iPads In The Classroom part 7

It’s been a while since I last talked about our iPad project. So what has happened in the past months. Let me give you a brief overview:

Teacher training

I started giving teacher training sessions on different apps, which could prove useful in the classroom. First I tried to explain the importance of a PLN and how it is constructed. Building on this philosophy, I tried to offer different apps that could add to my colleagues PLN. This is what I’ve covered so far:

Questions that need answering

Then we started getting some questions from people in our management team about how we were tackling the financial side of the project? Did we find enough teacher who were willing to start teaching in this iPad project? Maybe, this whole thing wasn’t such a good idea after all…
All hands on deck! We had to come up with concrete solutions, otherwise our project would be out the window. Off course we discussed these aspects at length last year, but (mistakenly) thought that others were on board with that.
Finances
  • We managed to eliminate a quarter of our student expenses list, making room for the extra costs of a tablet. But this is only the first step in our plan. We plan on doing the same and better in the following years, so the tablet would be payed of at the end of a 3 to 4 year period, while cutting costs elsewhere.

Volunteers

  • Of the 32 periods a student has in one week, we managed to find teachers to cover 23 of them. Not bad to get started…
Philosophy
  • As many of our colleagues (wrongly) suspected they had to banish all paper from school, we tried many ways to explain that wasn’t the case. We had to explain (rigorously) that our project is based on learning differently. The tool used to achieve this goal is the tablet. There will always be plenty of room for books, paper … “traditional” learning methods.
All of this resulted in a talk with management, which we considered to be the talk to end all questions and misgivings that still lingered. We managed to get our message across and finally got the OK we were desperately waiting for.

Battle plan

So, the plan is as follows:
  • 2013-2014 – raising awareness for the project and getting more people on-board to function as “prophets”.
  • 2014-2015 – an extra year to instruct colleagues on how to teach with the aid of tablets.
  • 2015-2016 – student implementation in one field of study (Human Sciences).
The delay of the extra “instruction” year is needed to prepare more teachers, more thoroughly. A concession we gladly made for the benefit of the project.

Ready… Set…

It’s almost here, the new school year and I’ve set myself some new goals for this one. They all concern the Personal Learning Network (PLN) and I thought I’d share them here…

mini education

Student PLN

The last couple of years I tried to set up a blog with my students that they could use for a writing assignment in a language course. This year I’d like to expand that idea by introducing the blog in a very early stage in the school year so they can use it for numerous courses. I’m still looking at WordPress for this, since I like using this CMS a lot, even when it can be a little demanding due to the somewhat steeper learning curve as opposed to say Tumblr, Blogger and the likes. WordPress still offers decent functionality and a lot of control of what you want to do with your website/blog.

Next up is Twitter. In the past I worked with Facebook groups, which worked out just fine. But I feel that there is more to explore and (more importantly) more people to connect to that are outside of their personal environment, which can contribute to their learning experience. Also, I can use the social medium to communicate more directly with them. I hope to achieve that they actively participate in the conversation I’m planning on setting up.

I have a third tool, which I recently discovered called Bitly. I’m planning on using this bookmarking tool in my geography class where my students have to collect 10 articles about geographical events and report about them. I thought Bitly could be an ideal partner in collecting information and presenting their work digitally.

Hopefully there will be more tools that come along and enrich their PLN. But most of all, I hope to engage my colleagues to use these tools as well for their courses.

ipad education

Teacher PLN

As the next year in our Tablet project planning arrives, I’m planning on making my colleagues more digital literate as well. We decided to take one year for teacher support in advance of the student implementation of the tablets. This way the teachers can try-out these devices in their own space and time, but also experiment with them in their classes without  doing too much damage if things don’t work out as planned.

So, I’d like to offer multiple sessions on how to work with tablets, show them interesting apps/web 2.0 tools and essentially take them up a step or two on the digital ladder, so to speak. Also by means of local TeachMeets, I hope to get the conversation started about what tools to use for certain courses/assignments.

An exciting year ahead of me. I’m looking forward to it!

Bitly

bitly

I’ve been looking for a decent bookmark aggregator and tried out Diigo, Delicious even Pinterest. But none of them did the job like I wanted to. Recently I came across this new tool called “Bitly”. Mostly known for the URL shortening service, but they also let you collect bookmarks, sort them into different “bundles” (folders) and share them easily with your social network(s). I like using bitly because it’s very easy to collect and share bookmarks and it’s got a very appealing look.

I’m planing on using the service in geography class. Every year the students have to create a portfolio of recent geographical events that occur during the school year. I always had to carry a lot of paper home to correct and then back again. Not any more. From now on, my students will have to “bitmark” (bookmark) their links to recent articles about geography and only share the link to their designated bundle (folder) for the assignment.  Easy-peasy!

If you’re looking for a new way to collect the stuff you come across on the internet, you should definitely check this out.

The LMS in my Classroom

never stop learningIn the past, I have expressed some concerns about using Learning Management Systems (LMS) in education here and here. This subject keeps on poking me once in a while, because a lot of schools are using these things, but somehow I still have the feeling that without these things life could be a lot easier. I’ll try to make this my final and definitive post on the subject, but please forgive me in advance if I scribble some more in the future…

The problem, in my opinion, is that these systems are designed to create some sort of deserted island where “education” happens. You log-in to the system and, depending on your status, you gain access to different parts of the educational online world of your institute. You can send messages, keep a calendar, provide course materials and links to other sources. You can even let the system provide a digital place where students can leave their assignments, hell, the system can even correct a lot of the work for you! Wiki’s, portfolio’s, it’s all there. So why would a teacher be unhappy with this tool? Well, let me start with the positives. It is indeed very convenient to have a central place for all your “school stuff”. After all, the moment you log-off, it’s like closing the door behind you in your classroom. You can leave school behind and do something else. All your work is safely stored behind the firewall of the LMS and you can rest assured that your work will be waiting for you in the morning.

However… I do think that this separate world doesn’t leave room for much creativity and serendipitous learning. Once the course is done, you leave that part of the system and it’s gone forever. No reverting to a course syllabus, links, etc. you’re out! In the connectivist view of OER’s (Open Educational Resources) and working in spaces that complement the students online experience, an LMS is just to formal and confining. In our institute we use the LMS to communicate between teachers, sometimes with students, but mostly it’s a big online file cabinet for storing all school related forms and papers. I’ve tried to take advantage of the system and implement different techniques to encourage student participation like using forums, offering web links, create portfolio’s, etc. but to no end. Every time I get stuck at the point where I’d like to export data out of the system and implement it elsewhere. Using different online (web 2.0) tools doesn’t make it easier because the LMS will not share. Even now, in the tablet age, where you want to move your things around the way you‘d like, it just isn’t possible…

So instead of trying to mold the system into something I’d like it to be, I’m convinced that I’m better off without it. There are more than enough tools out there that will give me equal, if not more, autonomy and yet provide the functionality that I need to function properly, but it is precisely this that could be a barrier for most teachers. Taking this leap of faith into the unknown and try to make it work. Relying on your own digital literacy to create your own PLN (Personal Learning Network) that consists of a lot more than just “tools for school”, is the challenge, but it’s one that will enrich you both as a teacher and a person!

What would I do? Currently I’m experimenting with a lot of (well-known) tools out there (Google Drive, Pinterest, Tumblr, WordPress, MindMeister, etc.) in order to show students what tools exist and to encourage them to create their own PLN. And some of them do pick up on that. I’ve created more that a few Pinterest and Tumblr fanatics. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get students to using these tools for school as well? For next year I’m working on an idea to start blogging earlier in the school year and make it the home base for all their assignments and reflections, maybe together with a wiki, for course materials, a few information gatherers (Pinterest, Diigo, Delicious) and social media (Twitter, Facebook). We’ll see what happens, but every time I use these tools, I feel like things are more fluent, they happen, you can construct things instead of moving in a straight line through a course. Just a liberating feeling!

Technology Enhanced Learning, in a Social Context, in the 21st Century

The TEL2 module of the SHU course “Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change” came to an end in January. We were required to write a paper in order to complete the module. Some time later I received my “Overall recommendation to Assessment Board” and gained a “Pass” on my work. Yes! Since I’m trying to share as much of my experiences on this website, I thought it might be useful to share this paper as well. You can find it here:

TEL2 Paper

[ED+ict] PGC eLearning & Digital Didactics – Final Thoughts

Ok, my post-graduate course about eLearning & Digital Didactics is over. Well, that is to say all assignments are completed, I presented my final project and am now in great anticipation of graduation day! I felt the need to give a quick overview of the course and the things I’ve learned.

[ED+ict] is a research unit of the Limburg University College (KHLim) in Hasselt – Belgium. I came in contact with them after a search to give my career in education a new twist. The course got my attention because it was designed for people who wanted to work and study at the same time. Also the course content was something that I thought was a new and refreshing view on education. It made me feel like I wanted to be part of this new community of people that are set on changing education for the better, no matter what!

We started of with 5 students, all from different backgrounds. Marianne (social worker), Isabel (automotive industry), Veronique (pharmaceutical company), Tony (health care) and me (teacher). A very diverse group of people, but this was an advantage for me! Engaging with people from very different backgrounds opened my eyes tremendously. Over the months we became a close group, exchanging insights and thoughts about our different approaches to eLearning in our different settings.

If I had to choose one thing that has “stirred” me the most, I would have to say that it was coming into contact with Connectivism. This new understanding of knowledge and learning in a network, has shed a very exiting light on education for me. But the other modules of the course were enlightening too! Another advantage was that participating in a course like this obligates you to work the content and try out new things, whereas browsing the internet on your own, in search of new ideas, can be a bit challenging. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn so many new things and new people. My network grew exponentially. I gathered insights I never could’ve dreamed of in the past. So, I can happily say this course has become a springboard to a new level in education for me. But, hungry as I’ve become, already looking for new undertakings and project for the future!

