Month: January 2017

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What’s in your classroom: Is Google Classroom ready to take over?

Google Classroom, Google’s tool for managing, sharing and collaboration in your classroom, has had an important update in the last month. A teacher can now assign a task to specific students, something we can all do ‘in real life’ but teachers who have found Google Classroom to be a time-saving effective tool for sharing content and accessing work have been calling for this feature for some time. To see the other updates, including usage statistics in admin panel click here.

When I presented a Google Classroom session for the first time at an Appsevents summit it solved many problems for teachers who already used Google Drive with their classes but those using Edmodo, Hapara Teacher Dashboard, Moodle liked the interface and usability but when they asked if it:

  • Can share information with parents like show my homework
  • Sync with markbooks like…
  • Work on iOS and Android
  • Annotate student work like…

It didn’t, but it does now! What we have learnt is that the feedback button was worth pressing. Google’s team of project managers and developers read every piece of feedback and have aggregated the main requests to regularly improve the product based on user’s requests. If you appreciate being able to sort by first and last name, you’re welcome.

All the items I listed in my training slides that Classroom couldn’t do have consistently been crossed off. Third party tools have made Classroom even more effective, more and more of your favourite web tools and apps work seamlessly with Classroom. Here are a few of my own favourites:

  • Geogebra
  • Share to Classroom
  • Desmos (sort of)
  • Peardeck
  • Smartamp
  • Texthelp

More and more providers of educational tools are taking advantage of the API access to integrate their tools with Classroom so your favourite may be linked soon if it is not already. Check out the ones that do here.

    For admins, some who eagerly await more integration with the tools teachers want to use, others who have used a lack of integration as a reason to deny teachers use of it, there are now ways to sync users, create classrooms for the whole school and monitor usage. Parents can get updates on assignments and a calendar is created for every class.

    Chromebooks are getting android apps and a stylus to make it even easier for teachers to annotate work submitted, which for me leave one last request…

    Google, please can you develop Google drawings to work seamlessly with touchscreen, stylus and interactive whiteboards?

    Ben Rouse, 2017

    For schools looking to harness technology for learning, can they really look much further than GSuite and Chromebooks?

    Enjoy

    Ben

    Design Thinking in Schools: Shadow a Student

    Empathy and understanding the ‘what is’ forms the essential starting point of innovation and underpins design thinking. So what better way to get started in schools than to shadow a student. Check out the shadow a student website, which is aiming to get school leaders living a day in the life of a student.

    Sign up to commit to shadow a student and learn more about your school than a month of meetings would tell you.

    Try using empathy mapping while you do it, add it to an ethnographic wall in your staffroom and encourage others to add too. Father data from conversations, informal chats and observations made while walking the school. You might be surprised what you find.

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    What you find might be the problem worth solving that leads to innovation…

    Enjoy

    Ben

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    Design Thinking in Schools: Which personas are in your school?

    Students are categorised by grades, level of need, progress from starting points and in some cases background or ethnicity. There are other categories some teachers might wish to use too. Could we use very different characteristics to provide the best learning opportunities for all children?


    Clearly I am not busy enough being head of maths for 3 days a week and Technology for Learning lead across a Multi-Academy Trust for the other two days. To fill in the slack I signed up to an online course on Coursera. The course title is “Design Thinking for Innovation” which has content and cohort discussion over 5 weeks with an assessed reflection at the end.

    Why Design Thinking?

    Design thinking provides a methodology and toolset for developing innovation (innovation is something we can all produce) and I am keen to apply it where appropriate to the way we work in schools. One aspect of the ground work needed to create conditions for Innovation is to go deeper rather than wider to understand the situation in which you are operating.

    Ewan McIntosh’s book “How to come up with great ideas (and actually make them happen)” is a great place to start your design thinking journey.

    How would it work in schools?

    An example for a school would be to consider putting the whole school excel sheet to one side and take time to conduct interviews with 10 to 15 students. The interview in Design Thinking needs to be conducted carefully, taking time to listen. The themes that come from a few deep interviews can provide more understanding of a problem than data from 100s of students.

    Personas

    The course is not education specific, in fact it is mostly business focussed. However, I have found relevance in most of the sessions. One in particular led me to write this post.

    A case study showcased the Design Thinking used by a healthcare start-up who interviewed 20 ‘users’ to define the things that influence their health and well being. From this work the company developed a set of personas to encompass their users, including strategies to help each persona improve their health.

    Consider if in schools we used design thinking to get an understanding of the personas of our students in order to develop strategies for each that help them become better learners? Leaders may also consider this for their staff as recruitment becomes tougher it is valuable to know what will keep your staff motivated and happy. These things won’t be the same for everyone!

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    Would this be of use to teachers and staff in your school? 

     

    If your school takes an approach like this please do share. I will be using this idea as my reflection assignment for the course.


    Further Reading

    Have a look into design thinking in education via the Teacher’s Guild.

    Other books you may wish to consider are:

    • Designing for Growth: A Design Thinkers Guide for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie
    • Edupreneur: Unleashing Teacher Led Innovation in Schools by Aaron Tait and Dave Faulkner

     

    Enjoy

    Ben

    “That sounds a bit technical”; why do Ofsted rarely mention #edtech

    The use of technology for learning in schools is inconsistent in my experience. Schools with a reputation for embedding technology effectively into teaching and learning are in short supply. Is this because…

    1. #edtech has no impact on progress?
    2. Training is not prioritised? See OECD report
    3. School are nervous to change the way they use technology as they fear Ofsted won’t like it?
    4. Curriculum needs to change to enable the best use of technology (a greater focus on projects, blended learning or flipped learning?)
    5. Ofsted inspectors don’t agree or know what best practice looks like?

    As someone who works with schools and teachers on their use of technology to support learning I encounter some extremely competent, knowledgeable and capable professionals at their most vulnerable when technology and change are thrust upon them. 

    Ofsted are working hard to dispell some myths around inspections.

    Many school marking policies reference “books” rather than marking and feedback wherever it may occur. I am suggesting to schools working with cloud drives such as office365 or Google Drive that teacher-student interactions captured in Onenote or on a Google Doc can be shared with an ofsted@myschool.org account should they wish to showcase it to inspection teams in addition to their SDP or SEF ( ideally laden with comments and discussions of a truly working document).
    This is a response I have heard to such an approach.

    “That sounds a bit technical.”

    For who? The school, or the Ofsted inspectors?

    Are #edtech references infrequent in Ofsted reports because;

    • schools are nervous of going down this route as it is different?
    • we don’t think Ofsted inspectors have the technical nows to navigate a login and shared folders?
    • Ofsted inspectors don’t know what good #edtech for learning looks like so avoid mentioning it in reports?

    In an entirely unscientific search I found an area for improvement for a good specialist college.

    the use of technology to support and enhance students’ learning and progress is underdeveloped

    Ofsted 2015 

    If I were being flippant I could claim this suggests to be outstanding schools must use technology but we know this is not an appropriate conclusion. 

    It is expanded on in the report. 

    Managers should extend the use of technology to support and enhance teaching, learning and assessment by learning from the best practice in colleges, and training staff further in the most effective use of technology such as interactive smartboards and tablets.

    Ofsted 2015

    This would suggest they have tablets already.

    I would love to hear from schools using technology for learning if you make any concessions for Ofsted or have had your use of technology identified as contributing to good or outstanding progress. Ofsted will not specifically reference a technique or apprpach, preferring to speak in general terms to avoid a mass rush to copy the approach. 

    I would also love to hear from Ofsted inspectors (on or off the record) about your experience of technology use to support learning and progress.

    If you are interested in a summary of technology references in Ofsted reports you should read this post which was written by Mike Cameron in response to a TES article about disruptive technology (causing disruption rather than the type referred to in the Innovator’s Dilemma). Mike has searched a range of reports for references to “tablets”, after the article claimed a report suggested 30% of schools opporate a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. If that many schools do try to engage technology in learning Ofsted reports would be picking up these are strengths or weaknesses? Once again your input would be welcomed as I explore what great #edtech is.

    More and more schools are investing in technology and we must ensure this investment has a positve impact on the efficiency of teachers and the learning outcomes of students. Ofsted has a role to play in that and I would like to investigate a bit more.

    Enjoy your new year,

    Ben