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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Well formatted Google Doc

Have you ever collaborated on a Google Doc that has been very carefully formatted? Knowing how to preserve formatting is quite important, especially when you are not the owner of a document. The 1 minute video below shows you how to use Format Painter on a Google Doc.




Tuesday, 8 September 2015

DASHBOARDS - Chasing hearts or chasing averages?

Look at most school improvement plans and you'll see "Data-driven decision making" as one of the strategic objectives. This has led to an enormous appetite for Dashboards. A Dashboard is a mashup of data from many sources. We provide one to our schools that is very powerful and as we continue to gain greater and greater programmatic access to our sources of data, we are integrating more and more into our dashboard.

This information comes from many different source systems: Student Information System (SIS); Timetable service (source of truth for classes and subjects); Google Apps for Education and Naplan data. Then there are other systems we are still to tap into:
  1. Proxy and filter services provide information about users' browsing history; 
  2. Our employment services system provides data about teacher QCOT PD hours and Accreditation to teach RE hours.... 
  3. PatR and PatM testing provides data on student reading and mathematics
The screen mockups below show two integration projects we are currently working on:



The first screen shows a student's web history. The second is a student “About me” page, a pre-determined template that students are free to complete any way they wish. They can use text, video, recorded voice etc. They can also leave links to other work they do or other things they are proud of. It maybe photos of something they have built; a video where they introduce the viewer to their community service group; a link to a quality piece of assessment they have completed etc.

... See my earlier post on Student Managed Digital Portfolios (SMDPs).

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Embracing technology in learning....

Recent failures in our internet service to all our schools (due to a DDOS attacks at our source) have really shaken the basis upon which we deliver our services.  So let me think out loud a little... Where have we come from? What are we called to do? How have we responded? What are the things that are important moving forward? 

The History of ICTs in Australian schools
In 2005, Mceetya released “Learning in an online world”. It identified the need for Australian schools to integrate ICTs in learning. It introduced six dimensions that need attention to make the paradigm shift: people; content; infrastructure; research; policy and reporting. The Melbourne declaration released in 2008, cemented this expectation.

Rapid and continuing advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) are changing the ways people share, use, develop and process information and technology. In this digital age, young people need to be highly skilled in the use of ICT. While schools already employ these technologies in learning, there is a need to increase their effectiveness significantly over the next decade.
In 2011, by introducing ICTs as a ‘General Capability’, The Australian Curriculum cemented (or even legislated) the need to embed ICTs in learning. At that moment, the discussion shifted from “Will we” or “Should we” to “We must” and “What is the best way to do it"? At the time, ICTs in schools were the realm of ICT specialists and technicians. In secondary schools, access favoured those who chose IT subjects. In primary schools, students tended to access 'the lab' and the IT specialist on rotation. 

How did we respond to ICT access as an entitlement?
In the Catholic Diocese where I work, we support 29 schools, kindergartens, childcare centres, the Catholic Education Office, the Diocesan Office and Parish offices. There are 30 staff in total,  including management and administrative support, dedicated to delivering the infrastructure and technical support so ICTs can be embedded in learning. Our strategy has been based on good internet services, good wireless in classrooms, central collection and repurposing of data (ie DataJug) and Google Apps for Education as an E_Learning platform. This has bridged the gap between learner and E_Learning and to a large part, removed the technician and IT specialist as go betweens. 
Here are some examples .


Activity
Who (old days)
Who (now)
Digital portfolios
IT specialists
Creating and publishing digital evidence of what one had achieved was quite a technical activity. You needed specialist equipment and software
Any teacher/ Any student. All staff and students can create digital portfolios. They  have the tools to capture content, the means to publish content and control access, and UNLIMITED space online for storage (via Google Apps for Education).
Create, collaborate, communicate and inquire using ICTs
IT specialists
Only IT specialists had access to ICTs and only students who took those subjects had access to labs and devices.
Any teacher/ Any student. All classrooms in the diocese have powerful wireless connectivity and most schools offer access to devices via shared device trolleys. Some schools offer one is to one. It means every  student in every subject can be using ICTs to create, collaborate, communicate and inquire within the context of the discipline.
Distributing large files and presentations
Tech staff
(Remember the beginning of year induction DVDs we would create, copy and distribute?)
A student. Anyone in the diocese can now upload a large presentation to their Google Drive, permission it accordingly then share the link. The big benefit is that if you have to make a change, it can be done on the one master copy.
Publish to the web
Tech staff. Usually a web developers or IT person who knew HTML, FTP, relative paths etc etc
A student. Anyone in  our organisation can publish to the web through Docs or Sites. Our recent web training for our school public websites is another example. Most schools are sending teachers or office staff to get the training to maintain their web sites not their school techs.
User Account setup
Tech staff.
(Remember those days when users would not have accounts until someone created it?)
Automated. Once a student or staff member is added to Maze or PCSchools, they are automatically pushed to Google Apps, our IDV and Office 365 and given a local server account so they can log into school devices. This happens overnight.When that user changes their password, the change synchronises to all these places in real time.
Account blocking/ password resets
Tech staff
Teacher. Via DataJug, any teacher has the tools to reset their own password or a student  password.  People with datajug admin can reset staff passwords.
Track bullying
Tech staff
Teacher. Principals need to decide which staff in their schools can access student mailboxes. Those granted this access can see the mail tab when they open any student user on the new DataJug UI.
Video conferencing
Tech staff to setup.
Special room. Expensive equipment
Teacher (and possibly student). All our teachers can enter or setup a Hangout with one click. They use their laptop and built in camera. They can invite anyone (teacher or student) in the diocese and anyone else with a Google account.
Video “How To” guides.
Tech staff or those with licensing to use screen capture software.
Anyone. All staff and students in the diocese can load a Chrome extension called Screencastify and create videos that integrate their screens, their faces and their voices.

So what are the challenges?
  1. Shift to web. Many teachers have come from a Microsoft/Apple on the desktop paradigm. The shift to productivity tools in the web, collaborative documents, video conferencing on demand from your classroom using your device, and moving storage off one's device and school networks to the web where they are accessible 24/7, are relatively new phenomenon. If our E_Learning Guides and Inquiry Based Learning projects are any indication, then there is a rapidly evolving realisation of what is possible and a growing body of champions across the diocese modelling new ways of doing.
  2. We are too busy... We don't want to hold the keys. Bring back the IT specialist. The new digital technologies learning area is an exciting area of curriculum and a resource like https://code.org/learn  is a wonderful example of how generalist teachers can bring students to complex computational thinking concepts. But for P-6 teachers with 9 KLAs, high stakes testing and increasing public scrutiny of their practice, "holding more keys" may not be their preference.
  3. Bandwidth and connectivity. If the system cannot provide a solid, reliable internet connection to our schools, we are pulling the carpet from under teacher feet. The Internet has become the base upon which so many of our services are built. 
  4. A special breed of tech. Teaching is an incredibly complex activity. Even when the technology "just works" the job is difficult. When it doesn't work, the job becomes impossible and it's no wonder teachers divert their time to the things where they can control the outcome. When we select our techs, we look for people committed to serving teachers and with a healthy respect for the demands of teaching. Not all teachers want the keys or are ready to hold the keys whilst others flourish in a "power to the user" paradigm. Good techs slide between these two extremes. They respect the profession and see themselves at the service of teaching and learning no matter what they may look like. Good techs are not tinkerers. They absolutely are committed to the endgame - infrastructure and services that "just work".  
I wasn't too sure how to conclude this reflection.... and I have to go... so feel free to add your thoughts.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Student Managed Digital Portfolios (SMDP)

We are getting better and better at collecting information about students and presenting it in Dashboards. “Data driven decision making” has been the driver, and our target audience has been the teacher and more recently the parent. But if you are looking to ignite a spark in the heart of the learner, a largely untapped resource is the Student Managed Digital Portfolio (SMDP). 

An SMDP is a self-authored, self-managed student digital portfolio designed to profile a student's capacities; beliefs and reflections about themselves and the world. The about.me phenomenon is based on this notion, except it is for adults.

Are we ready for SMDPs in schools?



Our Google Apps rollout, fibre to every school and wireless to every classroom has meant that there are no technical barriers to every student in the diocese producing content and publishing it for a target audience. Helping students manage and control access to that content would be part of our Cybersafety and Digital Citizenship training.


(With apologies to "Mean Girls")

Monday, 27 July 2015

Who is in your professional network?

How often does this happen? 
I am reading an Alice Keeler post on her Teacher Tech blog  and notice she mentions a music composition program called Flat. (If you don't follow Alice on Google+, you really should). So I install Flat as a Chromebook app and have a play, but I am not a music teacher and have no idea how this compares with other packages in schools.


I contact Paul Allan - A music teacher I know.



A big thanks to Paul for his guest spot today.... and to +Alice Keeler. You wont find a better example of an educator committed to sharing, collaborating and look for opportunities to "encounter" the other...

Who is in your professional network?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Be careful when you sync Google Drive


Our Google Drive is now being used as a replacement for our traditional network drive. The problem is that people have their Google Drive synchronised to their desktop and suddenly they find they have no more space on their desktop.


A number of factors will lead to problems for your school or organisation


  1. When you sync Google drive to your device, the default is that it syncs everything.
  2. Google drive doesn't let you sync sub-folders. eg. you only want "Year 3 2015 Semester 1" but because its root folder is "Curriculum SCTSV" you end up with files from 2010-2014 and from multiple year levels.

4 Steps to solving this problem 

4. Choose a folder in your Google Drive and sync that, then move everything into that folder that you wish to have synced using Shift+Z. See Video below.





Monday, 13 July 2015

Have you seen Teach Tech Play?

New Paradigms for Professional Development

There are some exciting new ways to deliver professional development in our schools. Teach Tech Play is one of these. It is a monthly Google Hangout hosted by two Melbourne teachers: Michael Ha & Eleni Kyritsis


"Educators are invited to share ideas, lessons & tools they are using. The winner is crowned the Play King/Queen of the month"

For those of you familiar with Google Summits, it's an extension of the Demo Slam. 

Click here to open episode 1 and hopefully many of the other episodes will just appear down the side (see my screen capture above). Or if you are on Google+, click here and follow the community.

E_Learning guides, I encourage you to make use of these as part of your PD sessions. Even better, why not join the community and volunteer to present?

A few things to remember
  • Select tools that do not require students to give their information as part of some registration process. Always look for the "Log in with Google" button. It means Google handles the authentication.
  • Look for the options that are browser based apps and extensions. It means they will probably work on Chromebooks. 
  • If you don't have a huge budget, it doesn't mean you can't participate. Most apps that are demonstrated are free  
  • Do the paperwork so your staff can gain QCOT hours. 
Enjoy... 

A big thank you to the Teach Teach Play team for this initiative.