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SAMR Introduction – presentation from Innovate 2014

I presented this workshop at the E-Schools Network 2014 Conference held at Wynberg Girls’ High School in Cape Town. The workshop was a brief introduction to the basics of the SAMR model of technology integration.

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SAMR – Making Teachers Feel Inadequate?

I am a fan of Dr Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model which shows levels of technology integration in learning (for loads of resources on this model, see Kathy Schrock’s great collection here: http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.htmlsamr-model-graphic). There are many visual illustrations of this model available online and they are in their own way helpful guides to those wishing to understand this way of examining tech integration.

So then here are two questions related to this model:

1) Does every activity in the classroom need to be at the Redefinition level?

2) Should teachers feel that they are not using technology effectively if they are not at the Modification or Redefinition level?

As far as I’m concerned, the answer to both these questions is a resounding ‘No’. I fear that many of the available SAMR graphics illustrate this model as a progression from poor use of tech at the Substitution level to the ‘proper’ use of tech at the Redefinition level. I even came across one which linked an increase in academic rigour to the move from Substitution to Redefinition! I’m not convinced this is helpful. Don’t misunderstand me on this – I firmly believe that our teachers should be making every effort to integrate technology into their teaching and the learning experience of their pupils. What I am looking for is for teachers to use all four levels in their teaching and not to feel guilty if every lesson isn’t redefined by the use of technology.

Just as I expect my teachers to use the Blooms Taxonomy in its entirety as they plan and execute effective learning experiences for their pupils, so too do I want to see the full range of the SAMR model as they use technology. In doing so, I do not want any of my team to feel inadequate or ineffective in their use of technology because they have planned a lesson in which the use of tech is at the Substitution or Augmentation level. This is especially true for those teachers who are in the early stages of their understanding of the use of technology in their classrooms and who are just beginning to understand their changing role in a 21st century classroom. I believe that through ongoing professional development, mentoring and accountability, teachers can be taught, encouraged and expected eventually to include all four SAMR levels in their teaching.

It is idealistic to expect every lesson in our classrooms to be transformed through technology no matter how much we wish this were true. As teachers move in their understanding of their role in the classroom and begin to see themselves as facilitators of learning, and as they begin  to understand how technology can support their pupils’ learning, their application of all four levels of the SAMR model will improve.

Let’s not make our teachers feel inadequate by creating the impression that they are somehow not making the grade if every lesson they teach with technology is not at the Modification or Redefinition level. Let’s rather provide the encouragement and the platform for them to continue their learning and their journey towards a fuller understanding of how technology can bring a entire new way of learning into their classrooms.

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10 Day Twitter Challenge

Twitter is my number one source of new information, challenging thinking, teaching and leadership resources as well as the medium through which I share my own online discoveries and thinking. I cannot imagine why any teacher would not use Twitter to connect with other professional educators for shared learning and resource sharing.

Some folk to whom I have spoken feel that Twitter is too complicated for them or that it is simply too much of a time-waster. These people have not spent enough time learning how Twitter works (very simple actually!) nor have they developed the discipline of 10 minutes a day browsing Twitter to discover what is actually available. There is rubbish on Twitter (as with any other online network) and there are those who use the medium to self-promote and certainly don’t add value through their inane commentary on the world. Those seeking to use Twitter as a professional tool need to be given the tools to do so and the support and encouragement to persevere.

This is why I really like the idea put forward by @SeanHCole who has issued a 10 Day Twitter Challenge for South African teachers. The graphic below explains how the challenge works. I will be putting this to my staff on Thursday morning and running this as an internal staff challenge. I encourage you to do the same. Let’s build the South African education community on Twitter so that we can all learn from each other. Those on Twitter already may wish to share this challenge. Follow the #10STCSA hashtag to find those teachers who have taken up the Twitter challenge.

Follow me on Twitter too – @artpreston

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Pinterest For Teachers

This is the presentation for the workshop I presented at the SchoolNetSA conference in Bloemfontein in July 2013.

 

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Its Not Spying, Its Parenting!

I was catching up on my now rather long Google Reader “unread” items when I came across an article on the excellent Online Mom blog. The article commented on the arrest of three men in the US accused of raping children they met through an online social network. It is a scary reminder that despite the safety measures put into place by the network concerned (Skout) or any other social network, online predators seem to be able to skirt around these. (Skout suspended their teen community network – see ongoing response here)

When presenting at schools on the issue of keeping our children safe online, I am often asked whether parents should insist on checking their children’s phones and other devices. Some parents seem to feel that this is an invasion of privacy. I completely disagree. Your child’s safety is paramount and trumps any feeling by your child that you are not trusting them. The following paragraph appeared in the article to which I alluded earlier and is an excellent representation on my feelings on this matter :

Kids still make mistakes and it’s important that there’s a parental safety net for when they do. So pick up your daughter’s cell phone once in a while and check a few of her texts; make sure you know what social networks your child is using; pull up the browser history on the family computer and see what everyone’s been up to. It’s not spying, it’s parenting, and in this fast-paced digital world our kids need it more than ever.

