Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
After the lunch break, it was into the ClassTech conference stream to hear Blake Seuferten.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Education_Revolution talk about managing a large network and rolling out a school-wide Chromebook program. The number of schools that have implemented various laptop or tablet programs in a school-supplied, BYOD or BYOT context has increased significantly over the last decade as it has become more fashionable to do so, pushed in part by the drive for laptops through the Digital Education Revolution program.
Blake spoke about his school's context, with a current enrollment of around 2100 students and 185 staff. Four years ago things at the school were going well with good NAPLAN and HSC results and so the decision was made that while things were great (echoes of Prakash's message) the next big change would be embarked upon, a school-wide roll-out Chromebooks,
Underpinning educational change management, from a teaching and learning perspective, should be pedagogy and the impact on students of the change. The schools had been using a particular model of laptop and had faced numerous reliability issues which resulted in significant downtime, negatively impacting students and after consideration of various options, Chromebooks were the option that was taken up and rolled out.
One of the considerations for the school was the ability for students to collaborate when using the laptop. For Blake, he clarified what he meant by saying "when I say collaborative I mean web ready because that's where most collaboration happens now."
Teacher self-efficacy is critical when it comes to gaining buy in for new learning tools or resources, especially when they are mandated from the school leadership. You can see from the above tweet that self-efficacy is fed in large part by the provision of professional development opportunities which need to include not only how to use the teaching and learning tool, but how to implement it pedagogically as they are two very different skills.
Blake spoke next about investing in something that will have an impact. For them, at that point, investing in the internet infrastructure in their school was, according to Blake, an easy decision to make as it would have a positive impact on the whole school. I have heard a number of schools indicate that part of the process of implementing any sort of school-wide laptop or device program has been investing in their internet infrastructure. It is important when looking at this to understand that coverage and density are two vastly different concepts. You can have fantastic coverage across a school network at any location with a device That is WiFi coverage. WiFi density, however, is the capability for a WiFi network to cope with a large number of users drawing upon its resources without a significant drop in performance. An example of this is the difference in the demands on the network before and after school when there are only staff onsite in comparison to during class time when you will have staff members as well as a large number of students drawing upon the network at the same time.
The Chromebooks are a prescribed item for students along with regular items like the school uniform. This keeps things consistent and reduces the pressures on the staff for managing devices and maintenance. it also reduces the pressure on staff who are still adapting to technology in their pedagogy. The device management license they have also allows them to hold operating system updates from pushing out to the fleet until the subsequent patch comes through that addresses any resultant instabilities or issues that may occur.
Prior to the decision being made to implement a Chromebook roll out, staff were surveyed about the types of teaching and learning activities that were being undertaken in classes. Blake said that when they looked at the data they could see that 99% of the tasks being completed in class either was already being achieved online, or could easily be achieved online. He did not give an indication as to what types of activities fell into the 1%, although I would not be surprised if practical tasks such as those found in PE, Science, TAS subjects, made up the bulk of that 1%.
Another benefit in the school's view was that the Chromebooks were easily used offline. Any documents or emails sent while offline sync or send when the connection is re-established. It is worth nothing that you can change the settings within GDrive to make files available offline. This allows you to edit those files, which then re-sync when you are next connected
Blake brought up the topic of professional development again, speaking about the process they went through to ensure that teachers had the necessary skills to leverage the functionality of the Chromebooks in class. Part of that process entailed developing a list of basic skills that were seen as essential to using the laptops. Training resources were made available to staff and it was incumbent upon staff to access the learning that they needed to ensure they could do those tasks. Once they returned the document, signed off for each skill, the expectation was that they would then be able to complete those tasks and so I don't know how to do that was removed as an acceptable response when being asked to complete tasks.
To change the focus of the PD, the training resources spoke about the why of the skill, why you would need to be able to use it pedagogically, as much as the how of the skill. I believe this is an important issue and we should talk about the why more often when it comes to PD; not just the superficial why of accreditation or it's good for the students' learning, but the why of this is why you would want to use it in class as that in itself can create engagement with the learning task.
Blake's session was interesting and I particularly liked the focus on staff self-efficacy and providing professional development opportunities to improve that self-efficacy. For those who are interested, Blake has kindly made available the slide deck that he used for this presentation, which you can access here.
As always, thank you for reading. If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them all here.
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”
― Attributed to Neil Gaiman
Last week I published two articles (here and here) talking about how I planned to explicitly introduce students to the internet, and address misconceptions to ensure that they were all on the same page when it came to understanding the fundamentals of using the internet. I recently delivered the first lesson in the unit to a Year Four class and it went somewhere between poorly and average and was a good way of reminding me that I am not as good or as experienced as I sometimes think that I think I am due to how comfortable and settled I am in the school.