[ED+ict] Module 4 – Project

edictDescription

During the past 3 modules we pushed our way through the world of connectivism. Through this new learning theory of Siemens and Downes, it became clear that knowledge is stored in a network. Learning is the creation of new connections in that network. In today’s “networked” society, such a theory is therefore of paramount importance to our young people to prepare for later life. Abandoning a school system that prepares a society dating back to the Industrial Revolution, is imperative. This drastic reform would have to go hand in hand with the current technological revolution. The online tools are available such that they can assist our daily connected lives. A variety of media such as text message, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterst,… that students use to get in touch with their friends, certainly contain the necessary potential to integrate into education. Using these social networks to convey information, but also using other (social) tools that can provide a support function, is the challenge for the education of the 21st century. Therefore, for my thesis, I would like to build a “Personal Learning Network”. Using web 2.0 tools into the learning process.

I would like to start from the theory of connectivism, because I am convinced that this learning theory offers the necessary support and insights to integrate web 2.0 tools smoothly. Given my current work situation as a teacher of computer science and geography, I especially want to create practical worked examples in my fields of force, although cross-curricular projects will also occur throughout the school year. I would like to start off with a Facebook group in each class to have a central place where information can be exchanged simultaneously and is already part of the current social network of students. Continuing with a Google account to work with an email client, a social calendar and an office suite that encourages collaboration. Gradually, and based on assignments and learning content, more tools will be linked to the PLN.

Goals

Researching necessary web 2.0 tools:

  • Teaching students how to use these tools.
  • Offering concrete assignments, supported by the web (subject specific and interdisciplinary).
  • Supporting the accompanying teachers who will be working with me.

SWOT-analysis

Strengths

  • Web 2.0 tools generate an intrinsic motivation to the students.
  • It promotes creativity.
  • It promotes cooperation.

Weaknesses

  • It can create extra work for the pupil. I will have to ensure that assignments are not complementary of the ”normal” work, but offer an alternative.
  • I will be very network / internet dependent in school. Using technological capabilities depends on the potential access it.
  • Access to certain social media or computer hardware could be restricted or even denied, due to parental agreements.

Opportunities

  • Freedom of electronic learning environments that use a certain method to the existing and widely used social media to the students.
  • Choosing from different tools to work on an assignment.
  • A deeper integration of ICT in lessons. Not only technologically, but also effective didactic integration!

Threats

  • The attitude of colleagues and/or parents towards social media.
  • Any restrictions to evaluation. It may be necessary to export an assignment out of the existing PLN, to ensure a legal way of assessment.
  • Lack of time! I mostly teach 1-hour courses, the efficient use of available time will be a challenge.

The Future of Education

Whow! This was exciting! My very first keynote, ever! About “The Future of Education” no less…

I was deeply honored to be one of the speakers at a symposium in honor of the 50th anniversary of our school. They asked me to speak about my views on the future of education. I started out working on a text summarizing what has happened so far in education and what trends are eminent that could shape education into a new and revolutionary way of teaching. Trying to make a statement about the so-called changes in education so far, being not so “revolutionary” and what should happen to prepare students for 21st century society. I’ve included both my text and keynote (in Dutch) if you’re interested. Thought I’d share and  also would love to hear your views on the subject.

Take care.

http://www.slideshare.net/LarsWas/slideshelf

Flipped Classroom

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time now, but never actually sat down and type in my thoughts about this “hot” item (you can find the complete infograph here). I found the theory very appealing. It got me thinking about the way we teach today and the image above, actually says it well. Instead of lecturing your way from one class to the next, the flipped classroom lets you interact with your students. They have to engage with each other and take on a more active roll in their everyday class attitude. In order for them to do this, they actually have to read, watch, listen to content the evening before, so they’ll be ready to work with the lesson materials. So instead of explaining something and then letting the students work on an assignment, they “learn” the necessary information in advance and engage with others in order to “master” the content. Magnificent. Finally a theory that stops preaching the teacher-centered role in the classroom. The student-centered aspect of the flipped classroom is just great! Students work with the information, students figure out what to do with an exercise, the talk about it with each other!

One person who has been pioneering this, is Salman Khan. The Khan Academy is truly a great project, I hope they can really bring change to the classroom in the near future… In the little video <click!> (CBS News) the man and the project are explained. Make sure to watch the practical example at 6:00, when CBS News visits a pilot school in Los Altos. Here you can see students working and the teacher helping them when needed. She is non-intrusive, lets the students work and intervenes when problems occur. Khan Academy enables the teacher to, in one look, have an idea of which students are “on track” and which aren’t. This “repositioning” of the teacher is not a simple task, I think. However, it is a necessary one.

This form of networked learning is consistent with the theory of connectivism, I think. Students working with each other, being able to look things up on the internet, sharing information,… it’s in this way true learning occurs. A deeper understanding of whatever they are studying. Isn’t this what we want as teachers? Our students being able to figure things out on their own and being able to learn independently? Something to consider…