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: