Guest Posts: Modern Methodologies For Classroom IT Management

I am going to link back to a series of five upcoming blog posts that are aimed at helping school ICT administrators manage and secure their environments more effectively. The five blog topics are as follows:

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Using the cloud is a great way to protect school data

The first blog post has a number of great links within it, including information about cyber security risks faced in schools:

As each of the posts are published I will update the links at the top of this post to provide a central point to access them.

Story Remix In Windows 10

Video

Story Remix is a free tool in Windows 10 that will allow students to quickly and creatively generate awesome video content as well as introduce 3D visual effects to really make their work stand out.

I have been playing with Microsoft Paint3D lately and I can see how Story Remix will take this to the next level. I can’t wait for this to arrive.

Digital Technologies For Learning – What The Research Says

The New Zealand Council for Education Research (NZCER) has released a report on the role of Digital Technologies in the primary and intermediate years of schooling in New Zealand, drawing on data obtained from a survey of schools conducted in August/September 2016. This provides some really valuable insights into the situation in schools (for a direct link to the Key Findings click here), neatly summarized in the following infographic:

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Licensed under Creative Commons – see here for full report.

Having read the Key Findings from the report and the three blog posts from the report’s author Rachel Bolstad, here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • Teachers indicated that student use of technology was still focused around a few key things e.g. practicing skills (think Mathletics and skills repetition/speed work) researching (the ever present “google search”) or creating presentations in documents / slide shows
  • Other uses of technology were less common e.g. game based learning (Minecraft Education Edition is a good example of how to do this successfully), programming and genuine multi-media work.
  • Many teachers did indicate they wanted to harness technology to enable their students to collaborate with students/schools/others outside of their own school but were struggling to make this happen. It was unclear why this did not happen, but one way to forge these relationships is with activities like Mystery Skype, which can then lead to truly Global Citizens connected with fellow learners around the world.
  • Whilst most teachers thought Digital Technologies provided positive gains in the classroom, 10% (still quite high in my view) thought the negatives/frustrations outweighed the positives.
  • Principals identified the obvious challenges to deeper integration of Digital Technologies into the primary curriculum, including issues around equity of access, funding challenges and costs around professional development of teaching staff.
  • I was surprised that so few teachers have built their own online Professional Learning Network (PLN). This was quite prevalent in the previous school I worked in, and there seems to be a wide range of networks utilizing social media to connect teachers with teach other to share ideas, resources, best practice or just some much-needed encouragement!

Whilst the above came from the data surveying primary and intermediate aged schools, in her first blog post Rachel Bolstad did share data from the 2015 NZCER study of secondary schools with some interesting data showing how digital technologies were being used in secondary classrooms:

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Credit: Rachel Bolstad, blog post here

It’s a similar trend perhaps – many teachers saying they don’t use technology for a range of more innovative uses (game based learning, distance learning, coding etc) but would like to. The aspirations are there – identifying the blockers is the next step!

Back the 2016 Primary/Intermediate data on programming:

  • Only 19% of teachers said their students were using digital technologies for coding or programming (15% “sometimes”, 4% “often”).
  • A further 43% said they would like this to be happening in their classrooms.

In her third blog post, Bolstad identified a key point: a lot of the coding and makerspace programmes happening in school are, to all intents and purposes, extra-curricular ones, occurring at lunch times, after school and usually because an enthusiastic teacher (or parent!) is helping to drive it. This is an important point to acknowledge, as it highlights the fact that many schools still struggle to “find time” or integrate this into their core curriculum programmes. This will change, of course, with the NZ Government announcement about new Digital Curriculum Standards and subsequent investment to make this happen.

Another fascinating point to emerge from the research, perhaps lending some weight to the challenges of equity, were found in the answers to the questions around what sort of opportunities students had to access coding, gaming or makerspace activities in schools:

  • 41% of teachers said their students DID have access
  • 41% of teachers said their student did NOT have access
  • 17% were not sure…..
  • BUT in Decile 9-10 schools this was 49% said yes students did have access compared to just 26% in Decile 1-2 schools.

Overall, it seems that activities like coding and gaming still remain less common in schools and a marginal activity that majority of students do not participate in:

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Credit: Rachel Bolstad blog post here

It is fantastic to have this level of research and analysis based off recent survey data and I do encourage you to read the entire findings by clicking the link below:

NZCER Digital Technologies Survey

Docs.com – Soon To Be Retired

On Friday 9th of June Microsoft announced that it would be retiring the Docs.com platform, effective as of Dec 15th 2017, at which point all content would be deleted:

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The homepage of Docs.com with the banner advising it will soon be retired in mid December 2017

An in-depth help article is available to assist you with managing the impact of this announcement, including advice for how to migrate your content to other platforms such as OneDrive For Business. Given many school users already have Office365 accounts the following advice is helpful:

For Office 365 Users with OneDrive for Business

We can automatically back up all compatible content to your OneDrive for Business account if your Administrator enables the auto-migration service for your organization (this option is available as of June 19, 2017). If you would like your school’s or company’s Administrator to initiate this process for you, please contact them and include a link to this article.

You can also choose to log in to Docs.com and follow the auto-migration prompts yourself. When the process is complete, you will find all compatible content you had previously published to Docs.com backed up to your OneDrive for Business folders. The original content on Docs.com will thereafter only be available to view, download, and delete.

The help article will be updated after June 19th 2017 with further information specifically for O365 Administrators so they can support their users.

Microsoft is encouraging regular users of Docs.com to explore SlideShare.net as the recommended replacement platform for sharing content publicly.

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SlideShare was acquired by Microsoft as part of LinkedIn.com  and allows users to sign in with either their LinkedIn or FaceBook profiles to start sharing and commenting on the platform. From the announcement article:

Following Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, SlideShare has joined the Microsoft family, and represents the ideal platform for publishing your Word, PowerPoint, and PDF content with its audience of 70 million professionals, and vast content library

There is six months remaining before the retirement of Docs.com and the subsequent deletion of all content on it. If you’re a regular user of the service it is time to get thinking about backing up your content to OneDrive for Business and migrating your public content to SlideShare.

Simple Addition To BYOD Laptop: A Retractable Handle On Spine

I’m seeing a wide range of devices aimed at the education market these days in my job with Microsoft and BYOD in particular is getting increasing choice of really good hardware designs.

One option that has stood out the most to me as a real benefit for students was a laptop with a built in handle that retracted into the spine of the laptop. I actually did not notice this for over a week after I received the laptop but now I use it all the time when moving the device around. Here are a few pictures of it:

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View from underneath the laptop with the handle fully retracted, it is flush in line with the spine of the laptop.

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Viewed from above, the handle is pulled out.

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Viewed from “behind” the device with the screen closed. The handle automatically retracts into place when released.

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Holding the laptop naturally with the handle taking the full weight of the device.

The other neat feature of this device is that it actually has a loop for the stylus attached to the keyboard side of the laptop (not the screen) as well as a lanyard tie to the loop on the laptop so the pen is always attached and can not be lost:

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It’s small design features like this that can add significant value to students in the BYOD market and it’s great to see innovations like this happening.

If you have seen a great feature on a device recently, leave a note in the comments explaining what it was and why you think it added real value to the device.

Limitless Learning: Four Key Learning Styles

Many moons ago I came across VARK Learning Styles,  a website that acknowledged the different learning styles of students and provided a questionnaire to help learners identify their strongest / preferred learning style.

Today I was introduced to the Limitless Learning website put together by Microsoft NZ that acknowledges students learn in four quite different ways:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Tactile
  • Kinaesthetic

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As teachers work towards increasingly differentiated and personalised lessons for students, the above website is a great resource to assist them in planning lessons and ideas that cater to all the learning styles of their students.

With additional teaching resources and guides for schools and parents in choosing the right device for their student, the website is a great resource to check out.

ANZAC Reflections – We Will Remember

WW1 Memorials in Cranmer Square, Christchurch

WW1 Memorials in Cranmer Square, Christchurch in the lead up to Anzac Day 2017

It’s not often I write about things other than technology and education on this blog, however one of my other great passions is, in fact, history. I was privileged to teach history for four years at Linwood College and Catholic Cathedral College when I first started teaching after leaving my first career in the ICT sector.

When I moved to St Andrew’s College in 2012, my job as the Director of ICT was full time, precluding me from continuing to actively teach history, however I was fortunate to be given a number of opportunities to speak at the weekly Chapel services the College held. It was at two of these that I researched former students and staff members and their roles in World War 2 and then shared their stories with students. I recount all of this because tomorrow, April 25th, is ANZAC Day in New Zealand and for those unacquainted with this, this public holiday commemorates the war time services of the Australia, New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who first served together during the ill fated Gallipoli Campaign in World War 1.

Barry Martin

Laying a virtual poppy for Barry Martin at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph

I was thrilled, therefore, to learn that at the ANZAC Memorial Service that will be hosted at the new St Andrew’s College Centennial Chapel tomorrow, a video will be shown of the College’s World War 2 Memorial Tour of Europe that happened in January. During this trip, each student was required to research about an Old Collegian and then a wreath and College thistle was placed at the grave site. You can see the video showing this tour here:

Keen observers will have heard two names mentioned:

  • James Samuel Cartwright – a former teacher who was killed days after the D-Day landings when his destroyer, HMS Boadicea, was torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel
  • Barry Martin – a student of the Preparatory College who was a navigator in Stirling Bombers and was shot down and killed over occupied Europe (his plane crashed near Rotterdam).

These names were two of the men that I had researched whilst at St Andrew’s College and shared their stories at Chapel services. At the time, I wrote a blog post showing off the considerable technology that went into researching and presenting these stories, including a Skype video call with the 92year old surviving sister of James Samuel Cartwright.

It seems appropriate at this time of ANZAC commemorations to revisit these presentations and, through the retelling of their stores, we will not forget the ultimate sacrifice these men made.

James Samuel Cartwright:

Barry Martin:

Technology is certainly enabling new generations to learn more about their forefathers’ service in both The Great War and World War 2 and it seems the fascination with new stories from this period are not diminishing. I read with interest this story in the press today, this story in the press today,  bringing a degree of closure to a 93 year old Kiwi who piloted Lancaster bombers during the WW2.  A great resource for New Zealander’s looking to find out more about relatives that have served (as far back as the Boer War), is the Auckland Museum’s Online Cenotaph:

Online Cenotaph

The Online Cenotaph allows visitors to search up known information on former soldiers, contribute additional information if they have it, as well as lay a “virtual poppy” on the cenotaph.

For those interested, I have read the following history books over the last few months – they may be of interest to you as you pause and reflect this ANZAC Day: