Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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Google Certified Educator

Today I took the Google Certified Educator (Level 1) test for a few reasons:

  1. GCE_Badges_01To check my own competence in Google Apps for Education basics.
  2. To see how long it would take, with an eye on how we might support colleagues in taking the test themselves (e.g. PD time, cover or an event).
  3. To see how it might support our colleagues in getting up to speed at school in connection with our use of EdTech and integration in classes.

I can’t write too much as participants need to sign an NDA before beginning, but here are some basics. 

To register, sign up here and pay USD $10. It might take a day or two to get your web-assessor account, then you have seven days to complete the test (in a single sitting).

Participants are allowed three hours for the test, during the entirety of which your webcam is on. It starts with some multi-choice questions and then leads into a series of scenarios were you have to work in Google Apps to complete a range of tasks (they create a model environment for you for the test, it does not use your own account). From mail, calendars and docs, to classroom, forms, sites and more, it is a pretty thorough assessment for getting going.

It took me almost 1 1/2 hours to complete, but I already know my way around Google Apps. There is a lot of reading and flicking between tabs – and EAL participants or new users might need the full amount of time. Fortunately there is a progress bar and each of the eleven tasks are similar in their time demand. I have not taken Level 2 yet, as I predict it will take longer, but plan to do so soon.

Applications as a tech leader/ co-planner

A small team of us have been working on connecting ISTE standards to IB ATL skills and from that starting to outline a ‘tech drivers’ license’ for teachers and students. I think this test would be a useful validation for teachers getting started in GAFE at our school, and maybe something they work towards over the year. We would need to structure PD time or support with this.

I can see the value in even advanced users taking this test, as it will give some empathy or insight into starting over again and will help support colleagues. A reminder of the basics for efficient and effective use of Google Apps should help us help our colleagues do the best things, with less stress.

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Footnote 

There are quite a few companies out there offering (pretty pricey) training towards this test. If you have enough techy types in your own school, it’s be hard to justify that investment. The test is only $10 per person. I imagine that once you get beyond the basic competence, some more ‘transformative’ PD would be a better return on investment for teachers.

Resources

Eric Curts (@ericcurts) has a couple of useful skills audits online:


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PaperPile: Managing Research & References in GoogleDocs

As anyone involved in studying (or a job that requires looking up a lot of research) knows, managing citations and remembering sources is a challenge. This is doubly difficult when you’re balancing it with full-time work and use the same tech hardware for both. Alongside using tools for my own purposes, I look for alternatives (replacements or improvements) that I could with classes or show colleagues to make their lives easier.

With PaperPile (Chrome extension & add-on), I think I have found one of those solutions. This, to me, was the solution to the final problem that kept me using Micro$oft W0rd: reference libraries, one-click citation and auto-bibliographies. I’ll keep testing it as I go through the dissertation, but for now, check it out.

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Updated: January 2017

Long-Term Review

The dissertation is long-since completed, but I have kept my subscription to PaperPile going for now, as I found it worth the money for work. Now that my library access from Bath has been disconnected, I am debating whether to keep it or if I should downgrade back to the free version.

Here’s a quick user review, based on my experiences.

Things I loved

  • Connecting to the uni library was easy and super-helpful.
  • Researching from within a GoogleDoc make things more efficient that before.
    • Often I could bypass the uni library search tools altogether.
    • When searching through Google or Scholar, a button appears next to possible citations, which pulls the paper back into the system.
  • Automatic download of available pdf files is amazing – it backed them up into my Google Drive for reference, and was easy to download.
  • Live updates to citations helps a lot, as with the Word Citation Manager.

Limitations

  • Sometimes the citation format is squiffy and needs to be manually updated. Be careful with this if you refresh the paper references, as if you forget to check you might end up with some irregularities.
  • When I was finishing my dissertation I was working on a simple netbook on a sluggish internet connection in Indonesia. Drive with Paperpile is pretty heavy in terms of internet, and sometimes typing and citing were frustratingly delayed. Predicting this, I installed Office 365 and finished the dissertation using Word.
  • There doesn’t yet (as far as I can see) appear to be a reciprocal citation manager with Word. It would be awesome if switching between the systems would update in both.

Recommendations

If you’re a Google Suite user and active researcher, I’d recommend giving PaperPile a go. It looks like it is going to get better with further development and would be great in a Chromebook environment.

