Strategies To Promote Deeper Student Thinking When Taking Digital Notes

The use of technology for note taking in classes, whether that is in the primary, secondary or even tertiary sectors, can still be a contentious topic amongst educators and parents alike. Today, I read a fantastic article that not only tackles some of the main areas of debate, but more importantly offers practical strategies to promote deeper thinking by students.

Read the full article here.

I am not going to re-post the entire article here, instead I encourage you to click the above link and read it in its entirety, however it  touches on some key points that I will mention below. It cites two important pieces of recent research as being detrimental to the wider conversation of digital technology in the classroom and challenges the conclusions by asking how teaching styles were adapting to use the technology more effectively. The research referenced was:

The key sections of the article are broken down into distinct strategies that students can use to improve their use of technology in classes, but importantly it emphasizes that the educators must take the lead in introducing these to students. Rather than simply tell the students to “take notes on the following topic”, providing them with strategies that leverage the full benefits of technology (such as tags in OneNote and search features across notebooks) is a more effective method of teaching.

  1. Digital Organization and Content Curation
  2. Multimodal Notes
  3. Concept Mapping
  4. Visible Thinking Routines
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Example of how a student might use a Concept Map to more effectively take notes. Digital Inking and an endless canvas in OneNote make this both an easy and efficient way to record critical ideas.

One of the telling passages towards the end of the article is:

Too often, educators project their own note taking habits onto their students, applying paper-based strategies to digital tools. With that mindset, it becomes far too easy for short-sighted studies to confirm previously held biases against technology. However, as students progress in an increasingly digital and connected world, one challenge for educators will be to view digital note taking as a unique, necessary and completely different skill set to be taught.

This accurately highlights the challenges educators face in terms of not being unduly influenced by older learning styles and remaining open to leveraging newer technologies that will benefit students. However, these new methods need to be clearly articulated and presented to students. Using the old adage, they are “taught, not caught” – in my view at least, it’s not enough to hand off note taking to students and simply hope they settle on a technique that works for them. Instead, by providing them with a range of options (like those above) and actively modelling this to them as they master the concepts, students will have the best opportunity to learn and process key information.

Again, I encourage you to read the entire article for yourself.

Creative Approach To Password Management For Younger Students

One of the challenges in schools is helping younger students (ages 5-8) remember unique passwords that remain complex enough to prevent their “friends” logging in as them. Recently, I saw the following method described in an internal mail thread at work and it is apparently being used by thousands of students in a US school district.

Each junior classroom put three identical posters on the wall that students could easily see from any vantage point in the classroom.

Poster One:

The first poster is colors.  This one has a dozen or so colors on it spelled out beside objects that are that color e.g.

1

Poster Two:

The second is drawings of animals with the name of the animal spelled out next to it.  There’s roughly a dozen animals on the poster e.g.

2

Poster Three:

The last poster is numbers with random icons next to them e.g.

3

How It Works:

On the first day of school when technology is going to be used, the teacher assists students to set their (relatively) complex passwords by pointing at each poster and saying

“Pick your favourite colour, then animal and finally your favourite number from each of the posters. Type those letters  and numbers next to each of your favouite things.”

The students then end up with password combinations such as “GreenDog3” or “PinkElephant13”

Depending on how many options you give students on each poster it will increase/decrease the number of combinations around passwords, but should be sufficient to keep most accounts secure and certainly significantly more secure than a shared password for all students that many schools still use at junior ages.

It’s easy to see that this might take a little while to teach initially, but has the added benefit of students needing to learn how the shift key works to generate capital letters but based on the account from the internal mail thread, usually by the second week you have 5year old students who can’t even spell yet, having memorized a reasonably complex password. For those that haven’t memorized it, the posters remain as visual cues for them.

When it comes time to reset passwords, they simply replace the posters with different combinations of colours, animals and numbers, and the class do a joint reset by selecting their new favourite options – simple!

Research: Minecraft Supports Social & Emotional Learning For Students

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A selection of quotes from teachers that have been using Minecraft Education Edition with their students.

The team at Getting Smart have released a new post showing research into game based learning and how this can promote social and emotional development among students, in this instance, through Minecraft Education Edition.

Download The Full Report Here

The researchers pulled information from a number of listed sources:

  • A global online teacher survey
  • Several onsite observation and evaluation sessions of educators using Minecraft: Education Edition in classrooms
  • Existing SEL literature reviews
  • Phone interviews with experts in K–12 education
  • Informal data gathering via several popular social media channels such as
    Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

The concept of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) was new to me, but the report does give a definition up front about what it is:

In the context of K–12 education, SEL is the process through which students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

From my perspective, this is really interesting as I would previously have associated some of the attributes around gaming as isolationist and less focused on the “soft skills” in life such as those involved in collaboration, participating and contributing and emotional resilience and empathy. It’s fascinating to me that research is showing that some game based learning can actually support the development of these critical skills in students.

The report indicates that the benefits of actively teaching SEL to students can include:

  • Increasingly positive attitudes toward self, others and tasks including enhanced self-efficacy, confidence, persistence, empathy, connection and commitment to school, and a sense of purpose
  • More positive social behaviors and relationships with both peers and adults
  • A reduction in conduct problems and risk taking behavior
  • Decreased emotional distress
  • Better test scores, grades and attendance

Unsurprisingly, the report clearly states that unless SEL is implemented with clear, robust learning goals then it is likely to be ineffectual. This, of course, is true of most initiatives and serves as a reminder that the integration of technology into curriculum must always be well planned and thought through. Technology is a great servant of pedagogy, but when implemented poorly, can be a hindrance and distraction.

Comprehensive SEL goals include developmental benchmarks across five key social and emotional competency domains, encompassing: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making skills.

How Does Gaming Boost SEL In Education?

The report has some extensive quotes from various educators and again, I encourage you to read the original report here, as I will only be pulling a few of the quotes that really stuck out to me to include below.

In New Zealand’s Curriculum there are five “Key Competencies” and it’s interesting to see how these align with the SEL concept. One of those KC’s is “Relating To Others” and the quote below shows how Minecraft can support this:

Cultivating empathy through gaming isn’t a given; rather, it occurs as part of a guided experience.
“As educators, we have the opportunity to help students develop empathy through gaming and imagine how they’d like to be treated, talk through scenarios in gaming and in their personal lives, and discuss how they would do something differently (or have wanted to be treated differently), then practice those skills.”

Another of the Key Competencies is “Participating & Contributing” and this quote shows just how much inter-dependency and co-operating is required to succeed in Minecraft:

“It isn’t a secret that games are popular and engage students. They’re able to fail forward in a risk-free environment. When playing Minecraft, students must have a level of coordination and cooperation in order to accomplish shared objectives. They’re  negotiating with one another, strategizing about resources and next moves, and delegating responsibilities. It’s really quite remarkable to see.”

Research Findings:

Research Findings.PNG

School Case Studies:

The report finishes with three case studies from schools of different ages:

  • International School Bellevue School District
    • Years 6-12
  • Bryant Montessori
    • Years Pre-school to Yr8
  • Renton Prep Christian School
    • Years 1-10

I am thrilled there continues to be significant research into the ongoing benefits of eLearning and effective and purposeful integration of technology into education. If you’ve not seen it, I suggest you check the NZCER Research into eLearning use in New Zealand primary schools that I posted about recently.

Rapidly Deploying Windows 10 Devices Via Modern Deployment Methods

One of the cool things in my job is that I get to see a lot of new devices and over the last few months I’ve been spending quite a bit of time figuring out the best way to deploy these in an educational context. I shared the guest blog around Modern Deployment Methods a few weeks back and I thought in this post I would outline some of my learnings from using some of the new Microsoft Education Solutions.

Devices I’ve Been Testing On:

The main devices I have been testing on are:

What is really pleasing about all of the above “hero” spec devices is that they all run a minimum of 4GB RAM and 64GB SSD storage making them powerful enough for most classroom uses and with new features coming like OneDrive Files on Demand, cloud storage will make them even more useful.

I’ve also had a look at the new Surface Laptop running Windows 10S but have not been able to do any extensive testing or resetting on with this device.

Modern Deployment Tools:

microsoft-tries-expelling-chromebooks-from-schools-with-intune-app-and-low-cost-pcs

Intune for Education dashboard.

Firstly, if you’re interested in setting up the full Microsoft Cloud Education Solutions then you really need to read this blog post first, where I’ve collated the key videos and “how to” articles. I’m going to outline the two key tools that make the deployment of Windows 10 super easy and these are:

Through my testing I’ve been using a few temporary demo tenants (check here to set one up if you’re a partner) and I’ve sometimes used Student Data Sync, and other times not. I have reset my above test devices numerous times using the Recovery Options in Windows 10 – if you’re not confident doing this, then the LaptopMag have created a pretty helpful guide here.

The idea behind the above tools is to take a cloud-first mentality in terms of pushing applications to devices and leveraging AzureAD as the key cloud identity platform.

Sequence For Setup:

This is the key sequence for setup in a simple list format:

  1. Reset Windows 10 to factory (see above) or use a brand new device.
  2. Insert a USB key with the Set Up School PCs App configured on it. This will:
    1. Install the initial provisioning package
    2. Install a selection of pre-selected applications
    3. Join the device to AzureAD of the pre-selected Office 365 Tenant.
    4. Enroll the device into Intune of the pre-selected Office 365 Tenant.
  3. Sign in as an Office365 user (this could be a student, teacher or ICT administrator)
  4. Intune (or Intune for Education) will start to push the remaining required apps and settings to the device immediately.
    1. In my testing I’ve settled on pushing apps to the device rather than to the user to ensure the fastest possible login times for students/staff i.e. once the application has been installed on the device it will be available to all users.
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The Set Up School PC App (SUSPC App) start screen.

In my testing, with the above mentioned test devices, I have found that steps 2-3 above typically takes under 5minutes. The initial login for a new user takes around 20-30seconds, and then subsequent logins of the same user is consistently under 4 seconds.

Step 4 above depends on how many applications you wish to push to the device, how fast the wireless network is etc. I am very confident that I could use the above sequence and deploy brand new devices to playing Minecraft:Education Edition on multiple devices in under 15 minutes.

Guides & Resources:

Learning more about the Set Up School PCs App can be done here but if you watch the below video you will see how easy it is:

The SUSPC App makes it super simple and fast to quickly deploy new (or restored Windows 10) devices and have them connected to your cloud first environment. It also means that the user experience for signing into these devices is fast and remains fast over time.

The second component to complete the deployment of apps and settings (sometimes referred to as policy) is using Intune For Education and you should look here for the full guide or watch the 5 minute video below:

As I mentioned in the sequence for setup at stage 4.1 above, I’ve settled on pushing apps directly to the device rather than to individual users, based on my preference that the apps are available to all users immediately when they sign in. This will, of course, vary from school to school based on how many apps they want on the devices (and available storage space) as well as app licensing considerations or suitability. The good news is that Student Data Sync will give you the granular control of which students (or classes, or year levels) you want to push certain apps or settings to.

If you’re after help or support directly from Microsoft around configuring Student Data Sync (SDS) for your school then complete the request form for personalised support HERE.

Conclusion:

These new tools, combined with new education focused devices from hardware partners, showcases just how far Microsoft has come in terms of delivering smarter and more efficient ways for schools to manage their ICT infrastructure. This is, of course, enabled through the power of the cloud and if your school is not leveraging a cloud identity platform like AzureAD it’s definitely time to explore this as an option.

Pleasingly, the above set up makes it easy for schools to have quick and reliable Windows 10 to focus on promoting great teaching and learning outcomes for students and teachers alike. Technology is a great servant to pedagogy, and with modern deployment methods like the above, less time is required to get the ICT equipment up and running, allowing more time for quality teaching and that has to be a good thing.

Video Case Study: Using Azure Machine Learning Studio In High Schools

Video

The above video is a great example of how schools can start to engage students with real world technologies such as Azure Machine Learning that are only going to grow in significance in the very near future.

The Azure Machine Learning Studio was used by the students at Seymour College in South Australia to build a model that predicted risks of breast cancer, with the results then being analyzed by the girls in Microsoft Excel.

This is a great example of supporting girls in STEM with contextualized learning, hopefully keeping them thinking about further study and careers in STEM which is very necessary to redress the gender imbalance in this sector.

There are some great introductory videos showing how easy it is to get Azure Machine Learning, including collaboration with other students, on the link below:

azure machine learning.PNG

Using AzureAD Groups To Quickly Populate Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is the new digital classroom platform from Microsoft and I’ve already reviewed the key features recently here, but if you’re unfamiliar with it here is the official overview video:

I have recently been asked by a few secondary schools and tertiary institutes what is the quickest way to populate students into a Team. You can, of course, use the official Student Data Sync tool which will take information from your Student Management System (SMS) and populate the relationship between teachers, students and classes in a very tidy way (full guide available here)

However, if you’re after a super quick way and you’re already using AzureAD Security Groups then it’s a 5 second job to add all your students into a class. Follow the instructions below to learn just how easy it is!

Teams2

You need to start by looking at your existing Groups in the Admin Portal and making sure that you have one that reflects the students/teachers that you want to add to your Team. In the above example this is a mail enabled security group called “Demo Students” with an alias of demos@educationgate.school.nz

Teams1

Next. go to your Team in question and by clicking on the Team name (in the above example, 11 History) you will see in the above example there are only three members of the team: 1 owner and two members.  You will also see the “Add Member” option on the right

Teams3

Once you have clicked “Add Member” will have the chance to add either individual students/teachers by searching for their name directly OR you search for your AzureAD Group name – in this case “demos”. You need to select this and hit “Add”

Teams4

Note that it automatically recognises that there is four members of the group and that it will add each of these members to your Team in one go.

Teams5

Confirmation that all four members from the AzureAD Group “demos” have been added to the team.

This is a real time saver for situations where schools are already using AzureAD to populate Groups with their students/teachers. In these examples, you can add an entire class of students as easily as adding a single student.

UPDATE: A keen reader reminded me that the above method is a one time import of the Members of the AzureAD Group – it will not keep them in sync if the membership changes dynamically (to achieve this, SDS is the better option). So the above is certainly a time saver in situations where you want to do a one off import and are prepared to add/remove additional members manually at a later date.

New: Use PowerShell To Manage Licenses In Windows Store For Business / Education

powershellMany organisations are increasingly using PowerShell to automate routine tasks and schools are no different in this way.

With the recent surge in interest around Minecraft Education Edition (or M:EE for short), many schools have been asking for an easier way to manage, assign and revoke these licenses for individual students. Up until now, this could only be done via the Store itself (see here for a guide).

Happily, there is now a method to use PowerShell to achieve the rapid license management – it is still in Preview Release at the moment but could be worth checking out if you want to do some testing:

Microsoft Store For Business & Education PowerShell Module (Preview)

You can use the PowerShell module to:+

  • View items you’ve purchased – shown in Apps & software
  • Manage licenses – assigning and removing
  • Perform bulk operations with .csv files – automates license management for customers with larger numbers of licenses

It’s great to see even easier ways to manage Education focused apps from the Store through the use of PowerShell.