Category Archives: Anyone out there?

Cycle 3: iPad Trials in the WAB High School

We are now in Cycle 3 of our Collaborative Action Research iPad trials in the High School here at WAB. We are exploring how to use the iPad for transformative learning. Our research question is: In which areas is an iPad a better learning tool than the MacBook Pro?

In May 2013 we completed the analysis of Cycle 2 of our Action Research iPad project. We found that:
  • For a school that is already 1:1 MBP, the iPad does not outperform the computers in most areas. As one teacher put it, “MacBooks are the real workhorse,” and the student data reinforces that, with over half of students either unsure or disagreeing that iPads are an effective learning tool.
  • The areas where the iPad outperformed the MBP were in areas where the iPad was used at the redefinition level of the SAMR model. The iPad allowed for the creation of new tasks, which were previously inconceivable, even on the MBP such as using Coaches Eye and NearPod.
  • While we initially believed institutional ownership of the iPads would not be viable, given the iPads individualized nature, if only used for specific, transformative tasks, iPad carts seem a more reasonable way to go, rather than implementing 2:1 policy for 2013-14.
  • By far our biggest surprise lay in the power of the action research process to create a community of empowered learners.  Almost without fail, when surveyed as to the highlight of this project, for them, teachers replied, “Sharing ideas,” “It was interesting to see how different teachers utilized the iPads in their classroom,” and “Teachers from different departments work together, share ideas, and inspire each other. You can think out of box that iPads can be used in different ways in different subjects.”
Thus, we feel the need for another cycle, exploring how to use the iPad for transformative learning. We started in December 2013 and will publish our findings in May 2014. The course is available through iTunes U and is based on the course we developed for Cycle 2 with considerable revision. 

A Professional Highlight from the ADE Institute in Bali

ADE 2013 Asia Pacific group. Photo by Blll Frakes
ADE 2013 Asia Pacific group. Photo by Blll Frakes

The WAB team (comprising newbie Jeri Hurd, alumni Ray Gentleman and me) has just got back from the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Institute in Bali. The Institute welcomed over 230 new ADEs from across the Asia-Pacfic region with representation from afar as New Zealand to Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Greater China (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing). The application process and the competition was fierce and Team Greater China welcomed our very own WABbie, Jeri Hurd (HS Librarian) into the ADE community. As usual it was an action-packed, high-energy, intense and rewarding experience.

Here’s one of our professional highlights:

In full flow with Jeri (left). Photo by Daniel Woo
In full flow with Jeri (left). Photo by Daniel Woo
There’s a lot of buzz going on about action research in the Apple communities and more so about the iPad. Jeri (Hurd) and I were asked to showcase the action research journey we have embarked on in our high school in order to find out how the iPad transforms learning in the classroom.
WAB Mission Statement
WAB Mission Statement

In a ten-minute ‘TED’ style talk, we used the WAB mission statement ‘Connect, Inspire, Challenge: Make a Difference’ to ground our story which we segmented as follows:

  1. a simplified version of our action research model;
  2. our first action research project which resulted in the fabulous collaborative multi-touch book written by 27 MYP Grade 10 history students entitled ‘World War Two: Illustrated Histories’
  3. where we are now: working with twelve plus HS faculty to scale the action research project across various curriculum areas

I have been to a number of Apple events and I know the high standards expected. We were hand-picked for one of the twelve showcase spots to get up in front of our peers and inspire; the pressure was certainly on and we spent countless hours and sleepless nights putting it together to ensure that we told the story in a simple way while also doing justice to the work that had been put in by our colleagues and students – after all, it was their work that put us up on the stage.

Support when the technology fails! Photo by Daniel Woo
Support when the technology fails! Photo by Daniel Woo

Of course, no talk would be complete without some technical issue and the recovery the ensues. To our peers, this was the unintentional highlight in that we celebrated every teachers’ nightmare. Note to self: never rely on the network in a live demonstration on an iPad when you are sharing the network with over 1000 devices!

The keynote slide deck (ActionResearchSmall.mov) was amazing thanks to Ray Gentleman (MS Design) who was our support and champion throughout. The impact of great graphics in presentations must never be underestimated and there’s a lot of respect and acknowledgement for Ray’s design expertise in both the ADE and Learning 2.0 communities.
Designer Ray - photo by Joseph Frambo
Designer Ray – photo by Joseph Frambo

Now the eyes of the ADE community are on us to see what we find out and how our iPad trials pan out. We are documenting our action research journey in the public WAB iTunes U site. Our iPad course is here. Please visit from time to time to follow our story.

 

 

iPad Training Course for High School

We have now successfully secured funding to go ahead with iPad trials starting in January 2013. Our overarching aim is ‘to evaluate the iPad as an effective learning tool in grades 6–12.’ As the High School integrator, I will be focusing specfically on the High School trials.

To kick off the trial, we intend to provide an iPad training course for interested teachers and as we are already a MacBook Pro (MBP) 1:1 high school (and have been for a number of years), we will focus on more of the ‘how-to’ looking specfically at what the iPad can do in the classroom. Throughout the course, we will continue to discuss the ‘why’ so that as a team, we can collaborate to develop an action research toolkit for tailored specfically for our high school.

So our current challenge is what should be in the course and how the course will be delivered. We have set up a working googledoc and currently it is a six-part course:

  1. Overview of the iPad: hardware, iOS, basic apps and so on
  2. Introduction to Action Research: collecting & analysing data, review of other trails and methods
  3. Managing iPads in the classroom: sycning, installing apps, working in the cloud
  4. Educational Apps specfically for High School classes
  5. Curating content with a focus on iTunes U
  6. Creating content with a focus on iBooks Author

For more information on our trials and the resources that we are collating, we have set up the following wikispace: ipadsatwab.wikispaces.com

If you have any suggestions and/or resources, please let us know!

iPad Trials: Measuring Student Learning for iPad Adoption

We are beginning to organize a number of short trials in our High School here at the Western Academy of Beijing looking at how iPads could/should/may be used as a powerful learning tool. We are a 1:1 (MBP) school so we have many questions that we are looking to explore: do we become a 2:1 high school, what value does an iPad add in addition to a MBP in our high school curriculum (IB MYP and IB DP), will the iPad replace the MBP,  should we have a bank of bookable loaner iPads or is the value-add in the ownership and personalization of the iPad? The questions are endless!

Macbook Pro AND/OR/NOT iPads for high school students?
Who else is doing trials? Or has the answer(s)? Or who would like answers and would like to collaborate? What data are you gathering? How are you gathering this data? For example, if we do not use a control group for some of our trials, how should we proceed with our research to find out if the iPad does add value or is it just the once-only novelty of using a new technology. In short, we are looking for help and advice.

The iTunes U Mac 101 Beijing Project

This article was authored collaboratively using Pirate Pad by the students from BCIS, Dulwich College Beijing, RDFZ XISHAN SCHOOL and Western Academy of Beijing.

iTunesUMac101

The WAB Geek Force iTunes U Project Team

On September 26th, 2012, students from Beijing City International School, Dulwich College Beijing, Ren Da Fu Zhong Xishan, and the Western Academy of Beijing met together at the Apple Executive Briefing Center in Beijing to initiate a new one-of-a-kind project, Mac 101. It’s goal was to teach educators in the worldwide community the basics of using Apple products such as the MacBook or the iPad to effectively utilize them in an educational context. And as a team, we aspired to achieve this target through producing a concise and didactic iBook and planning a full session dedicated to training teachers as well as others who need technological assistance.

In addition to some cool features available to Macs, the students were given a brief insight on what its like to be an educator: somebody with massive demands on their time, with little or no inclination to keep in touch with technology, much less spend time learning about it. In response to this, students learnt ways on how to effectively convey why technology is an important aspect of not only daily life, but also education. A short presentation was given detailing how something that is often overlooked, the Reader tool for Safari, could be of significant use in reducing the stress experienced by teachers through making their jobs easier, as well as enhancing the classroom experience. Furthermore, students were briefed on the advantages of Apple products in an educational context; especially iBooks and iBook Author as an interactive learning tool, and, according to Beijing City International School ADE, William Percy, “Going beyond the print metaphor” with iBooks to make the Apple learning experience fully interactive.

At the event’s opening, Melissa Li, the Apple representative leading the event, regarded the Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) as well as the students present as participants in a “world leading project”, referring to those gathered as the “crème de la crème” of the international school community, meaning that Apple couldn’t have gotten a more knowledgeable or adept group of technologically minded people working together on this project between diverse schools and cultures. The different groups collaborated on formulating innovative solutions and ideas in the form of brainstorming, promoting a “yes, and” mentality in place of the usual “yes, but”; all of this discussion and exchange truly represented what Apple stands for: innovation, creativity and collaboration.

Students were appointed eight groups from mixed schools, and were taught the fundamental aspects of being an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE): Ambassadors, Advisors, Advocates, and Authors. As Apple representatives, the group will have to embody these characteristics.

After several sessions brainstorming, students learned of uses of integrated iBooks which may be included into the BCIS curriculum. The presentation showed the features of iBooks Author, as well as the interactivity that could be utilized in classrooms in Beijing and around the world. Other brainstorms also included ways we could introduce apple product to teachers in a comprehensible and easy to understand.

All in all, it was a great and educational time for everybody, a celebration of teamwork, collaboration, and of diversity.

Learning 2.012 – you know it’s over when….

DSC_4078

  1. Zero emails in the register@learning2.asia inbox
  2. I’ve had time to have lunch today
  3. I’ve had time to tweet and tweet and tweet #learning2
  4. I’ve only Skyped/chatted/emailed @mscofino, @samay99, @cdiller & @julielindsay just once or twice today
  5. It’s Monday evening and I am not in a Learning 2.012 online meeting
  6. I’m not wearing a red shirt
  7. My students have reintroduced themselves to me
  8. I actually cooked dinner tonight
  9. I seem to be very, very tired & can only write a short, simple blog post like this one
  10. I’m sad!

My personal highlight: my husband (can’t give a FB or twitter handle as guess what, he doesn’t do FB and twitter) returns home from Learning 2.012 on Friday evening and asks me in a matter-of-fact way: “Mads, do you have a blog?” Clearly he never reads my electronic signature, hasn’t noted the annual credit card statements from BlueHost or read anything I have posted in the last two years….clearly I need to blog more and something a little more profound…now that I have time!

Learning 2.012 in Beijing October

Learning 2.012 Virual Badge

Just a very quick post to get my blogging hat back on again! It’s been a busy time as we prepare for Learning 2.012. This year we are hosting at WAB in October. Although that may seem a long, long way away, the committee has been working hard since September last year, just after Learning 2.011) to get organised for this year’s conference. The goals of this year’s committee are to not only plan and deliver a high-quality conference but also as Learning 2.0 is on the move and will be hosted in schools across the EARCOS region in years to come, we need to appoint the school for 2013 (done) and also document the process for the next committee.

For details of the conference, visit our site here.

tdt@wab: How technologically rich is the learning environment in the HS?

We are now in Week 3 of the Digital Teacher course (tdt@WAB). This week’s face-to-face focus has been to look at how technology is used in the teaching and learning process in each school section.  My piece was to give an overview of the use of technology in the High School. Here’s an overview:

Setting the Scene

Firstly I want to set the scene by presenting some of the of some factors, challenges and parameters under which we operate:

Curriculum:

The end goal for the vast majority of our students is to pass the IB Diploma. This means that students typically take 6 subject-based courses (3 at HL and 3 at SL), Theory of Knowledge, the CAS component (Community, Action, Service) and the Extended Essay, an independent 4,000 word research paper. Subject selection is limited to one from each of the first 5 groups: Language A, Language B, Humanities, Science, Maths and either a second one from Groups 1-5 or one from Group 6, the Arts.

For each IB Diploma course, typically each student is required to study a large body of content to which they apply through the entire gambit of lower-order to higher-order thinking skills: from knowledge & understanding, application, analysis, evaluation & synthesis and the ability to present substantiated opinions. So learning content that leads to critical thinking, perhaps.

Assessment:

With the exception of the Group 6 subjects, the Arts, where the assessment is mostly portfolio-based, the assessment for the majority of the subjects in Groups 1 – 5 comprises a possible mix of 70-80% high-stakes exit examinations and perhaps a 20-30% internal assessment component. Is this 20th Century assessment in the 21st Century?

Building Effective Relationships:

Over the course of the even the first year of the IB Diploma, students could have a minimum of eight teachers at any one time, if we include the supervisor for the EE, and may possibly have a completely different set of peers in each class. Likewise, a teacher in the High School on a full teaching load and a homeroom, could teach 120+ students. So what are the challenges here? How can a teacher make an individual connection with each student? How do students build relationships with each teacher? What communication tools are available? For example,  if you miss a class or need help with a concept or an assignment, what communication channels are open for the students?

Access to the Internet:

Our access is somewhat limited in terms of bandwidth as access is very expensive here in China compared with costs in other schools in the region. In addition, we are constantly looking for China-friendly tools and resources as many Web 2.0 tools are unavailable such as google apps, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

21C Classrooms and the IB Diploma

If we look at concepts that characterise 21st Century learning as promoted by the Partnership for 21 C Skills: collaboration, creation, communication and critical thinking, we can see that there could be a number of challenges when faced with the IB Diploma assessment model. One simplistic observation is: how do we get students to collaborate to construct knowledge in their learning process but NOT able to collaborate in their internal summative assessments and certainly NOT able to do so in their final examinations?

With all that said, what is the blend of 21c skills that we can apply as teachers and students to enhance & maximise students’ performance in order to gain their IB Diploma? What are some of the features of a technological-rich learning environment today in our High School where the assessment model is essential rooted firmly in yesterday’s classroom? How can technology enhance student learning outcomes? In other words, what technology tools can we use to teach the content, thinking skills and prepare for examination which, by the way, are still hand written?

Technology in the WAB High School

1:1 Environment:

All students have their own Macbook laptop computer which should be installed with full suite of software that includes: Microsoft Office, iLife (Garageband, iMovie, iPhoto), Evernote (for note-taking and organising notes), iWorks (for those who prefer Apple’s version of Excel, Word and Powerpoint), data logging tools, the Adobe suite that includes Photoshop and Acrobat professional.

Web-based Resources

As the largest consumers of bandwidth, the High School students have their own Internet pipe, so that their consumption does not impact the access for the rest of the school community.

The web-based technology tools that students tend to use in their daily academic life are:

  • Powerschool to look up their schedule & grades
  • Moodle to access content and class materials, and a space to upload assignments, discussion.
  • Zimbra for access to email and to assessment calendar
  • WAB portal for bulletins
  • Etherpad for collaboration
  • extensive Library databases for research
  • Skype or some other messaging service such as iChat
Moodle: Flipping the Classroom?

Moodle is probably our number one ‘learning’ tool. Each course has a class which teachers, at the very least, build a repository of resources in a variety of mediums. Yes, there are a very large number of word documents and PDF files but there are also links to websites and videos, images, sound files and podcasts. These repositories alone allow students are review work at their own pace and select from a variety of differentiated material. As they can access from home, 24/7, the concept of the flipped classroom – where students study the content before the class – promotes productivity and individualised learning in the classroom. Not only that, Moodle is allows students to post assignments and receive feedback plus have access to a whole range of other collaboration and interactive tools such as the ability to contribute to discussions using forums.

