Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tech Tips Tuesday

Getting Started with Seesaw

This week I started using Seesaw with my class as part of my exploration into digital portfolios and the power of feedback. I have been searching for something that I can use to collate my students digital work when using shared iPads. I wanted something that allowed for feedback from peers, students and even parents. I got the go-ahead from our ICT department to trial it this term and they loaded the app onto all the iPads.

During the last holidays I set up a login with Seesaw and added my classes. I made a test class to use to experiment with my son and get a sense of some of the issues that might come up with my class. It also gave us a chance to see what can be done and test out one of the Seesaw tutorials.

Prior to starting I wanted my students to understand the purpose of feedback, so we completed a couple of tasks last week that involved students seeking feedback, giving each other feedback and applying this information to their work. I printed out the appropriate signage for my class and set up management for the class such that student work posted immediately, they could "like" one another's work, but could not post comments.

My introductory lesson was just to show students the app and let them know that we would be using it. I demonstrated how they would log in using the QR code and the basics of how to create something and save it in their name. At this point I did not let students have a turn. Seesaw offers introductory lesson ideas to familiarise students, however I just wanted to get started with using it with our content and learning outcomes. I wanted for the task to be familiar enough for students to work with in a new format.

The next day we started Seesaw in our English lesson. I made a page for students to use as a digital worksheet. The task was the Circle of Viewpoints thinking routine, considering the perspective of different characters from the first chapter of Charlotte's Web. We re-read the chapter first, then students recorded their responses in Seesaw. They enjoyed having the opportunity to read each other's work and "like" it. The work itself showed that students were thinking about different perspectives. Some students got to more than one perspective. Others only saw through one lens. It helped students to realise that there is more than one way of viewing a situation.

One of my students quickly figured out how to give himself a like from every other student in the class, so we had to have a discussion about only selecting your own name when saving your work or liking people's work. We also discussed the point of "likes" and how the value is diminished if you just "like" everything you see.

In our Literacy Group time, students completed another digital worksheet to show an understanding of synonyms. They rewrote the sentence I had used and changed the word in brackets into one of its synonyms. Once finished students used the draw feature to make a page about a word eg. Cold, hot, large, etc. (their choice) and make an audio recording to go with this. They enjoyed this process and were prompted to get out thesauruses to add to their list. The technical side of things was working really well. It was great to see them looking at one another's work.

That night I reviewed students' work and left them comments using the feedback feature. We then reviewed the work on the IWB and I taught students how they could make changes based on the feedback by using copy/edit and making a revised work sample. Students were keen to revisit their work and those who didn't get the opportunity expressed their disappointment!

Every time I sat down with my students I found they were asking if we were about to do something with Seesaw. They were obviously hooked! On Friday I threw something together for them quickly, following on from our work on Charlotte's Web. I gave students the writing prompt "If I had a pet pig..." and they were off! They loved it. Some named their pig, others thought about playing rugby with it! Some students loved this task so much, and the ability to like one another's work, that they started to look for ways to give each other written feedback by Copy/Edit and then writing at the bottom of the page.

As soon as I clued on to this, I realised that I needed to introduce the feedback aspect properly and give them that freedom. We discussed the sort of feedback that we are wanting - feedback that is respectful of the other person's feelings and helps them to improve their work. And then they went to it. This is an area I would like to fine-tune with them some more, probably making some class charts with examples that they could use.

From a technical perspective, my students have definitely worked out how to get started, create, save and edit files, and how to logout. They are working extra things out for themselves and teaching one another. I look forward to seeing how their use of this develops in the weeks to come. I also look forward to being more creative with how we use it, drawing on photos and files as well.

From a skills basis, my students are learning how to use the iPad keyboard for typing, and they are learning where the keys are. They are also learning how to use the predictive text feature to help them when they are unsure of spelling. I was amazed how quickly they got their ideas down in text compared with how long it usually takes to write by hand. This may have been more about the motivation to get started than anything else! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My Journey with ISTAA Experienced Teacher Accreditation #2

Researching and Testing Ideas

Since I last wrote about my journey I have been working at refining my ideas. I'm not one to focus completely on book research first and then shift to classroom research second. I tend to mix the two together and get everyone involved in the journey!

Connecting with other Educators
I've been chatting to people about what I am puzzling over. Having people to listen to my thoughts has helped me to work through what I am reading about and what I am seeing in the classroom. My colleagues are being very encouraging (even though I'm sure they're getting tired of listening to my ramblings). I've made new connections at work in my quest to find other people with an interest, knowledge and experience in the realms of assessment and feedback. I've also found some who may be able to help me work through developing the action research side of things. My colleagues have given me ideas and suggestions for other things I could try.

