Archive for 1:1

Distraction and Devices: Our Research Findings and Faculty Discussion

ChallengingforWeb

What effect does our device program have on students’ distraction and focus in class? As part of our developing 1:1 environment, we conducted a large-scale Academic Technology survey in the fall to evaluate our program along many axes. Through surveying students, faculty and parents, we were able to get a comprehensive picture of the device program and its effects throughout the school as they were perceived by all of our stakeholders. One large question that our community had going into the program was the issue of how students would be affected by the potential distraction of having digital devices in the classroom.

This week, I presented some brief findings to our Upper School faculty. Following the presentation, Christina Serkowski and I facilitated two small-group discussions about the data and the larger issue of distraction and focus in class. Here is a summary of those findings, and the conversation that followed, as well as an invitation for you to help us continue this conversation.

A Widespread Concern

When we asked “What is the most challenging or difficult aspect of the device program,” a common answer emerged from all four stakeholder groups. (Click on any image to view larger size)
ChallengingforWeb

Students reported that there were really two aspects to the issue of distraction: their own ability to monitor their distraction and that of the classmates.

StuDistforWeb

Students’ comments further demonstrated these two aspects.

StuCommforWeb

The implication of this data is that while distraction is often discussed as an individual problem, the effect of one student’s distractions can reach to other students in the immediate area.

Students can be distracted by their own devices as well as those in their immediate area.

Students can be distracted by their own devices as well as those in their immediate area.

 

Faculty Discussion

Upper School faculty had a discussion following the presentation of this data, and the conversation was wide-ranging, from individual classroom strategies and potential system/school policies, to how this data changed some teachers’ view of the distraction problem. A common recurring theme was that some teachers had previously viewed the issue of distraction as personal responsibility (i.e., “If a student makes the choice to be off-task, that’s their responsibility”), but now saw the issue differently because of the effect students could have on their peers.

Comments in the faculty discussion were organized into categories in the mindmap below. The entire mindmap is too large to display here, but you can view the expanded version to see the comments themselves.

The main categories of comments in the Upper School faculty discussion. Click through to see the full summary of comments.

The main categories of comments in the Upper School faculty discussion. Click through to see the full summary of comments.

 

Further Discussion

Does this data align with your observations in your classroom? Do you view the distraction issue as one of personal responsibility, or class management? Does anything surprise you in this data? Any other observations, comments or questions? Please comment and continue our conversation below!

When the LMS Won’t Budge: Project Management and PBL

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In many ways, a robust LMS is a boon to Project-Based Learning. Many limiters or barriers to PBL center around a teacher having to multitask management of groups needing different resources and support at varying points in time. By shifting many of the resource and check-in steps to an asynchronous/blended model, we can eliminate some of the friction points where multiple groups are vying for attention or need direct intervention. A teacher can load resources and materials into the LMS, for example, which groups can access at the appropriate time. The use of discussion threads and electronic submission can let groups work at their own pace and check-in at major stages as they reach them, while still having some unifying process that each group follows so that the teacher can keep up.

Where the LMS model breaks down for group project management is once groups leave the central “everybody must” stages. Do all groups have the same steps to their project? Should they? If all projects in a class are “on the same rails,” arriving at the same tasks in the same order (albeit at different times), what does this reveal about the degree of student planning and design in the project? From another perspective, if we want students to generate their own project design (with support, of course), and we allow enough freedom in the PBL design for students to envision an authentic outcome, won’t each group come up with a different task list? Here the LMS fails us– while many LMS’s (including Schoology, which we use) allow you to direct assignments to individuals or groups, this is a huge amount of work for teachers to enter an entire class’ worth of project groups and deadlines. To truly reflect a diverse Project-Based environment, we need a better scheduling/task management tool.

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Freehand Thinking in French with Tablets

Posted at U Prep Technology Integration Exchange (UPTIE): Visual notetaking and vocabulary in French classes.

iPad “Test Security” – Class Policies and Layout

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(img: Apple.com)

As use of our iPads expanded last year to include supplemental materials such as calculators, dictionaries and notes, teachers reported concerns about having iPads available in test environments. No matter the device, many teachers are hesitant to have devices accessible during test conditions, primarily due to a student’s ability to access programs or resources such as search engines, external websites or notes. Testing environments vary wildly in terms of their intent and scope, but with a few considerations the iPad can be present in the testing environment with a relatively high degree of security. The following guidelines can help if you want to utilize iPads either to access an online testing environment or as resources during testing through apps such as calculators, dictionaries/glossaries, or notes (when desired).

While the iPad is not meant to be a testing tool, and a course which is built on lecture-and-exam style delivery will be at odds with any 1-to-1 program, there are many scenarios in which a teacher may want to create exam-style conditions while still having access to the iPads. Possible examples:

  • Accommodations for students
  • Use of calculators or simulation tools
  • Dictionaries, thesaurus, glossary, translators
  • Open-book/open-notes exams

Two Class Policies (plus a bonus)

One of the great advantages of the iPad over laptops for this use is the wide viewing angle of the screen in combination with the ability to place the device flat on the table. While it takes some force of will to introduce, I suggest two clear-cut policies when beginning a testing situation with the iPads:

  1. The brightness must be turned all of the way up. Ensure that students can use the four-finger swipe or home button double-tap to get to their Control Center, and turn the screen brightness to its highest setting. This will allow you to clearly see what app or website is active on a student’s screen from a fair distance around the room.
  2. The iPads must be flat on the desk. The iPads have an extremely wide viewing angle, and when they lay flat on the desk, a teacher standing or moving throughout the room should have line-of-sight to most of the screens in the room. This is a major difference from laptop screens which traditionally have a more limited viewing angle and have to be vertical, which blocks teacher line-of-sight.

The combination of these two policies when in “testing conditions” makes it very easy to quickly scan the room and identify which apps or websites are active. One of our teachers has also implemented a policy where students known that he can (unannounced) double-tap the home button on a student’s iPad to access the list of active apps while testing. If he suspects that a student has another app running in the background, this may catch that app. My only hesitation around that policy is that iOS doesn’t, by default, ever shut down an app–apps run silently in the background when you switch to another app or back to the home screen. I could foresee a scenario where a student was studying at the last minute, walked into class and switched to the approved testing apps, but had notes still running in the background. This teacher’s strategy would “catch the notes,” even though they weren’t being used at that time. It’s a valid approach, although it seems like it would require explicit instruction to shut down all apps before the test begins.

Managing by Walking Around

In any 1-to-1 classroom, room arrangement and physical proximity/visibility is vital to a productive working environment. In general, I encourage teachers to consider multiple classroom layout options (when possible) to reflect the nature of that period’s work. For example, having standard classroom arrangements for lecture/presentation, group work and test/writing conditions help to support each use case. These can be as simple as drawing the room on the board and asking students to move the desks/tables at the beginning of class.

For test conditions, I would recommend a room layout which provides easy and quick scanning of as many screens as possible. A horseshoe/”U” shape, often used for class discussions, works very well if the iPads are flat and bright, since the teacher can stand in the center of the shape and see all the screens at the same time. Many other layouts are possible, but consider vantage points and line-of-sight to the highest number of screens at any point in time.

Coaching vs. Guarding

This all may seem draconian from a class management perspective, but this can be part of an ongoing conversation with students about managing distraction and devices in a class environment. If we reflect on our own technology habits, I think most of us would agree that a little visibility helps “keep us honest” and on task. When I’m working some place public or visible, I find that I’m less likely to be distracted and jump to off-task websites or activities. It’s not a forced working condition– I often put myself in a visible location when I know that I need some extra help staying focused to take advantage of the conditions. Talking to students about managing distractions, and being explicit about creating a situation where you can support their focus and help reinforce their good habits, can frame this as a positive learning environment rooted in solid class management principles.

The Egalitarian Projector: Wired and Wireless Projection in BYOD Classrooms

Standard Dongle Bundle: HDMI, Mini Display Port, 30-Pin

Over the summer we upgraded many of our projectors, which gave us the opportunity to refresh our classroom A/V model. In a BYOD school, projection can be a logistical nightmare: students bringing myriad devices with different display adapter requirements puts a burden on the IT department to have adapters available for each class. As anyone who has spent a class period on student presentations knows, valuable time is lost with students shuffling through the front of the room and exchanging adapters even if the correct ones are all present.

Logistics aside, the wired projector also presents a subtle-but-constant “sage on stage” control dynamic: whether student or teacher, whoever is presenting and plugged in to the projector controls what is being displayed. Freeform discussion, question-and-answer, or targeted inquiry are always unbalanced since only one person has the ability to display information.

In order to both create a more flexible learning environment as well as eliminate the dreaded dongle bundles, we have equipped all of our classrooms this year with both wired and wireless projection capabilities that meet our BYOD requirements.

Wired

The picture below represents our average classroom dongle bundle– HDMI, Mini Display Port and Apple 30-pin. Since our Middle School iPad program began shortly before the release of the Lightning-based iPad models, this bundle covers most of the laptops and iPads that we see on campus. It does not cover, though, Lightning-based iPads, nor many phones or tablets with mini-HDMI. Also notice that audio has to be through a separate cable. Not every student presentation requires audio, of course, but any kind of video or multimedia sharing will require plugging in two cables.

