Saturday, August 25, 2012

iPad Roll Out - Four Months Down The Track

What a couple of months we have had.  Deploying just over 100 ipads within a school is no easy feat!  See initial iPad deployment post here.

Mass Deployment
After the original distribution of an iPad for each teacher (to get to grips with), it was time for more!  Teachers were itching to get more in the classroom, one was not enough!  It was decided that each class would have a total of 4 iPads, with the exception of the transition classes (year 0) wanting 3 per class and the year 5 classes who had fundraised (through a student market day) for an extra iPad per year 5 class.  So the iPads were ordered and arrived! Now for the work...

Setting Up Multiple iPads
Staff took an active role in setting up their original iPad, and we (eLearning Team) had user guides to help with the process.  We made ourselves available for a set-up afternoon, where teachers were able to come and set-up their multiple iPads...others set these up on their own.
Two Ways We Set-up:
Mirroring - I found that you could 'mirror' an iPad by backing up one and setting up a new one by selecting back-up from iCloud.  This was great as it literally mirrored an iPad I had selected.  Downfall - only 10 devices can be backed up from the same itunes account.
Setting up as new iPad - the rest were set-up as a new iPad.  After going through the initial set-up menu's, once the iPad is ready and the itunes account is loaded, you can find the apps that have already been purchased using that account.  Downfall - time consuming installing all apps you have previously purchased.

We decided to turn off the iCloud on the iPads. We found it was getting full quickly and we didn't need to back up the students work to the iCloud as the content produced could be uploaded to a website e.g. youtube/ vimeo or a website version of the app.  The only app we left on the iCloud was Find iPhone.  This app allows you to find your iPad - if the need arises.

Naming iPads
Having over 100 iPads in the school (all looking the same), meant we needed to be able to easily identify each classes set.  We got each class teacher to name their individual iPad (settings> general> about) correlating it to the serial number we had recorded.  This is important when you use Find iPhone, as the name is displayed on the map - if they are all called the same, you cannot distinguish between them!

We also named the iPad by creating a unique picture and saving it as the lock screen.  I took a picture of my room door and numbered my iPads 1 to 5.  This way they are easily identified as a Room 14 iPad and the students know what iPad they are working on (e.g. iPad 2).

Classroom Management
Having the iPads named is vital for the classroom management side. Students are able to book out a specific iPad and we can quickly number off at the end of a day and if any are missing (which happen on the odd occasion), using Find iPhone, quickly locates the missing iPad.  
Ensuring the iPads have a durable cover, gives extra insurance against drops and bangs.  We went with the Educase, which has provided fantastic protection for the iPad, while not obstructing any of the iPad features (some cases obstructed the camera).  So far, the class iPads have been dropped in the mud, fallen off tables...and I am sure a lot more I have not witnessed...but they lived to tell the tale, albeit after a wipe down!

Staff Development & Support: This is a crucial part of the process!
The school originally had a document which was meant to be a guide for ICT skills to be taught.  This was very out-of-date (it included faxing!) It was also printed which meant it was difficult to up date.  A small team (4 of us), got together with our elearning facilitator - David Kinane and designed a resource which would:
- reflect the changing nature of elearning
- enable easy staff collaboration
- easy to use!
This resource would be a home for teachers to record apps, websites and software they used in their classroom.  We also wanted new teachers to the school to be able to look at this resource and have a starting point and know some of the resources that are used in the school.

So we decided that a wiki would best suit our needs...and so I bunkered down and created our eLearning wiki...

We have the four strands of eLearning: Enrichment, Publishing, Collaboration & Problem Solving.  Once these are selected, another page opens up for teachers to enter the tool, potential use, curriculum area...  
We launched this wiki during a staff meeting, showing people how to use it and adding content.  It is important that the staff take ownership of this resource and feel they contribute, so in planning meeting, teams are encouraged to add/ update/ view this resource.  At the staff meeting we also discussed teachers making deliberate plans for their eLearning.  We did not want the iPads to become a digital worksheet - busy work, as some people were allowing students free reign and calling this 'elearning'.  We wanted teachers to think about two questions:
1. How can we get student data off?
2. How can we use it as formative assessment?
We also wanted them to think about the types of activities they were offering the students.  Although enrichment activities have their time and place, if these are the only activities offered, are the students being extended?  It was time to move into the next phase and get teachers to think critically about the apps they were installing - how do you know students are benefiting?  

Before our weekly staff meeting, a year group have been assigned to share what is working in their classroom in regards to eLearning.  It is great to see people share their knowledge and enthusiasm!

