Tag Archive for edchat

iPads at Lewis Elementary

At EdCampPDX today, Lewis Elementary fourth grade team Paul Colvin and Matt Marchyok took us through how they used 13 new iPads in the classroom this year. I took the following notes and screen captures. Thank you for helping us get a head start with our small iPad pilot this year!

I left the session with a better understanding of what iPad tools could facilitate the transition to a digital classroom. Less clear is whether this represents a digital version of time-honored paper activities or a new form of learning. Toward the end, we laid out some preliminary ideas for uses of iPads in an inquiry-based classroom.

Sharing documents
– DropDAV, WebDAV through DropBox
– iCloud a likely replacement
– Shared passcode between student partners
– DropBox good for sharing but not security
– Google Docs good for security but not for sharing and writing

Class Activities
– Assign an entry task each day, also
– BrainPop of the day available on iPad for free
– BrainPop also available through Google Apps & student accounts
– Reading AtoZ to get a bank of leveled books, fileshare those PDFs to reading groups
– Keyboarding problematic: some students preferred to use a regular keyboard
– Better to type in landscape mode

– Pages
– WritePad
– Dragon Dictation

– Khan Academy
– various apps
– http://easycbm.com (progress monitoring)
– Khan Academy uses Google Apps logins, for tracking student progress
– RocketMath, Fraction Factory, PizzaMath

Reading: RAZ Kids
– Leveled books  http://www.raz-kids.com
– Share PDFs
– Seeking a reader that supports annotation really well (goal for this year), save annotations into iBooks
– Secret Garden, in place of class set of books, public domain book

Social Studies
– Google Earth and Maps
– Oregon Trail
– This Day in History

– Brushes for freehand painting, Brushes Player for playing back brushstrokes on a Mac

BrainPOP: very relevant to daily events
– featured movie easy to access on iPad
– also available online + other free content but not as easy to access

Computers vs. iPads
–  you could argue for diversity of platforms
– iPads may better fit kid hands

EdModo — social network for the classroom

IdeaFlight: broadcast teacher iPad to student iPads in the classroom

Going paperless
– fewer stacks of paper
– writing submitted online
– quick prompts

I am beginning to think that nearly everyone can read successfully on a screen if they practice enough. An iPad may offer an easier transition to reading on the screen, because you can hold it in your lap, where a book traditionally goes. We do not read books directly in front of us like a computer screen!

“Not one time did I have a tech issue” — Matt on iPad ease of use

iPads in an inquiry-based classroom
– interview notes
– photos and video
– publishing
– writing

Which Google Apps Support Group Sharing?

We launched a Google Apps domain for our school with the promise that it would offer more value than using personal Google Apps accounts. In reality, some apps offer terrific collaboration features for domain users, and some apps operate no differently from personal accounts.

Docs: +++
Docs has the most powerful network features. It is fully group-aware: share a doc with a group, and the system sends each user a group invitation. Edits are marked with usernames in real time. Revisions show who wrote what. Group members can participate in chat and discussions about the document. One may share a collection just once and then place documents within it, rather than sharing each document separately. One may also make a document available to everyone at one’s school but not visible to the world.

Chat: +
Administrators may assign Chat privileges to different organizational units in the domain. Authentication appears to work, and directory search will find people within one’s organization. Otherwise, there’s not much to report here for this one-to-one communication tool.

Calendar: – – –
According to Google’s documentation(1, 2, 3), one can easily share a calendar with a contact group, organizational group, or Google Group. The only problem is that email notifications for group sharing do not work, meaning that you actually have to send your group members instructions to manually add an incredibly long calendar email address to their calendars list. Do you think that all group members will do it? Me, neither. This problem is acknowledged on Google’s “known issues” page.

Video: –
Video may contain group sharing features, but it does not much matter, because only faculty and staff may upload video, the number of uploaders is limited to 100, and an administrator needs to individually specify who can upload. Go figure. Video staff should go talk to the people who own YouTube.

Sites: + +
Sites gets high marks for network features: you can make a site private, share with a network group for presentation or collaborative editing, publish it to the school community, or make it public. School users can browse sites made available to everyone at the school, but most sites end up in “uncategorized.” The most serious limitation is the Sites tool itself, whose editing features and templates feel dated compared to other freely available tools.

Blogger: + +
Better blogging systems exist, but none have such easily usable network group features as Blogger. One user can create multiple blogs without administrator assistance and invite others as contributors to create a group blog. The blog owner can limit the visibility of the blog to the authors or to specific people or groups. The group selection tool is itself not network group aware, but click “select from contacts” to gain access to network groups.

Maps: + + +
This should be a big winner in schools. Maps is a multimedia authoring environment. Click on a placemark, and you get a mini WYSIWYG editor that can insert text, links, and photos. Maps supports group features, so you can share a group with others for the purpose of presentation or collaboration. Combine these two feature sets, and you get a powerful geographic multimedia authoring tool for your class. Maps distributes sharing privileges by URL, which is not technically full network group support but  is still functionally sound.

YouTube: – – –
YouTube is hardly integrated with Google Apps for Education at all. YouTube requires a dedicated username linked to one’s Google account — you cannot just log in with your domain credentials. Once you are logged in, YouTube in an education domain functions just like an individual YouTube account. I was hoping for network-specific features such as listing favorite videos within our school and collaborative playlists.

Reader: – –
Items you add to Reader are private by default. You can mark specific items “shared.” It is easy to share items publicly, difficult to share items with built-in Google Contacts groups, and very difficult to share with network groups.

Bookmarks: – !
Google Bookmarks appears to be network group aware. Items you bookmark are private by default, but you can create lists and then share them with individuals, your own groups, or school network groups. You can even grant editing privileges so that others may add to shared bookmark lists.

The only problem is that the group sharing feature appears to be broken! Share with a network group email address, and you get the following error. You cannot even share with custom groups in your contacts list. Is this feature finished?

If this works, the bookmarks feature may become a better tool for documenting research sources than we have had before. Students could create bookmark lists and share them with teachers to assess their progress. A class could build a list of shared resources together for a research unit. Teachers could set up shared lists with each other for professional development purposes. A school could build shared lists of resources together. The only feature missing is a way to search all of the shared bookmarks within the organization. Wouldn’t it be great if students first searched the school’s bookmark collection rather than heading straight to Google search?

Picasa Web Albums: + + +
Picasa offers working network features very similar to those in Bookmarks. One can set up a photo album and open it to others for the purpose of sharing or contribution. The only downer there is the 100 photo limit on each album. I also wish that one could conduct a search restricted to the photos shared within an organization.


What else have you learned about group sharing in Google Apps? Is any of this information inaccurate or outdated? Please leave a comment below.

Assessing Group Work

Google Apps will make it easier for students together in groups. The Google Docs revisions feature will make it possible for a teacher to see each student’s contribution to the final work. That’s useful, but how else may we teach and assess collaboration?

Teaching the skill of collaboration and using varied assessment methods provides a more complete learning experience. Individual contributions tell only part of the story. What else should we consider? What expectations did we communicate for how they would work together? Did we teach collaboration or just put students together in groups? How did we structure the groups to maximize student success?

Preparing to work
What group norms did students establish before starting project work? Did each group member adopt a definable role? Did students identify a way to ensure equitable distribution of work?

Doing the work
How did students coordinate tasks and keep on schedule? How did they communicate with each other during the project? Did they do their work gradually over time or all at once? How did students resolve disagreements during the project?

After the project
Ask students to write about the project after completion. How did the experience go for them? Was each person’s input included? Did the group stick to the norms they chose at the start of the project?

Further Reading
Designing Groupwork (Elizabeth Cohen)
Enhancing Education (Carnegie Mellon University)
Assessing Learning in Australian Universities (Centre for the Study of Higher Education)

Implementing “A New Culture of Learning”

"Team Sisyphus," from Nichomachus on Flickr

Independent school staff recently gathered for an online chat about A New Culture of Learning, which addresses the growing gap between real-world and school-based learning and considers the implications for schools. In the first part of the chat, participants summarized some of the book’s recommendations: teaching 21st-century content domains, emphasizing play as a form of inquiry, and teaching and assessing creativity, communication, and collaboration. Individuals noted some positive, incremental curricular innovations at their institutions.

The conversation quickly turned to a popular topic among school technologists: how to facilitate  significant program change toward the ideal expressed in the book. Some participants expressed frustration at low teacher enthusiasm for change, lack of administrative support, and the difficulty of finding allies for change. Some characterized teacher reluctance as “fear.” We explored the concept of urgency and its relationship to the pace of change. One suggested that external factors were more likely to create urgency than internal factors.

Those who had experienced some success in facilitating change cited the following techniques: connecting innovators, forming critical friends groups and professional learning networks, sharing examples, building collectives. These methods have something in common: gathering professionals in highly personalized, trusting learning environments with a commitment to introspection and change. In other words, change occurs within individual, group, and schoolwide contexts.

Today, Pat Bassett, President of NAIS, published a view of school change titled “Change Agency Leadership.” Bassett plumbs family therapy and other sources to compile what I find a fairly pessimistic view of institutional change. He likens school change to stages of grief, including mourning and depression. While school staff may react to top-down, unexpected policy changes in this fashion, I do not think that school change must proceed through these steps.

