Supporting student communication with EdTech

At our EdTech Professional Learning Community session today, the topic was how we can use EdTech to support those students we all have, in every class and subject, for whom an alternative means of communication would enable them to really show what they have learned or already know.

Why use EdTech to support communication?

As an international school, we have lots of students who come from different cultural and language backgrounds and who might come to us with knowledge or understandings that they aren't able to communicate in one or both of our school languages - English and German. Many of our students are also very capable learners and excellent conceptual thinkers, but they may struggle to communicate their ideas and learning through traditional written tasks.

Whether you work in an international school or not, these student needs may be very familiar to you! In the past teachers and students were limited to what could be communicated in writing or through face to face conferencing, which places huge obstacles in the way of communication for both parties in terms of time and ability.

One of the elements I always find myself thinking about as a teacher is "what do I really want to assess?". This is particularly relevant to the PYP where we are often trying to assess or gauge a student's level of understanding of a concept or big idea. When we try to assess that understanding through a written form, like essays or a story, or through a formal presentation we run the risk of preventing our students from demonstrating conceptual understanding if they struggle with that written or oral form due to language, learning or confidence restrictions. Of course, these language skills are still important to teach and assess, but it doesn't always necessarily make sense to bundle them with the demonstration of knowledge and understanding.

In our EdTech Scope and Sequence, we break up the Communication strand into Learning Goals and Learning Objectives for Grades 1 & 2, Grade 3, and Grade 4 & 5, like this:

Grade 1 & 2

Learning Goal:

Communicate with various audiences using a range of digital technology (formats, tools and media).

Learning Objectives:

Students will use a range of digital technologies to share and communicate ideas and information.

Students will be introduced to, and will begin to use a keyboard to communicate.

Grade 3

Learning Goal:

Explore a range of technologies (formats, tools and media) used by others to communicate and contribute to cross/cultural understanding with a variety of audiences.

Learning Objectives:

Students will use a range of digital technologies to communicate ideas and knowledge for a specified audience.

Students will develop and use keyboard skills to facilitate digital communication.

Students will use digital technologies to communicate with others around the world under the direct supervision of a teacher.

Students will use digital technologies to reflect.

Grade 4 & 5

Learning Goal:

Communicate with various audiences by choosing technologies (formats, tools and media) to articulate meaning. Provide relevant, significant feedback to others. Contribute to cross/cultural understanding with a variety of audiences.

Learning Objectives:

Students will identify the audience and choose digital technologies to communicate effectively.

Students will publish and present original work using a variety of digital technologies, under the supervision of a teacher.

Students will continue developing keyboard skills to facilitate digital communication.

Students will use digital technologies to provide constructive feedback to peers.

Students will use digital technologies to communicate with others around the world for a specified purpose.

The first thing to note is that the goals and objectives are progressive: there are more of them and they require more independence as the student goes up the school. Secondly, yes, there's some stuff in there about typing, because as much as it hurts my heart, this is still a skill we need to teach our kids, and I see that in classes where kids are one-finger typing, and this is having an impact on their ability to communicate or complete their work. As an adult, I wouldn't be able to write this blog if I hadn't learned to type and we still need to give our kids that skill (in an age-appropriate way!). Finally, and most importantly, the objectives are very broad: we want our students communicating through technology for a range of purposes, where it makes sense, and with an increasing level of choice and independence, which requires them to make reasoned, logical decisions about the tools they choose, connected to their purpose and their audience. In order for them to, for example, achieve that objective in Grade 5 to support the Exhibition, we do need to provide them with access to a range of tools from Grade 1 up, scaffolding and teaching the skills they need to use those tools effectively.

Our hope as a school is that by introducing and using tools like the ones below across our curriculum, our students will be as equipped as possible to use technology meaningfully and effectively as they get older, in addition to all the benefits they get in the moment of being able to communicate in an enhanced way.

What EdTech apps and approaches can I use to support communication in my class?

In our PLC today we focused on four really adaptable tools that can work for any age group, in any subject:

Clicking on the images will take you to the product's website, and from there you can download them from the App Store. Of the apps featured, at the time of writing only Tellagami Edu costs money, but there is also a free version you can try out first.

Tellagami Edu

tellagami.png

I love Tellagami Edu, I have to be honest. I was introduced to it about a year ago at Eric Sheninger's Leading Digital Learning workshop at Luxembourg International School and whilst I was fairly sure it must be witchcraft, it was clear to me immediately that this app has huge potential and applicability to our student body.

