Link here to my Website "It's the Learning, Stupid"

This is where I have been adding my thoughts, reflections and resources about Teaching & Learning with ICT's since present

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A New Challenge for 2013 and beyond

As 2012 comes to an end I say goodbye to my year as an e-learning consultant and trainer. It has been an interesting year away from the class with visits to a range of schools around the country from afar afield as Mid-Canterbury to as close to Farewell Spit as you can get. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time in sunny Nelson and Marlborough and of course in Wellington and Kapiti and around the lower North Island. I saw a range of teaching and learning strategies along with a wide standard of ICT set-ups in the schools that I visited. There were common themes and messages which helped me to redefine where I saw e-learning and how it should be moving ahead to have a positive impact on teaching and learning in the short-term future...but more on this to come shortly.

But for now I will be closing this site down in due course and moving all future communications back to my renamed "It's the Learning, Stupid" blog which I started back in 2008. It has been given a bit of a makeover and posts from here have been transferred over. I will be posting far more regularly to the new site also.

One thing that this year has shown me is that I have missed the classroom and the community of the school environment. I now look forward to a new challenge from the beginning of 2013 and am taking up the position of Director of e-Learning at Palmerston North Boys’ High School. This is a school with a proud tradition, enthusiastic staff and fantastic boys. Their motto “Nihil Boni Sine Labore” which translates to “Nothing achieved without hard work” is something which I firmly aspire to and I look forward to making a positive impact on the school over the coming years.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Moodle Forums - still the tool with the most potential to improve learning

I just had a reflective read through my e-fellow research report written in 2008 and was struck by how, four years later, the Blended Learning Model is so much more relevant today.

In 2008, using Moodle's forum tool, I encouraged a Year 11 History class to interact with the course content through a blend of online and class discussion and debate. A rigorous analysis of the value of this was completed followed by conclusions about the value of the model for improveing student learning.

Also consider that the class had yet to encounter the Moodle LMS (VLE) prior to the study and that this was pre-Facebook which did not enter the New Zealand teenage scene until sometime during 2009.

The reason I believe that we, as teachers, should be using discussion forums with our students is that this is the environment that students now live and are at their most comfortable - is regular online discussion and chat. Students are happy to discuss, comment and debate in this medium so why not bring it into learning?

I have observed a lot of Moodle courses in a number of school environments with a range of resource and activity tools being utitilised. My belief however, is that the most underutilised tool, and the one that has the most potential to help improve student learning is the Moodle Forum.

Here is a link to my Blended E-Learning Research Report called "How can Student Interactivity be Enhanced through the use of a Blended Learning Approach?"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Google Sites - Enabling students to aspire to a higher quality of research and presentation work

Last year my Year 9 History class was about to embark on their task of researching Old Boys from their school who fought in the First World War. The dual purpose of the topic was for these new entrants to learn about the history of their school, their country at the time and the battle fields of the War.

Having successfully challenged the class to use Google Docs to research and present the Ancient Rome topic, I decided to take it one step further and ask them if they would like to build a class website. This was a risky undertaking as it would require an already high level and difficult individual research task to be presented in a shared and co-ordinated approach. With some Web Design (Digital Technologies) teaching background I had confidence that I could assist a small team of enthusiastic students from within the class to help prepare and manage the technical aspects of the project.

The topic background was introduced over the last two weeks of Term Two with the full research and presentation project introduced and completed during Term Three of 2011. Here is the completed class website with each student completing and signing off at the bottom of their respective page. Their research was completed on a separate Google document template. On the website I have written here fully about how the research project was implemented along with some reflections. I also presented on it in a workshop at the U-learn teachers conference in October 2011.

Google Sites in Education are being increasingly used for School Extra-Curricular Sports and Arts - Club, Team and Group websites. I have even seen Sites being implemented this year in interesting ways for student centred houses at Nayland College (Nelson). And of course many teachers and students have Google Sites for classes or student portfolios.

The way that I have utilised Google Sites here is to get students to take their research work to another level. To set their expectations higher and to teach them about:
  • Research Quality and Standards 
  • Writing Content for the Web
  • Web Presentation – Navigation and Consistency
  • Teamwork - Collaboration and Communication
What I have come to appreciate is that the higher the level of expectation that I set for my students then the more they aspired to meet it. For example, the more prepared, well designed and professional the student web development team made the website template look when presented to the rest of the class, then the more the sense of expectation of a higher quality of work that the class aspired to.