 

 


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Ready, Steady, Flow: #GAFESummit Presentation

This weekend we had the good fortune to host a Google Apps for Education Summit (#GAFESummit) at the school. With a range of keynotes from the EdTech Team and a couple of day of interesting (and useful) breakout sessions, we had a good time, learned a lot and got to meet some new people.

On the second day, I presented a session entitled “Ready, Steady, Flow!” aimed at showcasing a workflow that gives us more active time in class, reduced clicks and stress and makes use of high-impact practices when we’re working on assignments. In essence, we make the best possible use of the tools we have to change our relationship from giver and doer of work to writer and editor. I refer to some of Hattie’s ideas, define inquiry, and look at some of the issues that hold teachers in harmful old practices (such as clinging to the time-suck of Word docs).

Some big take-homes (the tL;dR version): 

  1. Design good tasks, and communicate this clearly to students.
  2. Don’t cause others to click around unnecessarily. If you want a certain formatting, do it on the task-sheet and share it out!
  3. Don’t send out emails with word docs that you then have to collect, save, rename…
  4. Do value the task with enough class time – but keep that time as active as you can
  5. Force early drafting/commenting on work so that we can all see – and take action on – the ‘gap’ as soon as possible.
  6. Give up marking; the sea of red wastes your time and puts the student in the wrong mindset to receive it. Instead go for the three-levels of feedback (task, process, self-regulation) and make it clear.
  7. Separate the grade from the feedback to have a higher impact.

There’s quite a bit more on the GoogleSite I created for the session here: Ready, Steady, Flow. This includes resources, links, the slides and details of the two “Demo Slams” I did on the main stage at the end of the first day.

The experience was fun and nerve-wracking, as always when you present to an unknown group of adults. The talky bit took longer than I expected, but it ended up being appreciated as there were lots of opportunities to discuss, think and challenge our thoughts. At the end, participants had access to the template document and other resources to take home and play with.

It was a good experience to have the GoogleSummit here at CA, from a number of perspectives. Personally I enjoy these things, but am not a huge fan of being away from the family. As a school I think we’re doing some interesting things and it’s good for others to see those – and add their ideas and perspectives. And thinking about my role for next year, it’s great to see that CA can pull it off, and do it effectively. Kudos to all the CA-based organisers, they did a great job.

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Here are the slides:


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“This will revolutionize education.”

Being in a tech-rich school, we have access to a lot of different platforms, tools and ideas. We have a good group of educational technology ‘experts’ in the school and a pretty strong focus on putting the learning first when choosing and using educational technologies. Nothing is blocked and teachers are given opportunities learn more about (and try) different platforms, ideas and strategies using technology. Sometimes the best tech is low-tech; other times systems like Hapara help us to differentiate more subtly, give feedback more readily and think more carefully about task design, scaffolding and criteria.

Derek Muller (the awesome @veritasium), released this video and I was reminded of how poor some #EdTech implementation can be. This video gives a brief history of #EdTech hyperbole, from the ‘moving picture’ to the laser-disc, each step along the way seeking to automate the art (and science) of teaching. When the focus is on how teachers can be replaced by tech or simplistic educational inquiry (is X tech better than Y tech to do Z simple transmission process?), then the resources and energy spent on the technological innovation are wasted.

“What limits learning is what happens inside a student’s head. […] What experiences promote the kind of thinking that is required for learning?” 

It has become a cliche in #EdTech now to say “it’s about the learning, not the tech,” and that’s a great thing. The mantra sticks, and hopefully it forces us into careful thought about how we choose and use #EdTech tools. Learning is social, critical and personal; it requires the guidance of an expert, caring teacher and it needs inspiration, motivation and perseverance.

If we think about it this way then, as Derek says, we can evolve education, if not revolutionize it.

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Now if only the companies that keep sending advertisements to my school and i-Biology inboxes for weak platforms (and worse PD) would watch this…


Using personal GoogleSites for learning, assessment & feedback in #IBBio

Click to see an example of how the GoogleSite was set up.

This is reposted from my i-Biology.net blog. To comment, please go there.

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Over the last two years, My IB Bio class have been keeping individual GoogleSites as records and reflections of their learning. Based on this experience and their feedback, I have tweaked the project to try to make it more effective as a learning tool.