Essentially, the app lets you customise a 3D avatar (a digital representation of a person or creature), called a Gami, to change its appearance, emotions and setting and then you can either add a message that avatar communicates in text form or, much more interestingly, through a voice recording. The 3D person you have made moves their mouth in time to your recorded words, and gestures with their hands and body language as well. It is almost eerily good in terms of how well the movements line up with your tone!

Here's a quick overview created by Tellagami themselves, and a short tutorial video:

The teachers at the PLC had some excellent ideas about how they could use Tellagami in their classrooms: how about creating a Gami who resembles a character from a book you are studying, and having that character tell you about their life and role in the story? Or, what about supporting shy presenters by giving them a way to present verbally without the pressure of standing in front of a group in real life? In Grade 1, the students learn about emotions and how they can express them healthily - a Gami can be customised to look angry, sad, happy, scared, silly, surprised or neutral and it would be a great idea to have the students match verbal tone and words to these facial expressions, for example.

In the free version you can only record 30 seconds for each Gami, whereas in the paid version it's 90 seconds and there are some additional customisation options. When the Gami is finished it can be downloaded to the camera roll as a video file, and from there uploaded to Seesaw, Youtube, or several could be sewn together in iMovie to create a longer story.

Stop Motion Studio

This is an app that our art teacher has used to great effect with Grades 4 and 5, but there is so much more than can be done with stop motion animation in addition to making art!

The app is very, very simple to use, it's free (bonus!), and it allows you to add voice overs, sound effects and music in-app. Again, when your project is finished you can save it as a video file and either share that through something like Seesaw or keep editing it in iMovie etc.

One of the ways stop motion animation can be used really effectively in class is to enable students to communicate process: for example, the water cycle, how a seed grows, or how humans migrated from one area of the world to another.

Our teachers also had great ideas about using stop motion to create stories in Grade 1 (but that would work in any grade!), integrating art and music by having students create an animation in art and then create their own soundtrack in music or as a tie in to instructional writing in Grade 3 or 4.

 
 

iPad Art Room has this amazing post which gives some beautiful and creative examples of stop motion animations, just to inspire you a little!

Imagistory

I've written a little about Imagistory before as it's a tool I wanted to use to support our English language curriculum in Grade 1, but it's a very versatile app that could be used across the school.

It is a very simple (seeming) app, which contains 7 totally wordless storybooks, with absolutely beautiful illustrations in different artistic styles. You can just flip through the books, or very easily record your voice telling a story to accompany the pictures, which can then be saved as a video file for export or editing. The wonderful thing about it is that the wordless nature of the stories means they can be used in any language, and told and retold as many times, in as many different ways as you can think of.

Our teachers immediately thought it would be perfect to support and develop story-telling and story creation skills in Grades 1 and 2, lending itself very well to links with our Authors & Illustrators unit. For EAL students it could be a great way to support them in developing vocabulary, confidence in speaking, and transitional words. The music teacher and I had an idea I'm really excited about as well: how about letting students play along or compose a piece to accompany the book as it is flipped through? Or composing motifs to represent characters in the story, that feature in a soundscape?

 
 

Shadow Puppet Edu

I confess, this app is not one I had used before with kids, but when I was researching apps to support communication I remembered that people at the Mobile Device Conference at the International School of Amsterdam back in October had spoken very highly of it and thought I'd give it a try.

The app is made by the same people who make Seesaw which, as you know, we love at my school, and the interface is similarly very friendly, very slick and very usable and of course it integrates beautifully with Seesaw to let you share your finished products there simply.

What this app essentially let's you do is create videos made up of images and shorter videos, that you can add text captions, audio voice overs and music to. You can also "draw" on the video to point things out with the magic wand function, and zoom in and out on pictures. Every gesture is recorded, so when you finish the project all your zooms and circling of things in each picture are recorded there. This tutorial explains it better than I can, and the app's website has plenty of examples of how you can use it in your lessons.

 
 

Our Grade 4 teachers were especially excited about this app, and thought it would be an excellent tool for students to create their own student broadcast, explain maths concepts, structure procedural and instructional writing, tell stories or give map directions. I love that this app, like the others, works equally well for fiction and non-fiction communication, and that its applications are so versatile.

EdTech PLC Resources

It was great to once again have so many teachers take time out on a Friday afternoon to learn something new and be thinking about how they can develop their use of EdTech in the classroom.

