Build a Bigger Wall?

Do you know what happens when you build a huge wall in front of students and tell them that they can’t? Yup. They spend all of their time and energy trying to find ways over, under or around that wall.

flickr photo shared by Dani_vr under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

And what happens when students are no longer constrained by those walls, because they’ve graduated or gone to another school or just gone home for the day? What happens when they go out into the “real world” without the self-control or the management skills or the sense of instilled values because the huge wall kept them “safe” so they never needed to learn these things and we felt like we never needed to teach them?

Yes, of course I’m talking about filtering and articles like this one in eSchool News make me sad and angry. I understand there are a lot of strings attached to E-Rate dollars (I’m looking at you CIPA) that I have the luxury of not worrying about because I’m overseas. But technological solutions to behavioral problems are not a sustainable or scalable way forward. Students (and teachers) will always – yes, always – find away to circumvent filters. [Side note: I remember teaching in LA in the late 90s and we had Bessie the internet filter. How did I get around it? I created an AOL account and used the built-in web browser. I think one of my students told me how to do it…]

Instead of building a bigger wall to keep our students sheltered safe, why don’t we teach them the skills they need to make decisions that are good for them and give them the opportunity to make mistakes (and learn from them!) in the relative safety of the institutions charged with helping them learn???

3D Printing is Here!

Grade 6s, watching it print

This is a blog post that I wrote for our school newsletter/blog at YIS.

Of all the new technologies that have become available recently, few have created as much buzz as 3D printing. We are reading about doctors creating implants with 3D printers and engineers creating houses with 3D printers. Last week, we unpacked our first such desktop device – a MakerBot Replicator 2 – at YIS and it is generating a huge buzz amongst students and teachers alike!

As these machines become more accessible, there are two huge changes that are occurring:

  1. Everybody is a designer. Using free tools like SketchUp or Tinkercad on your computer (and tools like 123D Creature on your iPad), we all have the ability to design objects and then print them out.
  2. From consumer to creator. Instead of buying what somebody else things we want or need, we now have the ability to create what we want or need. If our initial design doesn’t work the way we hoped, we can improve it and print it out again.

With online communities like Thingiverse, you can find just about anything you can imagine. From phone cases to dishwasher parts, bike light mounts to miniature dinosaurs, it’s all there. You can even take those designs and remix them to suit your own needs since all files are uploaded under a Creative Commons license. I’m currently printing out accessories for the new printer that I found on the site!

Plato’s five famous solids, printed from Thingiverse

In the second semester, Grade 10s will be designing objects and printing them out on the 3D printer to test if they work as imagined. We’re also exploring how middle school students can create buildings in a virtual Minecraft world and then print models of those buildings on the printer. There has been great discussions about printing objects and testing their strength in Science or creating a set of characters that can be used in a storytelling unit in the ES. The possibilities for authentic inquiry truly are endless!

Our goal is to make this technology accessible to everybody: from Kindergarten to Grade 12; in Tech class as well as English class. If you have any ideas about how you’d like to use the 3D printer, or if you are a parent who uses 3D printing at home or at work, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

The Futility of Filters


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Zach Klein

My new principal just shared this NPR article with me about LAUSD students hacking their shiny new iPads to access blocked content (like facebook) and to disable software that “lets school district officials know where the iPads are, and what the students are doing with them at all times.” The original LA Times article seems shocked and awed that students would hack the devices so they could use them “for personal use”.

I understand the need to focus on student privacy and safety, particularly in the U.S. where CIPA and COPPA. But it is totally unreasonable to give locked-down iPads to students (any students!) and expect them to not find ways around the blocks. Even the Chief Information Officer of LAUSD thinks so:

The district’s chief information officer, Ronald Chandler, says he wasn’t really surprised that students bypassed blocks so quickly. He says that hacks happen at all levels, whether it’s secured parts of the federal government, or student iPads.

“So we talked to students, and we asked them, ‘Why did you do this?’ And in many cases, they said, ‘You guys are just locking us out of too much stuff.'”

To the credit of the the school district, it sounds like they will review their policy. They have, however, currently halted the home use of iPads “until further notice.” Hopefully this is so they can find ways of finding a more student-centered policy rather than finding another way to lock down the devices.

The questions I have are these:

  • What is LAUSD doing to teach students how to act responsibly and how to make good decisions while using technology?
  • How was LAUSD envisioning the use of iPads by students (and teachers) with all of the blocks and filters in place?
  • How much time and money were spent setting up that doomed-to-fail system?

If you know anybody who is working in LAUSD, I’d love to hear from them. If you have any thoughts or comments, I’d love to hear those too!

