. This will need skilful management. However, for some students, perhaps, this freedom will be a bridge too far in the shorter term and they will need very explicit guidance, clear boundaries, opportunities and motivation.
Accessing the local library online and reading ebooks is a very large opportunity that the school must not squander as students in Year 9 start using their devices for learning. Janelle Smith, our local Dapto library co-ordinator has organised for each of our students to receive a card that will allow them to access the digital collection (and, of course, borrow from the bricks and mortar library). There are many ways that students can research and find free books online. It is essential that teachers understand how to do this. Start by installing Overdrive on your device or visiting your local library’s homepage (where audiobooks can be downloaded too). For some of our students free audiobooks will encourage them to access fiction and non fiction more often.
This initiative is only just beginning and there are great opportunities for our communities to have unfettered access to our culture online, for free. Remember, reading independently is one of the most important levers for improving academic and life outcomes.
What can you do to encourage independent reading?
5. PLN (Personal Learning Networks)
For a long time now it has been clear that teachers sharing their practice is the most powerful professional development available. The opportunities afforded in staffroom discussion, at conferences and workshops in-house are complimented enormously by social media tools. If you are not using any of the following for connecting with colleagues, the time has come to explore what is on offer in edu-communities accessible via:
For example, the sharing at some professional associations’ facebook pages is quite frenetic. English teachers in NSW love the popular ETA page. I have proselytised about twitter many times as it has been my favourite online tool since 2008. Yammer (email me DEC people if you would like an invitation) is a wonderful professional community. The ALARM edmodo group is also wonderful resource for sharing ideas, templates and pedagogy. TeachMeets are increasingly a popular way to make professional contacts, online and offline.
Our BYOD journey is only formally beginning this year, although for some time many of us have been allowing kids to use their own gear for learning in class, and there is much to be done. We have had a great deal of TPL over the last 5 years that will stand us in good stead. One small example is a previous SDD post that has links and ideas you may find useful.
Our BYOD TSO (Technical Support Officer) will be appointed this term and he or she will have a wide brief to assist teachers and student learning. Our library will be renovated and the teacher-librarian will continue working on digital citizenship across the curriculum. There will be technical issues and frustrations but the bigger picture, for learning, is exciting!
What ideas do you have that will improve learning in a BYOD school for your faculty?
Featured image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by AJ LEON: http://flickr.com/photos/ajleon/6776952988/