We discussed student need, shared some examples of existing practice, and some of the challenges and triumphs we face in the classroom, using EdTech to support communication, and then had a hands-on learning session about the 4 tools I wrote about above.

Here are the Slides from the session...

 

... along with the instructions for each station (click to access the document):

 
 

And the ideas our teachers shared during the session. Feel free to add some ideas of your own!

Made with Padlet

It was the last PLC of the academic year for us, and the last I'll be running for a while as I'm starting my maternity leave next week, but it was so wonderful to share ideas and see, once again, how far our school has come in a year! I am really looking forward to seeing how these tools are used in class, and I'd love to hear your ideas, questions and applications in the comments.

Sarah

ICT PLC - Osmo, Airplay and Airdrop

The ICT PLC met for the 2nd time this academic year today and we finally had the chance to spread our attention a little wider than Seesaw and take the time to explore a tool we have invested in here - Osmo.

Staff had the opportunity to test Osmo Words, Tangram, Numbers and Coding and discuss how they could be used in various ways to support learning across the curriculum and in various subjects. Eric, Rachel, Paula and several other members of staff with previous experience of some of the Osmo games were enormous helps sharing their knowledge and ideas with colleagues and it was wonderful to see our PLC really taking shape with different people supporting each other in a very collegial and collaborative way.

Some ideas we shared were:

  • Use Words to support vocabulary development in EAL, GAL, Unit, Guided Reading and Maths
  • Create custom decks for words using photos from our school as context clues
  • Use Numbers not only in maths, but to develop German maths vocabulary through conversation and play
  • Use Coding as a station to support the ICT Scope and Sequence, in which "algorithmic thinking" is a learning objective from Grade 1 on
  • Use Tangram to develop spatial awareness, colour and 2D shape vocabulary in English and German

Many staff were keen to try Osmo out and were invited to come for support in setting up and account and logging in on their class iPads, and some grade levels without Osmo are keen to look into buying their own set.

Following Osmo we talked briefly about Airplay and Airdrop as tools to support teaching and learning. Many of the staff members who attended were already using either Airplay, Airdrop or both but perhaps hadn't had much practice yet or were not familiar with the terminology.

We heard from members of staff who use Airdrop with the iPad and Apple TV in numerous ways:

  • To turn the iPad into a document camera
  • To use the iPad as a way of sharing what students are doing at their table, live with the Camera app
  • To enable demonstration of a skill or task whilst students remain in their seats with the Camera app
  • To share and display notes to guide a task on the Beamer
  • To have students share their work on the iPad with the whole class
  • To demonstrate and model a task to the whole class

We also talked briefly about Airdrop and how useful it can be to share documents, photos and framed (such as in Book Creator) with students that they can then edit, annotate or add to Seesaw.

Below you will find the Slides from today's session along with the handouts which were available on the desks. If you have any questions or want any support about any of today's topics, please let me know!

Additionally, if you have a wish for our next PLC or you would be interested in leading a PLC session yourself or with my support, please get in touch...

Sarah

 

Back to School - Seesaw workshop

Today we had our first Seesaw session of the year, where some of our teachers who used Seesaw in their classrooms last year shared their practice and ideas with the rest of the Primary school community... and what a session it was!

The atmosphere was energetic, positive, open-minded and engaged and our session leaders were so knowledgeable, enthusiastic and communicative. As you can see, it was a very busy, interactive session and the responses in the Google Form staff were asked to fill out definitely show that there was a high level of interest and understanding.

Please click the image to see a summary of responses:

Please click the image to see a summary of responses:

Before our breakout session, I gave a brief introduction and overview of what Seesaw is, and some of the ways we use it in our school:

  • Portfolio
  • Learning journal
  • Formative and summative assessment
  • Evidence gathering
  • Recording
  • Reflection
  • Communication
  • Digital citizenship
  • Teaching key ICT skills

Staff then visited six stations to see examples of these uses in context and ask questions of people who have become experts about Seesaw in their own right.

Before we wrapped up we talked a little bit further about where we are right now in our use of Seesaw, where we are going this academic year and gave some ideas about how to get started in the next couple of weeks. Please visit the links in the presentation below to access some really helpful Seesaw resources!

 

People asked many excellent, relevant questions, especially about engaging the parents, the ins and outs of commenting and liking and the mechanics of introducing Seesaw in their classes, and I am really looking forward to answering these at our first (differentiated!) Seesaw training sessions which I hope to schedule as quickly as possible.

Thank you all again, and please let me know if you have any questions or need any resources!

Sarah

Osmo in the EAL department

This year when I was at the iPads conference at ISA, I was introduced to Osmo, which is an incredible device which combines the digital and the material worlds to help children learn words, numbers, drawing, spatial awareness and physics. Honestly, the first time I saw it I had to restrain myself from crying "Burn the witch!" and giving someone the evil eye: that's how amazing I think it is! 

What is Osmo?

Here's a video overview of Osmo:

 
 

When you buy Osmo, you are paying for several things: the apps are "free" but I imagine the development costs are covered in the price of the accessories. You receive a base and mirror, which look like this (obviously you have to provide your own iPad!):

iPad sadly not included.

iPad sadly not included.

 

You also receive the Words and Tangram accessories:

We also chose to buy the Numbers tiles, which are not included in the Starter pack, as they seemed very educationally appropriate:

 
 

What does it cost?

Click on the image to access the ordering page

Click on the image to access the ordering page

Would you recommend it?

Absolutely! So far Osmo has been used only in the EAL department, and only using the Words pack, but it has proved very successful and motivating for EAL students who need to learn and practice vocabulary for units and daily use. Here's what one of our EAL teachers had to say:

I really cannot praise Osmo highly enough. It is so engaging and with the customized lists it is wonderful spelling pattern reinforcement. I think it would be a good station option for grades 1-3.

In the future, I would love to expand how and where we are using Osmo, and here are some thoughts:

  • Spelling, unit, guided reading, Dolch or common words homeroom station or English as an Additional Language (EAL)/Learning Support (LS) practice (Osmo Words)
  • Number station practicing counting, addition, number bonds, or multiplication in station in Homeroom grades 1-5, or LS (Osmo Numbers)
  • 2D shape naming (Osmo Tangram)
  • 2D shape and spacial awareness (Osmo Tangram)
  • Handwriting practice (Osmo Masterpiece)
  • Fine motor control practice (Osmo Masterpiece)
  • Exploring gravity, physics and general problem solving (Osmo Newton)

In Osmo words, you can create your own albums of words for the students to practice, or students can create their own, meaning it is extremely flexible and can be extended to be as simple or an complex as your students need it to be. This handy teachers' pack has some ideas to help you imagine using Osmo in your classroom.

I hope that if we try it out more widely and it is popular, we could get a few more for next year to share amongst grade levels and departments. If you are interested in giving Osmo a try in your literacy, maths or any other lesson please let me know: I would be happy to support you!

Sarah

New Intechgrate features

Over the past few days I have been working hard to make Intechgrate easier to navigate and use, and improve the Projects and How To Use collections. Lots and lots of content has been added to the Projects pages, with much more details about the learning engagements under each project heading, including links to documents used in the teaching and planning process. The How To Use...SeeSaw page now has 5 new sections detailing everything from what SeeSaw is, how to manage folders,  invite parents, manage your class and edit items. Most excitingly, you can watch the highlights of a fantastic lesson taught by Dawn in 4B, focusing on how to write helpful and supportive comments to use in SeeSaw, but which is just as useful for general communication skills and digital citizenship, including the documents she used in class.

Additionally, the commenting feature has been vastly improved so that you can comment on specific pages and posts. I hope you have a chance to check it out, and that it will be helpful for you!

Sarah

We now have SeeSaw for Schools!

Hi everybody, please watch my very short video update below so you know what to expect in the next week or so from SeeSaw, now we have upgraded:

We have now upgraded to the paid version, "Seesaw for Schools" -here's a quick update about what you can expect in the next week or so...

Makerspaces - a beginner's guide

At a recent workshop held at the International School of Luxembourg I was, apparently very belatedly, introduced the makerspace movement. As a teacher who has only recently joined the EdTech world, I am constantly confronted by how little I know in comparison to many schools, teachers and specialists around the world, and many of the ideas I am introduced to are common practice for these schools, yet totally innovative and unfamiliar to me.

That can be a very uncomfortable place to be as an educator and a professional, especially when you are passionate about a topic, but it is also very exciting and I can see many advantages to being 'behind'. For one thing, my school and I are working on walking a path that has been walked by a huge number of schools before us, from a hugely varied range of contexts, demographics and nations: we can benefit from their knowledge and learn from their experiences. It is the nature of innovation and innovative thinking that it isn't straightforward, and we have the possibility to avoid many of the pitfalls and issues schools who have led innovations will have had to discover and navigate without guidance. This brings me to my second point: as an inquiry-based school, we ask our students to take risks, be uncomfortable and be challenged every day. We tell them, and we believe, that this is a central part of deep, effective learning, and it is only fair that we should model and take that journey with them whenever we can.

