Friday, September 20, 2013

Bloom-ing Heck! The Activities of Australian Science Teachers and Students Two Years into a 1:1 Laptop Program Across 14 High Schools

Some great news! In the roller-coaster ride that is my study (see Peer Review, Peer Exposure), my second paper has just been published (in fact it was published 4 days ago but no one told me! :) Entitled Bloom-ing Heck! The Activities of Australian Science Teachers and Students Two Years into a 1:1 Laptop Program Across 14 High Schools, it is featured in the International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education 21(1). 

I have been nervous about the publication of this paper as it is not necessarily a good news story. However, it goes without saying that I have to be objective and report the data as it appears. Here is the abstract (for the full article click on the link above):
This study examines the responses of 1245 science students and 47 science teachers from 14 Catholic high schools in Sydney, Australia, 2010. Two years into a 1:1 laptop program, the types of activities engaged in with laptops as self-reported by teachers and students are analysed. The activities are differentiated from lower- to higher-order using Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Though the shift has been to use pen and paper less and laptops more, it is found that the modal practice for students is the lower-order paradigm of note-taking and working from textbooks through electronic means by word processing and electronic textbooks, plus simple online searching. Students would like to engage in more higher-order activities such as blogging and video editing but these are not favoured by teachers. Datalogging and databases, despite being encouraged or even mandated by the Board of Studies NSW, are rare experiences. Most science teachers appear to use simulations but students do not report the same experience. Investment must be made in the professional development of teachers to empower and encourage them to integrate higher-order tasks and to capitalise on the opportunities offered by 1:1 laptops.
What is most important to highlight is that the findings are based on 2010 data. As systems/schools/teachers, we have to ask ourselves 'have we progressed from this baseline in the 3 years since?' (The next few papers will go some way to answering this).

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What does it mean to teach in a technology-rich world?

Below is my presentation 'What does it mean to teach in a technology-rich world?' from the ABC Splash Live: Digital Ideas for the Classroom event (see previous post ABC Splash Live). Explanations of the slides are also included. Many thanks to @heyjudeonline for recommending me to speak and the team at ABC Digital Education, especially @edificite@AnnabelAstbury and @ABCSplash

Slide 1 - What is wrong with this slide? Nope, it's not the kid with the slate (get it! :) the image is back to front, the writing on the board goes from right to left. 

Slide 2 - Before Google, the teachers were the sole bastions of knowledge. Post-Google, students can find out simple facts using simple Google searches, Wikipedia (copying, pasting and plagiarising) and even acquire skills e.g. learning the guitar via YouTube, all on mobile phones that are banned in most classrooms. From about 2016 according to the Horizon Reports (or 2020 according to Wikipedia), the Semantic Web will be all-pervasive with a far more personalised online experience.

Slide 3 - Consider the new NSW Board of Studies Syllabus for Australian Curriculum History. If we only ask simple questions of facts, students can answer these in seconds.

Slide 4 - However, if we ask deeper, personal, subjective questions students will not be able to google the answers.

Slide 5 - Ask Ungoogleable Questions (a phrase I heard from @ewanmcintosh). I am not saying Google is bad, but in its simple form it is pretty low-order. We need to offer students higher-order questions and opportunities. At the very least extol the virtues of 'Advanced' Google searches.

Slide 6 - In a techonology-rich classroom students can collaborate with their teachers and each other, importantly receiving immediate and regular feedback through apps like Google Docs and Edmodo.

Slide 7 - Teacher Collaboration: teachers can also take advantage of these technologies and collaborate too, not least with collaborative programming for the Australian Curriculum using Google Docs.

Slide 8 - Teachers don't need to rely solely on formal professional development or the collegiality of the teachers they work with. Through TeachMeets and the networks that ensue, teachers can be proactive in their own professional learning in a fun, informal and highly beneficial environment. (Check out

Slide 9 - Quick plug for all English and Drama teachers, K-12, to attend the English Australian Curriculum TeachMeet at the State Theatre Company. Should be a great Friday night out! See for details.

Slide 10 - Other ways teachers are collaborating include using things like Pinterest to find teachers from the same subject area to follow, post and share resources with. In the example shown, my colleague Bettina, from All Saints Girls Liverpool, is a Spanish teacher isolated in a local network of Italian teachers. She uses Pinterest to find and connect with other Spanish teachers form North America.

Slide 11 - A quick plug for the great resources on ABC Splash.

Slide 12 - An example of a great resource on ABC Splash - a video from Catalyst by my mate Derek Muller (of Veritasium YouTube Channel fame), alumnus of Sydney University Physics Education Research (SUPER). 

Slide 13 - With most, if not all students having a mobile phone (check out the ABS stats), why are they banned from most schools and classrooms? Now that the Digital Education Revolution has ended and the Federal funding stopped, how are we going to maintain the momentum of embedded technology in the classroom. One answer is to let the students bring their own mobile devices. There are solutions to the issues of cost and equity, not least schools supporting the minority of Australian families that cannot afford any device. There are also technical solutions for the techies. Several schools are running pilots of this including some I work with in low SES areas plus @aliceleung's school, again in a low SES area. 

Slide 14 - A lot of people do not realise that many students already have programming skills and enjoy coding. Under the guidance of my colleague Jason at Good Samaritan College Hinchinbrook, there are Year 10 girls and Year 11 boys writing literacy and numeracy apps respectively for the neighbouring primary school students. The older students are using the actual NSW Board of Studies syllabuses to create and differentiate the questions for the littlies. This is an amazing story - well done to Jason and students! 

