Thursday, 13 April 2017

Snapchat in the Classroom

Warning Note: This post is for secondary teachers because learners need to be 13 to have a Snapchat account.

I watched a great webinar this morning, led by Nikki Robertson in Alabama, on using Snapchat in in class. I first heard of using Snapchat in class at ISTE 2016 last year in June, but the idea did not really hook my brain until recently when I saw that Facebook had incorporated a lot of the functionality of Snapchat in an effort to draw subscribers back.  I began to wonder what is it that makes Snapchat so attractive to young people?
So I enrolled in this webinar from SimpleK12 to try and learn more.  Her's what I found out:-

  1. Snapchat is a great way to build teacher-learner relationships.  First of all, you can "snap" out class celebratory photos and videos to the learners.  There is an interesting line that you don't want to cross here, in the same way that you don't cross certain lines in class.  This is something that you need to discuss openly with learners and your school community, and consider carefully the boundaries before you start.  So consider your purpose first and then think about how and what you are going to use Snapchat.  Nikki feels that it gives teachers opportunities to seek those teachable moments about digital citizenship, if you do see something inappropriate.  She quotes Kevin Honeycutt - "Our kids are growing up on a digital playground and no one is on recess duty".  

This is a great point.  Our learners are safer at school than they are at home when it comes to being immersed in the digital world.  School teachers are in the privileged position of being able to teach our learners how to behave online and we need to be in those spaces.

2.  You can build up a Snapchat story of what is happening in your day so much like a class blog but when you are a secondary teacher, your day varies a lot.  This involves a simple "add to My story" function on the app.

3.  You can make QR codes more accessible to learners who say they have no room to download any more apps.  Snapchat has its own QR code maker and all they have to do is point their Snapchat camera to the Snapchat QR code and it will direct them to the right site.   Here is the Snapchat code I created for this blog.  Use your Snapchat app and click the camera.  It will give you an option to open this blog. (Note that you can use the Snapchat camera to read any QR code - it does not have to be the Snapchat version which is called a Snapcode.)  An easy way to point learners to the right place!

4. Other ideas that Nikki mentioned were sending snaps of vocabulary, real life examples (eg in Math), sending out flash cards for revision, new language learning (photo + text), and snapchat stories for revision.

5. Get your learners to be the creators of stories.  (Don't forget to set and incorporate ground rules around digital citizenship.)  Empower student voice.  I think this is THE avenue that I would like to explore more.

6.  Try a Snapchat competition. For example on field trips and spirit days.  This is sure to engage learners and help build that relationship.

7. Use the filters to jazz up your book displays.

At the end of the webinar, Nikki asked us to think about

  • who are you going to involve in your school snapchat community?
  • what are your goals?
  • what is your tone (it is not a formal app)?
  • drawing the line between professional and personal use
  • giving some feedback to her about using social media in schools through this link .

The slides from Nikki's webinar are here and you can access the webinar if you are a member of the  SimpleK12 community.  (There are Basic and Full memberships, with special free webinar days occasionally).

Monday, 10 April 2017

A Rant But An Important One - Is Your Teaching Future Focused?

The TKI website has some excellent resources on curriculum development and on 21st March launched Spotlights, focusing on specific aspects of the NZC.  I was pleased to see a spotlight on the Principles of the NZC , and TKI has published slides which will support you through a refocus on these important foundations of your local curriculum.

One of the first slides asks us if we can name the 8 principles.  How many can you name of the top of your head?  Well, truthfully, I managed 5 before I had to peek - it has been a while but I think I can name all 8 now if you give me a surprise test.  The 2 that I named first were The Treaty of Waitangi and Future Focus because these often come to the fore in my work.

The slides also provide a link to the summary of an ERO evaluation of the evidence of the 8 principles in NZ schools and classrooms, which was published in 2012.  The ERO evaluation also states that secondary schools have a much lower incidence of evidence of the principles in their curricula, when compared to primary schools.  Imagine my horror to see that Future Focus evidence featured the LOWEST number of times in NZ school curricula, and second to lowest in classroom curricula.