Let me hasten to add though, that I do believe it would be best to chat with your child about their phone before simply picking it up and going through it. Open and honest communication is the best way to handle your child’s use of technology. Ensuring that your child feels comfortable speaking to you about his/her online activities and that you make conversation about social networks and online behaviour open in your home, is an excellent way to assist your child in keeping safe online.

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Cellphones in the classroom – an African perspective

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Through the network of teachers in my PLN I have the privilege of meeting some amazing educators from all over South Africa. One such teacher is Robyn Clark of Sekolo sa Borokgo, an independent school in Johannesburg. We met up at a conference in Pretoria last year and met up again at a conference in Durban last month when we both shared as speakers. What I love about Robyn is her willingness to embrace challenge and change as well as her drive to be a teacher who makes a real difference in her pupils’ lives.

Robyn’s innovative and open approach to the use of cellphones in her classroom is evident of her desire to use the tools available to her pupils to teach them more effectively. The recent call to ban cellphones from schools in South Africa (a short-sighted and, quite frankly, ridiculous call) by the National Association of School Governing Bodies elicited a great deal of response in the media. With emotional responses on both sides of the argument, it is good to see a piece of balanced journalism from China Network Television who recently visited Robyn’s school to see how they were using mobile phones as a tool for learning.

Televised insert available here: http://english.cntv.cn/program/africalive/20120518/100250.shtml

I wonder how the National Association of School Governing Bodies would respond to this?

Well done Robyn!  You are an inspiration to your fellow-educators. Thank-you for being a difference-maker!

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Transformation before technology!

Changing an outdated industrial-age paradigm of education to a relevant 21st century one will take more than simply adding technology. This piece by Will Richardson sums up my sentiments around this issue so well that I simply had to quote his blog post – I cannot say it better than this!

From the “I Know I Keep Saying This But I Just Can’t Stop Dept.” comes yet another example of how out of whack our language is when talking about what student learning should be. In this long,celebratory piece from the Las Vegas Sun today we learn that students at a Nevada charter school have had their learning “transformed” at the Explore Knowledge Academy, the state’s first iSchool. And the path to transformation? The iPad, of course.

“The world has changed; the expectations in the workforce have changed,” said Abbe Mattson, EKA’s executive director. “You can’t even work at a McDonald’s without using a touch screen. … If we don’t change how we teach, it’s a disservice to our kids.”

Grrrrr…

In the six months since its technology infusion, EKA has become a model of what the classrooms of the 21st century might look like in Clark County.  Although some students found learning to use the new technology challenging, most took to digital learning immediately, Mattson said.  “It’s like second nature for the students,” she said. “They’re open to trying this and they’re used to this multimedia access.”

Students use the iPads to access educational websites and applications as well as electronic textbooks. They use the iPad to take notes and the tablet’s camera to photograph whiteboards filled with teacher’s lessons and chemistry formulas. Some even record lectures using the iPad’s digital voice recorder or video camera, referring to them when they review for tests.

“I love them,” eighth-grader Alexa Freeman, 13, said of the iPads. “They’re super fast and easy to use.”

Wow…

And, finally…wait for it…

Educators say the potential payoff of this digital education is enormous, even though it’s still unproven if this nascent technology will increase student achievement. Educational games and visual applications attempt to make learning fun and keep students’ attention, which should translate to better test scores, teachers say.  “If you can get kids engaged, they’ll learn,” Mattson said. “These iPads will help get kids engaged.”

Learning = better test scores. And so it goes…

Look, I know that this here blog has not been all happy, happy lately. I know my cynicism is seeping through more that even I would like. I know I need to get focused on the good, seriously transformative things that some “bold” schools are doing, and I will, I promise. Really.

But I also know that if we keep allowing stories like these to set the bar for change, we’re shortchanging our kids. It’s yet another example of conflating teaching and learning, of not fully understanding the shift to self-directed, personal learning that technology and the Web support. Transformation in this sense means shifting the balance of power to the learner. And I know that starts way before we put a piece of technology in a kid’s hands. But with that power, the technology becomes a much richer, more valuable tool for learning.

I just feel like we have to keep calling this what it is: old wine in new bottles.

Original article

 

 

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The iPad in South African schools – a response

Much has been made of the use of iPads in the South African school context. I fear though that schools are rushing to this piece of technology without spending time examining how it will improve the level of teaching and learning in the classroom. Others seem to want to get on the iPad bandwagon in their quest to be in front of the race for enrolment while others ask parents to buy iPads and then use them 1 hour a week in an iPad lesson instead of integrating them into the learning process several times during the week.

