I have worked at two schools over the last five years and in terms of student achievement, I have found that each year group is as different as the next. Some excel in literacy, where as others are gifted in the arts.
Last month I wrote about classroom tasks which could be easily sorted by 3 C's: Consumption, Creation and Collaboration (read here). By aligning your tasks with Blooms Taxonomy the iPad apps became authentic learning tools.
As I prepared for an upcoming presentation at a local University I unloaded my test iPad of all its applications and created a new iPad, complete only with apps which I use at school every week. This iPad would become my "essentials" iPad, strategically and efficiently full of apps I wholly recommend to every educator I meet.
During the Christmas break my team and I conducted a thorough review and stock take of equipment, software and services at my school. It proved to be a very interesting exercise. What has been most revealing is the amount of young and often very expensive technology that is no longer being used. Our school, like many others, cast the net far and wide as we searched for a technology driven curriculum, and we now find ourselves casting off short-lived hardware and ideas. In hindsight we could have spent money more wisely but I like to think of my school as a modern place, on the cutting edge and prepared to take risks. We do make mistakes but risk taking creates a fertile environment where students and teaching staff have the opportunity to flourish. And they do.
By sharing our progress of the last few years and my plans for 2014, I hope to help schools that find themselves at the beginning of their digital journey.
It's not all about the technology
It's all about people and the community. Good infrastructure is vital but put your colleagues first and it becomes meaningful. Ask yourself these questions: Why do you want to leverage computers? What do you want your school to look like in three years? Is your journey a necessary one?
It’s the school’s duty to provide the tools and methods which teachers must have to teach effectively. In my day it was blackboard and chalk, today it’s a sound network and responsive internet access far all users. The modern classroom must have both, and this has been the focus of investment for my school in 2013.
Becoming independent in 2014
My school is part of the Catholic Education Network (CathEdNet), a state wide network connecting Catholic schools, the Catholic Education Office and related institutions in WA to each other and to/from the outside world.
Until recently, we have depended on Cathednet to provide internet connection via a proxy server (for threat management and protection of users), email services, short messaging services and telephony. However, as the school has developed and student/staff requirements grown, we have come to depend largely on third party/private providers for many services. The further we have progressed, the more independent we have become.
When Cathednet was launched in 2002, all schools were equal in their technical capabilities and funding. It was a level playing field and Cathednet did an exemplary job in supporting the progress of Catholic schools no matter how big, small, or remote. However, I think it fair to say that Cathednet can no longer keep up with the needs of its diverse schools.
The National School Computer Fund (NSSCF) funding was the catalyst to propel some schools away from the network. Modern curriculum demands had stretched the network to its limits and local admin teams required the flexibility to manage their own user requirements. The move away from Cathednet as an internet provider was one example of an independent movement, which is happening across the IT education sector.
A personal computer revolution
It became clear after the NSSCF funding that the ‘digital revolution’ is a personal computer revolution. Users want to manage their own experience, both offline and online; teachers have been encouraged to provide a personalised learning experience that caters for all learning types.
Association with your own computer is something that we can all relate to, and the trend does not stop with devices. Each teacher requires different needs in the classroom, each classroom requires particular wireless needs and each school must provide the digital tools it needs to meet the vision of its school leaders.
In 2013 staff required access to services which some deemed inappropriate for education, such as Facebook or Instagram. After a trail period we took the responsibility of protecting our students out of Cathednet’s hands, and into our own with Sophos Unified Threat Management (UTM). Managing your own proxy means greater granular control over our network and users. We can quickly ascertain which users consume our bandwidth and find out which sites they have been browsing.
Late last year I was very fortunate to win the support of my Finance Manager when I requested a 1 gigabit internet provider with Australia's Academic and Research Network (AARNet). Although very expensive this “internet pipe” is essential if we are to support our students in a cloud based future.
My recent article "Change Management, Moving from email to Gmail" described my reasoning behind my schools transition to Google Apps for Education. Many of my teaching colleagues also utilize entire learning platforms such as Schoology, Edmodo or iTunes U. It is clear to me that cloud computing is here, and in 2014 it will continue to flourish. Don’t allow yourself to be choked with a sub-par internet connection and proxy server.
As we progress through 2014, our internal storage servers will be reduced, pushing responsibility of data management to our users. Conversations have also begun with a sister school regarding the option to backup essential data, daily, and offsite.
Long term forecast costs have been reduced as I look to reduce dependency on our internal server and disaster recovery rooms. I foresee a future where a server room will be a server cupboard housing no more than core switches and a router.
My school is moving into the future with one clear device requirement: the iPad is to be the primary tool for teaching and learning.
We will also provide five iMac suites and we have reconditioned dozens of MacBooks to ensure that we have at least five trolleys for classroom loan. We understand that those students who require the capabilities of a conventional desktop should be entitled to access the ‘Pro’ tools that they need. While the iPad is the focus tool, we are clear that the device should not and does not dictate the curriculum vision – the possibility of a BYOD (essentially dual device) environment also remains a consideration driven by the needs of our learners.
I feel compelled to address the concerns of Bruce Dixon. In Education Today magazine, Term 4 2013 he wrote that the iPad was “a dumbed down engagement device.” I understand his reservations about the iPad, I too was sceptical to begin with. I also share his opinion that “the corporate sector has found the Education Treasure Chest.”
We should not kid ourselves that for a moment that the goal of large corporations like Apple, Samsung, Google or Microsoft is not to make money for their shareholders, but much of Apple's success now depends on the success and greater good of education. Apple's approach to education has been genuine, their goals to transform education authentic. This has been the case since 1985 when Apple began the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) research program. ACOT was a thorough review of technologies’ presence in education. It looked to stimulate new goals and alternative instructional approaches. Over the years since, I have witnessed how Apple tools have evolved to fit the requirements of learners and educators.
My school is committing to the iPad because our own research, conducted over four years, has shown that iOS removes the barriers and technical challenges faced by teaching staff. Our research has shown that student engagement levels have increased, differentiated instruction and self-directed learning have improved significantly.
Above all, the iPad puts the technical challenges of computers to the back and focuses solely on the task at hand, whether that be an English literacy task, rearranging a math formula or writing Japanese Kanji. The tool is unobtrusive, it is stable and is easy to manage from both a classroom management perspective and network management.
Advanced information technology (and learning how to use conventional computers for creative and technical tasks) is just as important as before, if not more so. I certainly hope that the future of my school will educate many new programmers, coders and digital creative experts.
What's in store for 2014?
I have put my neck on the line this year. Should things not work out with internet speeds, user data, and user protection, I can no longer look to Cathednet or Telstra to blame. The decisions I have made are necessary for the benefit of my school, but now the buck stops with me.
However, I can still sleep soundly at night (for now) because I am fortunate to work with 3 very talented I.T. professionals, and our goals are the same as the schools mission: to build the very best authentic learning community, that is rich in diverse opportunities founded on Catholic values.
I hope that you might be able to take a few ideas from my journey in 2013. Below is a summary of the projects and methods which I will focus on in 2014.
In 2013 we started upgrading our classrooms with 70” flat panel monitors for wireless projection of iPads and laptops and I will look to continue this push throughout 2014. We did this because our teachers were not using the interactive component of the white board. The setup and preparation time also outweighed the educational outcomes of the task. [As a side note, if you require any free, old/used IWBs, please tweet me @DougLoader].
Self-management of student work
In 2012 and 2013 we upgraded our file server to provide many more terabytes of storage data. We quickly realised that if you provide it, it will be used and normally forgotten about. Now we are on Google Apps for Education, each student has their own 30 GB of storage. They fill it up and then they delete stuff; ultimately students and staff are responsible for managing their own data. In 2014 it’s important that users continue to take responsibility.
Parent funded devices
After much discussion we have found that parents are happy to provide devices for their children, effectively making computers a book list item. That said, we always support our parents and staff where necessary and equity of access always comes first.
Working on just one document between users not only increases outcomes, it reduces both your digital footprint and carbon footprint… files are no longer emailed back and forth and printing is reduced. Check out Google docs or Office 365.
Relevant professional development
You must continue to provide time and expertise to PD in 2014. I like to pay particular attention to ‘beginners’, where the essentials are covered and all staff members have the confidence to present any question or problem, no matter how basic it may seem. It is important that no staff member should feel left behind or inadequate in their application of technology.
Good digital citizenship
There is much evidence of young people who have been the victims of Twitter, Snapchat or Ask.fm. Schools are only really beginning to understand the digital world in which many students are caught up.
For most young people these tools permit a type of popularity contest conducted in an online world… a stage where one is judged by friends and peers. And this digital space never stops.
Many schools throughout WA are finding themselves in a position where students are armed with modern devices that empower them to such an extent, that teachers are feeling a sense of helplessness. While it is our duty as educators to provide balance and guidance, ultimately the student must, from a young age, be able to exercise self control and responsibility. The student needs to fully understand what it means to be part of a connected world.
PWR provide a complete emergency response service to the mining and construction industry. They work at the busiest mining sites in Western Australia and are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all equipment, vehicles and personnel. They follow stringent legislative and regulatory requirements.
PWR contacted iSupport with a clear brief: We need to complete our Excel spreadsheets on portable devices. These spreadsheet are complex, they contain macros (a series of commands that can be run whenever you need to perform a certain task) and the collected data needs to be collated centrally on our server. We need to minimise loss of data and inaccuracies. This brief was very revealing of a company steeped in traditional processes, PWR were quite rightly protective over their workflows and aware of the time which they had invested into setting up dozens of fairly complex Excel spreadsheets. But if working in education has taught me one thing, it’s that people can become overly dependant on established methods and ageing technologies.
As hardware and cloud solutions evolve, it is vital that big business keep abreast of modern tools, and move quickly to capitalise, resulting in an extremely efficient workforce; who are working smarter, not harder.
The iPad PWR had already trialled a number of tablet devices, and it appeared that the iPad was the last to be tested. The office spaces were filled with Microsoft desktops and laptops, but curiously enough iPhones were popular around the meeting table.
The initial benefits of the iPad were durability and portability of the device. The iPad was also simple to use and quick to master as many staff already had experience of using iOS with their iPhones. The iPad was very simple to manage remotely with the option of remote wipe and other security features. Other benefits include the long battery life and overall stability of the operating system, meaning that crashes and freezes are very few and far between.
Initial concerns were the integration with legacy components, which were infused in a Microsoft Office environment. These concerns were quick to be eliminated through demonstration, and in time it became clear that as the company evolved, dependancy on these tools became less and less.
As a result interfaces became more user friendly. Excel documents could still make up the foundation of company records, but the way staff interacted with the data changed drastically. By using carefully developed forms, all data could be collected on-site by a technician. The fields set up smartly, eliminating any margin for error and reducing the time invested in the activity. We could even collect signatures, voice memos and annotated photographs.
The data could be collected off-line and submitted once a network connection was made. But most importantly, the company saw the benefits of not having to handle the data 2 or 3 times. Right from submission on-site, all concerned were emailed and the admin spreadsheets were being populated. Meaning admin staff in head office could send reports to the correct client periodically and raise prompt and accurate invoices.
I presented a solution which closely followed the 9 Key Considerations plan promoted by APD specialists.
- We established meetings with all field technicians ensuring that their concerns were addressed and that suitable professional development was provided.
- We assessed costing for the iPads and established deployment strategies.
- We looked closely at the benefits of utilising iCloud accounts, this meant that all iPads could be located with GPS from head office, providing increased accountability.
- We assessed server and cloud storage options, and reviewed workflows.
- We assessed many apps and settled on a few which resulted in accurate collection and submission of data.
- We reviewed practices and tweaked workflows.
A transformation in business, resulting in higher efficiency and accuracy I was very impressed at PWR’s receptiveness to change. The solutions were trialled in a responsible manner and some were rejected. But overall the process which we went through illustrated perfectly the top tiers of the SAMR ladder, resulting in a redefinition of practice at PWR.
As I was adjusting my credit card details through iTunes I spotted an option which will help parents who have children at BYOD iPad schools (like mine) to manage their child's spend. Set up an iTunes Allowance This little known feature allows one iTunes account (with a registered credit card) to credit another account each month. For example you as a parent could credit your child's account with an allowance each month, enabling them to purchase apps as requested by your school. The child account does not have to have a credit card associated with it and will receive credit each month until you stop the allowances. This might be very useful for the first few weeks of a new school term. Equally this could be a good way to manage an over enthusiastic app/digital music purchaser.
How to set up the iTunes Allowance:
- Open itunes, click on the iTunes Store in the left hand column and then sign in with your "Parent" apple ID.
- Now that you're signed in, click on your apple ID (email address) in the top left and select Account.
- In the Settings section click "Set up Allowance"
- Now just specify your son/daughters Apple ID and select the allowance you wish to grant them each month
The only issue at present is the minimum monthly allowance only goes as low as $20. However I have contacted the Apple iTunes Team and hopefully this will be reduced to as little as $5.
I recently initiated a change at my school, one which would prove to be the biggest challenge I have faced in my professional career. I changed something which every staff member uses throughout every single day. A technological tool which, should it fail could be detrimental to the success of my organisation. It's hard to believe that we have become so dependant on it really! But email is integral to our professional and personal lives. It is a space which occupies so much of ones time, that even the slightest loss of functionality or adjustment in look and feel, can seemingly ruin someone's whole day.
After very careful deliberation, and months of trial and review I transitioned my entire school email from Microsoft Outlook, to Google Apps for Education. In this article I will discuss why I did this, outline some of the challenges faced and share how and why you should consider the same strategy for your school.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." There are a few things which have not changed since the invention of personal computing. Firstly the qwerty keyboard. It's been there since day one. Many have tried and failed to improve this interface, even on the most advanced laptops and tablets, the qwerty keyboard appears in its unchanged layout. I wonder if this is simply because some changes are just too big to implement, they are too deeply ingrained into us as human beings, (more on this idea later).
Secondly email. The appearance and functionality has not been adjusted since the early 90's. I recall AOL inboxes appearing for the first time with multiple folders and a new list of technical words. Sent Items and Trash Cans have become synonymous with email, even the word "In box" needs no introduction. And Attachments are precious as we share ideas and collaborate, back and forth these documents flow, being duplicated so many times that "inbox full!" messages are selectively ignored and dismissed by many as a technical glitch.
25 years on and we face an ever expanding dependency on our email. Despite many messages we receive being "Spam" and dozens of emails we are made privy to which often don't even concern us! "CCing", forwarding and group messages, the dreaded one word response wasting precious moments of our mornings ("Thanks" or "ok", no it's not ok! Now I have to press delete!).
Well I thought that there has got to be a better way. I knew that the answer didn't lie in Outlook no matter how much you mastered your inbox. The answer, it turns out, didn't lie in Gmail either. But what has started to make a profound and positive impact at my school has been the adoption of the entire Google Apps for Education suite.
The review process There are really just 2 serious modern contenders for your email needs. Microsoft Office 365 and Google Gmail. I was fortunate enough to work previously at a school which had adopted "365". I used the platform for many months and it worked great. All staff had huge amounts of free storage and sending large attachments was no longer a problem. Most used the Outlook email client on their computers and to set it up was a snap! The calendar integration was so easy that planning your day, or others in your domain was very simple. The change over was so smooth that the teachers really had no idea they were using a new, updated tool. Users were comfortable in the familiar environment.
Microsoft market 365 with many added benefits. Each user is entitled to the Microsoft Office suite, incorporating Word and Excel all in the cloud. These cloud services work well but there is no doubt that Microsoft encourage the purchase of the native desktop programs to compliment.
I took a look at Gmail as well. This is an email platform that does not use Microsoft Exchange (a technology that underpins most email solutions). This meant that my colleagues could not use their familiar Outlook email clients, so initially Gmail was shelved. For months it was ruled out, I just could not expect staff to leave behind the comfortable interface with which they have become so accustomed to.
At my school we have adopted a model where we look to transform tasks. By that I mean we lever modern technology in a method which may appear different or unnatural for the user, but always results in a more efficient process with a greater productive outcome. Using Google Apps for Education oozed with transformational opportunities. For example, gathering permission slips from multiple parents can become tedious in an email conversation. Email clients just don't lend themselves well when you need to quiz your students quickly to see who is available for a sports team or an after school event. It is here where you would utilise the power of Google Forms. In minutes you can set up a list of questions, distribute to your class group and gather the responses in a flexible spreadsheet. A good example of the underlying task remaining the same, but the process and outcome being greatly enhanced.
So with the benefit of working in a school that encourages a fertile working environment I broached the subject of Google Apps with my colleagues. For 12 weeks I trialled the services with 8 staff members. As we started the process the outcome seemed inevitable, we had to position ourselves beneath the umbrella of tools provided by Google. I was astounded at the range of services, all for free...completely free.
Google or Microsoft. But why did you opt for Google I hear you ask. Why not Microsoft 365? They both have collaborative features like forms and Google Docs.
Providing simplicity and clarity for my colleagues and students is important to me. I have always disliked the multitude of passwords and usernames I ask people to remember as we embrace new digital services. "Sign in with Google" was something I was seeing more of on the internet. Visit KhanAcademy.com and you will see exactly what I mean. So by transitioning staff to Google Apps for education meant that my colleagues were instantly members of dozens of educational suites (including BrainPop, Desmos, CodeAcademy and Educreations to name a few).
Google also allow third party developers access to API's to design completely independent apps available via the Google Chrome browser. Already there are 100's of these Web Apps available in the education section and this is growing every month. And thanks to the native apps on mobile devices such as Chrome, Gmail and Drive, Google contribute generously to the iOS and Android mobile device market.
I feel that the clue is in the name; "Office" 365 works beautifully in the loyal office environment where Word documents are still sacred. But in an education setting where students and staff focus on content and creativity (as opposed to appearance and raw data), Google Gmail is a no brainer.
Free Cloud Computing is the future. Google Apps for education is a perfect example of this. Emails, documents, and wiki type "Sites" are created, reside and are accessible entirely on Google servers. Security and 99.9% uptime is guaranteed. Collaboration has never been easier, each user has 30gigs of storage and a single username and password for everything. Google are very clear about their security and data ownership. I strongly encourage you to visit this link: (http://www.google.com.au/enterprise/apps/education/benefits.html).
The biggest challenge which I faced was requesting that staff put faith into Google Chrome, a web browser and our new software of choice. It is entirely possible to synchronise your Google account with Apple "Mail" or Mozilla Firebird. However I would highly recommend that if you want to benefit from the full suite of Google Apps you must commit to Chrome. A convenient bar runs across the top of your session constantly reminding you that you are signed in and you are never more then 1 click away from Drive, Sites, or Calendar.
Google does come with its short comings. The email inbox appears upside down to many. So your email conversations begin with the oldest messages at the top. You are forced to view long strings of conversation just to reach your destination to reply at the bottom. I'm reassured that â€œthere is good reason for thisâ€ but I have yet to discover it. There is also no clear indication if I have replied or forwarded a message. I am confident that Google will address these minor irritations, and updates to the interface do come regularly. Google Chrome is Google's flagship product, it fills me with confidence to know that things will continue to improve at a steady pace.
Change and identity Just last week I was fortunate enough to see Dan Gregory speak. Dan is an expert in brand identity, advertising and change management. You may remember him as "The fat one off Gruen Transfer" (his words not mine). Dan spoke of one's need for identity and why people associate so closely with a product which they use every day. "We resist change because it conflicts with our identity". Because identity creates a sense of zeal, actioning change can be met with enormous resistance.
On one single morning about 6 weeks into our Gmail adoption 3 people said the words "I hate it" to me. I realised it was time to double my efforts. I scheduled many more impromptu PD sessions throughout the school day with different departments. These were well received and I am happy to say that 12 weeks in and the big change is being accepted. Not only that, but the community are starting to work smarter. And the future will bring significant cost savings as we utilise the 42 terabytes of free storage provided and maintained by a third party.
Conclusion My job hasn't just been to research and implement this technical change. My real role has become more about assisting individuals to shift their expectations. To let go of habits formed with ageing technology. I implemented a forward thinking solution which is beginning to have a profound effect on learning and teaching, and you should too.
Apple's locked-in user experience may become their undoing. Make no bones about it, the iPad and iPhone before it, revolutionised the personal computing market. The interface between the technology and human expression was reduced to simple gestures and interaction which felt intuitive. Most importantly accessing content become simple. Apple themselves being the provider of entertainment through their various stores.
And the best thing about it all was that "it just worked". And it did for the most part. The average consumer was met with the service which one has come to expect when you part with your hard earned cash. The reason for this was because Apple maintained high standards. Certain processes (and guidelines) had to be followed in order for your work to feature on the App Store.
This makes perfect sense to me. I put tremendous amounts of faith into this company because my user experience has always been outstanding. I also made an assumption that I was aligning myself with the most innovative company in the world.
A wake up call An Apple ID has become the solid foundation of many people's digital identity. It's through this ID that we make legitimate transactions via Appleâ€™s online and offline stores. We also use this ID to communicate with each other with iMessage and occasionally through FaceTime.
Then we have our iCloud accounts. These are places where our personal content is stored and synced between multiple personal devices. This might include personal notes, reminders or personal calendars, maybe your personal documents. You get the idea it's all very personal. Should you want to collaborate with other Apple iCloud accounts, say share a to-do list, or develop a Pages document with colleagues, then you're all out of luck.
As of April 2013 iCloud had just over 300 million users. Many of these users are already signed into their devices (with their Apple ID's) and communicating using iMessage. Surely Apple have the foresight to know that users want to collaborate easily with their friends using other mediums too?
I acknowledge that there has been some effort towards this with shared Photo Streams, but in an effort to disguise the complexity of a sync service in a simple solution, users just aren't aware of the options available to them. And it seems that Apple are equally unaware of the opportunity to capitalise on collaborative aspects of their services.
Hopes for iOS 7 Pages, Keynote and Numbers need to mimic the collaborative aspects of Google Drive/Docs. When I share my work with colleagues I do not want to share an instance of my document. I want to share the actual document and I would expect my colleagues to be able to make additions, in real time.
With iCloud Storage and collaborative APIs made available for developers, who knows where the iCloud sign-in could take us for collaboration and socialising?
So in the lead up to the WWDC; Apple, please do something great with iCloud!
The final round of government funding is currently being distributed to schools all around Australia. So far over 967,000 computers have been bought, infrastructure built and (most) teachers up-skilled to benefit from the acquisition. But as the funds come to an end, many school principals are wondering if the process has been beneficial, and how can they continue to support and progress the Digital Education Revolution? Way back in 2008 the Labor Government initiated the National Secondary Schools Computer Fund (NSSCF). Over 2.4 billion dollars has been spent, year groups 9-12 were targeted and the focus, according to the 2007 Election Policy document "is aimed at ensuring one million Australian upper secondary students get an education with the latest technology, to prepare them for the jobs of the future".
My concern is that the focus was misdirected from the beginning. All efforts were seemingly made to provide each student with their own laptop, simply to prepare them for a technology based workforce or "jobs of the future". Teaching and learning somehow got lost in the planning to spend, the focus of preparing students for future jobs took precedent over preparing students to excel in literacy and numeracy.
It is easy to see how many have seen this whole process as nothing more than political spin. The figures are very impressive, and it is easy for Labor to claim the project a success. After all, they have met their targets. The Computer Fund has achieved a one computer per student (1:1 ratio) for students in Years 9 to 12. But measuring the true success of this "revolution" in terms of learning outcomes, is nigh on impossible.
Most schools are left with more questions then answers. Are we utilising the computers properly? Can we keep maintaining fast internet access and wireless coverage? Did we choose the right computers? And the most important question: can we afford to continue the 1 to 1 laptop program?
I manage an IT department in a part of Perth which has a low socio-economic background. Our parents are by no means wealthy and the school has welcomed the DER money with open arms. My predecessor made some excellent decisions and focused on upgrading our wireless network. We executed the integration of laptops so well that the school gained a reputation as being a digital "light house" school. Just a few weeks ago Julia Gillard herself visited to marvel at the presence of so much technology and so many happy students.
But beneath the facade their was much more happening. A culture change was taking place which was trickling down from the management team and senior staff. We no longer wish to be known as a technology driven school. We wish to see our students excel in their chosen field. We want to provide students with diverse opportunities and see them become independent thinkers. This is what I believe will prepare them for "jobs of the future", not knowing how to use Powerpoint or organise their Home folders.
This sentiment appears to be echoed by Labor's National Plan for School Improvement. An initiative aimed squarely at raising achievement in reading, maths and science. With this is mind we must, like many other schools, decide how to proceed without the thousands of dollars from the government. Technology must be kept current, to simply use the existing computers that we have for another 4 years is not practical. To take on the expense ourselves as a school is simply not viable.
Bring Your Own? BYOD and BYOT are acronyms which have been discussed a lot recently. The reason for this is because schools are asking students to "Bring Your Own Device", or even "Bring Your Own Technology". The key difference is that the student can choose for themselves which computer to use with the latter. Where as a BYOD approach is one where a school requests a particular computer which the student must supply.
Each model has its own pros and cons, but what I find most interesting is the general acceptance by parents that now it is acceptable to place a $500 item on the school booklist.
The government led DER may take a lot of criticism, but it has had an enormous positive impact on education. I consider it to be a success, and it came at a very important transitional stage for personal computing. Even the most critical parent has the foresight to see that teaching is going through tremendous positive change as a direct result of personalised learning devices.
The home for many harbours plenty of high-end digital tools, mainly used for entertainment. And technology has been so ingrained into our lives that for a student to already own a tablet or be handed down a laptop computer from a parent is not unusual. So what has been started by the government can be easily continued by the parent.
Bring your own technology really does seem like a perfect solution. However questions must be addressed surrounding equity for all students. Although, this is no different to any other school apparatus not available for disadvantaged students and can be remedied. I also have grave concerns surrounding the teaching practice in the classroom. Many teachers struggle capitalising on a single device let alone multiple technologies being used in the classroom. However these hurdles can easily be overcome with effective leadership and support, and good PD for staff.
Tasks in the classroom need to be less technology driven, and more outcomes based. For example digital story telling can come in many forms. The creative use of video, stop animation with still pictures, even podcasting can be achieved on all modern computers and tablets. How the student creates these assignments is for them to discover and put into practice. What the content holds should be of interest to the teacher, not the technology or process used to make it. These are examples of developing young minds into critical thinkers who can problem solve and discover new applications for themselves.
Letting Go A big trend and strategy which I apply at my school is maximising on free services such as cloud storage, email and calendar solutions. In turn you are pushing responsibility of data back to your users (students and staff) and spending less money maintaining any server rooms which you have.
In order to do this though it is paramount that the school provide the most stable and efficient network possible, while increasing bandwidth to the internet. The NBN has been a long time coming, and upgrading your school to the fastest fibre connection available may be the best IT decision you make this year. This additional bandwidth will allow you to migrate more services out of your server room, but also provide fast access to learning resources, and enable real time collaboration.
As we begin to rely on services from providers such as Google, Apple, Dropbox, Evernote etc, we must also be prepared to let go of the device requirement which we impose. We must consider allowing students to bring which ever computing device they choose to school. The family home likely already has ample digital tools, and it is cost effective to support this. As the DER funding dries up we have little choice but to allow parents to manage their own child's technology.
Where the school must pay particular attention to is the internet gateway it provides, including the content available to students. It is imperative that while devices are in your school network, you know who they are and monitor activity as much as possible. But think for a moment that you will provide a constantly safe environment for students, and you will be proven wrong very quickly.
Such is the nature of modern technology many students can easily circumnavigate any internet proxy imposed. Mal Lee sums this up perfectly on his website www.byot.me:
"Even in class, many kids can use their 3G or similar service. Addressing sociological problems such as cyber safety with a technological solution is doomed to failure."
This is why a Digital Fair Use Policy is of equal if not greater importance than a content filtering web proxy, which simply builds walls made from tissue paper.
Developing a Digital Fair Use Policy for your home and school. Creating a Digital Fair Use Policy for your school which preserves authentic teaching while utilising the full potential of modern technology is a precarious task which carries large implications.
Many schools throughout W.A. are finding themselves in a position where students are armed with modern devices which empower students so much, that some teachers are feeling an overwhelming sense of despair. Parents find themselves navigating a type of teenage angst never known before. An awkward adolescents, made worse by an affiliation with new fangled technology resulting in a type of popularity contest conducted in an online world...a stage where one is judged by friends and peers.
It is this unknown space occupied by precarious social tools like Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook which have the potential to leave our students seriously exposed. As a school we go to great lengths to protect student records and personal details, in a blink of an eye of all this can come undone by a misguided student.
Schools are encouraged to utilise technology in a way that can transform education, and in every case there is overwhelming evidence that this is happening. But the task of effective Professional Development for both teacher and parent is often skimmed over, and â€œshutting the barn door after the horse has boltedâ€ is a term which springs to mind a little too often.
It is easy to liken a tablet device to a Pandoras Box, holding both incredible curiosity, but also potential for catastrophic mischief. The Greek myth goes on to describe; at the bottom of Pandoraâ€™s box lies the Spirit of Hope called Elpis. This comparison does bear considerable verity. And as school management purchase new digital tools, they must prepare for undesirable outcomes. But the hope at the bottom of the box is there in plain sight; it lies in the preparation and upskilling of staff and parents. Some solutions are in the form of â€œGuided Accessâ€ and â€œRestrictionsâ€ which in the iPads case, are never more than 2 clicks away.
Students need stringent guidelines and boundaries. And my experience shows that most respond very well to the instruction they are given, some value the trust distilled into them and proceed to utilise an education full of diverse opportunities.
One implication of a digitally driven school (and a big concern of mine) is the sheer amount of time consumed by personal devices. Especially as computers reduce in size and connectivity options expand. I visited my hometown of London in December. I did some travel by train and was impressed to see â€œQuiet Carriageâ€ sections marked clearly with signs and enforced by both ticket inspectors and fellow passengers. These Quiet Carriages clearly indicate that mobile phones, music players and other electronic devices are not to be used. In a similar way both libraries and museums practice similar restrictions.
What I find interesting is not the enforcement of such rules but what the rules imply. As I travelled through the carriages of this train into a non quiet carriage I was met with row upon row of passengers with headphones glued to their ears and others deep in conversation on their phones. Some were watching movies and others browsing the internet. It occurred to me that the default for our generation is to be constantly connected. Connected to the web, to media and to each other. We actually need to be instructed when to switch off!
This idea of constant connectivity is reinforced by research completed by an American company, the Kaiser Family Foundation. The KFF have been studying media use in the lives of eight- to 18-year-old Americans for 10 years. Over that time, three reports have been published. â€œMedia useâ€ was described as a combination of television, video games, listening to music, reading printed text and using a computer.
The results showed an increase of the â€œAverage amount of time spent with media in a typical dayâ€ from 7 hours 29 minutes in 1999 to 10 hours 45 minutes in 2009. Just to re-cap, young people in 2009 were accessing digital media for over 10 hours per day. This does include multi-tasking (ie watching television while browsing Facebook), but it really does ring alarm bells for me as I develop a new Digital Fair Use Policy for my school.
The report (available at www.KFF.org) goes on to state: â€œYouth who spend more time with media report lower grades and lower levels of personal contentmentâ€.
The implications of this saturation of young peoples lives is not yet known. But I am concerned that if we are to develop our students into authentic and critical thinkers, such intense immersion in a Google queried world may not be the right direction to head in. In order to create something original, without the fear of influence or criticism, we may need to ask our students to â€œdisconnectâ€. It is important that the Quiet Carriage becomes the norm once again, especially in schools. Only when needed, or when instructed by the teacher/parent, should students be expected to reach for their devices.
A school, near to me here in Perth, has a very interesting saying: "We open our minds, not our laptops"
The school is held in very high regard. At the school, success is defined clearly with consistent grades and diverse opportunities for its students.
The school makes its stance on technology clear: the thought of a 1:1 computer environment is both economically and pedagogically the wrong decision. For three years, I have been intrigued by this stance and further investigation has revealed that the school may have the right idea.
I have a confession to make, I lost my iPhone... and it was OK! (in-fact it was actually a relief) In December I visited my mother in London. As usual I swapped my Australian SIM card for my UK SIM and my iPhone functioned as normal. Two days into my visit and my iPhone had been stolen. Access to three email accounts, my Facebook and Twitter account, 12 gigs of extremely important files stored in Dropbox. All of my notes, voice memos and photographs floating around somewhere in the hands of a thief.
I had to resign myself to changing all my passwords and locking down my digital life. I purchased a Nokia phone for Â£9.99. It had a torch on it andâ€¦ it made phone calls.
Things changed immediately for me. No longer did I find myself almost constantly distracted, incessantly opening a series of apps which delivered needless news and updates. Capturing, editing and sharing photographs, although fun, does need to be done in moderation. Accessing feeds about technology news and education opinion, although important does need to be done in moderation. For the first Christmas in years, I was actually present and existing. Apart from playing with my Nokia torch, my family had my full and undivided attention.
The iPhone, iPad and Microsoft Surface are mobile interfaces which provide a constant connection to your personal digital world. Schools are rife with them and I am certain that Christmas morning of 2012 brought thousands of gifts containing these devices. Ecstatic children and students throughout the world now ready to plug into and nurture their digital existence. Iâ€™m certain that most parents were actually pleased at the silence which adorned their Christmas afternoons. However all is not what it seems, the sacrifice for quiet time does come at a cost.
Digital media explosion
The Kaiser Family Foundation has been studying media use in the lives of eight- to 18-year-old Americans for 10 years. Over that time, three reports have been published. â€œMedia useâ€ was described as a combination of television, video games, listening to music, reading printed text and using a computer.
Total media exposure in a typical day in 1999 worked out to 6 hours and 19 minutes (the majority spent with TV content). In 2009 this had increased to 10 hours and 45 minutes (of which just 38 minutes was spent reading printed text).
Between 2004 and 2009 the proportion of eight- to 18-year-olds who own their own cell phone has increased from 39% to 66%. iPods and MP3 players has jumped from 18% to 76%. It is these devices, providing a portable, personal supply of music, video, gaming and social media services that are responsible for the huge increase in media consumption.
What does this mean for school grades? The report (available at KFF.org) states: â€œYouth who spend more time with media report lower grades and lower levels of personal contentmentâ€.
These findings are without a doubt the most alarming. Only 51% of heavy media users (those that consume more than 16 hours in a typical day) achieve good grades of As and Bs, compared to 66% of students who are light media users.
It seems unusual that anybody could spend more than 16 hours in a typical day plugged into a media device, withdrawn from the present moment. These high levels of media consumption can of course, only be achieved through multitasking i.e. listening to music while surfing the internet, or using an iPad while watching television. The actual time spent directly interacting with a device is still an immoderate 7.5 hours a day.
A personal frustration of mine is seeing a student off topic due to multitasking when in class. Or worse still, itâ€™s quite commonplace to see teachers checking email, Facebook, house hunting or the like when monitoring a class!Â When applying oneself, multitasking should be discouraged. It is merely a way that the brain shifts its attention from one task to the next. Providing nothing more than a shallow immersion into either task A or task B. It is a technique which has become mandatory in today's media rich world, but it can be detrimental if the student cannot consciously fully apply him- or herself.Â For example when you are filming or photographing an occasion like a wedding or birthday, the photographer finds himself so preoccupied with the camera settings, the sunlight and framing etc, itâ€™s as if he is not there at all.Â Despite being present, viewing the event entirely through a lens results in the brain not engaging with the subject matter at all. It is only when the images are re-viewed that the topic is fully appreciated.
Unconnected is good too
Multitasking is an unfortunate consequence of providing an online device for education. I do not feel that the human brain is capable of fully comprehending a topic or writing an honest and accurate essay while monitoring social networks. Even just being aware that at any moment a chime might ring indicating a new email or instant message is enough to drive the mind absent.
Technology use in education has in the past been compared to being in an aircraft. Weâ€™re told to â€œswitch off personal electronic items. Shut down computers and all personal electronic itemsâ€.Â These instructions are negatively likened to some school mobile phone policies. Empowering students to turn their cell phones into learning devices is now absolutely critical, and we are encouraged to remain connected.
But I would argue that perhaps the most valuable switch on your iPad is in fact the Airplane mode! This switch, located in the settings menu will deactivate the cellular, wi-fi, and Bluetooth connections. Donâ€™t be afraid to ask your students at the beginning of a class to turn Airplane mode on. Donâ€™t think itâ€™s unreasonable to insist that the wi-fi on all laptops be turned off as well, providing a state of dis-connection.
The evidence drawn from the Kaiser Family Foundation report clearly identifies that young peopleâ€™s time has become saturated with digital media use. Time away from media is no longer the default.Â â€œThis carriage is designated a Quiet Zoneâ€ is common on trains in the UK. Museums and libraries remind us that these places are places for thinking. Unadulterated thought, without even the notion that it will be disturbed.Â To be able to process the world around us, to draw our own conclusions and achieve levels of higher order thinking we need to recognise two fundamental states: Our connected time and our disconnected time.
The disconnected time is where one can think, and if need be write, without distraction. But most importantly write without influence or fear; to speak one's own thoughts.Â If we do not learn when to say no, when to close the email client, when to switch off Facebook, we will find that all of our time will be spent doing as the computer asks, and not as we ask of it.
The changing landscape
Over the last few years I have witnessed a real shift in the education landscape. It seems clear that technology use is feverish in every aspect of our lives so it makes sense that it should be at the forefront of teaching and learning... right?Â A calculated risk by teaching staff and a well balanced approach to support curriculum outcomes will enable a diverse and creative environment with the right use of technology.
But as educators, we have a responsibility to ensure that computers, their potential and their implications are understood and managed. Handheld devices like iPads have become a mainstay of young peoplesâ€™ lives and unbeknown to many parents they can become a Pandora's Box of mischief.
This approach to moderated media use, and knowing when to switch off the online audience or influence from search engines is no doubt a priority, but the drive must come from the home and be fully directed by parents. It seems teachers can only lead by example at school and hope that home-life follows suit.
I talk with a lot of schools who are planning an iPad/Macbook roll out. As they prepare computers for the students and staff, it is soon realised that the device, seems to come out of the box without a fully functioning word processor. In true, and traditional manner a search for the best word processor begins, but quite often schools make a wrong and costly decision.
Most re-sellers will respond by suggesting you purchase a Microsoft Office license. â€œYouâ€™re gonna need Microsoft Office, the package which contains Outlookâ€. Seems obvious to me, but a school license for staff can easily run into the thousands of dollars. Surely in the era of change and transformation, we can do without spreadsheets and Word files?
It is equally disappointing that OS X arrives with no Pages, Keynote or Numbers. And at $21.00 each it is a costly exercise to get the iWork suite onto your Mac. So lets have a look at what is available... for free.
Text Edit is an awesome app You can write all day long, create bullets and lists, text alignment is easy and you can even change font. I ask you this; when the content is key, why do you need anything else? You can embed images as well. And yes, you can open Microsoft Word files. Albeit the tables may appear out of kilter, and the text wrapping and formatting may look different. But lets not get too precious over the layout and design just yet.
Youâ€™ll also have a great little program called Notes. Notes is not quite as flexible as Text Edit but when you need the convenience of easy iCloud sync, Notes does the job.
Word processing, not page layout Although not free, a personal favourite app of mine is iA Writer for the iPad. The reason being; a feature called Focusmode which blacks out the surrounding paragraphs and lines, allowing me to focus completely on the sentence at hand.
For easily distracted students (and bloggers) this feature has allowed me to press forward with word processing with the option to edit later. This kind of writing is commonly encouraged by English teachers, and with the advantage of iCloud sync, I can finish my writing on the Mac. Both iOS and iPad apps are very cheap.
Even more, with Google The real game changer (especially for education) is Google Drive. Perhaps the main purpose of this article is to encourage you to investigate this storage come collaborative space.
Producing words in an internet browser window is not exactly a revelation. After all, we have been typing and formatting emails for decades. Indeed Google Docs has been around for a few years too. But with a little repackaging Google Drive delivers a clutter free environment, with just enough options to convey our thoughts in a clear and concise manner.
The "Drive" component provides a generous 5gig of cloud storage to use as we choose. But viewing your documents on the web reveals a red "Create" button. Click here to word process with Gdocs (aka Google Docs).
There are no options for borders, or decorative strokes. You will not see any distracting templates either. The content is king, and for most teachers, it is the words which must combine for creative merit.
Need the option to collaborate with your students? Get feedback from your editor or brainstorm with your peers? Well emailing documents back and forth is so last century! and wikis are just becoming a little too disjointed. Take a look at the blue share button and watch in real time as multiple people type on the screen.
Contrary to popular belief, it is simple to setup offline access to your docs, but you will need to use the Chrome web browser.
Are you a Math Teacher? Google Drive is being utilised by many third party app developers. If you need to graph for example I canâ€™t recommend enough that you use Desmos.com. If you are a math teacher go and visit desmos.com now, it also feels great on the iPad.
Accessibility thoughts On a Mac, in your System Preferences it is simple to enable text to speech. Be sure to tick â€œSpeak selected text when key is pressedâ€. The default key combination is option and escape. Fortunately any highlighted text in Safari, Chrome, Pages, or Word is read aloud by the computer.
But a negative for Chrome is that it utilises its own dictionary, so if you have changed your Mac Language to â€œBritishâ€ English youâ€™ll find organize is spelt correctly, overridden by Chrome! Chrome also disables the Macâ€™s amazing Thesaurus which is accessed with a 3 finger trackpad tap or control - command and D. So as much as I love Chrome, you may be better off sticking with Safari.
Conclusion It is clear to me that Office and iWork may be seeing the beginning of their end. The other day I picked up an old manual for Word. It must have weighed about 2 kilos! What a strange thought that people might have to study so hard just to learn how to â€˜word processâ€™.
We now live in an age where we are not compromising ourselves to accommodate uninspiring technologies, but technology is adapting to us, as humans. In particular for education, we must evaluate tools and look at what unnecessary components can be discarded. I firmly believe that Microsoft Office and iWork should stay right where their names suggest.
For the start of this term I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak over 2 days at St Stephen's school in Perth, W.A. St Stephen's have a remarkable ICT team which provide vision and support for the teachers and students. This year their focus was to assist teachers to reach their full potential when using technology in the classroom. By aligning themselves with the SAMR model the aim of the PD day was to encourage staff to transform their teaching practices.
I prepared a talk which covered 4 main areas.
- The perceived risk associated with integrating technology into the classroom.
- A look at how the music industry was revolutionised by the digital age. Can we use some of the same ingredients for education?
- The saturation of student's lives through over-exposure to media. How we can seize this opportunity to help students find a balance in their lives, and in turn become better critical thinkers
- Simplifying the SAMR model.
It was a very rewarding experience. I was particularly impressed with the enthusiasm of the staff, and their welcoming spirit. After the talk I worked with 4 groups of teachers, and we uncovered the benefits of cloud computing, iPhoto, and iPad tips and tricks.
In my talk I referenced:
- The Kaiser Family Foundation report: Click Here
- Dr Sarah K Howard's research on 'What makes technology "Risky"'.Â Click Here
- I also read an amazing book by Tom Chatfield called "How to Thrive in the Digital Age" which provided much food for thought.
Thank you to Stephen, Ian and Sarah Pemberton (A new ADE! Congratulations!!).
In 1983 Steve jobs stated:"What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you".
This vision was realised 27 years later with the iPad. But this particular book was lacking a simple pen. And it seems Apple have no plans to officially support a natural feeling pen which allows for the most important lesson we learn at school: how to write
Stylus makers have provided many attempts at building fine tipped, natural feeling pens to enable users to hand-write notes, draw, and communicate clearly with colleagues and friends. But in almost everycase one is left feeling like they are holding a giant crayon and things always go awry if you place your palm on the sensitive screen itself. Lets face it, writing on digital tablets is about as elegant as chiseling on stone tablets.
It's one of those problems which we have just ignored, hoping that the whole importance of developing good handwriting, punctuation and spelling will just go away.
In July 2010 Livescribe launched an amazing product called the Echo Smartpen. It was a real game changer. The pen created a niche for itself amongst professionals and students. If used in its simplest form it worked great, but once the collected notes became digital the playback and sharing steps all seemed a little disjointed.
Sky wifi smartpen Tomorrow will see the launch of the Sky wifi Smartpen from Livescribe. I was fortunate enough to talk with one of the Livescribe founders Sasha Pesic about what to expect and the directions for Livescribe in the coming 12 months.
"We needed to make the pen more relevant". Sasha continued to expand a little about the market research Livescribe had conducted. It revealed that 54% of tablet users (of 600 surveyed) still preferred to capture handwritten notes. Over a quarter purchased a stylus but only 13% of those were "very satisfied".
Clearly a market exists to enable users to continue to use pen and paper but have the simplicity of viewing and sharing recorded notes to a tablet device. Introduce wifi and one of the biggest names in cloud computing; Evernote, and you have a glimpse into the classrooms of tomorrow.
The pen itself is of identical form to the Echo Smartpen but with the ability to connect to a wireless network. This connectivity allows the pen to communicate directly with your Evernote account. Previously you had to connect the pen via USB and use the Livescribe Desktop application. This process has now been completely removed. Once set-up all of your notes magically appear inside your Evernote account.
With the amazing reach that Evernote already has and the support across so many different web browsers and devices this partnership makes perfect sense. Evernote is a free service but is restricted to 60mb per month upload data. Keen to support the potential of the Sky wifi smartpen Evernote have increased this limit to a whopping 500mb per month just for Livescibe users. That's equivalent to 10,000 pages of notes or up to 70 hours of recorded audio!
Once inside Evernote you can add tags to your pages which will enable you to quickly search your notes, but if you're anything like me it seems quite unlikely that you will manually add these tags. So can I have my handwritten notes transcribed into electronic text? Not yet, but Livescribe are working with Vision Objects to develop a new handwriting-to-text solution.
Pencasts The Pencast is the result of your note-taking session, and can be reviewed in a linear or non-linear fashion via a web browser (utilising the Livescribe player). The pencasts are now beautifully rendered in full HTML5 and my tests showed excellent responsiveness and fast loading times. The only current restriction is the need for an internet connection. However in Q1 of 2013 expect full PDF support meaning you can locally save your pencasts and share them as trusty old PDF documents. I look forward to a time when to "pencast" is as commonplace as creating a podcast.
The impact of livescribe and classrooms. These simple enhancements show huge potential for the pen, but what really got my interest was our discussion surrounding the native app development for iOS and Android. Although very speculative Sasha gave an insight into the mobile SDK which allows for direct pairing to a tablet device. This could mean teachers viewing handwritten notes of anyone of her students at any given time. Interactive whiteboards could finally be laid to rest as teachers project there realtime notes to the whiteboard. Livescribe are working on their own app but the potential from third party developers will also be huge.
I'm hoping to get my hands on the Sky wifi smartpen in the next few days and I will publish a full review. The Pens come in 3 flavours: 2, 4, and 8Gig and start at $229.
For more info seeÂ http://www.livescribe.com
It seems Apple are making things a lot easier if you are trying to integrate Apple TV into your secure "Enterprise" style school network. A very common authentication standard used for most school wireless networks is called 802.1X. Placing a device like an Apple TV (where you cannot specify credentials such as 802.1X) has, until now been very hard.
Added to that your school likely runs all internet traffic through a proxy. Now you can add the proxy details to your Apple TV too.
The latest Apple TV software update (5.1) now allows the option of creating a Configuration Profile. This profile needs to be made inside the Apple Configurator and then installed onto the Apple Tv with a micro USB cable.
For detailed instructions:
Now it should be a reality that you can use Airplay on your school network, hooray!
Adding a Microsoft Exchange Account Recently the Western Australian Department of Education transferred their email technology to new services. Your email address will have changed to *firstname.lastname@example.org to reflect this. This brings a whole host of improvements but notably: all teachers will easily be able to access and manage their email accounts through their iPhone and iPads.
Set up instructions for email on iPhone/iPad:
- Open your Settings app
- In the left most column select Mail, Contacts, Calendars
- In the main window, at the very top click Add Account
- You will likely be using the Microsoft Exchange services. So tap Microsoft Exchange
- Simply enter your email address (*email@example.com) and password, you can put anything you like in the description box.
- You may be asked "Cannot Verify Server Identity". Just click continue
- In the Server field just enter: mobilemail.det.wa.edu.au
- In the Domain field Central and Regional Office Staff must put: DET. School Staff can leave this field blank
- I would recommend turning on your Exchange calendar service. This is a great way to keep organised and synchronised.
Make sure that you have entered your password correctly and you should be good to go. Now head over to the Mail app to preview your email and the Calendar app to see your appointments.
Please be sure that you take appropriate measures to protect your account with a pass code lock on the device.
This guide is offered independently and has no association with the Department of Education. I cannot provide further technical support. Good Luck!