Using Twitter
Over the years I have developed my Twitter profile to include an extensive list of educators around the world. This is my professional learning network. If I'm to be really honest, I haven't been consistently great with this over the years. While I'd love to do it more, in reality, it does end up being both addictive and time consuming. I also find that I hit information overload quite quickly once I get started. Everyone is sharing great resources that I grab to read later, or feel inspired by in the moment. But I find that I end up with my brain buzzing in too many directions, trying to do too many things, and just can't keep up that sort of momentum. I have to try to find a workable balance. I'm trying to connect more effectively with people in this arena by popping along to Twitter discussions and getting involved with the conversations. By looking at my Twitter feed it's easy enough to pick up on whether there is a discussion happening and to get involved.

After reading a tweet where someone asked for resources on peer feedback, I realised that I should be using hashtags to find resources about feedback. I did a search on #feedback and found a tweet about the work of Ben Newmark (@bennewmark). His school is trying new things in terms of feedback to students, and while I don’t want to take on board the whole kit and caboodle of what he is doing (particularly as it is designed for high school history), I really do like where he is headed in terms of making feedback meaningful. 

Ben’s school has stopped marking books and is now completing a Feedback form when students have submitted their books. He reads through the books (not worrying about marking spelling errors or leaving a comment) and jots down the things about the class’ response using a feedback form. He then makes a PowerPoint presentation that goes through the things that came up on the feedback form. He highlights the things students do well and shares these with the class as examples of exemplary work.

I liked reading about this system and am going to try a modified version of the idea, initially with my Maths class. I wondered what happens in Ben's class in terms of self-reflection to help them to make use of the feedback. Do students jot down takeaways that they will work on?

Another victory with the #feedback hashtag came another day when I discovered this tweet:

This research, while difficult to digest, was exactly what I have been looking for. It looks beyond what makes good feedback, to instead explore what is required for students to engage with feedback and use it. After reading this, I was able to draft out a bit of a plan to use in the classroom. The researchers also outlined some gaps in current research - namely education prior to Higher Ed, and studies that look at the resulting behaviours of students rather than merely the reported behaviours. I'm excited to explore this further.

Dylan Wiliam's Webinars
I found some of Dylan Wiliam's previously recorded webinars online at The Dylan Wiliam Center. I watched these and took some notes as I did so. It was good to hear his view on feedback. The results from studies have shown that feedback can also have a negative impact, thus the reaction of the student should be the focus rather than the feedback itself. I feel this is tied in with my ideas about encouraging student self-reflection in order to apply the feedback, and also providing time for the feedback to be used not just stashed away. Dylan said that the success of the feedback is about the relationship the teacher has with the student and knowing when to push and when to back off. One suggestion Dylan gave for activating students as resources for one another was to use two stars and a wish for peer feedback.

I feel that the challenge lies in learning more about how to provide the right sort of feedback (which may mean different things to different students), and how to help students to react positively to what they are told and use it to improve their learning further. This all ties together with the growth mindset, and a willingness to see failure as an opportunity for further growth. More of Dylan Wiliam's webinars can be found here and he is about to run another webinar about Assessment Literacy on Wednesday 19 October 2016.

Trying things out
Term 4 started this week and I had my students back for the last two days of the week. Why wait, I say! We got straight into exploring some ideas with feedback. Very soon we are going to begin trialling Seesaw to submit and share classwork and gain feedback from each other. In the lead up to this, I wanted my students to get a sense of why feedback is useful, how we can request feedback from others, how we can give feedback and how we can use feedback.

I wanted to introduce my class to the concept of feedback. I wanted them to get a sense of the power of feedback for helping you to learn and progress forward. In our first lesson of the day students were working on a writing task and I found that students were asking me and one another for help with spelling words. I helped them at the time and then used them as examples for the next lesson.

I referred to this as an example of "seeking feedback" and pointed out how it helped them to be more accurate with their work. I then showed students the video of Austin's Butterfly as an example of how feedback leads to improvement. Students were amazed by how Austin's work progressed. 

Austin's Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work from EL Education on Vimeo.

I then explained that students would create a drawing of their holiday and that at any point when they wanted feedback they could take a strip of paper to someone they trust and get them to write down something good about their work and something for them to improve. They could then take the feedback and use it to improve their work. They could repeat this as much as they desired.

What I found was that initially students wanted to get their work just right. It was almost as if the idea of peer feedback was making them think more critically about their own work. To begin with, I felt that the feedback that students gave one another was fairly shallow and opinion based. eg. "Please colour the white and the background." However when I paused to think of what I might have written, I didn't come up with anything better! This helped me to realise that part of the strength of feedback comes from having some sort of a goal to work toward and markers of what constitutes quality work.

