"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."
- Attributed to Pele
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is through a media pass provided by the organisers.
In the previous article in this series, I provided a preview of the various conference streams as well as the central focus of each stream and who would benefit from them. In this article, I will be providing an overview of each of the six Masterclasses and why you should consider them.
Masterclass A is one I am interested in as it addresses Learning Spaces and will provide strategies for educators to take back to their teaching and learning context and implement that will maximise the effectiveness of student-centred learning spaces. With Prakash Nair, as one of the two main speakers, it is sure to be an interesting day of learning. This masterclass contends that the vast majority of classrooms are organised on the basis that most of a student's school day will be spent in the classroom surrounded by same-age peers, whether in small groups of larger whole class contexts and that curriculum areas are being addressed in discrete silos, typically through explicit instruction and without much collaboration.
Prakash Nair and Annalise Gehling are setting out to show you practical strategies that you can use to turn "...classroom-based schools into learning, community-based schools."
Masterclass B is all about BYOD and together, Matthew Robinson, Cameron Nicholls and Blake Seufert are going to work with you to provide the knowledge and strategies to ensure that the move to BYOD is worthwhile for your students' learning, for your parents' peace of mind and for your teachers' pedagogical practice. They will explore various implementation strategies and policy trends that schools need to be aware, examine the technical infrastructure that is required to have reliable wi-fi connections across the school, even during peak-load times without compromising internet speed. Strategies for managing ICT teams; and guiding staff and students through the transition as well as managing parent expectations. If your school is in a BYOD context but you feel it could be implemented more effectively, or you are considering implementing BYOD, than this is the masterclass for you.
Masterclass C is being presented by Kellie Britnell from the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner and will be focused on e-safety and cyber security. The masterclass will focus on providing delegates with an increased awareness of and strategies for dealing with new and emerging trends affecting school communities vis-a-vis e-safety and cyber security. Resources and strategies for designing school policies and processes relating to e-safety and cyber security will be discussed as part of this masterclass.
This masterclass is focusing on an area that I believe all educators should be conversant in as there is an ongoing need for knowledge and awareness of the issue. It is not acceptable, in my opinion, for teachers to say something along the lines of "I don't need to worry about that, I don't don't use social media." Believe it or not, I have heard that from a teacher. Whether we like it or not, social media and internet connectivity is now pervading the lives of our children of all ages. I know students in primary school who are active on social media yet who do not have the skills, knowledge or maturity to deal with some of the banter they come across. I would encourage anyone with even a passing interest in how to keep their child or students safe online to register for this masterclass.
Masterclass D is focused on a topic that has increasingly come to the fore in education as an apparently urgent issue for the future success of our children. Teaching Kids to Code, led by Beck Spink and Will Egan is focused on examining the new Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies curriculum in depth while showcasing how Victorian schools are successfully implementing this curriculum by exploring the school culture, vision and philosophy that has fostered the successful implementation of this curriculum, including industry partnerships, real world opportunities, a staged approach that takes in physical computing as well as information systems and computational thinking.
Delegates will engage in a discussion of some pedagogical strategies that have worked for primary and middle school teachers in successfully teaching students to code, but also to help spark creativity in thinking by having students write for design, showcase and end-user requirements as part of the design life cycle. This will be a hands on workshop that will allow delegates to develop confidence, knowledge, strategies, resources and pedagogical practices for implementing the digital technologies syllabus.
Masterclass E is one that intrigues me a great deal. Linda Ray will be facilitating this masterclass, entitled Mindfulness, Neuroscience and Wellbeing. The current world is full of distractions and ways of immediate gratification such as games, shopping advertisements etc and this provides an ongoing mental battle between distraction and attention, which Linda has indicated in the abstract for the masterclass leads to increasing levels of cognitive loads results in increased stress and fatigue. Cognitive load is a highly significant factor in our ability to solve problems, make decisions, to be creative and many other facets. If this is stressed, then the learning potential for our students is impaired as they are not able to focus adequately. This masterclass would, I believe, pair nicely with Masterclass C.
Masterclass F is titled Computational Thinking and Coding with Swift Playgrounds and will be facilitated by Daniel Budd. It will be focusing on the cross-curricular approaches that are successfully being used to implement the new Digital Technologies curriculum. Daniel will provide a hands-on workshop where delegates will explore the curriculum and hear case studies demonstrating successful integration of computational thinking that falls within mathematics and Digital Technologies curriculum areas.
These masterclasses, along with the various conference streams (read my preview of those here) provides some excellent reasons to attend FutureSchools. I would encourage you to register soon to secure your place at what is sure to be an excellent event.
To read all articles in this series, please click here.
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.