Let me be upfront and say that the school I lead has embarked on an iPad in the classroom project in one of our grades and we are walking the road slowly with constant evaluation of its effectiveness. We have bought 25 iPads to be shared amongst the classes in the grade and have regular evaluation meetings with the grade teachers to review how the iPad is being used and to share lesson integration ideas. I am a school leader who believes in embracing technology where appropriate but not simply for the sake of being trendy!

Let’s be clear about this: A bad teacher remains a bad teacher when an iPad is put in their hands. Technology is not the key for a bad teacher – accountability and on-going training is the first step!

The Core Group recently uploaded a video entitled “Revolutionising Education: the iPad in South African schools”. This video shows several examples of pupils in varying school contexts across South Africa using iPads in their classrooms. There are some interesting interviews with educators and there is clearly some very good work being done with these devices in some of the schools. However there are some concerns as well.

In the video a teacher is seen to extol the virtues of the iPad in a maths lesson. She tells the viewer that the pupils can now count apples on the iPad and this is helping them understand the concept better. Please explain why this could not have been done without the iPad. Why not have the pupils collect small stones, bottle tops or something similar and bring these into class where the children could explore numeracy concepts in a concrete way? Do we need an iPad to do this? This teachers also mentions that absenteeism is reduced as pupils do not want to miss an iPad class. Imagine if her teaching in all her other classes was so exciting and ignited the imagination in new and dynamic ways, that her pupils did not want to miss her class regardless of what technology, if any, was being used…

I really like the Sacred Heart College approach of engaging their Grade 7 pupils in the creation of their own iPad apps. This seems to be a very forward-thinking and appropriate use of the technology – focus on creating not simply consuming! The learning is in the hands of the learners. I love the little guy who is the sound engineer!

The Key School for Specialised Education is obviously keen on the use of technology in the classroom for all the right reasons but what are they doing using the iPad as what appears to be a TV screen? Come on Core – give them a VGA adapter cable and a monitor on their wall! On the other hand, just use a DVD player if you’re going to be showing the children movies! The story of Reuben told by Dr Jenni Gous is a model story of what can be done with the correct use of the iPad. It is an inspirational story – well done to Reuben’s teacher and mom who have embraced this technology with an open mind.

Here is the video :

 

This video does not cover the good folks at Kragveld Primary who proudly advertise their school as the only one in the country using iPads from Grade R-7. Clearly they have not seen the video above! Take a look at their video here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THVvQIgN7g4

While I applaud their first steps towards a new pedagogy in their classrooms, I am not convinced that they ‘get’ it! The iPads are being used as a device to broadcast information in the front of the class instead of being a tool which engages the learners in a creative process. Yes, it certainly puts wonderful graphics on the screen and it certainly has educational value but it is not using the iPad to its potential as a tool for learning. Quite frankly, I am less than impressed by the quality of teaching and learning  put across in this video – a great shame as I believe the teachers at this school have an openness to new ideas and possibilities. I wonder what these folks could do with further training and equipping in the use of the iPad as a teaching tool. This Kragveld video leaves me a bit sad – they seem to be on the right path but stuck in a 20th century paradigm of teaching. Is this revolutionary teaching? I think not…

So then, is the iPad revolutionising education in South Africa? I don’t believe so. Is it being used in exciting and creative ways in certain schools? Absolutely! So now, the question is, how do we bring the schools which are using iPads really well together with those who would like to but simply don’t know how to?

The South African education system is in need of much more basic intervention than simply adding iPads to the mix – a true revolution of the education system will be when every pupil has quality teachers in decent school buildings lead by competent principals supported by effective departments of education. As much as we may like to think so, the iPad is not the answer quite yet!

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An Illusion Of Modernity

Mostly technology in school offers an “illusion of modernity” – automating routine tasks like word processing, or watching a teacher having fun at the smartboard. If students do get online in school – it often involves viewing “filtered” web content with limited functionality.  Of course students need lessons in “digital hygiene.” But curating all their web content and interactions doesn’t teach them responsible use, it just sequesters them behind a firewall. “Suspicion invites treachery” ~ Voltaire

This quote is taken from an excellent blog post by Peter Pappas. The idea of schools creating an “illusion of modernity” is also true for teachers. There are many teachers who seemingly embrace technology without truly understanding the concept of 21st century learning. I fear that in many classrooms old paradigms are continued with new technologies.

Two things are needed if we are to avoid this:

1) An open mind

2) A willingness to learn new pedagogies which reflect the reality of the 21st century

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Reflections on the Intel ICT in the Classroom Conference – 5-7 July 2011

I write this blog post 34 000 feet in the air en route to Cape Town having left a very cold Joburg where I attended the Intel ICT in the Classroom Conference. SchoolNet South Africa were the organisers of the event and it was my first encounter with this organisation.

This blog post is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the conference but is rather a reflection of the experiences of the last three days. Here are my immediate thoughts :

1. Seeing 500 teachers come together from across the country, reflective of the diversity in our nation, united in their passion for changing the education paradigm so present in many classrooms was wonderful and gave me hope (despite my reflections in point 3 below!).

2. The organisers of the conference did not generate much excitement about the event prior to the first day. There was very little social media action around the conference – this was surprising and perhaps even disappointing.

3. I am amazed at the lack of self-discipline among many South African teachers. People arrived late to almost every plenary and workshop – at times almost an hour late. Many left workshops early because the workshop ran a little late and lunch or tea was waiting – including during a workshop in which international presenters were video-conferencing from the USA! The desire of people to help themselves to copious amounts of tea snacks without care about who was still to come was disappointing. Is it any wonder then that while at the conference I heard about a series of workshops scheduled for teachers in an under-privileged area of Cape Town that had to be cancelled as the teachers were unwilling to attend after 15h00 but were more than happy to leave their teaching to attend during the time pupils were at school? I find this distressing given the disastrous results of the Annual National Assessments – when will teachers take their responsibility seriously? Can we really then expect these same teachers to implement seriously all that they learnt while at the conference? For the sake of our children, I hope so!

4. Obviously I did not attend all the workshops but the ones I did attend were certainly worthwhile. I did not attend any presented by the overseas guest presenters and was delighted to see the incredible knowledge and creativity on display from local teachers. We really do have world-class people right here in South Africa.

5. Proper signage from Day 1 would have been appreciated. Signs indicating from the car park where to register and clear signage of where the various workshop venues were, were sadly lacking. This fact was tweeted by several delegates within the first hour of the conference. I would have hoped that the organisers were monitoring the backchannel and that they would have reacted by simply printing and laminating clear signage by the morning of Day 2. Unfortunately this did not happen. The map in the conference booklet was not very clear and led to further confusion.

6. I thoroughly enjoyed the plenary sessions. Excellent input from Jane Hart, Naomi Harm and John Davitt certainly helped delegates consider their role as educators in the 21st century. I was challenged by these individuals and learnt a great deal from what they shared. It was fantastic that SchoolNet SA could bring in three world-class experts to share with the delegates. I did wonder whether we might see a South African presentation in the plenaries at the next conference.

7. It was wonderful to be able to assist Maggie Verster with the backchannel during the conference. More local teachers joined Twitter at the conference and were able to join the conversation during the event. The wifi provided by Peter Henning of St John’s College was excellent despite taking strain at various points during the conference. The tweet summaries may be found here : Day 1; Day 2; Day 3

8. Day 1 concluded with the awarding of the Microsoft Innovative Teacher Awards. All 22 finalists were presented to the delegates with a description of what they had done in their schools. What struck me the most was that many of the finalists’ projects were really simple in concept and had been implemented with excellence. It was clear that there will be many teachers in schools all over South Africa who could qualify as prize-winners if they entered this competition. Congratulations to all the winners – you are the change-agents South African education needs in classrooms! One observation, also noted by someone who tweeted into the conference, was that the prize winners were not representative of the South African demographic. When I asked about this I was told that the quality of entries from previously-disadvantaged teachers and schools was not of a good enough quality and that not many from these schools had entered. If this is true, the work of organisations such as SchoolNetSA and EdTechConf has only just begun!

9. I was privileged to meet some truly wonderful people at the conference. The networking aspect of events such as this are what make them such powerful agents of change. The challenge is to engage with new contacts after the event. I was able to follow new folks on Twitter and I had several folks follow me. We need to engage with each other in constructive ways now that the connection has been made. I left the conference unclear as to how SchoolNetSA would facilitate ongoing discussion between those who were at the conference. We encouraged delegates on Twitter to continue using the conference hashtag (#schoolnetsa11) as a means of growing their online learning experience but I am not sure how many will do so.

10. The conference dinner was superb. Delegates appreciated the brief address by Parthan Chetty of Intel, sponsor of the dinner. The Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre provided a fantastic meal and venue while the vocals belted out by three talented singers set the scene for a night of dancing, singing and opportunity simply to have a good time!

 

All in all, the conference was a positive experience and exposed me to some incredible teachers from around South Africa doing wonderful things with ICT in their classrooms. I also left feeling motivated to continue the path of developing our ICT strategy at school. The conference was certainly not the best I have been to and there were aspects which I would want to see changed. However, it was time and money well spent and I am glad I attended. I certainly hope to attend next year’s event and continue my journey into learning more about ICT in the classroom – perhaps I’ll even submit a proposal for a workshop!

I look forward to building on the knowledge gained this past week and to being part of this evolving community of education game-changers in South Africa. My thanks to the organisers of the conference for enabling this conversation and learning to take place.