Posted by & filed under cmalt, Communities of Practice, digital technology, EFL, mosomelt, Teacher Learning.

In the video below I explain why I am interested in digital technology for education (it involves a short story about a broken leg) and the context in which I teach (Okayama University in Japan).

Other information

My partner (in life and for research), Keiko Sakui and I have written a book chapter on how we learned about the use of technology for education. It is a kind of extended contextual statement so if you have time and energy you can read it here.

There is also a slideshow on the same topic that I made for a EUROCALL conference that you can view here. I gave the presentation on my own but there are some inserted videos with Keiko talking.

References

Sakui, K., & Cowie, N. (forthcoming). Language teacher learning in Japan: Joining a digital technology community of practice. In Y. Kimura, L. Yang & T-Y Kim (Eds.) Teacher Motivation, Autonomy, Development in the Far East. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Cowie, N.  (August 23rd, 2017). EFL teacher learning in Japan: Joining a digital community of practice. Presentation at the EUROCALL Annual Conference. Southampton University, Southampton, UK.

Posted by & filed under mosomelt.

I have worked with Prairie Valley School Division for 11 years now.  In that time, I have seen a number of changes take place technologically within our classrooms and across our division.  I currently teach grade 10 – 12 students and use technology in my classroom on a daily basis. This year, our graduating class will consist of ~ 60 graduates, this has been the norm for LHS for the past few years.  However, our incoming grade nines will be ~100, and this will be the small group for the next seven years.  Our projected numbers will rise quite a bit. Technology is important in the classroom, and ensuring that all have access to technology while in our school (we are a BYOT division) and beyond is essential for students to perform tasks, such as creating written works, communication, and experimenting in a virtual sandbox, but it also creates a portfolio of academic growth and data collection tool of metacognition.   

A probing discussion of the current state of things

I have chosen to discuss how my division prefers that students and staff use Office 365, however, this is not conducive for my students as they will lose all of their work the moment they graduate (see below).   I would like to see all grade 10-12 students transition over to Google Drive.

Entitlement  Students – As long as you are enrolled as a student in a Prairie Valley school you are entitled to use Office 365 on up to five devices. Office 365 checks into Microsoft periodically to verify you still have a valid account/license. If you are no longer enrolled or have graduated, Office 365 will no longer have a valid account/license and Office 365 will become unlicensed and will no longer work.

When you take a look at the Technology in Education Framework manual, page 2 lists sustainability as one of the guiding principals stating: “A technology-supported learning environment is strengthened by sound business and administrative practices, is sustainable in the long-term within available resources, evolves based on research and analysis of trends, and is supported by the Ministry, school divisions, and educational partners.” I question what is meant by long-term?  How long is long? How are our senior students being supported in the long term if their technology is being removed from them at graduation?

A brief SWOT analysis of the current situation (be sure to include attention to the negative side effects that could arise from the change you propose)

Strengths:  An internal strength of not allowing students in 10-12 to migrate over to Google Drive would be that all staff and students would remain on the same system and the division would continue to have control over one operating system.  This would be easier for the division to maintain. It would also be easier for those who would be training individuals on the preferred system as they would only need to learn Office 365.

Weaknesses:  As soon as students graduate or leave our division, the will immediately lose all of their work saved in the “cloud”.  If they aren’t reminded by their educators to pull off all of their work to a memory stick or transfer it to another cloud-based system it could be gone.  This could impact future application processes for post-secondary education if writing examples, etc. are required.

Opportunity:  Teaching students how to properly use a cloud-based program to access information from home or school, without the need for a memory stick will alleviate the “I forgot my memory stick at home” homework excuse.  By using Google Drive (and Google Classroom) – students can share assignments with their teachers from any device they have installed the app on. It is rare to see a high school student without their cell phone on them today, all of their school work can literally be in the palm of their hand.  By using Google Drive, they will be able to access work that they created years ago if needed. It is the student’s personal property.

Threat: Time to learn and understand two cloud-based systems can be taxing to school staff.  Some staff are intimidated by new technology and feel that there is always something new to learn.  Because of this, they may not want to use a system that is different from K-9. It will also take time to teach students who have never used Google Drive before.  This may take time away from curricular outcomes of an already compact course.

A rough proposal for changes you would like to implement.

I would like to create a proposal to introduce the idea of why PVSD needs to think about adopting Google Drive (including Google Classroom) as the primary cloud-based system for students in 10-12.  I would like to use my creative leadership skills and test drive this for a three-month window in three of my classes (Biology 30, Environmental Science 20, Wildlife Management 20/30). At the succession of the three-month window, I would gather a qualitative narrative among the students and take the data to the administration.  From there I would like to speak to our school superintendents about allowing this change to be implemented if the narrative from the students is positive. My division will also want quantitative data – this will need to be collected in terms of the number of articles that the students have created in their Google Drives and those that I have implemented in their Google Classroom.

A brief rationale for why you wish to embark on this change.

My rationale behind wanting students in 10-12 to transfer over to Google Drive or the G Suite is simply because they will lose their Office 365 account the moment that they graduate, this means that they will then lose their entire learning portfolio.  It seems backward to me that we encourage students to use a cloud mechanism that is then going to dump everything the moment they are out of our system because they no longer have access to their school account. I am also very interested to see how Google Classroom/Drive can help enhance my own leadership skills.

Forms of technology that I use and are linked to my Google Classroom/Drive for students to access and save into their Google Drives include (but are not limited to):

CooperScience – My school blog – this is updated every day or two depending on the hecticness of the day.  It is the goto place for my students to head to when they are missing from school – or if they want to re-watch a video, find important information, etc…  This is the first place that any of my students go to when they have questions, most of the time, they will find the answers here. It’s also a place for parents to get information on what we have been doing and where we are heading in class.  I continually update the home page of my blog with hyperlinks of great online tools for my students to use to help them create their assignments and assessments with. Anything that I am keeping in my Google Classroom is linked to CooperScience – the students have the code to access the classroom – it is my security wall so that my content isn’t spread about from students of one class to students of another class (no cheating ).

Flippity – One of the best websites for creating the “Wheel of Death” as Dr. Alec Couros would put it.  It has the capability to create random groups/teams in the click of a button.  I create a spreadsheet at the start of the semester for each class and it is ready to go!  There are also some games that you can create such as Hangman and Jeopardy. This program works off of Google Sheets.  The students like to create flashcards with flippity (similar to Quizlet).  

iMovie – we make a lot of videos in my classes.  I prefer to have my students vlog their major projects rather than write a report about them.  This is something that I have just changed my view on. I know that there is a large push on numeracy and literacy in the classroom, however, as a science teacher, I can see their thinking and how they have modified their projects better in a vlog than in a written piece.  The students explain in a scientifically literate manner why they have modified their projects, etc… within the vlog. For my class, it just works. If a student doesn’t have an iPhone, Movie Maker works just as well, but I have found that most just use their iPhones and edit the vlogs right within the iMovie app.  The students upload their videos to their Drive and share them with me – it’s easy PLUS they keep a copy of their work.

Posted by & filed under Education policy, Flexible learning spaces, Inclusion, mosomelt.

A feature of both Ministry of Education policy and those who criticise flexible (‘open plan’) learning environments is to call on physical property features as drivers—for the Ministry, of inclusion, and for the critics, of exclusion. An example of Ministry statements that property features can ensure students are catered for and included, can be found here, while examples of critique, that say property features exclude certain categories of students, can be found here, and here.

Can both be right? Is it as simple as suggesting that because a learning environment (ie ‘classroom’) is large, open, airy and colourful, with movable furniture, it is going to be overwhelming to some students? Or that, given the same features, this space will be naturally inviting and engaging and a great place to learn? In a recently published article, I consider this problem, using the language of inclusion and exclusion, but also of equality and equity.

That is because, as I see it (and others too), the question of inclusion is a question of equity (a matter of social justice), meaning that it is about making sure that not only is everyone catered for, but that those who need more assistance and support, are in fact, catered for. The trouble is, New Zealand has had a long educational history of equality, which is concerned with ensuring everyone gets in, or gets to the same fence—but is less concerned with whether they can all see over the fence. And even in more recent times, when policy talk has focussed more on equity, this has tended to be about equitable outcomes (everyone should end up with a qualification, for example—or, everyone should be a ‘digitally connected, responsible global citizen’).

It’s this kind of thinking that helps support the shift into ultra-modern, cutting-edge facilities, as they, in turn, are said to support attempts to prepare all New Zealand youngsters to be these kinds of successful, ’21st century learners’. In these new, radically-designed buildings, teachers will be able to exchange ‘front-of-the-room’ teaching for collaborative teaching, working as facilitators in teams, with multiple students in shared, common learning spaces. And it is aspects of these designs that, as stated above, potentially lead to contrary outcomes.

In my response, what I argue is that that just as much as inclusion and exclusion are affected by the design features of  a space, they are arguably more influenced by the social practices that teachers and students bring to a space. What that means is that working in a single-cell space is no more likely to ensure that all students will be included and catered for in equitable fashion, than if they are in a modern, shared environment—and what my research has demonstrated, is that flexibly designed spaces create more opportunities than single-cell ones do.