iPad Posters and Resources

The following documents have helped support the use of iPads at our school:

File Downloads Function
iPad Apps to Support Bloom’s Taxonomy
(JPG – 2.2Mb)

(PSD – 11.7Mb)

An A1-sized poster located in our staffroom. We have icons of all apps found on our iPads sorted into the relevant Bloom’s Taxonomies to assist teachers in choosing an app to meet a learning need.
Apps in Use at Goollelal Posters
(PDF – 27Mb)
Posters which highlight some of the apps on the Goollelal iPads. These were some of the first apps we purchased for our devices.
iPad App Evaluation Purchase Request
(DOCX – <1Mb)
This documents assists teachers in evaluating paid apps to ensure they are able to offer students a powerful technological tool.
Apps Found on the Goollelal iPads
(PDF – 1.2Mb)
This is a regularly-updated list of all apps found on the iPads, offering teachers a quick, easy yet detailed list. It is located alongside our Bloom’s Taxonomy poster.

iPads: Fixed or Flexible Timetables?

I’m going to use a really dodgy analogy to express my point of view today.  I’m a big believer in flexible timetables over fixed timetables in schools with regard to technology.  And here’s my reasoning, outlined in two corresponding stories:

Our school purchased a class set of iPads during the Christmas break.  They were good ones – pretty expensive, and whizz-bang compared to what we had in our classrooms already.

The first thing we had to do was work out how to use the things – they had plenty of apps and “extra features”, so we planned a couple of lessons around the devices.  Our iMovie editing of Halloween pumpkin carving, our Explain Everything multimedia presentations of the benefits of sheep dips and farming practices, and the Book Creator social stories about strawberry allergies were great ways to learn how to use the iPads!

Once we were comfortable with their use, and could see their potential in future learning journeys, we finished our experimentation and went back to planning our lessons based around our students’ needs and wants.  Last week, we studied the process of farming broccoli, and the students created an interactive flowchart using the iPads.  Just yesterday, we watched a video on live cattle transportation, and students practiced their note taking skills.  We didn’t use the iPads.

What we didn’t do was say, “every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, we have to use the iPads.”

We used the iPads when they were the best tool for the job.

 

My wife and I bought a new blender during the Christmas break. It was a good one – pretty expensive, and whizz-bang compared to what we had in our kitchen already.

The first thing we had to do was work out how to use the thing – it had lots of buttons and “extra features”, so we planned a couple of meals around the appliance.  Our pumpkin soup, our cashew and parmesan dip and the strawberry smoothies were delicious!

Once we were comfortable with its use, and could see its potential in future meal creations, we finished our experimentation and went back to planning our meals based around our needs and wants.  Last week, we needed to use up the broccoli from the fridge, felt like broccoli soup, so we used the blender.  Just yesterday, we bought some great rib-eye steak, so we used the barbecue to create our culinary feast.  We did not use the blender.

What we didn’t do was say, “every Tuesday and Thursday night, we have to use the blender.”

We used the blender when it was the best tool for the job.

 

 

 

 

 

Extending Google Drive for the Classroom

Over the last few years, I’ve experimented with a variety of ways for my students to submit their work online for marking. Most have revolved around the use of Google Docs / Google Drive, but I have dabbled with Schoology, Edmodo and Turn It In. At the end of the day, I’ve always gone back to Google Drive, since I already have emails set up for students.

However, one of the big bugbears with using Google Drive has been the sharing of files aspect. Usually, I share a file, ask my students to make a copy for themselves, edit it, rename it, and share it with me. Students being students, any one of these steps missed stopped the workflow. Forget to make a copy – students edit the master for everyone! Forget to rename it – I have 30 documents all with the same name, causing a nuisance in my drive. Share it with me – there’s nothing like sitting down to an evening of marking and finding three students haven’t shared it, or have only given me view rights. Aaaargghh!While I’m not intending to go “paperless” as such in my classroom, I do want to use Google Drive as much as possible for the submission of work. So I did some digging, and I think I’ve hit some gold!


In short, I’ve found some great Google Drive scripts that seem to do most of the heavy lifting for me. The following descriptions come from the respective websites:

  • gClassFolders – a free, Google-Spreadsheet-based add-on for Google Apps for EDU that creates class folders for students and teachers to simplify and streamline their experience of using Google’s world class productivity and collaboration tools in the classroom.
  • Doctopus –  gives teachers the ability to auto-generate, pre-share, and manage grading and feedback on templated Docs for group and individual projects.  The script allows teachers to harness all the awesomeness, ubiquitous access, and collaborative authoring power made possible by Google Docs without creating a document management nightmare.  It enables improved workflows for sharing and organizing with students, as well as tracking progress and providing feedback.
  • Goobric – allows for rubric-based grading of Google Drive resources (Documents, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Folders, etc.) and –currently– only works with resources created via the Doctopus Script for teachers
  • Kaizena – giving voice feedback is faster with Kaizena than a word processor, and far faster than red pen. Every feature is designed to save you time, because fast feedback is high quality feedback.

So far, I’ve used gClassFolders to set up all my students’ dropboxes, and it worked like a dream.

