Tag Archives: ipads

Should teachers make their students suffer? Let’s not show them how to do it.

Scott McLeod shares this video from Michael Pershan in his post ‘A Japanese approach to Khan Academy’.  Michael raises the question: why do US students lag behind their peers in many other countries?’ It seems that the US and Australian teaching styles – showing students how to do something and then getting them to practice over and over – is not the best way to teach. The video shows a Japanese teacher giving students maths problems and leaving them to work out how to solve them. Listen to the video, it’s very interesting. So all is not well with Khan Academy for this very reason, and it’s interesting to project the possibility of Japanese educators’ version of Khan Academy. Problem solving, not practising ad nauseam according to a prescribed model, is the suggested alternative. It would obviously work with numeracy but also with literacy. If our students are disengaged in our classes, this might be one of the reasons. Don’t you think? And while we’re at it, why not give our students real world problems? How involved can they be in something that doesn’t matter to anybody.

Diane Curtis’ post about project-based learning quotes Seymour Papert on the reason why students are turned off by school:

“We teach numbers, then algebra, then calculus, then physics. Wrong!” exclaims the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician, a pioneer in artificial intelligence. “Start with engineering, and from that abstract out physics, and from that abstract out ideas of calculus, and eventually separate off pure mathematics. So much better to have the first-grade kid or kindergarten kid doing engineering and leave it to the older ones to do pure mathematics than to do it the other way around.”

I know what I would prefer – being challenged with real-world problems rather than work from textbooks which are predictable and uninspiring. Recently our year 9s and 10s received iPads – as I’ve mentioned before – and sadly the focus has been on the technology rather than how teachers and students can use these mobile devices to teach and learn differently. So far it’s been more about learning how to use the iPads to do what we already do, and throwing in a couple of apps. Hmmm…. No wonder the general consensus from staff is not overly positive. My favourite aspect of one-to-one devices is the possibility of connecting with others. If iPads are mobile devices then we should be using them to reorganise the classroom or even take it outside. Why don’t we connect with others outside the classroom, perhaps globally? Sharing ideas, opinions, photos and created multimedia is surely more engaging than practising skills in a theoretical situation.

What do you think?

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Mobile Technologies – Apps Showcase

Here’s my presentation at the SLAV conference – Activate: Learning with Emerging Technologies on Monday 17 October 2011.

I’ve added the link to the presentation on my school LibGuides page for iPad/iPhone apps here. The 2 pages of links to resources for iPad/iPhone apps are worth checking out and I’ll be continuing to add resources here.

I’m really happy with LibGuides in terms of organising and sharing resources for the school. So much better than the old Dreamweaver library websites, easy to use and share, easy to collaborate in, as well as to ‘borrow’ things from other creators (with permission, of course!)

A big thank you to Natalie Elliott (@nataliee_1) from Toorak College for agreeing to join me for the second half of the presentation. Natalie talked about her experiences in setting up and managing iPads in her school. I was happy to provide this practical aspect for the technicians.

This presentation was modified from a previous one which I wrote about here.

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New start – second week at Melbourne High School

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo Elorza on Flickr

As far as new starts go, this one feels good. Not one to go with the flow of things usually, change for me is often like a dentist’s visit I want to avoid. I admit the first few days weighed a little heavily with new procedures, finding my way around, new names and the loss of friends and familiarity of my old school, but one day into the second week and I’m really enjoying the experience.

Today we had 2 interesting visits in the library. At lunchtime Adele Walsh, Program Coordinator for the Centre for Youth Literature, came to talk to our Reading Group about The Inkys’ shortlist. (Sorry, I have forgotten the name of the lovely person who accompanied Adele and also shared her experiences of the listed books). Some people talk about books in a way that makes you want to drop everything and read all of them simultaneously, and this was one of those times. When you can talk about books without sounding like an academic, and without relating plot or analysing characters (without mentioning teenage angst!!), then you have the students listening with interest.

After school my head of library had arranged for Simon Shaw from Apple to come and talk to teachers about iPads as tools for learning and teaching. I’ve been to sessions about iPads before, and Simon’s session was probably the best one I’ve been to. There was no hard sell, just a focus on how teachers could do what they already do only better on the iPad, and a range of impressive apps, plus a hands-on session using iMovie. It was good to see a decent turnout too.