Standard Dongle Bundle: HDMI, Mini Display Port, 30-Pin

Standard Dongle Bundle: HDMI, Mini Display Port, 30-Pin

We do have a handful of Lightning adapters and mini-HDMI adapters on hand in IT, but have not deployed them into every classroom. Since we want teachers and students to have confidence in their ability to fully use every space on campus, this isn’t ideal.

Wireless

The addition to our classroom deployment this year is the use of Apple TV in combination with AirParrot. iOS and Mavericks-based MacBooks made after mid-2011 will broadcast audio and video to Apple TV’s natively. AirParrot is a client to do the same with Windows and pre-2011 MacBooks. I’ve written about AirParrot before, and last spring it didn’t totally work with Windows 8. After conversations with both Squirrels (the company behind AirParrot– I haven’t gotten to talking to actual squirrels yet) and friends “in the know” at Microsoft, it seems like the problem was a very complex display driver setup within Windows 8. Subsequent updates to 8.1 have made AirParrot much more workable for that OS as well to the point where we’re comfortable deploying it to the school this year.

A couple of implementation notes on AirParrot: since we want wireless projection to be available for students as well as teachers, we have purchased licenses for our students to use and will invite them to download AirParrot and request a license from IT if they want to put it on their school-use laptop. This is a cost to the school, but we purchase class-required apps for student-owned iPads in the Middle School, as well as student licenses for e-mail, and this seems consistent with that philosophy.

Second, Windows 8.1 is still not entirely seamless in its display configuration. In order to serve the display needs of both Tablet and Desktop modes, the Desktop mode has a built-in magnification setting which makes the text and icons more usable (instead of being ridiculously tiny as they would be naturally with the default resolution). This setting is the key instigator in display issues with AirParrot, and some devices may need it to be turned off in order to display correctly. This can result in the text and icons being uncomfortably small on the tablet display itself, which requires adjusting the display resolution. To complicate things further, the magnification setting requires logging out to change– it can’t be applied on the fly. This means it’s much more important to get one setting which can be “set it and forget it” rather than adjusting as you go. It seems as though different hardware models have different “sweet spot” combinations of magnification and resolution which will allow the display to be sufficient both a) in Desktop mode on the tablet and b) through AirParrot. The settings I ended up with on my Surface 2, for example, did not translate to the Surface 3 (the 3 looks great through the AirParrot, though!). We’ll continue to monitor this as the year develops.

Projecting a Socratic Seminar

Knowing that this is a slightly awkward first step towards truly seamless wireless projecting, I’m excited to see the ability for students to use the projector as a tool for discussion and small group work as well as lecture/presentation. When students can share information and resources with a group/class in real time rather than simply as prepared delivery, and when the projector becomes one more “open access” collaboration tool, the classroom is a more flexible and balanced learning environment.

ISTE Macro: Genius Bars, Student SWAT Teams and Student-Led Tech

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(img: Flickr/BerkeleyLab)

One of the great advantages of being at a large-scale conference like ISTE is seeing which ideas have begun to generate critical mass of action. This is one trend that I observed across multiple poster sessions, discussions and presentations.

A recurring theme of our device program is the desire to teach students the “intentional and mindful” use of technology– using the right tools at the right time for the right task. This goal cuts across multiple disciplines and silos of information: technology usage and operation concepts, digital citizenship, information literacy, study skills and time management, and school policies are all wrapped up in the idea of intentional and mindful use. As with many issues of technology, a central question is where the responsibility for this body of knowledge lies. While device programs push technology in schools from isolated computer labs to integrated classroom use, there is still a need to support teachers and students with expertise and resources, especially when 1:1 and BYOD programs shift the use of technology from programmatic and sequential to “just-in-time.”

While we want to avoid the Digital Native oversimplification of “The students know this stuff already,” they have experience using devices and software across disciplines and scenarios that can directly benefit other students. In addition, there is incredible instruction and learning that can happen through students examining technology usage in a rigorous manner and becoming “coaches” for technology use. Many schools have grown rigorous and robust student-led technology programs to support teachers and students throughout the campus on a range of technology concepts. These are some of the programs that I saw at ISTE this year (and a couple of others that I’ve since stumbled across).

In addition, Jennifer Carey has written a post about a DIY Genius Bar presentation that she attended at the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in February, and Burlington High School shared their program via the ISED mailing list this year.

While these programs differ in scope slightly (mainly in the amount of tech “service” they provide, e.g. hardware repair), they all offer some common threads: in addition to reactive service, they produce proactive media for their school and community about the tools and systems that the school offers. Many include digital citizenship education as part of that outreach. Some are during the day, while some operate during “non-instructional” time: lunch, open periods and before/after school. All work in collaboration with on-campus professional IT or Ed Tech staff, and they all publish their work online.

These programs channel the expertise, interest and leadership of students to the entire school community through the use of digital media. Students involved in these programs get experience in media production and communication, as well as experience with a higher level of technology usage than normal classroom applications might provide through repair/service experience, in-depth software usage, and coaching.

If you have other examples of Student Help Desks, SWAT Teams or Genius Bars, please share them in the comments below. I’ll add examples from the comments into the post as they appear.

NAIS Trendbook: Augmented Reality

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The NAIS Trendbook 2013-2014 summarizes current research in a variety of topics relevant to the independent school community. I’m exploring some of the topics discussed in the “Education Technology Outlook” chapter.
Citing the Horizon Report, the NAIS Trendbook 2013-2014 indicates that Augmented Reality is one of the important upcoming trends in Ed Tech. Certainly PLN discussions and conference sessions bear this out– AR is becoming a frequent discussion topic, especially using Aurasma (iOS, ???). While the technology certainly creates some fun and impressive results, I’ve remained skeptical of the learning benefits presented by AR given its setup time required. The way that AR is presented in the Trendbook has highlighted a key benefit of AR that I hadn’t considered before, and it’s one that definitely changes my perception of the technology: the capacity to create self-directed learning opportunities outside of the school boundaries. Off-site learning may be the killer (and under-discussed) feature of Augmented Reality.

Organisms and Interactions: 6th Gr Sci (3 of 3)

Figure 3. The Export Movie option will let me send the movie straight to the Camera ROll.

Step 3: Assemble the Project

A challenge came from Quynh Tu, our 6th Grade Science teacher. She has a great organisms and ecosystems project that she wants to move from a poster-based product to an iPad-based one. As she describes it, the students have to create two organisms and describe them individually. Part of the description is the ecosystem in which they live and how they are adapted to it. The second level is that the organisms have to interact in some way (e.g. symbiotic, cooperative, parasitic). In the past, students have drawn their organisms out and labeled things on a poster. She’d like two main things to come out of “iPad-izing” the project:

  • Students can narrate the project, making them verbalize and expand their answers past the simpler poster labels, and
  • Students draw the ecosystem as well as the creatures, so that they have to describe more about the ecosystem’s effect on the creatures. She felt like this has gotten short shrift in the past.

I’ve broken this project down into three distinct stages, each with their own goals and tools:

  1. Build the Ecosystem
  2. Build the Organisms
  3. Assemble the Presentation/Movie

I covered both Step 1 and Step 2 in previous posts. Here, we’ll explore Step 3. To the lab!

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Organisms and Interactions: 6th Gr Sci (2 of 3)

My amphibian creation. (123d Creature)

Step 2: Build the Organisms

A challenge came from Quynh Tu, our 6th Grade Science teacher. She has a great organisms and ecosystems project that she wants to move from a poster-based product to an iPad-based one. As she describes it, the students have to create two organisms and describe them individually. Part of the description is the ecosystem in which they live and how they are adapted to it. The second level is that the organisms have to interact in some way (e.g. symbiotic, cooperative, parasitic). In the past, students have drawn their organisms out and labeled things on a poster. She’d like two main things to come out of “iPad-izing” the project:

  • Students can narrate the project, making them verbalize and expand their answers past the simpler poster labels, and
  • Students draw the ecosystem as well as the creatures, so that they have to describe more about the ecosystem’s effect on the creatures. She felt like this has gotten short shrift in the past.

I’ve broken this project down into three distinct stages, each with their own goals and tools:

  1. Build the Ecosystem
  2. Build the Organisms
  3. Assemble the Presentation/Movie

I covered Step 1 in a previous post. Here, we’ll explore Step 2. To the lab!

Read more

Organisms and Interactions: 6th Grade Sci (1 of 3)

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Step 1: Build the Ecosystem

A challenge came from Quynh Tu, our 6th Grade Science teacher. She has a great organisms and ecosystems project that she wants to move from a poster-based product to an iPad-based one. As she describes it, the students have to create two organisms and describe them individually. Part of the description is the ecosystem in which they live and how they are adapted to it. The second level is that the organisms have to interact in some way (e.g. symbiotic, cooperative, parasitic). In the past, students have drawn their organisms out and labeled things on a poster. She’d like two main things to come out of “iPad-izing” the project:

  • Students can narrate the project, making them verbalize and expand their answers past the simpler poster labels, and
  • Students draw the ecosystem as well as the creatures, so that they have to describe more about the ecosystem’s effect on the creatures. She felt like this has gotten short shrift in the past.

I’ve broken this project down into three distinct stages, each with their own goals and tools:

  1. Build the Ecosystem
  2. Build the Organisms
  3. Assemble the Presentation/Movie

In this post, we’ll start with Step 1: Building the Ecosystem. To the lab!

Read more