This is also a major part of the deployment.  We (eLearning team) wanted staff to feel supported and their needs met.  After attending the EduCamp in Auckland, 3 of us decided to host a similar support system in-house.  So, every Thursday staff bring their questions and we sit around for about an hour helping those who need it.  From teaching staff how to use new apps, to creating Wiki's, to finding widgets to classroom management of iPads.  Whatever people need on the afternoon is where we go.  Groups sit around and people bounce from person to person, idea to idea getting what they need.  Some stay for the hour, others come and go as they need.  It is a great environment to be in and I personally enjoy seeing staff helping each other - some who started knowing very little are now helping others - it's great!

What would I do differently?
I have been asked the question - what would I do differently?  There is not a lot I would have done differently.   I would have an action plan, a clear path, aligned with the goals of the school.  A plan that was developed and shared with the staff.  I would also define the role of the iPads within the school.  At our school, the idea is to use the iPads in the classroom for the students.  Some teachers have put 'personal' apps on the class iPads (e.g. Facebook) and have the mail function set-up with their school emails.  The role of the iPads within the school should have been clearly defined as getting staff to do this retrospectively can be difficult.  I see the iPads in my class as a resource for all of us to use, so any apps that are on there are for us (therefore need to be student-friendly) and we do not have emails (students do not have email addresses) or messenger set-up.  I have also heard some people refer to one of the iPads as the 'teacher' iPad, which means that is one less device the students can use.  So to answer the question - what would I do differently? Clearly define the use of the iPads before deployment and have a clear road map aligned to the school's goals.

So what is next for us?

Continue to focus on staff deliberately planning their eLearning activities.  Seeing this in the planning stage of their units, so activities have a purpose.  We also need to continue to look at how we capture student voice.  How do we know this is helping their learning?  Some staff are doing this really well and using this expertise will be an invaluable modelling tool.

I would also like to investigate Apple Configurator to mass configure the iPads as we still haven't found an easy way to install apps on multiple iPads or update apps.  But of course this all takes time...time I cannot seem to find!

And of course....more iPads!  Ideally I would like a 1 to 3 ratio...just putting it out there!

(1 iPad to 3 students...not 3 iPads to 1 students...although...)

Timeline for iPad Deployment:

Term 1: 
- eLearning group formed consisting of members from across the school covering all year levels

Term 2: 
- 1 iPad distributed to teaching staff
- Teaching staff given PD around setting up and using these devices
- Staff encouraged to use with class when they felt comfortable

Term 3: 
- Each class receives at least 3 - 4 iPads (incl. covers)
- Tech sessions set up weekly to offer support for teachers
- Sharing during weekly staff meeting from one year group per week
- eLearning Wiki developed and introduced to staff to document apps, websites and software that teachers use in their classroom
- Most classes get an apple TV to plug into either their IWB or TV to encourage greater sharing of iPad content

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

All Aboard...

The other day I read an interesting tweet (which I can no longer find!), that asked the question: how do you connect to parents? Blog, newsletter, emails, anyway as I am a connected educator....
This got me thinking about my own do I connect to my parents?

Recently, I had a discussion with a parent who was struggling to find how technology was helping with their child's education.  After several twists and turns, I discussed the wider audience that their child is now exposed to...I am no longer one of the only people reading the students work, there is a wider audience.  I also discussed how great it would be to get them onboard with their child's learning and encouraged them to join their child's Wikispace so they can comment and be part of their child's audience.  This parent agreed and could finally see the relavant of this "computer work".

After this conversation, it got me thinking...why haven't I got more parents involved and part of their child's audience?  Don't get me wrong, I do have parents who read their child's online work and comment every now and then, but I would like to push the involvement further and get them actively involved.

I had a conversation about this with the class...some of them cringed, some of them cheered, some of them wished me good luck!  Why shouldn't the most important people in their lives, be part of their audience? 

My Goal: To get most parents actively involved in their child's online work.  I want them to be part of this audience.

How I will try and do this...

I have set-up a blog with the intention that it will come out weekly (Friday').  The post will be made up of student input - interviews, reports of events, round-up of what they have learnt.  I have assigned a few volunteers to be the 'reporters' for the week.  They may interview someone about events in the week - e.g. our swimming program is coming to an end and one of our reporters wants to interview the coach and another Rm 14 student about the past 6 weeks.  Students also have as an option in their ILP to create a blog post entry...this could be a written report, imovie, audioboo, educreation...the list goes on.  I will have 1 part of the post to write up - Wiki page of the Week....inspired by the Wikispaces blog that includes Featured Wiki.  After speaking to the students, they said they want it to come from me rather than another student, so I will feature one of the students pages each week.

Parent Emails:
I keep up with some parents in my class on a regular basis, but some I only see a couple of times in the year.  I'm going to send home a letter about the eNewsletter (hmmmm that doesn't sound quite right) and give them the option for a weekly email with the blog post in it.

