Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Conference season...and completely off the topic!

This week I received invitations to attend or present at 3 separate conferences in the next two months or so. All of them asked me to submit an outline of what I would like to present on and how i would like to present it.

Don't get me wrong, I love presenting to teachers. The ones that attend conferences like those being organised by Brescia House (http://www.brescia.co.za/ict-conference), The Ridge (http://www.khululafoundation.org/innovative-teachers-institute) or FutureEd(http://www.future-ed.co.za) are open minded and looking for new ways to make the process of education better.

The question that pops up in my mind is what are teachers looking for in these conferences?

Should we be networking or learning from experience  Should we be trying to find content or creation? Should we be just taking in the atmosphere?

For me conferences have always been about getting in touch with like-minded people. I love to be able to bounce ideas off teachers (not educators!) who have different or opposing philosophies on the process of education, +Sean Hampton-Cole springs to mind. I have had the privilege of helping my school hold their own conference over the past few years and love the energy that a good session or idea can create. I have been to Google, Apple, Microsoft and all sorts of other bodies meetings and enjoyed many of the experiences they offer, particularly when local teachers share what they are doing!

So...what do you look for in a 'conference' and how do you decide whether it was successful or not?

PS, I intend to apply for all three of the above-mentioned and if I don't present I will attend.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Questions from Maggie!

Just a few questions.....

Was there a great uptake by parents to come to the training session? 

We planned for around 40 families from the beginning, the sessions ended being around 20 families. This isn't too disappointing because this was for the very basics of iPad use and many people already use an iPhone or iPad device. Future sessions will include discussions on the 'Flipped or blended' classroom models, How creation apps work and the move away from content, a discussion on Blooms and how the Tablet allows teachers to work with higher order thinking, and how the parent can use the tablet to promote reading and analyses skills.

You say that you will do the same for other devices.....which forces me to ask the question of what is the breakdown of BYOD in the school?

We have a BYOT strategy, T being for tablet, and we allowed the use of any tablet the family chose. Generally about 95% have chosen the iPad and the rest have an android Tab (we only have 2 Slates in the school). 

We did recommend the iPad to parents due to it's 'safer' (or 'closed', depending on your point of view!) app environment, however as a group we decided that to make a choice for a family would be against our IT committee's open platform policy. This did mean a long discussion and some hard debate!

Strategies for getting the teachers on board of coping with different devices in the classroom?

Simply...I have been given the time to spend with teachers, we ask them to plan lessons that require the student to create content on the Tablet and not specifically use an App to deliver content. Occasionally they might need a specific App, in which case the students without the specific app share an iPad or Tablet with another student. We have found that most Apps are available on both platforms (and many have websites that can be accessed and used on-line).

In order to help the teacher we have made the scheme voluntary for the first term of 2013 (until May) after which every child is required to have a Tablet of some sort. All we require of the teachers is to use the tablet occasionally in class, even if it's just a textbook or novel to read. At the same time we are training the teachers how to use the tablet and getting them to understand that how content is delivered by the student is not important but rather what is in the content should be judged. We have some teachers who's adage is 'I just let the kids teach me!' and that is possibly the best strategy we could hope for!

Hope this helps Maggie!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Getting the parents on board?

This week we started teaching our parents how to use the iPad/Tablet.

The main point of our roll-out is that parents need to be partners in this project.

Firstly, they have all the usual parental decisions to make. How long can the child use the Tablet at home, what restrictions need to be used, can the child add or delete apps?

All these thing are up to the parents to discuss and negotiate with the child about. As teachers we cannot make these decisions for the parent, we give advice, train to use and help with software and hardware issues but we do not decide how the PERSONAL device is used.

Secondly, they should know how to use the devices themselves. The training this week focussed on setting up an iTunes account and setting restrictions on the iPad, later we will do the same on Android and Slate devices.

Finally, they need to allow the child to 'run' the device as their own. After discussing options we suggested each parent set's up one 'paying' iTunes/Play account that they run (and attach their payment details to!), in order to download paid apps and also one account for each child (set up in the parents name due to the 18 year age restriction, we can't allow lying now, can we?) to use for free apps that they will then update, control and, probably most importantly, access the iCloud with.

I learnt a lot too. Often parents are left behind or out of the technological revolution happening in education. They need to be involved and they need to be 'baby-stepped' through it. A teacher cannot assume that the parents can just up and run with the devices we are asking them to buy. As a school we need to be aware that parents often see technology from a different point of view. For them the important thing is the safety of their child, both literally in a security sense and on-line in the virtual sense. The first question we need to answer was regarding how safe our school cyber filter is. Luckily ours is pretty good!

We then need to let the parents understand that we all need to start some where, and that it's OK to ask question without feeling ignorant or embarrassed. Once this barrier is passed the training proceeds much more fluently.

The next step is to get our parents to have a device on their own and not just borrow the one they bought for the child....

...baby steps!