Friday, 13 June 2014

A new teaser for Google Classroom

Google has released a new teaser for Google Classroom.
They announce a September start-date on their blog and perhaps even a trial:
"By September, Classroom will be available to any school using Google Apps for Education. Since we want to make sure Classroom plays well with others, if you’re a developer or partner, sign up to learn more about integrating with Classroom."
Look up Google Classroom here.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Breaking the mould? Learning Spaces for the Future.

The logic is that if you want to do something different, you need to change everything. Classrooms have been learning spaces which have not really changed very much over time, over a long time. The traditional rows of tables (desks) with the teacher at the front facilitates traditional teaching approaches. Many classrooms nowadays, however, are set out as clusters of tables, u-shaped spaces, and many other arrangements which allow greater collaboration amongst students - but has anything changed? Could a complete redesign of learning spaces encourage learning and teaching in very different ways?
The Brazilian Col├ęgio Mater Dei has been experimenting with space in an effort to achieve a greater use of technology in learning and teaching. The Official Google Blog states it as:
In 2013, Mater Dei deployed Google Apps for Education as part of a move to incorporate technology into the academic environment. After they started to see early results, they came to Google with a plan: create a space on campus that’s designed from the ground up to be a technology-powered learning center for K-12 students. Last week, that idea became a reality when Mater Dei launched what we’re now calling the Google Learning Space.
The photos show bean bags, foam stools and cushions and, frankly, really awkwardly sitting or lying students.
I admire freshly thought out approaches to opening up learning and teaching with technology and recognise that to do this you have to break the mould. But how would it work in practice? Is this a permanent classroom space for a group or class? Would the school have many of these spaces for students to congregate, cooperate and learn in?
What if we were starting from scratch, with the technology of the moment, what learning space would we have? Would we even bother having schools?

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Chromebooks becoming a real option

It seems that many schools are opting for Chromebooks.
We have been looking at this aspect from both educational and financial viewpoints. The financial one seems obvious - Chromebooks are extremely good value for money, almost tablet costs for much better than notebook operation.
The functionality of Chromebooks has been the question in terms of their use in education. Given that much of what we do educationally is browser based, the issue of a Chromebook being "just" a browser is not so important. But Chromebooks have a filing system and can work with downloaded documents - hence work off-line from Google Drive or from the file system. So what is the problem?
  • There is a legacy problem from equipment that works on Windows machines, including some laboratory and simulation software, video/audio editing programmes and the like. 
  • Heavy spreadsheet work still seems to work better on Excel and despite the improvements, PowerPoint materials always have to be carefully reviewed when uploaded to Google Presentations. 
  • We still have Windows 7 desktops as the drivers for digital projectors in classrooms and need to shift mentally and practically to Google Cast or other devices.
  • Our broadband connection - we are topping our dedicated 30 Megabits almost all of the time; how would we fare with the requirement to connect to the cloud?
However, we are reviewing the Chromebooks option very seriously at the moment.
The latest announcements from Google about tracking Chromebooks in case they are stolen seems to tie up that advantage that i-Pads had. Here is a video describing the Guardian system:

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Google Classroom coming to Google Apps for Education

Google announced today their new integration called Google Classroom.
Those of us who struggled through own methods as well as third party ones to tie in the classroom experience will welcome this.
Here is their explanation:

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Puentedura's SAMR as a Framework towards Education 3.0

Thank you Jackie Gerstein for the idea of linking Puentedura's SAMR approach (implementing technology in teaching) to explaining the move towards Education 3.0.
She produced an excellent infographic which nicely uses the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition parts SAMR.
She links Substitution and Augmentation to Education 1.0, Modification to Education 2.0 and Redefinition to Education 3.0.
This approach is a further attempt to explain the move beyond Education 2.0 and it is a very helpful approach that can be used in discussions.
To enable this and doing a bit of re-purposing I have put her infographic into pages on a slideshow for those who prefer it this way.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Rhizomes vs the establishment - #rhizo14

