Browsing"Digital Suitcase"

Exploring the grey

Nov 20, 2015 by     No Comments    Posted under: Be Responsible, Classroom

Have you every thought about how many of the decisions we make live in the “grey” space between right and wrong? This is one of my favourite topics to explore with students as it is an invitation for them to explore the process that they follow when they make decisions.

Think about this: You get a phone call in a public place. It is from a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. You are excited. You proceed to talk loudly as you walk around. Is it ok to talk loudly on a phone in a public place?

This is how I opened up a discussion with a group of grade 5 students the other day and their viewpoints were interesting. Within moments a mini debate had evolved with students providing strong reasons for their belief.

Digital Citizenship Debate

This prompt was just a lead in to an inquiry about decision making in the online world but it forced a “rethink” about how we would address this issue.

As this discussion highlighted the students already had the background knowledge in what was “wrong” (black) or “right” (white) but what was interesting was how they navigated the “grey” in between. It was only through this invitation to share their thoughts that they were able to refine their thinking and make a more informed decision.

Luckily I work with a fantastic group of teachers and we went back to the drawing board and thought about how we could help support the student’s inquiries. Could we really just open this topic up to a series of deep discussions where we weigh the various viewpoints and then try to make an informed choice? We thought so, so we dived straight in.

We used Mike Ribble’s Digital Compass as a guide to help students with decision making and then we had students brainstorm potential situations that they might face online. They did an amazing job identifying the type of situations which really get at that “grey” area of decision making. Then a colleague, Jamie Raskin, had a great idea to turn these scenarios into a debate/game situation where students would pick a viewpoint and justify their opinion.

You could see the power of this activity when you heard the student’s debating/discussing these scenarios. They were able to identify all the issues that were involved and as a collective come to an informed and appropriate decision.

This experience has totally shifted my thinking about how to explore digital citizenship issues. Yes of course the students need some background knowledge but because these kids live and breath this world they are quick to pick up the basics. The issue is giving them experience with how to make appropriate decisions whilst they are there.

We all know that in theory some decisions should be “black” or “white” but in reality the choices people make fall somewhere in the middle. Why not help the students explore and grapple with this “grey” space?

Digital Compass

Getting the Groundswell

Sep 25, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Education is such an interesting field. It involves elements of so many other occupations – coach, financial manager, psychologist, marketing, and many more. All these elements ensure that there is never a dull day.

Since moving into the area of ICT education I have been involved in the launch of a number of whole school initiatives. Some have been very successful, whilst others could have run a little more smoothly. As this school year is well underway we have a number of initiatives which are ready in the wings but are there lessons to be learned for passed experiences? Here at the things I am thinking about as we prepare for launch:

  • Building a groundswell of support. Often doing a “soft launch” can help to build positive experiences and “iron out” the kinks. For example when blogging first started up at our school there was a small group of teachers who set up their own class blog. Slowly more and more of their colleagues joined up and we got to a stage where a significant number of staff were blogging and we were getting a lot of positive feedback from parents and other schools. It was decided then that we would roll out blogs for each class. With the groundswell of support the transition to blogs was very smooth. People had an idea of what they were getting involved in.
  • Transparency of decision making. Some decisions need to be made quickly and this doesn’t always allow for a “soft launch” approach. In these instances it is important that the reasons behind the decisions are also presented so all parties involved can see the rational behind the decision. People need to see the “why” so they can gain a perspective of a decision.
  • Focusing on the end goal. As an initiative is rolled out there are always going to be challenges faced which need to be addressed. As these challenges are met it is important that all parties are aware of the end goal – improving student learning.
  • Integrating ideas. Integration has been a focus of classroom practice of sometime now but often when new initiatives are developed the connections with our current ideas/strategies/initiatives are not highlighted. When introducing a new initiatives it is important to highlight how it is connected to current practice and how it will fit into the whole school program.

Hopefully by focusing on these areas as we roll out our initiatives this year we can avoid some of the challenges we have faced in the passed. As they say “experience is the best teacher”.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Sunova Surfboards

Refocus the Model

Sep 18, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

This post is a follow up to an earlier post – Perfect Blend

Is there a perfect blend out there? Finding that right balance is a challenge in all areas of life. Finding this blend in my position as an ICT coach has been a constantly evolving process. Balancing class time, resource development, just in time support and general IT support is a tough role.

As an ICT department we are in the process of actually defining our blend. We want to get it down on paper and have it as a document which we can base our practice around.

So here is our refine blend:

75% – Coaching (Individualized Coaching with teachers mixed with Just-In-Time classroom/technical support)

25% – General Support (Workshops, Resource Development, Professional Development and Sharing Professional Practice)

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Leo Reynolds
We are still further clarifying the full break down of the various areas but it looks like things are coming together. This blend encompasses some of the best features of the blends I have used in the passed but has a different element which may really help further student learning. We will see how this blend matures.

Classroom Connection: Common Craft

Sep 4, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Classroom, Collaborate

So what is the perfect professional development experience? Is it a conference with a fantastic guest speaker, a small working group focusing on a specific topic or a visit to another school?

I have been part of many different professional development experiences but still the most powerful experience I have had is visiting the classrooms of my fellow teachers at the schools I have worked in.

In this series of posts I am going to highlight some of the amazing teaching and learning strategies I have had the chance to be the part of.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by niznoz

Classroom Connection 1 – The Research Assignment

From the looks of it this class was completing a pretty standard activity – researching a topic and then presenting their findings. But as I got involved I began to realise it went much deeper.

In this class, students were asked to take on the perspective of a historical figure and prove that a certain theory was correct. They needed to provide evidence that supported their case. To make things more interesting students were given a variety of options of how they would present their findings – essay, comic book, storyboard, “Common Craft” style video or Go Animate animation.

So obviously the students were engaged but this wasn’t what really set this experience apart. Here were the things that I took away:

  • A clear task which was effectively presented and shared with students
  • A thorough explanation of the assessment rubric as the task was introduced (and regular refocusing throughout the assignment)
  • Individual conferencing with students during the assignment to check in with how they were going
  • Accessing support teachers to lend assistance to students.

I really looked forward to working with this class on this assignment because they were actively engaged whilst also having an effective structure of support to help assist them throughout the process.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Marina – Canon broke,no new photos till it’s fixed

Admiring the View

Sep 4, 2012 by     4 Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Things seem to have been travelling at a million miles an hour of late. Like the start of every year there is so much going on it seems like you are constantly trying to catch up. The increased activity on this blog is my way to get some head space and take a time out. I am finding that I really need these moments to step back and think about the things that have been going on.

This idea of stepping back is something that the tech department is going to actively pursue this year. It never ceases to amaze me the number of things going on the tech office at once – student laptop repairs, new program requests, recording tv shows, log in issues, student information systems, teaching help, new students, and that is just as I am writing now.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Mark Wheadon

In the next few weeks the IT department is going to step out for a day and take a look at where we are at and think about where we want to head – we are having a “retreat”. We have talked about doing this a number of times before but have never got the idea out of the planning stage. We have drawn up a skeleton of how this day will look. So here are the elements:

  • We will be off site during the day
  • Members of the administrative team will be invited to attend certain sessions
  • Specific goal – further refine our model of curriculum integration and instructional coaching
  • Hope – by the end of the day we will have a plan which will enable us to further support student learning and teacher development

What do you think? Any elements missing? We are planning to have a few conference calls with fellow educators to ensure we are aware of current best educational practice and will be sharing our work as we do it.

The Power of Teams

Aug 21, 2012 by     3 Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Things are really starting to click here at the Secondary School. There hasn’t been any huge changes but you can feel the community coming together. Funnily enough I think this shift has been due to a change which is in no way revolutionary – it is just the right timing. This year at the secondary school the focus has shift more towards year level teaching teams as opposed to subject teams.

This slight shift has helped promote a new level of professional dialogue. Discussions are focusing on how to group students, lesson pacing, targeting student’s individual learning needs and things along these lines – the type of talk we all have always aimed for.

It is amazing how such a small change can affect the environment of the whole school so quickly.

Reaching out

Moving Up

Aug 15, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Be Responsible, Communicate

You have got to love the buzz of students getting their first school laptop – it is infectious. This time of year has to be one of my favourites. The sound the kids make when they get to open their computers for the first time is still priceless.

Ford Family Portraits: Mr. Isaiah Early

This year we further refined our “role out” strategy. We have always tried to give our new year 7 students as much support as possible but this year we are trying to go that extra mile. Things kicked off on Friday afternoon with a keynote speech from the secondary principal on how technology is influencing our world. The students then took their laptops home for the weekend to explore. As the new week started up we organized a Year 7 Tech Conference. During this conference students worked in groups through a series of activities lead by various members of the teaching and admin staff.  The sessions during the day were structured for focus on the Approaches to Learning from the MYP programme. Students explored:

  • Responsibility – Digital Safety
  • Organization – OneNote & The Portal
  • Communication – Blogs
  • Organization – Dyknow & Veracross
  • Responsibilty – Ethical Use
  • Organization – Outlook
  • Organization – Backing Up

This is a similar structure to what we ran last year but the extra bit we are focusing on this year is the continued support we will provide the students. During House Room (home room for most) the teachers will be focusing on specific issues every fortnight. These sessions will mostly relate to how students organize themselves electronically and learning to lead a balanced life.  We will be using resources from Common Sense Media, Manic Time, Netsmartz (and many more of course) to help ensure that our new middle school students are supported as they progress through the year.

climb up the wall (cc)
Things have started up well. Let’s hope we can keep things going.


Providing Support

Aug 13, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Working at an ICT integrator or technology coach it is always a challenge to find the right balance of support for students and teachers. Over the years I have tried our various different strategies but each one has had its drawbacks – there is always room for improvement.

So after much thought last year I am going to try something a little different this year. My goal for this shift is to promote further professional dialogue about teaching and integration practices – if we can talk more about what we are doing I am sure we will bring all our practice forward. I suppose this has been the goal of many initiatives that schools have brought in but it seems to be somewhat elusive.

After taking inspiration from the Olympic I once again saw the value of having personalized attention. People need that connection and attention in order to move themselves to the next level. Luckily for me I work with a group of amazing and forward thinking teachers who are always looking for ways to improve their practice. So when I introduced the idea of providing individualized coaching to them they jumped at the chance.

How is it going to work?

  • select a range of teachers from a department to work with
  • discuss what areas of their practice they want to work on – doesn’t have to be tech related
  • attend as many lessons as possible
  • after each lessons simply chat about how things went
  • highlight connections between teachers who are part of the group
At the moment there isn’t much more to report other than there is a bit of buzz building about this idea.

Could this be the formula of support that I am looking for? I am not sure but I think it is moving in the right direction

Getting Connected

Aug 9, 2012 by     7 Comments    Posted under: Communicate, Digital Suitcase

When the school year starts up again it is always an interesting challenge to get connected with the things going on at school – friends, students, new initiative, etc. It seems that the holidays hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm to try something totally different this year – it is time to get out there again.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Ivan Rumata

For the first stop on this journey into the uncomfortable Ivan and myself have continued the redevelopment of our Year 9 course. We are looking to implement a student directed and peer assessed course and I think we are getting close.

The course is designed around the idea that the students are working towards their “Digitally Connected Passport“. Along the way they will earn stamps in this passport to show their development and mastery. The different regions/sections that the students will have to explore are the MYP Approaches to Learning. Inside each region students will have to complete a set number of activities in order to earn their stamp. As they work towards a stamp each activity will need to be peer assessed and then as they go for their stamp they have to get approved by the supervisor (Ivan or myself). Hopefully we have found the right blend of entertainment and challenging.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by JorgeBRAZIL

We have taken inspiration from many different sources for the games style of this unit and have drawn heavily on the new Common Sense Media curriculum for our activities. Things are looking good at the moment and we only have to wait a few more days to let is lose on the students. I can’t wait.

What Is Happening Out There?

May 25, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Communicate

When I was going through my RSS feed the other day I realised that the world is “swimming in data“. There is so much amazing stuff coming out about basically every aspect of our society – student debt, rising sea level, transportation and so much more. But do we know what is actually going on in our own backyard?

Here at school we have been playing around with our ICT survey for the passed few months and have been trying to work out what do we actually want to know about our community. We want to see how effective our ICT services, support and integration program are but we have realised how difficult it is to structure a survey to really get the information we are looking for.

As I write this we have been working on this survey for the best part of 3 months. The process have been an amazing experience (although at times I wish I could be done with it):

  • Brainstorm – thinking about what do we actually want to know and start the process with this in mind
  • Reflection – look at previous school surveys to identify question types and results
  • Collaboration – working together with other schools to develop common questions through which we can compare our results
  • Develop – construct the survey and think about how questions should be structured
  • Trial – asked sample groups of colleagues and students to test the survey out and provide feedback
  • Redesign – constantly rework and rejig our survey as the process goes on
We are approaching the time when we will distribute the survey and I have to say I am a bit nervous. Will this “sea of data” help us change our practice to better meet the needs of our student? I certainly hope so. Let’s see how things go.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by ohad*

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