"My team and I are currently planning for ten years in the future."
-Mary Louise Ryan
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
After Deborah Nicholson was finished speaking in the Special Needs and Inclusion stream, I moved across to the ClassTech conference stream, ostensibly to hear Linda Ray speak about digital dementia and neuro-leadership. However, it was instead Mary Louise O'Brien speaking under the title of The Matrix is here. Mary was disarming from the start, admitting that despite having a fear of heights she would rather be skydiving than standing in front of a large group of people presenting. She was expecting that the content focus of her presentation would have her in more of an IT Leadership group rather than classroom teachers, however, she pushed on. Mary is from Melbourne Girls Grammar (@MGGS_SouthYarra), the site of the first 1:1 device program in Australia and that when she joined the school, about ten years ago, despite a ten year history of 1:1 in the school, the pedagogical practices had not changed. This is disturbing and demonstrates a lack of awareness by the leadership team of what was happening in their classrooms. Changing the tool does not change the pedagogy. Once again, professional development is required to facilitate teachers ability to adapt to new learning tools
Mary said that top-down leadership is critical for long term planning as they are the ones concerned with the future-thinking and macro-level decisions. Her team are planning at the moment, for ten years ahead to ensure that when the school reaches that point in time, that they are equipped appropriately. Given that we do not know what sort of technology will exist then (who would have imagined the pervasive nature of smartphones and social media ten years ago?) I can only assume that they are looking at demographic data and research for the area as well as looking at growth rates for things like bandwidth and perhaps items from The Horizon Report.
The move to BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) has thrown up its own challenges but that it is allowing students to use the device of their own choice for learning. Part of the change to BYOT has been around student well-being and students now, as an accepted norm, log into their student portal and log details about things like sleep, nutrition, physical activity, relationships and students are encouraged to monitor their own well-being by looking at the data for patterns. I observed via Twitter at the time that that must take a significant allocation of resources to enable that program, however, as I learned in a later session, it is largely in the hands of the students.
The next two points that Mary made are both significant. Firstly, she pointed out that change management needs to include the parents as well as students and staff. We often hear about people buying in (or not, as the case may be) to change. We want to know why something is happening, what is the reason behind a decision to make a change, and investing the time into going through this with parents, students and staff can be a significant asset in obtaining buy in for change and make change management easier from that perspective.
The next point that was made is one that I believe is slowly trickling through schools, and that is ensuring that all professional development requests from staff align in some way to the schools strategic direction plan. No longer are staff allowed to go attend random professional development courses or conferences out of pure interest. They must be able to demonstrate how the course or conference and the learning that will come from attendance is aligned to one or more aspects of the schools strategic direction plan. It was not mentioned, but I would hope that staff are also expected to share their learning in some way. It amazes me how often I hear that someone is not expected to share their learning to colleagues upon returning to school.
Part of the shift to BYOT at MGGS has been timetabling students into classes for no more than seventy percent of school time and that the bulk of the curriculum is pushed out to students via the school's learning management system (LMS). This is an interesting move, however, it is consistent I believe with the rhetoric we hear about student choice and students owning their learning. This puts the onus of responsibility onto the student to manage their time and be responsible for the tasks they are required to complete, a very real and genuine situation for them to be in given how they will be expected to operate as part of the workforce. It is up to students to monitor their learning and complete tasks at a pace that suits them. I do have to question how well this approach would work within contexts where students have disengaged from school and if it would result in them seeing it as a vote of trust and respect, or as an excuse to check out.
Returning to the student well-being component for a moment, Mary spoke about it being a preventative program and that there were triggers set in place to catch issues before they arose. She then spoke about the BYOT and technology needs of the school needing a significant investment in staff to facilitate with a five-person IT team in addition to an e-learning team to drive professional development.
Mary closed at this point and while Gavin Hays prepared himself, I shifted to the FutureLeaders stream to hear Dr. Rachel Wilson speak about assessment.
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In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I show you two ways to upload files to your GDrive account from your device.
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“No plan survives contact with the enemy.”
-Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke, paraphrased n The Swordbearers : Studies in Supreme Command in the First World War (1963) by Correlli Barnett, p. 35
After all of the disruptions from the storms over the last two weeks, today was the first day that I have had an opportunity to deliver, or to begin to deliver, my program that focuses on the teaching of technology. I will use the word interesting to describe the day.
Initially, there were issues that meant we were unable to log in to the computers, however that was quickly resolved. Based on experience showing some classes a video, I also made the decision that this week would be about introducing the class to the videos, and getting them used to engaging with them, a decision which I was glad for about five minutes into the session.
My first three class of the day were all stage one classes, and I took all classes through the same process, slightly modified based on what had occurred in the previous lesson. The first issue I noticed was that I had failed to re-edit the stage one video to provide more time for students to answer questions.
My next realisation was that the phrasing of some of my questioning made the question more complex than what was intended, an issue which needs to be fixed in the next round of videos. There were a few occasions within the video where I would ask a question, pause, which indicated to students that they were to start answering the question, and then re-phrase the question, which some students thought was a new question.
I also discovered that I had overestimated what year one students were capable of. I had not allowed remotely enough time for some questions, and as a result, I had to pause the video to allow more time for students to complete the question. Some students struggled with understanding some basic questions as well, which I will need to get feedback about from my colleagues.
I will continue with watching the video with the class next week I think, at a minimum, for the year one classes as they need, from what I have observed so far, more support in getting used to this style of education.
After the morning break, I had a kindergarten class for half an hour, and given that the class has three desktop computers, and the school has a bank of seventeen laptops, I attempted to do computer skills with them, with moderate success. At the end of the thirty minutes, I had four students logged in, all of whom had some support doing so. Other students were stuck trying to log in, misspelling their names. As a result, the kindergarten class whom I begin tomorrow with, will be structured differently. I will spend time with them on the floor having chosen students practice logging in on the interactive whiteboard to get all students familiar with the process of using control+alt+delete, and then entering their username and password.
The additional support that they need is significant. Merely pointing to where the on button on the laptops was not enough. Showing the class where on the keyboard the control+alt+delete keys were also was not enough. I will need to reconsider how I structure the kindergarten classes, as I think that it will be difficult to get them to a point, at this stage in the year, where they will be ok to simply engage with a video with minimal supervision whilst I provide focused instruction to two or three students.
The middle session as a kerfuffle. I lost about two-thirds of the time with my first class, a year two class, as the computer was working, but the projector wasn’t seeming to project anything, other than menu images. I ended up having the students gather around the desktop computer, and we managed to engage with about five minutes of the video. I think that I need to use my morning preparation time to ensure that all of the technology I wish to use is ready to go.
The next class was similar. I arrived at the room only to be told that the time slot had been switched with another class, but I had not been notified. So I regathered my things and went to the ‘new’ class and discovered that the class teacher had forgotten about the switch and was not expecting me. There were significant technical issues in that room, and I ended up reading through the book, watching the video on my mobile phone, watching it from my YouTube channel. It worked, in a fashion, but it was not ideal.
Tomorrow will be interesting, and we’ll see how it goes.
Today’s take away points:
I hope everyone else’s Monday went well, and I look forward to hearing peoples feedback over this journey.
As you may be aware from this article, I have picked up a temporary block for next term as a teacher-librarian, without a library, delivering a digital skills program. As I have been working through the process of planning and programming for the term across each stage from Early Stage One up to Stage Three, it has occurred to me that I do not know that I will be able to achieve everything that I want to achieve with each stage group.
Much of what I want students to do, and what I have been asked to do with them requires computer access, and while there are two classes trialing a BYOD program, the rest of the school has no more than two or perhaps three computers in the class, plus an internet connected interactive whiteboard, or Promethean panel. There is a bank of school laptops which can be booked for use, but of course it would be highly unfair of me to book them for the whole term, and so I need to consider how I am going to go about having students, particularly in stages two and three, complete the problem based learning research task.
This, I believe, is where the flipped class will come into play. The specific skills and concepts that students need to learn, I can record videos to teach, and utilise in-flipping, where the video is watched together in the classroom as a whole class group, or the ‘traditional’ out-flipping where the students watch the video at home and bring their learning to the classroom. I may need to apply this to the research process itself though. Have students do all, or at the least the majority of their research at home, and do the synthesis and analysis, and prepare the presentation at school, in their lessons with me.
The other alternative, which will require a conversation with a variety of stakeholders, is to arrange for BYOD for my lessons. That is, allow students with access to devices to bring them in for use in my lessons. This frees up the school’s resources for those students that do no have access to portable devices, allowing them equal opportunity to complete the learning.
I am still undecided as to which approach I will take, however the point at which I will need to implement that aspect of my program is later in the term, and so I can have that conversation over the holidays via e-mail with the school stakeholders, and then begin the dialogue with the parents early next term.
I would love to hear from any of you who have had to juggle the issues of access to resources in this manner, and how you negotiated the challenges in order to get the best outcome for your students.
“Moving to BYOD as a financial choice, is a financial choice for the school, not the parents.”
At the end of session one, I was genuinely excited to go back home and test out some of the ideas that had been discussed, so knowing that Simon Crook was the first speaker for session two, with the presentation title BYOD, mobile devices and apps in K-12 schools had me champing at the bit to get back into the venue.
Simon started out by saying something that I have observed, that many implementations of BYOD are in actual fact, implementations of BYODD, or bring your own designated device. Schools either give a list of acceptable devices, sometimes with one device listed, sometimes with multiple devices listed, or they give a list of minimum specifications that need to be met for the device to be acceptable. This came about due to the end of funding for the DER (Digital Education Revolution) program, and saw schools wanting to continue with the use of devices, but without the funds to do so. The choice to move to a BYO program is therefore a financial choice. Simon strongly believes that it is a financial choice for the schools and not the parents. Simon also discussed that the move to a BYO program as a drive for pedagogical change is a contentious factor for some people.