So, what is a makerspace?

Well, that just so happens to link very nicely to my point about risks and innovation. A makerspace is exactly what is says on the tin and so much more: it is a space for students to make things, with and without technology. It is an area where students can explore materials, tools, technology, ideas and projects, based on their own interests. It is heavily self-directed, play-driven and emphasises problem solving, critical thinking, independence and a willingness to take risks, fail, persevere and succeed. In terms of what the kids are most likely to focus on, it is a space for creativity, excitement, fun and freedom with support. Typically they are colourful, comfortable, exciting and inspiring spaces: think Google or Facebook working environment, but for kids!

Here are some photos and videos of makerspaces, large and small, in schools around the world:

The beauty of the movement is that it isn't about how much money or space you have to devote to the idea, it's really about using what space and resources you have to give students freedom to innovate.

Why do my students need a makerspace?

Our students are extremely lucky, in many ways, to live in  such a technologically advanced age: we have phones that have more processing power than the computers that sent the first man to the moon. But much of the technology we have access to is perfectly packaged, perfectly contained and lacks the opportunities that the current generation of designers and innovators had to tinker, create and innovate. Without those opportunities we wouldn't have the technology we have today, and if we do not create opportunities for our students to participate in the creative and innovative use of technology, as well as engaging in problem-solving and critical thinking through and about technology, we have to question whether we are preparing the younger generations for the technological demands they will face in the future.

Not only that, this is an excellent way to engage learners of all ages and ability levels in non-traditional learning: makerspaces could form the backbone of your school's Gifted and Talented programme, as well as giving students who struggle with other aspects of education a chance to shine and be successful.

Getting started with makerspace

As you can see from the examples above, makerspaces can be large, shared spaces in a school, or they can be in individual classrooms, designed to suit the needs of that specific age group. So, what if you are desperate to get started with your own makerspace at the classroom level? What do you need? For me, there are 5 basic, quite inexpensive steps/items that would provide a basis for a flexible, creative space for classroom innovation.

1. Make it as comfy and inviting as you can

It sounds simple but it makes a difference - make the space an exciting and welcoming place to be. That might mean comfy, flexible seating - perhaps a couple of gym balls (these have a dual purpose, as you'll see in point 2!), a bean bag, and/or a rug, pleasant lighting, and enough space to move around. This is an area to which you want children to be choosing to come, so think about how you would like a space like this to be, and see how close you can get to that with what you have.

Cost: entirely up to you! If you have some things you can re-purpose from home, you might be able to do this completely free, or you might want to invest some of your class budget if you have something special in mind.

2. Get a green screen

Oh green screens - they are so simple, and yet so powerful. Thanks to extremely simple apps like DoInk (it's pronounced Doo- Ink, not doink, as I assumed for the longest time), children can produce very versatile, creative videos with minimal teacher help.+

The videos below are just a few examples of how green screens can be used to support and enhance learning across the curriculum, from literacy to unit and social studies. I heard of a lovely example of a group of Grade 1s using the green screen to tell the story " Not a stick", which is one of the videos below, thank you to Tanya Irene of the International School of Luxembourg.

Cost: 10 - 200 Euros, depending on your budget and the level of professionalism you are going for.

3. Get a tripod

This is very important for the greenscreen idea, since nobody likes to watch or edit shaky video footage. Beyond greenscreening, it opens up very interesting possibilities for stop motion animation, which could not be easier with an app like Smoovie, for example and general videography.

There are a huge amount of options for this, depending on the device you are using. For me, the gold standard, which I have seen in action is Justand, but many standard tripods have the possibility to add an attachment to make it possible to add any device. 

Cost: 20 - 150 Euros

4. Make a LEGO table, board or wall

LEGO may seem terribly low-tech but the act of building, creating and problem solving is what is most important, and LEGO gives students a reliable and accessible way to do that. Not to mention, LEGO has a huge quantity of much higher-tech additions, such as programmable robots and drones. Mind you, if a low-tech LEGO wall is good enough for Google, I reckon it is good enough for our students! Why not superglue LEGO boards to the back of a door, the front of a library counter, or cover a table in them to make a permanent LEGO space?

Cost: LEGO isn't cheap, at around €50 per big box, but Ebay has lots of offers for 2nd hand LEGO and as we all know, it lasts an eternity so it is a worthwhile investment. How much you spend depends on your needs and the space you have available, but you could budget €100 to get started.

5. Create a "take-apart" station

I love this idea. If you have ever worked in IT you will know that the question of what to do with obsolete hardware looms large. Well, here is one idea: put it on a table, provide some screw-drivers, safety googles ad a dust mark and let your students learn about what is inside. Obviously this is more suited to slightly older kids and lots of supervision, but by learning about what components make up their hardware, learning the names, sorting the parts and putting them back together again, students can learn to fix, create and alter hardware to fit their needs or solve a problem.

Cost: Free for the things to take apart, plus the cost of safety equipment and tools.

Getting started with makerspaces can be as big or small a venture as your time, space and budget will allow, but the benefits to our students have the potential to be beyond measure. I hope some of you will feel inspired to give it a go. If you need any advice, guidance or inspiration, please check out some of the resources listed below, and let me know how you get on!

Worlds of Making - Laura Fleming

#MakerEd on Twitter

Desigining a school makerspace - Edutopia

Starting a makerspace from scratch - Edutopia

Worlds of Making school blog

iPad Headphones - now in classrooms

The final batch of headphones have now been distributed to team leaders, which means each grade level now has a set of headphones for use with the iPads.

These headphones are stored in a wooden box, and each set of headphones is in an individual ziploc bag, to prevent the cables tangling and extend their lifespan.

I understand we still have a need for many more headphones and this is something the ICT team and school leadership are discussing to make sure we have a sensible, lasting solution for the future, but I hope that in the meantime, this will be a helpful starting point.

The headphones are currently stored with the Grade Level Coordinators, however each grade level is free to decide in which room they would prefer to store the headphones and how to arrange how they are shared. Grade 1, 2 and 3 each have 4 sets, grade 4 has 6 sets and grade 5 has 10 sets. 

Please let me know if you have any questions, problems or suggestions!

Sarah

Out with the old...

The equipment fairies have been visiting classrooms lately (feel free to imagine me and Stefan flitting about with sparkly wings).

Several of our teacher PCs have recently been replaced, having become too old to manage Reflector 2, which is increasingly an integral tool for our ICT integration and teaching in general. Big thanks to the IT Technical department and the school for making it possible for us to have these devices during the school year!

Additionally, homeroom PC headphones have been replaced so when you arrive in the morning you will see bright blue headphones plugged into each PC. The iPad grade level sets will be distributed as soon as storage boxes arrive. All the old sets of PC headphones are in my room, and I will test them to find the fully functional sets. If you are a language or subject specialist teacher who is in need of headphones, please let me know and I will see what I can do.

Similarly, please remember that if you do have a problem with your hardware, always put in a support ticket with as much details as possible of the problem, even if you have submitted tickets before. This helps the technical department narrow down the problem and gives them a record of the frequency. If you have a problem which you feel does not belong in a ticket, for whatever reason, please drop me an email :)

Sarah

Leading Digital Learning K-12 Conference, Luxembourg 27-28th Feb 2016

This weekend's workshop (and I think it's safe to assume it will be my last PD this year!) was focused on how EdTech can be used to support and enhance, and ensure rigour and relevance in teaching and learning, how to lead digital learning from the classroom to administrative level and innovative ideas to implement digital learning in schools.

Eric Sheninger, the workshop leader was a principal in New Jersey at a school which, at the time he stated leading there, had a lot of problems in terms of attendance, attainment and student lifestyle. Eric credits the turnaround in large part to the impact moving to a more digital environment and learning style had on students' interest in coming to school and the real-world application and skills this style of learning gave them. 

Whilst Eric's context clearly is very different from ours, and the majority of the issues his school, teachers and students were facing do not reflect those in the majority of private international schools, the conversation around evidencing the benefits of EdTech were valuable, and there were some really exciting ideas I really hope we can adapt and put in place for our students.

The big takeaway for me from this was the learning I got about the makerspace movement. Now, don't feel bad if you haven't heard about it, since neither had I until yesterday, although I certainly seemed to be very much in the minority in that regard! Most teachers who were at the conference had a makerspace in some form in their school, whether that was on the small scale in their own classroom, or a large scale, impressively resourced one for their whole school or campus. Have a look at my post (coming soon!) about makerspaces for some links, resources and ideas on how we could explore them on the small and medium scale.

