It’s that time of year again: international school recruiting season.
Every year around this time, we start hearing about friends and colleagues taking off for the next adventure, and for the last five years we’ve been very content to stay where we are. We absolutely love Japan, and we’ve been so fortunate to work with so many wonderful people at YIS.
Around this time last year, I made the decision to try working part time so I could focus more on other opportunities. Although having that one extra day off a week has been helpful, I’m realizing that it’s not quite enough - I’m split in too many directions. And, although Alex loves his job at YIS, he’s ready for a new challenge.
So, after five years of staying put, we’re now off on our next adventure (again).
A New (Old) Home
It turns out it’s not so much of a new adventure, location-wise, as we’ll be moving back to Bangkok! Alex will teach middle school MYP English and Humanities at NIST, and I’ll be spending more time developing the three organizations I’m involved in, as well as my consulting, with NIST, and with other schools around the world.
Although we’ll be sad to leave Japan and YIS, there are so many exciting opportunities ahead:
The Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy program that Jeff and I co-founded six years ago is growing so fast we can’t keep up! We have amazing instructors and coaches (all COETAIL graduates, of course) that work with us (thank you!), but I feel strongly that it’s my responsibility (along with Jeff) to make the program outstanding. We built this from the ground-up and we are so proud of how far we’ve come – there’s no reason to stop here! We are always learning and trying new things, we want to give our participants an amazing experience, and we want to make sure the program stays relevant and innovative as we grow.
We had our very first Learning 2.0 in Africa this year! We have opened up applications for Europe and the Middle East for 2016! There is something very special about this conference, and planning each one is a year-long process. As we continue to open up new regions, we’ll need more time to plan and develop the program so that it’s just right for that location. Plus, the Advisory is working to make Learning 2.0 into a non-profit organization, which is so exciting, but also takes tons of time and energy.
A little over a year ago, Jeff and I sat in Singapore chatting about how we can continue to work together and build something new. It’s hard to believe that in such a short time, we’ve developed an entirely new company (with an amazing team!), created five new online courses (huge thanks to Clint, Dana, Chrissy, Robert, and Rebekah) that are already on offer (and have been very well received so far), begun building long- and short-term consultancy packages for schools, and started designing regional learning institutes that are innovative and pushing the boundaries of what professional development can look like.
My work with NIST is still being defined, but the thing I’m most excited about is still having that strong connection to a school community, to be able to work with teachers, parents and students on a regular basis, to get to know the school and what they need so that I can really make an impact. Combining my work with NIST along with my personal consulting work at other schools will enable me to share great experiences and examples with lots of different schools – and to bring back that experience to NIST.
Even with all these opportunities ahead, I’m still a little bit shocked that this will be the first year of my life since graduating university that I will not have a full time job. Everyone keeps telling me self-employed is different than unemployed, and I definitely know how much work all of the above is going to take me, but it feels kind of crazy! So, if anyone has any advice for this whole self-employment world, please share!
Images by superkimbo, CC licensed on Flickr:
During the month of May our grade 7 students trialed the use of 2 (yes 2!) school issued devices: an iPad Mini and a MacBook Air 11″. This trial is an evolution of our existing Connected Learning Community (1:1 program) – read more about the development of our 2:1 trial on my previous posts.
2:1 Learning in Action
As part of the trial, Clint and I visited as many classrooms as we could to see how the students and teachers were using both devices. As part of our conversations with students, parents and teachers in preparation for the trial, we talked about a number of key themes and it was amazing to see those (and more) in action as we visited classrooms.
Here are a few highlights:
One of the reasons why were are using two devices (rather than continuing as we are with laptops or making a switch to iPads) is that we feel the devices when used together are complementary – while the iPad is good for mobile and interactive learning, the laptops is great for heavy duty typing and multimedia creation. Using them both together gets the best out of both devices – many of the teachers and parents already have this experience with our laptops and our phones, but, not every student has a smart phone at YIS (yet!).
As we visited classrooms, we saw lots of students using both devices, each for the most appropriate purpose, including:
- recording on the iPad (prioritizing mobility and appropriate locations) and editing on the laptop
- using the iPad as a second screen – editing a script on the laptop while the prezi is open on the iPad, for example
- using the iPad for handwriting input (like kanji) and then bringing it to the laptop to include in other elements
This concept came up in the student feedback as well:
- “We were able to do two things at once like reading off a script on the iPad and recording on the computer.”
- “I think that the highlight was being able to have two things at once so that you can research and type out. It also makes it easier for you to read books. Also when doing a speech, speaker notes were easier rather than paper.”
- “Using an iPad helped me do things easier and quicker than I could have done them on my laptop. But also, since they are complementary devices, they were both good to use. Using our iPad instead of computers in some occasions made our projects in class more fun and efficient.”
- “One of the best parts of having both the iPad and my laptop with me was that I could watch videos or record for school, at the same time that I record or read information from my laptop. I also found it much more convenient to record on the iPad then struggle using the Photo Booth Application on the laptop.”
Although we are extremely fortunate to have laptops already, one of the things we notice quite a bit when walking in the hallways is students using the laptops for filming and audio recording – often carrying around their laptops open to use the built-in camera. It’s great to see that our students are problem solvers, but we try to emphasize safety and responsibility with the laptops, and the video and audio recording quality on the laptop is not that great.
So, as we expected, when we visited classrooms, we saw tons of multimedia recording including:
- audio voiceovers for movies
- capturing still images and video as needed for a variety of tasks
- the use of apps like Photobabble for voice over image recording
Of course this experience was definitely not confined to just the classrooms. During the trial we had a grade 7 field trip where groups of students were exploring Yokohama, capturing all sorts of multimedia on their iPads throughout the day.
Mobility was one of the key features that students and parents were looking for in this trial as well. During our Community Focus Group meetings, students mentioned that they struggle to use their laptops on the train because it’s so unusual here in Japan, having an iPad has allowed them to be more productive during transportation time (depending on where they live, our students can travel up to an hour back and forth from school) than they would ordinarily be.
On the parent survey, they also highlighted this advantage:
- “It was effective for my daughter to quickly research some materials on the internet. My daughter preferred using her PC for her homework and other works. She tried to utilize using her iPad on the train while commuting.”
Creativity & Student Choice
One of our goals for the trial was to encourage and promote student creativity and individual choice. We wanted to give students as many different ways as possible to demonstrate their learning and express themselves. Although we only had the iPads for a three-week trial, we saw students experimenting with their iPad and laptop in lots of different ways, some that we expected, others that we didn’t, including:
- downloading very specific apps for subject-based projects – for example a decibel calculator for the science fair
- presenting work in different formats, selected by the student
- finding new and unique ways to do things that we anticipated would be done using our Top 10 Apps
- absolutely seamless ways to share their learning with others – both within the class and beyond
Overall, this was the most commonly agreed upon success of our trial. Parents, students and teachers all highlighted how well the iPad enhanced student creativity and choice:
- We had a choice of what to do. We didn’t only have to use the computer we could be unique from other people and have a different style. It’s also more exciting to choose which tool you want to use. Holding something and actually feeling is better. Another reason why it’s better is because if you forget your computer or iPad you always have a small back up.” (student)
- “The best parts of having an iPad was the choice of which apps to use for assessments and the ability to present in different ways than usual.” (student)
- “It seems a bit ineffective since opening and working with the different apps and technology takes a bit more time compared to working from a book or direct instruction but it makes the learning more fun so that gains a whole lot. The students were motivated to work with the iPads and making videos, recording and sharing in a quick way was effective and fun.” (teacher)
- “I think it was a great experience for my daughter and a definitely useful tool for her learning. We’re thankful to be a part of this initial trial and we hope for its launch in the near future.” (parent)
One of the issues we have with laptops is that they are not quite as interactive as we want them to be. The natural input of just writing on the screen, and the ability to combine handwriting with typed text as well as over images and video is something teachers have been asking to take advantage of for several years. Having access to both devices for this trial really supported those kinds of kinesthetic interactions, like:
- using Coaches Eye to track and improve physical performance in PE
- transitioning from handwritten complex equations to typed in math
- highlighting and labeling experiments in Explain Everything in science
Thanks to Alex Thomas, one of our superstar PE teachers for this insight into the PE classroom with iPads:
Although the feedback from the trial was very positive, from students, parents and teachers, alike, we still have more work to do. Next year we will continue with the trial, but with a new group of students – next year’s grade 7. Having a shorter trial this year allowed us to really understand the dynamics of two devices in the classroom and at home, as well as help us uncover areas that we need to focus on for next year.
Based on the feedback surveys, we’ll be focusing on:
Managing time & distractions: As the surveys highlighted, students are well prepared to focus on learning during school time, but struggle to manage this challenge at home. Focusing on this element during our iPad Institute and in each class, as well as further supporting parents, will be a key element of our program for next year.
Complimentary Devices: Having the iPads for only three weeks this semester made it more challenging to try to use each device in the most effective way. Next year we can highlight the different ways to make the most out of both devices, without feeling pressure to try everything in a limited timeframe. Getting to know a new tool always takes time, which we will have over the course of the next school year.
Balance: As always, we will continue to work towards helping students (and teachers, and parents!) find balance in their use of screen time. Over the course of the year next year we can continue to reflect on this process and see which strategies and approaches work best for all stakeholders.
Does your school provide multiple devices to your students? If so, what are some strategies you use to support the themes above?
Woohoo! After a year of thinking about how this could work, and four months of intensive PD with our grade 7 teachers, our grade 7 students have finally started their 2:1 trial. All grade 7 students now have an iPad Mini and a MacBook Air 11″ for the month of May. To kick off our trial, we hosted a 1 and a half day iPad Institute involving all of our grade 7 students (and their teachers) as well as a great group of parents. Here’s what we did:
iPad Institute: Day 1
Our first day of the institute was with students only, and we focused on making sure that the students really understand why we’re adding an additional device to our already strong 1:1 program, as well as increasing their comfort level with the device as an academic tool, and preparing them to share their learning with their parents on Day 2. Students worked in pre-assigned teams of 5 throughout the day.
Part 1: Setting the Stage
For the first session we wanted to stay focused on our CLC vision to give a clear purpose, focus and framework for learning with the iPads over the next month. We started with an introductory presentation to set the stage and highlight some key themes for our trial:
One of the key messages here was that the students will be our ambassadors for this trial. It’s their conversations with their parents, their actions both in and out of class, and their choices that will have the most influence on the success (or failure) of this trial. We talked about the fact that often students don’t really share what they’re doing and how they’re learning with their parents (even when they’re asked), but that during this trial, those conversations would be especially important.
Although we know they’re going to use these devices for socializing, we also know they have an amazing amount of creativity and ingenious ideas for using them for learning purposes too, and we want to make sure that those examples are part of every day conversations as well. After this discussion, we had students develop some key questions they were wondering about using the Visible Thinking Routine: Question Starts - we came back to these questions throughout the day to make sure they all were answered before students left.
Once we had the background and purpose defined for the students, we wanted to give them some time to think about how their learning experiences might be different over the next month, and how that will fit into the framework of our CLC vision. We developed 10 different activities (2 for each of the 5 themes of our CLC vision) that the student groups would rotate through:
- Attitudes and Behaviors: Our community will be characterized by inquisitive, discerning, open-minded, and self-directed learners who use technology in a balanced and responsible manner.
- Activity 1: Acrostic Poem: Write your name in the boxes provided. Use the letters in your name to create a poem describing how you will use your iPad as a self directed learner.
- Activity 2: I used to, Now I will: For each aspect of the vision statement, explain what you used to do, and then what you will do now. eg: As an inquisitive learner…. I used too…. Now I will…
- Learning Environment: Ubiquitous access to technology tools and resources will enhance our learning environment, expanding horizons beyond the physical classroom. This will empower YIS learners to access information, collaborate, and exchange ideas within the YIS community and around the world.
- Activity 1: Before & After: Use the small boxes of paper to draw yourself learning in one of the environments given or an environment of your own choice. Draw yourself “before” having an iPad and “after” having an iPad. Glue your pictures on to the big paper. If you can’t think of an example for the places given, use the blank paper to add a new location.
- Activity 2: App Smash: List apps that help you learn outside of the classroom to: access information, collaborate, and exchange ideas
- Actions and Decisions: Our actions and decisions will demonstrate responsible digital citizenship, reflect our school values and create a positive online presence.
- Activity 1: Manifesto: Write your own contract with yourself describing how you will make good choices with both of your devices. List 5-7 commitments you will make to ensure you will make good choices with your iPad. Sign and date it at the end.
- Activity 2: Gingerbread People: With this activity, student will label the gingerbread men with statements that show how a persons acts/feels with the ipad. Example: With these hands, I download apps that will help me at school. If time, students can add “accessories” (earbuds, for instance).
- Educational Experiences: Educational experiences will be authentic, imaginative, and provide for different learning paces and styles. Learners will be encouraged to become independent and enterprising in order to meet the challenges of a constantly changing world.
- Activity: Tableau: With your group, stage a scene that shows what you image a learning environment will look like with two devices. Ask a teacher to take the picture using the iPad provided. Upload to the YISCLC Instagram account (already open on the iPad) and write a description of the scene in the caption.
- Community: Our Connected Learning Community will provide a sense of identity and belonging that will enrich our overall school community and connect us with others around the globe.
- Activity 1 Headlines: Write a statement about how the iPad will allow you to connect with others. Have a 1 minute discussion, take 30 seconds to write your own headline, then share your headline (identify 1 positive quality for each), and finally create a group headline.
- Activity 2: Create an App Icon: Create an app icon that represents your community with an iPad. Choose a color, symbol and name that represents the message of the vision statement.
Part 2: Unboxing & Set-up
After a big morning of thinking and re-imagining learning, it was time to distribute and set-up the iPads. Learning from previous experience during our CLC Orientation days that we have at the beginning of every year, we split the student teams up into four rooms (for about 50 students) so that we could have four teachers walking them through the steps and only about 10 – 15 students in each room. We were also fortunate to have our tech support staff with us in each room so that when things went wrong (and they did!) we had the right people with us to troubleshoot.
For the most part things went extremely smoothly, we were fortunate to have these lightning to VGA adaptors so we could demo the whole set-up process right from “hello” on the projector. We were organized enough to have students fill in a survey with all the information they would need to create a new Apple ID (since we didn’t know who had one or in which store) so they would be ready once those steps came up on the iPad. The students filled in the survey earlier in the week and superstar Clint used a script to have the form automatically e-mail them their responses in PDF form.
Although that process worked extremely well, we realized quite quickly that Apple doesn’t like 50 people creating a new Apple ID from the same IP address all at the same time. Thankfully we were able to create some mobile hotspots with Clint, Adam, Susie and Mel’s (ahem) Android phones so we could get all the students up and running without too much of an interruption.
Finally, we had them connect to our AirWatch YIS store which is how we’re distributing all apps to students and then they started downloading our top 10 apps. As soon as they had most of the apps, we had them partner up with anyone else who was finished to complete this scavenger hunt (thanks to Dana for this awesome idea!) to customize their iPad and start familiarizing themselves with our apps.
Part 3: Learning the Top 10
After a lunch break, we had each team become an expert in one of the top 10 apps. They had about 20 minutes to explore with the app, and think about how it can be used for learning. Then we split the teams in half (As and Bs) and set up a SpeedGeeking rotation where the A’s taught the B’s (9 times) and then the B’s taught the A’s (9 times). In typical YIS fashion, this worked extremely well:
Part 4: Wrap-up & Preparing for the Parent Session
For the final block of the day, we did a wrap up of their learning and made sure to answer any questions that were left from the morning question starts routine. It was very interesting to go back to some of these key questions (for example there were 5 or 6 about why they were getting an iPad) and have the students turn and talk, and then share, and answer those questions themselves after this day of learning. We also spent some time introducing the next morning’s session, which is a joint introduction to the iPad trial with their parents – where the students will teach their parents about the different apps we’ll use.
Part 5: Parent Session
For the first two periods on Friday morning we had about a quarter of the grade 7 parents join us for an introductory session. We went through the same presentation as we did in March, but this time we had some special guests: their children. Any time we mentioned the different apps or how we could use the iPads, we asked the students to share their learning from the day before.
It was absolutely fantastic to see the students sharing their ideas with their parents, to hear all the different languages being spoken, and to see students already starting to take ownership and responsibility for their learning. The vibe in the room was awesome (thanks to Adam for this short video, taking on his iPad using YouTube Capture):
It was also great to have the opportunity to share some key ideas with the parents:
Part 6: The 2:1 Trial Begins!
Before the end of the day on Friday, I already had stories from three different teachers about how amazing the grade 7′s were with their iPads that day. You can see a bit of their learning from Alex Thomas in PE:
Mariko shared the following from EAL 7:
EAL 7 will be creating their Escape the Room game using Minecraft. The target audience will be EAL beginners/intermediate students. I was so surprised when they suddenly whipped out their iPads and used Notability to sketch and discuss their plans. There was so much meaningful conversation in ENGLISH! They shared their plan and uploaded it on a shared Gdoc. I’m SO impressed!
And, Rebekah tweeted about how her 7th graders made a natural transition from paper and pencil to iPad and stylus.
We’re just at the beginning of our trial, and I’m so excited to see what the students and teachers do during this month! Hopefully Clint and I will have an opportunity to pop into all the different seventh grade classes during the trial to see what’s happening. Whatever we see, we’ll share on our collaborative blog. If you have any suggestions or ideas for what else we can do (or of any other school running a 2:1 program like this), please let me know!
- Question Starts by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- Awesome app icons designed by grade 7 by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- Lock Screen Customization by captainmath, CC Licensed on Flickr
- Grade 7 students sharing their learning with their parents by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
One of the things that made the implementation of our Connected Learning Community (1:1 program) so successful four years ago was the input and collaboration between all stakeholders in our community: parents, students and teachers. So now that we’re continuing to develop our program by trialing an additional device in grade 7 (an iPad mini, in conjunction with a MB Air 11″), we wanted to make sure we kept that collaboration going strong.
Because the addition of a second device is something quite new to many of us, and there aren’t many models out there for us to follow (if you know of any schools implementing a program like this, please let me know), we wanted to make sure that our teachers felt comfortable in this new environment before we started heavily promoting the idea within our wider community. So, we started by working closely with our grade 7 team (almost the entire middle and high school staff, actually) for the first few months (read more about that process here).
Once our teachers were feeling confident about this new learning environment we were about to create, our next step was to involve both the parents and the students to help them understand what we’re doing and why, and to work with them to collaboratively define success for our trial.
Creating a Community Focus Group
We started this process by inviting all grade 6 and 7 parents to an evening session in early March to introduce our trial. Our hope was that we would have a big crowd and could build a team for our community focus group from those attending. Although we had a great conversation, we only had a very small group join us (5 or 6 parents attended), so we did a little more promotion via the school newsletter and some personal conversations.
Once we had our core team of 6 parents who were interested and available to spend at least a half day with us, we invited students and teachers to participate in the process – developing an evenly distributed team of 6 parents, 6 students and 6 teachers.
Here’s how we structured the day:
Part 1: Revisiting our CLC Vision & Mission
Because this 2:1 trial is the next evolution in our Connected Learning Community, we wanted to start our session together by revisiting the vision statement written by our community members four years ago. This vision will drive all of our actions and decisions as we go through the trial process. It was a great way to start this meeting in particular, because only one of the parents attending had been part of those conversations four years ago. This gave us a good opportunity to really highlight our school values and help define where we are coming from and hoping to go. At this time, we also did a short recap of the earlier parent evening presentation for those parents that weren’t able to attend.
Part 2: Defining Success
Once we had the background and vision to work from, we started in peer groups (parents with parents, students with students and teachers with teachers) to determine what success would look like at the end of our trial. We thought about what students, parents and teachers would be doing, and how they would feel. A few really interesting ideas came up in this conversation (and you can read more here):
- Students felt like having another device would make them less distracted and more responsible. They felt that having to care for two devices would keep that responsibility at the forefront of their thinking, and that being able to select the best device for the task would allow them to make better choices when focusing on school work.
- Students felt that the portability of the device, as well as the different types of input (voice and stylus) would give them lots of different ways to share their learning – using the format that is most comfortable for them.
- Parents felt that success would be when students are able to determine how and when to use each device – and when to put them away – being more responsible for being balanced in their lives.
- Parents also felt that success would be when students are sharing their learning more regularly with the family.
- Teachers felt that knowing that every student had access to a mobile device would allow much more efficient and equitable use of technology in the classroom. Right now many students have access to a mobile device, but not everyone, and this can limit some of the learning opportunities teachers select for a class.
- Teachers felt that the customizability of the device allows students to learn, share their learning, and collaborate in ways that work best for the individual. Being able to take advantage of that customization would be a strong sign of success.
- All of the groups mentioned that it would feel like we are all learning from each other (students, parents and teachers), that students would have more choice in how they learn and demonstrate their learning, and that we would all feel comfortable with taking risks and trying new things.
Part 3: Developing a Shared Understanding
As we brainstormed in step 2 above, all teams were documenting their thinking on a collaborative Google Doc. Next, we mixed the groups (putting parents, students and teachers together), and asked them to develop a shared understanding of what success would look like, based on their earlier conversation. In order to keep our CLC vision at the forefront of these conversations, we structured this section around the five themes of our vision. Again, lots of interesting ideas came up. Here are a few highlights (and you can read more here):
- Attitudes and Behaviors: More learning can take place outside the classroom. Students, parents and teachers will feel empowered and open to learning anytime, anywhere.
- Learning Environments: Learning will be more flexible in many ways: types of experiences, location, formats for sharing and documenting, and more opportunity for student choice. Students will feel more flexible and confident in trying new things.
- Actions and Decisions: Students will make good choices about when and where to use their devices – and for how long. Students will feel more comfortable using their devices on public transportation because it’s much less unusual to see younger people using tablets than it is for them to be using computers (this was an especially interesting point).
- Educational Experiences: More opportunities for authentic collaboration with others around the world, as well as more opportunities for the use of multimedia in learning. The use of multimedia will help students feel more engaged in their learning.
- Community: We will all be open to the ever-changing nature of technology and innovation.
Part 4: Ensuring Success
After a break (with delicious snacks from Zest, as usual), we came back together in peer groups (students with students, parents with parents and teachers with teachers) to determine what we should and shouldn’t do to ensure the success of the trial. Again, we documented our thinking on that same collaborative Google Doc, and again, after coming to some decisions as a like-group, we merged into mixed groups to share our findings together. Here are a few highlights (and you can read more here):
- Keep an open mind to new ideas, and be aware of the importance of sharing what we’re doing with the wider school community.
- Encourage students to work towards solving challenges in many different ways, therefore ensuring that different learning styles are met, students are able to demonstrate their creativity, and that we are taking advantage of all that the device has to offer.
- Continue teaching both technology skills (to all stakeholders), as well as the ethical, moral and physiological implications of using technology.
- Accept that we won’t know everything and that everyone is learning together.
We should not:
- Restrict use or creativity.
- Do everything online just because we can.
- Avoid new ideas.
- Feel like we have to master something new before we allow students to explore.
Having been at YIS for four years now, this kind of open and honest conversation among all stakeholders is not new to me, but once again, I am honored to be a part of such a collaborative community of learners. To hear the students talking about the new and exciting ways they can use two devices, and to listen to them sharing with parents, who are so open and willing to talk about these new ideas, all in the same room is just outstanding.
After the meeting was over and I read through the minutes (which have not been edited by anyone, and accurately represent the conversation as each person documented it), I was blown away by the thoughtful and open-minded attitude that everyone in the room demonstrated. I absolutely love that we can have these conversations and then share them with our wider school community (via our collaborative blog) so that everyone feels involved in the decision making process.
Next Steps: Continued Conversations
Our next steps will be to have at least one more follow up session with the CFG in late May or early June after the trial ends. We’ll of course provide a recap for the whole school, as well as opportunities for everyone to share their feedback in a variety of methods. It would be nice to see if we can find a time for the CFG group to meet once during the trial, but knowing how busy everyone is, this might be tough to schedule…
In my next post, I’ll share the structure and outcome of our iPad Institute for Students which was the launch of our 2:1 trial (and included a great session with students and parents learning together too).