Wednesday I will be running an after-school session on Google apps. I have a serious problem when faced with ‘presentations’ and hope to improve with more practice. The research and preparation I do is excessive. Basically, I find it difficult to select a realistic portion of what’s possible. I’m sure the ridiculous amount of research is a procrastination technique. Finally, yesterday, I decided on what I might talk about and what I would exclude. At the moment this is all sitting on a page in my wiki – and looks awful. When I have time I should put this into a slideshow. If you’re brave, here it is. It’s not exhaustive but I wanted to showcase a range of tools. It’s difficult to prepare things like this when you have no idea of what your audience knows or expects, but hey, whatever.

Tomorrow lunchtime I will be meeting with the group of boys I’ll be working with as part of the Creative Writing group. I have inherited this group from my predecessor, and I’ve heard people refer to this group as the Competition Writing group which is an obvious clue in terms of what they do. I had a quick chat to the school captain who is a leader of this group today – lovely boy. I assured him that I didn’t want to change anything they were already happy with, but what did he think about also creating a blog so they could have an audience for their writing. Happily, he thought this would be a good idea. I’m really looking forward to working with these boys; I’m sure there is much passion and talent amongst them. In terms of the blog, I thought it might also be a space for any of us to share anything and everything about writing. Just now I received a Facebook update from the Facebook group, ‘The Wheeler Centre for books, writing and ideas’. I want to include this in a post to encourage the boys to join the group, and to show them what Facebook can provide besides chat.

The Wheeler Centre Facebook group also put me onto Australian Poetry, a Wheeler Centre resident organisation which is celebrating National Poetry Week with a different theme every day this week. There really are so many wonderful programs happening locally, and it will good to share these.

Well, that’s it from me. Just checking in after week 1 in the new job. My blogging has been slow lately, and this has a lot to do with the unsettling leadup to leaving one school and venturing into another. At this point I feel that I will have the opportunity to get involved in some interesting projects, and look forward to telling you about it all.

Have good days!

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Mobile learning with no limits @VITTA

The Victorian Information Technology Teacher’s Association‘s Mini Conference, A contemporary learning series: mobile learning with no limits, was held last Friday at Ringwood Secondary College, and focused on 1:1 devices, how they could be used effectively in the classroom, and how they were relevant to the Australian Curriculum. The principal of Ringwood Secondary College, Michael Phillips, Outstanding School Leadership Award Winner, delivered the keynote plenary, Synch and Swim, which centred on the theme of Leadership for Learning that keeps ahead of the wave.

Disruptive technological change is rapidly shifting the balance between traditional models of teaching and learning and those that are more blended. The factory model of learning has finally closed for business.

Directions for learning are limitless as:
• distributive technologies allow 1-to-many;
• collaborative technologies encourage many-to-many;
• personalised learning is possible through 1-to-1;and
• distributive feedback technologies promote 1-to-many or many-to-many.

All of this is possible now in every classroom in every school.

Michael’s speech was a powerful message for educators and educational leaders to stop talking about 21st century teaching and learning as if it was set in the future, and accept that the future is here and requires a radical shift in teaching practice. When Michael said, “The factory model of learning has finally closed for business”, I felt like applauding and crying simultaneously, knowing that many schools were still in denial of this fact. Still, the conference participants were testament to the willingness to listen and learn, perhaps to embrace change.

Concurrent sessions are slightly frustrating because you can’t be in more than one place at the same time. The first session I attended was run by Roland Gesthuizen, a fellow Google Certified Teacher whose long experience in presenting enabled him to lead a relaxed but dynamic session which drew participants into discussion. One of Roland’s interesting observations was that the iPad was a microwave – it’s not the same as a laptop,it doesn’t do everything, but what it does, it does well and fast. After a fertile discussion, Roland demonstrated how he used Google apps such as Moderator in his teaching, and gave a quick overview of his experience in Sydney at the Google Teacher Academy.