Only one third of schools reported on had evidence of a future focus in their curricula!  Without naming any schools, I can tell you that I had the experience of a deputy principal (of a large secondary school) at the end of last year telling me that his school was preparing their students for examinations.   When I asked him what about the future, he replied, no, we prepare them for exams because that is what the parents expect.  I banged my head on a brick wall in despair.

One would hope that there has been some movement toward educating our parents about future focus in our schools since 2012 but the evidence still points the other way.  Schools are focused on assessment results because that is how they are judged in the "league tables" published in the media and referred to by every parent sending their child to a "superior" school.

Education Review magazine recently published this article, by Dr John Boereboom, from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, University of Canterbury,  emphasizing how there are winners and losers using this way of thinking.  But their alternative is to look at how much value has been added using another (mid year 9) assessment.  They say that this assessment enables them to predict how well the learners will do in the NCEA exams.    It sounds just like another test to me, to find out how well the learners can do in another test.

So what are we preparing our learners for  - the future or for exams?  Perhaps we need to do both. The way that we teach is our best preparation for the future.  Using the 6 themes of future oriented teaching and learning to underpin our pedagogy is the most powerful thing we can do toward this, in a class.  And it would be so heartening to hear schools talking about this, examining ways of working towards redefining their own curricula and implementing the changes that are required for this to happen.

How are you incorporating a future focus into your curriculum?  At the beginning of May there is a Future Focused Day with Barbara Bray, international educationalist, in Taupo.    Disappointingly, the original symposium has been undersubscribed, but Barbara Bray is committed to sharpening the eyes and minds of those canny educators with a future glint in their eyes.  Her keynote and workshops for the attendees are as follows.

Keynote: The Future of School and Learner Agency
  1. Building Learner Agency Using UDL as a Lens to Personalise Learning 
  2. Changing Spaces, Thinking and Mindsets 
  3. PBL, Design Thinking and Authentic Context 

You can still register to hear and work with Barbara Bray in Taupo on 3rd May by filling in this form. Discounts are available for multiple registrations from a school. Check out how future focused your school is.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Flipped Learning - Why You Must!

Flipped learning is the act of moving instruction from the group space into the individual space according to Dr Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher from the USA.  The founders of flipped learning in schools, Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann, are quite happy with this re-definition, even though the model has evolved over the years since they first started videoing their science lessons for their students, who were missing school through sport or sickness.  When they started out, they would video their whole lesson.  Now we know that videos of less than 10 minutes are so much more engaging and effective.

Like all good pedagogies, flipped learning is one that you can adapt and polish to suit your own circumstances.   I am leading a couple of workshops on flipped learning in Wellington this June and so thought it was timely to revisit some of the tenets that I believe are upheld by flipping.

  • Firstly, it allows you to leverage the power of digital technologies to support learning.  Never before have learners had so many videos to teach them how to do all manner of things.  They do not have to rely on the teacher to tell them how to do things in real time.
  • Secondly, it allows you to take advantage of the relationship you have with your learners - the videos you make will be so much more powerful than those which can be found on youtube. Why?  Because you are the person they trust, you are the one they know with the responsibility of teaching them, so they will pay more attention to you.  You will lessen the distance that their understanding needs to travel in the zone of proximal development.
  • Thirdly, it allows learners to advance at their own pace, along the pathways that they choose, thus personalising their learning.  
Flipping requires a lot of preparatory work on behalf of the teachers.   There are videos to make, and don't think that you can make them all at once.  Start flipping slowly and build your video resources. The "flip" side of this extra work is that it is offset by much more enjoyable class time.  Less stressful, more engagement, more exploration of concepts and deeper understanding.  Peers feel much more confident to lead and share the learning, have discussions and delve further than they ever would before.

Want to know more?  Well, join me at Wellington, at Samuel Marsden College.  Details in this image below along with a 15% discount if you use my code.
Here are my introductory videos which I hope will whet your appetite: