The Evilness of Devices for Learning

Image from Openclipart.org

Yes, I wrote the title as part link bait and part reflection on what has become a common theme to many conversations I am having these days. As we enter our 3rd year of an iPad program which has been recognized as a distinguished program by Apple. Yes, I realize that is sort of like being a preferred customer at the Toyota dealership because you bought so many cars. However, I do know we are moving our school’s learning forward while also allowing for aspects to remain as we find value in them or because change is hard and slow. There is nothing wrong with moving slowly towards the future as long as movement is happening. I prefer to move faster then my institution but that is how I roll and may not be the best solution for our school. However, I had hoped we were past the notion that playing games is bad and a waste of time given that we have explored all sorts of platforms with our students including hosting our own Minecraft servers. Alas, that is not the case although sometimes games and screen time are mixed together.

I wrote this as part of a position statement about gaming at DA.

While some adults see playing games as a “waste of time” or a way to escape into a virtual coma, many of the skills and standards listed above are found in the act of playing or creating games. For instance, Minecraft, is often seen by adults as just a bunch of chopping and blowing up of a virtual space. What is missed when observed as such is the collaboration that must take place to create worlds, the knowledge base needed to understand the game, and how a community of players have created a wealth of tutorials and information on how to play.

Gaming in classrooms and learning has been gaining momentum for years. Durham Academy has explored using games in the Middle School over the years with software like; Gamestar Mechanic, and Evolver (Pre-Algebra). Research shows that game principles are a way to better engage students. http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2014/06/09/teachers-on-using-games-in-class/ and http://www.edutopia.org/blog/using-gaming-principles-engage-students-douglas-kiang. Jane McGonigal has many resources about games. Watch her TEDX talk about SuperBetter.

Advocacy groups like, Common Sense Media provide resources on what games parents can say yes to after-school. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/24-video-games-you-can-say-yes-to-after-school.Vicki Davis has a nice article on Edutopia on game based learning. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/guide-to-game-based-learning-vicki-davis

As I continue to brace myself for the discussions that are coming, I keep saying to myself this is not a problem with devices or technology. These are human behavior problems which need human solutions that are not just banning or blocking. This is an educational problem that needs to be addressed with our colleagues, students and parents. If a small percentage of students have problems with impulse control so they play games instead of listening to a lecture, do we not help the student? What about the other larger percentage of students who are not having the problem? I help to write the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) each year which was redone to not be Though Shall Not document into a more Though Shall type document. This came about after reading the book From Fear To Facebook by Matt Levinson who at the time was at Nueva School.  It is way too long and still causes my eyes to glaze over. I even created a companion website called iPad Passport to help the Middle School students and faculty understand the concepts and language used. I think we need to be focus on having fewer AUPs and more User Policy. To that end I am adding some links to this post that are shaping my learning evolution on this topic.

Edutopia – http://www.edutopia.org/blog/digital-citizenship-culture-trust-transparency-andrew-marcinek and http://www.edutopia.org/blog/educating-parents-about-education-tom-whitby

Providence Day School’s Parenting in the Digital Age site: https://sites.google.com/a/providenceday.org/digitalparenting/home This site is full of useful and practical resources for starting a school-wide conversation. We are reaching out to Matt Scully and Derrick Willard to get advice.

Explain Everything and Creative Learning

I was so excited, and a bit nervous, after I found out that we would indeed be purchasing the incredible app called Explain Everything. I was nervous because the purchase represented a lot of money and while I knew the app could be a wonderful tool for our students and teachers, I was nervous that the use would be slow and isolated. I did prepare a tutorial for students and teachers after being approached by a teacher about using it in her classroom. She wanted her students to create tutorials that could be used by students and to show they understood the concepts. The old adage of really knowing something only after you try to teach someone else is very apt. One of the best parts of this app is that it does not require students have an account. Instead, we leverage the services we already use to store and share the completed projects. Configuring the accounts to share in Evernote and Google Drive was seamless. Eeoutside2After the initial instruction, students were off recording anywhere on campus since no internet connection is needed while working. The image above shows students outside working on math problems. They are using the Learner 3600 Headsets from ACP Direct. The use of the headsets helped keep the background noise level down and made the process more formal. Students do not need to use headsets if in a quiet room but kids like to be “professional” so the headsets serve that purpose as well.

The video below shows how two-eighth grade students use the app to create tutorials. These were shared in a Google Drive Folder so all students could listen, watch and learn.

My nervousness is gone and my excitement is growing as I know that Spanish and Algebra classes are using the app to create learning opportunities. The support from the company is also fantastic so if you do not yet, have this app, get it now!

Teaching and Learning with the Unlinked Net

Unlinked

Images from OpenClipart.org

I have been thinking of this post for a while as our students begin blogging more this year. Most all students in the Middle School are now blogging through Language Arts classes using Edublogs. In grade five, students use a teacher’s blog to post with the teacher serving as the editor who must approve both posts and comments. In grade six students and teachers use the class blog feature in Edublogs so that each student has their own blog but are managed under the teachers blog. This system worked well last year as it provides the students with ownership and a place to find their voice. The teachers still serve as editors and must approve all pages, posts, and comments. This systems works well to establish solid writing, collaborative commenting skills, and learning how to interact in an online community. These are important skills that must be taught if we do not want a world of trolls on the internet. Starting this year, grade seven students and teachers will be expanding the use of class blogs with the students starting with restricted publishing as they start the new year. This will soon move to full editing and publishing done by the students with the teacher only serving the roll of monitor. In grade 8, the class blogs have no restrictions for what is posted and commented and the teacher serves as a monitor. While the blogs have different setups, the goals are the same: Write for an authentic audience, Write more, Learn to write collaborative comments, and establish a presence on the internet that showcases your work and yourself. I feel it is important for students to work at creating their own “Google Juice” so they are searchable with results ranging from silly photos to articles written by them. All of our blogs are open to the public and indexed by Google and other search engines.

The idea of cultivating “Google Juice” is also why four years ago we started having students create and manage digital portfolios with Google sites. These portfolios hold not only a link to their personal blog but also samples of exemplar work along with goal settings and reflections on the student’s learning. These portfolios live at the edges of what we do as all of our Google Apps services are private only to our school which means no one outside of our school or any search engine cannot access them.

This leads to the title of this post as I have been asked by teachers the following question: “How will parents find our blogs?” The quick answer was to send them a message with the link. While that works, it does raise the larger question in my mind of how do we expose all of the wonderful learning and teaching going on when it is not linked by our school or not accessible to anyone outside of our school? Should we expose this part of our school to the world? What are the risks? What are the rewards? I can make a page on Veracross which would allow anyone from our school to find the blogs. I do encourage teaches to list their blogs in the Edublogs directory as a way to engage with the world. 

 

Until I figure out the best solution, here is a list of the blogs so far. Some will have a link to class blogs on the side.

Grade 4 – Mrs. KarolMr. Mason

Grade 5 – Mrs. Goldstein, Mrs. Parry

Grade 6 – Mrs. WilliamsMrs. Donnelly, Mrs. Saffo-Cogswell

Grade 7 – Mrs. Howes,  Mr. Michelman (new this year and not doing it yet), Mrs. Engebretsen

Grade 8 – Mr. Sheard, Mr. Michelman (new this year and not doing it yet), Mrs. Engebretsen

Poetry in Place with Audioboo and Cell Phones

PIP180

Each year, the 7th grade travels to Washington, D.C. where they engage in many different activities. Last year students did VoiceThreads about Words on Stone. This is one example.  When Ms. Howes and Ms. Starnes approached me this year about an idea, we came up with using Audioboo to record a poem in place. Students were writing and studying poetry so they had to choose a poem to recite in a place connected to the poem. To make it happen, we created a Google Doc that we shared with all students giving them the directions on how to setup the app and record their poem. I was most excited the day we brought the students into the computer lab and told them, “Get out your cell phones”. The looks on their faces was priceless as some thought it was a trick since cell phones are supposed to be in lockers turned off. Many students indeed did run to their locker and got their phone. They download the free app and set it up. Those without phones used a computer or found a poetry friend to record with. I want to find more ways to prove that students carry technology with them everyday that can be harnessed for powerful learning.

I think they turned out really well so I wanted to share them with you. There is an iTunes Podcast feed if you want to subscribe as there are 115 poems. You can view them at the MS Cav Studios Audioboo channel.

Here is one from a boy and one from a girl to give you a taste.  Sylvia S.  and  Jack P.





Happy 30th Birthday Mac

 

For those of you older then 30, today was a big day in terms of the history of the computer. 30 years ago today, The Macintosh Computer was introduced leading to a drastic change in how we use computers and other forms of technology. For those of you under 30, this is the foundation that lead to the marvels you hold in your hands today.

http://www.apple.com/30-years/

Where will the next 30 years take us, and what part will you play in shaping it?

Steve Jobs introducing the Macintosh which shows his marketing and presentation genius.

 

VoiceThread Updates iOS App

VoiceThread

I have been a fan of VoiceThread for many years and use it with our school under the Ed.VoiceThread domain. The iOS app was a getting a bit long in the tooth so was excited to see that they have updated it to both take advantage of the iOS 7 update but also to make the use easier. I have been testing it and even though I had some issues to work out since we not only use the ed.voicethread sub-domain, we also use a single-sign on through Shibboleth which I think may have made things a bit more complicated on our end.

I was successful when I chose the following setup in Settings in VoiceThread:

VTiOS7

The sharing has improved but still not as powerful as on a desktop or laptop. The addition of groups will definitely help although I generally start in the computer lab where students create the VoiceThread and then embed it into our Moodle course inside of a forum. We could do the same with a group although I would need to manage those groups which can be more effort then I want to put into the process. Still, the fact that VoiceThread has continued to iterate and improve their product is impressive given they had to adjust to the mobile non-Flash world.

To learn more about the changes to the iOS app go here.

 

 

When Peering Disagreements Stop Digital Learning

YouTube Error Message for Khan Academy 9_23_13

YouTube error

 

There is so much promise of learning with video. YouTube, School Tube, Khan Academy, and the list goes on. Each day though at school the promise of learning is lost because of the way internet service providers and content providers get a long. We have struggled with having a solid dependable connection to YouTube since last January. This is about the same time that Time Warner Cable and Google/YouTube stopped working on their Peering Agreement. Google/YouTube wanted to put a caching server inside of Time Warner Cable’s network hub so the videos could be shared faster since they would be stored locally and not have to come from a Google server. No way would Time Warner Cable allow that since they are in the content business as well. So even though we pay for a 100 MB connection to our Gigabit Ethernet connection, we get this message. Out IT department has made adjustments to help but there is nothing more they can do. This is a great article from Arstechnica on why the promise of digital learning will not be fulfilled until these agreements stay out of the way of learning. http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/07/why-youtube-buffers-the-secret-deals-that-make-and-break-online-video/

Until then we will continue to learn less and don’t even ask about the filtering of information to prevent our students from seeing something on YouTube that might be offensive. Seeing this error message is offensive.

VISNet Teaching Academy 2013

VISNet

I will be presenting on the second day of a  2.5 day workshop presented by VISNet for teachers across the state. I am  presenting a session on learning with iPads after my school completed a successful first year with each of our students in grades 5 through 8 having a school iPad 24/7. This presentation is similar to what I did at the NCAIS Innovate conference last February.

I want to thank Nearpod for providing 3 teacher accounts as door prizes for my sessions. Check them out as they offer a wonderful solution for harnessing the power of the iPad for learning.

This link will take you directly to the slideshow where you can make a copy or leave comments.  http://goo.gl/VDYvvW

This QR code will take you to the Google Presentation as well.

QRcodeforiPadPres

The presentation I will be using is below.

MS Studios is On the Air Literally

MS Studio Logo

The above logo was created by a student for the station using stock photos from our Google Apps for Education. We collaborated on making it together as he shared it with me and I added the DA logo. Just one part of how the 4 C’s of Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking are addressed in this student led project. From their ideas come the shows and images along with thinking how to involve as many students as possible while maintaining confidentially when needed.

We are pleased to share these links with you.
The blog:
http://msstudios.edublogs.org/

The iTunes subscription feed for automatic downloads: Click view in iTunes and then Subscribe
Subscribe to MS Studio Podcasts

If on the iPad it does not show up, search for MS Studios and you will be able to subscribe.

Listen in to what is happening each day and week by students for all of us.

Power to the Pupil!