Parent Involvement:
The main part I would like to get parents involved with are the students Wikispaces.  The students work really hard to put up all sorts of interesting content from stories they have created to reflections of workshops they have attended.  I would love for parents to join and use the comment section of the wiki's to add feedback for their child.  I would also like to get parents more involved with the class twitter feeds we have going on a regular basis.

This sounds great but...

I know this 'connected' world is quite foreign to many of the parents in our community.  As a staff we have offered tech sessions for those staff who want help ~ I was thinking...why can't we offer this to our parents?  Maybe not on a weekly basis, but once a month/ six weeks offer an hour tech session for our parents.

Topics to cover asap:
- Wiki's: the basics
- Twitter: more than just a status update
- Blogs: the basics, making valuable comments

How great it would be for the parents and students to be able to collaborate together!!!!!!!!

So, I ask the do you connect with your parents?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

But Why???

My Class August 2012...

I have always been interested in new learning ideas and my classroom is changing (developing) as I read and see more.  The main question I always have in the back of my mind is 'why' ~ why should students do this? I remember being at school and not having a lot of choice over my own learning.  Books were given to us...why? I was told where to sit....why? I had to write the date and underline it in red pen (with a ruler)...why? So in my class the 'why' has to reflect the students and their individual learning paths.

So why?

Learning Spaces:
One of the main changes the class have gone through are the learning spaces.  Over the past 10 months, my classroom has transformed from the 'traditional' seating areas to an interactive learning space....20th century building meets 21st century ideas...
Students do not have set seats...why? Students use the space that serves them best for the activity they are doing.  I thought about what 'areas' students would need and how can I make these four walls a great hub for learning!

Teaching Cove: We have a group of tables around the IWB.  This is designed for workshops (group lessons) and have 8 seats (usually the most students in a workshop) although I have another table behind it (which seats 6) if needed.  This teaching cove allows students easy access to the IWB (interactive whiteboard) and it is in a slight U shape so everyone can see and hear each other.

The Boardroom: This space is designed to cater for group projects.  There is enough seating for 6 - 8 students and has a whiteboard students use for collaborating ideas.

Connected: We also have a 'connected' area, where the iPads (5) can be easily charged.  This area has low lying kneeling tables and a couch.  The students tend to use the iPads in this area (for easy charging) as well as a group meeting area.

Independent areas: There is another table, where students tend to work independently.  There are a few power plugs around this table, so students tend to use the laptops in this area.

I do not choose where students sit - where they sit is determined by their learning needs.  If they have a workshop, they sit in the teaching cove, if they are working in a group, they might sit in the boardroom area.  This has meant students take greater responsibility for their learning.  

As I have mentioned in previous posts, students have their own ILP.  This teamed with the learning spaces allows greater use of the resources in the class.  Within the ILP, student have a range of activities from teacher-lead workshops to independent activities...the why again was asked...why do all students need to do say Maths at the same time? 

New activity within the ILP:

Writing has been a focus for our year 5 team.  After spending time teaching in the UK and implementing Big Writing from Ros Wilson. I have taken some of the ideas from this experience and designed a writing programme we call iWrite.  

How this works: students get a topic every Monday (usually related in some way to what is happening in the class/ school/ community/ globally). They go home and discuss this (with parents/ older siblings/ grandparents...) and formulate a plan which may consist of new vocabulary they might want to use, ideas from different view points, etc.  Students also think about the genre and structure that suits this piece of writing (e.g. an interview, story, play, report, poem).  On the Friday, students bring in this plan and have half an hour to write.  While they are writing, we play music (usually baroque although we have ventured into Adele upon request...why not!) and have an oil burner, scenting the room (vanilla, tea tree & lemongrass).  During the following week (in a workshop), we use this piece of writing and 'make it better', by looking at the vocabulary, connectives used, the way they have opened their sentences and their punctuation.  We usually focus on one or two of these four.  

The Why: If students can’t discuss and verbalise their ideas, how can we expect them to write them down?  This is the underlying idea behind iWrite.  It is one of the only whole class activities that we do and after just over a term, students are still really enthusiastic and motivated with this writing.  Why do students all need to do this at the same time? As the room needs to be quiet for students to concentrate for this half-hour...having the whole class write at the same time works the best.  This also ensures that this their own creation, so when we work on it in the following week, they know why they have used a certain word/phrase and what they may have meant.  Parents have also commented on how they love being part of this process and look forward to the new topic on Monday's.

Next steps: within the ILP, students have some optional activities that make up the remainder of their timetable.  One of the options is iWrite development, where they can continue working on their piece of writing.  Students also publish their writing to their writers club blog or their own wikispace.

So here is a snapshot of some of the new developments within my class - August 2012!