Of course this was my first attempt and there are things that I would certainly do differently given another opportunity at this sort of task, but I definite enjoyed teaching in this student centred, inquiry focused and collaborative style and I know that my students enjoyed it and undoubtedly gained from the experience.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Going Google Apps?

Many schools looking to switch to Google Apps often ask about how they should manage the transition for their organisation, particularly offering support and training to staff and students.

The experience I had back in December 2009 when we transitioned Wellington College to Google Apps was made a lot easier by Google's provision of a Google Apps Support Site Template. All I had to do was add the site template to our organisation and make a few modifications and provide a link. Google continually update the template as they regularly improve their Apps suite.

I have installed the site template here where you can follow instructions on how to install it into your education institution.

I find the training videos link particularly useful along with the "Learn by app" links. There are always new things to learn.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Google Docs - Learning and Collaboration in Action

In my last year at Wellington College (2011) I had the pleasure of teaching a Year 9 History class and, as the school's eLearning Director, was given plenty of freedom to explore diffent ways that eLearning tools could enhance and make learning history more relevant for the students. After only 4 weeks of regular teaching the new entrants were surprised when I told them that it was now there turn to take over.
(Note: class was mixed ability and Year 9 in New Zealand is age approx 12-13 at beginning February)

Collaboration Task Description
They were given the task, in pairs, to research and present to the class an aspect of the current topic: "Ancient Rome". Google Docs was the chosen tool as our College had the previous year become a Google Apps for Education School and the tool enabled students to collaborate and work on their projects from home. They needed to work on a shared Doc to plan their research and presentation notes and to also work on a shared Google Presentation (PowerPoint) to present their topic to the class. Presentations were to be 10 minutes long and based around 3 focus questions which I the students were to develop for their chosen topics. You can see the full outline of the research and presentation project assessment task here.

As I only taught the class 2-3 times a week, the majority of the research needed to be completed as homework. The students did not have their own laptops or devices in class but we were able to book some time to access computers to learn how to use the Google Tools and to access the necessary online research materials. As this was the students first research task the assessment focus was mostly on the presentation rather than on the sourcing. While the research was completed over 5 weeks, we did still manage to watch the movie "Gladiator" and the fascinating Ancient Megastructures documentary on the Colosseum. The final 2 weeks were devoted to the presentations with 3 per lesson - the students booked themselves into the presentation slots via a shared Google Spreadsheet.

The Finished Product
Below are two of the presentations to give you an idea of the quality of what was produced. Presentation notes were printed by the students and each student was required to take an equal part in their presentation:

The full list of topics that were presented on is: Emperors, Architecture, Rome's Greatest Enemy, Christianity, Gods, Expansion of the Empire, Gladiators, Army, Punishments, Technology, The Fall of Rome, Civilisation, Pompeii, Slaves, The Aqueducts - a reasonably extensive list. Most other presentations were just as outstanding in content with students wanting to maintain the quality of what they saw in the first round of presentations (Note: an exception was made for the Roman Emperors Project where the two students were given permission to not use research focus questions so they could maintain their creative theme).

This is the second time that I have done this collaborative research and presentation assessment task using Google Docs. What continues to amaze me is that the students absolutely love completing it despite the amount of work involved. When taught how to structure a presentation properly they learn a lot and also gain a great deal of confidence with many getting over their initial fear of presenting in front of others. Of course I enjoy it also as I see students engaged and enjoying learning and liking the subject that I have a passion for. It is also great to see their creativity and personalities coming to the fore in this type of task.

Student Feedback
At the end of the year I conducted an extensive anonymous class survey (using Google Forms) on a number of questions related to the entire year. Three of the questions were specific to the task described above. 25 of the 30 students were present to take part in the survey - here are their responses:



The student feedback on the above question is a real endorsement of Google Docs as a collaborative tool. As the project could not be completed in the limited time that we had in class it made the project sharing side invaluable. All Research Student Presentation Notes and Presentations were also shared to me from the beginning so that I could track student progress on their assignments.

The final question that the students were asked was:
 "What things did you learn most from doing the Rome Research and Presentation Task and seeing other students presenting theirs?"
Answers were in written form and can be viewed here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

eLearning Professional Development 2012

I have now left my position of E-learning Director and Teacher of History, Mathematics and Digital Technology (Web Design) at Wellington College and will be offering E-Learning Professional Development from the beginning of 2012.

The main focus of Professional Development Training will be in Google Apps, (in which over 25% of New Zealand schools are now signed up to Google Apps Education Edition). I am also a representative for the eTV service which nearly all New Zealand Universities and other tertiary institutions have subscribed to and is growing rapidly in its popularity within the schools sector.

More to come as I add to this site.