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Showing posts from 2013

You spin me 'round, 'round, baby ... Audio & Video Reflection

One of the things I stress when working with teachers is to have them record themselves in the classroom, either using audio or video.  It's eye-opening (and illusion-shattering) when you see yourself on the screen saying things and doing things.  It's made my practice more self-reflective in the moment -- what would I say or do if I replayed this later?

We've got a new little tool that alleviates two of the problems with just putting a videocamera at the back of the room:

Audio... if the camera is at the back of the room, the audio often picks up way too much noise from the students.  I realize that students are our raison d'etre, but when you're focusing on improving you and your teaching, you want to hear what you are saying (reflecting on what your students are doing is a whole other issue!)Movement... if you're doing teaching right, you're not standing in one place.  A stationary camera, even with a wide angle lens, often doesn't capture you as you…

Formative Assessment in OneNote

My own teaching practice, and my prioritization for teacher professional development, has been greatly influenced by Black & Wiliam's Inside the Black Box and, more recently, Hattie's work on changes in teaching and learning that have some demonstrable effectiveness across broad communities.
Increasing my use of formative assessment, or assessment as learning, was pretty much the first substantial change I deliberately made and would still be one of the first things I work on with teachers.

Technologically, we've facilitated that with the OneNote binder, as shown below.  We've got three spaces -- a dropbox for the students, a private & hidden marking space for teachers and then a read-only section where marked material is shared with students & parents.  Using it on a pen-based tablet means I can scribble ideas to the students quickly & easily and the synchronization means that student gets it as soon as I've completed it.

So it's been really be…

Milestones (for a Mentor)

We received great news this week: we've been designated a Microsoft Mentor School for 2014; one of only three across Canada.
From the website: schools must demonstrate a commitment to innovation and the ability to overcome obstacles in preparing students to be 21st century learners. In addition, they must have developed programs that can serve as models for other schools.

It was interesting that Microsoft's announcement focused on the Global Forum to be held in Barcelona in March.  While it is a nice bonus that two of our faculty will be attending the Forum over March Break and connecting with educators from the 80 other Mentor Schools for a week (as well as all the newly appointed "Microsoft Expert Educators") I am glad that the this milestone allows us to continue the conversation about being a resource for others.

Friends from PCMI will recognize that phrase -- it's been one of the three guiding principles of the PCMI teacher program and is one of my own pers…

Pretend you're a teenager

One of the major aspects of my job (and admittedly, one of my favourites) is finding ways to smooth out wrinkles in our systems.  To find efficiencies.  To save time.  It's mathematical, really ... if I can save 2 minutes off a teacher's day, in a staff of 100 that's 3 hours of time that can be better spent.

We've made a lot of progress during the 2012-2013 but, to use a phrase I hate, we hit a lot of the low-hanging fruit.  The easy things.  We centralized and synchronized the OneNote Binders (okay, that was huge), the Faculty Calendar and the Duty Calendars so that they were done once and everyone could access and modify as necessary. We simplified the way teachers access and use information produced from the school's student information system, removing a tonne of roadblocks. We moved PD online and made it instantaneous.  There have been a multitude of shared databases (and shared OneNotes) that have made information accessible and usable to people who need it.…

Getting Parents into the Mix : OneNote opens the door

Last year's introduction of shared OneNote Binders to our school really provided more fluid communication between teacher and student -- because there was anytime, anywhere, "any media" access to all of the student and teacher notes there is now a continual flow of contents and comments back and forth.  It's really starting to reshape assessment for & as learning.

We had wanted the parents in the mix from the beginning but in order for the parents to see the inking done by the student and teacher, they had to have the OneNote program installed on their system.  Now, many of them likely do (and don't know it) but there is a minority running Macs and other parents want to be able to check on things from their offices where they may not have OneNote.  The 2010 OneNote web app didn't allow for seeing ink so was essentially useless.  Since one of the major leaps forward with tablet pcs is that students and teachers are not limited in the means by which they w…

I'd give my right _A_R_M to assess better

We had a really successful year last year when we rolled out the OneNote Binders ... and now we've responded to some of the feedback as we prepare to provide this year's version.