Other key themes Eric looked at included social media and how schools can utilise it to the benefit of the students and the organisation, practical tools for integration and organisational design to support technology integration in schools.

The International School of Luxembourg was also very impressive, and absolutely enormous! The teachers were very friendly, helpful and approachable and it was fascinating to meet their wonderful Primary Technology Facilitator and see the exciting work she is doing with kids in their makerspace and in classrooms.

Lots to think about in general and in terms of how it relates to our context, after a very worthwhile weekend, and if you are looking for me I'll probably be crawling around in the basement looking for places to put a makerspace ;)

Sarah

 

Headphones for all!

Exciting news: our brand new, beautiful headphones have arrived, and they will soon be ready to be distributed to homerooms!

After replacing the headphones in the ICT lab, so that we have a full complement of working headphones, we are now also able to supply every homeroom with new, Sound Intone HD850 headphones for the classroom PCs, and we have additionally ordered grade-level sets of headphones for the iPads.

These headphones have some very useful features which you can use in your classroom, to make the iPads easier to integrate and use on a daily basis.

Firstly, the headphones are comfy and should fit our age-group well.

Secondly, the headphones each have an inline microphone built into the cable. This is very important, as it means it will be much easier for students to record their voice without background noise making the recording difficult to hear. This is especially important in classes where teachers are using RAZ kids to do iPad-based running record reading assessments, or where students are doing voice recordings in SeeSaw, iMovie or other apps. 

Finally, these headphones have what is called a daisy-chain function.... this means multiple sets can be connected together to allow several students to listen on one iPad at the same time through headphones.

One thing to be aware of is that when headphones are daisy-chained, only the mic on the main set, which is directly plugged into the iPad, will work.

For reference here is the allocation of the headphones this year:

G1 - 1 pair per class (PC), plus 4 pairs for the grade-level to share (iPads)

G2 - 2 pairs per class (PC), plus 4 pairs for the grade-level to share (iPads)

G3 - 2 pairs per class (PC), plus 4 pairs for the grade-level to share (iPads)

G4 - 2 pairs per class (PC), plus 5 pairs for the grade-level to share (iPads)

G5 - 4 pairs per class (PC), plus 10 pairs for the grade-level to share (iPads)

In the long term, we will be considering the best option to ensure we have sufficient headphones in each room, including specialist subject and language classes from next year, and any pre-existing fully-functioning headphones will be redistributed to subject specialist and language teachers as soon as possible.

Storage boxes will be purchased at the start of the week, and more information, including how and where the shared sets will follow as soon early next week, before headphones are distributed.

Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for next year.

Sarah

Presenting... our new, improved ICT lab!

The painter, maintenance and technical team have been very, very busy over the February break and thanks to their incredible work, we now have a very different-looking ICT Lab!

Here is the ICT Lab on Thursday, with Klaus arranging cables under the desks.

The walls have been repainted white to really highlight the colours of our magnetic circles and it gives the room a much cleaner feeling, I think. 

Additionally, and most importantly, the layout of the room has totally changed. The computers are now arranged in 4 rows as opposed to 6, in such a way that all screens should be more easily visible to the teacher, students are easier to get to when they need help, and no student is seated with their back to the whiteboard. The printer has moved to the left side of the board, and whilst this will make it less convenient to pop in for printing during lessons, it opens up the room for teaching.

From the plan to the execution

Behind the teacher desk, hooks will be installed to store headphones more effectively, and reduce breakages to make sure students only use the headphones when they are really needed.

Please feel free to comment below on your experiences and share any observations, issues or positive impressions that you have!

Sarah

Becoming a Google Certified Educator – Level 2

So, before I actually sat the Level 1 test but after I signed up for it, I decided that I should just take the bull by the horns, take advantage of the holidays and get my Level 2 as well. Whilst this entailed a bit of extra studying, in many ways the learning from both levels really complemented each other and it was not an enormous stretch to manage the extra study load.

What is it for?

Level 2 is intended to take the fundamentals you learned in Level 1 and apply them to “cutting-edge” classroom integration ideas. In some ways I found this course actually to be a bit easier, focused as it was on the “why” behind the use of each tool: good pedagogy of the type we all demonstrate at BIS definitely stands you in good stead here! One of the things I liked about it apart from the focus on good teaching is the information about how to combine multiple apps to achieve something really outstanding for students, for example embedding Youtube videos in Forms to create a multimedia quiz with yes/no, text or multiple choice answers. Or using Forms to make a Create Your Own Adventure book!