I still firmly believe that the Google Search Engine Lesson Plans (GSELP) are valuable resources, but I think that I need to find a way of resetting my expectations as I move between classes. Being the RFF teacher is a difficult position, moving from class to class and age group to age group, I still get caught out on a semi-regular basis expecting too much of younger students, having just had Stage Three, or, as happened today, going from having Kindergarten to Year Four and adjusting my expectation back up, but adjusting them too far and still expecting too much.
Looking at it now, I structured the lesson poorly and I am fortunate that the students in this class are, on the whole very polite with only a few overly exuberant students. I had the students work through a series of questions to get an understanding of their preconceptions about the internet, writing them down, and then used a class discussion to bring it together, which showed some interesting thoughts from students:
After completing the Padlet, I then went through the presentation that had been put together, after getting students to stand up and stretch and move around. I think that I had effectively lost them by this point and It was not until we got to the Kahoot that I had put together as a summative learning that they perked back up and re-engaged, but it demonstrated that they had not understood what we had discussed, as many of their answers were incorrect.. I have more Stage Two classes tomorrow (as I write this) and I will deliver the lesson very differently to those classes. Just because I am the teacher does not mean I get it right all the time. I just need to be sure that I learn the lesson and get it right the next time.
Tomorrow will be introductory video first, then a slow work through of the questions one at a time, with students identifying their own pre-conceptions and then class discussion and explanation of the meaning before moving onto the subsequent question. I feel that this approach will be more effective and result in the students understanding the concepts more than my students did today.
“The Internet: transforming society and shaping the future through chat. “
– Attributed to Dave Barry
Yesterday I wrote an article about how I had begun to explicitly teach my Stage Two students about the internet, some of the terminology they will hear, how to get the most out of doing searches and some other fundamental skills. Whilst doing some research for the unit of learning I am beginning with my Stage Three students last night, I stumbled across a resource that will make teaching my Stage Two students about the internet a great deal easier than it otherwise might be.
Google has a series of Basic Search Education Lesson Plans broken into three modules, each with three lessons as seen in the image below:
This series of lessons is nicely constructed and affords the opportunity to discuss some ideas that I had not even considered, including the very first part of lesson one; asking the students what a browser is. Whilst, yes, there is the presumption that all students are digital natives, and it is true in so far as they are born into a world where digital devices and technology are largely ubiquitous, in regards to their level of familiarity and ability with those same devices, there is a vast array of ability and comfort levels. It is not just those of the older generations who hold some fears of technology.
Having spent some time reviewing the lessons, I think they are a very good fit for my students and a good starting point and will be using them, in conjunction with formative and summative assessment to check for my students’ pre-knowledge and misconceptions using a Kahoot quiz that I have generated based on the lesson.
This is one of the things that I love about teaching now, as opposed to teaching twenty years ago; the internet makes the process of finding resources more efficient, and allows me to draw from a more diverse range of activities than my colleagues in decades past have had access to.
“Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.”
-Attributed to Mitchell Kapor
I have spent a significant amount of time with Stage Two teaching them some computer fundamentals such as opening and closing programs and files, saving, renaming, searching for files, keyboard shortcuts that are considered ubiquitous such as cut/copy/paste and I felt that it was time move on. I want to begin to explore the internet with them, as part of the ongoing discussion about digital citizenship and online safety, but also to give them the fundamentals about how to use the internet. Despite the oft-used title of digital natives, its is my experience thus far that many students are most certainly not digital natives.
Accordingly today I spent some time going through the basics of understanding the different components of an internet browser, such as opening a new tab, a new window, the difference between a search bar in a search engine and the URL/Address bar, also known as the Omnibox.
I had students do a search relating to a particular topic they are learning about with their classroom teacher at the moment (so far I have had classes tell me Australian National Parks or Australian pre-history; as in the exploration and discovery of Australia prior to English settlement). As part of that we have also talked about the various search features of Google such as the search tools for the different search options. This has included a brief overview of how to refine an image search to show those labelled for noncommercial reuse, refining a web search by year, a book search by document type etc. I have also had a few teacher aides in the room at different types and they have indicated that they also have learned things through the lesson, which is another benefit.
I feel like it is a good investment in time to ensure that the students in this age group have some of these fundamental computer skills as these basics of digital literacy will be assumed knowledge as they progress through their education