Last week Harare International School in Zimbabwe, where I happen to work, hosted the 2018 International Schools of Southern and Eastern Africa (ISSEA) Basketball tournament. There were teams from over six different countries here for three days of basketball, socialising and fun. One of the agreements among the ISSEA schools is that, if possible, events such as this should have some sort of media presence so that folks back home can keep up with the action.
Initially we contacted a media company as well as a local ISP who were going to stream the main court and even provide commentary for the games. This would have been a first for ISSEA as any live-streaming prior to this had not had any audio. Long, very long, story short they backed out less than 24 hours before the games were to begin. Enter our tech team. Through some fantastic team collaboration and division of labor we ended up with a solution using a Canon DSLR, two pieces of software and a hope and a prayer for success. We also rounded up the most key component, a group of dedicated students to take photos, which were uploaded to a Facebook page, and videos which were live-streamed to the school YouTube page (indoor games) or uploaded later (outdoor games).
Here is the best part, and why I love my job. We barely had time to get the equipment and software in place before the games started, but as the first game kicked off we were up and running with a live picture and audio. As the game was going the students running the computer asked if they could explore what it could do in hopes of making it look a little nicer. As we are an IB school, student-led initiatives are a big part of what we are about. So off they went in search of tutorials, videos, blogs, really anything they could find about the software we were using to stream. By the second day we had live score updates on a scoreboard panel, school logos, ISSEA logos and more all imbedded in the live video. The whole process from beginning to end was an amazing example how students can do so much if we just give them the tools and the support. I could not be prouder of them.
A few years ago when I was working at Poudre School District in Ft. Collins, CO we looked at Chromebooks for our Middle School students. At the time I was teaching tech and History classes and as the resident “Who would like to test this out?” guy (they actually called is DIPS!) I was asked to trial some. At the time I was completely against them; too limited, too restricted and they (and here is the key) wouldn’t do half of what I was doing in class. Why was that? Well, prior to the trial the district had made a big push for two platforms Office and Google. Now with the later, Chromebooks are a dream, but with the former…not so much. As you’ll know from reading other posts I am a BIG advocate of OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator (among other MS products)…best thing for a classroom teacher since chalk! But, not on Chromebooks. OneNote online just doesn’t have the functionality. The district ended up staying with PC and it worked out just fine.
So, fast forward to last year and a new school, this one is, or has been until now, strictly Apple. We have had iPads (1:2) from EC to Grade 5, 1:1 iPads from grade 6 to 8 and MacBooks from 9-12. Thankfully when I arrived as the integrationist we also got a new tech director who has very similar ideas to mine, especially in regards to what is best for students. Seems that when schools hire tech folks that have been in the classroom they have a much more empathetic view as to what goes on in the classroom, go figure! We both saw a need for students to be more productive, better managed and to stop thumb-typing five page science labs! Hence Chromebooks.
Fast forward one year and one ordering cycle later and we are now in the middle of rolling Chromebooks (CTL NL6’s) out to two different grade levels: Grade 8 (1:1) and Grade 5 (1:2). After a year of trying to manage iPads it is incredible how easy it is to adjust and control the Chromebooks. The Admin console allows for such easy administration, especially if you can focus on separate grade levels or division levels. I’m still getting into the nuances of managing the devices, and any suggestions or tips are always appreciated!
Next post will be an update on the progress for both students and teachers. Wish us luck!
Well, my first year as a Technology Integration Specialist has nearly come to an end. It has been a great year, and I have been fortunate to have joined a great team of people in the tech department. When I took this job, but before arriving, I made a few predictions about the position.
I thought it might be fun to look at a couple and see how I did. The last one I’ll be especially interested in hearing from others as to how they get around this particular conundrum.
Prediction One: I’ll be terrible in the elementary school and the kids will hate me. – Happily I was wrong on both counts. The staff here has been so great about lesson planning and being specific to what they want that it has made it easy. They are still willing to try new things, but their level of organization made the year easy. As to the second part: I get to walk through the elementary playground on the way home and every day I have kids say hello, ask when the next lesson is and point me out to their parents. It is fantastic!
Prediction Two: The “less tech savvy” teachers will be the death of me. – So wrong! In fact, those folks that have a hard time with tech are often, if not always, the most thankful and eager to listen when you come to help them.
Prediction Three: I’ll hate working with Macs – True and False. I find the Macbooks to be pretty good, user friendly and their main shortcoming is the lack of software platforms we have for productivity. However, the iPads (we use them from EC to grade 8) while great up until grade 3 after that…well I’d never voluntarily use them. After grade 3 they lose the functionality that teachers would like, the robust memory and processing power and ease of use as well as the lack of keyboarding skill acquisition. This becomes painfully true as you move into Middle School.
Prediction Four (Integrationists weigh in here!): The teachers in High School will be hard to work with because they think they don’t need assistance. – SO true! In fact, this has spread to the Middle School level, creating a bit of a conundrum for me. Part of it is that our school has a very poor structure for an integrationist to find time to meet with teachers. I also feel that they believe they either don’t have time, or know (or can figure out) all they need to know. My plan for this group is to free up time (thanks to a new schedule) and get to department meetings and offer my services.
Any other thoughts out there?
While I am glad to be heading out for the holiday to see friends and family back home, I am also looking forward to next year. This year has been great, I am much more familiar with how things work here and I can’t wait to see what I can do to help folks next year.
As much as we would like to think that here in the US we have everything we could want or need and that the internet is a right and a necessity. However, there are a lot of folks with out internet. According to a recent Pew Research survey roughly 15% of Americans do not have internet, and of those 25% are from families that make less than $30,000/year. This becomes even more relevant when you work in a school that has a high Free and Reduced population.
In my school we are moving to a 1:1 Laptop program that will let students take their assigned laptop home. This is a great idea, but for those kids that do not have internet at home this only meets their needs half way. There are options for cheap internet such as the Comcast Internet Essentials program that offers cheap internet, but sometimes it is not cheap enough. So what can we do? One option is to set up assignments that can be done offline.
The video below is one that I crafted for our staff. There are many, many types of lessons that could be done offline, this is just to present one option. Hopefully it will inspire people to think of the non-connected, how to design lessons that are accessible to all and have discussions about best practice. Feel free to add your ideas and thoughts below to help this conversation grow.
I have recently convinced the folks in out IT department to add this free add-on to PowerPoint not only for teachers – which is where you would expect to see it, but for students as well. Why for students? Well a little background first:
Office Mix allows a PowerPoint to be designed much more like a teaching tool – and is perfect for flipping lessons. It lets you add questions, polls, open responses, discussions, video and audio of yourself, screenshots and screencasts. With these tools you can take any teacher-centered presentation and make it much more interactive and interesting. In addition you can design it to be mobile-device friendly.
So why for students? Why not! We are using it in class to have students present their findings on a particular topic, but rather than standing at the front of the class and work through a presentation they are teaching the class about their topic and checking for understanding at the same time. And as all educators know, you lean way more by teaching than you do by sittin’-‘n-gettin’.
To learn more visit the Office Mix site and explore the possibilities.
Make it a good one!
I have decided to branch out a little bit on the site. I’ve added a new page called Managing Tech where I will be posing different solutions, problems or just general impressions of how folks manage technology in their classrooms. I hope you’ll pop in from time to time and I would really welcome any observations, anecdotes, comments, etc. to keep things lively and interesting.
Have a great day!
So I got my classes set up and going in their new notebooks created by the Classroom Notebook Creator – what a difference! You can tell this is a new product as there are a few things that could be improved, however, it is so much easier than the old way of having students create their own notebook and then sharing it with me.
For those of you that may not have used Classroom Notebook Creator, it allows you to create a three-part notebook for your classes. Part one is the Collaboration Space: An area that students and teachers can all access and collaborate in. Part two is the Content Library: This is where the teacher can put any materials that they want their students to have. It can not be modified by students, only copy and pasted into their individual sections (sometimes – more on that in the Cons section below). Part three is the student’s notebook: This is a space only you and the student can access.
Setting up the notebook is a very simple process that takes very little time, and at the end you get a link to send to students that when they click it, it automatically opens their notebook – if they have OneNote, if not you have to modify the link – more on that below. From that point they can see the Content Library, Collaboration Space and their individual Notebook. From the teachers point of view you see the Content Library, Collaboration Space and all of the student notebooks. The folks at OneNote have really outdone themselves and made something that is very useful for teachers and students.
Everything is in one place for the students and adding material, feedback, comments, etc. for the teacher is very easy.
Setup is a breeze! As long as your OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator App is tied into your schools network database it will automatically pull up your students as you start to type their name or student ID number.
Cross-platform, Online or Offline, even on your phone, access is so easy.
When you are grading student work you have to click the “Navigate to Parent Section Group” green arrow to get back to the list of other students. It would be nice to have the drop-down list of student notebooks from every level of the notebook.
The link that is generated for the notebook has a prompt that wants to launch OneNote, to provide students a link that opens their notebook online you have to remove the prompt from the beginning of the URL. Perhaps generating both links when the notebook is created would be useful to folks.
If students are using their notebook in OneNote Online they can not copy/paste material from the Content Library to their individual notebook. This is a HUGE problem for students who do not have OneNote at home, or, as in the case of some classes in my district, they only have Chromebooks and therefore can not get OneNote.
In summary I really like the functionality and easy of use/set-up of OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator. More importantly the students find it much easier to get work from the Content Library then the old way of having to download and then merge documents. I too find it easier to pass out papers through the Content Library – though the inability to copy/paste in OneNote Online needs to be addressed. One last thing I wanted to mention is the ease with which new students are added, just open the app, tell it which notebook and the name of the student, and they are in. While I have not met the team that created this app they obviously had the educator in mind when they did. To them I say thank you!