We continued this work intermittently over the two days, with students continuing to seek feedback from one another and re-drafting as desired. A lot of verbal feedback was being given by students and not being recorded on the paper strips. This suggested to me that students may prefer to give and receive feedback informally and verbally. This may be happening already in the classroom without me realising that it is taking place. 

As would be expected, I found a variety of responses to this task. Some preferred to begin a new draft, while others made modifications to the original. Some were popular choices for students to go to feedback, while others weren't approached at all. Some students seemed more focused on self-review of work including one who did not get any written feedback.

Nothing Official Yet!
Of course, I am yet to write up my literature review, and none of my trying things out is part of my proposal at this point. For me, these steps are necessary for me to get a proper understanding of what I am reading and to keep a check on whether it is based in reality. It's also about me finding what works, and seeing how things can be improved. I guess my next step is to get serious about the literature review and speak to someone about action research.

If you have tried things out with formative assessment, feedback and/or growth mindset please leave a comment with link so that I can check it out. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tech Tips Tuesday

How much screen time?

We have just finished having a two-week break from school and are heading back into our normal
routines. By the end of the holidays, however, we'd fallen into some pretty bad habits. Daylight savings has meant that we have been more relaxed over bedtime for our son. And, as for screen time? Our son's use of screen time has allowed us to have more of a sleep in the next day! We've really had to work at getting out of the house - taking the dog for a walk, going for a bike ride, seeing the city and participating in the real world. These are all good things, but take effort!

In the past week I took part in a survey about children and video games. It really got me thinking about what is good and beneficial in terms of screen time.
My son just got a 2DS for his birthday, so along with the iPhone he had handed down and the iPad he bought second hand, he is getting more than the desired screen time for a six-year-old. And it doesn't help that he is growing up in a home where Mummy is always testing out new apps and resources with him, and Daddy is an absolute whiz when it comes to working out the logistical side of things.

So, this week we tried to come up with a solution in terms of screen time. My husband had heard of people instigating a daily limit for their children, so we decided on 30 minutes (not guaranteed - but dependent on what's happening and what will work for the family). We decided to add an opportunity for our son to "earn" more screen time by engaging in outdoor play, such that for every two minutes of outdoor play he banks an additional one minute of screen time. This banked time can be used on the day it is earned or rolled over (unused normal daily limit is not rolled over).

Sound like all those terms and conditions you usually skim over? Wait... there's more! The walk to and from school does not count toward the extra time, nor does outside play as part of the usual school day. Television counts as screen time only when it is chosen as an individual activity. And Pokemon Go doesn't count as either screen time or outdoor play - the two cancel each other out!

As you are probably beginning to understand, we have a six-year-old who needs to know all the ins and outs so that he can make the most of all these minutes! It's early days and we are just trying to find a way to keep better track of how he is using his time.

That said, it does make me pause for a moment to think about my personal response to screen time. I probably spend far too much time looking at a screen and far too little engaging in outdoor play. Particularly in the holidays when I want to dibble and dabble and learn new things online.

And then I could also play the devil's advocate and go against all that I fight so hard for and ask the question: Should we be limiting the amount of screen time used in the classroom? And if so, what is the "right" amount?

Is screen time something that we should be putting limits on, or is it something that people should engage in freely and monitor for themselves? When is screen time a problem, and when does it become just a part of how we live our lives these days? And is that a problem in and of itself?

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tech Tips Tuesday

Apple Watch

So, I've been wearing the Apple Watch since they first came out in May 2015. I haven't reviewed it yet, and the second edition has now been released. So I thought maybe I should say a little something about how I've found it fits with my lifestyle, one year in!

My Apple Watch is Series 1, 38mm case in Stainless Steel with the Sapphire Crystal face (or so the back tells me!) I chose the black sports band - hoping that it would blend well with my work attire. I haven't purchase any other bands and the original is still going strong after one year of wearing it every day. I recently fell while running the other day, and while the watch took a decent hit, the Sapphire Crystal face only suffered minor scratches as did the Stainless Steel and sports band (as seen in the photo).

This is the most expensive watch I have ever owned, probably not the most beautiful, but definitely the most useful. I tried out a few different watch faces that looked cool, but ended up with the most functional for my lifestyle - boring but informative - Modular. At a quick glance I can see the date, time, upcoming events, temperature, fitness and stopwatch.

To be honest, there were a couple of hiccups early on that bothered me - I seemed to be churning through the battery, both on the watch and on my phone. After dropping my phone in "the sink" I couldn't tell whether the battery issues I was facing were related to that incident, or whether it was the extra drain from the watch. Rather than replace the phone battery I decided to get a charger case to keep my phone going. Now I have enough phone battery to get me through the day, and my watch has only run out of battery on a couple of occasions. Generally I plug both in to charge as I go off to bed at night. Not the most elegant solution to the problem, but it's working for me so far.

