What’s in your classroom: Potentially everything!

The Weald School in Billinghurst is not the obvious place to end up hearing from a History teacher sitting in the car park of a 7eleven in Missouri but it happened at #TMedtech a Teachmeet focussed on educational technology. Thanks to Andy Cooper, who previously connected his class with Rhett, we were treated to a hangout with the US History teacher who actively pursues experiences for his pupils beyond their own community. If they are studying Greece he will find someone in Greece to get on a smart phone and shown his class around. His class have arrived early before school for some of the hangouts he has organized. As Rhett said…

“Would your students come to school an hour early for your best lesson?”

Rhett Oldham, 2017

I have been showing Google’s Virtual Fieldtrips video for a few years now as it demonstrates the impact technology can have on learning with no significant outlay of cash. If you use the SAMR model it registers on the M or R.

My parents are here now, why not get them on a video call with your class?

I used to have a classblog for a year 9 maths class and through Quadblogging we connected with classes in Singapore, California and Melbourne. A child from one of these classes commented on our lesson and it gave us an idea we put on place the following lesson. Lesson feedback from thousands of mile away! Deputy Mitchell, who runs quadblogging is looking for secondary school classes to get involved. I should crank up the old blog at my current school.
Whether you are swamped in devices or have to beg, borrow and steal to get your students into a room with a working computer, connecting learning to the wider world and bringing experts into your classroom is getting more and more achievable.

If you want to engage with other classes around the world here are a few options you could use to get started.

If you would prefer to get your day to day learning out their for the wider world then start a class blog. I used WordPress for mine where one student wrote the content each lesson and I took the pictures on my phone. (No faces or second names was the rule I stuck to)

You need to see Dean Stokes’ keynote to know why I have a picture of my feet.

Edublogs provides the opportunity for every student to have a login but ensure only the teacher can publish and is based on WordPress so has the credentials of a ‘proper blog’.

Consider taking your class global this week.

Enjoy

Ben

What’s in your classroom: Is Google Classroom ready to take over?

Google Classroom, Google’s tool for managing, sharing and collaboration in your classroom, has had an important update in the last month. A teacher can now assign a task to specific students, something we can all do ‘in real life’ but teachers who have found Google Classroom to be a time-saving effective tool for sharing content and accessing work have been calling for this feature for some time. To see the other updates, including usage statistics in admin panel click here.

When I presented a Google Classroom session for the first time at an Appsevents summit it solved many problems for teachers who already used Google Drive with their classes but those using Edmodo, Hapara Teacher Dashboard, Moodle liked the interface and usability but when they asked if it:

  • Can share information with parents like show my homework
  • Sync with markbooks like…
  • Work on iOS and Android
  • Annotate student work like…

It didn’t, but it does now! What we have learnt is that the feedback button was worth pressing. Google’s team of project managers and developers read every piece of feedback and have aggregated the main requests to regularly improve the product based on user’s requests. If you appreciate being able to sort by first and last name, you’re welcome.

All the items I listed in my training slides that Classroom couldn’t do have consistently been crossed off. Third party tools have made Classroom even more effective, more and more of your favourite web tools and apps work seamlessly with Classroom. Here are a few of my own favourites:

  • Geogebra
  • Share to Classroom
  • Desmos (sort of)
  • Peardeck
  • Smartamp
  • Texthelp

More and more providers of educational tools are taking advantage of the API access to integrate their tools with Classroom so your favourite may be linked soon if it is not already. Check out the ones that do here.

For admins, some who eagerly await more integration with the tools teachers want to use, others who have used a lack of integration as a reason to deny teachers use of it, there are now ways to sync users, create classrooms for the whole school and monitor usage. Parents can get updates on assignments and a calendar is created for every class.

Chromebooks are getting android apps and a stylus to make it even easier for teachers to annotate work submitted, which for me leave one last request…

Google, please can you develop Google drawings to work seamlessly with touchscreen, stylus and interactive whiteboards?

Ben Rouse, 2017

For schools looking to harness technology for learning, can they really look much further than GSuite and Chromebooks?

Enjoy

Ben

(1 of 3) Measuring the Impact of Technology on Learning

How do we measure the impact of technology used to support learning?

In the first of three posts I reflect on technology’s role in education and how we can measure the impact as we utilise it in our classrooms.

Learning is a complex system, particularly in schools where we try to turbo charge it from 9am to 3pm. The measure of that learning can often be less complex, such as a letter or number to quantify the learning or benchmark the progress since the last check.

Technology has always been part of learning…

Chalk, slate, paper, pens, books and calculators… but we are specifically referring to new technology that has become so ingrained in our lives, therefore schools are grappling with whether and how to embed this technology in learning. If a school gives every child an iPad, will this improve learning? Of course it won’t, any tool is simply a small part of the system but we have become used to measuring impact on learning so much in schools we need to be able to measure the impact of technology on learning but it is crude and dis-ingenuous to measure the impact simply in results. However, schools can spend heavily on technology when budgets are shrinking and the investment needs to be justified.

Measuring Impact in Schools

The measures we are used to are

  • Results
  • Lesson Observations
  • Progress indicators

If I were to visit your school and say

  1. “Implementing technology to support learning will improve results.”
  2. “Lessons with technology are better than those without.”
  3. “Learning with technology will improve student progress”

I sincerely hope you show me the door as I almost definitely don’t have evidence to back the statements up. Furthermore, if those silver bullets existed you would already be using them.

However, I do strongly believe that there are some learning experiences that technology can enhance, improve and provide that are not possible without it.

 

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There are times we have reflected on lessons and note that mini-whiteboards, post-it notes, laminated cards or highlighters could have made the lesson more successful. This is not because it saves paper, looks pretty but because it improves progress, understanding, explanations, discovery, feedback and so on. Hence, I aspire that technology sits less as an entity on its own and becomes ingrained in learning and teaching. There are fantastic tools freely available to teachers that can enhance feedback (The Education Endowment Foundation and Hattie have research to suggest this has a significantly positive impact on learning. For balance you may wish to also read @LearningSpy’s blog post summarising some objections to the use of effect size and this post questioning the statistics in Hattie’s work) to students or facilitate more effective group work or peer review.

If I were to visit your school and say

  1. “Implementing technology saves teachers time.”
  2. “Lessons with technology allow for more personalised learning.”
  3. “Learning with technology will improve student engagement”

I hypothesise that I would be much less likely to be shown the door. Technology can be a distraction, irrelevant or a positive impact on learning and I suggest the measures we use to assess the impact of technology need to be discussed and a clear set of agreed measures brought in to general use. The team at Google for Education tried this with a vote on twitter:

Technology used to enhance personalised learning requires some cultural change in schools as it challenges the teaching styles of many successful teachers, the learning preferences of good children and the digital literacy of both groups. Alongside any implementation of a change to embed technology in learning is a need for training, discussion and a clear vision for learning. The training deficit that I have become aware of as I try to embed technology in learning was highlighted more publicly in late 2015.

On 15 September 2015, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report called “Students, Computers and Learning” on technology in the classroom and snippets from it formed rather sensationalist headlines, including this one on the BBC website.

Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD

The report looks at computer usage across a number of countries and compares outcomes. Using OECD’s Programme for International Assessment (PISA) results from 2012 the report identifies “no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT for education”.

Do we ‘invest’ in ICT for Education?

Is investment in ICT for education or technology for learning simply monetary? My school has an investors in people plaque in reception and I am pretty sure that doesn’t mean they pay more than other schools. However, the reference to investment in ICT in the OECD report is a quantitative measure. Despite the media headlines the report is detailed and aware of the data it has and has not used when summarising the findings.

Technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching.”

OECD: Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connections, 2015

Schools will have to choose the level and focus of investment in technology for learning. Whether that takes the form of devices, training, open discussion, design thinking projects, bring your own device (BYOD) policies or even new learning spaces is a big and difficult decision for school leaders to make. Especially as the impact of these measures are unclear, hence this blog post.

The discussion around technology in schools is often confused,  school leader. There is a distinct difference between school provided technology to support learning and a personal device used by a student. This distinction can be overlooked in the discussion that surfaces via bloggers, newspapers and those with vested interests. An Ofsted spokesperson was quoted in the Times Educational Supplement (TES):

“Pupils bringing personal devices such as laptops or tablets into school can be extremely disruptive and make it difficult for teachers to teach,” an Ofsted spokesperson told TES.

This quote is then translated into this headline:

Ofsted warns against ‘extremely disruptive’ tablets in school

Richard Vaughan – TES December 2015

Here is a response to the TES article, (Ensure you also read a follow up post including Ofsted’s response as the reference to disruptive technology was specifically to do with technology in schools not for the use in learning) including a search through Ofsted reports for references to technology’s impact on learning.

The decision six months ago to equip all students with tablet computers has not been universally welcomed by parents and carers, but the positive impact on students’ learning is obvious. The computers help students to work independently, they give all students equal access to online resources and they provide an excellent communication tool between teachers and students.

Ofsted Report June 2012 – Secondary (School overall judged as Outstanding)

The impact of technology on learning to this inspection was ‘obvious’ so we know it when we see it. The impact measures suggested by this inspector are

  • Independence
  • Equal access
  • Effective communication

Did this school implement tablet computers because they identified weaknesses in these areas? When I work with schools advising them on their use of technology to support learning the first document I request is the school development plan as there is no point developing technology or the use of it in anything that does not support the key focuses of that school. Therefore the measures have to be the same measures schools put in place every day, week term and year.

The OECD report summarises the implications of the findings and suggests that schools are not yet able or ready to embed technology in learning and leverage the potential. I agree, that we are yet to develop a clarity on how we want technology to blend into pedagogy and schools. I feel this provides more support for a drive to agree tangible measures for the impact of technology. What is the problem we are solving? The implications section concluding the OECD report implies the following potential benefits of technology in education:

  • Equality
  • Digital Literacy
  • Teacher and Student Collaboration

I suspect a search through school development plans will find many that want equality, more officially known and closing the gap. A number of approaches can support this and technology, planned and implemented well, can help. However, a poorly executed implementation of technology can bring into sharp focus the inequality between students. We often hear educators present the now familiar concept that “we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist yet” (if I had a penny…) and therefore the use of technology in schools is necessary to prepare them for the world they are going into. However, I didn’t have any such preparation and I think I am doing fine. Technology is already allowing teachers to share and collaborate and we have dumped millions of mediocre to poor resources onto our blogs, social media and resource sites.

What would your measures of impact be?

In part 2 of this 3 parts blog series I want to focus on the tool versus the teacher.

 

Does UK have “edtech integrators”?

I started writing a post some time ago:

“I don’t think we do and if not why not?

What is a edtech integrator?

Chris Betcher wrote an interesting post about his role as a tech integrator. This is a term I have heard from US based educators using tech and Chris is based in Australia. I have no knowledge of such a role in the UK beyond enthusiastic teachers like myself developing a role for ourselves to support the use of technology for learning within our own schools.

A true tech integrator seems to straddle a number of schools in alliances, districts or chains and oversee the training, implementation and support of technology to support and enhance learning.

Why does US have edtech integrators?

With a system like our Local Authorities still in place the US districts have a clear need for tech integrators as they will implement district wide implementations of Google Apps, Office365, ipads or chormebooks and they need people in place to make sure the investment has impact and there is consistent use of the new tools.

Where is edtech on the UK schools agenda?”

Since beginning that draft… er I think I have become one?

From September I will be working as a mathematics teacher for three days a week and supporting technology for learning across my school’s academy chain for two. The role is aimed at working with the school leaders in the academy chain to get the most out of their existing technology to support learning and develop longer term strategies to enhance their provision to support learning and teaching with technology in effective and efficient ways.

I initially met with heads of the schools and the response has been fairly positive in that they seem to be very open to the idea of someone supporting the school’s strategy in an area they do not always feel is one they possess excessive expertise in.

So, I am hoping that I will be able to share the role of an “edtech integrator” in UK with you.

Exciting times ahead

Going Google at my school: Year 1 Review

Since choosing the leave behind any Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and facilitate learning via Google Apps for Education I have been writing about some of the challenges and initiatives to embed technology in the learning of our students.

