Social Icons

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

2014 Tech Year in Review

The one guaranteed constant in educational technology is change, and the pace of that change is definitely accelerating. So as we approach the New Year I thought it a virtuous time to reflect on this years development in the use of technology at my school.

Blogging has enabled both myself and my class to publish for a real world audience our reflections of learning. When starting out there was trepidation as many staff were worried about the amount of posts they could do. Initially I worked with one other staff member to build their confidence. We rolled it out to the other staff once they saw the benefits of creating a constant flow of information to parents and students through blogging.

Pic Collage
They say a picture tells a thousand words. With this in mind we enhance to look and feel of our class blogs by embedding collages created in Pic Collage. Pic Collage is a Top 10 mobile photo app. It is quick, fun and easy. Rotate, resize, edit and delete photos using simple, intuitive gestures. Add text, stickers and backgrounds or clip your images with just a few taps and drags.

I often find students respond better to feedback when it is personal and demonstrates what they needed to improve their performance. Using Educreations I have been able to take a photo of their work sample and then both physically and orally annotate this. I then create QR code link this feedback and hand this to the student. Educreations also allows me to create blended learning content to reinforce, extend, introduce or individualize content for my students.

One of the greatest discoveries I made this year was Blendspace. It is an easy-to-use platform for creating multimedia lessons that students can access online. Using a drag-and-drop interface, videos, text, links, images, and quizzes can be organized into the grid to create the lessons. Content can be pulled from Educreations, YouTube, Google and other online sources, as well as your own computer or Google Drive. I then embed this into pages within the class blogs to freely allow students to access these without the need of an internet search.

My go to for Professional Development. Twitter has allowed me to be networked with leading educators from all around the world. My PLN guides my understanding on current educational trends and developments. Participating in chats gives me an hour of in-depth ideas on a particular topic. Helping me see through the eyes of other educators their experiences and findings.

My book-marking tool.  It is a customizable start page that lets me add all the most important links in a format that is easy to use. The webmix appears as buttons with icons or logos.

You are able to read many articles about Scratch; however, simply it teaches reasoning skills and a basic understanding of programming that will serve students well no matter what their future occupation.

GAFE – Google Drive supported by Hapara Teacher Dashboard
We have been a Google Apps for Education School for the last four years. In this time we have been increasingly utilizing the power of this product. This year as part of our BYOT program we introduced Hapara Teacher Dashboard. It allows teachers to manage and organize the Google Apps in their classrooms.
Teachers can see which applications students are running (or have previously used) and can communicate directly with students and parents through the Google Apps suite of products.
Hapara also offers a Remote Control that allows teachers to monitor and control the applications on students' computer (even from ipads) from any location. To ensure that students are on-task, teachers can open the same applications on all student computers and observe their work in real-time.

This year I have with different stages worked with many Learning Management Systems. In younger years our students have been using Google Classroom, our older Primary students have been working with Edmodo and our High School utilizes Moodle. With all of these many of the technologies mentioned above are embedded into to allow smooth work flow for both student and teachers.

Camtasia by TechSmith
Similar to Educreations, Camtasia helps me create blended learning instructional video content for my students. This provides more time in the classroom to act in a one on one or one on small group capacity with students.

Padlet is an online graffiti wall where teachers and students can have discussions, share web links, post notices, collect feedback, or watch and share videos.

This year I successfully implemented a unit of work on transport using Minecraft. It provided a real world 3D environment where students created, designed and collaborated together on the systems needed to provide a make believe island with a fully functioning transport network.

Where to from here?
With the onset of 1-1 devices I will move further towards gamification of other units of work using Minecraft and digital badges (points and awards for completing certain tasks) provided through Credly. Twitter will also take a greater place with class accounts established to gain a snapshot of student insight.

As it can be seen 2014 has been a wonderful year of growth for our teachers and students. 2015 is shaping up to be a bigger and more exciting year of technology integration.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Coding with Scratch

As many articles on the Internet state the educational benefit of game programming extends beyond providing an easy and interesting introduction to programming. Students learn through discovery about ICT, media and communication. This learning occurs as the student reflects on their experiences and constructs a personal understanding. It requires logical thinking, critical reasoning, problem identification and solving skills and persistence.

“Learning how to program in Scratch puts the learning completely in the hands of the students. There are infinite paths a student could take with the program. There’s no way that we, as teachers, can prepare for the direction that the student will head towards” (Sprankle, 2013). This is true example “Problem Based Learning” and “Just in Time” Teaching in action, allowing the students to become creators rather than just consumers. There are many examples where teachers have been using Scratch to empower student writing in areas such as poetry and narratives (Fay, 2010).

As an ICT Integrator but more importantly in this instance a practicing Infants Teacher, I advocate the importance to get students interested in learning about STEM topics before Years 4 & 5. I believe this because around this time children begin to form opinions about what is “cool” or “not cool.” I want my students to be engaged and develop a love of learning and this is why in my classroom I use things such as Scratch to help kids to have fun with maths. It causes them to search for the creative answer. Creativity is such a precious skill that we need to promote to our students. With tools like Scratch, students are getting a fun introduction to design thinking.


Monday, 15 December 2014

The Importance of Coding

I was recently asked by one of my students parents “what is the importance of coding?” In our current climate of education I feel that this is an incredibly insightful question.

Computer technologies are rapidly replacing countless amounts of medial tasks many of us once did. We often hear the throw comment “there’s an app for that!” and in many cases, there is the software or application supported by the required hardware to complete the task. However, in conversations with many people they don’t realize behind each application, robot , TV or computer there was someone who had developed the commands or “coding” to operate it correctly.

Coding is the language used to instruct an object; however, more importantly computational thinking is the set of problem-solving skills and techniques needed to complete a task.

Many of us use technology daily yet how many of us truly understand how it works? Technology development is one area that us as human either flock to or flee from. One of my Maths teachers once said, “In order to use something it is helpful to learn how it works, even if it is just a basic understanding”, this is a saying that has stuck with me throughout my working career.

Computational thinking outworked through coding produces digital confidence, problem-solving skills and a rich sense of connectedness to the world. Research suggests that student’s exposed to coding and computational thinking generally gain greater overall outcomes from schooling (Barr & Stephenson, 2011).

Jeannette M. Wing's article on Computational Thinking is a very helpful read for those looking for more information on this topic.

Barr V.Stephenson C. (2011). Bringing computational thinking to K-12: What is involved and what is the role of the computer science education community? ACM Inroads, 2, 48–54.
Blogger Templates