Standardised Classroom

The High School classroom has been ‘standardised’ in terms of access to technology and includes: a common connection box for access to the projector, sound and Ethernet connection for a hard-wired, faster-network connection, great sound field so that speakers are place strategically around the classroom and an Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). In Maths, for example, the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) is a well-used tool: in class, the solutions of mathematical problems are worked out on the board and then saved as PDF files and made available through Moodle so that students can access and review offline and in their own time.

Consumers or Producers?

One essential observation is this: what is the the mix of tools: consumer, producer or utility? Do we use more consumption & organisational tools than production tools?

In terms of multi-media, do our students ‘consume’ more than ‘produce’? Certainly, students can use production tools as part of the learning process, for example, collaboratively constructing knowledge through tools such as etherpad, which is similar to google docs. Students to do reflect using multimedia, for example in a language class a student might use Garageband or PhotoBooth to record a passage in order to analyse their pronunciation. The media server serves more as a repository for storing video downloaded from external sources than a place where student-created content is uploaded. Due to the assessment model, I would suggest that student create multimedia content as part of the learning process and therefore the product itself, could be ‘disposable’ or a digital ‘record’ and hence, more of a means to an end other than the end itself.

Compared with the Elementary school, and as our High School students are largely more literate [although I am sure we have some very proficient readers in the lower grades], our production tools tend to be more text-based due to the requirements of the formal, summative assessment. In the High School, the word processor is still ‘King’ although students are moving towards Evernote for notetaking in classes and then transfer to Word, or sometimes Pages, to publish and print or publish and upload their assignments to Moodle.

BYOD – Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are a common feature in the High School although these are generally the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model. Most, probably all, High School students carry a mobile phone with the ability to take photos and sometimes video therefore the demand for low-end, school-owned cameras is diminishing. Likewise for headphones, as most students have their own (often multiple) MP3 players, so providing headphones is a challenge we do not have to face. As for back-up devices, the onus is on the student although, thanks to the uploading of assignment feature in Moodle and the seamless syncing (automatic backing up) of Evernote to the student’s online account, many disasters have been avoided!

iPads in the High School?

As I write, the latest iPad has just been announced. Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that the company sold more iPads last year than the number of PCs sold by any single competing computer maker. Apple, he said, is at the forefront of the post-PC revolution. Yes, we are piloting in pockets around the High School but the jury is out and will be for some time. The question that we face is this: as our students already have a Macbook and a swag of their own devices, what value can the iPad add that would justify it’s inclusion in the High School Technical Toolbox?

The bottom line:

Teachers are busy, teachers have to deliver content, students need to pass exams. Teachers will invest time in tools and technology only if they can see the value. The extent to which and how technology is used in the classroom is essentially up to each individual teacher. We can measure exam results but it’s hard to measure the impact of technology. That is not to say that technology is a hard sell – it’s certainly not – ask any teacher or student how they would feel if we took their laptops away. Never!

The Digital Teacher TDT@WAB

We are running a 10 week course for a cohort of 20 teachers from across the school with the aim to strengthen and develop our  technology-rich professional learning network at WAB through:

  1. an examination of best-practice technology integration globally & how this relates to current WAB systems & practices
  2. an examination of how mobile technology could impact the classroom (we provide an iPad 2 for each participant to use until the end of the academic year)
  3. developing our understanding of WAB’s proposed transdisciplinary standards and how these can be implemented in a technology-rich environment.

Every two weeks we will have a f2f session for hands-on training, talks from various stakeholders, guest speakers and the inevitable rich discussions. In addition we will be using Moodle for our asynchronous discussions & resources.

I have been looking for resources and readings to help support our course and welcome any suggestions.  For our introductory sessions, I am thinking of using these two videos to set the scene:

Above and Beyond: The Story of the 4Cs communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity) which is a short animated film produced by P21 and FableVision.

 

A Vision of 21st Century Teacher where eighteen classroom teachers “speak out” on the topic of tech integration and 21st Century skills for students.

Questions to ponder:
  • What professional readings would you recommend for our course?
  • Which blogs would be good for our teacher to follow?
  • Would you like to join the conversation and contribute to our course?