Here are the posts

Going Google at my school posts September 2013 – July 2014

Successes:

  • Student digital leaders are very motivated
  • Technical team have got behind the Google Apps for Education and supported change to Gmail for students
  • Usage statistics are consistent at around 60-70% of users every week.
  • Google Documents overtook Uploads to Google Drive by February

Areas for improvement:

  • Focus on Google Drive and collaboration more exclusively
  • Discourage staff from starting with Google Sites
  • Demand more time to train staff and publish a schedule
  • Create a core team of staff to support me and the digital leaders
  • Move perception away from technology being separate to pedagogy

Next year:

  • Building capacity for staff to support me with
    • Digital Leaders
    • Learning Portfolios
    • Administration
    • Training
  • Schedule of Training with badges to earn from each session
  • Focus on
    • Learning Portfolios for Year 7
    • Classroom/Google Drive pedagogy
  • Embedding technology for learning throughout learning and teaching strategy

The other challenge will be to secure investment in infrastructure and look at potential models for introducing devices to support learning. This ultimately needs to be accompanied by a review of how we teach and how we want to develop our students. In relation to this have a read of this post about technology and learning.

There are a lot of “top tips” posts and posters knocking about. Kasey Bell produces the best ones and here is one for anyone nurturing teachers to the power of technology in learning.

Thanks to Kasey Bell for creating and sharing this great poster.

Enjoy

Ben Rouse

 

 

Going Google at my School: Part 7 – Student Portfolios

Like all good events, had I completed a self assessment survey before and after the Google Teacher Academy (GTAUK13) I attended in December 2013 I would have given myself a 8/10 on the way in and 3/10 on the way out such was the astonishing creative use of technology to enhance learning amongst my cohort.

gta

Stephanie Ladbroke was a team leader at the GTAUK13 having been a Google Certified Teacher (GCT) for a few years. Stephanie lead a session where she shared the technology her class had used for projects. The particular project that has stuck with me is a rainforest project her primary class carried out. The project culminated with a local company changing the packaging they used. The technology used is a footnote as all it did was enable exceptional learning. This is what the role of technology in education should be.

I mention this because it is the moment I realised that at secondary school, we had to do more to make sure that if we inherit students from classes like Stephanie’s we built on the amazing work they have done in primary school. I am implementing e-portfolios for next year to try and make sure we do this.

What is an e-portfolio

An online electronic collection of evidence of achievement and learning

The portfolio of work for our students will be maintained via a Google Site owned by each student and viewable to teachers. I chose to use Google sites as it is within our suite of tools as part of our Google Apps for Education (GAfE) account. Work created in Google Drive can be easily inserted into a page, hence leading more teaching staff to choose for their students to utilise the Google tools available and enhance collaboration.

Learning portfolios are not a new concept, but with the availability of devices, internet access and the ease with which sites can be created and maintained by people with no coding ability, collecting evidence of learning electronically seems a sensible choice, could save a lot of paper too! For a state secondary school in the UK the portfolio is meant to be student-led and we want it to be something they are proud of that can be used throughout their time at secondary school and even beyond for employment.

For the students to be motivated I feel we need teaching staff to refer to it regularly and plan their curriculum and schemes of work with the portfolios in mind. To this end I was able to meet with the heads of faculty to discuss the portfolio and ask for them to feedback to me on what they wanted the students to use it for in their subject. With the vast array of pressures on middle leaders I was pleasantly surprised with the level of support and interest though I wish I could have started the conversation earlier to allow them more time to digest and think of how it could work for them. It will be important to open regular dialogue with staff as the first year of portfolios goes on.

The portfolios are being rolled out with our new students in year 7 (11-12 year olds) and each subject has been asked to allocate at least one project in the year which the students will be expected to add to their portfolio and hence the teaching staff will need to focus on the students using Google tools to complete the project.

Rather than have the students create a site from scratch the feedback from faculties allowed me to create a template on which the students can build.

Advice to schools beginning this process:

Engage with staff and students as early as possible and create a group who can ensure the portfolio is supported by the leadership of the school and that it has a clear purpose for your school that is relevant to learning and the vision of the school. Try to get a range of staff to support the initiative, ideally ones with skills sets different to your own.  

The Template

For every different context a different set up could work. As a secondary school the consensus was for the subjects along the top. Other options that were discussed were to have main headings that related to achievements, leadership and life/employability skills. Below is the final template layout. The wider skills that we as teachers aim to develop but don’t get measured on are in the centre.

The front page design is a Google Drawing with links from each part to pages on the site.
The front page design is a Google Drawing with links from each part to pages on the site.

In discussion with the faculties some requested that their pages be pre-populated with project information ready for the students. Others saw a opportunity to collect some useful information from the students, such as our Languages faculty who had a Google form in their page to find out the language skills of the students joining us in September. We were able to do this by introducing the students to their sites on induction day.