Students have become accustomed to using the Assignments Section to submit their work; it's the Section that forms their assignment dropbox for the course.  In order to minimize the horizontal space used by the tab's names, we've renamed Assignments as _A with the underscore character to keep it alphabetically at the far left.

We've done the same thing with the former Assessed Section -- it's been renamed _R.  The Assessed (or now, _Returned) section is the read-only space for students and parents to see their marked work -- they can see all the Pages of content that are placed in this section by the teacher but can't edit it.  They can, of course, copy it back out to their sections and make changes and resubmit it to the Assignments section.

And the big change this year is the…

On the internet, personne ne sait que tu es un chien!

I have the incredible good fortune to watch a French teacher work over the next month.  She's taken on the responsibility for a Grade 10 French summer course for students.  The challenge is that she is teaching it online to students here in Canada and overseas, specifically China and Pakistan.  They are all existing students in our school that are trying to get ahead in our French program -- that's important because they are already familiar with the technology commonly used in our school.  While many school leverage the learning management system, the OneNote Binder has given her a way to not only structure her content but closely observe and provide feedback on every student's work from minute to minute.

She is using Lync as her communication medium; this has been our one technological learning curve but both she and the students have been learning fast.  Lync is one of Microsoft's products so it is closely integrated into our email, Sharepoint and network.  It's…

Calendars, the first five of two

As we continue to prepare for the coming academic year (we don't start classes until the week after Labour Day) I've begun to prepare the data for the Faculty.

One of the introductions last year was the "Duty Calendar" -- who does residential duty each night, both faculty and prefects (student leaders).  In the past, it was stored in five different spreadsheets, one for each house and then one for the entire campus (since on weekends, faculty members are assigned to the campus rather than specific houses during the day Saturday & Sunday).  No one from other houses knew who was doing duty in any other house and if swaps were made, folks were never really sure that the change had been made.  Now, although the data starts out on a spreadsheet (I configure a spreadsheet for the House Directors) it is then copy-and-pasted into a Sharepoint Calendar.  3 clicks and 2 key-presses for each spreadsheet and the information is available to all.

To be precise, it is pasted in…

Presentations R Me

I mentioned it in yesterday's blog post and realized I hadn't discussed it before. I had done a presentation on line with Lync and although Lync does do recordings, the presentation was pretty dynamic with questions coming from the participants.  In order to make the presentation efficient for folks who couldn't attend, I used Present.Me to not only show the slides but also show me as I discussed the content.
Well, it turned out that Present.Me was a big hit amongst the faculty (not like that wasn't my ulterior motive, eh?)  The Physical Education department used it in the Middle School for the student presentations on health topics almost immediately.
I've found this introduction-by-stealth to be the best way of providing faculty with new ways of looking at information.  Giving them a link or even doing a video on a new application really does work... not surprisingly (thank you Dewey) actually showing them how it works in a context pushes their thinking and doin…

Improving the message

Our Guidance Department hold a series of information nights throughout the year and the most recent one was on our School's curriculum.  We do follow the provincial (i.e. government) curriculum so that our students leave with the expected high school diploma.  However, we have our own diploma with its own requirements -- we ask for more service learning (25 hours a year), more languages, more math, etc.   Not every parent can attend these information evenings and so the Guidance Department asked me to put the information up on line.  They wanted more than just the Powerpoint because that only provides a structure upon which they build their presentation.  Normally, I'd encourage them to use Present.me but they didn't want to have a particular "face" associated with the content -- they really only wanted a voice over for the Powerpoint.  They wanted a screencast.  
With that decision made, we talked a good deal about the screencast itself.  The original conversati…

It's not you, it's me (iPad edition)

I always hesitate to discuss this issue publicly because I know I'm coming from a place of privilege.  We had Apple in for a meeting last week and they were, of course, trying to sell us on the iPad -- but it would be a step backwards for me.  I've been teaching at laptop/tablet computer schools for 15 years now.  We skipped over the transition-space that people are now in with their 1:1 iPad programs mostly because compressed technology like that didn't exist at the time.

The iPad is not the be-all-and-end-all of education technology and it is slightly discouraging that high school folks are not moving to more accommodating technologies even though the cost is greater.  The principal issue is that iPads are very limiting to both the teacher and the student.  They do not do construction well -- just compare writing anything of any length with an iPad versus Word on a tablet computer.  Contrast the expansive but integrated and organized nature of OneNote on a tablet PC wit…

Documenting our Action Research

Our school has our teachers choose a working group that meets every third week of the school year; they choose a topic to look at and then work through a discussion, research and perhaps reach a project.  I had the opportunity to work through with a group today looking at how teacher reflection can promote and strengthen pedagogical change.

Although we use OneNote in our classrooms, I encourage teachers when they're looking at collecting research and tracking progress to consider Evernote.  For one, it separates the information flow that surrounds the classroom in OneNote from the personal & professional space that things like this research project comprises.  Second, Evernote is an all-around excellent tool for capturing information especially in a case like this where the teachers want to capture instances where students have said or done something that indicates their pedagogical change has had an effect or been noticed.

Your Evernote account has an email address (say, so…

Moving forward with Sharepoint & Word

Well, I've nudged some middle managers forward.

While OneNote is the major collaborative space that we use here at School, it's not the most comfortable working environment for folks groomed on Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
We have in the past used GoogleDocs for the collaborative building of projects but many people are uncomfortable with the simultaneity of editing.  The regular Microsoft Office programs do allow for asyncrhonous sharing of documents when tied with Sharepoint.  
So I passed on the following bit of knowledge to a few of our managers who are working on a couple of projects: Go to a Document Library on one of your Sharepoint SitesIn the Documents ribbon at the top of the screen you have a New Document button.  It comes with Word and we can add Excel, Powerpoint and other common programs.  Let's say we click on Word...It opens up Word on the tablet and you can write your document. When you finally hit Save (or Exit) you are encouraged to save it in the Docume…

You can lead a horse to water...

So on Monday morning (Family Day holiday here in Ontario), I ran across the following tweet:
@principalspage: Can you teach someone how to teach? And I replied with the cliche
@sig225 You can lead a horse to water...
Much like any skill, you can teach (or, more specifically, go through the motions since teaching should imply learning) anyone anything.  I've sat in an audience being 'taught' many times but unless I not only hear and engage with the material and then bring it to some meaning in my own life (and that can be academic, personal or social) that I haven't really been taught it.  The teacher can try all they want, some of the responsibility lies with the student.

When it comes to teacher education, and in this I include both pre-and in-service, we've all sat in PD and even when energized by the information we don't adapt our teaching style even if we know student learning would be improved.
In part it goes back to a quote from Dylan Wiliam that I keep…

Padlet née Wallwisher, Part II

Well I've spent a considerable amount of time responding to the feedback on Wallwisher; the students have definitely found it convenient to have a space to voice their concerns.  While I began it as place to talk about improvements to our OneNote Binder system, the students definitely did not feel limited to that initial suggestion.  At all.  Questions ranged from OneNote, to Outlook, to Windows 8 and then into the history of OneNote.  And a few diversions into internet memes.  Okay, I put my share of wood on that fire in my responses.
And I thought it important to respond to each note -- they were asking legitimate questions, good questions, that they either hadn't heard the answer to yet (and for sure IT has been sending a consistent message on many of their issues) or we weren't even aware of the problem.
I have to say that Padlet provided a great space for this... as moderator I could edit notes to add my comments and group notes around similar themes as well as leavin…

Wallwisher

I have, of course, been an avid user of technology since I left the crib (much to my mother's chagrin) so I've experimented with a lot of things for a long period of time.  Working with our Upper School Director on an brainstorming activity, I introduced him to Wallwisher.  Now, Wallwisher (and others of its ilk) have been around a long time and in fact, Wallwisher has just undergone some serious improvements in usability and design.  For starters, it's now called Padlet.
He didn't want to rush in to folks using it without having experienced it before his project so I sent out a link to Faculty asking for feedback on our OneNote Binder system as we plan for summer upgrades.  I set the board up to be a private link (so unless you have the link you can't find the board) and unmoderated (people can put up anything on the board and have it seen instantly by others). I also sent around to students another Wallwisher board asking for similar feedback.  I used a private l…

Lync, redux

Well, there's been some great outcomes from the Lync PD last week.

I had a social group that's planning dinner events ask how to use Lync so that they can meet without having to be physically together -- in the past, they've had to meet several times throughout the day to ensure that all the participants are aware of what's going on.  They can videorecord their meeting for folks who are absent and use it as an archive of their plans.  And, of course, using doodle.com to help them schedule when these Lync meetings are going to happen.
The Languages department has been particularly interested.  I'm going to be showing the French students how to use Lync (in French) to engage in video conversations (in French) and record them for later revision and reflection.  Lync has video recording of conversations built-in, which is an important capability that's not in Skype.  It is Google+ Hangouts using YouTube but there a number of issues around YouTube that doesn't m…

It's too far to walk

I heard this twice yesterday.

From two different sides.

Both were about venturing into a different space.

I have my feet in two distinct camps, that of the IT Department and that of the faculty.  And I heard the exact same words coming from both.

It's too far to walk.

It wasn't laziness that prompted them to say that... there's something more.  There's a reluctance to engage with "the other".  They aren't (or don't) like us.

And so I push, and I prod; I josh and I cajole.  And I try to make it seem so that it's not so far.  But it was a good reminder that the issues of professional development and technological growth aren't limited by our budget or by our policies but rather by the individual, personal feelings (and perhaps, fear) we have for the other.

Image by ClaraDon

Building Assessments in OneNote

In our grade 9 classes we have an alternative approach to final assessments in June.  Rather than exams, the students engage in day-long activities for each subject.  Not quite project-based assessments but somewhat similar; I'm going to call them projects just for convenience.  The science and geography departments have gotten together to develop a joint project that's going to run all day.  The students will be broken up into small groups and, through research, discussion and planning they'll come up with a decision on this real-life issue.

The science teacher came to me with the problem: the materials the students produce throughout the day has to be assessed by both their geography and their science teacher. It's going to include maps, diagrams, pictures, notes, jottings.  Our students work in the free-form OneNote every day so they're accustomed to being able to just drop in text, ink, audio, video, you-name-it onto a "page" and arrange it as they se…

PD, en masse, for Lync

One of the adaptations to the schedule that began last year at school was the addition of an hour of "meeting time" available every Wednesday morning.  Now, it is often consumed by department meetings, a (incorrectly named) PLN and faculty meetings, I do occasionally get some time to do some large-scale PD.  So far I've had two 20 minutes sessions.  To be fair, doing PD in front of the entire faculty is not particularly productive -- they are all at different levels in terms of pedagogy and technology that there isn't a lot of common ground to build on.  And what I'm not all about is wasting their time showing TED talks -- they don't need inspiration; they're already an extremely motivated group, eager to learn.

This time, I thought I would go over Microsoft Lync.  Now, Lync is not particularly well know; as a form of introduction it's really similar to Skype or MSN Messenger (and in fact, it's on the way to being merged with Skype).  It's dee…

Swimming upstream

Teachers try to be efficient with their use of time; like first responders, teachers are dealing with situations that are often dealt with immediately, in the moment. They want to provide opportunities for students to show their learning, and then provide meaningful feedback, planning and differentiating along the way. Things that get in the way are quickly discarded -- by necessity. So that brings me to Sharepoint. Two stumbles arrived today:

1) We're using a discussion board in one of our courses. Now, to be fair, the students and teachers are learning how to use a discussion board correctly. Some students were writing their reflections in Word and uploading an attachment to the Board. That's not good board etiquette and its something that's being discussed. But to make matters worse, Sharepoint's out-of-the-box discussion board hides the attachment from the viewer: you see a small paperclip icon and then have to click twice to get to the Word document. It …

Knowledge is power

One of my biggest goals this year has been to ensure that people have the information they need, when they need it in the form that they find usable. We've made some great steps forward using Excel to re-package a lot of the information held by our Student Information service (and held is the operative word -- it's locked in there quick tightly). Faculty have been able to use the information to involve students and parents more in day-to-day student life, academics and co-curriculars. And they've been doing a lot more analysis on formative and summative grades to find patterns, differentiate instruction and improve assessments.

Another big step is redesigning Sharepoint to make certain that information is stored and presented in an organized way. Over the years, Sharepoint has grown in a haphazard way and users haven't really been made aware of how they can control their experience with the tools built in to it. Admittedly, it's not the most user-friendly syst…