Monthly Archives: August 2014

Technology Tuesdays – Skype

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Yesterday I held my final Technology Tuesday session for Term 3. The topic was Skype, which I use quite regularly in my classroom. Being 4.5 hours from Adelaide and 6 hours from Melbourne, we don’t get the same range of guest speakers that other schools may get in larger cities. I find that Skype can be fantastic for this, as it allows the students to still talk to an expert – and their teacher isn’t an expert at everything!!

I have also used Skype to chat with authors, such as Wendy Orr when my class read Nim’s Island. To actually ask the author about the book, instead of guessing what she was thinking or where she got her ideas from, was an amazing opportunity. Sharing lessons and projects with classes at other schools is such a powerful tool as students can see what other children their age are doing and how the quality of work can vary. At a conference recently, I was introduced to the concept of Mystery Skype, which I am excited to try very soon!

I use the Skype Education website, and you will need an account. The website is full of teachers and lessons to connect with, but I also connect with possible Skype-ists via Twitter.

For people that came to my Skype session, I created a very basic handout which you can find here. It just showcases a few examples of how I have used Skype in my classroom, which are all featured on my class blog.

Is it worth it?

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This year, we introduced 1:1 iPads across our Years 5-10 students. Our school decided to implement such a program at the request of our School Council, wanting us to increase our technology and ‘keep up’ with other schools. A class had trialled iPads. Our tech support team had developed confidence in the area of Apple devices. Class sets of iPads were purchased for the lower years. Professional development was offered to all staff. Documentation and information was written, edited, and rewritten. All staff purchased their own iPad. More professional development was offered to staff. Information evening were held for all parents of the school.

Our rollout was in stages.

Term 1 – Years 9 & 10 students.
We dabbled, dipped our toes in, as we stumbled upon issue upon issue. Student behaviour. Consequences, or no consequences? Staff trying to introduce iPads meaningfully. There were breakages, inappropriate usage and the beginning of device addiction. PD was offered to staff on a variety of apps, behaviour management strategies for the ‘connected classroom’ and app sharing sessions. All staff were asked to allocate one of their SMART goals to an IT-related goal. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students – we answered their questions and offered advice.

Term 2 – Years 7 & 8 students.
Armed with more knowledge and loophole awareness, the next cohort of students were introduced to iPads as a learning tool. Student behaviour was still an issue. The question of consequences was still an issue. Games in class – appropriate or inappropriate? The issue of screen time was being raised, so we set about asking teachers to record their students in-class iPad usage for a 2-week period. Nothing extreme – Year Level, Subject, Approximate percentage of class time iPads were used, and maybe the app/apps they used. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students to ease their fears and reassure them that technology was something that our school values.

Term 3 – Years 5 & 6 students.
Our knowledge as a staff is becoming stronger and there are less and less loopholes for the students to find. Students behaviour regarding iPads is less of an issue. Consequences are becoming tighter. There is a no-gaming policy unless it clearly relates to class work. Screen time is still a concern. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students to tell them how successful our initial roll-out had been and what we have learnt from it to try and improve it for their children.

After two terms of iPad use, we surveyed the teachers and the Year 7-10 students on their iPad use at school. The results were fascinating. After such eye-opening results, my principal requested that we survey the parent community as well. The results were indeed fascinating, but for less positive reasons.

Some of the main concerns were that their child was now not interested in school since the iPads were introduced. The issue of screen time seemed to be on the tip of every parent’s fingers as they typed their negative responses into my Google Form. Other parents were frustrated that they seemed to have taught their child more about the iPad than the teachers at school.

Funnily enough, we have run PD sessions on integrating the iPad effectively. The SAMR model has become so frequently referred to at our school that I am sure I dream of it at least once a week. The issue of screen time was a factor that we wanted to address, hence our request of staff to record their usage for a two-week period. Out of all the staff asked (at least 20), only 5 responded. How could we present that information to parents?

After nearly 3 years of being involved with the iPad program and imminent technology rollout, the responses I read from our parent community made me wonder, “Is it worth it?”

  • Is it worth putting so much time and energy into trying to inspire other staff to try something new on their iPad? Or use an app a second time, to build confidence?
  • Is it worth running optional technology sessions for staff to try and reach their SMART goal, but then have nobody turn up?
  • Is it worth holding parent information nights to present information and try and teach them about the world their children are moving into, only to have parents whinge behind our backs on an anonymous survey?

Sometimes, no matter how much you are supported by your leadership team and how passionate you are, you still wonder “Is it worth it?”

Technology Tuesdays – iPads for Assessment

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Today’s Technology Tuesday session is about using iPads for Assessment purposes in the Early Years.

It is an amalgamation of two of my previous posts, Evernote and RRCalc.

Evernote can be a tricky app to master, but I found that when I set it up on my computer, the iPad app became a lot easier to use.  It allows me to have a Notebook Stack for my class, with each student having their own Notebook. Within each student’s Notebook, I have created Notes for different categories.  For example, in Brad’s Notebook, I have 3 Notes so far – Behaviour, Maths and Literacy.

I have created a handout for the session, with links to videos which help explain how to use Evernote in conjunction with the RRCalc, to keep track of reading progress.  The handout can be found here: iPads & Early Years Assessment.

Other apps that I use for my assessment are

  • Numbers – like an Excel Spreadsheet, with a different sheet for each topic (Spelling Results, PAT Maths, Project Partners etc).
  • Record of Reading – very similar to the RRCalc, but this app allows you to photograph the running record with the words to follow along.
  • Skitch – I will often photograph a rubric in Skitch and then annotate for various students. There’s probably a much easier way…I’m still learning and trying!