 

PowerSearching Your Google Drive

It’s probably because I’m changing schools, but I’m currently obsessed with finding efficient ways to manage and transfer ownership of Google Docs. To be fair, I really started thinking about it at ASB Unplugged in 2012 when I had an awesome conversation with Jeff Plaman, Simon May, Aaron Metz and Andrew McCarthy about “exit strategies” for teachers. But I digress…

About three weeks ago it started with this:

Looking for ways to transfer ownership of lots of #GDocs. I thought changing ownership of the folder would do the trick, but it won't!
@chamada
Clint Hamada

As with most things Google, @jayatwood quickly joined the conversation and he offered some great tips for PowerSearching within Google Drive:

@ Dropdown arrow at right of search box. There's "Not Shared" under the visibility options.
@jayatwood
Jay Atwood

Thanks to Jay and a bit of interneting, I quickly discovered how to find documents owned by me and shared to another specific person:

Search Google Drive

It was useful, but it still didn’t answer an important question:

@ Nice. Is there a way to search for all files owned by me that I've shared?
@chamada
Clint Hamada

I think I just found the answer. The key is in the difference between “Private” and “Not shared”. As best as I can tell, “Private” means that it has been shared to a specific list of individuals (as opposed to anybody in your domain or anybody in your domain with link) and “Not shared” means, well, not shared. So, by using this search

GDocs Search

 

I’m able to call up all the documents that I own and have ever shared with any specific individuals and can then transfer ownership as needed!

What other Google Drive tricks have you found?

 

The Dark Side of GDocs? – Transferring Ownership

We’ve starting implementing Google Docs pretty heavily at our school. It’s the perfect solution to share and collaborate on documents with colleagues. There are many important curriculum documents that are created by individual teachers. With GDocs it is a simple process to work on these documents and develop this curriculum collaboratively.

As with many international schools, however, we have a pretty decent turnover rate of teachers at our school. Our average length of stay for teachers hovers right around 4 years.

And this is the dark side of going Google: What happens when a teacher leaves the school and we delete their Google Apps account? All of that data is also deleted. All of those shared documents and all of that institutional knowledge is gone unless you take precautions and prepare those teachers in advance.

So, what are the solutions?

Actually, for the leaving teacher it is pretty easy. Although you cannot transfer ownership of documents outside of your school domain, it is a pretty simple matter to use Google Takeout (thanks to the Data Liberation Front) to download all of the items in your Google Drive (or selected folders).

But what about those documents that need to stay within the institution? There might be a better way, but here’s what I’ve come up with:

Transfering ownership of Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, and Forms: These native formats can easily have their ownership transferred to a departmental or institutional account. For example, if I have Math curriculum documents, I can put all of these in a single folder, select all and transfer ownership to math@mydomain.com. (If this is a new account, you may need to share it with this account first, and then transfer ownership.) Because you are transferring ownership and not creating a new document, the URL should remain the same and any existing links to that document should still work. Also, the existing sharing settings should remain the same. You can also use this method to transfer ownership of any of your documents to anybody else in your school like a co-teacher or your department head.

Transferring ownership of non-native GDoc formats such as PDFs, JPGs, and MS Word files: The method above does not work with other files that you have uploaded to Google Drive, unfortunately. However, once you have gone through the process above and have also removed any personal or non-essential files from Google Drive, the Google Apps administrator has the ability to “bulk transfer” ownership of all files from one user to another. This transfer could be to an archive account (archive@mydomain.com?). If teachers find they need a file and the owner is listed as “archive” they can then either request a transfer of ownership (if it is a native GDoc that was accidentally overlooked) or could make a copy of the file. After a set period of time (6 months? 1 year?) I would delete all archived worked permanently.

Transfer Docs

Thoughts? How do you handle this at your school?

Blog Importification

I love having smart friends.

As UNIS Hanoi moves towards a school-wide blogging platform I’ve been looking for ways to make life easier for teachers wanting to implement blogging in class. One of the big questions I’ve had  has been “How can teachers get only the information that they want/need?”

What stuck in my mind was a comment that I heard in passing back at Learning 2.010. Somebody (who???) mentioned using Google Spreadsheets to build RSS feeds. Since most school URLs are predictable, that sounded easy enough. It turned into my own personal Fermat’s Last Theorem though. What seemed easy turned out to take me a few years to solve and then only with the help of my aforementioned smart friend.

@zomoco has rigged up a Blog Importificator for me. Here’s how it works:

  • Teachers create a class list using Outlook contact groups and send that to me. (In the future, this information could also be pulled out of our student information system.)
  • Teachers also tell me what category they want the students to use in their blog posts (grades 6 – 10 use MYP subject related categories that have been pre-loaded on each blog; grades 11 and 12 create the category they are going to use) as well as what grade level the students are in (our blog addresses are dependent upon graduation year for ease of maintenance).
  • I erase the header from the text file they sent me so there are two columns of data: student name and student email/username. I then upload this text file to the Importificator, fill in the category slug, the folder name and the graduation year.
  • The Importificator spits out an OPML file that can then be imported into Google Reader, Outlook or just about any other RSS reader.

From the time I receive the class list to the time teachers are subscribed to all of the blog posts in that specific category: about 2 minutes!

While this particular version of the Importificator is very UNIS Hanoi specific, @zomoco has released his code over at GitHub licensed under ASL and CC BY NC SA. If you use it, please be sure to drop him a tweet and say thanks!

One day, after a few more lessons at Codecademy, I hope I’ll be able to modify the code myself!

Is there a better/easier way of doing this? What do you do at your school to help teachers with their blogging students?

‘Messing Around’ More

This post is a result of my work in my COETAIL course and is cross-posted from my blog over there.

Over the weekend, a lot of my tweeps were at 21c Learning Hong Kong. If I were going, one of the main reasons I would have done so would have been to see Punya Mishra from MSU. He is a driving force behind TPACK. During Mishra’s keynote, Jabiz tweeted:

We get there through playful process! @ #21clhk
@intrepidteacher
Jabiz Raisdana

This immediately reminded me of Messing Around. In their whitepaper, authors boyd, Ito, et al. write the following:

When messing around, young people teachers begin to take an interest in and focus on the workings and content of the technology and media themselves, tinkering, exploring, and extending their understanding. [p. 20]

 

It is important to recognize, however, that this more exploratory mode of messing around is an important space of experimental forms of learning that open up new possibilities and engagements. [p. 23]

 

we see [messing around] as a necessary part of self-directed exploration in order to experiment with something that might eventually become a longer-term, abiding interest in creative production. One side effect of this exploration is that youth teachers also learn computer skills they might not have developed otherwise. [p. 25]

(Obviously, the strikethroughs are my edits!)

In my role as technology facilitator, I spend a lot of time with teachers, either in a one-on-one, small group, or workshop setting.  While there is an obvious willingness to learn something new, that desire to ‘mess around’ is usually missing from the teachers. There’s a huge list of legitimate reasons why this is the case: lack of time, too much marking, planning, other  meetings, to name a few. I get that. But as teachers, we must be willing to the behaviors that we want to see most in our students: curiosity, self-reliance, inquiry, stick-to-it-tiveness. To me, that is what ‘messing around’ is all about.

As teachers, we all have expertise. We know our content areas (Content Knowledge) and have been trained (or have learned on the job!) in teaching pedagogy (Pedagogical Knowledge). Historically, the best teachers have been the ones who lived inside the intersection of those two realms of knowledge.

With the increased pervasiveness, ubiquity and infusion of technology, there is a third realm that defines the best teachers: Technological Knowledge. The TPACK model of technology integration helps teachers think about the intersection of these the knowledge areas when developing and delivering meaningful learning experiences for students. I believe that it is only through ‘messing around’ and discovering new possibilities within the context of one’s own Content and Pedagogical Knowledge can teachers begin to truly harness the transformative power of technology in learning.

How much ‘messing around’ do you do? When do you find the time? What keeps you from doing it more?

Image Credits:

Engaging the Parent Community

Last week, I stole borrowed a page from my friends and colleagues at UWCSEA East and had students run a session with parents on social networking and other concerns. As I wrote in the school newsletter:

Thao , Tommy and Max did a fantastic job of presenting a student perspective and discussing their own personal use of social networks and other aspects of technology use, both in school and at home. It was great to hear them address the concerns raised by parents as well as share their experiences. According to one of the students, “It was helpful to listen to the questions from parents, and it helped me understand what kind of concerns parents have about the integration of technology into a student’s life.” Another added: “It was good for the students to see the point of view of the parent, so they would understand what the parent is seeing. It good to tell the parent about what we as student are doing on our tablet.”

The parents were also appreciative of the chance to speak to young adults and about the challenges and opportunities that are faced in an increasingly digital environment from their different perspectives. There was also a great roundtable discussion among the parents once the students had returned to class about some of the questions and concerns they have as parents.

One of the big discussion points that came from the parent roundtable (and actually, it has been brought up before) was the need for an online community for parents (primarily) to discuss some of the issues, questions and concerns that go hand-in-hand with the implementation of emerging technologies for learning.

I learned at ASB Unplugged 2010 that they are using a Ning for their parents. If I remember correctly, it is now completely moderated by parent volunteers and members of their PTA.

I’m wondering if any schools have successfully implemented BuddyPress as a community forum? As we are looking to finally start with edublogs, I wonder if this is a path that we can take? I’ve done some initial poking around, but I can’t solve the privacy issue: How do I make a BuddyPress installation so that parents can register themselves (moderated by an admin from the school) and so that the forums, groups and postings are private?

I’m also wondering if BuddyPress is even the way to go? Are there alternatives out there that you would suggest from experience?

How is your school engaging your parent community in discussion? Are you using social networking to improve parent communication and interaction? How concerned are you and your parents with the privacy of that social network? 

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Image Credit: Grade 8 Student by Clint Hamada licensed under CC BY NC SA

Updated Technology Walkthrough Using SAMR

After my first attempt, I’m back with a new attempt to collect walkthrough data related to technology integration.

I’m currently working with Adrienne and Jeff on a presentation for ASB Unplugged on different coaching models and roles as related to technology. We had a discussion about our roles as data coaches and where this ranks on the list of things that we do. I’m hoping this form will act as a bit of action research for me and my school.

The walkthrough that I envision should take less than 10 minutes and the form is designed to support this. The data that I hope to collect should give me holistic data which can then be used to analyze departments, grade level and even specific teachers. It should be said that this isn’t about evaluation or appraisal (not that I have that power!), but rather about being able to target specific areas for support and PD.

I’ve chosen to use the SAMR model but this can be easily modified to suit your school’s needs or current practices.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and how it compares to how you collect walkthrough data at your school.

Twitter for Teachers #learning2

Keri-Lee and Clint met on Twitter in 2008 and have since spent numerous holidays, along with their families, together across Asia. Cross posted at Tip of the Iceberg.

To help facilitate our Twitter for Teachers session at Learning 2.011, we have decided to post the general outline of our presentation and any resources on both of our blogs. We’d love to hear your feedback and how you are using Twitter to interact with your PLN. Feel free to leave your Twitter name in the comments as well!

(Mis)Perceptions of Twitter

We’ve all heard the “I don’t care what you had for breakfast!” diatribe against Twitter. We’re curious to know what the perceptions our participants have about Twitter.

How We Use It

Twitter, like anything else, is simply a tool. Use of that same tool will vary widely from person to person and Twitter is no exception.

Top Tips

For those just starting out in the Twitter game or for those that started an account years ago but never really got into it, here our some of our top tips for using Twitter to expand your PLN:

  • Public, Personal, Private – Just as we would tell our students, it is important to understand the distinction between public, personal and private information.
    _
  • BPLBio, Photo, Link. It’s hard for others to separate the gold from the spam when you don’t fill these things out!
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  • Tear Down That Wall! – Don’t protect your tweets! Again, it’s hard for others to decide to follow you back if they can’t see what you’ve added to the conversations.
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  • Go Beyond Basic – While Twitter as a service is fantastic, Twitter as a website is less than desirable. Try a Twitter client like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or Echofon (just to name a few!) that allows you to separate your Twitter feed into easy-to-monitor columns.
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  • Lists – Twitter lists allow you to create groups within your Twitter stream. You can even include people that you do not personally follow. Even better, you can follow lists that others have meticulously created. (Kim Cofino has a great International Teachers list.)
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  • Hashtags#learning2 #edchat #scichat #mathchat #kinderchat These are all examples of hashtags. Hashtags make it easy to group and search for tweets about a specific topic. Using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck, you can even use a hashtag to create an easy-to-follow column in your client. @cybraryman has a comprehensive list of education-related hashtags.
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  • Search For It – Is there something that you’re passionate about? Chances are there are others on Twitter who are passionate about the same thing. Use the Twitter Search function to find people who are talking about your hometown, your favorite sports team or anything else you might be interested in.
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  • Lurking (aka Legitimate Peripheral Participation) – One of the best and easiest ways to learn Twitter etiquette is to lurk amongst some of your favorite lists or hashtags. Once you see how things work, it’s a lot easier to join in!
  • Retweet and Reply – For some, the highest compliment you can pay them on Twitter is to retweet them. For others, they prefer the conversation that comes along with an @reply. Either way, it is a great way to engage others and to add followers to your PLN.
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  • Conversation is King – Twitter, first and foremost, is about connecting with people around the world who can help you grow as a teacher and as a person. This happens through conversation and through getting to know one another as you would a fellow teacher on your campus. Sometimes these professional relationships develop into personal friendships that last a lifetime!
While it is extremely well-used and on the verge of becoming cliche, the best metaphor for your Personal Learning Network is that of a garden. It takes time and energy and patience to cultivate a PLN. But if you stick with it, it can be a very beautiful thing!
 
Image Credits:
Squawk! by Kevin Collins licensed under CC BY NC
Looking Up by Louise Docker licensed under CC BY