Digital Learning News

May 28, 2014
by rcrellin
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Seven ways to use technology with purpose

Lynn Davie sent this blog post to the team for discussion, as I read through I thought it was really interesting and had some good points for schools.  Lynn posed the following questions:

  • Do you agree with the author?
  • What would be on your list?

We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

The following post is from AJJuliani.com – Teach Different

Why are you using technology? Or more importantly, how are you using technology to better the learning in your classroom and/or school? If you are like me, then you’ve had your fair share of technology screw ups. Projects that didn’t make sense (but used the tech you wanted to bring in). Activities that were ruined by a crashing website or some technological problem. And of course you’ve probably dealt with the students, parents, and teachers that want to do things “the old way”.

In order to make sure you are using technology the right way, you must first “start with why”. If your students understand the “why” behind your technology use, then the class will have a purpose and technological glitches and issues can be worked through. If they don’t understand the “why” then any small issue could turn into a major problem.

Here are 7 ways I’ve been using technology for a purpose in my classroom and as a staff developer in my school. I’m sure there are many other ways to use tech with purpose, but these are some of my favorites!

1. To Collaborate in Real Time

Remember when Google Docs broke onto the scene? It was magic. Students writing and sharing in real-time, able to see what the other students are doing and saying, while still working on your own part of the project or activity. Flash forward 7-8 years and now “real-time collaboration” is a must for most online software. This type of technology allow project-based learning to be monitored, documented, and done outside of the school hours.

At my school we have been using Microsoft OneNote (as well as the Google products) to collaborate in real-time. Whether it is staff planning together, students working together, or a combination of both…this technology has so many learning purposes.

2. To Reflect and Share

I used to have my students journal in their marble notebooks. And during certain activities I still do (like Writer’s Bootcamp). However, what’s nice about having students journal online and share “in the cloud” is the ability for their classmates to see what they have to say.

This is why I suggest blogging throughout the year, and not just as a project. Make blogging a part of your student’s life and you’ll be able to see which topics, ideas, projects, and activities really impacted them. Sometimes it may not be what you thought…and sometimes their simple act of sharing will bring the class together in ways you never could have imagined.

3. Better Research

After I finished writing my Master’s thesis on ‘peace education in the 21st century’ I talked with my mom about her writing process in graduate school. It sounded awful… She would have to go to the library, find a resource, read almost the entire resource, make copies of the pages she wanted to use, and literally “cut it out” and “paste it on” her typewritten document.

Technology has made research simple and more time efficient. I’m not talking about typing a question into google, I’m specifically focused on searching journal databases like ERIC through places like Ebscohost. A nice search phrase will turn up hundreds of peer-reviewed results which can be sorted many different ways (such as by date or full-text article). Those articles that you choose can then be automatically scanned for your keywords, read the specific parts you want, and use what is applicable with a simple copy and paste and proper citation already set up and ready to go.

How often do we really teach students how to research in today’s world? Or do we expect them to learn on their own like we did?

4. Write and Re-Write

Using tools such as Google Docs, the new Microsoft Word, or Draft students are able to write and edit on the fly. They can get feedback from peers and teachers…and then choose whether or not to accept that feedback on their writing. Technology has changed the writing process in much the same way it has changed the research process.

The most important part of writing is the revising and editing. Yet, we often take it for granted. Instead let’s use the technology to track what types of changes students have made, and if they are making the same mistakes in their writing over and over again. That way, the “re-writing” process can have a direct impact on how much they improve and change some of their writing habits over time.

5. Make Something (that matters)

This may be my favorite way to use technology with a purpose. Students now have the ability to make movies, songs, pieces of art, websites, apps, games etc–with technology. However, too often we ask students to make something that does not matter. We ask them to make a movie or poster or presentation that has no direct impact on the world around them.

Instead, let’s challenge ourselves to start making technology matter. Make iMovies that can be uploaded to Youtube and have a purpose. Make games with a meaning. Make apps that matter. Yes, there is a time for fun and games. But if that is all we use technology for in school…then we shouldn’t be surprised when that is all students use technology for once they get out of school.

6. Keep a Digital Record

Digital portfolios are a must. Not because colleges will want and need them in the future (which is happening sooner than you think). Not because it is a cool way to show off what you’ve done in class. Digital portfolios are a must because they show learning growth.

The best way to show how much a student has learned is through a digital portfolio. You can look back over time and what they’ve created, written, and done in school. And how that work has improved (and in what ways) throughout their schooling. When students know their work will be on display and recorded, they also take pride in what they do because it will last.

Ask yourself, are you making “digital fridge art” or something worth keeping?

7. Mastery Assessments

Think about the last time you gave an assessment. I’m sure you prepared students for it during class, gave them materials to study, and supported them during the assessment. However, there were definitely a few students who struggled on this assessment. What happens next? You can either give them a re-take, give them another similar assessment, or say that is there only chance.

If you gave them a digital assessment you’d be able to see exactly which questions they got wrong in comparison to the entire class. You could see how much time they spent on the question and if the answer they chose was way off base…or close. You could tailor a new assessment based on just the problems/questions they got wrong and make sure they achieved mastery on those topics before moving forward.

Technology should change the way we do assessments forever, yet sadly many of us still give tests the same way we did 10 years ago. This is a tech purpose we can’t avoid any longer.

Innovative Teaching Challenge #5: Use technology for a purpose. The next time you use it in class make sure you explain the “why” to your students. This is an important step that we often forget to do. Also, we want to hear how you are using tech in your classrooms.

A.J. Juliani

This is the fifth post in the “Innovative Teaching Challenge” series. You can read more about the series here, or learn more about my class story in my upcoming book: Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom: How 20% TIme, Genius Hour and PBL Drive Student Success (coming on  June 17th).

May 20, 2014
by rcrellin
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Video Conferencing with VCE Biology

Our guest blogger is Britt Gow, Hawkesdale P-12 College

The Digital Learning Team congratuates Britt, winner of the Lindsay Thompson Fellowship at the 2014 Victorian Education Excellence Awards

Teaching Unit 3 and 4 Biology for the first time in a small, rural school is a big responsibility. Although the class is small (only eight students), they are all keen to do their best and achieve an ATAR score that enables them to be accepted into the tertiary course of their choice, including nursing, physiotherapy and a Bachelor of Science. Although there are plenty of paper-based and online resources available, there are few other teachers in the local area to share ideas and teaching strategies with.

HawkesdaleIn Melbourne, beginning teachers have the advantage of the Biology Teacher’s Network and professional development at locations such as the Gene Technology Access Centre. Our class was invited to attend the “Body at War” program for the World Day of Immunology at GTAC this year. For our students, this means getting up at 4.00am, travelling up to one hour to the Warrnambool train station and then a three hour train trip, returning home at about 11.00pm, after the three hour return trip. Otherwise, an overnight excursion, staying at the Melbourne Metro YHA, which adds to the significant cost of travel.

This year, our Year 12 Biology class has had two opportunities to participate in video-conferencing using the Polycom equipment, connecting with the Gene Technology Access Centre. There are several programs available, and we were able to access the “Signalling Molecules” and “Hendra Virus” workshops. Both sessions included hands-on activities and student worksheets, with resources provided well in advance by GTAC. Both presentations were delivered by experienced teachers, with excellent images, animations and explanations.

The excellent image quality and audio allowed the GTAC presenters to see and hear all that was happening in the classroom, asking and answering questions just as if they were in the science laboratory. Although students were, at first, a little reluctant to interact with the presenter, this is how they would react with a guest speaker in the classroom as well. Students agreed that both sessions were valuable learning experiences that assisted them to understand and apply biology concepts. For me, it is an excellent professional development opportunity that enhances my ability to teach the Unit 3/4 Biology course. And all without leaving Hawkesdale P12 College!

This post came from Britt’s global2 blog – Technoscience for teachers, which has some great advice about using ICT in the classroom.

May 13, 2014
by rcrellin
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Leaving the Earth – Mars

Our guest bloggers: Chris Tambakakis and Gene Geoffrey, Doveton College

Leaving The Earth – Mars is a cross curriculum program Soundgarage has developed for the students in Year 7 at Doveton College. The program is based in Humanities with major links to Science, Art, Music, Robotics, English, Food Technology and Drama.  The premise is simple. The world is no longer inhabitable. As a result humans must migrate to Mars where individual tribes must form a new society.  Using Design Thinking as a basis for learning and creativity students plot their own journey into a new world.  On the first day of term one the Year 7 students attend their first assembly.  At the end of the assembly this one minute film was played.

Background:
Our experience at Doveton College has shown that using a “Gaming” approach usually ensures high student engagement. The use of Imprudence Virtual World offers an opportunity to tap into the interest base of the students by using the medium of a “gaming” experience to deliver curriculum. Our Students are required to apply their ICT knowledge and skills.We use the virtual world as a tool to enhance the learning experience of students, it has given them the chance to apply their learning to “virtual” real life situations.

The program has a main focus on Civics and Citizenship. The project is designed to develop cooperative learning strategies and teaching techniques. It challenges students to solve problems in a group dynamic to achieve a desired outcome.

The project poses this problem: Unfortunately the tribes face a huge issue, the Earth has been decimated by man, and Earth is no longer livable. The only chance for survival is to leave the Earth and build new human colonies on Mars.

The goal of the project is survival of the tribe and successful resettlement on Mars.  All students are a part of an earth tribe, they will develop a tribal identity and culture. As a group they will be required to design, build and supply a space transport pod that will transport the tribe and all their needs to Mars.

Once the tribes arrive on mars the development of a new society will begin. Tribes will need to rely on their own members and member of other tribes for survival. Using an inquiry through line of Leaving the Earth – Mars all curriculum subject areas can tap into the topic and use the project as a point of reference for teaching topic related concepts.

For more information visit the blog at: http://dovetonlive.blogspot.com.au/

May 7, 2014
by rcrellin
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Mathematica, computer-based math and the new era of STEM with Conrad Wolfram

Conrad Wolfram Session: Free 27 May 2:30-3:30 at Bastow

Mathematica is a powerful global computation system that can handle all the various aspects of technical computing–and beyond–in a coherent and unified way.  It is industry standard software used in the sciences, engineering, commerce, computer science and software development.

Conrad Wolfram, physicist, mathematician, businessman and technologist is Director of Strategic Development and European Co-Founder/CEO of the Wolfram group of companies. Conrad is also the world’s leading advocate for a fundamental shift of maths education to become computer-based, arguing that this is the key way to address issues in global maths education and move forward.

His widely acknowledged 2010 TED talk  laid out the rationale and roadmap for this rethink and the same year he founded computerbasedmath.org (CBM) to drive implementation of the change.  The movement is now a worldwide force in re-developing STEM curriculum and in February 2013 it was announced that Estonia would be the first partner country.

 

Wolfram Research and Mathematica Software

The Wolfram Group specializes in pushing boundaries at the intersection of computation, maths and knowledge, including making Mathematica software, the Wolfram Alpha knowledge engine (powering knowledge answers for Apple’s Siri), the Computable Document Format (CDF) standard, the newly announced Wolfram Language and forthcoming Wolfram Cloud.

Since 2011, Mathematica has been available to all Victorian DEECD secondary students and teachers via the eduSTAR image.

The importance of math to jobs, society and thinking has increased exponentially over the last few decades. Meanwhile, maths education globally has slipped backwards. Why has this chasm opened up? Computers are the key to addressing this challenge effectively – when computers do the calculating, people can work on harder questions, try more concepts, and play with a multitude of new ideas.

Conrad Wolfram will discuss his major project to build a completely new curriculum in mathematics with computer-based computation at its heart – covering the rationale for the change, how it’s being manifested and how Victoria is well placed to be at the forefront.

Who should attend Conrad Wolfram’s Session? 

Anyone with an interest in mathematics education, in particular, school leaders, teachers and teacher educators, system representatives, policy makers and education researchers should attend. This is a unique opportunity to hear from one of the leading global thinkers in mathematics education and technology here in Melbourne.

Session Details and Registration:

  • May 27, 2.30pm – 3.30pm
  • BASTOW 603-615 Queensberry Street North Melbourne
  • Register here  PLEASE NOTE: This is a free event. When you register and get to the payment section just choose credit card or invoice payment and it will progress through to a zero invoice and not require any payment.
  • A number of regional venues will also be linking to the presentation via Polycom video-conferencing.
  • Contact Peter Maggs maggs.peter.j@edumail.vic.gov.au for further information or polycom details.

OTHER MATH TED TALKS

Check out this collection of videos – 8 Math talks to blow your mind. Mathematics gets down to work in these talks, breathing life and logic into everyday problems. Prepare for math puzzlers both solved and unsolvable, and even some still waiting for solutions.

Support for schools using Mathematica

A range of resources are available to teachers on FUSE and the Digital Learning Showcase.  The Wolfram Mathematica website also has a great range of free online tutorials and support materials for teachers.   In 2013 schools from all over Victoria received Mathematica professional learning via Polycom Video conferencing.

Using Mathematica in the Classroom:

Print version: Conrad Wolfram Session

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