Posted this originally on the Rhizomatic Learning Google+ community but wanted to keep Bonnie Stewart's post here too, so I can refer to it.
She posted this two years ago during the #change11 MOOC and I wondered what has changed since then - the idea of independent, open, self directed learning in schools seems to be much more viable today than it did then. What has changed?
Others are also tackling this issue, be it from the technology side (allowing students to bring in mobiles to school) say, or opening up education from the pedagogy side as in this TED talk from Jerry Michalski on "What if we trusted you?" (Scarcity, abundance, trust - a little political but with some sound points).
So, what has changed?
The Rhizomatic Learning Google+ Community Post:
Thanks to Steve Wheeler ( for reminding me of Bonnie's #change11 post on rhizomatic learning.
This connected with me since the elements of our schools environment  clash with the broader INDEPENDENT learning concepts.
In her words:
"We conflate learning and schooling. We are subjects of the idea of education as a system, an institution, and so we rely on and replicate this idea in our conceptions of learning: we assume factors like goals and grading and – increasingly – market viability as real parts of what learning involves. They can be, of course. But they do not need to be unless that learning is taking place within the contingencies of mass-delivery and crowd control and normativizing of classed behaviours and literacies that we absorbed with our school milk programs. These practical components of systemic schooling processes are the base map or lens on learning which we, culturally, have inherited."

Friday, 24 January 2014

Enforcing independence at a country level - #rhizo14

Have just heard Miguel Brechner talk on Uruguay's Ceibal project, at one of the Leadership seminars at the BETT (technology) show in London.
Uruguay introduced the one laptop per child project for a specific purpose - equity. They saw the huge gap in access to technology between the wealthy and the rest, and decided that every school child should have a laptop. How they introduced it, the distribution problems, the costs, their perceived benefits, etc, are very interesting topics, but I want to concentrate on the unintended leap forward that occurred.
In one sweep they provided all students with the power to access their own learning. They didn't quite force or enforce independence, but, Miguel judges that around 80% of students use the laptop directly for learning, often learning independently. Despite the best efforts of training teachers in the laptop and the apps involved (including teaching English using tutors in the Philippines and many other countries), most students got to be much more knowledgeable and skilled than the teachers.
There is a huge lag in pedagogy, and this is admitted. But a country has put the possibility of learning in all their children's hands. Uruguay has around 3 million inhabitants, but it has managed to provide this throughout the state school system, often to small schools in rural areas. Think of the connectivity problems that they had to solve.
This may not sound like enforcing independence when viewed from the perspective of the developed world, where most (all?) children have access to this type of connectivity. But in a country where this was not happening, an unintended HUGE leap forward in independence has occurred.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Forcing and enforcing independence - #rhizo14

Sounds oxymoronic but it isn't. Forcing independence is what parents do when they get a child to dress themselves. It would be quicker to do it for them, but the patience pays off later.
Dave Cormier's week 2 topic for #rhizo14 is an important one for those who teach (okay, cause learning to occur). How do we marry the institution's need for direction and measures of success with those of achieving rhizomatism (sorry if this word does not exist)?
In the "open" approaches that we have taken in my school (6th to 8th grade) we had a storyline provide the context and wanted individual and small group independence in how it was tackled. This was not easy to generate. Students are strongly institutionalised and want to know what they are learning and how it will be tested.
However, with very much younger children who have not been institutionalised in this way it has not been difficult. The structured play approach, using also Reggio Emilia ideas, in the Early Years (age 3 to 5), has been extraordinarily successful. It has been the parents that we have had to work with and convince. Here there is real learning taking place, under the control of the learner with the teacher looking for opportunities to enrich this.
What about teachers? Reading George Couros' article about professional development (PD) - thanks Jennifer for sharing - brought it home to me. Surely, real Life Long Learners (LLL) work rhizomatically?
Shouldn't they? Isn't there a difference between Life Long Pupils (receive only) and LLLs who are in charge of what they want to do, are independent?
How ready are our teachers to really take on this responsibility?
Dave Cormier spoke about his 40 year olds doing his course. How do they react to the forced independence? Would really like to know.