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?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Beginning My Journey with ISTAA Experienced Teacher Accreditation

Due to my recent school move, I've found myself in a position of having to go through accreditation to demonstrate my level of teaching. In NSW/ACT Independent schools, this means applying for Experienced Teacher Accreditation with ISTAA (the Independent Schools Teacher Accreditation Authority). I'm not sure of all the logistics, or whether this is a requirement in all independent schools, however it is required in order to move up the pay scale in my school.

So, I applied and am now on the Experienced Teacher Accreditation journey. As you might imagine, this journey is mostly about capturing evidence of what is happening in the classroom in order to prove that I am demonstrating the descriptors of an Experienced Teacher. To make matters even more complicated, I have chosen the Action Research Pathway, which involves choosing an action research project, doing a literature review, putting forward a proposal, collecting data relating to the action research project, and reporting findings.

So far I have mostly been trying to get my head around what is required, and testing out a few ideas I could use as my action research. The biggest challenge I am finding so far is selecting an action research project that is simple enough to be achievable, yet broad enough to encompass a number of descriptors I need to demonstrate.

Areas of Interest

My plan at the moment is to focus on the use of formative assessment and feedback to enhance student learning. I have some examples of this in the classroom, but would like to improve the way my assessments are recorded so that I can analyse for patterns. I'd also like to improve the quality of the feedback that I provide, to make it more explicit and to ensure that students are able to use it to improve the next time they face something similar. This also means providing opportunities for students to make the adjustments and try again before too much time has passed. I'm also interested to see how students can reflect on their learning more effectively.

I'd also like to explore where parents fit into all of this. Is there a way to provide better feedback to parents along the way so that they can be addressing issues when they are relevant, rather than waiting until reports? Do parents want to be part of the learning process, or would they prefer it all to be done in-house?


Documentation forms a large part of the experienced teacher accreditation. Teachers need to be able to demonstrate in physical form a lot of the things that usually just take place in the day to day teaching environment, or sometimes within the teacher's head. Teachers make observations on how students are managing content and make adaptations in response to these observations. This is all unseen or at least unwritten. For the purposes of the accreditation, these things need to become seen and written.

In an attempt to do this, I've taken on using some tools a little more intentionally. Key tools so far are: Notes linked through iCloud, Notability and iDoceo.

I've begun recording my thoughts and actions in Notes on my phone/iPad/computer, similar to a diary. This is helping me to record those things that are happening during the day that may slip from my mind as time goes by. I'm finding it is also really helpful for organising my thoughts. I can add pictures that help demonstrate things, or photos of weird diagrams I draw on paper in attempt to make sense of the confusion!

I'm using Notability so that I can annotate the descriptors and highlight with a range of colours. I may also use it for annotating readings as I do my literature review.

iDoceo is a tool for managing assessments etc for your class. I am using it to help me with recording assessment and I am particularly liking the new rubric feature. I'm able to quickly make and use rubrics, collating the data at the same time. I decided to make a "class" for myself as well, with columns for all of the descriptors. I can now collect evidence and jot down ideas as annotations for all of the descriptors, and therefore track how I am progressing.

Moving Forward

As I continue with this journey I need to get serious about reading up on feedback and formative assessment. A few names that come to mind are John Hattie, Dylan Wiliam, and Dan Haesler. In looking quickly at Dan's website, he doesn't specifically mention "formative assessment and feedback" but from working with him at my previous school, I know that it is part of his repertoire. Perhaps the focus of my action research should be "growth mindsets" of which formative assessment and feedback are a large part. That gives more direction to what I am considering and provides a stronger starting point. That leads to the work by Carol Dweck, which will keep me busy for a while!

What suggestions do you have? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tech Tips Tuesday

Using Opinion App for Podcasting

Last week I was reminded of the value of recording and sharing audio. I decided to attempt podcasting again, but this time with my class and my son. Shelly Fryer has been using Opinion App for podcasting with her class and it sounded really good, so I downloaded the app and tested it out.

For my first attempt at school, I kept it simple and asked students about their thoughts on Book Week. I recorded on the playground in the morning before school, and then invited my own class to add their thoughts as I went through the roll. I dabbled with some Garage Band myself, and made a little introductory tune (which one of my students says sounds too sleepy)! Uncertain of my school's policy for uploading podcasts online, I exported the recording as a file and then was able to add this to our internal website. I'm not sure if anyone has listened to it yet, as it's hard to know whether parents access the website.

Yesterday we recorded another episode, this time about how students were feeling in the lead-up to our school musical. I thought that I would do another after the musical so that students can see how their feelings changed. We also added a sample of the students singing one of their songs.

Opinion App is free, with the option to unlock unlimited recording (currently for $5.99). The free version allows you to record for 10 minutes, and so far I haven't needed more than this.

Getting Started
When you begin, you need to create an account, decide on a podcast name and upload an image to represent the podcast. If you're doing this with students it is nice to get the students to create the image. If you are planning to import audio you've created elsewhere, for example an opening song, it may be helpful to have a Dropbox or Google Drive account. Once you've completed these steps, you're ready to begin recording.

How it works
It is really simple to use, with only three main action buttons and a settings button.

To import an audio clip, select the middle button and find the location of the audio you wish to import. To navigate to Dropbox or Google Drive, select Other Apps/Locations/Dropbox or Google Drive. If you don't see what you need in your options, select More and then turn on the storage you would like to access. (You will probably need to have these Apps on your phone already.)

To record, simply push the record button and once the little face comes up, start speaking. Press the record button again once you're done.

To edit a recording, tap on it and then select whether you want to delete it or trim it. I had one of my students record his full name and was able to use the snipping tool to edit out the unwanted part without making it sound stilted.

Play, edit or re-order recording.
To change the order of the recordings in your podcast, drag using the right side of the recording bar on the main page.

To upload your podcast, select the "share square" and decide whether to post the episode or share it as a file. If you post the episode, you will be prompted to complete some additional information about the podcast and then it will be published online. Save the feed to direct people to it. If you would prefer to save it as a file, choose your preferred location from the available options.

For more information
If you want to create multiple podcasts or list your podcast on iTunes, the Opinion Podcasting website has more information in their FAQ.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tech Tips Tuesday

Conversation Gems

How do you make the bumps bigger?
Today I was listening to Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcast #445 and one thing that jumped out was the power of the voice. I realised that I've become hooked on needing pictures with my audio, and have lost my appreciation for the value of the voice. Wes Fryer is an excellent advocate for the recording of stories in audio format and this latest podcast got me thinking again. Thinking about how I've used audio in the past as well as thinking about how I could use it again now. I've been out of practice with podcasting, though I'm sure developments in technology would have only made it easier.

While my son and I ate dinner tonight, we listened back over some of the Voice Memos I have created in years past and we found it fascinating to hear some of the discussions we've had. I'm not sure what my inspiration was on the 18th September 2014, however something was, and it was the first time my son (then 3) had seen Voice Memos.

I'm sharing this audio recording, not because it's produced to a high quality and deserves to be shared, but more for the learning that happens in this moment. While slow at times, I feel it's a conversation gem. Hear his frustration as he struggles to understand what he is seeing on the screen of the phone. Listen as he solves the puzzle through responding to questions.

This is a snapshot of what we all face when trying something new with technology. The struggle of coming to terms with this new thing before us - What is it? What is it's purpose? How do I deal with it? Is it worth dealing with? Then, that experimentation to find the answers and solve the problems that are interwoven. And finally the support we get from others as we tie it all together.