Advice to schools beginning this process:

I did all the editing myself, in hindsight I should have used our digital leaders and other staff by adding them as collaborators on the Google Site I used for the template. If you are able to get one member of staff from each faculty to edit their page of the learning portfolio or even one student per page that would save time and make it a more collaborative effort as possibly increase the buy in from a wider section of the school population.

Creating the sites

Once the template is complete, each student needs a copy to call their own. My initial plan was to get them to create a site from the template, which is not too complicated but would need some clear instructions in the session. Luckily I know Oli Trussel, a UK maths teacher who is great at using Google scripts. He created a couple of scripts for me that allowed me to create and share the sites with the students via a Google Sheets. This meant that the students had a site waiting for them. By using an add-on in the same Google sheet I was able to email the link to their site to each student allowing me to introduce them to their email as well as their site.

Once created the students could get to their site by going to Sites once logged in but I chose to use the add-on Yet Another Mail Merge which allows you to write a draft email in your Gmail referencing columns in a Google Sheet. This meant I could send an email to every student with their site address in. This was how they would get to their site, which introduced them to their email at the same time.

Advice to schools beginning this process:

Drop me a line if you would like a copy of the Google sheet Oli and I worked on to create the Google sites for the students. With more time I am sure something more elegant could be created but if you want to create a large number of sites in relatively little time this will do it.

Induction Day

In the UK it is traditional to have a day in the summer term towards the end of the academic year where the students joining the school in September attend for a day to meet their form class and get used to the school. In previous years we use the day for them to spend time with tutors and attend a few lessons in different subjects. I approached the assistant head who is responsibly for the transition of students from primary to secondary so we could introduce the students to their portfolios on induction day.

Induction day was yesterday! The students were issued with their logins and passwords on paper and were then scheduled for one hour in the computer room where they were lead through the process below:

  1. Login to network (we operate a Microsoft network at our school)
  2. Login to the learning portal (our name for their Google login page)
  3. Open an email (first school email for most of them, though a lot have a personal one…)
  4. Go to Site and complete MfL survey
  5. Add a page “My Primary Learning” and write about their best primary learning experiences
  6. Share the site with form tutors and heads of house

I have colour coded our progress from the day. I was generally pleased as almost all students logged in (apart from a couple who got in to our school on appeal and their names weren’t in my list when I created the sites) , must follow those up! I personally ran two sessions and colleagues ran the other six. Informal feedback is positive but at this early stage I can draw no conclusions on the impact.

Measuring the Impact

There are a variety of ways in which I would like to monitor the impact of the learning portfolios, but I need to stay focussed on the purpose

  • Gather information about our new students that can better inform our teaching and development of the students.
  • Portfolio is valued by staff and students as a learning tool
  • Increases the use of the Google Apps tools amongst staff and students

The last one seems a little cynical but I strongly believe the tools can enhance pedagogy and learning if used consistently well across out school so I do not mind using the portfolios as a vehicle to help staff engage with the Google Apps tools.

The range of measures will be

  • Usage statistics for Google Apps and particularly the learning portfolio sites
  • Feedback from teachers, students and parents across the next academic year
    • Staff will be asked about usage, barriers, training needs and to share best practice
    • Students will be asked about usage and whether they value it via a number of Likert scale questions.
    • Parents will be asked if their child has shown it to them and to rate the quality of the work.
  • Evidence of teachers adjusting their teaching based on information in the learning portfolios
  • Report grades compared to previous cohorts (though only relevant if other measures are positive)

I would greatly value input from any education academics on the research aspect and measuring the impact. Indeed if anyone would like to add to the research related to learning portfolios I would be happy to work with them using our initiative as a case study.

Advice to schools beginning this process:

While research can inform decisions it also relies on you having a free year to get through the information and you may still be no further forward in your decision making. Case studies that match your circumstances would be a more efficient way to gather evidence for decision makers if you need to convince them of the worth of learning portfolios.

At the Google teacher academy I was fortunate to meet with a number of teachers who have e-portfolios working well in their schools.

However, I defer to one of my heroes, Grace Hopper who said:

“It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission”

This philosophy has served me well so far!

I am sure I will be able to update our progress next academic year in a blog post or if I get the opportunity to present it might be something worth sharing.

Enjoy

Ben Rouse