The grief model for change presupposes that the change is external. Highly personal, inclusive school change vehicles such as critical friends groups and professional learning networks alter this equation. Internet connectivity provides more opportunities for individuals to find external affinity groups and other models for change.

School leadership has the greatest responsibility to help a faculty internalize change. Leaders can help define the essential questions and create the necessary time and space for school staff to adopt meaningful steps toward change. Leaders can facilitate the formation of affinity groups and sharing of their work so that school innovators can build the necessary momentum for meaningful change. Leaders can help prevent a few fearful individuals from blocking a proposed change that most staff find acceptable.

NAIS provides several case studies of schools making meaningful change in A Guide for Becoming a School of the Future. James Tracy and Cushing Academy are earning attention for their international studies and leadership programs and other student-centered partnerships. Jonathan Martin and St. Gregory School have molded their program around 21st century learning content and skills. I would like to add Catlin Gabel as we grow our innovative co-curricular programs and think seriously about what it means to call ourselves a progressive school.

It will be exciting to watch new CFGs and PLNs work together with school leaders on change projects. If they are successful, we may expand our set of great examples of effective school change.

Art + Math + Community

This painting is now hanging on our Upper School math building, a gift from the senior class and one student artist in particular. Look closely for formulas that define each shape and rulers on some of the stems. Click on the image to view a larger version.

I love this work, for many reasons.

It exemplifies ingenuity, initiative, effort, and attention to detail, qualities that we extol in our graduates.

It makes a vibrant aesthetic statement in an otherwise genial but subdued courtyard space.

It celebrates interdisciplinary learning, math, and art.

One student designed the painting, but many helped to complete it.

It supports efforts to build community around shared values.

Botswana Trip Curricular Goals

Source: cordelia_persen on Flickr

We leave for Botswana in two weeks. What curricular goals have we realized so far, and what remains to accomplish?

Collaborations with discipline-based classes
We (the two trip leaders) proposed to invite teachers to include the topic of HIV/AIDS in Botswana in their classes. Our method was simple: we raised the opportunity with teachers by email and impromptu, in-person conversations. To our pleasure, a half-dozen teachers responded with interest.

Pathogens and Parasites students wrote a guide to malaria and HIV/AIDS in Botswana for trip families. I presented some basic facts about the country and then organized the students into groups to co-write this document.

Statistics students analyzed data on AIDS prevalence in Botswana.

Second grade students wrote introductory letters (w/photos) to primary students in Gumare, in support of the yearlong theme of global awareness.

Media Arts students created short films from poems that Maru-a-Pula students wrote.

Advanced Biology students studied the intricacies of the immune system, or viruses and on the specifics of the HIV virus and it’s effect on infected humans.

Collaborations with co-curricular programs
We hold an annual diversity conference, planned and led by students. One trip participant shared excerpts from a book on HIV and AIDS in Botswana and shared clips from a film then facilitated a discussion of both.

Two teachers work with students in the Global Citizens Club to offer a series of film viewings throughout the year. The Viewfinder Global Film Series included the film Miss HIV, introduced and facilitated by two trip participants.

Non-collaborative activities with curricular links
While the curriculum of trip preparation remains firmly embedded in the school’s co-curricular program, some conversations demonstrated links with the school’s curricular program.

Trip participants spoke with various HIV/AIDS experts about Botswana.

Cascade AIDS Project
Botswana-Harvard AIDS Partnership
Médecins Sans Frontières
Providence Health
Botswana-Baylor Pediatric AIDS Initiative.

The trip group organized and delivered a presentation at Upper School assembly, including dramatic role play.

Trip participants organized on-campus fundraising events to benefit support organizations in Botswana.

Trip group read and discussed Saturday Is for Funerals.

School Change Through Experiential Programs

Independent schools have increasingly created specialized positions to lead or facilitate new, experiential learning opportunities for their students. Do you have these positions at your school?

Director of service learning
Director of global programs
Educational technology specialist
Urban studies program director
Director of student life
Outdoor programs coordinator
Director of diversity

These programs feature a common thread: experiential learning. Students engage in hands-on activities grounded in an authentic context such as service, the outdoors, global travel, or multiculturalism.

Where do experiential programs live within the school? How do students access them?

One model: students experience two separate courses of study, a “core” of discipline-based study plus a “peripheral” set of experiential programs.

This structure implies an “influencer” model of school change. The school creates new positions for experiential program leaders. Students participate in these special programs outside of the regular class schedule. Most teachers observe from a distance. If the experiential programs are exciting and the program specialists effective at outreach, then teachers may increasingly partner with the programs to introduce more experiential elements into subject-based instruction. Experiential programs only affect the core as much as they influence from a distance.

The contrast of teaching methods may send students unintended messages. Discipline-based classes may use more recognizable forms of teaching: holding classes, facilitating class discussion, assigning readings, and assessing student mastery through papers, presentations, and tests. Experiential programs may take place in the woods, on Skype, or through a blog. They may emphasize student construction of the learning environment, partnerships with local organizations, special events, and interdisciplinary study. Experiential programs may gain a reputation for being optional or less rigorous.

Another model: students experience a “core” program that incorporates experiential components.

This structure adopts a rapid, comprehensive model of school change. The school makes a decision early on to broadly adopt specific experiential learning themes. All teachers are involved, and all courses integrate experiential learning in some manner. If the school creates special program director positions at all, then these individuals are few in number and partner closely with teachers to create student learning experiences. They do not offer separate programs to students. The weekly timetable is organized to facilitate experiential learning opportunities. Students experience a relatively consistent learning experience across the school program.

How may an existing school integrate experiential programs without completely reorganizing itself?

1. Assign experiential program responsibilities to core teachers. Partly discipline-based teachers, partly program specialists, they are more likely to influence their colleagues to try something new.

2. Mandate special, schoolwide initiatives to introduce more experiential learning, supported by program specialists.

3. Facilitate democratic, teacher decision-making processes to introduce specific types of experiential learning into the school program, facilitated by program specialists.

4. Provide program specialists greater access to school change vehicles, such as administrative leadership and curriculum review committees.

Case studies: schools trying different experiential programs

I would like to list these schools now and write short case studies in the future. What other independent schools would you add to this list?

Urban School: Innovative Teaching

Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences

Lick-Wilmerding School: Public purpose

“Leading from the Middle”

A summer institute offered by the Santa Fe Leadership Center

Global Ed Across the Curriculum

As a follow-up to our presentations on global education, I am guest teaching in our Pathogens and Parasites classes this week, part of a broader effort to broadly integrate global education across the curriculum. Students have studied infectious diseases from the perspectives of science and public health, and now a series of guest speakers have been relating first-hand stories and posing authentic problems to the students. Consistently, students are spending class time researching real-world topics and brainstorming possible solutions. Is it safe to drink the water in Haiti? What precautions should we take when working with HIV+ youth in Botswana? Why have AIDS treatment efforts been so much more successful than HIV prevention efforts?

Authentic problems are complex and difficult to solve, compared with highly specific problems normally assigned during academic coursework. AIDS in Botswana involves principles of biology, public health, sociology, anthropology, politics, and economics. Students, so well trained as logical thinkers, are surprised to find that rational explanations are usually insufficient when they do not take all contributing factors into account. Why is it a bad idea to conduct saliva HIV tests in Botswana? Why would a doctor reasonably acquiesce to a HIV+ mother’s wish to breastfeed a newborn?

School technologists work every day to identify and support authentic uses of technology across the curriculum. The methods for integrating global education are not all that different. Communicate with enthusiasm, focus on the positive effects on student learning, work the most with those who respond with equal enthusiasm, focus learning activities on authentic applications. Use technological tools to facilitate research, group work, communication, and public presentation. Take advantage of the many wonderful electronic resources that exist out there on most topics.

Where are you finding synergy between global education, teaching and learning, and technology?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Moodle 2.0 not a slave to fashion

Moodle somehow continues to fly under the radar. Its features have consistently been designed and developed for teachers and learners, making it one of the pieces of software best matched to education. The latest version eschews recent Internet fashion trends — no social networking or microblog here. Instead, Moodle 2.0 focuses on sharing and accessing content.

On playing with a test installation, I find that three of Moodle’s new features really stand out.

Community hubs

Call this “sharing courses.” The hubs allow one to publish courses to the web or import courses as templates. This makes it possible for our school to be part of a community of schools sharing courses. It also lowers the bar to teachers getting started with Moodle, allowing them to start from a populated course template rather than a completely empty page.

Repository support

The “add file” and “add link” interfaces have been supercharged. Users can directly access local files, network volumes, Google Docs, YouTube, Flickr, and more. This is a major development! Users can create content in the tools of their choice or search for publicly available content to include in the Moodle. This greatly expands the range of learning activities that Moodle can handle. The interface is so easy to use. Bravo!

Portfolio support

Same idea here. Users can select items from Moodle to publish in external portfolio systems. This just makes sense. Use Moodle for the daily work of a class and then publish exemplary pieces of work to the portfolio system.

What doesn’t stand out? Graphic design and layout. Moodle will apparently always look like Moodle, notwithstanding the new themes that have been created for version 2.0.