I enjoyed presentations by Kevork Krozian and Clare Rafferty, both from Ringwood Secondary College. I think that Ringwood S.C. would be an exciting place to teach and learn. Some sessions I missed unfortunately, including Cecilie Murray‘s 2 talks which were full to bursting, and Jenny Ashby‘s session which ran at the same time as mine. Jenny and I presented at what Jenny referred to on Twitter as ‘graveyard shift’, the last session of the day. Despite the hour, I was impressed by the attentive audience I had in my room, and grateful for the positive feedback at the end of the session. I was also privileged to have SLAV’s executive officer Catherine Ryan and VITTA’s Jo McLeay join my session. Thankyou for your support and kind words especially as I was reluctant to present – not a fan of public speaking, so much more comfortable writing a blog post. I must say, though, that I ended up enjoying the experience.

If you are interested in having a look at my iPad/iPhone apps showcase – a spectrum of apps strewn across the curriculum – you can see it as a slideshow here. After so many hours of research I’m thrilled if anyone finds my resource useful.

And it’s always fantastic to see people you know at conferences. Happily, I had the pleasure of seeing Jenny Luca (and being introduced to Megan – hope to God I’ve remembered your name correctly) and John Pearce again. The online network is brilliant for maintaining the conversation but face to face is still the best.


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Why I play

Art by Lena Torikov

Before I bought my iPad, people would ask me what I planned to do with it. Why was I spending so much money? Was I certain it was worth it? How was the iPad going to be different from a notebook? Should I buy an iPhone instead?

I couldn’t answer any of these questions with any certainty. That’s why I was buying an iPad – to play, to gain an understanding of what an iPad enabled me to do, to figure out if iPads played a role in the changing face of learning in schools.

There’s nothing wrong with putting forward a suggestion before you have all the answers. I didn’t and don’t have all the answers for iPads in education, but I don’t want to wait until the time when it’s safe, when the majority of educators have understood the value of iPads and accepted their place in schools. If I wait that long, I’ll be on the tail end of a movement that doesn’t stay still. I won’t be a forward thinking educator but a safe follower who calls out for others to wait up.

If I waited until I was sure, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Where am I now? I’m on the road to finding out. The iPad apps session I recently did with staff at school was a way in – despite the best advice to hold off because I only had one iPad to pass around, to hold off because iPad education wasn’t a realistic option at my school, because people weren’t ready, because because…

Play is an essential part of being a teacher – it’s the learning part of teaching. Play is experimenting, discovery, it’s creative, it’s action, it moves into a new space. Wouldn’t it be great if play was compulsory at school? Instead of instruction from teachers to students, play would put everyone on the same playing field. Risk would be a prerequisite.

If we wait until it’s safe to do something, we’ve been left behind.

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Music apps – a music teacher’s perspective

As I’ve already mentioned before, I’m in the process of investigating iPad apps for learning enhancement in the classroom. A few weeks ago a colleague and brilliant music educator, Stuart Collidge,  joined me in a meeting with our Deputy Principal (Curriculum) and a few other leaders in the school, to put forward a case for the use of iPads in the school, specifically for learning enhancement. I asked Stuart to write up how he sees the use of the iPad in the music classroom.

Recently, Tania asked me to speak with some of the decision-making powers that be at school to pitch the use of iPads as learning tools.  This was something that Tania and I had reflected on a little and saw some potential in so I was more than happy to make the pitch.  After borrowing Tania’s iPad to have a play on (I am not yet one of the iPad collective L), I worked my way through a few possible applications and uses.  It was also very useful to troll through Google and look at the ways that other music educators are using these beasts.

Being a laptop school, it was important to differentiate the potential of these units from the laptops that are already in the hands of the students. For a school with no laptop program, I imagine that a class set of these would be AWESOME for a whole raft of areas of study, but being outside my brief, I didn’t focus too much on it.

My impression initially (and once we are up and running with a program, I’ll report on the accuracy of those impressions) was that this device would be awesome for me on two levels: as a music/education professional, and as a performer.  I can also see how students could use these devices in the same way.

As a performer, the iPad is now a very comprehensive musical instrument. In fact, several instruments all in one.  There seem to be two different approaches to performance apps.  The first way is to use the device as a synthesiser. There are several things that already do that, but the advantage of the iPad is in the interface which can encourage different approaches to composing and performing.  If you sit down at a conventional keyboard, the notes are laid out in a particular way and we are trained to approach the keyboard in that particular way (unless you are into avant garde composition).  A lot of music is constructed around  melodies and chords that “fit under the fingers”.  Take a look at a synth like Musix.  The layout of the octaves and notes allows us a melodic freedom and an opportunity to audition sounds that are harder to achieve on a conventional piano.  I imagine that you can find many other synths that encourage alternative approaches to melody making.

There is also a variety of apps that are much like a hardware synth allowing you access to oscillators, LFOs, filters, etc. You can also use the iPad to drive Digital Audio Workstations for tracks or DJing live.  Ableton seems to be the best suited to creating and manipulating arrangements in a live situation.  And for patching your iPad into your amp/PA/recording rig, try this: https://www.alesis.com/iodock.

All of this means that with a few apps and some time, students can generate performance material  in a variety of different ways to suit a particular idea or project and allows for a greater degree of creativity and freedom.

As a music professional, I am most interested in using the iPad as music stand. I have spoken with people that do this and received mixed reviews, but I feel that this is where music reading should be going.  An iPad could contain an entire library of sheet music in PDF format (solo music, ensemble parts, method books, scores, backing tracks) and would be fantastic to use in performance or rehearsal.  No longer need to worry about losing original parts, remembering pencils (the software stores any annotations made), or sorting through libraries of stuff (although the logistics of scanning everything might be headache enough, until publishers are in selling more of their material in that format).  Imagine being able to transpose a score instantly into a new key (to my way of thinking, the only way for us to be rid of the archaic institution of transposing instruments).

Of course, it already has a variety of apps that are useful (and which I use on my iPhone) like chromatic tuners, tone generators, metronomes, DMX dipswitch calculators, remote control for lighting desks, decibel meter, power load calculators, chord finders, etc.

All this in a device the size of a small text book!

I am very much looking forward to putting my hands on a unit that I can stock it up with goodies!

Stuart Collidge

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Discussion about teacher control of iPads in classrooms

Image from Sophie Horwood’s blog

Catering for differentiation in the classroom can open up new possibilities if you combine alternative approach with technology. Some schools are skipping the one-on-one notebooks and thinking about the lighter iPads. Of course, this opens up a whole range of new issues which need to be addressed before the investment is made.

iPads in Education ning features a discussion about teacher control of iPads – one of the first issues to arise when considering the use of iPads in the classroom. Sam Gliksman, creator of this ning, has posted a question on the forum:

Is the relative lack of teacher control over student iPad use a relief or a recipe for disaster?

Unlike laptops, which can be monitored with purchased software, the lack of such control of iPads presents a problem for teachers. Or does it?

Commenters of this post express different opinions. Some see this as a significant obstacle to iPad use, and others are willing to overlook the issue considering advanced features of the iPad. I’ve pulled out some of the positive comments:

What I do know is that iPads can bring up web pages faster than any computer that I have ever used, their use is completely intuitive, apps are endless, their fun, and on and on.

I think that if students are really inspired by their lesson, what they are being asked to research or present – whatever, they will be engrossed and will not bother to stray from the requirements of the lesson.

I generally believe that if teachers are walking around the room and being engaged in the learning process, nothing horrible is going to happen. I prefer to give students more control and responsibility rather than less.

I would like to focus on the positive side of things. Yes, there are issues but if we focus on those then we won’t get to play with the iPads, and we won’t discover their use in the classroom. Before I bought my iPad people asked me what I would do with it. I honestly didn’t know because I needed to have one in order to find out. I’m hoping to do the same if I can convince teachers to purchase at least one per faculty. The lack of control here is no different to a lack of control over notebooks. If we’re worried that students will be able to purchase apps we don’t want, how is it different to students downloading things onto their notebook?

First things first. I’m researching apps for each faculty area, and I plan to show staff or at least faculty heads. My focus in on apps which provide the kind of learning you don’t find anywhere else. I think converting teachers is a necessary step in the the whole process.

Please share your favourite iPad apps for secondary school, and any experiences from which we could learn.

 

 

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