Slide 15 - Game-Based Learning: why not use Angry Birds to teach projectile motion as this pic from @aliceleung's classroom shows? There is also a great blog post by Wired on this.

Slide 16 - Taking GBL to the extreme, Michael from Freeman College Bonnyrigg is using WWE Wrestling on the XBox to teach literacy! The students have to write correct instructions on their moves and counter moves. Based on their writing the moves are then entered into the game to simulate the fight. As an incentive, a couple of students get to play at the end of every lesson.

Slides 17, 18 - Global Citizenship: These slides were videos from All Saints Girls Liverpool and a school from China (thanks to Jenny from Liverpool). With Skype in the Classroom and online sharing through things like Dropbox and Google Drive, students from two different hemispheres can collaborate together. The Liverpool girls sent video footage to China of themselves acting out Cinderella. The Chinese students overlay the audio, in particular the dialogue, as part of their study of English. The Chinese students then shared back the finished product which was very funny and a great exercise all round.

In the second video, the Chinese students sent over footage of them playing hide-and-seek around their homes. What was particularly interesting for the students from southwest Sydney (a low socio-economic area) was how salubrious the homes were of the upper-middle class in China. This was a real lesson in global citizenship.

Slide 19 - The resources I used.

Slide 20 - 

Augmented Reality by turkletom, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  turkletom 
A fantastic augmented reality pic to prove the point that if students aren't engaged they will find very creative ways to use their technology instead. Combined with this picture was the quote, often (though not definitively) attributed to Rabindranath Tagore:

"Do not confine your children to your own learning, 
for they were born in another time"

Monday, September 9, 2013

ABC Splash Live

Normally after I've presented at a conference I blog, simply to share my own presentation without necessarily commenting on the conference itself in much detail. However, in the case of ABC Splash Live, it is worthy of a post in its own right. 

ABC Splash Live: Digital Ideas for the Classroom was a free event, organised by the ABC Digital Education team of @edificite@AnnabelAstbury and @ABCSplash, to assist teachers with integrating technology in the classroom and promote the merits of ABC Splash.

ABC Splash is a free online resource from the ABC to help support teachers, particularly with the advent of the Australian Curriculum. It is a very engaging resource, providing an ever increasing number of 'cutting-edge games, virtual worlds and immersive digital experiences'. Of particular use in these times of Australian Curriculum is ABC's partnership with Education Services Australia (ESA), thereby making readily available to teachers and students many of the learning objects from Scootle without requiring a Scootle login. 

Anyway, back to the day: I was chuffed to get the gig at @heyjudeonline's recommendation (thanks Judy!). The agenda was very enticing.  @AnnabelAstbury was an excellent MC and host. Proceedings began with Annabel interviewing @AdamBSpencer. Adam was very entertaining, not least highlighting the fact that being into maths, science and chess is cool!

Straight after the keynote interview was my presentation 'What does it mean to teach in a technology-rich world?'. It seemed to go pretty well (see next blog post for details). Next up was @aliceleung regarding the power of a back-channel in schools, both in the classroom and for example in staff meetings. It was great to segue into Alice's presentation having mentioned the power of TeachMeets and a PLN. Also, when discussing GBL I used Alice's famous example of utilising Angry Birds to learn projectile motion

Following Alice was @jarruzza on the power of sharing knowledge in real time using tools such as Google Docs and Google Forms. By sheer coincidence, Jason and I both chose separate videos from ABC Splash on objects falling under gravity to meet our various ends. It was quite amusing when Jason suddenly jumped out of his seat to stop me from inadvertently steal his thunder. The crisis was averted and an uncanny further segue created. 

After morning tea, @msdigifly shared some very interesting stories about four schools from across Australia (3 rural and 1 city) engaging in the 'Making the News' project. Sara was followed by Amy Walsh from PLC Armidale, one of the participating schools. The news reports from PLC told a fascinating story of the partnership between the community garden and the local 'fancy' restaurant. Finishing off the morning was @BeveridgeSue on the merits of video conferencing. 

Kicking off the afternoon was @leejr from ESA sharing some of the learning objects and simulations in ABC Splash. Following Leanne was @berniehobbs presenting the brand spanking new GBL experience from ABC called Zoom. 'Zoom is a browser-based game primarily aimed at year 9 and 10 students to bring back the fun in science learning'. After Bernie was @BronSt on gamification of learning and 'hard fun' and 'flow'. ('Flow', the sensation gamers have when they are 'in the zone', sounded very much like the martials arts idea of 'mushin'). Last cab off the rank (and my personal highlight) was @Type217 with 'Raising Gamer Kids'. As ever, Dean had a very irreverent, yet well informed and humourous manner of delivery, taking people out of their comfort zone with a mini-case study of Hit Girl. He also provided some practical advice around what makes gamer kids tick and how to raise them.

In conclusion, it was a great day. I truly feel this was a quality, free professional development opportunity provided by the ABC and I thank them sincerely, especially Katie and Annabel for their organisation. As ever at events like these the networking was fantastic. It was great to catch up again with Annabel, Alice, Sue, Bron and Dean and wonderful to meet Adam, Katie, Jason, Sara, Amy, Leanne and Bernie for the first time. 

In closing I leave you with a Storify of the back-channel from @steverwilkins and a great image Dean used to portray gamer kids