Simon posed the question to the audience is BYOD for everyone? Of course the answer is not quite as simple or straightforward as a yes or a no, but is a combination thereof. BYO programs are not for everyone if the teachers within a school are not ready for it. Teachers need significant professional development and support to move to a BYO program to facilitate high quality teaching in a different pedagogical framework and utilising a different infrastructure. It is not enough to simply move everyone to devices, they need to be used appropriately and teachers need the professional development to understand how to best achieve this. I’ve written previously about the SAMR model and its application for BYO programs and believe that it plays a significant factor in genuine use of devices in classrooms.
At the very least, Simon pointed out, teachers need to have devices of their own to utilise. I have known a school who rolled out a device to each teacher for twelve months to use as they were able to, with support, in the classroom before opening up the door to BYO programs. Only one class went ahead with a BYO program, and that teacher was highly engaged with using the provided device and worked to learn how to gain best results from the BYO program.
Three other questions were listed that need to be asked, to determine if a school is ready for a BYO program:
“Using technology in school should be about using it to complement the already excellent pedagogy going on, not about the ‘keeper of the kingdom’ saying no to ‘protect’ the school systems. The pedagogical needs should inform the IT decisions, not the other way around.”
Buy in from the school leadership is critical, as those schools where the leadership is on board and directs the IT team to find the solution often see more success than those schools where the leadership are ambivalent and simply ask the IT team if it is doable. There are factors to be considered, such as coverage v capacity as previously mentioned, and a genuine need to consider the security and protection of the students from undesirable content on the internet, but it needs to be considered intelligently, rather than simply whitewashing the internet en masse. Additionally, part of the conversation should be about teaching digital citizenship, which may form part of the conversation around Communicating and interacting for health and well being and Contributing to healthy and active communities, both of which are part of the Australian PDHPE curriculum and for which a variety of age targeted resources are available on the Cybersmart website.
Following on from this was the discussion of ‘equity’ which can often be a cause for consternation around BYO programs. Simon made his position clear – equity is not about the lowest common denominator, it is not about making one software suite dominant and that cloud computing is the way to go. Simon indicated that decisions about hardware and software are going to vary from family to family and that where possible, utilising cloud-based storage would facilitate engagement as it would remove the problems of “I forgot my flash drive” or the issues of “I don’t think that’s the right version, there’s a newer one on my computer at home” that teachers often hear, from both students and colleagues.
Ultimately, BYO programs are for everyone. Hardware prices continue to drop and there are an increasing number of options for those families who are price-point sensitive. The critical thing to remember, however, is that a dialogue needs to be opened up, early in the thinking about BYO programs to address concerns from parents, students and teachers, and that the dialogue needs to be ongoing.
If you are curious about implementing BYOD, there are a growing number of schools who have implemented it, and many of these schools are open to visitors to find out more about what it looks like in practice. Some online resources that Simon provided include the NSW DEC website BYOD Sandpit and the Sydney Boys High BYOD page.
We had a few minutes after Simon finished speaking to stand and stretch, while the second speaker for session two, Matt Richards, set himself up to present Makerspaces.
Matt Richards spoke about the phenomenon known as Makerspaces which are student centered spaces where students are able to utilise technology in various forms to create objects. Matt talked about how he took a disused space in his school and transformed it into a student-owned space by allowing groups of students to paint the walls with differing images, and the leveraging of the tech-savvy students, who ordinarily hide away, as mentors for others wanting to learn more about technology. His aim, he said, was “…to create a space where kids learn how stuff works.”
Makerspaces doe not require large amounts of cash to get started, and Matt related how he started simply with a number of old defunct computers, and the students were dismantling them and attempting to repair them and get them to work again. These achievements generated confidence and a buzz of accomplishment in the room which led to an increase in student self-efficacy as they experienced success, even if it was in the creation of ‘useless devices’ such as the one shown below.
Beyond utilising defunct computers, Matt spoke about a range of low-priced resources including Goldieblox,Osmo, Littlebits, Raspberry Pi and Unity amongst a range of small kit computers. Matt said that the Makerspace movement changes teachers roles from content leaders, to relationship facilitators.
Matt’s final point was significant, and I believe ties his, Simon Crook’s and Richard Byrne’s talks together: “We need to evolve learning spaces from teacher-centric to student-centric, and getting there is going to see different paths taken for different schools.” This sentiment can be applied to BYO programs, as well as game inspired learning.
That is the end of day one, session two from my FutureSchools ClassTech wrap up. The next article will include the brief lunchtime session with Richard Byrne and Sue Waters which took place in the expo hall, as well as session three of the ClassTech conference Stream, covering 3D printing and the Connected Classroom
See here for the list of articles in this series.