Rationale

With the bulk of our resources online (here on i-Biology.net, Slideshare and elsewhere), as well as a 1:1 laptop and GoogleApps environment, it doesn’t make much sense to be using too much paper. The aim of this project was to empower students to build skills and knowledge connected to the IB Biology course, whilst making their thinking visible to me as a teacher. Through this process, students are able to track their progress, stay on top of their grades and prepare at their own pace (especially if they are working ahead).

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Tweeching

So many of my blog posts on this site, or resources posted to i-Biology, have been stimulated by something first heard about on Twitter, so here goes…

Blogging

My site (i-Biology.net) is powered by the blogging platform WordPress.com. It is cheap, as customisable as I need and easy to write and edit posts and pages. It is intended mostly for my own students, but I do get a kick out of the comments from others. It was through discussions about the site that I found out about my current school. Related to this is SlideShare, where most of my resources are actually hosted – and which has its own community of commenters. With the current volume of traffic, there are many watchful eyes acting as a giant group of reviewers – so when they spot mistakes I can fix them quicksmart. As a result, I’m confident my students have a decent set of resources for learning. Finally, by sharing the content I can encourage teachers to make donations to charity through my Biology4Good page.

This personal blog, though more recent, has been a useful way to develop professional reflections and organise my thoughts around masters work and issues in education. It is an encouragement to be reflective, to put thoughts on the page with an authentic audience in mind. Other teachers do the same. Some write about their subject, others about their practices. All are useful resources, especially when they’re citing research that I can follow-up with my access to the university library.

Facebook

It was very easy to set up a Facebook page for i-Biology and in my previous school I used as a way to share interesting science resources with students without having to cross the boundary into ‘friendships’. Students ‘like’ it to get updates. It still runs, though has more-or-less been superseded by…

Twitter

Although at first a skeptic, a colleague (@JasonGraham99) convinced me it was worth a whirl. Did I have time to tweet? Welll I make time for everything else so why not. Now I find it my number one tool for self-directed professional development for these reasons (and more):

  • I have followed lots of scientists, science writers, educationalists and IB-types who post frequent useful links to resources, articles and stimulus for my own PD or class work. It’s a real-time way to keep up-to-date. My ‘Sunday reading’ often consists of catching up on science or education links that were tweeted during the week and that I ‘favourited’ in order to save them for when I have time.
  • I can connect to other teachers of the same subject, regardless of whether they are in IB schools. It is interesting to follow discussions on teaching methods, standards-based grading, modeling in science, the “flip” and more. Every week something is added to my toolbox as a result of Twitter. The challenge is keeping it organised!
  • I can post, retweet or write about current news, education or science and use #hashtags such as #IBBio to organise information. With #hashtags being used in tweeting conferences, it is possible to follow some of the action without being there (check out the #Learning2 feed).
  • With the Paper.li service, tweets from the people, organisations and search terms I follow are aggregated into a weekly #IBSciWeekly ‘magazine’ collecting up science and education news for students and teachers.
  • It gets the message out there. Followers spread the word, give feedback on your work, engage in discussions.
  • You can ‘meet’ like-minded people – which is not always possible in small-school settings.
  • We have recently started #MYPChat* as a way to connect MYP teachers in a monthly discussion – across disciplines. Maybe one day it will be as popular as #PYPChat! It’s great that the IB people ‘in the know’ are on board with social media and present as positive and supportive voices.

Untapped potential? 

There is more I could be doing, for sure, but some of it is just beyond my level of comfort. Some teachers use Twitter as a classroom tool, engaging students in discussions and ‘backchanneling’ lessons. Student blogging is something we do sporadically, though there are excellent examples out there of classes – particularly ‘creative’ courses – building community around student work. I should develop this further in the science context, to make sure my own students have an authentic audience for their work. As our school develops mission portfolios as a graduating requirement, we will use them more often, in particular for tasks such as One World articles.

And so…

Input from outside helps me develop as a more globally-minded teacher and learner. Although social media can at times be time-consuming, careful curation and management of how they are used can be an invaluable tool for personalised and meaningful professional development. I would encourage more teachers to get into it – share your work, ask questions and take part.

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*#MYPChat happens early in the month, on a day and topic voted for by participants. Resources are posted to the wikispace here: http://mypchat.wikispaces.com (but for a way better-developed model, look at the #PYPChat site: pypchat.wikispaces.com)