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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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Get Outside!

This image was posted on the Facebook page of a friend of mine. It struck a chord with me as both parent and headmaster. I am unashamedly a “gadget guy” and love the fact that my own children are very comfortable using the technology in our home. However, I also ensure that they have plenty of time to participate in sport, play games outside and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings.

It disturbs me that I have heard of schools in other countries who have removed playground equipment because they fear being sued by parents whose children have injured themselves on it! Good grief – let’s remove pencils from the classroom in case a child is pricked by a sharp lead point! Providing spaces and equipment for physical play is a responsibility for any school which takes the emotional and physical well-being of its pupils seriously. The benefits of exercise to learning and the development of cognitive function are also well-documented and so it is fitting that schools embrace initiatives such as the Discovery Vitality Schools program.

I encourage parents to restrict screen time and play with their children outside whenever possible. I urge school leaders to consider adding physical activities to their school day rather than remove them as inconveniences in the timetable. As for all the added value of sport in a young person’s life and the importance of this activity in school, that’s a topic for another blog post all of its own!

In the meantime, get outside with your kids!

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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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Another Opportunity To Learn

Earlier this year over 100 teachers attended the very first EdTechConf event in Cape Town. The event was a great success and as a result the EdTechConf organisation has developed a three-way approach to future events :

1) A national EdTechConf conference to be held annually in Cape Town which seeks to attract teachers from all over South Africa

2) Smaller local EdTechConf Extended seminars/conferences to be held throughout South Africa during the year

3) EdTechConf “ThinkShops” which will be focused workshops held on a regular basis at a central venue in Cape Town (to start with!)

EdTechConf Extended @ ElkanahThe very first EdTechConf Extended event is to be held at Elkanah House from 30 September to 1 October. There is a terrific program  planned which will include hands-on workshops, think-tank discussions and informative plenaries. Workshops include topics such  as Paperless Teaching With An iPad, Free Teacher Tools From Microsoft, Online Tools In The Foundation  PhaseGoogle Docs In The Classroom and Using Adobe Photoshop And Indesign.

This promises to be another great event for networking and peer-learning. There are still a few places open so get busy and sign up today!

Please let others know about this event so that the network of like-minded teachers can grow and continue to support one another as they strive to bring new approaches to their teaching. You can point people to this page : http://www.edtechconf.co.za/edtechconfx/edtechconf-extended-elkanah/

The eXtended @ Elkanah House provisional programme can be downloaded here (PDF) : http://www.edtechconf.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Prov_programme_web1.pdf

For further information on EdTechConf or to book a speaker for your school/organisation, please head over to the EdTechConf site – www.edtechconf.co.za , join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

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The Literacy Imperative

I am unashamedly an eager proponent of the use of technology in education. I passionately enthuse about the role of social media and am constantly amazed at the arsenal of technical gadgetry teachers now have at their disposal.

Today I saw firsthand how critical it has become for us not simply to bring these web tools and gadgets into our classrooms but also to teach digital literacy to our pupils. As I waited to be served at our local copyshop, a lady walked in and began a conversation which went something along these lines :

Assistant : May I help you?

Lady : Yes, I want to look at the computer.

Assistant : What would you like to do?

Lady : I want to use the computer.

Assistant : Would you like to print something?

Lady : No, I want to find something.

Assistant : What would you like to find?

Lady : I want to find a job.

Assistant : So you want to use the internet.

Lady : Yes.

At this point the shop assistant walked the lady over to one of the computers and explained how the payment for internet services would work. She then left the lady and came back to serve customers. I watched with interest as the lady opened Internet Explorer and discovered that Google was the homepage. She typed in “Worcester jobs” and waited. After a minute she realised that nothing was happening and looked around helplessly. Fortunately for her at that moment a friend of hers entered the shop. The friend showed the lady that she had to use the mouse to push the “Google Search” button. As the search results came up showing over 3 million results she sat staring at the screen clearly overwhelmed. Her friend suggested clicking on one of the search results and they both then sat looking at the resulting site. They then returned to the search results and the process repeated. This went on for about 10 minutes. It appeared to be a complete waste of time as at no point was anything transcribed from the sites or email enquiries sent. After the final site visit the lady visited the counter, paid her money and left.

It was painfully obvious that this woman had little or no knowledge of how to use a search engine properly or even how to navigate around an internet browser. I could not help but wonder what kind of job she was looking for. There cannot be many jobs in the marketplace today that don’t require some sort of basic digital literacy and so I fear that her chances of landing a job are drastically reduced if what I saw reflected her ability on a computer.

Although I am tired of the clichéd “preparing our pupils for the 21st century” (we’re 10 years into the 21st century – its arrived!), it does ring true that if we are serious about sending our pupils into the world with the knowledge, skills and values required for success, we have no choice but to be taking the teaching of digital literacy very seriously indeed.

As much as it is nice to speak of what teachers can do with Web 2.0 tools and interactive software and so on, the first priority in the classroom must be to teach our children to use a computer. In a middle to upper income stream school, we can safely assume that most of our children will know that basics of keyboard  and mouse use, and have some experience in basic word processing skills. They will most likely also have explored the internet at some point and will have used various interactive tools such as video games in their lifetime. There are however many communities in our country where this is not the case. Communities where computer use is considered a luxury and where the priority is survival not bandwidth.

The digital divide is very real. How we solve it is a complicated and lengthy process which must involve government departments, NGOs, corporates and so on. In the meantime, schools have to be teaching the basics. I salute the Khanya Project for their efforts in this (see this post as well).

I still cringe at the thought that there are 4,7 million illiterate adults in our country and a further 4,9 million adults who are functionally illiterate (figures from Project Literacy). If this figure is to improve we have to continue improving the literacy programs in our schools and at the same time bring digital literacy into our curricula and classroom practice. This has to be a priority for all those involved in education and for any who care about the future of our wonderful land.

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Magic Tech Or An Expensive Paperweight?

I love this poster!

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This photo and many like it can be found in the Great Quotes About Learning And Change group on Flickr.