The following YouTube tutorials and Google Hangout webinar were very useful to me in learning more about these. I’m looking forward to implementing these for my students this year!

Student-Led eFolios

Improving student assessment

Through my reflections, I’ve identified that my assessment is an area that could be improved upon.

That’s not to say I don’t assess; some at my school would say that my assessment records are even over the top!  However, reading through the Level 3 Teacher competencies, I can’t help but feel that I’ve become pigeon-holed in the range of assessment types I offer to my students.  With the advent of all the technology in my room, such as the TurningPoint system, and the use of Google Doc forms, a lot of my assessment has become test-driven, rather than opportunities through rich tasks.

Competency 2: Employ  consistent exemplary practice in developing and implementing student assessment and reporting processes.

Digging further into this competency are two key points:

1. Uses a range of appropriate assessment strategies: Provides a range of planed, meaningful opportunities for students to demonstrate progress and autonomous and consistent achievement of outcomes, using valid and reliable assessment methodology.

2. Provides explicit information about student assessment: Negotiates explicit criteria with students for assessment, based on intended learning outcomes and provides formative information to enhance student and teacher reflection.

Thus the idea of an eFolio appeals to me on a number of levels – one, it should encourage me to plan for a wider variety of assessment forms; two, it will give my students a greater opportunity to take control of their own self-evaluations.

What are the eFolio options?

I’m very familiar with the WordPress platform, and my initial thought was to use that… but would that be too much extra work?  Would the extra time spent using it in class mean better outcomes for my students?  So I made a short-list of possible options for student folios:

  • WordPress
  • traditional display folder/scrapbook
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Word
  • Google Documents

My wife is an early-childhood  teacher, and I’ve seen the hours and hours of extra work that goes into producing “traditional” paper-style portfolios… usually by the teacher (especially in PrePrimary)! I also don’t want the students’ folios to be simply work sample books – I want them to show continuity, reflection and growth – and be truly student-centred pieces, and I’m worried that by going this route, student work sample books is what we may well end up with.

The Microsoft Office and Google Documents options also did not appeal… the file would become cumbersome over a year, and would not allow the flexibility of adding video or audio easily into the files (and keep the file size minimal!).

The Shanghai American School approach

WordPress appears to be the best option.  But have any other educators had success in using WordPress? How do they use it?  One of the first blogs I came across was The Thinking Stick, by Jeff Utecht.  His article, True eFolios for students, outlined how he drove a whole-school approach toward each student having a wordpress-based eFolio, at Shanghai American School.  A student example can be found here.

In summary, Utecht approach towards this was that:

  • every middle-school student had a blog that was visible to the whole Internet;
  • by making the blogs public, it gave students a powerful sense of writing for an audience;
  • blogs run in chronological order, following the school year, making it a perfect vehicle;
  • students set up categories in subject areas, allowing for quick reference to specific areas;
  • students used a “Student-Led Conference” category to refine a range of posts that they could  use at parent meetings.

Adapting the ideas to my classroom

On balance, I wholeheartedly agree with the Shanghai American School approach – the concept of students being able to quickly pull a reflection from three years earlier, and compare it to a current one is brilliant – what better way for students to measure their own growth?  In my classroom, students should be able to do the same thing, even if only over the course of the single school year, before they move on to high school.

I would happily dedicate sections of the school day or week to students reflecting in-class.  The opportunity for students to record themselves reading in Term One, and again in Term Three, and reflect themselves on improvements in fluency and understanding of the texts they are reading have the potential to be extremely powerful.

My only reservation is the public nature of the eFolios.  The Department of Education has clear guidelines and expectations around student images and the like on the public domain, which would have the potential to severely impinge the types of information that could be posted.  I would also think twice about feedback I wrote on the blog, in the form of comments.  On the other hand, I also agree that a degree of “writing for an audience” is essential to maintaining enthusiasm and vision.  It would be a wonderful experience if students got into the habit of being able to go home each evening and log onto their eFolio to show their parents how they were going at school.

This is a question that needs to be tackled in conjunction with the parents and administration.  I feel we can get past the issue by individually password-protecting the blogs – allowing students to share a password with people they trust (i.e. family members), but keeping the general public out of information that is potentially confidential.  It would also require clear explanation to the parent group to get permission to go ahead with the project.

If the general feeling within the school is that it is too much a risk to student privacy, then the next option would be hosting the WordPress sites on the school Intranet, thereby restricting students’ ability to reflect out of school hours, but ensuring student privacy.

In summary

I believe student-led eFolios have the potential to truly enrich my students’ learning.  Half of my class (whom I will teach again next year), are already familiar with WordPress, which will make the upskilling a combination of teacher-led learning and peer tutoring.

Down the track, I believe it also has the potential for students to drive their own learning – by looking back on the outcomes they have covered so far, and identifying the outcomes that they would like to focus on next, and then through teacher-student conferences, develop activities and rich tasks that will help them achieve those outcomes… but let’s get the whole thing off the ground first, eh!?!

Feature image source: wikipedia

The Flipped Classroom

Recently I read the term “Flipped Classroom” when exploring on the net, and decided to find out more.
The traditional classroom sees students learn lessons from the teacher during class time – it may be a “chalk and talk” lesson, or the explanation of a concept or idea. The students then have set homework to do at home based on this. The Flipped Classroom model sees the homework aspect as the “chalk and talk” lesson, completed via on-line vodcasts that students watch and observe. The in-class time is then dedicated to small group work and extension of the understandings learnt at home, allowing the teacher to complete a lot more one-on-one time with students.

A sample of sites I found

Over the past few months, I’ve been toying with online tutorials for my students (a few examples can be found here), but more as an opportunity for them to revise what they have already heard in class.  The models espoused in the above webpages certainly lend themselves to a high school setting, where each teacher only has to focus on one learning area, but what of the primary school teacher?  Is it realistic to expect my Year 6 and 7 students to watch enough online tutorials each evening to cover all eight learning areas? My first impression is no.

So, on reflection, how can I use this – theoretically excellent – idea in my classroom?  Well, I certainly wouldn’t expect students to watch my tutorials for homework; firstly, not all of my students have access to the Internet; secondly, I’d like to be present to answer immediate questions, rather than have students write them down, and ask them the next morning.

However, I would certainly use tutorials as an independent or small-group learning tool.  I can see real value in subject areas where students are all working at varying speeds and levels (such as our English programme, consisting of spelling skills, comprehension, and conventions), where students can use the tutorials at their leisure, ask for immediate assistance and feedback, and then work on their enrichment tasks.

So, my professional challenge for Term 4 will be to use an in-class “Flipped Classroom” style model for my spelling and grammar programme.

Challenge: Adapting “Flipped Classroom” approach to Spelling

Reason: My students are beginning a new “style” of spelling for Term 4 anyway, where they take a more individualized, independent approach.

Curriculum:The new Australian Curriculum has been used heavily to guide the structure and content of the programme, namely English: Writing: Language.

Question to Consider:Will using self-led tutorials be of greater benefit to the students’ learning than traditional face-to-face teaching? Gauge success through student interviews and feedback forms based along the line of “Did you prefer to use the on-line tutorial, or have Mr Hinchliffe teach the class each new learning point?”
Competency 1: Use innovative and/or exemplary teaching strategies and techniques to more effectively meet the learning needs of individual students, groups and/or classes of students.
Uses a range of meaningful and relevant learning and teaching strategies. 

feature image source: wikimedia

Using WordPress in the classroom

I recently decided to experiment with using WordPress for my Year 6/7 students as a vehicle to explore the Information outcome in Technology and Enterprise.  Little did I know, the project would grow legs and become a far richer experience for both the students and myself!

Initially, I set them the following task:

In teams of four, you are to create a personal website using the WordPress platform. The site should be about something you are interested in – a favourite band, actor, video game. Alternatively, you may create a website that informs people about aspects of school life – a blog, assembly reviews, etc. Your topic should be relevant and useful to others (so they visit it). Your group should make something you would all be proud to show your friends, your parents, your family and your teachers. You will then need to advertise your websites.

We then discussed all the things that make a website effective.  With 28 students in my class, I had seven groups.  Setting up seven separate WordPress installations on my webspace took a little time (I’ve since discovered WordPress multi-site), and there was a little outlay of the class budget on cheap domain names that the students selected to “best” represent their site.

Our next step was to ensure we all understood why we were learning WordPress, and the outcomes we hoped to achieve as a result:

Outcomes

  • The Nature of Information
  • The Creation of Information (Technology Process)

There are four stages in the Technology Process that you will need to follow to complete this project:

  • Investigating: You will need to research your topic, learn how to use WordPress, learn some effective advertising techniques and make sure you know how to reference properly.
  • Devising: You will need to use the above design brief to plan your webpage and advertising campaign.
  • Producing: You will need to create your webpage in WordPress, implement your advertising campaign, and keep a reflective journal.
  • Evaluating: You will need to complete your reflective journal, and complete a peer review on other groups’ webpages.

Each week, an hour was set aside specifically for WordPress development.  Sometimes I would start with a whole class lesson outlining a specific skill or idea, other times I “floated”, spot teaching where necessary, or encouraging peer tutoring.  On the occasions I did spot teach, I followed up by posting a video tutorial on our class website, mrhinchliffe.net, so that other students could log in and view the skill in their own time.

Assessment

Students were aware of the specific criteria before beginning their projects.  As well as ongoing individual feedback, I provided each group with a mid-project review – that is, the grade I would give it at that moment.  Students responded to this feedback, focussing their efforts on improving the areas of concern.

Two other key aspects of the assessment were the reflective journal, allowing students the opportunity to critique their collaboration and ability to adhere to the design brief; and the peer review, which allowed the students an opportunity to critique their peers’ work as well as receive constructive feedback on their own.

Ultimately, however, the students were most driven by what they saw as the most important “feedback tool” – the hit counters at the bottom of their websites!  This real-life feedback regularly drove groups to approach me or their peers seeking new ways to improve their website or advertising techniques to “get more hits”.  At the end of the day, people write for an audience, and the students developed their understanding of this in a way with much more clarity than they could have by writing a narrative or a poem in class!