How do you prepare?

The preparation format is the same as for Level 1, but with 9 Units and more of a focus on trying out tools for yourself. Google has a very clever setup where they share resources and materials with you to let you try things out without having to create the content to use with each tool. Again, there are Unit Reviews that you can skip to if you think you may already know the content and you can go back and redo Units as many times as you want.

How do you get certified?

Exactly as with the Level 1 exam, with Level 2 you have a time limit of 7 days from the time that you sign up for the exam to take it, and there is a time limit of 3 hours in the exam.

The exam was again in two sections: a multiple choice/drag and drop section testing knowledge, and a practical session where you complete various tasks in GAFE based on given scenarios. Some of the questions were a little poorly worded and not clear in what they expected, but the scenarios all made perfect sense.

Is it worth it?

Again, yes. For all the same reasons as Level 1, plus you really do get very good training on how to extend your use of GAFE in a way that could benefit your classroom and teaching in a big way.

For more information, feel free to come and see me or check out the training centre.

Becoming a Google Certified Educator – Level 1

Thanks to the conference I suddenly became aware of a whole range of options for professional development and different levels and types of certification, and I decided to see what I could do to extend my own knowledge and also give me some extra tools and skills to share with the school.

So, this week I decided to get my Google Educator Level 1 certification: for me, that involved paying $10 for the exam so that I couldn’t change my mind, and then starting the studying!

What is it for?

Well, Level 1 is aimed at educators who have a fundamental knowledge of the Google Apps For Education (GAFE), like Drive, Gmail, Sheets, Youtube etc. It isn’t really a beginners course: you do need to have some familiarity with the tools, and maybe be using them already to some extent.

How do you prepare?

Before you take the test, there are 13 Units to study, which cover topics like using GAFE to make your classroom more of a digital environment with Sites, or Docs, increasing efficiency by having meetings online, and promoting Digital Citizenship. Google also advises practising in context, and taking the opportunity to try out some of the things you are learning in your own class or school.

How do you get certified?

Once you are confident that you know the material, and there are Unit Review tests to help you determine this, you sit the exam at a time that is convenient for you. You do have a time limit of 7 days from the time that you sign up for the exam to take it, and there is a time limit of 3 hours in the exam.

Before you start you have to agree to an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), so I can’t share any specifics, but the exam is in two sections: a multiple choice/drag and drop section testing knowledge, and a practical session where you complete various tasks in GAFE based on given scenarios. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t too hard either! I would say that it would be suitable for everyone at our school due to our use of GAFE on a daily basis.

Is it worth it?

Yes. Aside from the special digital badge and certificate you get which distinguishes you in some small way as a person who has taken their learning to the next level, I did learn quite a bit about the tools I am using every day, even though I consider myself a proficient user. Also, the material is written by educators for educators so it is packed with relevant ideas to use in the classroom.

If you feel like you would like to give it a try, come and talk to me about it, or just head over to the Google Training Centre and give it a go!

European Conference for ipads in the classroom

This week I was lucky enough to be sent to the European Conference on iPads at the International School of Amsterdam, and it was a fantastic experience! Also, it gave me one million ideas and a whole fresh perspective on what we can do at BIS to integrate technology into classrooms even further, in a meaningful and easy-to-manage way.

Just a few of the highlights included seeing just how easy it is to work with green screens using the DoInk app: here are Olivia from Grade 1 and me working it out together.

grade1.jpg

 I also had the opportunity to try out Osmo: Yury showed me this online some time ago and I thought at the time it seemed like witchcraft… and I can now confirm it actually is magic. I think it would be a wonderful tool for EAL, Grade 1 or Learning Support although as you may notice I spectacularly failed to solve this tangram puzzle myself, so I think it may also have some upper primary uses…

I also saw how data loggers are moving forwards, with devices like this one, which can measure altitude, humidity, temperature, and a whole range of other environmental factors to make it possible to gathera wider-than-ever range of data and then work seamlessly with the iPad to analyse and use it:

We learned about augmented reality books, which can bring a student’s learning about topics such as the solar system or dinosaurs to life in a big way:

There were robots, drones, apps to make old-school video games, animation apps, and an enormous variety of highly-flexible, easy to use apps to help make children’s thinking visible, support collaboration and creativity, and enhance classroom learning.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of these tools over the next term!

Sarah