In a lot of ways, it does what my phone does for me, but up close and on the go. Also, people are used to seeing someone pull out their phone to check on messages etc, and it has a bad reputation. By doing it on the watch, it is much less noticeable. That said, when I start looking at the watch in the company of others, people do tend to think that I'm checking the time and feel concerned that I have somewhere better to be!!

At times it can be frustrating to wait for the wrist flick to wake it up, especially when tapping the screen is not an option eg. when cutting up meat for dinner, but generally it is pretty good. Another trick comes when trying to show the watch to someone else. The amount of times I've turned my wrist to show someone and they've come back with "All I'm seeing is a black screen!"

I love the flow of information to my watch. I use it frequently to check the time, the weather and to see how I'm going with my fitness targets. I use it to set timers with my class and my son to try to get things done in a certain amount of time. My favourite feature at school is when I'm not really sure how to spell something. Siri sorts me out pretty quickly and my students are suitably impressed.

I keep my watch on silent, so love that I can feel when a notification has come. I'm the only one that knows that it's there, so can time when to check on it without causing a disruption. I love that I FEEL my watch telling me my phone is ringing even before I HEAR my phone ringing and can cancel the call quickly if I've forgotten to silence my phone. I like being able to send a quick message from the watch, or try my luck with the dictation feature.

There are of course fun bits, that are interesting to play with - sending your heart beat, drawing little pictures, viewing your photos and taking a call. It's also interesting to have Apple telling you when you should stand up and take a walk, and now with the recent update, telling you when to inhale and exhale!

I love my watch. I wish it was prettier without being more expensive. It's hardy, going strong and I would struggle to go back to a watch that doesn't tell me as much. I'm not sure of all the features of the new watch and haven't been in to the Apple Store to play with it yet. But it can only get better, right?!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tech Tips Tuesday

Using ICT to Enhance Learning About 3D Solids

As I headed into Term 3 I had grand plans about integrating ICT into the Maths Program. We had great success earlier in the year with the use of Beebots and basic programming lessons to give purpose to the language around location ie. left/right/forwards/backwards/up/down. Given that, I had high expectations for the use of Makers Empire and 3D Printing as part of our learning about 3D solids. I wanted for students to be able to explore and build 3D solids on an iPad and then see them turned into a physical object through 3D printing.

Implementing the 3D Printing Task
We staggered our teaching program across the year level to allow for shared use of resources across the term and arranged for our ICT Coordinator to come and work with our Maths classes during the last week of our 3D Solids learning. When our ICT Coordinator came students logged onto Makers Empire with student logins and she taught them the basics of the different aspects of the app. Students had some free time to explore and then worked on designing a building that used the 3D solids they had learnt about in class. They selected the one that they wanted printed, calling it "This is it!" to make it easier for me to find when it came to printing.

All was going well until it came to the actual printing. We got some quick training on how to use the printer, but when I sat down to do it, it wasn't as easy as putting some paper in a printer and watching it do its work. The plastic didn't always come out smoothly where it was supposed to, so I had to sit and watch as it did its job to make sure it didn't mess up. These jobs were taking about 2 hours to print, so as you can imagine, I couldn't be there to babysit the machine the whole time as I had actual teaching to do! A couple of times the machine made a mess while I wasn't watching, leaving the jobs ruined and the nozzle in an icky mess.

A couple of jobs did make it through to completion, but only because I sat by the machine, cleaning gloopy bits off the nozzle as it worked. Then there were also the creations students made that didn't work because of their design. They looked great as digital creations, but when trying to print with plastic, they just weren't practical.

We haven't labelled it a complete failure yet, and maybe I'll get the chance to print a few more during the holidays, but it was far from a huge success! I am not ready to call it quits on 3D printing, I just wish our printer was a bit more reliable and easier to use. I guess I have a few more failures to work through before I'll be able to enjoy the successes. I'm sure the first paper printers were not without their faults either. I have vague recollections of the poor quality of colour printing from my teenage years.

Other Successes
That said, we did have some other successes using less complicated ICT technology this term. Students took photographs of 3D solids from different perspectives and created a PicCollage to share with others. These looked great when printed and we displayed them on the wall. They also built solids using construction materials and took one photograph of the net and one photograph of the solid and recorded the audio naming the solid using Explain Everything Classic. These were combined using iMovie and shared with the class for revision. In another lesson students built a 3D structure using blocks, took a photo and then demolished their house for another group to rebuild using the photograph as a guide.

When I look back over all the ICT successes with 3D solids, the problems with the printer seem minimal. My students still walked away with an excellent understanding of the names and properties of 3D solids and an ability to work with them in a range of ways.

What have been your early experiences with 3D printers? How did you overcome the challenges?